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ASU grad student teaches 'big data' to high school girls

October 19, 2015

Graduate student Jessica Guo is passionate about science education. And she has lots of experience teaching coding and big data. Guo combined passion and experience to present a weeklong workshop on big data to students from Mesa Public Schools.

Twelve 11th- and 12th-grade girls spent their fall break learning a statistical computing program called “R,” which they used to analyze big data. The skills they learned will be valuable in future careers in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math). Smiling high school girls study STEM in a computer lab. Seniors Yazmin Flores (left), 17, and Theresa Ruiz, 18, realize their coding works during the “From Big Data to Big Ideas” workshop put on by ASU grad student Jessica Guo for high school girls at Mesa Public Schools' Educational Technology Training Labs on Oct. 16. More than a dozen juniors and seniors gave up part of their fall break to compile, organize and utilize weather data over a 29-year period. Download Full Image

“Programs like this one are narrowing the gap in girls’ participation and success in math and science,” said Monica Elser, education manager for ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

According to Guo, the primary goal of the workshop was for girls to develop coding skills while learning to work with large, publicly available datasets.

“In my experience teaching grad students and undergrads, learning to code in R has a steep learning curve, so I was really impressed with this group of girls and their persistence,” said Guo.

“My hope is that these students use their newly developed coding skills as a springboard for achieving their STEM goals.”

“The workshop capitalized on a broad range of data and ASU resources to create something really special for these students,” Elser said.

The students analyzed atmospheric CO2 data from Mauna Loa in Hawaii, precipitation data from the Flood Control District of Maricopa County in Arizona, and a long-term weather data set from the Jornada Basin Long-Term Ecological Research program in New Mexico.

“Programs like this one are narrowing the gap in girls’ participation and success in math and science.” 

— Monica Elser, education manager, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability

ASU’s Central Arizona-Phoenix Long-Term Ecological Research program was a partner on the workshop, which was part of Guo’s work with the ASU/NASA Space Grant, based in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. Guo is a doctoral student studying biology in the School of Life Sciences.

Arizona State University is a member of the Arizona Space Grant Consortium, part of the National Space Grant College and Fellowship Program, which funded Guo’s workshop.

Michelle Schwartz

Senior Manager, Marketing and Communications, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability


White House recognizes ASU's outreach efforts

October 16, 2015

The White House honored Arizona State University’s Access ASU initiative for its efforts to help Hispanics prepare for college.

ASU is one of 150 public and private organizations recognized by the White House for making meaningful contributions to the advancement of educational opportunities for Latinos. family getting picture taken with ASU mascot, Sparky Access ASU programs — such as Future Sun Devil Families (pictured here), ASU Preparatory Academy, the American Dream Academy and the Hispanic Mother-Daughter program — follow students all the way to high school to ensure that Arizona youth have a pipeline to ASU. Download Full Image

“These commitments will bring critical resources to Latino students and families,” said Alejandra Ceja, Executive Director of the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics. “[Access ASU] is an example of meaningful investments being made in support of the largest, youngest, and arguably fastest growing minority community.”

Access ASU, first launched by the university in 2004, strives to increase the number of Arizona students prepared to enroll at ASU. Through partnerships with local school districts, Access ASU has helped 100,000 students prepare for college. Programs operated under Access ASU include the American Dream Academy, Future Sun Devils Families, Hispanic Mother-Daughter Program, ASU Earn to Learn, Barrett Summer Scholars, Collegiate Scholars Academy, Early Outreach Scholars and SPARKS.

“Today’s award highlights ASU’s commitment to access and excellence,” said Beatriz Rendon, ASU’s Senior Associate Vice President for Outreach. “We will continue to widen the path for Latino students to attend ASU and successfully complete their degree.”

Programs like Access ASU represent the university’s commitment to ensuring all Arizona students can attain a college education. Programs offered by Access ASU help students and families are prepare for college academically and financially. Thanks to these outreach efforts, ASU continues to expand educational opportunities for low-income, first generation, and minority students. Since 2004, ASU has doubled the amount of low-income students enrolled at the University.

Access ASU’s partnerships with local school districts are helping more students reach college. Currently, Access ASU is partnered with Glendale Union High School District, Mesa Public Schools, Phoenix Union High School District, Tempe Union High School District and Tolleson Union High School District. Through these partnerships, ASU is able to help more students to attain their college goals.

For districts like the Phoenix Union High School District, Access ASU provides meaningful college experiences to its students. For Phoenix Union interim superintendent Chad Gestson, these experiences leave a lasting positive impact on all students.

“Through our partnership with Access ASU, we can work to dispel myths and remove real and perceived barriers to college,” Gestson said.  “Together, we’ve been able to empower our students with the college readiness resources they need to succeed.”

Access ASU will continue to work with partner districts and schools throughout the state to help more students attend and succeed in college.

To learn more about Access ASU and its programs, visit https://eoss.asu.edu/access.  

Media relations specialist, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


ASU partners with Phoenix Police, Maricopa County to help families of missing persons

October 16, 2015

Patricia Williams was 19 years old when her mother was seen getting into a car near the intersection of 21st and Campbell avenues in Phoenix, on Nov. 25, 1993. She has never been seen again.

Officials estimate that more than 600,000 people are reported missing nationwide every year. Kimber Biggs speaks about her missing sister Kimber Biggs, whose sister Mikelle is still missing after disappearing in 1999 at age 11 while waiting for an ice-cream truck, speaks at a press conference about the grief, confusion and unwillingness to give up on finding a missing loved one. She plans to participate in Missing in Arizona on Oct. 24 on ASU's West campus. Photo by: Phoenix Police Department Download Full Image

That statistic inspired Robbin Brooks, a lecturer in Arizona State University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, to begin a collaboration to stage Missing in Arizona, an event dedicated to connecting people with the resources to find their long-term missing loved ones.

The event, to be held Oct. 24 at ASU's West campus, is the result of a partnership between the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in ASU’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions, the City of Phoenix Police Department and Maricopa County.

Missing In Arizona is open to the public. Families of the missing are encouraged to attend to access help from law enforcement as well as share identifiers such as dental records, fingerprints and photographs that can be instrumental in solving cases. Support groups and private meetings will also be available to help families cope.

Similar events have yielded successes in other states. In Michigan, a similar event held for the last four years has resolved more than 50 cases, some dating back to the 1970s. This will be the first "Missing In ..." event held in Arizona.

“ASU’s participation in the event forms a link between society, law enforcement and social services,” Brooks said. “This event provides a great educational opportunity for students and educators who will be working side-by-side with law enforcement in gathering important information from families for the investigators.”

Stuart Somershoe, who has been involved with Phoenix Police’s missing-persons unit since 2007, and Christen Eggers, medicolegal death investigator for the Office of the Medical Examiner of Maricopa County, report that there are more than 2,000 people on the National Crime Information Center’s missing list in Arizona alone. They say that number could be higher due to many cases being mishandled or never investigated at all.

“Our goal is to resolve cases,” Somershoe said. “We want people to come forward and file reports, no matter how old. Unfortunately, a lot of families get the runaround. This event allows for families to come forward and file a report.”

Somershoe also acknowledged that some families fear reporting a missing person due to possible illegal-immigrant or criminal status. He assured them that this event is not about prosecuting people.

“Everyone has somebody who cares for them, loves them and wants to know what happened to them,” he said. “That’s part of the reason why we’re having it at ASU: We want to have a safe, non-law-enforcing environment, where people can come forward and we can help them.”

Friends and families of missing persons will be able to file reports on site, and they are also encouraged to bring medical and dental records of the missing individual, as there are many undocumented persons in the Maricopa County system.

“All of our unidentified information, demographic information does still get uploaded,” Eggers said. “A lot of people just don’t come forward when they have a missing person, so we don’t have the information to do a comparison with.”

But perhaps the most important aspect of the event will be the outreach and support groups that will be offered to family members.

Williams plans to attend Missing in Arizona with hopes of getting new information about her mother, but she also would like to help those who are going through the same thing.

“I was so young, I didn’t know anything except the tools she gave me, be strong, be a fighter, that’s how she raised me,” Williams said. “I hope to be that example to show people that you can live through the pain, and still keep the spirit and the memory of loved ones alive.”

Missing in Arizona will run from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Oct. 24, at the ASU West campus, 4701 W. Thunderbird Road, in Glendale. For reservations and more information, contact Detective Stuart Somershoe at 602-261-8065 or stuart.somershoe@phoenix.gov.

Written by Christopher Hernandez.

Heather Beshears

director marketing and communications, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


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An artist's dream: Making the border appear to disappear

How to make the border fence disappear - with art
ASU enables artist Ana Teresa Fernandez to paint the Mexican border blue
October 15, 2015

Manuel Flores Flores teeters on a 15-foot ladder propped up against the south side of the U.S.-Mexico border wall that cuts through the city of Nogales.

To some, it might look like Flores Flores is trying to cross. Rather, the Mexican national has a paintbrush in hand, coating the fence’s rusty red posts with a calming hue of sky blue.

His work is part of Ana Teresa Fernandez’s community art project aimed at making the border, one of the region’s most contested constructs, appear to disappear against the sky.

Man wipes off paint from his face

Luis Antonio Esguerra wipes paint off of his face.

And it seems to be working.

“I know it’s just blue and it’s just covering the fence, but it makes it look like it’s just open and that’s kind of cool,” said Mary Ochoa, a resident of Nogales, Arizona.

The mural project began Monday as part of Fernandez’s time as artist-in-residence with Arizona State University’s Performance in the Borderlands program, which posits the borderland as a conceptual landscape that embodies political and identity borders. The painted section will remain colored, with the plan to do it again next year.

Fernandez has always recognized the influence of how the 1,954 miles of U.S.-Mexico border plays into her work.

She grew up in Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico, until age 10, when she crossed the border into the U.S. Fernandez credits her cross-cultural upbringing for the ability to recognize that shifting one’s experience and perspective can create a new understanding of an object or practice.

“When you realize that visual art can translate beyond languages, beyond races, beyond social class it just becomes the most expansive medium of communication and I think that it’s contagious ... ,” the artist said during one of the many interviews conducted by a steady stream of media, curious to see what Fernandez and the various volunteers and passerbys would do to the border.

Most of the work was simply coloring the wall — with paint rollers attached to extension arms or brushes used to fill the crevices where the square beams meet the metal plate that is mounted above them.

A group of ASU students chose to attend the event alongside Fernandez, but many Nogales residents, like Alejandro Ramirez Mendoza whose arms and red shirt were soon covered in spatterings of blue, simply saw the activity and felt the desire to join in.

“It’s better, it’s more presentable,” Mendoza said, reflecting on the work.

He then returned to his roller and resumed painting as a passing motorcyclist rubbernecked at the wall and a well-dressed woman in a black dress and carrying a box of pastries stopped to watch.

Ochoa and Phillip Woods were on their way to the north side of the border when they walked by the artist’s work. They paused their trip to join the project, high-fiving some of the student helpers while covering a section of the fence in paint.

The process caused Ochoa to reflect on the sights and memories associated with the divisive wall.

“It’s very sad watching families hold hands through here, that’s as far as they go, they can’t even really hug,” she said. “They touch each other’s hands, ‘Hey I miss you and I love you,’ and it’s really sad to see.”

Those are the exchanges, shared between the bars of the imposing wall, that Fernandez sees as a base for a project like “Erasing the Border.”

“I think a huge part of what I’m hoping would happen is that echoing, that reverberation of it, of the piece not just stopping here in the making of it, but hopefully the conversations that will be ignited about it,” Fernandez said.

This border project, which was coordinated with U.S. and Mexican border patrols, is the continuation of the artist’s piece “Borrando la Frontera,” or “Erasing the Border.” In 2012 Fernandez, dressed in a classic black cocktail dress, visited the U.S.-Mexico border fence at the beach in Tijuana and painted it the same hazy color of the ocean sky.

From a distance the otherwise jarringly black fence dissolved into a natural part of the seaside landscape it divides.
Nogales has provided Ferandez with a different approach in Nogales.

“One was a much more conceptual artistic rendering of this piece, but this one is a much more community-based piece so there are all hands on this particular project that are literally erasing the border together,” says Mary Stephens, director of ASU’s Performance in the Borderlands.

“I think that that has offered a new way for us to engage this project as well, how can we as a community erase borders.”

Performance in the Borderlands, an initiative through the Herberger’s School of Film, Dance and Theatre, has sponsored Fernandez’s statewide residency. This includes public talks, community workshops and dialogues, professional development training and a public art project based in Nogales, Sonora.

Fernandez’s residency with Performance in the Borderlands, which is an initiative through the Herberger Institute’s School of Film, Dance and Theater, has taken the artist to lectures in Flagstaff, Douglas, Nogales and Phoenix, where she has spoken about how her work deals with themes of feminism, border politics and arts production.

“It’s been incredibly amazing, I never expected to be able to touch and communicate with so many sectors of the community,” Fernandez said. “It  was so expansive and it just felt continuously like an intellectual and creative labyrinth where the conversations were constant.”

By Deanna Dent

ASU News

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Of revolution and reflection: ASU's Chicano collection marks 45 years preserving a community's memories

ASU has the largest repository in Arizona for Mexican-American history.
ASU's Chicano Research Collection celebrates its 45th anniversary this year.
The Chicano Research Collection has 1,500+ linear feet of historical material.
October 13, 2015

Editor's note: This feature is part of a series of stories to mark Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs Sept. 15-Oct. 15.

When Nancy Godoy began researching her family tree, she ran into some roadblocks.

“My family couldn’t remember who some family members were anymore,” she said.

That’s the problem with not documenting history — it can get lost or forgotten. Godoy's work at Arizona State University is aimed at making sure that doesn't happen for the Chicano community as a whole.

As the curator of the Chicano Research Collection at ASU’s Hayden Library, Godoy spends hours sifting through crumbling photos, decades-old campaign pins, protest pamphlets and other such Chicano"Chicano" refer to Mexican-Americans or those of Mexican heritage. "Hispanic" to countries (or their peoples) originally colonized by Spain. "Latino" is close in meaning to "Hispanic" but includes countries such as Brazil. culture memorabilia, all in the name of preserving the “collective memory of a community that is under-documented.”

This year, the collection celebrates its 45th anniversary. It was established in 1970, at the height of the Chicano Movement, in response to student and faculty demand for academic resources that reflected their personal experiences.

A woman looks at archival items at the libraryChristine Marin (left, pictured Sept. 4) was working in Hayden Library's bibliography department at the time when Bill Axford, then the library's new director, and Manuel Servine, who had been recruited from the University of Southern California to teach Chicano history for the first time at ASU, tapped her to be the bibliographer of the collection.

“I met Dr. Servine, I met Dr. Axford, and the two of them said, ‘Chris, do you want to be the bibliographer of the Chicano studies collection?’ ” Marin recalled. “I said, ‘Yes. What do I do?’ ”

Servine responded by handing over to Marin several bibliographies of Chicano books and sources he had prepared before coming to ASU. Along with student workers, she went through each list, checking to see what the library had and what it did not, which they then ordered.

Although academic resources were great, Servine thought the collection needed a little something extra. He told Marin to go out with her student workers and start bringing back pamphlets, posters, pins and whatever else they could find at local protests, gatherings and Mexican-American Student Organization meetings on campus.

“Little by little, we would start collecting all of this ephemera that would reflect something that was going on at the time,” Marin said. “So here I am, inching myself closer to that telephone pole, crowd over there … yanking the poster off the telephone pole, rolling it up, and saying, ‘Here, take it! Take it to the car! Hurry!’

“And then, of course, people would see me and say, ‘Chris, you don’t have to do that, we’ll give them to you!’ ”

A woman display archival items on a table

Chicano Research Collection

Nancy Godoy, curator of the Chicano Research Collection at ASU’s Hayden Library, shows special items from the collection Sept. 4 in Tempe. Cotton gloves help protect fragile items from the oils naturally on hands.

As the collection grew, Axford dedicated a space in the library for it with chairs and tables and couches. Servine invited Marin to speak at the beginning of his classes about the collection, and to encourage students to utilize it.

When they inevitably did, Marin instructed them on how to use the library’s tools to find what they needed.

Today, Godoy continues Marin’s work by teaching students and faculty how to use the collection, which has grown to be the largest repository in Arizona for Mexican-American and Chicano history, with more than 1,500 linear feet of material that focuses on labor, education, civil rights, immigration and politics.

Godoy also does community outreach to spread the word about the collection and, hopefully, continue adding to it, as members of the Chicano community are encouraged to donate to it.

In fact, Arizona Congressman Ed Pastor recently donated nearly 200 boxes of artifacts documenting his career as a member of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and as Arizona’s first Latino U.S. Congressman.

“The collection gives the community a sense of pride,” she said, adding that her motto is “engage, educate, empower.”

Most recently, Godoy hosted a Latino Genealogy and Preservation of Family Archives workshop Oct. 8 for Hispanic Heritage Month, where she taught attendees how to trace their roots and preserve their family’s history.

The collection is also in the process of engaging the community by updating and making its online exhibits more accessible.

Father and adult daughter look at a computer screen

At an Oct. 8 Latino genealogy workshop hosted by Godoy, Betty Fry and her father, Eddie Gardner, look for records on their family, whose history in Arizona goes back eight generations. Attendees learned how to become their own archivists and how to preserve their family materials. Photo by: Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Learn more by visiting the Chicano Research Collection website, or the Chicano Research Collection Facebook page. Click here for a video on a slice of the overall collection, the Alianza Hispano Americana Records Collection, 1894 and a Mexican-American mutual-aid organization founded in 1894.

To view the Chicano Research Collection, make an appointment with Godoy by contacting her at nancy.godoy@asu.edu or 480-965-2594.

Emma Greguska

Reporter, ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

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Nursing program provides pathways for bilingual health workers

New program to get more Spanish-speaking nursing students into the industry.
October 12, 2015

Michael Moreno was building a successful career as a banking financier when the Great Recession hit, decimating the financial markets.

Just like that, Moreno was laid off and jobless. And that was OK for the Phoenix man.

While he made a fine living in the financial sector, Moreno said his career didn’t provide him great personal satisfaction. He wanted to do something that left a positive impact on the Latino community.

“Being laid off was a blessing because I could finally get into the nursing field and contribute to something that was meaningful to me,” Moreno said. “The Hispanic community has a large knowledge deficit when it comes to health care and they need help. I believe I have something to offer.”

Moreno, 29, isn’t just chasing his dreams, he’s doing it while trailblazing into a new career path. He is one of two people who will commence the inaugural Bilingual Nursing Fellows Program and Concurrent Enrollment Program, a new, award-winning collaboration between ASU’s College of Nursing and Healthcare Innovation, South Mountain Community College and Phoenix College.

Students in the program, which started this week, will earn their Associate of Applied Science in Nursing from Phoenix College and their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from ASU within two-and-a-half years of acceptance into the program.

Students are also encouraged to take the nursing licensure exam after earning their Associate of Applied Science in Nursing.

The bilingual nursing program was created 12 years ago at South Mountain to meet the critical shortfall of Spanish speaking nurses in Arizona, and to prepare students for employment as registered nurses.

South Mountain nursing graduates are able to transfer directly into the BSN program at ASU for reduced tuition rates.

“We have a large need for Spanish speaking nurses not only in hospitals but ambulatory care and other clinic settings,” said Diann Muzyka, ASU’s director of the RN-BSN and concurrent enrollment programs.

“People relate better to those who are more like them. If a nurse speaks Spanish, a patient can make a stronger connection and they’re more comfortable and willing to accept what you’re telling them.”

Muzyka says the next Bilingual Nursing Fellows Program cohort will begin in fall 2016.

Students who are admitted to the program must meet all ASU admission requirements, hold a GPA of 3.0 and complete a dozen prerequisite courses at the community college level and must be able to speak, write and converse fluently in English and Spanish.

“People in this program are mostly first-generation college students and definitely have a sense of accomplishment and pride as well as fulfilling their dreams,” said Loida Guitierrez, Bilingual Nursing Fellows Program coordinator at South Mountain Community College. “Once they succeed and graduate, you can’t help but share in their excitement.”

Since the program began in 2003, over 300 students have become a registered nurse, licensed practical nurse or certified nurse assistant. The White House Initiative on Educational Excellence recognized the program in September as a “Bright Spot” in Hispanic Education.

For Moreno the bright spot will be his commencement, come May 2018.

“Once I graduate, my options will be wide open and not just limited to the southwestern United States,” Moreno said. “It’s going to boil down to where I want to work, how much do I want to work and how much do I want to make. And also help improve the health of Hispanics for generations to come.”

Reporter , ASU Now


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If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, ASU's Listen(n) project will tell if it makes a sound

A tree falls in a forest and no one is around, but ASU can capture its sound.
Researchers at ASU are documenting and engaging with the sounds of the Southwest
October 2, 2015

Adventures with an Oculus Rift

“Here’s a question for you,” said Garth Paine. “How often does a plane fly over Joshua Tree?”

It’s an odd query about the national park 140 miles east of Los Angeles, halfway between the California coastline and the Arizona border, as it isn’t the kind of place people typically plant themselves for days or weeks to study air-traffic patterns.

But Paine, a senior sustainability scientist(and associate professor in Arizona State University’s School of Music and School of Arts, Media and Engineering), asks it because he wants to share what it sounds like when an airplane flies over a desolate chunk of Joshua Tree’s nearly 800,000 acres of protected wilderness.

The park is one of seven desert areas that Paine and a team of researchers are studying as part of Listen(n) — a multi-disciplinary project to document and engage with the sounds of national parks and reserves in the American Southwest.

The team has collected surround-sound field recordings in these environments since 2013. Their audio makes up one of the largest online databases of its kind, which is free and publicly accessible online. They plan to grow it over the coming decades by equipping park visitors and their local communities with tools to capture and respond to the acoustics of each place.

“We really think our project will raise environmental awareness and then eventually lead to nature stewardship,” said Sabine Feisst, ASU professor of musicology and senior sustainability scholar.

Garth Paine and his Listen(n) project

Arizona State University associate professor Garth Paine demonstrates his Listen(n) Project utilizing an Oculus Rift 3D headset and the 3D microphone he developed to record sound in three dimensions. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

According to the researchers, who also include associate professor of German studies and information literacy and senior sustainability scholar Daniel Gilfillan and visiting scholar and artist Leah Barclay, a change in the sonic makeup of an environment can indicate changes to the plants and animals that inhabit it.

Gilfillan cites a study about urban robins that sang during the day; when man-made noise production increased in their space, they shifted their behaviors and began communicating only during the quieter nighttime.

“Whatever the makeup of the landscape, it generates an acoustic container that colors everything in it,” Paine said. “So if you then come in and clear that landscape, that acoustic property is therefore cleared and the context is completely taken away and everything therefore changes.”

The Listen(n) team developed a new, spherical audio technology to precisely record those changes. With the 3-D format, they are able to match the angle from which a sound is recorded with 360-degree visual images enabled by an Oculus Rift headset to create what they call the “EcoRift experience.”

The experience, which was introduced at the 2014 South by Southwest-Eco conference in Austin, Texas, presents a virtual-reality sensation of being in the desert. As users turn their heads to see the landscape, the sounds change to represent corresponding spatial shifts in pitch or resonance.

The researchers hope the experience will encourage visits to the parks and provide access for the elderly or mobility-impaired, especially as virtual reality becomes ubiquitous.

They are also discussing with park rangers the idea of capturing the sights and sounds of protected areas that are normally off-limits to guests.

Engaging people to better understand their relationships with a place, and their agency within it, is closely connected to the Listen(n)team’s fieldwork: They offer listening workshops in collaboration with national park administrators and community organizations near their research sites in Joshua Tree, Death Valley and Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks and in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

“One of the most inspiring things is when we did one-day workshops during National Park Week,” Paine said. “When you give the kids a microphone, a recorder and a pair of headphones, they are just blown away. I’m endlessly dumbstruck by how they direct attention and really investigate.”

To encourage discourse, the team created a digital resource for storytelling, mapmaking and art related to environmental changes within soundscapes.

On Oct. 16, they will present an additional aspect of their research as they debut three of five musical works derived from the field recordings of the Listen(n)project that feature leading composers in experimental sound.

“When you give the kids a microphone, a recorder and a pair of headphones, they are just blown away.

— Garth Paine, ASU Senior Sustainability Scientist

At times, the compositions reflect the silence of a solitary land. At others, they amplify an eagle’s call, the start-stop chirping of tree frogs or winds gusting through dried shrubbery. They also contain the distant hum of highway traffic, the reverberations of a vending machine and the rattling of power lines.

And, of course, the relentless sounds of jet engines overhead, bisecting the open sky on the flight path from Los Angeles International Airport — exactly once every 30 seconds.

The Listen(n) project is supported in part by a seed grant through ASU’s Institute for Humanities Research (IHR). IHR seed grants advance faculty research with the aim of improving the quality of proposals to external funding agencies and by benefiting a wide community through public programming that features their scholarship.

Elizabeth Giudicessi, Elizabeth.Giudicessi@asu.edu
Media Relations and Strategic Communications

Arizona refugees get a hand in trying to establish homegrown businesses

September 24, 2015

It might be a delicious bit of fish from Lake Tanganyika, or a colorful, flowing Dashiki shirt.

For people who have been uprooted from their homelands, tiny familiarities like these can be powerful ties to a culture they’re working to sustain. Olga Lucia Parga, left, and Madeline Bosma Olga Lucia Parga (left) assists Madeline Bosma (right) on her proposal as part of her business proposal representing "Sewing a Better Future," for the Bhutanese Mutual Assistance Association of Tucson during the Social Entrepreneurship Expo as a part of the Social Entrepreneurship Integration Project at the Refugee Focus building in central Phoenix on Sept. 22. ASU's School of Social Work helped organize the Social Entrepreneurship Integration Project to create a unique program that educates and develops social entrepreneurs in Arizona's refugee communities. Photo by: Deanna Dent/ASU News Download Full Image

And that’s why a group of refugees in Arizona is trying to turn food, clothing and other native touchstones into businesses that will help them thrive here.

A team from Arizona State University’s Office of Global Social Work has been helping them succeed.

Last week, six refugee groups made entrepreneurial pitches to potential investors. They proposed small start-ups including a day-care center, a tailoring shop, a transportation service, a cultural event-planning business and shops that would sell ethnic food and clothing.

“There is a fish that is found only in Lake Tanganyika,” said Sadiki Elmady of the Congo Democratic Community of Arizona. He was pitching an “African Market Center” for the West Valley.

“Those fish are very delicious. We would like people in Arizona to taste that African fish.”

The new businesses will provide goods and services needed by the refugee communities, and the profits they generate will fund the refugee groups’ work in resettling newcomers.

Barbara Klimek is director of ASU’s Office of Global Social Work, part of the School of Social Work. She led a team of undergraduate and graduate students in the social-entrepreneurship project, in which they worked to give technical assistance to the groups as they created their proposals.

“These organizations decided to start looking not at federal funding but at creating businesses that are social-oriented, helping their countrymen and anybody who needs social services,” said Klimek, who is also a clinical associate professor at ASU.

David Androff, associate director of the Office of Global Social Work, said that over the past few years, the team realized that what the groups really need is money. So the entrepreneur project has been the focus for the past year.

“They don’t want to be seen as dependent, weak refugees, which makes them seem disempowered,” said Androff, who is also an associate professor.

“They want to be integrated into society.”

The issues of resettlement

Globally, the plight of refugees has become an urgent issue in recent months as Middle Eastern refugees have been flowing into neighboring European countries, hoping for asylum.

Civil war and terrorism have displaced millions of people – including more than 4 million from Syria, alone, since 2011. The European Union has grappled with how to absorb the masses of migrants who are streaming across borders in search of peace.

Last month, the United States agreed to accept more refugees, lifting the cap of 70,000 that has been in place for three years. The U.S. will take 100,000 refugees by 2017.

Arizona took in about 3,800 refugees from 41 countries last year. About 30 percent came from Iraq, with hundreds more from Somalia, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Cuba.

Klimek said that the model for refugee resettlement in the United States emphasizes jobs and self-reliance and newcomers can get assistance for up to five years. That’s different from the European method, which offers health and language help for a year, she said.

“After that, there is nothing that would provide them with any opportunity for getting jobs or for starting a business. They are on their own.

“This is why Europe and many countries are so reluctant to accept refugees – because it becomes a burden.”

ASU’s Office of Global Social Work is hoping to live up to its name. The team has submitted a proposal to partner with other universities to train refugee advocates in Europe as they deal with the influx of immigrants.

“We can be part of the conversation because of our work at the local level, and we want to do that on an international level as well,” Klimek said.

In Arizona, the ASU office recently helped refugee groups consolidate their power by forming a brand-new umbrella consortium called New American Community that will work with aid agencies.

“It’s obvious that they are more powerful in terms of what they can do if they work together,” Klimek said.

Androff said that while refugees are encouraged to find work as soon as they arrive in America, they often end up in minimum-wage jobs because of language and cultural barriers. The new businesses can take advantage of skills they already have, such as tailoring.

“That’s not a way to build a future in society,” he said.

“Their human capital is being wasted. They have skills, but they just can’t translate them when they get here.”

American dreams inspired by homelands

At the pitch meeting, the aspiring entrepreneurs stood before a room full of potential investors. A few were tentative, but all of them were enthusiastic about their projects.

“I’m a little nervous,” said Amit Mahat as she flipped through her index cards before pitching an event-planning business on behalf of Horizons for Refugee Families in Tucson.

“The ‘African Sunset’ package would provide food, music, décor and servers,” she said, noting that the business would be called Suva, which means “good” or “happy” in Nepalese.

The groups had a practice pitch session in May, and the ASU team spent the summer helping them refine their projects. They especially needed to work on the business details, Androff said.

“They’re really high on passion and community value. There’s a lot of interesting cultural stuff. But the actual technical details of ‘how are you going to make a profit at that’ are less clear.”

Madeline Bosma twirled around in pink high heels as she described “Sewing A Better Future,” the tailoring shop and women’s clothing retailer proposed by the Bhutanese Mutual Assistance Association of Tucson.

“Our designers will use Bhutan as their inspiration,” she said, showing off her brilliant blue jacket. A metallic polka-dotted scarf was draped on one shoulder.

Bosma said the association considered the number of tailoring shops that already exist in Tucson and how much profit they earn when calculating the rate at which it could repay an investment of $242,705.

All of the clothing will be labeled as being made by refugees in America, she said.

“People will know it’s American made and not something they bought in China.”

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter, ASU Now


ASU president, spouse give $1.2M to boost new Public Service Academy

September 16, 2015

Couple endow directorship for first program to integrate civilian and military leadership training for service-oriented undergraduates

Arizona State University President Michael Crow and his wife, Sybil Francis, announced Wednesday a $1.2 million commitment to fund the directorship of the ASU Public Service Academy, a new center created to educate purpose-driven leaders who intend to serve in nonprofits, the civil service and the military. Public Service Academy's first cohort at their leadership retreat. Arizona State University's new Public Service Academy, which launched its first cohort this semester, is a new university-wide program aimed at developing the next generation of service-oriented leaders, with the goal of creating positive social change. Students from every major are welcome. Photo by: Paul Atkinson Download Full Image

The gift from Crow and Francis, who serves as executive director for the Center for the Future of Arizona, comes as the academy welcomes its inaugural cohort of 100 service-oriented students to their first semester on campus.

“This program will build a culture of service and a pipeline of leaders who will work across sectors to undertake humanitarian efforts and to address real-life issues facing our unpredictable world,” said Crow. “Public service is something to which Sybil and I have devoted much of our professional lives. It is fitting that emerging leaders in the field are trained at ASU — a solutions-focused institution committed to the highest level of academic excellence to achieve maximum societal impact. We are eager to witness these leaders go on to improve communities in Arizona and across the world.”

Crow appeared on several national news shows in New York on Wednesday morning to speak about the gift.

“We're building an academy where people will learn practical aspects of leadership and will take their regular major and will have scholarships training side by side with future military officers to produce the new kinds of leaders,” Crow told the “Today” show.

“Today” host Matt Lauer praised the move.

“How many times in the past have we talked about only really respecting people who put their money where their mouth is? Dr. Crow is putting money where his mouth is, and is personally donated more than $1 million to this academy,” Lauer said.

Tom Brokaw also appeared on the show to speak about Crow and his actions.

“I'm not afraid of embarrassing him, but everybody regards him as one of the two or three greatest university presidents that we have in this country because he is so dynamic,” Brokaw said.

The gift — composed in part from contributions by private supporters to the Presidential Leadership Chair, a fund established to provide ASU with resources to retain and incentivize university presidents — will permanently establish the Michael M. Crow and Sybil Francis Endowed Directorship for the Public Service Academy.

“It is absolutely in keeping with Mike and Sybil’s character that their first thought was to give money intended for their family to Arizona State,” said former Pepsi-Cola chairman and chief executive officer Craig Weatherup, who helped lead the effort to provide funds for the chair. “I expect the Public Service Academy will be the next great ASU initiative to reshape higher education and the economic future of America.”

The 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. Crow’s career in public service dates to 1974, when he joined the University Year for ACTION, an affiliate program of the Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA). Similarly, Francis began her career in 1980 as a congressional aide before serving in the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy.

The new Public Service Academy offers two tracks: Reserve Officer Training Corps, the existing university-based program to commission officers in the U.S. Armed Forces, and the Next Generation Service Corps, an original program for students from all majors to become civilian service leaders. Both tracks include a unique civilian-military collaboration, a series of seven leadership courses and a set of summer internships in nonprofit, government or private organizations.

The academy’s director, Brett Hunt — a former captain in the U.S. Army and Foreign Service officer for the U.S. Department of State who was appointed to the Public Service Academy in June 2015 — will be the first to hold the endowed directorship role. He said he is renewed by this generation’s focus on moving the needle for social good — even more than on securing high-paying jobs.

“We are thrilled by Brett’s vision for creating the pre-eminent training hub for the next generation of change-makers,” said Francis. “Brett is an energetic leader who has spent his career shaping the dialogue around public service. He embodies the spirit of community improvement and commitment to the public good that is the backbone of ASU’s charter. We are delighted to give back to this thriving university as it defines a new model for the betterment of our society.”

Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions, added, “We are enormously grateful for this transformative commitment, which will support the Academy’s director in perpetuity, and for the generosity of private donors like Dr. Francis and President Crow who take seriously our commitment to cultivating the spirit of public service that is strong in so many ASU students — regardless of major or career path. Their example is one we should all follow.”

A formal launch event for the Public Service Academy is scheduled for early November.

ASU professor named Navajo Nation poet laureate

September 11, 2015

Growing up in a tiny town on the Navajo reservation, Laura Tohe relied on comics, fairy tales and books to stimulate her mind — even if that meant a four-hour round-trip drive to the nearest library.

“Since we didn’t have television, reading was a way out of the rez for me,” said Tohe, an English professor in Arizona State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “Books took me to other places in the world and to other time eras.” Laura Tohe weaving Arizona State University English professor Laura Tohe is being named the poet laureate of the Navajo Nation for 2015-2017. She finds writing to be like weaving; she’s continuing the legacy traditions of her mother, aunt, grandmother and great-grandmother, using some of their tools as well. Here she weaves in her Mesa home on July 13. Photo by: Charlie Leight/ASU News Download Full Image

Today, the Tohe era will commence when she is named the new poet laureate of the Navajo Nation at an official ceremony in Crownpoint, New Mexico. Tohe succeeds Luci Tapahonso, who was named the nation’s first ever poet laureate in 2013.

The goal of designating a chief poet is to encourage other Navajo writers and artists and to underscore their contributions to Navajo culture.

Tohe has already contributed much to the Navajo Nation and the literary world.

She has written four books, published hundreds of poems and has had several translations of her work ­­— including into dance and music. In 2008, Tohe wrote the commissioned libretto for “Enemy Slayer: A Navajo Oratorio” for the Phoenix Symphony.

Tohe credits a vivid imagination and the lack of a family television to her success.

“I was introduced to reading with the ‘Dick and Jane’ series at school,” she said. “I gravitated to fairy tales, and when my mother could afford it, she bought me ‘Little Lotta,’ ‘Richie Rich’ comics and later my brothers reluctantly let me read their comics — ‘Superman,’ ‘Batman’ and others.”

Tohe grew up on the reservation in Crystal, New Mexico, near the Chuska Mountains on the eastern border of the Dine/Navajo homeland. The town’s population hovered just above 300 people, and outside of attending school, there wasn’t much to do. Storytelling was not only a way to pass the time, but an art form among her people.

“One time I drove with my grandparents down Highway 666, and they recounted all of the places where a relative died or some incident happened. It was a highway of stories,” Tohe said. “I grew up with an oral tradition, and that has been my biggest influence in developing my voice and my work as a poet and writer. ‘You don’t have anything if you don’t have stories,’ is what my mother used to say.”

Tohe said as a child she told such captivating stories that a family friend would come over to listen to her when she’d go on a tear. Her stories eventually grew into poetry and sometimes prose poetry.

“Dine people, like many indigenous peoples, have always had great reverence for language, for sacred words and how they are used in meditations,” Tohe said. “For example, prayers and song meditations are used to heal and restore health and wellness for someone suffering from a certain illness. It can also uplift the human spirit.”

In her duties as poet laureate, Tohe wants to help uplift the Navajo people, specifically the next generations.

“I would like to see our younger generation continue the tradition of writing poetry, what we call ‘Saad Naazhch’aa,’ which translates to ‘pictures with words,’ ” Tohe said. “We didn’t have a word for poetry a few years ago. Since our language has diminished with the boarding-school era, poetry can be one of the ways to revitalize and save the Navajo language.”

Reporter , ASU Now