ASU history professor wins Fulbright for research in racial wealth gap

May 29, 2020

Arizona State University history Professor Calvin J. Schermerhorn is the recipient of a Fulbright Senior Scholar Award. He will be teaching and conducting research at the University of Nottingham history department in Nottingham, England, in 2021.

His research will focus on the racial wealth gap, a term coined by sociologists to indicate disparities in income and wealth. He is calling the project, “The Plunder of Black America: How the Racial Wealth Gap was Made and Why It’s Growing.” Wage gap Image courtesy of Download Full Image

“By recent measures, the typical black American family has one-thirteenth the wealth of the median white family, but instead of narrowing, the racial wealth gap has grown since the 1980s and is now a yawning chasm,” Schermerhorn said. 

Schermerhorn is researching policies of the last 40 years in predatory lending, deunionization, the COVID-19 crisis, climate change and the processes over the last 400 years of African American history. He hopes the Fulbright will allow him to research the United Kingdom's racial wealth inequality and compare it to U.S. history.

“Going back and forward in time, there seemed to be a striking pattern that has not been fully explored — economic white supremacy seems to be built into the economic structures of America since the colonial era, and each time those structures have changed, the mechanisms stripping black wealth and stealing black incomes have changed to adapt to the new economy,” said Schermerhorn.

The topic of the racial wealth gap has interested Schermerhorn for a long time. Growing up in southern Maryland near the Chesapeake Bay, he realized many Marylanders see their state as “a cradle of religious toleration in America” but forget it was also “a cradle of racial slavery.” 

“Much of my research into American slavery was inspired by a need to peer through the fog of historical amnesia to view the processes connecting the present to the past,” Schermerhorn said.

His first book, “Money over Mastery, Family over Freedom: Slavery in the Antebellum Upper South,” explored the economic opportunities emancipation brought for former slaves and, more importantly, what economic opportunities they were left out of.

Calvin Schermerhorn

Professor of history Calvin Schermerhorn

His research found racial wealth inequality has grown since civil rights ended legal discrimination and has continued to grow through periods of Democratic and Republican majorities. 

“Inequality is among the most pressing issues of our age,” Schermerhorn said. “Some inequality is inevitable and even beneficial, but extreme wealth and income inequality effectively denies the pursuits of happiness to large proportions of the population.

“A half century after civil rights, wealth in America is overwhelmingly white — an America that supposedly stands for the pursuit of happiness for all yet in each generation reproduces policies and mechanisms to disadvantage nonwhites.”

Richard Amesbury, professor of religious studies and director of the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, recognizes the importance of Schermerhorn's work and the impact it has on present-day affairs.

“Professor Schermerhorn’s Fulbright research seeks to better understand the historical trajectory by which the racial wealth gap in the U.S. has grown over the past 40 years into a gaping sinkhole,” Amesbury said. “As Schermerhorn demonstrates, these changes did not simply occur; they were made. Tracing these developments to a series of political and economic decisions that shifted the balance of power decisively in favor of white Americans, Schermerhorn’s project shows how the expropriation of African American wealth has systematically hollowed out the promise of civil rights.”

The Fulbright award will allow Schermerhorn to participate within an institution and community of scholars, along with organizations in Britain dedicated to studying and countering racial wealth and income inequalities.

“Much of the story of colonial wealth inequalities begins with what assets 17th-century arrivals brought to Virginia and other colonies as startup funds,” Schermerhorn said. “I hope to uncover some of that story in British archives. More broadly, this is a brilliant chance to talk with U.K. scholars of slavery, its legacies, and inequalities today about approaches.”

The project is focused on his book-in-progress, but he plans to bring his insight and findings to public audiences through essays and other formats.

Rachel Bunning

Communications program coordinator, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

ASU agribusiness professor elected to AAEA board of directors

Carola Grebitus joins Agricultural and Applied Economics Association's 2021 leadership

May 29, 2020

Arizona State University Associate Professor of food industry management Carola Grebitus has been elected to the 2021 leadership of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA).

Grebitus, who is a senior sustainability scholar for the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and the director of the Food and Agribusiness Lab (FAB Lab), will begin her new role for AAEA starting July 28 and will hold the position for a three-year term. The AAEA is the leading professional association for agricultural and applied economists, with 2,500 members in more than 60 countries. Carola Grebitus Carola Grebitus Download Full Image

"I'm excited about the opportunity to serve on the board, and I am looking forward to working on strategies to increase numbers of AAEA industry members by staying relevant and communicating all AAEA has to offer,” she said.

Grebitus received her doctorate in food economics and food marketing (magna cum laude) in 2007 from Kiel University in Germany and received the Goldener Zuckerhut annual award for junior professionals showing outstanding success in Germany's food economy awarded by the foundation Goldener Zuckerhut in 2006.

Her research is focused on modeling consumers’ food choices in general and consumers’ decision strategies in particular.

She has worked extensively on the determinants of consumer behavior, purchase decision-making and food quality from the consumers’ perspective. 

Her current research includes consumer preferences for local food, urban agriculture, and sustainable (food) products, willingness to pay for new technologies and the influence of food labeling on purchase decisions.

Furthermore, she investigates the role of social networks on healthy food choices and the adoption of genomics. Also, she has conducted research using retail surveys regarding consumers’ use of quality certification and country-of-origin information.

In her research, Grebitus applies a variety of methods ranging from auctions and choice experiments to eye tracking and taste tests. At ASU, she teaches courses in food product innovation and development, and food promotion and advertising, with a heavy emphasis on food retail.

Grebitus joined ASU in August 2012. Previously, she was an assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Food Market Research at the Institute for Food and Resource Economics at Bonn University in Germany. She was also a postdoctoral research fellow in the Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology at the University of Alberta in Canada and at the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development in the Department of Economics at Iowa State University.

About AAEA

Members of the AAEA work in academic or government institutions as well as in industry and not-for-profit organizations and engage in a variety of research, teaching and outreach activities in the areas of agriculture, the environment, food, health and international development. The AAEA publishes two journals, the American Journal of Agricultural Economics and Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy, as well as the online magazine Choices and the online open-access publication series Applied Economics Teaching Resources. 

Shay Moser

Managing Editor, W. P. Carey School of Business


Biodesign C shines in 'Copper' awards

ASU building earns accolades as a modern-day architectural marvel

May 29, 2020

Traveling down Rural Road next to Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, it’s impossible to ignore the shiny copper façade of the Biodesign Institute Building C.

The building earned another accolade as a modern-day architectural marvel with its latest win, a North American Copper in Architecture Award. Turns out, this shiny reddish metal is very green — as a sustainable building material — and has a very long history. Copper glory: Biodesign C in the final stages of construction. Photo by Nick Merrick, Hall+Merrick/ZGF Architects Download Full Image

Some of the most celebrated landmarks in the world’s history featured copper. The massive doors of the temple Amen-Re at Karnak in ancient Egypt were clad in the semiprecious metal. The “Golden Temple” built during the Ming Dynasty in Kunming, China, was solid copper, not gold. From the spires and roofs of celebrated castles and cathedrals of Europe, along with the famous baptistry doors of Italy’s Florence Cathedral, copper endures as a timeless element. One of America’s greatest landmarks, the Statue of Liberty, is coated in copper, the same thickness as putting two pennies together.

Likewise, Biodesign Institute C is an award-winning landmark on ASU’s Tempe campus. It won the 2019 North American Copper in Architecture Award granted by the Copper Development Association and the Canadian Copper and Brass Development Association. The awards program recognizes and promotes building projects in the United States and Canada for their outstanding use of architectural copper and copper alloys. ASU’s building was one of 15 to earn the distinction.

“The distinctive copper exterior is a nod to Arizona’s roots, copper being one of Arizona’s historic 'Five Cs' that drove the state’s early economy, and is a unique expression of the reddish hue that permeates the campus architecture,” said designer Sean McGreal, lead principal with ZGF Architects. “From the earliest stages of conceptualization, the design intention was to enclose the building in copper to create a visually stunning and highly functional outer skin for the building’s double skin system.”

As part of the building’s high-performance double skin façade, an outer copper screen wraps around a primary skin of insulated metal panels. 

“The screen is comprised of thousands of copper panels featuring eight different levels of perforation,” McGreal said. “These perforation patterns have been carefully calibrated and positioned to minimize solar heat gain, optimize daylighting and visual comfort, and provide unobstructed views of the campus.”

Separately, the building’s outer copper screen and primary skin of insulated metal panels don’t reduce energy usage, but together they deliver remarkable cooling benefits.

A two-foot gap between the insulated metal panels and copper screen, coupled with openings in the screen, creates a ventilated cavity where the air temperature between the two skins is balanced with the outdoor air temperature. The copper screen acts as a shading device that reduces the surface temperature of the inner façade by roughly 65 degrees on hot summer days. In turn, the shade reduces the interior surface temperature of the building’s walls, significantly reducing the cooling load on perimeter spaces.

Beyond the energy-saving use of copper in the building’s façade design, the metal alone is environmentally friendly. “Copper is truly one of the most versatile and sustainable building materials available,” said Stephen Knapp, a director with the Copper Development Association.

Copper boasts one of the highest recycling rates of any engineering material. Copper roofing or cladding isn’t discarded and doesn’t wind up in landfills; because of its value, it can be easily salvaged and recycled.

It is also highly durable and requires little or no maintenance. Copper’s longevity is due to a natural patina it develops with age, weathering naturally to a lovely blue-green or nut brown color depending on climate. Unlike rust oxidation, the copper patina is a protective barrier that retards further corrosion, maintaining copper’s long life.

“As the green building trend continues, we expect to see the material increasingly utilized to achieve various certifications and environmental goals,” Knapp said.

Among Biodesign Institute C’s other accolades, the U.S. Green Building Council awarded the facility the prestigious LEED platinum certification. Biodesign C is the fifth ASU building to receive a platinum certification, the highest green building ranking under the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED — Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design — program, which recognizes buildings that are designed and constructed for high standards of energy efficiency and sustainability.

"Building C is unique on so many levels,” said Biodesign Executive Director Joshua LaBaer. “Its design and construction, including the sleek copper façade, really reflect the ideals of the institute itself, where so many innovative and interdisciplinary approaches to science are unfolding. This award is further testament to that.”  

In addition, Engineering News Record, a publication focusing on engineering and construction news, designated the building as a national Best of the Best Project in the Higher Education/Research category. Approximately 200 projects across America were considered for the honor.

Biodesign Institute C houses critical lab and research support space designed to accelerate ASU scientific research and enable the creation of cutting-edge, collaborative research clusters. The building will be home to the first-of-its-kind compact X-ray free electron laser.

From the outset, aspirations for the building’s design were set very high. A goal was to create a new research building that provided highly flexible and adaptable space for reliable research. ASU challenged the design team to create a dense web of workspace options that would promote and empower the formation of collaborative research clusters, while increasing opportunities for chance interactions among different research groups.

“Our research at ASU is growing all the time, and I believe a big draw for researchers is Biodesign Institute C,” said Monica Perrin, ASU Capital Programs senior project manager. “I’ve spoken to researchers, and they love the fact that it’s a collaborative space, they enjoy the environment, and the design helps them to be successful in their research.”

Written by Lori Baker

ASU Law named No. 2 'Best Law School Building' in the nation

Honor comes after first-time nomination; building also receives LEED Gold certification

May 28, 2020

In the National Jurist’s Spring 2020 issue of preLaw, ASU Law's home — the Beus Center for Law and Society on the Downtown Phoenix campus — was named the No. 2 “Best Law School Building” in the nation.

Securing the other top spots were the University of Memphis at No. 1 and Stetson University at No. 3. This was the first time ASU Law's home was nominated.  photo of BCLS building The Beus Center for Law and Society, home to ASU Law, was named the No. 2 “Best Law School Building” in the nation. Download Full Image

The building accomodates about 300 events a year by outside organizations, bringing in judges, attorneys and politicians, which helped place it as No. 2 in preLaw’s biannual list of Best Law School Buildings.

“The driving principle was to bring in outside organizations to expose students to how law operates in the real world,” Dean Douglas Sylvester told preLaw. “And second, to bring the local community into the buildings. These are access to justice organizations, so you have people from all walks of life coming into the buildings.” 

According to the preLaw article, the school’s Great Hall has a massive, 40-foot-by-60-foot glass wall with a folding glass door that unifies indoor and outdoor space and allows the hall to act as the public’s legal living room. A retractable seating system allows the Great Hall to be converted into a more formal auditorium configuration.

Other features include:

  • A study lounge on the top floor with lockers, pingpong tables and even showers.
  • Large digital screens in the lobby that allow students to look up their class schedules and let prospective students learn about various courses of study.
  • Expansive windows that give a good view of street life, and large display screens — visible from across the street — that share information about school events or show law-related news events, such as the impeachment hearings.

"This is a special place that is accomplishing things that few others have been able to accomplish,” Sylvester said.

Read the full preLaw article.

LEED Gold certification

The Beus Center for Law and Society also received Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification in May, four years after building completion.

LEED is an internationally recognized green building certification system, providing third-party verification that a building was designed and built using strategies aimed at improving performance across the following metrics: energy savings, water efficiency, CO2 emissions reduction, improved indoor environmental quality, and stewardship of resources and sensitivity to their impacts.

Gold certifications are given to buildings that score between 60-79 points. The center received a score of 61 due to the following sustainable and energy efficient features:

  • Configuration of the main building facade designed to change in response to solar orientation.
  • High-efficiency HVAC system that includes chilled beams and airfloor heating/cooling.
  • Lighting system is 100% LED, with daylighting and occupancy controls contributing to a low-energy lighting design.
  • Desert-adaptive plants in the building landscaping.
  • More than 75% of the construction waste was diverted from landfills.
Nicole Almond Anderson

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


ASU Leadership Institute accepting applications through June 30

May 22, 2020

The Alumni Association is seeking nominations for the third cohort of ASU Leadership Institute. Applications are being accepted now through June 30 for this professional and personal leadership development program. 

“ASU has experts in a variety of fields who are educating the next generation of leaders,” said Christine K. Wilkinson, ASU Alumni Association president and CEO. “The Leadership Institute provides up and coming leaders the ability to learn critical leadership skills from ASU executives while also gaining an in-depth look of ASU as the New American University.”  ASU Leadership Institute - Class 1 ASU Leadership Institute - Class 1 Download Full Image

ASU Leadership Institute Class 1 member Andrew Vandertoorn, evaluator pilot for the U.S. Air Force Reserve and first officer for Delta Air Lines, talks about how the program gives you a top down look at how the university works and how it impacts students, alumni and communities.

“The Leadership Institute was a pivotal turning point in my career offering me an amazing support network, lifelong friends and an opportunity to inspire ASU students and alumni around the globe,” he said. “Truly remarkable experience!”

The program will help participants understand and develop critical leadership skills. The cohort of Class 3 will participate in a leadership assessment tool that provides in-depth analysis and insights identifying key strengths to develop and enhance their professional skills further.

“ASU is filled with innovating students, staff and alumni,” said Class 2 member Bianca Vargas, accountant at Girls Scouts Arizona Cactus Pine Council. “It is an amazing opportunity to personally meet these individuals through networking, lectures and guided conversations.”

ASU Leadership Institute features nine ASU Innovation Days throughout the course of the program led by experts from fields including business, military, nonprofit management, media, health and science, technology, design and the arts, and applied-use research. The programs work to enlighten, inspire and transform leaders from a variety of professions and communities.

Applications for Class 3 of ASU Leadership Institute must be received by June 30. Successful candidates from the private, public and nonprofit sectors are chosen through a competitive selection process. For more information about ASU Leadership Institute, visit

Morgan Harrison

Director of strategic communications , ASU Alumni Association


Sharon Crook honored with Charles Wexler Teaching Award

May 22, 2020

Sharon Crook is the recipient of the 2020 Charles Wexler Teaching Award, the highest honor a faculty member can receive from the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences.

“I honestly am thrilled to receive this award,” Crook said. “Interacting with students, both in the classroom and as a research adviser and mentor, is what I enjoy most about my job. Receiving recognition for this work is extremely rewarding.” Sharon Crook Professor Sharon Crook is the recipient of the 2020 Charles Wexler Teaching Award. Download Full Image

Crook enjoys teaching mathematics and trying to come up with practical, real-life examples for how to use everything that she teaches.

“I also enjoy watching students slowly figure out how to develop and use mathematical models to answer questions,” she said.

Crook has been a faculty member at Arizona State University for 15 years, and holds a joint appointment with the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences and the School of Life Sciences.

In her research, she uses computational approaches to study the dynamics of neurons and networks of neurons, as well as the mechanisms underlying changes in these cells and networks due to trauma, learning or disease.

She also contributes to the development of NeuroML, an international effort to create a common standard for describing computational models for neuroscience research.

In the undergraduate mathematics program, Crook frequently teaches MAT 451: Mathematical Modeling, and MAT 355: Introduction to Computational Molecular Biology, a course which she developed. In fact, MAT 355 is one of the few courses which is cross-listed with other academic units, this one with the School of Life Sciences.

“I really enjoy teaching mathematical modeling. There is great diversity in the students who take it, and I enjoy interacting with them and teaching them how to do something creative that relies on many of the skills that they have learned in other courses,” she said.

Crook has a very active research program with many research publications that connect mathematics and biology. Through her ICON Lab (Informatics and Computation in Open Neuroscience Lab), Crook has served as research adviser for seven PhD students and four master's degree students to the completion of their degrees. She has also served on 19 PhD committees and six master's degree committees.

While she has an outstanding record of supervising graduate students, she always makes time for undergraduate research projects and directing honors theses. She has advised undergraduate research projects for 28 students total including 13 honors theses. In addition she has supervised honors contracts for research projects in her courses for 49 undergraduate students.

When asked if her ICON Lab is full, or still has room to accept new students to conduct research, her definitive response was "not full."

“I am always taking new students,” she said. “I talked to a new applied math undergrad yesterday who will probably join us in the fall.”

Crook teaches both biology and mathematics courses at the graduate and undergraduate levels, but her enthusiasm and passion for her undergraduate mathematics courses truly stand out. This is evidenced by the numerous positive comments from students about her undergraduate math courses, as well as statements by student nominations.

• “It is very clear Dr. Crook cares about her students. She presents sophisticated mathematical ideas simply and without pretension. I see her as a role model: a high achieving person but relatable. I would love to have more instructors like Dr. Crook.”

• “Professor Crook is an excellent teacher. She cares about every student, and she wants us to learn and succeed. She is also an outstanding mentor to undergraduate students doing research projects.”

• “This course was my favorite course at ASU by far. This class showed me more applications to real world work with mathematics than any of my other classes so far, and allowed me to gain more insight into topics that I truly care about. Amazing class!”

• “Dr. Crook always made herself available to assist students with coursework, regardless of time and location. I also like how she broke down each model we discussed into its most base form to help us understand how it was created.”

• (What did you like about the course?) “Literally everything. This is among my favorite courses in my four years here. The material is both powerful in its abstraction and incredibly practical. Dr. Crook is passionate and makes the material approachable.”

Crook was born in California but grew up in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, where her father worked at the University of Southern Mississippi as a professor of theater.

She always loved math in school starting as early as she can remember. In high school she really enjoyed her AP calculus class.

“When it came time to choose a major, I was trying to choose between mathematics and journalism, and somehow mathematics won,” Crook said. “I think because I was also interested in computer science, and math and computer science seemed like a good combination.”

As planned, she earned her bachelor’s degree in mathematics with a minor in computer science from the University of Southern Mississippi.

With a keen interested in biology, she did a summer research program at the Medical University of South Carolina while an undergraduate. She was also heavily involved with undergraduate research during the school year.

“These activities led me to graduate school at an institution with mathematical biology faculty. After taking a class in mathematical neuroscience, I was hooked!” Crook said.

Crook earned her master’s degree and PhD in applied mathematics at the University of Maryland in College Park. She worked as a postdoctoral researcher at Montana State University, and as an assistant professor at the University of Maine, before joining ASU in 2004 as an assistant professor. In 2010 she was promoted to associate professor, and in 2017 to full professor.

Crook came to ASU for the opportunity for a joint position that was advertised across the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences and the School of Life Sciences.

“This was perfect for me because I was incredibly interested in teaching courses at that interface between mathematics and biology,” said Crook. “It was a great fit, and luckily, the search committee recognized that.”

Several students who nominated Crook for the teaching award also saw her as a role model for women in math.

“Not only is Professor Crook a successful scientist, teacher and mentor, but also she has done it all while growing a family," one student said. "As a woman pursuing math, it was terrifying thinking of how I could possibly achieve my two biggest goals in life: to have a successful career using my math and logic skills and to have a family with children. Through my undergraduate career, I was encouraged and motivated by her example and she proves how powerful women are and that I don’t have to choose between a career and a family — I can have both.”

“I think anyone who is part of a minority group is going to be looked at as a role model at some point,” Crook said. “But I try to live up to that aspect of my career and really be there for others as a resource of information and honesty.

“I did not have any female instructors in mathematics during my entire undergraduate and graduate training — not even one.

“It was not an easy path, and I have lots of stories to tell. But, there were a few supportive male faculty who had a huge impact on my training and progress through my career. Also, I can be a bit stubborn.”

Crook contends having a career and family is a constant struggle.

“I have found that even though sometimes others make it look easy, if you talk to them, you will find it is not easy for anyone. But for me it has been worth it, of course, and I keep trying to do my best,” she said.

Crook actively attends meetings of the Association for Women in Mathematics (AWM) student chapter and recommends it as a great resource for students.

“Not only is important information shared through the AWM chapter activities, there are many important networking opportunities,” Crook said. “But, just having a place to get to know faculty, staff and other students outside of the classroom is an important aspect of the student chapter.”

The Charles Wexler Teaching Award was established in 1977, in memory of Professor Charles Wexler, with a gift from his wife, Helen, to honor his accomplishments in the field of mathematics and his contributions to the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. Wexler was the founding chairman of the Department of Mathematics at Arizona State University. At the time of his retirement, he had accumulated 47 years of service, the longest period of faculty service in the university’s history. In 1977, the A-Wing of the Physical Sciences Center was named after Wexler in appreciation of his outstanding service to the university from 1930 until 1977.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the 43rd annual Charles Wexler Awards ceremony was changed to a smaller online format. Jonathan Wexler, son of Charles Wexler, was able to join from Sunnyvale, California, via Zoom.

“Sharon is an outstanding professor," said Al Boggess, professor and director of the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. "Her keen enthusiasm in the biological applications of math comes through and excites her students. She has one of the best records in our school for mentoring students in research projects. She encompasses every aspect of what the Wexler Teaching Prize embraces.” 

We asked Crook a few more questions about life at ASU.

Question: What is something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

Answer: I grew up in an environment that embraced diversity. In spite of that background and coming to my career with a relatively open mind, interacting with students and faculty from many different backgrounds has made me even more empathetic to the views and situations of others.

Q: What do you like about being part of the faculty in the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, and ASU?

A: I could probably be happy just about anywhere since I am a "make the best of it" type of optimist. But I love that there is always something really novel and innovative going on at ASU. It's great coming to work at a place with incredibly talented, enthusiastic teachers and researchers. Also, I value the strong collegiality and support that (the school) provides.

Q: What advice would you give to university students thinking of possibly majoring in mathematics?

A: A major in mathematics can open the door to so many different pathways. It provides flexibility and a solid foundation for a lifetime of learning new things. So many of my students have found rewarding career paths, so I think mathematics continues to be a great choice for major.

Q: What do you think is the most misunderstood thing about math by the general public?

A: I think many people don't understand that mathematics provides a foundation for so many different careers.

Q: What is your favorite spot on campus, and why?

A: I appreciate the many, terrific outdoor spots at ASU and great winter weather. Taking a stroll around campus is always enjoyable. But my favorite spot is my office because it is the place where I can concentrate and sink deeply into my research best.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time for fun?

A: I enjoy sports and outdoor activities like cycling, hiking and playing ultimate Frisbee. I also enjoy reading, gardening, listening to music and spending time with friends and family.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: We face many large problems that are important, but without a doubt I would spend the money on trying to help stop climate change. Humans are terrible at recognizing life-threatening problems that will start next week or next month, so a problem that seems years away will always seem less dire. That's why it would be so important to put in the research and resources to work on it now.

Rhonda Olson

Manager of Marketing and Communication, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences


2 ASU professors elected to distinguished American Academy of Arts and Sciences

May 21, 2020

Two Arizona State University professors have been elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, an organization that was formed in 1780 by John Adams, John Hancock and other leaders of the time. 

Cheshire Calhoun, faculty head and professor of philosophy in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, and James Collins, the Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Natural History and the Environment in the School of Life Sciences, were chosen for their foundational work in the fields they represent.  ASU Old Main Download Full Image

They are among the 276 members of the 2020 class recognized for their outstanding achievements in academia, the arts, business, government and public affairs. Others elected to the academy this year include singer, songwriter and activist Joan Baez; former Attorney General Eric Holder; bioethicist R. Alta Charo; and independent filmmaker Richard Linklater. 

“The members of the class of 2020 have excelled in laboratories and lecture halls, they have amazed on concert stages and in surgical suites, and they have led in boardrooms and courtrooms,” AAAS President David Oxtoby said. “These new members are united by a place in history and by an opportunity to shape the future through the academy’s work to advance the public good.”

Calhoun’s work stretches across areas of normative ethics, moral psychology, philosophy of emotion, feminist philosophy and gay and lesbian philosophy. Her most recent book, "Doing Valuable Time: The Present, the Future, and Meaningful Living," deals with the various ways that motivations for living life are affected by our connection to temporality. 

Cheshire Calhoun

Professor Cheshire Calhoun

“As an advocate of women in the profession, a leader in her guild and head of the philosophy faculty in (the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies), Cheshire Calhoun has also worked tirelessly to create the conditions necessary for new generations of scholars to lead meaningful lives of philosophical engagement,” said the school's director, Richard Amesbury. “Her election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences is a well-deserved recognition of these many contributions to hopeful and perspicacious living.”

Calhoun is currently the faculty head of philosophy and the editor for the Oxford University Press series “Studies in Feminist Philosophy.” She is a chairperson for the American Philosophical Association’s board of officers and served as chair of the philosophy departments at Colby College and University of Kentucky. Her past positions include director of women’s studies at Colby College and the College of Charleston.

“It is both humbling and extremely gratifying to find myself among the American Academy of Arts and Sciences’ philosophers, a list that includes so many of the philosophers that I admire and have been influenced by, sometimes profoundly,” said Calhoun. “It is also heartening to know that it’s possible to have one’s contributions recognized even if you are someone who has always worked somewhat off the beaten path and at institutions that are not the conventionally elite ones. ASU invested confidence in me when it hired me, and I am glad that the academy has enabled me to offer this return on that invested confidence.”

Collins, an evolutionary ecologist, was chosen for his studies of the role of host-pathogen interactions in species decline and extinction. Collins uses amphibians, along with viral and fungal pathogens, as models for studying the factors that control population dynamics and has been one of the foremost leaders in addressing the global amphibian extinction crisis. He also studies the scientific, ethical and public policy issues surrounding the development and proposed environmental release of genetically modified organisms.

James Collins

Professor James Collins

“As an internationally respected evolutionary ecologist, Jim Collins is deeply committed to applying his research expertise to critical conservation and policy issues,” School of Life Sciences Director Kenro Kusumi said. “He is a faculty role model as a scholar and public servant, who has been working tirelessly as an advocate for science and to advance STEM education.”

Collins has published more than 170 edited volumes, book chapters and peer-reviewed articles, including the book, “Extinction in Our Times: Global Amphibian Decline.” He has also mentored 23 master's degree students and 19 PhD students while also working for several leading organizations geared toward the advancement of science and the liberal arts, such as the National Science Foundation; National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine; Association of American Colleges and Universities; and Association for Women in Science. Additionally, he served on the National Science and Technology Council under presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

“Receiving this honor reminds me that mentors matter,” Collins said. “I am grateful to all of those who helped me develop as a researcher and teacher. Students also matter. Throughout the years, undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students played a central role in my research. ASU’s support has been constant, providing the personal flexibility and exceptional colleagues needed to develop my research, teaching and service programs.”  

The American Academy of Arts and Sciences was founded 240 years ago on the idea that the new republic should honor exceptionally accomplished individuals and engage them in advancing the public good. The academy’s dual mission remains essentially the same with honorees from increasingly diverse fields and with the work focused on the arts, democracy, education, global affairs and science.

The new class will join an elite company of previously elected academy members, including Benjamin Franklin (elected 1781), Ralph Waldo Emerson (1864), Charles Darwin (1874), Albert Einstein (1924), Margaret Mead (1948), Martin Luther King Jr. (1966) and more recently, Michael Bloomberg (2007) and Judy Woodruff (2012).

Director, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


The College recognizes faculty for teaching excellence

May 21, 2020

As Arizona State University’s largest and most diverse college, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers courses that nearly every ASU student takes at some point in their college journey.

These courses delve into a wide variety of topics in the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities and are led by outstanding faculty who strive to go above and beyond for their students.  Armstrong Hall building on ASU's Tempe campus Armstrong Hall on ASU's Tempe campus is home to The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now Download Full Image

Annually, one faculty member from each division of The College is selected as a recipient of the Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award, the highest recognition of teaching excellence in The College. In addition this year, two faculty members were recognized with the Outstanding Instructor Award.

“These faculty members embody the innovation and dedication occurring in each of our academic units,” said Patrick Kenney, dean of The College. “I, like so many in our community, am grateful for their contributions and look forward to their continued success in their respective fields.”

Meet this year’s awardees:

Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award

Jess Alberts

Alberts joined ASU in 1989 and serves as the President's Professor and director of the online communication master’s degree program for the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. Her research focuses on conflict in personal and professional relationships.

Alberts has published articles on marital conflict, the division of domestic labor and couples’ daily interaction. Over the years, her contributions in teaching and mentoring have been recognized with a number of awards.

As an instructor, she says her primary goal is to spark students’ curiosity about the world while encouraging lifelong learning by promoting critical thinking, analytic writing and the application of classroom concepts to real-life scenarios.

“I strive to provide a classroom that models how we can celebrate diverse others while communicating authentically and compassionately,” Alberts said. “I do this by showing respect for the variety of knowledge, abilities and experiences that students bring to the classroom as well as introducing a classroom code of conduct that recognizes the humanity and gifts of all students.”

Ligia Bezerra

Bezerra is an assistant professor at the School of International Letters and Cultures, where she has taught since 2016. Her research interests include everyday life, consumption and democracy in Latin American literature and culture, with a focus on Brazil and Argentina. 

She authored the forthcoming book, “A Consuming World: Imagining Everyday Life in Twenty-First Century Brazil,” which explores representations of consumption in the work of 21st-century Brazilian writers, examining how they envision more or less hopeful futures in light of how several aspects of consumption impact our present everyday life. 

Throughout her career she has taught a variety of courses on linguistics, English, Portuguese and Spanish. She says she is inspired by all the teachers she’s had in her life including her mother, her colleagues and her students.

“I grew up seeing the difference that education made in my mother’s life and the difference that she, as an educator, makes in her students’ lives,” Bezerra said. “Teaching is something I am very passionate about, so this award means a lot to me.”

Bezerra says that because the material she teaches focuses on contemporary life, it allows her to be in close contact with issues that directly impact the lives of her students, which provides her invaluable opportunities to bring her expertise into the classroom. Her goal as an educator is to guide her students with questions that motivate them to empathize with others, become more informed consumers and more engaged citizens and think creatively in order to tackle the global challenges that lie ahead of them.

Shelley Haydel

Haydel has taught in the School of Life Sciences since 2005, and also works as an associate professor at the Biodesign Center for Immunotherapy, Vaccines and Virotherapy, as well as the Biodesign Institute Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors. In addition, she serves as the director of the School of Life Sciences Undergraduate Research program.

Haydel is an infectious disease microbiologist with active research interests and projects focusing on bacterial pathogenesis, host-pathogen interactions, infectious diseases, medical/clinical microbiology, rapid diagnostics and antimicrobial discovery. She has won several awards for her approach to teaching.

In her classes and research lab, Haydel says she pushes students to aim high and to be champions regardless of their circumstances while promising them that she will teach, mentor and lead with action, advocacy, honesty and compassion. Haydel’s teaching style stimulates collaborative, interactive and holistic learning experiences that value diversity.

“It truly is an honor to receive this award. I could not wait to tell my undergraduate students because I felt like they were nominated with me,” Haydel said. “I would not be the instructor that I am without these wonderful students. My efforts are worth it for these outstanding students. I want to see them learn and succeed in life. I tell them that I will always be a mentor when they need it.”

Outstanding Instructor Award 

Susan Holechek

Holechek is an instructor at the School of Life Sciences with an affiliated appointment at the Simon A. Levin Mathematical, Modeling and Sciences Center. She first joined the university as faculty in 2015.

At ASU, Holechek has formed an interdisciplinary group of biology and math students that is currently studying the role of the immune system in the modulation and transmission of infectious diseases using both experimental and mathematical modeling approaches. In her courses, she works to implement an adaptive learning platform that promotes student engagement while reducing cost of materials. She has received numerous grants to expand her students’ research opportunities and has been recognized with several awards for her teaching and mentoring.

Prior to her work at ASU, she worked at the Molecular Biology Division of the Peruvian National Institute of Health as part of the response team for the first dengue outbreak with hemorrhagic cases in 2000. 

Holechek is excited to share a recognition for teaching with one of her mentors, Shelley Haydel, who is receiving the Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award.

“I have been inspired throughout these years by amazing professors at ASU who are both passionate and knowledgeable,” Holechek said. “It is an honor being awarded the 2019-2020 Outstanding Instructor Award for The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and I hope to continue making my students proud, after all, this award is because of them.”

Iuliia Inozemtseva 

Inozemtseva has served as a lecturer at the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences since 2017. Her research interests focus on differential equations and mathematical modeling. 

In the past she has worked on math applications in genetic mutations and predator-prey models as well as math modeling of epidemic spreads in hospitals. Over the years she has been recognized for excellence in teaching.

Inozemtseva is a member of the Association for Women in Mathematics, where she uses her international experience to promote women in STEM careers. In the classroom she takes a unique approach to mathematics by showing students real-world applications in a variety of fields including biology, coding, artificial intelligence, physics, engineering and medicine. Through this approach she has found that many students have a newfound love for the subject once they are able to see it from a new perspective.

“I am extremely grateful for this award and for the recognition,” Inozemtseva said. “I hope that awards like these will motivate more instructors to invest their time and passion into new generations of students. After all, we cannot ignore that we work during interesting times with new technologies and resources available to both students and instructors. By taking time to learn how to use these resources we help students succeed in college and change lives for the better."

Emily Balli

Communications Specialist and Lead Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

ASU applied behavior analysis degree to expand beyond Arizona

New virtual synchronous learning option

May 21, 2020

This fall, the Master of Science in applied behavior analysis (MS ABA) at Arizona State University will be available to students outside of the Phoenix area with the addition of a virtual synchronous learning option.

Applied behavior analysis can assist children and families with developmental or behavioral issues such as autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or learning disabilities. Behavior analysis is also used in competitive sports, organizational psychology, and in many environments that optimize prosocial behavior. Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis Students Students in the 2019-2020 cohort of the Master of Science in applied behavior analysis. Photo by Robert Ewing, ASU Download Full Image

RELATED: What is applied behavior analysis?

Over 92% of the students in ASU’s MS ABA program become certified to work as behavioral analysts. The nationwide average is 65%. The MS ABA program also has a 100% job placement rate in the Phoenix area for its students. The program will add a virtual learning classroom option to allow people located outside of Phoenix to join the program.

“We have always had interest from students and practicum sites outside of the Tempe area and now we can give students an opportunity to experience a synchronous learning environment from the comfort of where they are currently living,” said Adam Hahs, associate clinical professor and director of the MS ABA program. “We have carefully designed our program for a high level of success. Our students are excellent and our practicum supervisors are leaders in the field. We are confident that expanding it will allow the same high-quality instruction and placements for students who are not local.”

The synchronous learning option offers through live-streamed classes the same training that students on the Tempe campus. Additionally, this fall the GRE requirement has been waived.

The MS ABA program is a two-year degree that includes the scientific curriculum and practitioner training required for applied behavior analyst certification and state licensing for Arizona.

One of the key features of the MS ABA program is the practicum experience for students. The students participating in synchronous learning would be matched to practicum sites in their area.

“The combination of the practicum element with the curriculum component is an imperative part of our program. The experience from the practicum sets the tone for the type of behavior analysts our students will become,” said Hahs.

Frequently asked questions about this program can be found on the department website.

Alumni from the program are now enjoying many types of jobs. Jim Jarynowski works as a clinical supervisor at Touchstone Language Services where he teaches children how to communicate. Reyna Rivera works as clinical director at Arion Care Solutions, and Katelin Hobson is working on her doctoral degree at the University of Washington.  

“We are excited to have the opportunity to impact the lives of children and families outside of the Phoenix area, and we are grateful to our extensive practicum network that allows expansion,” said Don Stenhoff, assistant clinical professor.

Video from the ASU Department of Psychology

RELATED: Current student Ahtziry Vasquez translates clinical work for a diverse population

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology


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Meet the 'Devils in the Details'

May 19, 2020

New Zoom-based series focuses on conversations with ASU experts

Arizona State University this week launched “Devils in the Details,” a Zoom-based conversation series with experts who are doing the work, the research and the collaboration that makes ASU the most innovative university in America.

The series delves deeper into stories or issues making headlines and also introduces viewers to undiscovered topics and the people behind them. 

Early episodes include:

• Why students from across the country are signing up for Summer School 2020 — taking steps to catch up, keep up or get ahead during the pandemic.

• A virtual trip into the research labs with Joshua LaBaer to learn more about coronavirus testing, unexpected challenges, the road ahead and the decisions we face about how to expand and increase testing. 

• The next big development for a solar-powered, ASU-invented computer in a backpack that is a life-changer for people in remote areas around the globe.

• How an ASU tool invented during a Florida hurricane now is helping with the university and community response to COVID-19, and how an emergency management and homeland security center is playing a role in the pandemic response. 

“We are always looking for new ways to engage, communicate and educate about the many fascinating things that faculty, students, researchers and ASU partners are doing across our campuses and around the world,” said Katie Paquet, vice president of media relations and strategic communications. “This is a convenient way to have a deeper conversation about what is happening inside our research labs, in the field, in classrooms, in the oceans, in space exploration, in cities like Washington or Los Angeles, or right here in Arizona.”

Video produced by Ken Fagan/Media Relations and Strategic Communications

The show is hosted by Mi-Ai Parrish, the Sue Clark-Johnson Professor of Media Innovation and Leadership at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and managing director of the ASU Media Enterprise. She is known nationally as a newsroom leader, having served as publisher of the Arizona Republic, president and publisher of the Kansas City Star and president and publisher of the Idaho Statesman.

"Devils in the Details" joins “Thought Huddle,” a podcast highlighting thinkers and doers across the university, as a tool and resource to help people learn about the work ASU is doing and how it impacts their community and their lives.

Watch for more episodes of Devils in the Details soon.

Assistant vice president , Media Relations and Strategic Communications