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Jewish studies at ASU offers global understanding and intellectual growth to students

February 17, 2020

Like other thinkers throughout history, American astronomer and astrophysicist Carl Sagan said in order to understand the present, one must know the past. At Arizona State University, Jewish studies strives to put that idea into practice, both in the classroom and in the greater Phoenix community.

“At ASU, students may take a course in history but never discuss its relevant Jewish aspect,” said program director and Regents Professor Hava Tirosh-Samuelson. “In truth, Jewish history is global history. There is simply no way to talk about any history — be it American history, European history, art history or world history — without mentioning the Jewish experience.” woman in office Hava Tirosh-Samuelson took the helm of the Jewish studies program in 2008 and co-founded the Center for Jewish Studies in 2009. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now Download Full Image

Established in what is today The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Jewish studies at ASU began in 1978 as a certificate in the religious studies program. Founded by Associate Professor Joel Gereboff, the certificate introduced students to Judaism, its sacred texts and religious rituals. In 2009, the program added an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Arts degree that covers the entire Jewish civilization from antiquity to the present.  

Faculty associated with the Jewish studies program hold academic appointments in various units at ASU, including the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, the School of International Languages and Cultures, Department of English, School of Politics and Global Studies, the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. In this regard, Tirosh-Samuelson said, the program manifests ASU’s commitment to interdisciplinarity. 

The program brings the same approach to the Phoenix community thanks to a range of public-facing events offered by the Center for Jewish Studies.

Tirosh-Samuelson, who also directs the center, said she has long been committed to integrating her academic scholarship and her commitment to public outreach. When she became director of the Jewish studies program in 2008, she found the perfect opportunity to implement her vision.

“Scholars of Jewish studies have debated whether the Jewish scholar has an obligation to the Jewish community. I have long maintained that scholars are part of the community at large, and the ideal of social embeddedness has always been an important part of my work,” said Tirosh-Samuelson, also an Irving and Miriam Lowe Professor of Modern Judaism in the School of Historical, Philosophical, Religious Studies. “My approach to public humanities coheres well with President Crow’s direction for ASU, so Jewish studies carries out the broader vision and mission of ASU.” 

Public humanities

Under Tirosh-Samuelson’s direction, the Center for Jewish Studies has built a robust lineup of community-focused events since its founding in 2009. Today, programming includes lectures, panel discussions, exhibitions and conferences addressing everything from culture and politics to science and medicine, all through the lens of the Jewish experience.

Jeffrey Cohen, dean of the humanities at The College, said the classroom-to-community approach fostered by the center could serve as a model for the development of the humanities at large. 

“The future of the humanities is to become increasingly public-facing and engage our communities on the essential questions of our time,” Cohen said. “One of the strengths of Jewish studies is that it has always had a dual identity in that it’s both a rigorous academic program and a community asset that does a lot of outward-facing education. It is really a model of how a humanities program can be both intellectually rigorous and socially engaged.”

Cohen said the center and academic program is also an opportunity to ensure local Jewish history is kept alive.

“Phoenix is a city with a rich Jewish history people don’t always know about,” he said. “We have a huge Jewish community here — we have Holocaust survivors and we have Jewish communities who have settled here from around the world. So I think there’s a lot of good work to be done when it comes to explaining Judaism itself to non-Jews.”

One example of that idea in action is a photo exhibit unveiled last month at the Arizona Jewish Historical Society titled, “Jewish Treasures of the Caribbean.” The exhibit is the result of a collaboration between Stanley Mirvis, an assistant professor of history and the Harold and Jean Grossman Chair in Jewish Studies who specializes in the Sephardic diaspora, and photographer Wyatt Gallery. Gallery’s images and Mirvis’ corresponding text explore how historic Jewish communities in the Caribbean have helped shape island nations and Jewish life in little-known diasporas. The event was just one of a handful created through partnerships with local cultural institutions, which Cohen said will continue to grow.

Interdisciplinarity in action

Though the Jewish studies program is housed in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, affiliated faculty belong to other academic units across the university. To Tirosh-Samuelson, whose own work examines intersections of philosophy and mysticism, Judaism and science, and Judaism and ecology, the interdisciplinary nature of Jewish studies transcends traditional academic divisions and highlights the contribution of Jews and Judaism to many aspects of Western culture.

Seth Moller is pursuing a bachelor's degree in history and a certificate in Jewish Studies from The College.

ASU junior Seth Moller, who added a Jewish studies certificate after taking a class on Jewish history from antiquity to 1492, sees the Jewish studies program as an opportunity to rethink one’s view of the world.

“Jewish studies is an ideal program in terms of interdisciplinarity because the inquiries about Jews and Judaism belong in the humanities, the social sciences and even the natural sciences,” she said. “To be a student in Jewish studies is actually to be a student of history, religion, philosophy, art, psychology, political science and other subjects, all of which contribute to one’s intellectual and emotional growth. To study Jews and Judaism requires one to reflect on the human condition.”

That notion is what drove Seth Moller, now a junior at The College pursuing concurrent bachelor’s degrees in history and Jewish studies, to change course as a first-year student.

“I had initially decided on a linguistics major, but in my second semester I took a class focused on Jewish history from antiquity to 1492,” he said. “The course really struck me because it was history, but it was a part of history that not everyone is taught — I added a Jewish studies major that next semester.”

Moller aims to continue studying the field as a graduate student. But he said regardless of what comes next, he sees the Jewish studies program as an opportunity to rethink one’s view of the world.

“Jewish history can be presented as a series of tragedies throughout time, so for me this program has helped to bring so much nuance and detail and beauty to it,” he said. “Even if I don’t end up in academia or teaching, I'm confident that my Jewish studies major has helped me to rethink history and the way that people act in social spaces — I’d recommend a course that does that to anyone.” 

Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Watts College names two ‘community champions’ as liaisons to Maryvale neighborhoods

February 17, 2020

Two women with strong ties to the Maryvale community in northwest Phoenix will serve as "community champions," working with faculty, staff and students of Arizona State University’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions on improving the lives of those residing there.

The college’s appointment of Karolina Arredondo and Rosie Espinoza as liaisons to and from Maryvale is part of a long-range plan to enhance the area’s quality of life, managed by a partnership of the college and local residents and institutions. The effort is funded by a portion of the $30 million gift to the college in 2018 from Mike and Cindy Watts, who grew up in Maryvale and for whom the college is named. Maryvale Town Hall October 2019 Watts College Maryvale residents discuss issues at a community town hall co-sponsored by ASU's Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions and the Arizona Town Hall in October 2019. Download Full Image

Maryvale residents confront many challenges, including lower education levels and academic test scores as well as decreased household income. The One Square Mile Initiative seeks to organize and apply the community’s many assets to help improve local life and give residents more chances to succeed.

Arredondo and Espinoza will each represent a separate square-mile area of the community.

Arredondo is the community champion for an area called the Isaac One Square Mile, named for the Isaac Elementary School District in which it is located.

Arredondo is a preschool teacher at Bret Tarver Isaac Preschool. She is experienced in coordinated outreach to the community in early childhood education, voter registration and family engagement. She has supported community outreach for Early Head Start, One Arizona, Neighborhood Ministries and the Isaac district. Arredondo also has acted as a direct liaison to the Maryvale and Isaac community, families, schools and children, which gives her deep knowledge about local education issues and culturally appropriate strategies for successful community outreach.

Espinoza is the community champion for the Cartwright One Square Mile. She is the wellness administrator for the Cartwright School District.

, ASU Watts College Maryvale Community Champion

Rosie Espinoza

Espinoza is experienced in coordinated outreach to the community in wellness, health and family engagement. She grew up in Maryvale and still lives and works in the community. Her work developing, recruiting and facilitating community events in health, nutrition and physical fitness provides key expertise for the initiative. Espinoza is also a graduate student at Watts College, working toward a master’s degree in nonprofit leadership and management.

“The community champions are members of the Maryvale community through their work and life activities,” said Erik Cole, director of the Watts College’s Design Studio for Community Solutions, which is spearheading the Maryvale initiatives. “Both Karolina and Rosie have a deep passion for supporting their neighbors, and we are excited about the powerful link they provide between the Design Studio and residents and local stakeholders in each One Square Mile geography.” 

Allison Mullady, the Design Studio’s program manager, agrees.

“The champions will be cultural advisers,” she said “They will be building trusted relationships with residents, faith-based groups, local businesses and schools to document the aspirations of the residents of Maryvale.” 

, ASU Watts College Maryvale Community Champion

Karolina Arredondo

Arredondo said she knows many young people in Maryvale and is happy to be in a position to acquaint them with university resources to help them apply for postsecondary education.

“When I was younger, we had good opportunities. Now we need the right resources to help kids today. A lot of people don’t know (the resources) are there,” she said. “I have co-workers who live in the neighborhood. One had no knowledge of what was next once her kids left high school. To have ASU have people share that knowledge with parents, it gives more students the chance to be able to go to college.”

Arredondo said the university is working with area entities such as churches, as residents might more easily reach out to their local leaders with questions or requests for information.

Espinoza said her having lived in Maryvale so long allows her to approach her new duties with a sense of pride.

“I’m very passionate about Maryvale,” she said. “I know Maryvale like the back of my hand. I feel very proud that I also get to work there. I like to think my position is a fun position.”

For Espinoza, success will come from engaging residents to build more of a connection with other like-minded individuals, as well as from encouraging conversations about things they would like to see change for the better.

“There is a lot of beautiful and positive in Maryvale. But there are other issues that, growing up and being part of the community now, I would like to see improved,” Espinoza said. “The first step is voicing those concerns and figuring out how to move forward, learning how to get something changed in your neighborhood, then asking, 'What are the next steps?'”

Espinoza said she sees the role of community champion as a great opportunity to represent both the university and community, to build trust and relationships.

“I want to let (residents) know they will actually be heard and their conversations will actually be relayed back to the university,” she said.

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


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The nature of cities is a lifelong fascination for new Regents Professor

February 13, 2020

ASU ecologist Nancy Grimm earned top honor for her work with urban ecology

When Nancy Grimm walked through the woods as a child, she wondered how it all fit together and worked: the rain, the soil, the plants, the chemistry. She saw it was a system. But how?

Now she applies that thinking to urban ecology: How do cities and the natural world interact and affect each other? A relatively new field that took off in the 1970s, urban ecology looks at the relation of living organisms with each other and their surroundings in the context of an urban environment.

Grimm is a pioneer in urban ecology, and now the Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Ecology in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University also holds the title of Regents Professor. It is the highest academic honor, awarded to scholars who have made significant contributions to their field and are recognized nationally and internationally by their peers.

“It’s pretty amazing,” Grimm said. “It does (feel good). It’s particularly wonderful to be a longtime ASU employee and product of ASU. It’s stunning to think of how long I’ve been here.”

Forty-two years ago she came to ASU as a grad student thinking she would do her master’s degree in zoology and then head to a coast — to an oceanographic institute like Scripps or Woods Hole — and work on salt marshes and coastal ecosystems. She had dabbled a bit in stream chemistry, so she thought she’d come to Arizona and work on that.

“I got trapped, because I liked it a lot,” she said. “And I got married. So I stayed here... I often say there was a threshold point where it got to the point I stopped trying to convince them to let me stay and they started trying to convince me to stay.”

Grimm has won a bevy of awards for her work, including being elected to the National Academy of Sciences, one of the highest honors in the scientific field. But being named Regents Professor has a special resonance for her.

“They make you feel good,” she said. “They make you feel like you’re appreciated. Nobody ever thinks they’re appreciated at their home institution... These are really great, because people do think, 'I’m OK.' Of course the Regents Professor is the top.”

Urban ecology is inherently interdisciplinary. Grimm has been lauded for bringing together hydrologists, engineers, geologists, chemists, sociologists, geographers and anthropologists to study cities and their place in nature. Last year she won an award for being part of a team that created an international consensus on how to approach urban ecology: the 2019 Sustainability Science Award from the Ecological Society of America.

Other honors include her election as a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science; the American Institute of Biological Sciences Distinguished Scientist Award; and election as president of the Ecological Society of America, one of the highest honors an ecologist can earn.

She has more than 200 publications that have been cited approximately 30,000 times.

Reviews in the Arizona Board of Regents citation for her Regents Professorship included the following encomiums: “among the top few scientists in her field” and “foundational and pathbreaking.”

Another reviewer said, “Professor Grimm has made pioneering contributions in two major areas. She is both a world-renowned stream ecologist as well as a world leader in urban ecology and sustainability science. ... Professor Grimm’s name is nearly synonymous with desert stream ecosystems ... one of the world’s leading scientists in (urban ecology).”

Another said, “Nancy recognized early the importance of an interdisciplinary approach to solving global change problems and has been an effective champion for integrating the work of natural and social scientists and engineers to promote resilience of urban infrastructure.”

She was a founding leader of ASU’s Central Arizona–Phoenix Long Term Ecological Research, a longitudinal project ongoing for 40 years and continuously funded by the National Science Foundation for more than 20 years. The project addresses problems of urban sustainability and resilience to the impacts of climate change on water, infrastructure and ecosystem processes and services, focusing particularly on stormwater infrastructure. It has fundamentally reshaped the study of urban and natural ecosystem dynamics and the role of human intervention.

Grimm is co-director of the Urban Resilience to Extremes Sustainability Research Network, a five-year-old project bringing together nine cities across the Western Hemisphere to increase urban resilience in the face of climate change-related extreme events. Scholars, postdocs and staff work with city practitioners to conceive, design and implement resilient infrastructure solutions in the face of rising threats from extreme weather-related events.

A pet project is her study of a desert stream northeast of the Valley named Sycamore Creek. She has studied the creek’s ebbs and flows since 1978, and how the surrounding ecosystem responds and adapts. Funding for the project ends this spring, but students still work there and Grimm hopes a young faculty member will come in and pick up the 40-year-old study.

 Top photo courtesy of ASU School of Sustainability

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


5 facts about Arizona's birthday you didn't know

Valentine's Day isn't just a day of romance, it's the day the 48th state joined the union

February 12, 2020

Feb. 14, 2020, marks the 108th birthday for the state of Arizona. To commemorate the state's rich history, Sean Beienburg, an assistant professor at the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership and an expert on Arizona’s founding, constitution and history, has identified five little known facts about the state’s origins and early years.

1. President Taft thought Arizona’s constitution was “legalized terrorism” and initially prevented statehood

Article 8 of the proposed Arizona Constitution established protocols for recalling elective officials, including judges. For President William Howard Taft, a former and future judge, this was unacceptable. He called it “legalized terrorism” and blocked Arizona from becoming a state. Arizona State flag with a blue sky in the background "Arizona flag" by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 Download Full Image

By a 9-to-1 vote, Arizona voters dutifully added a clause to their recall section, clarifying that it was for all elective officials “except members of the judiciary.” Taft then approved statehood, but once Arizona secured its status in the union, the state legislature moved to restore the judicial recall provision, with a provocative title: “An Act to Amend Sec 1 of Article VIII of the Constitution of the State of Arizona as adopted under coercion, (directed by William Howard Taft, President of the United States).”

2. The Arizona flag was created for a rifle competition

The flag’s design resulted from the not-quite-yet state feeling left out. In 1910, an Arizona rifle team competed in a marksmanship contest in Ohio. Among the sharpshooters was future congressman and senator Carl Hayden. (Hayden Library is named after Carl’s father, Charles Hayden, a Tempe founder). Charles Harris, the future adjutant general of the state’s national guard and another member of the team, was primarily responsible for the design (with possible help from Hayden), and Nan Hayden, Carl’s wife, sewed the first official flag, which was adopted by the state legislature in 1917.

The central star recognizes the importance of copper and the setting sun has 13 rays as a nod to the original American colonies. Like New Mexico’s flag, the rays bear the colors of the Spanish banner brought by Francisco Coronado to the area in 1540.

3. No reptiles were allowed in the Arizona seal

The design of the Arizona seal — which is actually the center of ASU’s formal seal — is specifically laid out by the Arizona Constitution (Article 22, Section 20). It replaced the territorial seal, which had featured a deer in front of a cactus. Morris Goldwater, the vice president of the convention (and Barry’s uncle), argued they should keep it: “Any man who has lived in this territory under the present seal as long as I have can continue to live with it until he dies, without hurting himself.”

However, convention delegate E. E. Ellinwood argued that the new seal should “get away from cactus, Gila monsters, and rattlesnakes ” and focus on the state’s developing industries, and so a miner, a cow, a mill, a farm and a dam became the symbols of Arizona. The constitution did not change everything on the seal: It still retains the Latin state motto, “Ditat deus,” or God enriches.

4. The Arizona Senate once voted to destroy itself

In June 1912, in the first special session of the state legislature, the state Senate voted to commit “suicide,” as the local papers described it. Not literally, but in the sense of dissolving the body in which they served.

Many Progressive Era critics of James Madison’s system of complicated checks and balances argued the government should be made simpler, with fewer structures to obstruct the popular will. They argued, in other words, to have the system rebalanced to lean more toward efficiency instead of the Madisonian preference for liberty. To that end, the Senate proposed that Arizona’s progressive constitution should be made even more like direct democracy through a unicameral legislature — or a legislature with just one body, not two.

The state’s newspapers had great fun with this, but not as much as the House of Representatives. Members proposed a variety of sarcastic amendments to the Senate abolition proposal, such as giving the “County of Hunt” — as in Gov. George Hunt — a vote, but others proposed banning either all the members of the Senate from voting in the future or stripping representation from the county whose members had most fervently backed the proposal.

A citizen initiative to abolish the state Senate failed by an almost 2-to-1 margin in 1916, and, like all states except Nebraska, Arizona retains two legislative houses.

5. Arizona’s first chief executive was like George Washington — if Washington had sought to be president for life

Like George Washington did for the federal government, Hunt served as the president of the Arizona constitutional convention and then as the state’s first chief executive.

Unlike Washington, however, who declined to run after eight years in office to make clear that leadership was temporary, Hunt ran repeatedly almost until his death, serving a total of seven, two-year terms between 1912 and 1933. This included coming back after several defeats, including suing his way into office after Republican Thomas Campbell, who had initially been declared the winner, had served for almost a year.

The Arizona governorship was so tightly connected to Hunt that, in 1931, writer Will Rogers jokingly asked to be adopted by Hunt, since Arizona evidently had a “hereditary” governorship. Hunt’s final loss was a defeat by fellow Democrat Benjamin Mouer, and Hunt died soon after. But perhaps viewing himself as a pharaoh of old, Hunt had himself buried in a white pyramidal tomb overlooking the Valley, which you can visit in Papago Park.

Professor Sean Beienburg, an assistant professor at the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, is in the process of developing a living repository for the state of Arizona, documenting and preserving founding documents, mementos and firsthand accounts from the state’s founding moments as part of the Arizona Constitution Project. When completed, the repository will be a free resource for Arizona citizens and constitutional scholars to study Arizona’s founding. 

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Students showcase remarkable ideas at ASU's Day at the Capitol

February 11, 2020

Schools and student groups present their latest work to Arizona state legislators

The marvels of engineering: Our world revolves around remarkable concepts and feats of design, many of which start in classrooms like the ones at Arizona State University.

During the 34th annual ASU Day at the Capitol, students from various ASU schools and colleges, including the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, showcased their work for legislators at Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza, across from the Arizona Capitol building. The event gives students, professors and lawmakers an opportunity to connect with each other about the work being done within their districts.

“Today’s exhibits represent just a few of the ways our students and faculty put to practice their creativity in designing solutions to real-world problems that impact the world around us,” said Kyle Squires, dean of the Fulton Schools. “As a hub for engineering and technology innovation, we are working with partners in our community and throughout the state to leverage our place — to make research breakthroughs that will catalyze the tech ecosystem in the Phoenix metropolitan area, drive creation of future industries and improve the communities that we serve.”

One of those real-world solutions was created by the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, which brought a small-scale model to the event to demonstrate the effects of rainfall, runoff and the erosion process in Arizona. The tool is used by the Flood Control District of Maricopa County for public outreach to help people understand the dangers of desert floods.

“Our No. 1 thing is flood safety,” said Chandra Miller, flood warning program specialist at the Flood Control District of Maricopa County. “What is monsoon? Why is it an issue in Arizona? It’s really important for people to understand why it’s happening, and this makes it visually easier for someone to see.”

The School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment is currently working on a larger-scale model for research purposes, which will be used to evaluate engineering designs.

At ASU’s Center for Bio-mediated and Bio-inspired Geotechnics, students and researchers are using nature to come up with sustainable, biologically based solutions to challenges like dust mitigation. Researchers are using the jack bean, a nuisance plant primarily found in southeast Asia, to create a natural cement. The bean produces an enzyme that creates calcium carbonate cement. When mixed with soil and water, it bonds like glue. The center is working with three industry partners to test the water-based solution in an active landfill in Apache Junction.

It’s research like this that may lead to spinoff companies such as Aquavitas — a company that uses wastewater samples to monitor public health risks, including opioid consumption.

“We’re here to save lives,” said Adam Gushgari, CEO of Aquavitas and an ASU PhD graduate of environmental engineering. “We’re here to make lives better. We’re here to improve the quality.”

Gushgari and his professor, Rolf Halden, director of the Biodesign Institute’s Center for Environmental Health Engineering, were able to take their research and give it a broader application, offering full consultation services for municipalities and organizations.

Video by Jordan Currier and Dana Lewandowski/ASU

ASU President Michael Crow also was at the Capitol, talking with students about their work. Motivated by the Helios Rocketry exhibit, he emphasized the importance of engineering.

“How will we ever get to Star Trek? How will we ever build Starfleet Academy, unless we drive engineering faster, harder and larger in every way? That’s what we need to do at ASU,” he said.

Helios Rocketry is an ASU student-led organization that is building a 25-foot-tall, liquid-propelled rocket capable of reaching an altitude of 100 kilometers. The team will compete in the Base 11 Space Challenge in California. The deadline is late next year with a top prize of $1 million. No university team has ever taken on this challenge, but the team’s lead, Elvis Leon, realized the importance of the challenge, especially to further STEM fields.

“If ASU were to build a team and compete in the competition and win, it would be extremely amazing,” said Leon. “We’d be able to use those resources to leave behind something so that other students can have the same sort of experience and get hands-on experience to supplement their classroom education.”

MORE: Community connections will help send ASU rocket to the edge of space

There’s a growing interest in STEM fields, reflected by ASU’s fall enrollment in engineering, which totaled 23,903 — a significant increase from 16,596 in 2014. The bachelor’s degrees currently in high demand are computer science, electrical engineering and information technology. And recently, the school’s online master’s program in electrical engineering was ranked No. 1 by U.S. News and World Report.

ASU has been educating engineers for more than 60 years and now offers 25 undergraduate programs and 44 graduate programs in the six engineering schools. In 2019, engineering research expenditures topped $115 million with the bulk of the emphasis on energy, health, sustainability, education and security.  

Top photo: Sparky poses for a photo with Arizona House Minority Leader and District 4 Rep. Charlene Fernandez during the annual ASU Day at the Capitol at the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza in Phoenix on Tuesday. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Jimena Garrison

Copywriter , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

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Community connections will help send ASU rocket to the edge of space

February 11, 2020

Student-led Helios Rocketry lays the groundwork to compete for $1M prize

What do you need to build a liquid-fueled rocket that can reach the edge of space? 

First, a place big enough in which to build it. 

For Arizona State University’s Helios Rocketry, a team of about 50 students competing in the Base 11 Space Challenge, use of 9,000 square feet donated by CAVU Aerospace near Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport just made the race to the stars a lot more attainable. The space is a portion of the new 80,000-square-foot CAVU Component Repair facility.       

“It’s exciting to watch this all come to life; we are so impressed with the drive and vision these young adults show,” said CAVU partner Kenneth Kocialski. “The CAVU team is happy to be a small part of this!”

ASU alumnus Benjamin Hernandez, a founding member of the Arizona Spaceport Alliance and an aerospace representative with Scottsdale-based commercial real estate brokerage firm Keyser, connected with Aric Bopp, executive director of economic development at ASU Knowledge Enterprise.

Hernandez and Bopp reached out to Kocialski and, almost immediately, the team had its manufacturing site.

Helios Rocketry Manufacturing Plan: CAVU Aerospace

Elvis Leon, Helios Rocketry president, shows the team the rocket manufacturing layout within the CAVU Aerospace Facility. Photo by Theresa Grant/ASU

Elvis Leon, Helios founder and president, said the entire team was astounded by how quickly it happened.

“When we walked into that space, we were actually able to visualize our dream,” Leon said.

Said Bopp: “The Mesa Gateway aviation/aerospace ecosystem continues to be the hotbed of technology and innovation with accessible infrastructure, economic incentives and proximity to ASU’s talent pipeline and research facilities. We thank CAVU and Keyser for their support of the ASU’s student-led Helios Rocketry team.

“This support continues to build momentum in prominent areas of scientific research and startup technology that strengthens Arizona as a globally competitive place.”

Another key component of sending a rocket into space is building and testing the engines. 

Hernandez introduced Leon to ASU alum Ryan Christian, vice president and field engineer for Vic Myers Associates, a representative for aerospace and defense manufacturers. From there, the connections increased exponentially.

Most importantly, Christian connected Helios to Honeywell’s San Tan Engine Testing facility, and they are working out details for the team to test-fire its engines there.

“As far as we know, none of the other college teams have access to manufacturing and test-firing facilities of this caliber,” said Leon. “Our alumni keep coming through for Helios.”

Christian also brokered a deal with Dewesoft, a leader in data acquisition for aerospace engineering, that gave the team a significant discount on critical software. He is now working with two additional companies to offer discounts on pressure temperature sensors and flow meters to support the static fire test stand.

Also supporting the team is Ron Alto, STEM advocate and employee development executive for the local chapter of the Vertical Flight Society. Alto connected the team to Phoenix Analysis and Design Technologies, which has volunteered to 3D print critical metal engine parts.

“What I love about Elvis Leon’s vision with Helios is its inclusion of several ASU disciplines and how they've become interdependent,” said Aram Chomina-Chavez, the team’s Fulton Schools of Engineering faculty adviser. “He’s created a real-life work environment.”

ASU Helios Rocketry Team

First row, from left: Glen Hamilton, Ryan Falls, Sergio Rodriguez and Dhruv Jain. Second row, from left: Aaditya Raje, Khushi Singh, Paulina Gomez, Vivian Rodriguez, Jonathan Hernandez, Elvis Leon, Karime Arreguin, Haatvi Thakkar, Karryn Baca and Briana Lopez. Third row, from left: Chinmay Bhale, Abhigya Raval, Josh Stoffel, Avery Wenta, Taylor Inase, Andy Schmidt, Surya Rajagopalan, Prathamesh Mhatre, Chandler Hutchens and Tommy Montero. Not pictured: Areli Diaz, Paul Romero, Genaro Bautista, Sameer Nagul, Peter Vu and Ken Pena. Photo courtesy of Helios Rocketry 

The first team to launch a rocket that crosses the Karman Line, the 100-kilometer designation for the boundary between Earth’s atmosphere and outer space, will win the $1 million Base 11 competition prize.

Helios team members are from all ASU engineering disciplines and divided into six specialty areas: structures, propulsion, avionics, testing, flight dynamics and systems integration. They are looking for business team members to build on existing partnerships and manage fundraising campaigns. According to Leon, they’ll look to the business team to take on the next hurdle of funding tools and materials, including the carbon fiber they’ll need to build the rocket.

“Engineering is a process of lifelong learning,” said Christian. “These students are already working with industry to get the job done. They will take that experience of interfacing with business and building relationships with them out onto the job market.

“More importantly, this team is highly motivated to be successful. We think they have a real shot.”

Top image: Members of ASU’s Helios Rocketry team line up to show the length of the rocket they’ll send into space. The team will build its rocket in a 9,000-square-foot industrial space donated by CAVU Aerospace. Photo by Theresa Grant/ASU Media Relations

Terry Grant

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications


New podcast series showcases creativity at work in Arizona

February 11, 2020

What happens when artists are invited to contribute to community improvement efforts? This question is at the heart of a new podcast series called AZ Creative Voices.

The series is a chronicle of work supported by the Arizona Creative Communities Institute (AZ CCI). In the spring of 2017, the Arizona Commission on the Arts and Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts — with guidance from Southwest Folklife Alliance and support from the Surdna Foundation and the Arizona Community Foundation — issued a call for small teams representing Arizona cities, towns and neighborhoods to participate in the inaugural Arizona Creative Communities Institute. Photo projections on a historic building in Barrio Anita. With support from Arizona Creative Communities Institute, the Barrio Stories Project celebrated Barrio Anita in Tucson through a two-day heritage festival featuring large-scale video projections on historic buildings, a 1950s-style backyard fiesta and more. Photo by Kate Gross Download Full Image

Twenty-two teams applied; nine were selected, from Barrio Anita in Tucson, Casa Grande, Douglas, Eastlake, Flagstaff, Globe, Phoenix, Tempe and Yuma. The teams, each composed of diverse members of the represented community, received intensive training, one-on-one mentorship and funding support as they explored the myriad ways creativity can be put to work for positive community impact. Team members were part of an active learning network, with opportunities to learn from and with local and national experts, as well as peers from other Arizona cities and neighborhoods.

Podcast producer Regina Revazova introduces listeners to the teams and the communities they’re working in; she also interviews the institutional partners supporting the effort. Along the way, Revazova explores the challenges and successes of this creative partnership; the potential of community-engaged work; and the many discoveries made as participants strengthened their collaborative skills.

“We believe that Arizona thrives when it has a healthy and equitable arts ecology,” said Jen Cole, director of ASU’s National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation. “This means that artists have the resources and support to do their work. It means residents and elected officials recognize that this activity is vital to thriving towns, and it means that institutional partners like ASU can listen and leverage their resources in service to community creativity. We are so thrilled that this collaboration was full of learning, un-learning and challenge, because together we created a deep conversation about what a vibrant arts ecology can be statewide.”

“This podcast series is a beautiful and fitting outgrowth of the AZ CCI initiative," said Jaime Dempsey, executive director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts. "For two-plus years we learned together — artists and community leaders, educators, dedicated residents, business owners and service providers — all sharing expertise in an evolving creative collaboration. It has been an honor to partner with the communities represented in the AZ CCI and this podcast series, and we can’t wait for listeners to engage with these layered, inspiring community stories.”

Revazova earned her master’s degree in journalism from the University of Nevada, Reno and is the founder of Open Conversation, a podcast production network. She has produced stories for numerous private clients and radio stations, including Phoenix’s NPR affiliate, KJZZ.

“I traveled to many towns, cities and neighborhoods, and all these places I visited opened their doors wide for me, told me their precious stories and invited me to witness the unfolding magic of a powerful, collaborative creativity,” Revazova said of the experience of making AZ Creative Voices. “It takes a village to produce episodes like this, and we've gotten the best ‘village’ to accomplish this goal.”

Listen to podcast at herbergerinstitute.asu.edu/podcasts/az-creative-voices. The podcast is also available on Spotify and Google Podcast, and will be available on Apple Podcast and iHeart Radio soon.

New partnership brings ASU Prep Digital engineering course to Navajo Nation teens

February 10, 2020

Ashley Huskie, 17, has time to think on her hour-and-a-half bus ride to and from school. She makes the trip once a week so she can attend Greyhills Academy High School in Tuba City, Arizona, where she boards in the dormitory during the week and travels home, deeper in the Navajo Nation, on the weekends. She introduces herself with her clan names to honor where she’s from: Deer Spring People Clan, Towering House Clan, Edgewater People’s Clan and Bitter Water People’s Clan. 

A senior at Greyhills, Huskie is working toward a future in organic architecture inspired by her connection to her home and respect for the environment. Greyhills Academy High School students in the first ASU Prep Digital partnership cohort at their school in Tuba City Mary O'Malley (far left), ASU Prep Digital director of Arizona collaboratives, stands with with the Greyhills student cohort and Dana Van Deinse (far right), ASU Prep Digital executive director. Download Full Image

“Where I grew up, most of us, we have homes, yeah, but they’re mobile homes. Or some are regular homes, and they don’t seem to last long. People just leave them,” she said. “They don’t decay in the right way. They cause health issues … and no one can live there and the house just sits there.”

Since the seventh grade, Huskie has been interested in changing the way architecture and home building is approached, for public and environmental health. 

She is already working toward her future in organic architecture by learning in her own community; she’s one of 12 students at Greyhills who are taking an introduction to engineering course on their Tuba City campus thanks to a new partnership the school has with ASU Prep Digital

The cohort of juniors and seniors are taking Engineering 100 together in an initiative that allows students to start earning college credit, get exposed to relevant local career skills and access a huge catalog of coursework. The coursework blends live video sessions, online modules, hands-on project building and more. 

, Greyhills Academy High School senior

Ashley Huskie

There are more than 75 Arizona schools partnering with ASU Prep Digital, but Greyhills is the first tribal partnership and also the first partnership in northern Arizona. The collaboration was born out of a need that the principal voiced: to build a pipeline of educators and amplify college prep options that are accessible for Tuba City students, who sometimes face transportation and financial barriers in accessing higher education.

Greyhills Principal Loren Hudson said the cohort of students are critical thinkers who are hungry for knowledge and appreciate the opportunity to have ASU courses brought to them.

This opportunity is very significant. It allows for students to continue to take college courses that are not normally offered by dual enrollment,” he said. “I believe that it also allows for more rigor and relevance to the types of classes they are interested in and gets them more experience in the college setting.”

Native American students tend to be underrepresented on college campuses. According to the State of Indian Country Arizona Volume 1 report, 3.5% of people on Arizona reservations have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher. Mining, construction and health care are some of the biggest employment opportunities in northeastern Arizona. 

Opening more pathways to higher education was a key motivator in moving the collaboration forward. Mary O’Malley, director of Arizona collaboratives at ASU Prep Digital, said the partnership is a testament to Greyhills Academy’s dedication to their students.

“It’s about relationship building and building innovative models that focus on student success and increase levels of achievement,” said O’Malley. “It’s exciting to see the students begin their studies.” 

The cohort of students chose the engineering topic together; they started their coursework in January and will finish in April. Huskie, who will be the first person in her family to graduate from high school on time, said she was excited to take an engineering course because it will expose her to online classes and science and math. She plans to work in carpentry and take online courses after she graduates and then pursue a four-year degree in architecture. 

“I want to start a new trend to have organic homes that can decay in a good way but also can be up for a long while,” she said. “And I want to be there for my siblings and show them that if I can do, it it’s possible for anyone else to do it and even for them.”

, Greyhills Academy High School senior

Tillman Claw

Tillman Claw, 17, is another senior in the ASU Prep Digital cohort. He said he loves the engineering class because it allows him to harness his interest in creating and building.

“What I’ve liked most about it is that it brings out the creativity in the students. For me, I get to create stuff with my hands because I’m a hands-on person,” he said.  

He said the pace of the course and the peer-to-peer help has made for a collaborative and supportive environment. His favorite part of the class so far was when students had to build a tower out of tissue paper to see how they could make it stand. 

After graduation, Claw plans on working and doing general studies for a year before going on a religious mission trip and then going to school for engineering. He has always loved to build and grew up watching and learning carpentry from his dad. Claw said the engineering coursework was a great preview of what’s ahead in college.

“I wanted to see how the college class was … and be able to build on that if I keep going in engineering,” he said.

The introduction to engineering course is one of about 200 college courses that ASU Prep Digital offers students that go beyond dual enrollment and Advanced Placement. Though any student anywhere in the world can be enrolled in ASU Prep Digital, school partnerships offer greatly reduced tuition, typically about a 30% to 50% savings, for resources that complement what is offered at students’ schools of record. 

O’Malley emphasized that schools’ state funding is not affected by partnering with ASU Prep Digital. Typically either families, schools or districts pay for tuition or curriculum licensing. In the case of Greyhills, the school made the investment so that students could access the coursework at the high school at no cost.

“They’re really investing in their students, and they see the potential and the importance of this opportunity for the kids,” said O’Malley. “Dr. Hudson has worked closely with parents, his school board and the community, and they all really support his vision.” 

O’Malley said that no two ASU Prep Digital partnerships with Arizona schools are alike because the offerings are tailored to what schools need. In Eloy, a partnership helped provide Spanish teachers when the district had a shortage; in Maryvale, ASU Prep Digital provided a rigorous algebra option for gifted seventh and eighth graders; in Miami, a partnership offered a new blended-learning option and teacher training to bolster student resources and outcomes. She said that the partnership may continue after the spring semester, but for now everyone is just happy to see the opportunities at work. 

Hudson, who grew up on the Navajo Reservation with his parents and grandparents, attended school in Tuba City. He earned his bachelor’s degree, master’s degree and doctorate at Northern Arizona University, and he said it means a great deal to him to promote higher education at Greyhills. 

We believe that postsecondary opportunities being offered to students here will open new doors for them and their families — and indirectly our community,” he said. 

At Greyhills, Hudson said they believe that cooperation is key to furthering education and that he’s thankful to ASU Prep Digital and Arizona State University for the collaboration.

It will take a concerted effort to improve things and issues in our society that we share. We also believe that it is through educating our youth and empowering our communities that we can grow in this positive direction,” said Hudson.

Learn more about ASU Prep Digital or school partnerships.  

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services


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Arizona's 3 university presidents promote research as economic driver

Investment in research is key to state's economy, 3 university presidents say
February 6, 2020

Investing in academic advances in technology will create a resilient Arizona economy, ASU President Michael Crow says

Arizona’s economy is strong, but it will require investment in research at the state’s three public universities to grow enough for the future, according to the colleges’ presidents.

“Arizona’s economy turns out to be successful but not resilient,” said Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University, who spoke at the "Valley Voices" talk sponsored by the Greater Phoenix Chamber at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix on Thursday.

“It’s successful but not capable of generating the kind of economic growth, beyond population growth, that we’d like to see. To do that, one needs to lay the foundation in a significant way for the new economy," he said.

Crow said that rapid technological changes will make the current ways of doing things obsolete. So ASU is asking the state to invest in expanding the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

“We will build inside ASU, as part of the new economy for the future of Arizona, an engineering school that is larger than the entire entity of Georgia Tech,” he said, adding that the return on that investment will grow the state’s economy by $50 billion over 20 years.

Rita Cheng, president of Northern Arizona University, said that research prepares students for the workforce.

“We’re 10% of the research strength of our sister institutions, at about $58 million, but we have become world class in a few key areas — ecology and forestry, astronomy and health, as it relates to underrepresented communities in Arizona,” she said.

“The power of the research at NAU is the impact it has on students, and why Arizona should care is that our undergraduate students, and our graduate students, whether they aspire to be the next generation of faculty, or they go into industry, which your companies want, they’re not coming from institutions that are hearing about research or reading about somebody else’s discoveries. They’re there. They’re having this deep, experiential learning that’s so important to Arizona.”

The "Valley Voices" event at the Musical Instrument Museum on Thursday, sponsored by the Greater Phoenix Chamber, included (from left) Jaime Molera, public affairs chairman for the chamber, who moderated the talk, NAU President Rita Cheng, ASU President Michael Crow and UArizona President Robert Robbins. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Robert Robbins, president of the University of Arizona, said that competing for big federal research grants requires universities to attract high-level people, citing the Osiris-Rex asteroid mission.

“That’s a billion dollar project and others are coming,” he said.

“Oftentimes you have to invest money just to get money. For those $100 million-plus grants, you almost have to invest in a million-dollar planning grant to get it together. So we have to have philanthropy and contracts with companies.”

Robbins said that the three Arizona universities are a powerful force in research.

“I think we’re not competing against each other, we’re competing with the (University of California) system, the (University of Texas) system, the Harvards and Princetons and Stanfords of the world,” he said.

Research that starts with professors in university labs are spinning off into successful businesses, Crow said.

“Universities are powerful transformative forces if you can build a critical mass of discovery and problem solving,” he said, citing Klaus Lackner’s carbon-capture technology and Cody Friesen’s hydropanels that generate clean water from air.

“We have 30,000 people involved in research enterprise at ASU and 11,000 separate projects. We went from not being in the top 200 of patenting universities to the top 10.”

The presidents also talked about how they have increased access to higher education.

“The barriers that some families perceive in college attainment is a difficult conversation across the country. Finances and pathways to college or to technical school or to community college should be clear and they’re often not, particularly to first-generation students, which Arizona has a lot of,” Cheng said.

She said that her university is nearly at 25% Hispanic students, and that many of its Native Americans are third-generation NAU students.

“But it’s still a question of how we work with communities who may be concerned that, 'If my child is educated, they won’t come home,'” she said.

Robbins cited the University of Arizona Medical School’s recent initiative to provide free tuition to graduates who agree to stay in Arizona and work in underserved communities. But there are difficult challenges getting through college.

“Many of our students work not one but two jobs, and housing insecurity and food insecurity are major problems that every university in this country is facing,” he said.

Crow said that ASU went from an overwhelmingly white university with a four-year graduation rate of 12% in the 1980s to having a student body that represents the socioeconomic spectrum.

“I’m not saying the university was bad back then but it wasn’t set up to serve the people. Now, 42% of the kids from Arizona are eligible for Pell grants and almost half the freshmen class is not white,” he said.

“That’s a designed outcome. The way we became more diverse was, one, we wanted to do it, and two, we had to have the means to do it and both of those things have been solved.”

Top image: ASU President Michael Crow speaks at the "Valley Voices" panel discussion held by the Greater Phoenix Chamber at the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix on Thursday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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State Farm, ASU announce partnership on Pathways for the Future initiative

February 4, 2020

$30 million gift to drive new education and career development program that targets high school and transfer students, as well as working adults

Arizona State University will prepare learners of all ages to succeed in a transformed workplace thanks to a $30 million gift from State Farm that will fund new programs and scholarships.

The funding, announced Tuesday, will drive the new State Farm Pathways for the Future workforce-development initiative, which will target high school and community college students as well as adults in the workforce who need to update their skills on the go.

"I have a concern that the technological advancements that are occurring in today’s society have the real risk of leaving segments behind," said Michael Tipsord, CEO of State Farm. He spoke at an event announcing the partnership at Sun Devil Stadium on Tuesday.

"You combat that through this continued upskilling of individuals to deal with whatever it is that the world may present. I want our people to have all the opportunities to be able to develop skills and learn in a way that continues to make them relevant and competitive."

State Farm's regional headquarters sits just north of Sun Devil Stadium, and Tipsord said that ASU President Michael Crow was influential in attracting the corporate campus to Tempe. Crow said the partnership is a perfect pairing of two entities that are focused on embracing the future of technology while supporting families and individuals.

"We're excited about this gift and honored to be a partner with State Farm because of the openness and logic with which the gift was approached, which was, ‘How do we now take these resources and not just use them as some generic scholarship,' which is always useful but inadequate," Crow said.

"Here we have a company that’s thinking differently. This investment is looking at each aspect of what we do: Let’s eliminate the financial barrier; let’s build some tools that help us to greatly accelerate who goes to college. It’s not only about money but it’s about ways to overcome barriers."

Pathways for the Future has four components: an online academic program, financial support, tools for success and career coaching.

Participants in the program, called Pathway Scholars, start by earning online credits in one of three tracks: STEM, business leadership, or humanities and social sciences. If a student needs extra help before entering a track, a refresher course or tutoring options will be available. These tracks will lead to an associate degree, undergraduate degree or undergraduate certificate.

One goal of the program is to increase degree completion in Arizona by preparing students to enroll in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, the W. P. Carey School of Business, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and other units across ASU.

The State Farm gift will allow students to take courses for a reduced cost. For those interested in earning credit, each course will cost $25 for identity verification, to ensure academic integrity, and $400 for credit conversion. Typically, a three-credit online course would cost approximately $1,500. Additionally, students only pay for credit conversion once they are satisfied with their grade and only if they opt to do so. 

Other financial incentives will be available, including the State Farm Pathways for the Future Scholarship Program, which will help eligible students pay for enrollment fees, conversion of earned admission credits, tuition and summer bridge programs. Crisis funding will be offered to students when personal emergencies could derail their education.

Panelists sit onstage

ASU Vice Provost of Academic Alliances Cheryl Hyman speaks on a panel about preparing students for the future Tuesday at Sun Devil Stadium. She is joined by moderator Jane Oates of WorkingNation; Sarah Mineau, vice president operations, human resources for State Farm; and John Graham of Sun Belt Holdings. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

The gift also will provide support for students on their academic journey. The longstanding Maricopa to ASU Pathways Program, which serves students who begin at the Maricopa Community Colleges and aspire to transfer to ASU, will be improved with a better progress tracker.

One significant new support will be “Universal Learner me3.” ASU’s online me3 planning tool, which launched several years ago, helps high school and college students discover their career interests through a fun, interactive game. Funding from State Farm will help redesign me3 to reach universal learners, primarily mid-career adults who need to upgrade their skills and community college students. In partnership with State Farm, ASU will develop and pilot the new Universal Learner me3, with the potential for the tool to be expanded into other industries and employment possibilities.

The updated Universal Learner me3 will be part of the new Pathways Career and Transition Success Center, which will ensure that Pathways Scholars are ready to immediately enter or reenter the workforce upon coursework completion. Students will have access to career coaching, digital portfolio and resume preparation and mentorships.

The success center will partner with State Farm and other corporations to keep up with workforce trends and job opportunities and to monitor the need for new credentials or certificates. 

Crow said Tuesday that the future of work is changing.

"It’s about the empowerment of the individual," he said. "What we’ll see, if we do this right, is the nature of work and the nature of learning become less differentiated.

"It doesn’t mean you won’t go to college when you’re 18. Some will. Some will go to college when they’re 30, and some will go when they’re 80. Every industry and every sector will be affected by the change, and this investment helps us to accelerate our energy on that issue."

Cheryl Hyman, vice provost for academic alliances at ASU, spoke on a panel at the event, and she described how her career started in the technology industry before she earned an MBA and entered the education field. She said she wished she had been better educated on her career options, and that's why the new Universal Learner me3 is a critical element of Pathways to the Future.

"I've seen thousands of students waste time and money and lose credits and see their financial aid run out, all stemming from a wrong choice that's not their fault," she said.

"We have an obligation to inform every learner of every option they have, and this investment in our transfer tools and me3 allows learners to educate themselves."

Crow said the partnership will have a ripple effect.

"This energy will send a wave. Other companies are listening. Other institutions are listening," he said. 

"State Farm is showing not just philanthropy, but activist philanthropy. ... Hopefully, a hundred other groups will step up and do the same thing."

Top photo: State Farm Insurance Chairman and CEO Michael Tipsord (left), moderator and ASU Foundation CEO Gretchen Buhlig and President Michael Crow talk about their alliance to implement the Pathways for the Future program funded by State Farm Education Assist and $30 million, on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 2020, at Sun Devil Stadium. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now