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Nature Research and Biodesign to co-host fall conference on imaging molecular reactions

August 13, 2019

Some of the world’s most accomplished scientific minds will converge on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus Nov. 6-8 to explore new methods that make it possible to observe molecules in action. Illustrating the adage "seeing is believing," the conference, “Functional dynamics – visualizing molecules in action,” will showcase how cutting-edge methods are pushing the boundaries of knowledge.

At the conference, scientists will discuss how emerging methods that were unthinkable a decade ago have the potential to change the trajectory of drug discovery, accelerate the search for new sources of energy, miniaturize semiconductors – and even preserve art and archeology. The “Functional dynamics – visualizing molecules in action” conference will come to Arizona State University’s Tempe campus Nov. 6-8. Download Full Image

“The conference will bring together scientists from all over the world, working in disciplines ranging from structural biology, ultrafast spectroscopy and theory to quantum physics, to present and discuss novel breakthrough techniques and discoveries that will allow us to see the world around us ‘with new eyes’ by imaging molecular dynamics at the atomic scale,” said Petra Fromme, director of the Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery, Regents Professor in the School of Molecular Sciences and a member of the conference's scientific committee. To date, most structural knowledge is based on a static picture of the molecules or the material, limiting understanding because of the highly dynamic nature of living organisms, chemical reactions and transitions in materials.

“I am especially thrilled about the potential of this gathering because it is the first time the esteemed Nature editors have selected Arizona State University as a site for one of their prestigious conferences,” said Fromme.

“We are also eager to show conference participants the progress we've made with our prototype compact femtosecond X-ray light source,” said William Graves, lead accelerator physicist for the project and associate professor of physics. Participants will have the rare opportunity to visit the Beus CXFEL Laboratory, where scientists will be making final preparations for the first light experiment.

The conference is co-organized by seven Nature journal editors and noted researchers at ASU. The ASU team is led by Fromme, Graves and John Spence, the Richard Snell Professor of Physics at ASU. Nature senior editor Magdalena Helmer is leading the Nature team, along with editors from Nature, Nature Chemistry, Nature Communications, Nature Methods and Nature Physics. Many of the Nature publication editors plan to attend the conference.

In assessing sites and scientists for a conference that would be well-positioned to advance techniques such as serial femtosecond crystallography and ultrafast spectroscopy, among other related technologies, the Nature editors identified Fromme and her team as leading the field, issuing an invitation to Fromme and the Biodesign Institute to host this important conference.

The conference will feature five sessions, designed to stimulate new ideas and collaborations. The conference will include a poster session and presentations in five key areas of interest:

  • Mapping ultra-fast light-triggered molecular motion
  • Visualizing catalysis in real time
  • Energy transfer and excited-state dynamics
  • Dynamics of interfaces
  • Tracking large-scale molecular dynamics

The conference committee will invite those who have submitted the best abstracts to provide short talks at the conference.

The event is expected to draw a broad mix of scientists, representing an unusually wide array of disciplines. Speakers include two Nobel Laureates: Ada Yonath, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2009 for unravelling the atomic basis of protein synthesis in living cells by solving the structure of the ribosome; and Brian Kobilka, who received the Nobel Prize in Chemistry in 2012 for his pioneering work in solving the structure of one of the most promising drug-targets, a G-protein coupled receptor with its G-protein.

"This is a line-up of superstars," said Spence. "The inexpensive room-sized compact X-ray free-electron laser will bring these femtosecond X-ray diffraction, imaging and spectroscopy techniques within reach of campuses and industrial labs across the country. This conference will showcase all the resulting research opportunities."

It is anticipated that this compact version of a free electron laser will be far more accessible and affordable than the five massive linear accelerators that currently exist worldwide. ASU’s compact X-ray free electron laser will place power in the hands of researchers who develop novel techniques for biomedical imaging in the form of phase contrast imaging and the formation of molecular movies of biomolecules at work, which will help scientists find new solutions to the treatment of cancer, diabetes, infections and many other chronic diseases. The instrument will also be used for the development of new materials with novel properties, a development that may lead to new breakthroughs in the field of quantum materials.

The conference will feature the following invited speakers:

Hashim Al-Hashimi (Duke University, USA)

Henry Chapman (DESY and University of Hamburg, Germany)

Lin Chen (Northwestern University, USA)

Paul Corkum (University of Ottawa, Canada)

Roberta Croce (VU Amsterdam, The Netherlands)

Tanja Cuk (University of Colorado, Boulder, USA)

Naomi Ginsberg (University of California, Berkeley, USA)

Songi Han (University of California, Santa Barbara, USA)

Hyotcherl Ihee (KAIST, South Korea)

Dorothee Kern (Brandeis University, USA)

Brian Kobilka (Stanford University, USA)

Suliana Manley (EPFL, Switzerland)

Todd Martinez (Stanford University, USA)

James McCusker (Michigan State University, USA)

Margaret Murnane (University of Colorado, Boulder, USA)

Anders Nilsson (Stockholm University, Sweden)

Eva Nogales (University of California, Berkeley, USA)

Arwen Pearson (University of Hamburg, Germany)

Poul Petersen (Ruhr University Bochym, Germany)

Sean Roberts (University of Texas at Austin, USA)

Marius Schmidt (University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, USA)

Ben Schuler (University of Zurich, Switzerland)

Tahei Tahara, (RIKEN, Japan)

Bert Weckhuysen (Utrecht University, The Netherlands)

Martin Weik (OBS Grenoble, France)

Junko Yano (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, USA)

Ada Yonath (Weizman Institute, Israel)

Martin Zanni (University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA)

The deadline for early registration is Aug. 30. The deadline for poster abstract submission to be considered for a short talk is Sept. 12.

For more information, visit “Functional dynamics – visualizing molecules in action” or contact Fromme at Petra.fromme@asu.edu or Dianne Price at Dianne.price@asu.edu.

Written by Dianne Price 

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Generosity to ASU climbs to new heights in 2019

August 12, 2019

Campaign ASU 2020 sets a fundraising record for the fifth consecutive year thanks to support from more than 101,500 individuals

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. Read more top stories from 2019.

Sun Devil supporters bolstered scholarships, medical advancements, professorships and research opportunities as part of a banner fundraising year for the ASU Foundation.

Nikki Hinshaw is one of more than 7,400 students who benefited from private scholarship support through the foundation to advance her learning opportunities. She received the Craig and Barbara Barrett Political Science Scholarship, which enabled her to study abroad and complete an internship in Washington, D.C., as she works toward dual degrees in political science and communication.

Without scholarships, she would not have been able to engage in these learning experiences that require additional expenses including travel and lodging, she told ASU Now in February.

“I hope that (with the experiences), I’m able to make a bigger impact on my community and give back to others someday as well,” Hinshaw said.

This spirit of generosity from donors is what enabled the ASU Foundation to set a fundraising record for the fifth consecutive year. More than 101,500 individuals, corporations and foundations donated $413.7 million in fiscal year 2019, a 65% increase from fiscal year 2018. Of those, 25,520 were new donors.

“Our donors’ generosity provides life-changing experiences for our students and allows ASU to realize its aspirations as a world-class research university,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “ASU would not be the university it is today without the support of those who believe in the power of education to transform lives and our society and commit their resources to make that happen.”

While many students received scholarships, many even donated to scholarships to aid other students.

A group of 42 donors, half of which are current students, worked together to establish the newly endowed James Madison Scholarship that will aid a second- or third-year full-time law student in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law who is also a member of the Federalist Society. In addition to creating new scholarships for law students, the scholarship encouraged 36 first-time donors to give to ASU students.

“We are tremendously grateful for the support given to us this fiscal year, money donated to support ASU’s vision for what higher education can and should be,” ASU Foundation CEO Gretchen Buhlig said. “Every gift is important, whether it’s $10, $100 or thousands of dollars. It all makes a tremendous impact on our students, faculty and the community.” 

Private support funded a variety of initiatives and programs that will transform the university and community. 

Community-based businesses that benefited from private support include food truck and catering small businesses owned by women and underrepresented groups. They have access to Prepped, a free early-stage food business incubator, through a collaboration with Entrepreneurship and Innovation and the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and support from the College of Health Solutions. An anonymous donor invested in this opportunity to ensure the incubator had the staff and funding needed to help businesses. 

Students in the School of Earth and Space Exploration were able to send their payloads — including live bees — into space thanks to donors Cathy and Peter Swan. The students involved with this project traveled to west Texas in May to watch the launch and used remote acoustic sensing technology to record the bees’ vibrations, pressures and orientation in space. 

“When we launched Campaign ASU 2020 we had six core objectives — several of which focused on students — and we’ve had tremendous success in that area,” Buhlig said. “In the last year it has been really exciting to see a dramatic increase in gifts to support our faculty who are core to this institution.” 

Faculty not only benefited from private support, but also contributed to a culture of philanthropy. Nearly 2,700 faculty and staff members donated to Campaign ASU 2020 last fiscal year.


Video by Joel Farias

Three transformational gifts received in the past year are intended to revolutionize medical discoveries, expand dementia research, further nursing education to offset the nursing shortage and revitalize Maryvale and other Arizona communities.

Leo and Annette Beus donated $10 million toward the Beus Compact X-ray Free Electron Laser (CXFEL) Lab at ASU’s Biodesign Institute. The lab will house a CXFEL laser, which is a first-of-its-kind X-ray technology. Worldwide, there are only five X-ray Free Electron Lasers, and researchers often have to wait as much as a year to use them. ASU’s compact version may provide accessibility that can lead to faster research and discovery for medicine, renewable energy and the computer industry.  

Charlene and J. Orin Edson donated $50 million to be split between the ASU Biodesign Institute and the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation. The money is earmarked for the university’s multidisciplinary dementia research and to increase nursing education. 

Mike and Cindy Watts donated $30 million to advance the prosperity of Arizona communities such as Maryvale, where the Wattses grew up. Through a collaboration between community leaders and the university, the gift will enable embedded community services, strengthen entrepreneurial efforts and increase community engagement through the renamed Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“Private support is critically important to Arizona State University because it enables solutions to problems that can transform lives and improve communities,” Buhlig said. “Private support enables opportunities for growth, innovation and excellence for our students and faculty.” 

Campaign ASU 2020 was publicly launched in January 2016 to raise the long-term fundraising capacity of the university and focuses on six priorities including student access and excellence; student success; the academic enterprise; discovery, creativity and innovation; enriching our communities; and Sun Devil competitiveness. The fundraising campaign is in its final year.

Learn more about supporting ASU.

Top photo: ASU Foundation staff express their gratitude on Sun Devil Giving Day — a day for ASU community members to designate what university areas they want their donations to support. 

Michelle Stermole

Director of communications , Enterprise Partners


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ASU alumna makes big ripples in Lake Havasu City

August 2, 2019

Biology major Briana Morgan is municipality's water conservation specialist

There aren’t any great white sharks in the Colorado River, but a picture of them captivated Briana Morgan and propelled her into a career of working on water conservation in Lake Havasu City.

Her visiting great uncle, an underwater photographer, showed her pictures of the predator he had snapped. She was 7 at the time.

“It was definitely a pivotal moment for me, and I was instantly captivated,” said Morgan, who is Lake Havasu City’s current water conservation specialist. “That captivation instantly took over me because every waking moment I watched documentaries, bought books, did research and was intrigued by underwater life and everything that had to do with water.”

Morgan, who graduated from Arizona State University at Lake Havasu in 2016 with a bachelor’s degree in biology and environmental science, said her passion for the environment and conservation was not only stoked by her uncle, but fueled by personal circumstances.

The Lake Havasu City native suffered from a growth deformity called leg length discrepancy in her youth. Morgan’s right leg was 3.5 inches shorter than her left, which didn’t allow her to participate in many physical or outdoor activities with her friends. Her parents stressed education as an avenue to a better life.

“We shared with Briana that she needed to concentrate on her studies because she was going to need a good job with insurance in case she had more medical issues,” said her mother, Cherith Morgan. “Briana also had a good attitude because if she faced a challenge, her mindset was always, ‘I’ll conquer it.’”

A series of surgeries corrected Morgan’s leg when she was a teen, but when she was about to graduate high school, a new crisis emerged: Morgan’s father was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer.

“He was very strong, very stubborn but also encouraging,” Morgan said. “He fought to the very last day and one of the last things he told me was, ‘I’m not going anywhere. I will be here to see you do all of these wonderful things.’”

Sadly, that was not the case. Bill Morgan died a week before his 52nd birthday on July 13, 2012. A month later, Morgan started her freshman year at ASU.

“His death was definitely traumatic and emotional, but as far as college was concerned, it was a breath of fresh air and I needed it,” Morgan said. “I went into college highly motivated.”

Morgan blazed through her freshman year but was severely slowed down when she was a sophomore. That’s when she suffered a grand mal seizure a few days before the first anniversary of her dad’s death. Most seizures last between three and five minutes. Morgan said hers lasted between 20 and 30 minutes.

The damage was hefty. Morgan was placed on medication that slowed her down and didn’t allow her to drive for six months. She also lost a good chunk of memory and was forced to retake a calculus class.

“There were a lot of street names and routes I forgot, and to this day I still can’t remember a lot of my high school years,” Morgan said. “I don’t remember my father’s funeral at all.”

The seizure and ensuing epilepsy diagnosis not only forced Morgan to take a good look at her life, but also her future. She was studying to become a field biologist but figured she might become a liability because of her condition. So she switched her focus from biology to water conservation in her sophomore year.

One of her thesis/capstone projects focused on the Colorado River, its importance, issues it faces regarding shortages, impacts on stakeholders and a call to action for conservation.

The timing was fortuitous.

Months before Morgan graduated, Lake Havasu City’s water conservation specialist position was up for grabs. According to Doyle Wilson, water resources coordinator at Lake Havasu City and Morgan’s boss, she gave a great interview. Wilson interviewed close 50 candidates before hiring Morgan.

“She’s grown into the position, and her job has grown as well,” Wilson said. “Briana is very dependable and works well with others.”

One example of Morgan's work is an April 2017 landscaping project with Mohave State BankNow State Bank of Arizona in Lake Havasu in which she suspected there were leaks and came up with a redesign that was not only more aesthetically pleasing, but saved the city thousands of gallons a year in water consumption.

Lisa Van Ella, the bank’s vice president of community development, reached out to Morgan when she noticed the bank’s water bills were extremely high. Prior to the landscaping project their irrigation usage was averaged almost 30,000 gallons a month, or a couple of average-size swimming pools worth of water according to Van Ella.

“I kept wondering why are our water bills so high,” Van Ella said. “And our landscaping looked terrible. We definitely had some issues, which is why I called Briana.”

Morgan quickly swung into action with a mission to beautify the landscaping while conserving water. She also enlisted ASU’s Environmental Community Outreach club, a club she belonged to while attending the university. They mapped out the logistics of the transformation of the bank as part of their classwork.

They determined the bank’s irrigation system not only had major leaks, but needed a new design to include water-friendly plants and vegetation, and bioswales and other landscape elements to absorb surface runoff. They discovered the bank experienced 56,000 gallons of water running off its hard surfaces from an average annual rainfall of 4.24 inches.

The yearlong project ended on Earth Day 2017 with students and bank employees pitching in to install a drought-tolerant plant selection and green infrastructure. ASU students also made sure that whatever was taken away from the property was repurposed for another use.

Not only did the bank look better, but it was operating more efficiently. Its water usage also decreased by 76%-86% every month.

“We saw immediate results regarding our water bill,” Van Ella said. “The amount of money we invested into the project came back to us over time. We have Briana to thank for this.”

The city recognized the bank with the “Lake Havasu City Water Conservation Recognition Award” in 2018. That was the same year the Havasu News Herald selected Morgan as the youngest awardee for Havasu’s 30 under 40 Up-and-Coming Leaders. The award recognizes the city’s best and brightest young leaders.

“Briana is the right person at the right time for Lake Havasu water conservation,” said Raymond Van der Riet, director of ASU at Lake Havasu. “As an environmental science student, she always demonstrated a knack for applied solutions. Briana’s keen analytical approach to problem-solving is much needed in Lake Havasu City, where the economy is directly impacted by the ebb and flow of the Colorado River. There is no doubt the city is in good hands.”

In addition to community education, grant writing, water audits and pressure checks on homes and businesses, Morgan juggles other assignments: She facilitated Lake Havasu City’s rebate program that helped residents obtain water-saving appliances at discounted prices; is heading up a rainwater/grey water harvesting project for two of the city’s municipal facilities; established the city’s Recommended Landscaping Plant List and is in the process of converting it to a database that will soon be available on the city’s website. She was also responsible for helping Lake Havasu City win third place for 2018 in the Wyland National Mayor’s Challenge for Water Conservation and fifth place in 2019.

She also assisted New Horizons, a nonprofit that assists persons with disabilities, with a community garden project on a vacant city lot. Morgan helped in the planning and design phase, ensuring the landscaping was desert-friendly and graded to prevent flooding in the walkway areas during storm events.

The community garden currently leases planting beds to residents who grow vegetables and share them with the community. It hopes to open a farmers market in the fall and hold events such as weddings, meetings and wine tastings.

One could argue that Morgan is finding her own success through perseverance. However, she doesn’t forget that she had to fight every step of the way.

“I get that comment a lot. ‘Wow, you’re so strong. I don’t know if I could do that,’” Morgan said. “The reality is people are built to fight, and they’re meant to fight. It’s just whether or not they’re put into that situation. I think everybody has a fighter inside of them; it’s just a matter of bringing it out.”

Top photo: ASU at Lake Havasu City graduate Briana Morgan is the municipality's water conservation specialist in the western Arizona community. Morgan poses at the city's water treatment plant, where she gives tours. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now


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ASU research reviews unregulated stem cell clinics in six southwestern states

August 1, 2019

Expertise of providers, legitimacy of therapies examined

Unproven and unregulated stem cell therapies for treatments for conditions ranging from Parkinson’s disease to multiple sclerosis to macular degeneration are putting patients at risk in a market that has grown rapidly in recent years.

In a paper published Aug.1 in the journal Stem Cell Reports, Arizona State University investigators offer a detailed characterization of nearly 170 direct-to-consumer stem cell businesses across six southwestern states. The study focused on Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah, where the researchers estimate that about one-third of all stem cell clinics in the U.S. are located.

Currently, the only stem-cell based products that are FDA-approved are from cord blood or bone marrow and are approved only to treat cancers of blood and bone marrow. Yet many of the clinics included in the study are using fat-derived stem cells in treatments that have not undergone clinical trials for a wide range of diseases. 

It turns out relatively little is known about the clinics that deliver stem cell treatments or how their procedures align with the expertise of the practitioners providing them.  

“Previous studies have built up a broad picture of the direct-to-consumer stem cell industry,” said Emma Frow, an assistant professor with science policy expertise in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering at Arizona State University who the is co-senior author of the paper with David Brafman, a stem cell bioengineer also with the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering.

“Like others, I had significant concern about the impact these clinics could have on vulnerable patient population as well as the perception of the legitimacy of stem cell-related research as a whole,” Brafman said. “As a scientist, I was also fundamentally interested in these clinics in a more general sense. What type of treatments were they offering? What diseases were they claiming to treat? How were they supporting such claims?”

The researchers conducted extensive online searches for stem cell clinics in the six states.

“We took a deeper dive into a smaller number of clinics and found that there’s a lot of variation among the businesses offering these services,” Frow said. “About 25% focus exclusively on stem cells, but many others are facilities like orthopedic and sports medicine clinics that have added stem cells to their roster of services on offer. For these clinics, it’s very difficult to know how much of their business comes from stem cell treatments.

“There’s no exhaustive list of all the clinics that exist,” Frow said. “This is a lively marketplace, with businesses opening and closing and changing their names.”

For the 169 businesses identified, the researchers catalogued the treatments being offered, the medical conditions the clinics purported to treat and the types of cells they claimed to use.

For the clinics focused solely on stem cells, they also looked at the stated expertise of the care providers in relation to the medical conditions they offer to treat with stem cells. 

“Just because someone is board certified doesn’t necessarily mean they are qualified to provide stem cell treatments," Frow said. “You really need to ask what they are board certified in and whether their medical expertise is well-matched to the condition you are seeking treatment for.”

The researchers found that orthopedic, inflammatory and pain conditions were the main types of medical conditions treated with stem cells at direct-to-consumer stem cell clinics in the Southwest.

Frow notes that these types of conditions “tend to be chronic problems that often are not curable. The market has really capitalized on targeting conditions that are hard to manage with existing therapies.”

Earlier studies have shown a lower percentage of clinics treating inflammatory conditions. “This could mean that the number of clinics treating inflammatory conditions is on the rise or that, in the Southwest, there is more focus on treating inflammatory conditions than in other parts of the U.S.,” Frow said.

The researchers also found differences in the degree to which the stated expertise of care providers matched the medical conditions they treat with stem cells.

For example, they identified that specialists in orthopedics and sports medicine were more likely to restrict stem cell treatments to conditions related to their medical specialties, while care providers listing specialties in cosmetic or alternative medicine were more likely to treat a much wider range of conditions with stem cells.

“We have been able to identify important trends that will have significant impacts on informing vulnerable patient populations, making recommendations for future regulatory enforcement and conveying urgency for policy changes," Brafman said.

Public discussions of direct-to-consumer stem cell treatments usually treat clinics as though their business models were all similar, but this study highlights key differences across these clinics.

“We think it makes a difference whether a business is focused solely on stem cells or offers it as one treatment among many,” Frow said. “And we think it’s important to pay attention to the medical qualifications and expertise of the care providers offering stem cell treatments. We want to bring more transparency to discussions of the direct-to-consumer stem cell marketplace and to empower consumers to figure out what kinds of questions to ask when they’re considering treatment.”

Top photo from Pixabay

Terry Grant

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications


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ASU students organize art show to connect prison inmates to community

ASU students organize show of inmates' artworks to benefit youth charity.
July 30, 2019

Sales from 'Inkcarcerated' gallery show will benefit children's art charity

Even as they are separated from their communities, the men who are incarcerated at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence are finding a way to give back, with help from Arizona State University.

Two ASU students have organized a gallery show of art made by the men, and sales will benefit a nonprofit that provides art therapy to traumatized children.

“Inkcarcerated: Creativity Within Confinement” will be held from 6 to 10 p.m. Friday, Aug. 2, at the A.E. England Building at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus.

The students, Genevieve McKenzie, a senior majoring in criminology and psychology, and Caitlin Matekel, a PhD student in criminology, created the show through their work with the Center for Correctional Solutions in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

The event is meant to connect the men to the communities they will eventually be returning to, Matekel said.

“It’s bridging that gap between corrections, which is so hidden, and the community that they’re eventually going home to. How do we connect those two groups?” Matekel said.

This is the second art show of its kind organized by ASU students. Two years ago, McKenzie was in a project-based learning course that spent two semesters exploring incarceration.

“We spent the first semester learning about what goes into recidivism and the reentry process and the challenges that people face when they’re leaving prison,” said McKenzie, who toured a prison and reentry center and interviewed formerly incarcerated people as part of the class.

“In the spring semester, we focused on how to address it, so we planned this art show.”

The students sold all of the art and donated the money to charity — an experience that was so successful, she wanted to try it again.

Over the past several months, McKenzie and Matekel organized donations of canvases, canvas panels, pads of paper, pencils, brushes and paints to the men in Florence, many of whom attend organized art classes. Others pursue art as a personal hobby.

More than 200 works of art will be in the show, and proceeds will go to Free Arts for Abused Children of Arizona, an organization that provides programs for children who have experienced family trauma, homelessness and violence. The artworks, including paintings and drawings, will be priced at about $30 and up.

The show is among the projects being done by the Center for Correctional Solutions, which is directed by Kevin Wright, an associate professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

“The center is more interested in working with people rather than on them. We don’t want to do research on them, we want to do it alongside them," Matekel said.

McKenzie is involved in a project in partnership with the Arizona Department of Economic Security to create a new employment program for women incarcerated at the Arizona State Prison Complex in Perryville.

“We interviewed around 200 women, asking about programming and the types of jobs they have had or would be interested in having.

“Now we’re working with our advisory board to create entrepreneurship training — how someone can start a career with all these restrictions placed on them and still thrive, with a focus on the power skills that go into being your own boss,” she said.

The center also developed the Inside Out Prison Exchange Program, in which ASU students travel to a prison to learn about crime and justice alongside incarcerated people. This fall, that program will be held at the women’s facility in Perryville for the first time.

The work of the center is intended to make incarceration more transparent to the public, Matekel said.

“It’s a way to communicate and have people care about this, because these people are coming home. They matter.”

Top photo: The “Inkcarcerated: Creativity Within Confinement” art show will include more than 200 artworks produced by men incarcerated in the Arizona State Prison Complex in Florence. Photo courtesy of the Arizona Department of Corrections

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


Veteran journalists to lead enhanced regional health news at Cronkite School

July 25, 2019

An award-winning national editor for the Associated Press and a five-time Emmy Award-winning journalist are joining a Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication effort to provide quality health news for underserved residents across the Southwest and to create a new cadre of health care journalists.

A national search landed Pauline Arrillaga and Julio Cisneros, who will join the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation-funded Southwest Health Reporting Initiative at Arizona State University. They will lead a team of students at Cronkite News who cover health care issues with a particular focus on Latino and Native American communities.  Cronkite School Download Full Image

Arrillaga, who will direct the initiative, is a 27-year AP veteran who since 2014 has overseen enterprise journalism in the United States. Cisneros, who will be a professor in health news, brings 23 years of experience as a reporter, director and editor at Spanish-language television, radio and digital outlets, including Telemundo and Univision.

“Pauline and Julio bring elite journalism skills, impressive backgrounds, and deep connections in the community to the Cronkite School,” said Dean Christopher Callahan. “Through the generous support of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, they will help our students tackle health care issues across the Southwest head-on. The students who complete the program will be prepared to cover these complex issues with depth, nuance and accuracy as they enter the profession.”

As the AP’s U.S. enterprise editor, Arrillaga helped shape and edit coverage examining the effects of President Donald Trump’s immigration policies on children and families — work named a finalist this year for the Pulitzer Prize in national reporting and winner of an RFK Journalism Award and also the John Seigenthaler Prize for Courage in Reporting. She also oversaw the AP’s series last year on missing and murdered Native American women, winner of the Dori J. Maynard Award for Justice in Journalism, the Les Payne Award for Coverage on Communities of Color, and other honors. 

Pauline Arrillaga

“I can think of no higher calling than working to help mentor and guide the next generation of journalists, and this particular initiative is critical,” Arrillaga said. “Thanks to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the vision of those at the Cronkite School, we have the opportunity to report on a vital topic in communities too often overlooked by policymakers and the public. We hope not only to bring attention to health concerns in these communities but to make a real difference by engaging leaders who can bring about change.”

Arrillaga joined the AP as an intern in 1992 in Dallas. She later covered state politics in Austin, the space program and prison system in Houston, served as a desk supervisor in Dallas, and was the company’s correspondent on the Texas-Mexico border, writing about immigration and the growing influence of Hispanics in America. 

She later was named Southwest regional writer in Phoenix, and she was promoted to the coveted role of national writer in 2002, specializing in long-form narratives and covering major news events from presidential elections to the attack on Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords. Her stories have captured numerous accolades, including a 2005 Livingston Award for “Doors to Death,” an investigative series examining human smuggling across the border. As both a writer and editor, Arrillaga has long focused on issues affecting Latinos and Native Americans and has reported from Native American communities across the West.

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Julio Cisneros

Cisneros, the five-time Emmy Award winner, spent eight years with Telemundo Arizona in various roles, including news director, web editor and reporter. He has served as a coach and trainer at Telemundo, working with staff members on the development and production of multimedia stories.

“I am very happy and excited to be part of the Cronkite News team,” Cisneros said. “Having the opportunity to leave a legacy to journalism students, particularly in the area of health reporting, has always been one of my goals in life. Cronkite is a unique place to work because it offers the best of journalism and shows students the real world, the one they will encounter when they begin working in their profession.”

Cisneros previously was director of digital production for Entravision Communications in Phoenix, where he developed and managed video content and produced news stories for on-air and digital platforms. He also spent 13 years at KUVR (later KREN) Univision in Reno, Nevada, where he helped launch Noticias Univision Reno, Reno’s first Spanish-language newscast. While there, he anchored the 6 p.m. and 11 p.m. news and reported regional stories for a national news magazine program. He was named Journalist of the Year in Nevada by the U.S. Small Business Administration in 2003.

Early in his career, he earned a certification as an elementary school teacher in Jalapa, Guatemala, and earned a bachelor’s degree in communications science from the Universidad de San Carlos in Guatemala. He is the author of a memoir and a novel, both in Spanish.

The Cronkite School received a $500,000 grant to establish the Southwest Health Reporting Initiative to provide timely and accurate health news and information. Cronkite News, the student-produced, faculty-led news division of Arizona PBS, serves as the hub for the initiative. With news bureaus in Phoenix, Los Angeles and Washington, a Spanish-language news operation and partnerships with leading media organizations, Cronkite News students will produce multimedia content on health-related topics and issues with a wide reach. 

Arrillaga and Cisneros will provide editorial leadership and guidance to the students and engage with policymakers and health care professionals to generate awareness of the content produced. The Southwest Health Reporting Initiative will target Arizona, Nevada, New Mexico, Southern California and Texas, with a particular emphasis on Latino, Native American and Spanish-speaking border communities. 

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is a strong supporter of ASU health-related initiatives. The Foundation sponsored research at ASU’s College of Health Solutions examining the spending of tax dollars on public health systems. ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law received funding to support its Center for Public Health Law and Policy, and the foundation has awarded numerous grants to faculty across the university to conduct health-related research.

Director of communications, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Arizona PBS

ASU Law alumna recognized as one of the most influential women in Arizona business

Tonya MacBeth talks about her professional detour to an acclaimed legal career

July 17, 2019

Most lawyers spend years preparing for law school. Tonya MacBeth, a 2005 graduate of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, is not most lawyers.

After studying psychology, sociology and Spanish as an undergrad, she spent a decade working in the mental health field when her career hit a sudden roadblock. The advocacy work that she had been contracted to do with the state of Arizona was under a class-action lawsuit, and the litigants in the case were requiring a lawyer to be in charge of the state agency. photo of Tonya MacBeth Tonya MacBeth is a 2005 graduate of ASU Law and has been recently named a Most Influential Woman in Arizona Business. Download Full Image

The stakeholders apologetically told MacBeth she wouldn’t be eligible to lead the agency, despite her years of dedicated service.

“Being the Type A person that I am, I couldn’t imagine spending the rest of my career being second fiddle,” she said. “So I thought, I better go to law school.”

The last Law School Admission Test that could be taken that year was a mere 30 days away. She had never before considered law school, and she had been out of college for 10 years. But she was undeterred.

“I sat down with the LSAT study books and decided to really dive in to the questions and go for it,” she said, reasoning that she had a fighting chance to pass it because the test is more about problem-solving and vocabulary than legal issues. “So I studied for the LSAT, applied to ASU, just barely got in under the application deadline, went to law school, and never looked back.”

It was a major turning point in her career, and when she graduated from law school, she had different goals in mind. She credits her experience at ASU Law — the clinical work and the engaging professors — with broadening her horizons. And she was concerned that if she went right back to her previous government work, she would never have any other options.

“Coming out of law school, and having had the mental health and government experiences, I thought it was very important to have the experiences being a litigator,” she said. “Because a litigator versus an administrator, it's very different work.”

Knowing very few lawyers upon graduation, she was determined to build a network. So she rolled up her sleeves and began with an old-fashioned letter-writing campaign.

“That was back when we actually wrote letters,” she recalled with a laugh. “I wrote letters to prominent attorneys in the Valley that I had known of, through news reports and magazine articles — the movers and shakers in town — and asked them to have coffee with me. And when I met them, at the end of the coffee, I would say, ‘If you know of anybody who’s hiring, here’s my resume, and please feel free to forward it on.’”

One of those attorneys she met with was Chip Harris, who was one of the top civil, personal injury and medical malpractice attorneys in the Valley. And when she handed him her resume and told him to pass it along to anybody who might be hiring, he just laughed.

MacBeth recalled, “He said, ‘Well, what’s wrong with me? Why can’t I hire you?’”

And that’s how her legal career began, at the Harris, Powers & Cunningham law firm. A few years later, while working at her next firm, after a particularly interesting case came to a close, she called the opposing counsel, Ian Neale, and asked if he would meet for lunch. Much like her meeting with Harris, that lunch led to an employment offer to join the Burch & Cracchiolo firm. She joined in 2008 and has been with the firm ever since.

“It just goes to show that reaching out and making those personal connections really does still work,” she said. “We can talk about networking on LinkedIn, or email or whatever. But having those face-to-face meetings is where things really happen.”

She initially worked in civil litigation for Burch & Cracchiolo, focusing on construction defect and defense work, but when an opportunity arose to move into family law, she jumped at the opportunity to get closer to her career roots.

“I love it — it’s a perfect practice for me,” she said. “I'm a rational, reasonable person who has enough mental health background to know to handle it when people are in crisis and keep the focus on what needs to get done, to accomplish the larger financial and long-term parental goals without getting into the weeds on the interpersonal conflicts.”

It’s difficult work but highly gratifying, because of the personal stakes her clients have in the cases.

“I really enjoy this particular practice area, because clients really care about the outcomes,” she said. “Having done insurance defense work, it's a different level of intensity and different level of interest in the outcome. For insurance companies, it's a dollars and cents cost-benefit analysis. But in family law, these are people's lives. So if you're going to stay up until 3 o'clock in the morning, it might as well be thinking about somebody's future as opposed to concrete thickness.”

MacBeth is now a shareholder in the firm and remains active in the community. She serves on the board for the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest, and chairs the advisory board for the CHEEERS Recovery Center, a peer-run recovery program focused on individuals and families affected by behavioral health conditions, and is active in state and county politics, having run twice for the Arizona Legislature. Az Business magazine recently named her one of the 50 Most Influential Women in Arizona Business, an annual list that recognizes the state’s female leaders for their impact on their organizations, the region’s business climate and the local community.

“It was a real honor to know that my involvement in the community and my law practice as a whole does have an influence on the direction of the Valley,” she said, recalling her surprise when she received the 50 Most Influential Women recognition. “And it’s not just me, but it’s all the people I work with through all my endeavors that I bring together that made this happen.”

It’s an honor she said she never could have imagined years ago, when she was a mental health advocate suddenly cramming for the LSAT and hoping to get into ASU Law.

“I was very fortunate that ASU allowed me to attend, and I can’t imagine what would have happened if they had said no,” MacBeth said.

And she is thankful to Burch and Cracchiolo for unwavering support of her community service.

“The firm has been very supportive of that community engagement, and I really feel that that helps me be a better lawyer, because I'm out in the world, I'm not just in my books,” she said. “And I really love Arizona and I love the Valley, and I want to make it as strong a place as possible. I love being out there, engaging in different endeavors. Whether it's politics or community service, mental health services, it all comes together to make the web that supports Phoenix stronger.”

Nicole Almond Anderson

Director of Communications, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law


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Sparking the indigenous imagination

July 12, 2019

ASU offers summer pilot program to Native American high schoolers living in the Valley

Arizona State University history alumnus Kino Reed regularly teaches O’odham cultural studies and social studies at Salt River High School near Scottsdale, Arizona. But this last week he was back at his alma mater, leading American Indian high schoolers from across the Valley in collaborative design, nation-building and futurism activities in a project called “Engineering the Homeland in 3001.”     

"One of my goals was to start helping students to understand that Native knowledge is scientific," said ReedReed is a member of the Gila River Indian Community, Tohono O'odham and Shosone tribes. about his approach. "And at the same time help them understand the engineering field more and then make their own connections between the two."

Reed is one of several instructors and peer mentors involved in the Indigenous Imagination Initiative. The one-week, nonresidential summer program piloted at the ASU Tempe campus July 8–12 engaged youth in projects that asked them to imagine futures for themselves and their nations and connected them to the creativity and inspiration of indigenous people.

The initiative took almost a year to develop, said Jeanne Hanrahan, director of community outreach at ASU’s University College. She said a collaborative effort by ASU colleagues from K–12 outreach in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the Department of English RED INK Indigenous Initiative along with donor support not only made the program a reality for the 27 participants, but allowed them to attend at no cost.

“The program offered students a choice between focusing on an engineering track and a graphic novel track,” Hanrahan continued. “The cohorts shared a common foundation of presentations on storytelling and indigenous futurism then branched out to enjoy a range of workshops to support their projects. We engaged ASU’s indigenous community, including alumni, faculty, staff and students as well as community members to make this happen.”

The jam-packed week included team-building activities, painting, ideation and brainstorming sessions, talking circles, engineering design challenges, 3D printing workshops and sessions on how to craft a graphic novel.

The engineering cohort was a nice fit for 17-year-old Koi Quiver.

“I have a very mathematic brain, and I like putting stuff together,” said Quiver, who will be a senior at Buckeye Union High School next month. “It incorporates engineering and indigenous stories. I want to learn how to mash those two subjects together.”

Jaycee Nez, one of three peer mentors involved in the initiative, said Quiver’s curiosity and skill set warmed her heart.

“I like to see people who look like me and think like me, doing the same things,” said Nez, a chemical engineering major at ASU. “I want to see more Native Americans pursuing careers in engineering. ASU will inspire and guide them towards a better future."

The graphic novel track appealed greatly to 16-year-old Alana Lopez.

“I love to draw, but I don’t know how to tell stories,” said Lopez, who will be a senior at ASU Preparatory Academy, a charter school in downtown Phoenix. “I’m here to learn how to tell stories and express my feelings.”

Helping in that endeavor was Tyson Frank Powless, an ASU art major, commercial artist and an art editor for “RED INK: An International Journal of Indigenous Literature, Arts and Humanities.”

“Native youth have to feel safe in a setting away from home and need to relate to someone like me,” said Powless, who is Navajo, Oneida and Iroquois. “We want to get them into a comfort zone and let them know they have the freedom to create whatever they wish.”

Powless said the relationship has also been a two-way street.

“Having them approach me and saying, ‘We want your skills’ has been a blessing to me,” he said. “This is a group of students who will be putting art in future books, and that’s heavy. These kids have talent.”

That was evident to Marlena Candace Robbins, a professional artist who graduated from ASU with a master’s degree in American Indian Studies. Robbins’ workshop, “Art as a Spiritual Expression and Indigenous Well Being,” hit upon several themes, including ancestry and future generations.

“I talked about the next seven generations and what do we want for our great-great-great-greatgrandkids. How do we want them to live? What kind of communities do we want to build and leave behind for others?” said Robbins, who is Navajo.

Robbins’ teachings resonated with 16-year-old Nakeisha Nockideneh, who painted a desolate landscape featuring a Native American tipi.

“This painting reminds me of my background and encourages me to be more in touch with my culture,” said Nockideneh, who will be a senior this year at Mesa’s Westwood High School. "I’m now inspired to help change and improve things in my community."

Top photo: Salt River High School teacher Kino Reed introduces a project on designing and building a residential housing model in an engineering class, part of the Indigenous Imagination Initiative, on the Tempe campus on July 9, 2019. The goal was to build either a traditional or modern structure with the interior eight degrees cooler than the exterior. The one-week summer program for American Indian high schoolers utilizes cultural knowledge to develop creativity and identity. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

ASU students help kids from Boys and Girls Club design their own playground equipment

July 11, 2019

Earlier this year, winds in Eagar, Arizona, got up to speeds of 80 mph, and the jungle gym on the playground at the Boys and Girls Club of Round Valley took flight and landed in a nearby field. It took a dozen kids to roll the piece of equipment, the “flying jungle gym” as they now call it, back to the club. But it is no longer safe to use. So, with the help of The Design School in Arizona State University's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the kids are designing brand new playground equipment. 

“My career has been focused on using design to improve the lives of kids and families,” said Collin Smith, clinical assistant professor in The Design School. “When I heard about the Boys and Girls Club playground blowing away, I knew I could help get the kids a cool new play space.” Photo of design students at the Boys and Girls Club of Round Valley A group of students from The Design School are helping design new playground equipment for Boys and Girls Club of Round Valley. Courtesy photo. Download Full Image

Smith and a group of 11 students from The Design School are collaborating with the Boys and Girls Club of Round Valley on the designs for the new play equipment.

“We have worked very closely with the governing board of the Boys and Girls Club, but just as importantly with the kids to design and create this space together,” Smith said. “The kids have given hours of input, and we’ve done a week’s worth of collaboration and research with the kids to come up with a space that everybody is invested in.”

The play space they are designing is intended to work in different types of weather, to support children of all ages and to be built using as many local resources as possible. 

The community is nestled in a thick forest that is maintained by logging companies, and they plan to use local logs and wood to create three play areas that flow together using different heights, interactivity and physicality, according to Smith.

The ASU undergraduate and graduate students participating in the project are all from The Design School and include students studying industrial design, architecture and visual communications. They traveled to Eagar at the beginning of the summer, and once they are finished they plan to return to the Boys and Girls Club to help install the equipment. The work the ASU students are doing, including prototyping, testing and perfecting the designs, fulfils their required internship for graduation.

“Any time there is a chance to combine your work and your passion with community service, I believe you should take it, and that’s exactly what these ASU students are doing,” Smith said. “They are having an internship experience that has a very similar day-to-day feel as the jobs many of them will take after college, plus they are building something meaningful for a community that really needs it.”

Sarah A. McCarty

Marketing and communications coordinator, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


Fighting generational trauma through education

July 8, 2019

For Arizona State University alumna Laura Medina, home started out as a shaky concept.

She was born in New Mexico and grew up on the Phoenix area’s Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, but she has roots in Michigan.  Laura Medina graduated with a master's degree in indigenous rights and social justice from the American Indian Studies program in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Laura Medina graduated with a master's degree in indigenous rights and social justice from the American Indian Studies program in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Download Full Image

Her mother is an Ojibwe tribal member from Michigan's Grand Traverse Band of Ottawa and Chippewa Indians who was taken to Pennsylvania as a child, one of the thousands of Native Americans removed from their homelands and placed with nonindigenous parents in other states. After years of abuse allegations and concerns of cultural loss, the Indian Child Welfare Act brought a legal end to these forced relocations in 1978. 

American Indian Studies program alumna Laura Medina

Medina's mother moved to New Mexico for school when she was 17 and eventually started a family of her own. But Medina said those early experiences continued to affect her.  

“I think the way my mom was treated and the trauma of leaving home, all of that impacted her life and contributed to a lot of my own anxiety and social issues growing up,” she said. “Now I have a 2-year-old son, and I don't want him to inherit that same trauma.”

Medina’s determination drove her to turn an academic eye to the historical events that shaped her own life. She graduated with a bachelor’s degree in American Indian studies from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 2011 and a master’s degree in indigenous rights and social justice from the same program in 2018. She is the first in her family to obtain an advanced degree.

She said both tracks have helped her make sense of her experiences and provided a springboard to contribute research where gaps still remain.  

"I am an Ojibwe member of a Grand Traverse band in Michigan but have never actually lived there,” she said. “When I came to ASU, I began learning about all the ways colonization and generational trauma have played a role in that; my hope is that by sharing and developing that knowledge, my younger siblings and my son can be the ones that continue to build the foundation for new generations.”

Now working as a student success and retention coordinator for the American Indian Student Support Services(AISSS) network, she’s helping other Native American students navigate the trials of higher education she once faced herself.

Medina answered a few questions about her time at ASU, her research and the impact she hopes to make in the lives of new students.

Question: What made your path in graduate school unique? 

Answer: I did not complete my graduate studies in the two-year time span that is typical, and part of that was because I decided to take a break from academics to experience activism from the ground. I occupied Oak FlatLocated in the Tonto National Forest, Oak Flat is a site held sacred to Native Americans from the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation that has been a flashpoint for indigenous and environmental movements rallying against years of copper mining attempts in the area. for six months and went to protest at Standing RockIn 2016, thousands of protesters descended upon the Standing Rock Indian Reservation to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline. when I was pregnant with my son. Some of that was material I wasn’t finding in books. My going out and experiencing it for myself was the first step in my effort to help change that.

Q: What did your research focus on and why?

A: My thesis looks specifically at Canada’s Idle No More movement and how scholars influence social change. This was a movement that began in 2012 against a series of laws that stood to drastically alter the First Nations’ sovereignty. I was looking at how scholars, professors or knowledge-seekers, in general, provide the fuel for indigenous resistance and change.

The movement began during my first semester within the American Indian studies graduate program. A lot of things were happening to me at home at the time. My mom had kicked me out and I was homeless, shuttling between campus and staying with people at the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation. I think there is always this struggle of how we identify ourselves as indigenous people, especially in relation to land.

I was attracted to the Idle No More movement because many of my own Ojibwe people participated. It was a chance for me to connect back to my people at a time I really needed that.  

Q: What made you decide to start working as a staff member with AISSS after graduating last fall?

A: There are a lot of struggles Native students face. One way we can help is by creating a space for indigenous people that's unique to us and where people can feel at home. 

It took some time for me to feel like I was at home here. During my undergraduate years, I found it really hard to find a community or to feel at home. It wasn’t until my graduate studies that I really found that. I want to help make this program bigger and better so that students know they have a place to go. 

Q: What advice do you have for future students or what do you wish you’d known before coming to The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences?

A: I wish I knew how powerful being a student here can be. The College and the whole university has resources that your tuition is ultimately paying for, so it’s important to take advantage of that. 

Native American students can be humble and quiet, so it’s sometimes less likely they end up reaching out to staff. My advice is to find a person who can help you build upon and share your ideas, and to not be afraid to ask for help. I was able to find that with Laura Gonzales-Macias, and others at AISSS, and with the Native community at large. I think it’s important to continue creating that space and representation as a staff member. 

Q: How would you describe your Sun Devil story?

A: I was part of the first cohort of graduate students in the American Indian Studies program, so I sometimes felt like I was coming in at a time of transition. I wasn't entering into something with a strong legacy, but on the other hand, it made me feel like I had to be the one to help create it. By building the foundation, we’re making space for others to come into something more solid.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in 10 years?

A: I am considering a PhD track in sociology, and eventually, I’d like to return to Michigan to give back there. My goal is to learn my language and be fluent in Ojibwe to continue that connection.

One thing I find myself asking is what the world looks like through the lens of an Ojibwe woman. Knowledge of the land is such a powerful force in that sense. Part of my journey is about returning to my people in Michigan and putting what I’ve learned here toward helping my community and being an educator.

I would also like my son to grow up with that same understanding of his own land. He comes from the Navajo mountain area here in Arizona on his father’s side, and my father’s tribal land base is in New Mexico. Having my family be connected to all of those spaces is an important part for me because they all contribute to our understanding of who we are. 

Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences