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ASU microbiologist receives NSF CAREER Award to study greenhouse gases

Associate professor to quantify the role of microbes in Amazon peatlands

November 16, 2018

Hinsby Cadillo-Quiroz, a microbiologist and associate professor with Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences, has received a prestigious National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award for his work in the Amazon.

Cadillo-Quiroz and his international team of researchers are studying the Amazon peatlands from an ecosystem perspective — investigating microbes, tree size and growth, climate and floods, and changes in greenhouse gases such as CO2, methane and nitrous oxide. More specifically, they are learning about the connections between microorganisms and elements of the Amazonian ecosystems that lead to the consumption and production of methane gas. ASU's Hinsby Cadillo-Quiroz and students Associate professor Hinsby Cadillo-Quiroz (right), along with ASU undergraduate researcher Carlos Courtney (left) and high school student Jesus Fernandes, deploy a soil microbial community manipulation experiment in Quistococha, Iquitos, Peru. Photo: Sandra Leander/ASU School of Life Sciences Download Full Image

“I’m proud to receive this award and pleased that the National Science Foundation recognizes the importance of our work in the Amazon,” said Cadillo-Quiroz. “The Amazon basin has a large area of peatlands that are releasing high levels of methane and we do not understand the microbial contribution to this situation.

“It’s critical that we develop new tools and protocols to better understand these important ecosystems. But we also need to account for the pressure that climate change is having on peatlands and on the organisms that moderate methane cycling. Then we may be able to make better decisions in land management,” he said.

Peatlands are an important part of our world’s ecosystem, as they effectively absorb and store large amounts of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Globally, they cover only about 3 percent of the world’s land area but store two times more CO2 than all other land biomass combined. Previous studies on northern peatlands have shown these boggy lands can quickly change from an environment that absorbs greenhouse gases to ones that releases large amounts of CO2 and methane instead.

One of his project’s goals is to create a predictive microbe-inclusive model that researchers can use to better understand methane cycling at local or regional levels in the Amazon. This will be an important tool in managing ecosystems and predicting regional atmospheric conditions.

Additionally, by studying microbes that live both inside and outside of the Amazonian peatlands, Cadillo-Quiroz’s team hopes to show exactly what role microbes play in the absorption or release of greenhouse gases.

Furthermore, to expand the knowledge base and research capacity for the tropics, Cadillo-Quiroz will develop inquiry-based learning modules for undergraduate and graduate education. These modules will have U.S. and international collaborative research components. ASU undergraduate researchers and educators will complete their research activities with partner institutions in countries with Amazonian peatlands. 

“We are working at the cutting-edge of scientific knowledge about the world’s tropics. Building long-term capacity in these regions is as critical as knowledge generation. We are always enthusiastically looking for more partners to study peatlands with us, and to help us make a better world,” said Cadillo-Quiroz.    

The five-year NSF CAREER Award totals more than $650,000. This award is the most prestigious in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as leaders in their respective fields of research. Cadillo-Quiroz received the award earlier this year while an assistant professor at the school.

Sandra Leander

Manager, Media Relations and Marketing, School of Life Sciences


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ASU is the top public university of choice for international students

November 13, 2018

The university marks its 4th consecutive year atop the Institute of International Education rankings

Arizona State University is ranked as the top public university of choice for international students, according to the 2018 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. This is the fourth consecutive year that ASU has topped all public universities on the list, which is based on figures from the 2017–18 academic year.

During 2017–18, ASU was home to more than 13,400 international students from over 136 countries. This community of international students places ASU as the No. 5 overall college or university to host international students in the nation — in the company of private universities New York University, University of Southern California, Northeastern University and Columbia University, ranked first through fourth, respectively.

The Open Doors study, published by the independent nonprofit Institute of International Education, reported that the number of international students in the United States surpassed one million for the third consecutive year. The U.S. remains the top host of international students globally.

“Our international students bring the whole world to our university. They are a diverse set of learners who enrich our university culture and make ASU a truly global community,” said Holly Singh, senior director of the International Students and Scholars Center (ISSC).

International students choose ASU for numerous reasons, including undergraduate and graduate research opportunities, a diverse set of campus environments, the first-rate faculty and its international reputation for innovation.

Ye Chen studied at Hunan University and came to ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business through a student exchange program, partially sponsored by the China Scholarship Council. After two semesters at ASU, she didn’t consider any other university for her graduate program. Now majoring in higher and postsecondary education, she said she fell in love with everything — the faculty, staff and school culture.

“I found my career passion to work with college students,” Chen said. “I deeply agree with the values here: inclusion, community building and serving the public. This is why I decided to come back to ASU and follow my passion and study higher education as my master’s degree.”

With such a diverse student community, there are opportunities to learn from other cultures and make international friends, she added. The other incentive for Chen? The great Arizona weather.

Those who call ASU home not only have access to a high-grade education, they also receive support before setting foot on the campuses and beyond graduation.

ASU has a network of support systems in place to ensure students succeed through graduation. ISSC provides international students resources and advisement on a wide array of topics during their stay in the U.S.

“As students continue to value international education, it will be critical for us to support them in holistic and comprehensive fashion,” Singh said. “These students are not only learning in the academic sphere but also at psycho-emotional and sociocultural levels, thereby creating new ways of connecting and collaborating. These ‘global citizens’ need our full support so they continue to create a better future for us.”

Invested in the success of all of its students, the university supports students beyond graduation. ISSC facilitates the transition between school and job placement opportunities. Optional Practical Training allows eligible students to receive up to 12 months of employment authorization in their major area of study and receive real-world experience to boost their employability.

Gnyanesh Trivedi came to ASU to pursue a graduate degree in mechanical engineering from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and said he chose ASU for the vibrant campus and the opportunities both inside and outside the classroom.

“I believe that the engineering career center is a phenomenal place,” he said. “During the time I was employed there, I learned of the myriad resources available to help students focus on career development and job hunting.”

Trivedi, a graduate who is now taking advantage of Optional Practical Training (OPT), continues to stay connected to the university and ASU alumni through ASU-hosted events. He credits ISSC for anticipating student needs — providing him information on the university resources he can tap into — during his time on campus, providing him continued support through his OPT and keeping him on track after graduation.

“OPT is the best way for an international student in the U.S. to gain experience upon completion of, and sometimes even during, their degree,” he added.  “It's the best way to have hands-on experience and put classroom/lab-based knowledge into practical industry based application.”

Beyond visa, travel and job placement assistance, ISSC assists students in adapting to American university life and aids with cultural adjustment — providing opportunities for students to engage on campus through workshops and informal gatherings. This includes the Let’s Chat Series — an opportunity for students to practice and focus on English communication skills.

Programs like Global Launch were developed to prepare students to thrive in globally connected world, providing language training and academic preparation support for international students who are looking to refine their English or students who plan on studying, working or living abroad.

ASU has a history of engaging on a global level and engaging with people and issues locally, nationally and internationally.

Open Doors also reported a 6 percent increase in ASU students studying abroad in the 2016–17 academic year, placing ASU in the top 10 for students who studied abroad. Over the past five years, ASU has consistently climbed the ranks from unranked to 10th in the nation, sending students on credit-bearing study abroad programs through various international study, research, internship and service opportunities in numerous places around the globe.

In addition, opportunities for research development and international collaboration exist in more than 80 countries through various initiatives such as the Global Sport Institute and the Global Security Initiative

“I feel like there are unlimited resources here at ASU for students,” Chen said. “I always strongly encourage students that have great ideas to take action because you will have all the resources and support from the university to make it happen. Not all universities put so much effort to support the success of their students like ASU."

PLAYLIST: ASU students on their study abroad experiences

Top photo: The packed audience begins to get into the Sun Devil spirit at the International Orientation Opening Ceremonies at ASU Gammage, on Aug. 8. Around 2,000 students and 300 parents came to the event. ASU is the top public university in the U.S. for international students, coming from more than 136 countries. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

ASU ranks in top 10 in the nation for students studying abroad

November 13, 2018

Consistent with the past four years, Arizona State University improved its university study abroad ranking in the annual Institute of International Education Open Doors 2018 report. ASU jumped from No. 15 to No. 10 in the nation for U.S. colleges and universities with the most student participation in credit-bearing study abroad programs. 

In the report, ASU also maintained its ranking as the No. 1 public university for hosting international students for its fourth consecutive year. Cynthia Alaffa Cynthia Alaffa, a social work major, is pictured with her classmates in Madrid. She is taking part in the faculty-led University Service-Learning program in Burgos, Spain. Download Full Image

Asked about the continued growth in study abroad enrollments at ASU, Study Abroad Office Director Adam Henry expressed that it is further example of ASU’s commitment to being a global university.

“During the 2016–17 academic year (on which this report is based), 2,414 ASU students participated in a study abroad program,” he said. “This student participation rate is largely thanks to partnerships between our academic departments and our study abroad office that focused on helping students understand the value of studying in another country. Study abroad is very much a part of the ASU culture that thrives on global engagement.”

“Additionally, being in the top 10 is an incredible feat considering just five years ago we were unranked,” Henry said.

The top 10 destinations for U.S. students studying abroad are the United Kingdom, Italy, Spain, France, Germany, China, Ireland, Australia, Costa Rica and Japan. The most common academic programs for study abroad are business and management, STEM fields (including physical or life sciences, health professions, engineering, math or computer science and agriculture) and social sciences.

PLAYLIST: ASU students on their study abroad experiences

Cynthia Alaffa, a social work major, traveled to Spain through ASU’s study abroad program and said the experience allowed her to work with populations she had never worked with before.

“As a social work student, we are taught that it’s not about us, it’s about making sure our clients’ needs are being met,” she said. “Being abroad, I was able to listen to many stories and perspectives. Not only was I able to gain travel experience, I learned about different social work practices of professionals in another country."

Nationally, numbers of U.S. students studying abroad grew by 2.3 percent to 332,727 Americans studying abroad for academic credit at their home institutions in 2016–17.

In addition, Open Doors 2018 shows that the profile of U.S. students going abroad continues to diversify. The number of students who identify as racial or ethnic minorities who studied abroad in 2016–17 was 29.2 percent. In 2005-06, racial and ethnic minorities accounted for only 17 percent of the study abroad population.

Outpacing the national average, 37 percent of ASU students studying abroad in 2016–17 identified as racially or ethnically diverse, including 21 percent identifying as Hispanic or Latino/a.

ASU is committed to creating flexible options for all campus-based and online students interested in studying overseas. Most recently, the Study Abroad Office launched short-term program options during semester sessions A and B. This new option allows students to study abroad for six to seven weeks and then return to complete the other session in-person or online.

“To become a master learner in the 21st century, our students need global experiences,” said Mark Searle, executive vice president and university provost. “Traveling, experiencing new cultures, and building relationships with people from other countries are skills that are critical to our shared future.” 

The Study Abroad Office at ASU offers more than 250 program options in more than 65 countries, with program lengths ranging from one week to one year. Financial aid and scholarships are available for students who participate in semester and yearlong programming.

“I believe this experience also helped me to explore more and get out of my comfort zone,” Alaffa said. “I learned it’s OK to be lost sometimes because in the end you find your way no matter what. Overall, this journey brought me many memories, amazing support and many new long-lasting friendships as well as growth within myself, personally and professionally.”

Learn more at mystudyabroad.asu.edu.

Written by Carrie Herrara Niesen

ASU Graduate College helps STEM PhDs get fellowships in Washington, D.C.

November 9, 2018

What else do science and technology PhD students do when they graduate besides work in the academy? 

According to the Distinguished Awards office of Arizona State University's Graduate College, some join the legislative and executive branches of government, and others should be interested in following suit.  Mary Hannah Schultz and Senator Edward Markey American Association for the Advancement of Science Science & Technology Policy Fellowship alum Mary Hannah Schultz (right) who earned her PhD at ASU, served as a congressional fellow for U.S. Sen. Edward Markey. Download Full Image

For example, ASU alum Mary Hannah Schultz helped a U.S. senator make sound policy decisions. Current ASU faculty member Darshan Karwat assisted executive branch federal agencies to solve complex problems.

Both Schultz and Karwat are alums of the Science & Technology Policy Fellowships program administered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). Fellows serve yearlong policy advising assignments in the federal government.

Both Karwat and Schultz returned to the academy after their stints in the federal government. Karwat is now ASU faculty in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, and Schultz is now a visiting professor at James Madison University.

The Distinguished Awards office in the Graduate College has begun to actively recruit for Science & Technology Policy Fellowships from ASU’s talent pool with the assistance of AAAS program officers, ASU’s Office of National Policy Affairs, the Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarship Advisement at Barrett, The Honors College and ASU-affiliated Science & Technology Policy Fellowship alums.

On Oct. 10, 2018, the Distinguished Awards office hosted an information session for Science & Technology Policy Fellowships with the help of Karwat, Schultz and personnel at AAAS. ASU’s event had one of the largest turnouts for an fellowship recruiting event. Typical fellowship recruiting events at other large research universities measure about 20 attendees. ASU’s event had 62 attendees.

Karwat provided the executive branch perspective and Schultz provided the legislative branch perspective for attendees.

ASU Now asked Schultz if she would further help us to understand why newly minted STEM PhDs might want to pursue a Washington, D.C., fellowship appointment instead of the more traditional positions in the academy. Schultz served as a fellow in Sen. Edward Markey’s office immediately following her graduation from ASU’s Geological and Earth Sciences program in the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Question: Can you tell us a little about Science and Technology Policy Fellowships, how you became familiar with the program, and how you decided to apply for it?

Answer: The Science and Technology Policy Fellowship is an opportunity offered by the American Association for the Advancement of Science and partnering scientific societies for PhD scientists to experience and contribute to the world of policymaking for one year in one of the branches of government. I learned about the program through one of my PhD adviser’s former students, who was a congressional (program fellow) sponsored by the American Geophysical Union and is now the associate director of natural hazards at the United States Geological Survey. He told me he had a wonderful and fulfilling experience working in Congress and encouraged me to apply after hearing that I had an avid interest in politics and government affairs. I learned much more about the program at the American Geophysical Union’s Fall Meeting before I submitted my application.

Q: Can you share any particular strategies that you employed in the application process?

A: The most important piece of advice is to research the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship website and take a look at the partnering societies that sponsor fellows. You may submit applications to all of the societies that are pertinent to your area of research, which may increase your chances of advancing to the interview round and getting chosen. One of the most frequent questions applicants pose is whether or not they need experience in policy before applying. I had zero policy experience before submitting my application! I did make it very clear in my statement of purpose that I thrived on outreach activities and teaching during my doctoral work.

Q: You served in the office of Sen. Edward Markey. What was that like?

A: After I very enthusiastically accepted the offer to be the American Geoscience Institute’s William L. Fisher Geoscience Congressional Fellow, I joined my Science and Technology Policy Fellowship colleagues in Washington, D.C., for a two-week-long orientation hosted by AAAS in September 2017. We all took away a common theme from orientation: Although science may not have the final say in policymaking decisions, our voices were needed more than ever in the federal government. Following orientation, the legislative branch fellows parted ways with the executive branch fellows and the time for placement was upon us.

Congressional fellows have many options for placement. Fellows must choose between working in the Senate versus the House of Representatives and also must decide whether to work in a personal office or on a congressional committee. Placement is a completely personal decision that depends on what the fellow wants to get out of her year in Washington. I found the interview period to be rather tense and frantic, but also enjoyable. I believe I interviewed with five different offices on the first day. I immediately knew from my interview with staff members working for Sen. Ed Markey that the office would be a good fit for me as they were looking for a fellow who had an interest in climate, environment and energy policy. Two days later, I had an interview with the senator himself and was offered the position. Sen. Markey has hosted science and technology fellows for years and is known as a champion of science. Sen. Markey is currently the chair of the Senate Climate Change Task Force; ranking member (top Democrat) of the Senate Commerce Space, Science, and Competitiveness Subcommittee; and is also a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works.

I approached the fellowship with flexibility and was willing to work on whatever tasks Sen. Markey’s office needed, which turned out to be quite a variety of duties. I coordinated and staffed the weekly meetings of the Senate Climate Change Task Force, with topics ranging from the attempt to repeal the Obama Administration’s Clean Power Plan to the health impacts of mountaintop removal mining in southern Appalachia, to the influence a warming climate has on the ski industry of the Western U.S. I also became an expert in commercial space policy and worked on a bipartisan bill, S. 3277, the Space Frontier Act of 2018, with the offices of Sens. Ted Cruz, Bill Nelson and John Thune. I contributed language to this bill that reflected Sen. Markey’s priorities and had the opportunity to see this legislation pass the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. It now awaits consideration before the full Senate. Other duties included writing floor speeches, crafting press releases, writing oversight letters to various government agencies and staffing the senator at committee hearings.

Q: What are you doing now and how did the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship help lead you to your current position?

A: I am now a visiting assistant professor in the Department of Geology and Environmental Science at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. I realized that I truly loved to teach above all else while advising the senator and senior staff on science and space policy issues. As my Science and Technology Policy Fellowship year in the Senate ended, I felt the strong urge to take all I had learned and all that I had experienced during this very special opportunity and spread the word to the academic realm — to students, postdocs and professors alike. I’m currently teaching three courses, and one of them, called Science Policy and Global Impacts, I specifically designed to reveal to students there is such a world as science policy and to explore with them the many ways that science can impact policymaking.

Q: What career or personal advice do you have for postdocs and near-to-graduating doctoral students?

A: The (fellowship) proved to me just how versatile a PhD scientist can be. Academia is certainly one route PhDs can take, but it is far from the only route. I would advise recently graduated and near-to-graduating doctoral students to talk with your mentors and use conferences and meetings to find out about opportunities like the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowship — they’re out there! Go to sessions that interest you, even if you don’t know much about the subject and build professional relationships. My year in Congress revealed that we need as many PhDs as possible working in the realms of policy, industry and beyond.

Graduate Fellowships Advisor, Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement

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ASU, AGFE launch college- and career-readiness platform for Emirati youths

Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education, ASU partner on online program.
November 7, 2018

Young Thinkers provides online course modules, bilingual success coaching

Arizona State University is expanding its global reach to the United Arab Emirates with a new college- and career-readiness platform for young Emirati people.

The Al Ghurair Young Thinkers Program, developed jointly with the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education (AGFE), launched last week to help Emiratis ages 15 to 25 prepare for university life and professional careers in fields critical to the future of the UAE.

So far, 2,000 young people in Abu Dhabi have already registered for the program, according to Bethany Weigele, senior director of lifelong learning initiatives at EdPlus at ASU, the unit that houses ASU Online and other programs.

“We’re excited that these students have been motivated to already start engaging with the coursework and success advisers,” she said. The pace of registrations “really demonstrates the need for a college- and career-readiness platform that is available at the touch of a finger.”

EdPlus created the online platform for the Young Thinkers Program, which includes college-readiness modules in English and Arabic, the interactive me3 career-pathway game and a live-chat application to talk to trained coaches. The platform is available as a website and is optimized for smartphones.

The team did extensive testing and “learned about the specific nuances we needed for our audience,” Weigele said.

The content is customized for the young Emiratis. For example, the interactive modules in English and Arabic help develop professional skills in areas such as networking, writing resumes, public speaking, time management and digital literacy. Weigele said that by the end of the year, there will be about 25 courses, with most about 90 minutes long.

The platform also includes live-chat capability with ASU success advisers, who support students in setting goals and overcoming obstacles and are available during convenient times for students. The coaches are fluent in Arabic and English in both writing and speaking.

“We required that they have lived extensively in the Arab world, so they’re knowledgeable not only in the language but about which careers are popular there, what the universities are like and what high school looks like,” Weigele said.

UAE men stand at a line of laptops
The Al Ghurair Young Thinkers Program aims to reach 5,000 Emiratis ages 15 to 25 over the next five years. Some 2,000 have signed up since last week's launch, and more launch events are scheduled. Photo courtesy of AGFE

The goal is to reach 5,000 young people who are in high school, university or early career in the next five years. More launch events are scheduled, including one in Al-Ain on Tuesday, as part of Tawteen360, organized by the UAE’s Ministry of Human Resources and Emiratisation. 

The Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education is the largest private foundation focused on education in the UAE and the Arab region. In the UAE, the foundation has forged a series of strategic partnerships to provide young Emiratis with the latest tools and information to support their career aspirations through skill-building, empowering them to contribute to their nation’s competitiveness.

“We are excited to bring the Al Ghurair Young Thinkers Program to the UAE with Arizona State University,” said Maysa Jalbout, CEO of the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education. “Capitalizing on ASU’s extensive experience in innovation, we look forward to using the program’s technology-based mechanisms to prepare Emirati youth for university and work.

“The program offers bespoke technology-based solutions designed especially for young Emiratis to prepare them for higher education and the job market. With education as one of the main priorities in the UAE’s national agenda, we are confident that the Al Ghurair Young Thinkers Program will support efforts to build national human capital that is capable of coping with change across different economic sectors.”

The foundation first partnered with ASU in 2017, a partnership that includes Open Learning Scholars, a scholarship program for students to acquire master’s degrees from ASU Online.

Businessman and philanthropist Abdulla Al Ghurair, the founder, pledged one-third of his wealth to the foundation and set out a target of reaching 15,000 youth over the next 10 years via secondary and higher education programs and scholarships valued at over $1 billion.

Top image courtesy of AGFE

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


ASU professor uses Latin music and dance to create an interactive community event

November 6, 2018

Theodore Solis, a professor in Arizona State University's School of Music, uses Latin music to teach performers and audience members how to connect music and dance. Solis created a unique version of the Latin dance party known as a pachanga by uniting performers and audience through playing, singing and dancing — all at the same time and to all types of Latin music.

When Solis joined the School of Music in 1989, he formed a Latin marimba ensemble band, Marimba Maderas de Comitán, based on the Mexican marimba music he had been playing for years. Solis had conducted extensive research on marimba music for his PhD dissertation and said that marimba music in Mexico and Central America is usually dance music, or “bailables.” Pachanga The Latin dance party, or pachanga, is held each semester for people of all ages to enjoy and participate in the music however they like ­— by sitting and listening, singing along or dancing. The next one is 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14, in the School of Music's fountain courtyard. Download Full Image

“Music and dance have always been very closely connected, but American musicians tend to separate music and dance and, in fact, are often uncomfortable with dancing,” said Solis. “This changes for anyone involved in the ensemble and for many of the others attending the event. Everyone present, in whatever capacity, benefits by having a heck of a good time.”

Solis said he loves both audience interactions and dancing. As director of the ensemble, he gradually changed the ensemble’s stage concert from a presentation with clear performer-audience distinctions into an interactive dance party.

The party, or pachanga, is held each semester for people of all ages to enjoy and participate in the music however they like ­— by sitting and listening, singing along or dancing. Solis said he works to eliminate distinctions between performers and audience members so that everyone is involved in creating a happy, enjoyable event.

The ensemble plays new and old favorites and teaches the steps for a wide variety of dances, including Cuban-type salsa, bolero and son montuno; Dominican merengue; Afro-pop rumba; Mexican group zapateado; Colombian cumbia; Puerto Rican guaracha and Andean dances like huayño and sanjuanito. Different percussion is played depending on the style of music.

Solis’ Latin marimba ensemble is different from a traditional Mexican, Guatemalan or marimba band because of the audience and performer interaction and the atypical way the audience is taught the dance steps for each piece.

According to Solis, students in the ensemble benefit by learning to play and improvise in traditional Latin styles. He said they also learn music aurally, improve their harmonic sense by harmonizing without any notation and learn to dance and multitask by singing, playing and dancing simultaneously.

ASU Marimba Maderas de Comitan presents Latin Dance Pachanga

When: 6 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 14.

Where: School of Music fountain courtyard.

Details: Free and open to the public.

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music


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Omani delegation visits ASU

November 1, 2018

Minister of commerce, ambassador and other VIPs on campus to discuss entrepreneurship, circular economies and trade innovation

A delegation of officials from the Sultanate of Oman visited Arizona State University this week for the 2018 SQCC ASU Omani Conference: Promoting Economic Development via Entrepreneurship and Innovation, an event organized by the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center, the education arm of the Omani embassy in Washington, D.C. 

Along with ASU officials and local business leaders, they discussed entrepreneurship, trade policies, circular economies and innovation in the global marketplace. 


Arizona and Oman are both desert regions that are reworking their economies to move from the past to the future, according to the chief innovation officer at Arizona State University.

“We share weather and land, but most importantly, we share the aspiration to be better than ourselves,” said Sethuraman Panchanathan, the executive vice president of knowledge development at ASU.

He spoke at a conference called “Promoting Economic Development via Entrepreneurship and Innovation." Several Omani economic-development officials spent three days visiting the Valley as part of the conference.

ASU was named the most innovative university in the nation for the fourth year in a row not because of one thing it does, but because it has an innovative mindset, Panchanathan said.

“Disruption through innovation is a methodology we constantly pursue,” he said, which makes ASU a vital partner in boosting the state’s economy by moving away from industries like mining and construction and toward technology and entrepreneurship. 

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Sethuraman Panchanathan, ASU executive vice president and chief research and innovation officer, gives the luncheon keynote speech at the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center and Arizona State University conference on Thursday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Ali bin Masoud Al Sunaidy, the minister of commerce and industry for the Sultanate of Oman, said he was impressed by the innovation he saw in Arizona.

“When I went to school, we believed in mass production and rigid lines, and what we saw here is that things are becoming more flexible,” he had told students at the Thunderbird School of Global Management at ASU at an event Wednesday. “And with that flexibility, we can tap into minds all over the world.”

Ji Mi Choi, associate vice president in the Office of Knowledge Development at ASU, said she hoped the event results in partnerships between Omani and American businesses.

“It seems that the resonant theme has been that partnership is good and that finding the right partner is good and that building community is essential,” she said.

“We wanted to share the idea that we have so much more in common than differences.”

Among the topics at the conference on Thursday were:

Public-private partnerships for sustainability

While trying to grow other aspects of its economy, Oman also is looking to make its oil-production sector more sustainable. Ahmed bin Mohsin Al Ghassani, CEO of the Public Authority for Small and Medium Enterprise Development in Oman, described a partnership with a German company that uses solar power to create steam to extract oil. The water is then cleaned by running through reed beds and reused for drilling new wells or for irrigation. 

“Oman’s movement from a linear economy to a circular economy focuses on the design stage,” he said. “We make sure that whatever has been produced is reused and reused and reused and even if it goes into waste, we look at recyclable waste.”

Alicia Marseille, director of the RISN incubator at ASU, has worked with 16 early-stage companies in less than two years. One of the startups is Renewlogy, which takes low-value packaging like granola bar wrappers and turns it into diesel. Marseille said that the company will soon build a microfactory in India to work with garbage pickers there, most of whom are women.

Ginger Spencer, director of public works for the city of Phoenix, said that the city's Reimagine Phoenix initiative is a partnership to increase waste diversion, including a new facility to turn yard waste into compost.

“We’re giving that compost to our parks department to apply instead of using liquid fertilizer, and ASU is helping us study if it helps reduce water usage,” she said.

“If we’re tearing up roads, we want to recycle that old asphalt, and we’re working with ASU to come up with a new product to reapply recycled asphalt to city streets,” she said.

omani economic conference
(From left) Alicia Marseille, the director of RISN Incubator at ASU; Ginger Spencer, director of the city of Phoenix's public works; Ahmed bin Mohsin Al Ghassani, CEO of Public Authority for Small and Medium Enterprises Development in Oman; and Rajesh Buch, ASU's director of sustainability practice with international development, listen to a question following their discussion on public-private partnerships on Thursday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Developing vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystems

The entrepreneurial culture is relatively new in Oman, according to Malak Al Shaibani, director general of the national business center, an incubator for small- and medium-size businesses. The effort at boosting startups dates to 2013, when the country started moving away from economic dependence on oil.

She said that most college graduates want jobs in the public sector or oil industry and that families typically don’t encourage sons and daughters to start businesses.

“We wanted to make entrepreneurship an attractive option, so one of the key things is to celebrate it,” she said, so the government has started competitions and hackathons and encouraged media attention.

Al Shaibani said that initially, most startups were about self-employment, like interior design and videography.

“Gradually we started seeing more innovative ideas, including home-based solutions for the energy sector,” she said.

“Creating high-level jobs, like for engineers, is very important to us.”

Arizona is already an exciting community for startups, according to Diana Vowels, general manager of Galvanize, a coding boot camp and co-working space located in a former produce warehouse in Phoenix.

“Arizona was one of the first states to pass legislation that digital signatures through blockchain are legally enforceable,” she said.

Brandon Clarke, co-founder of StartupAZ Foundation, sees Phoenix, with a lower cost of living, as a “boomerang” for talented entrepreneurs and engineers, many of whom go to the Bay Area right after graduation.

“But when you’re 29 or 30 and thinking of starting a family, having five roommates can be a drag,” he said.

omani economic conference
The Oman National Business Center's director general, Malak Al Shaibani, speaks during a panel discussion on developing vibrant entrepreneurship ecosystems on Thursday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Advancing industry

Awareness is key to being ready for the future, according to Megan Garcia, senior fellow and director of growth for the New America Foundation.

“Because of technology eliminating the need for repetitive tasks, about one of three jobs will change dramatically or go away in the next few years,” she said.

“The jobs most likely to change are the lowest-paid jobs like cashiers, food-service workers and back-office workers. We need to be aware of the changes that are coming.”

The rebirth of downtown Phoenix is thanks to collaboration by leaders, according to Christine Mackay, economic development officer for Phoenix. She described how in the 1990s, when Glendale lured away the football stadium project, leaders had to go to Plan B.

“The thought leaders got together and said, ‘Why don’t we go with bioscience,’ which was cutting edge in the late 1990s,” she said.

“And Phoenix’s investment of $59 million has morphed into half a billion dollars of economic impact downtown.”

For Tempe, the economic driver is Tempe Town Lake, according to Donna Kennedy, economic development director.

“We have now over $2 billion worth of investments along the lake and over 40,000 high-wage jobs,” she said. “Going from a muddy river bottom to an employment corridor is something we’re excited to have.”

omani conference
Omani doctoral student Omar Al Rasbi, who also earned his MBA and MSE at ASU, presents his poster on sustainability in the construction industry during the lunch break at the conference on Thursday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Developing a digital marketplace

Tom Spengler dispelled the stereotype of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs as hoodie-wearing college dropouts.

“The reality is that a lot of founders in tech are experienced businesspeople,” said Spengler, the chief revenue officer of Coplex, a startup accelerator that also builds technology.

“But one of the amazing things about Silicon Valley I have yet to see replicated in Phoenix is the intense ecosystem of support,” he said.

“It’s the only place I’ve been where you can go into a coffee shop at 10 p.m. on a Saturday night and work three hours and everyone thinks it’s cool.”

Research was the key to a successful company in Oman. Dr. Amaal Rashid Al Abrawi left her job as a physician to become CEO of Oliban, a company that makes products out of frankincense, which is the fragrant dried sap of the frankincense tree, the national tree of Oman.

“We are extracting one of the finest oils in the world using a green technology that does not use solvent or water,” she said. 

Frankincense oil is touted as boosting the immune system and easing respiratory illness and joint pain. Oliban, with mostly female employees, makes products including shampoo, shower gel, facial cleanser, a balm and a nasal inhaler.

“We looked into research around the world and (have) taken that and produced a product,” she said.

Heidi Jennega, co-founder and president of Phoenix-based WebPT, needed to be more efficient in her own physical therapy practice. So she started her electronic medical-records company 10 years ago in the back of a coffee shop.

“When we started our company, 80 percent of therapists used pen and paper, and now 80 percent are using a digital platform,” she said. “Of that 80 percent, 40 percent are using WebPT.” 

Firas Khamis Ahmed Al Balushi is an example of the new entrepreneurial spirit in Oman. 

omani conference
The Omani delegation, including staff from the SQCC, pose at the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center and Arizona State University Conference on Thursday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Al Balushi, who has degrees in physics and astronomy, always wanted a space where people like him could build and invent things, but it didn’t exist. After a government loan fell through, he and his team literally built the Innovation Factory for Research and Development themselves. In 18 months, the makerspace has accommodated more than 700 projects.

He said one client was selling homemade soap on Instagram, but she was having trouble cutting the final product. 

“We put her into a five-step program that taught her to turn an idea into a prototype, and she built herself a soap-cutting machine,” he said.

“The last time I checked Instagram, she doesn’t sell soap anymore. She sells the machine.”

Al Balushi recalled that the last time he was in the United States, he was 5 years old.

“My father took me to Kennedy Space Center and I saw the space shuttle, and from that moment I decided to become a scientist and inventor,” he said.

“America has this amazing power to inspire.”


Conversation on trade at Thunderbird School of Global Management

As Oman has looked to reduce its economic dependence on oil, the country has embraced entrepreneurship and technology to create new opportunities, according to the minister of commerce and industry for the Sultanate of Oman.

“Because we’re outward-looking, that will help us migrate to a more knowledge-based economy than oil and gas,” said Ali bin Masoud Al Sunaidy.

He addressed students at the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University on Wednesday. 

“I understand the diversity of this school, and what’s interesting is to see how business and academics has come together,” he said. “What we see is a collaborative spirit as opposed to a competitive spirit.”

Al Sunaidy said that as oil prices started declining a few years ago, his government began helping people create businesses ranging from fish farming to drone technology.

“Today, many young people want to work for themselves. People are working as freelancers and running companies together and creating jobs for others,” he said.

He said that the government consulted with local officials all over the country. 

“We asked them, ‘Do you want roads or a hospital or a school?’ And they said, ‘No, give us Wi-Fi.’”

hunaina sultan al mughairy
Ambassador of the Sultanate of Oman to the U.S. Hunaina Sultan Al Mughairy speaks at the 2018 SQCC ASU Omani Conference on Thursday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Oman’s ambassador to the United States, Hunaina Sultan Al Mughairy, also discussed her country’s efforts at moving away from oil, including a free-trade agreement with the U.S. that went into effect in 2009, which resulted in a 60 percent increase in exports from Oman to the U.S.

“The agreement has been a win-win between Oman and the U.S.,” said Al Mughairy, who also is an economist.

“When you have a free-trade agreement, you have a lot of competition, which encourages our industries to work twice as hard.”

Al Sunaidy lamented the recent shift by the United States toward more protectionism.

“Unfortunately, trade wars have become fashionable in the last year or so,” he said.“You cannot make money out of barriers. People will run around barriers.”

Sanjeev Khagram, the dean and director general of the Thunderbird School of Global Management based at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, told the Omanis that his school has students from 45 countries.

“Our goal is always a world in which we connect and collaborate and trade and prosper together,” he said.

Al Sunaidy told the students that it’s up to them to harness technology to shape the future.

“You have to come up with unconventional solutions to conventional problems.”

Startup crawl: Local Motors in Chandler

Omani visitors tour the Local Motors factory
Phil Rayer, Local Motors manufacturing vice president and general manager, gives a tour of the Chandler facility with the Olli autonomous trolley vehicles on Wednesday morning. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

The delegation of Omani officials saw the future of vehicle manufacturing in Chandler on Wednesday morning and learned that it is at once global and hyperlocal.

“We have 50,000 engineers working online from every country,” said Phillip Rayer II, vice president of manufacturing and general manager for Local Motors. “We’re as diverse a company as we can be.”

Local Motors is researching, developing and manufacturing the Olli, an autonomous, 12-seat vehicle that was created through a global design challenge. The first batch of Olli vehicles was made with aluminum frames, but the newest version on display at Local Motors is made of polymer and created by a 3D printer.

So while people are working on Olli from all over the world, each vehicle can be created — and customized — by a 3D printer locally and assembled in a microfactory.

That capability was especially intriguing to Al Sunaidy.

“For quite some time we could not get vehicles in white, in Toyotas or Lexus, because of centralization,” he said. “The future is decentralization and personalization. That allows you to minimize cost and maximize efficiency.”

Rayer said that Local Motors is designed to make its work obsolete as it goes.

“The goal of a microfactory is to look for the new thing, grow the product and then pass it on,” he said. Local Motors will likely make about 1,000 Olli vehicles before moving on to something else.

“We could change out the build floor in literally one week and start building drones,” he said.

Al Sunaidy, who has a degree in industrial engineering, recalled the rigid manufacturing protocols he learned years ago.

“We need to get out of that box,” he said.

asu prep
Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center senior program officer Harrison Guthorn (center) chats with Kashmaree Patterson (left), 8, and Annahy Carrion, 9, as they paint replicas of a majmar, an Omani frankincense burner, with around 70 other third-graders at ASU Prep Academy in downtown Phoenix on Tuesday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now


Frankincense crafts with ASU Prep Phoenix Elementary

Sixty third-graders at ASU Prep Phoenix Elementary School spent Tuesday afternoon learning about another desert area that’s far away.

The children participated in an art project and presentation about the history and culture of Oman in a presentation by the Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center.

“Oman has a long history and a long culture, and what you will do today is experience that culture firsthand,” said Harrison Guthorn, senior program officer for the center, the education and cultural arm of the embassy of the Sultanate of Oman in Washington, D.C. 

Guthorn talked about frankincense and led the children in a craft in which they painted ceramic “majmars,” the frankincense burners that are a symbol of Omani culture.

“You’ve heard the story of the three wise men bringing gifts to baby Jesus, and one of the gifts was frankincense,” he said.

He showed photographs of frankincense, the hard, amber-colored pellets of dried sap from the frankincense tree, which is native to Oman. The trees grow in the Dhofar desert region of the country and get rain only once a year.

“In the ancient world, thousands of years ago, frankincense was worth more than gold because of how rare it was,” he said.

Third-grader Annahy Carrion had never heard of frankincense before, but she enjoyed the project, in which she painted her majmar brown and blue.

“I like that it’s different because I’ve never seen anything like this before,” she said.

Guthorn said that in Omani culture, the majmars are a sign of welcome and hospitality.

“They burn frankincense in these burners to welcome people into their homes,” he said. “It produces a thick white smoke that smells good as a way of saying hello. It’s also a really good bug repellent.”

Video by Jamie Ell/ASU Now

Top photo: Ali bin Masoud Al Sunaidy (right) asks a question during a tour of the Local Motors Chandler facility with the Olli autonomous trolley vehicles on Wednesday. The Valley-based manufacturer focuses on low-volume sustainable transportation created through open-source design and utilizing multiple micro factories. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


Editing nature: A call for careful oversight of environmental gene editing

November 1, 2018

In Burkina Faso, the government is considering using genetically modified mosquitoes in hopes of eradicating malaria. In Nantucket, Massachusetts, officials are looking at gene editing as a tool in the fight against Lyme disease. And scientists are using gene technology to adapt coral to changing ocean conditions from the Caribbean to the Great Barrier Reef.

Yet for all the breathtaking promise of these technologies, there remain profound concerns about the potential unintended consequences of releasing gene-edited organisms into the environment — and the lack of government oversight. James P Collins ASU School of Life Sciences Professor James P. Collins is part of a group of researchers calling for the formation of a new global body that would provide neutral oversight on the use of gene-editing technologies. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now Download Full Image

In a new paper published in the journal “Science,” an interdisciplinary research group from Arizona State University, Yale and many other academic institutions argues for new global governance to assure a neutral and informed evaluation of the potential benefits and risks of gene editing. They argue that the complex nature of these technologies requires, on a case-by-case basis, careful and judicious review — a decision-making process that must include the local communities that would feel the biggest and most immediate effects.

James P. Collins, the Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Natural History and the Environment at ASU's School of Life Sciences who co-authored the paper, is calling for careful risk assessment.

“The burden of infectious diseases such as malaria or the Zika virus is a heavy one for communities to bear,” said Collins, who co-chaired a National Academy of Sciences committee that evaluated the responsible use of gene editing technology. “And it’s a consideration that really has to be taken into account as individuals think about whether these technologies should be developed and then released into the environment. At the same time, in the area of unintended consequences, you really want to have done the very best work possible, the very analysis possible, in terms of risk assessment.”

“The biggest risk right now with this technology is the uncertainty associated with it,” said Natalie Kofler, an associate research scientist at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and lead author of the paper. “In places like Burkina Faso, for instance, it is being touted as a silver bullet to get rid of malaria. But these technologies also have the potential to forever change the genetic makeup of species, or even drive certain species to extinction. Lack of global governance puts our planet at risk.” 

Anopheles albimanus mosquito

A female Anopheles albimanus mosquito feeding on a human host. This species is a vector of malaria, mainly in Central America. Photo: James Gathany, CDC, Wikimedia Commons

In the paper, the authors propose the formation of a new coordinating global body with the power to convene communities, developers, governmental organizations, and NGOs to assure careful and inclusive deliberation over all proposals. Such an organization would provide neutral oversight over decision-making and integrate diverse expertise and perspectives, including participants from impacted local communities. 

“Confronting this challenge goes beyond just the inclusion of empirical, scientific data, to also bring in value systems, ethics and relationships with nature, relationships with technology and historically marginalized voices to make a fully informed decision,” Kofler said. “Our proposal provides a blueprint on how to enact a new model of governance, one built on the integration of empirical and normative inputs, that includes diverse expertise and worldviews.” 

The paper was inspired by the Editing Nature Summit, chaired by Kofler and hosted at Yale in the spring of 2017. During the two-day event, participants from a range of disciplines grappled with the ethical questions surrounding the development and deployment of gene editing technologies into the environment. Of critical importance, they concluded, are the questions of who gets to decide what technologies are used and the process by which they reach that decision.

The co-authors, who all participated in the summit, represent 12 different academic institutions and more than a dozen disciplines, including ecologists, geneticists, philosophers, policy experts and journalists.

In the paper, they looked in particular at CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats) gene editing and other related technologies like gene drives, which are designed to spread genetic changes — including traits such as infertility — through populations of species.

But if these technologies have the potential to eliminate threats to public health or ecosystems, little is known about potential side effects, such as unwanted mutations and new evolutionary resistance.

“There are many proposals to release gene edited organisms into the wild and even actively drive them into the genomes of native wild populations to address a wide range of environmental issues,” said Oswald Schmitz, the Oastler Professor of Population and Community Ecology at Yale's School of Forestry & Environmental Studies and director of the Yale Institute for Biospheric Studies.

“But this is all proceeding at a heady pace with very little discussion with potentially affected communities or even formal safeguards in place to ensure that these well-intentioned technologies don’t unintentionally spread globally to destroy ecosystems and human welfare and cultures that rely on them.” 

Complicating the discussion is the fact that, in some cases, the proposed gene-editing strategies could mitigate very real public health threats, such as the life-or-death consequences of malaria in parts of Africa, said Collins.

“It’s just really so important that we give every consideration to what the larger implications would be of releasing these organisms,” he added. “It’s also vital that we rely on context and history to guide us in terms of being willing to move ahead with these important areas of research, but also that we do it in a way that is cautious, judicious, and transparent.

“That way, individuals and society can then make an informed judgment as to which of these technologies should be deployed and how that should be done.”

Sandra Leander

Manager, Media Relations and Marketing, School of Life Sciences


Italian study-abroad program opens world of opportunities for ASU Law students

October 26, 2018

A highly acclaimed study program in Prato, Italy, has helped expand the profile and prestige of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. 

The program was launched through a partnership with Monash Law School of Melbourne, Australia, which has a campus in Prato. Diana Bowman, who oversees the program as ASU Law’s associate dean for international engagement, says its benefits are twofold. Prato Study Program 2018 Students Students in the 2018 Prato Study Program. Download Full Image

“One, the program provides an amazing opportunity for personal growth,” she said. “Our students stay in Italy for a minimum period of four weeks and must live as if they were a local. This provides them with an opportunity to appreciate and embrace the culture, the language and the rich history of a country. Two, our students are provided with an opportunity to study with leading scholars and practitioners from around the world that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to, while simultaneously building relationships and networks with other law students from around the world.”

For second-year student Abbey Hawthorne, the program played a big role in her decision to apply to ASU Law.

“Because I was interested in international law, the Prato program was part of what sold me on coming here,” she said. “It was really important to me to know that ASU Law valued international law and had a focused program and study-abroad opportunities.”

Students pay ASU tuition and earn ASU credits for the courses, which are offered in four-week blocks. The classes — taught in English — cover such topics as international refugee law, international criminal justice, comparative European legal systems, sovereignty and globalization and EU external relations.

Bowman says the experience allows students to build a global network of colleagues that can serve as an invaluable resource throughout their career. 

“The Prato programs brings law students from, for example, Australia, the U.K., France and Italy together in a classroom, and over the course of four weeks, studying together, taking meals together and going on weekend expeditions provides them with a phenomenal opportunity to build long-lasting international friendships and networks,” she said. “That’s invaluable. Just imagine if when out in practice, (one faces) a matter that pertains to Frank’s Law (a new health care law Scotland will implement in April). Rather than having to start from scratch, that person can potentially reach out to one of their colleagues from Prato and ask for assistance in solving the complex legal issue in front of them.”

Hawthorne is seeking a career in international alternative dispute resolution, so the global and European focus of the curriculum appealed to her.

“That was exciting to me to get credits that are fully recognized here, but being able to see things from a different perspective,” she said. “For example, when I was there, I had a French professor who taught at a university in Paris, and I was taking an EU external relations class. Learning that from somebody who is from the EU and was educated in the EU and works with the EU on a daily basis was a fantastic opportunity.” 

The class included topical assignments involving the EU, such as a mock “Brexit” negotiation, which offered unique insights into the issue.

“From the U.S., it’s very arms-length,” Hawthorne said. “But being in Italy with a French professor and classmates who are from the EU, as well as other places around the world, I felt like I was able to dive deeper into the subject matter. I felt I had a better understanding of the issues compared to if I had taken the class in the U.S.”

The program includes a rotating staff of instructors which includes former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods. Bowman said Woods has been involved with the program for a number of years.

“For somebody of Grant’s caliber, putting his life on hold for four weeks is a serious commitment both personally and professionally. The fact that Grant has been willing to do this for a number of years now, and will be doing so once again in June 2019, speaks to how special the program is,” Bowman said. “Grant has been an amazing ambassador for the program and ASU Law in general, and based on my discussions with him, he appreciates the discussions and the debates that take place in the classroom as much as his students.”

Law school students focused on externships may be fearful of the time commitment. But Hawthorne said the relatively short schedule leaves plenty of opportunity for both.

“I was able to do the Prato program and do an externship, so I didn’t have to choose,” she said. “And I had wonderful experiences with both.” 

Bowman agrees that the program affords plenty of time for students to also pursue externships and internships. And she says the program increases a student’s employability. 

“In addition to having something fabulous to talk about when you go into an internship, employers see the value of students stepping outside their comfort zone, challenging themselves and interacting with people from different cultures and environments,” she said. 

Hawthorne — who, thanks to the connections she made in Prato, plans to study next fall in Melbourne, where she will seek an externship in international law/global trade — did not hesitate when asked if she would recommend the program to other students. 

“It was such an incredible experience. I knew it was going to be interesting, but it exceeded my expectations, both in the classroom and the experiential learning outside the classroom,” she said. 

She reflected on one such beyond-the classroom experience that was particularly memorable.

“It was the first week, Friday afternoon, and we got out of class at noon,” she said, recalling that she and several classmates were taking the train back to their temporary home in Florence. “We suddenly decided that we wanted to go to the Amalfi Coast that weekend. And so we got a rental car and spent the weekend there, and came back Monday just in time for class. I was learning on both ends, but having this incredible experience in between. That was, to me, a very typical Prato experience.”

And with the location, she said, the program sells itself. A sentiment that Bowman echoed.

“The wonderful value of this is that you get a month in Italy, in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and there is so much learning that goes on beyond the classroom,” she said. “You get the cultural, historical context, but also learn about yourself, and the independence you gain by doing a program like this.”

More information

Next year’s Prato courses will be offered in three blocks:

• Block 1: April 8–May 3
• Block 2: May 6–30
• Block 3: June 3–28

Due to class dates and finals, ASU Law students can participate in either Block 2 or Block 3.

The application deadline has not been finalized, but applications will be due approximately Feb. 1, 2019.  

Students must submit a written application and pay an application fee of approximately $400.

Lauren Dickerson

Marketing and communications coordinator, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law


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Raising a fist for change

October 23, 2018

Athletes from 1968 Olympic Games protest continue to spread a message of equality

Fifty years after his shocking protest against racism on the medal podium at the Olympics in Mexico City, John Carlos has seen the vicious backlash he endured at the time evolve over the decades into admiration and respect. But he sees his legacy not as an individual act.

“We made that statement because we wanted to be that beacon for society, the blueprint,” he said.

Carlos, along with U.S. Olympic teammate Tommie Smith, raised black-gloved fists during the playing of the national anthem during the medal ceremony for the 200-meter race. Carlos won the bronze medal, and Smith won the gold.

“I look at my life as castor oil. It doesn’t have to taste good for it to be good for you," said Carlos, who spoke at a talk called “Raising a Fist to Taking a Knee,” sponsored by two Arizona State University units — the Global Sport Institute and the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy. The event, held at the Phoenix Art Museum on Tuesday night, marked the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

After their protest, Carlos and Smith were sent out of the Olympic Village and faced years of repercussions, including death threats. But Carlos recalled how, at age 23, the activism he shared wasn’t about himself. 

“I was thinking about how I would make life better for my kids and my kids’ peers,” he said. 

Also speaking at the event was Harry Edwards, a sociology professor who founded the anti-racism Olympic Project for Human Rights in 1967. Smith and Carlos were part of the organization and wore OPHR patches on the podium. Edwards said one of his regrets was not involving female athletes more deeply in the movement.

“It was this notion that if we deal with the issue of race we would automatically deal with the issue of women,” he said. “It didn’t dawn on us until later that what happened to them didn’t happen because they were black, it happened because they were women.”

Wyomia Tyus, who won two gold medals in Mexico City and was the first person to win back-to-back gold medals in the 100-meter sprint, said the achievements of herself and other black women were diminished in that era. Few reporters were interested in interviewing her. 

“We came back and we still had no rights,” she told the crowd at the museum. “Is it because we were black or because we were women? I look at it as both.”

Also overlooked was her own voice at the Olympics, when she wore black shorts as part of the protest and dedicated her second gold medal, for being a member of the 4x100 relay team, to Smith and Carlos.

“I wasn’t looking for it to be about me,” she said. “I would like for people to think I was a woman who gave a lot to human rights.”

Audience at Raising a Fist to Taking a Knee event
Around 500 people attend the "Raising a Fist to Taking a Knee" event Tuesday evening at the Phoenix Art Museum, a 50th-anniversary commemoration and conversation about the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and the influence of athlete activism then and now, put on by Global Sport Institute, in partnership with the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Edwards said he always believed that the civil rights movement should be inclusive. That’s why, when the Harvard University rowing team asked to meet with him, he agreed. They showed up during his office hours, in suits. The Harvard team was selected to represent the U.S. in the Olympics rowing race, and the coxswain, Paul Hoffman, wanted to join the Olympic Project for Human Rights. 

Hoffman told the crowd Tuesday night that the Harvard students were aware of the political firestorm in 1968.

“We were training for three years to get into the Olympics, but we weren’t removed from newspapers and the fact that classmates and others were being sent off to Vietnam,” he said.

“There was a very large aspect of not wanting to be embarrassed or shamed by inaction.”

Hoffman told Edwards he would write to every member of the Olympic team and try to start a conversation about racism. 

“One of the alarming things to me, in retrospect, is ‘you dropped the rock in the well and you never heard the splash,'" he said. His letters drew no reaction.

Hoffman is perhaps best remembered as the man who gave his OPHR button to Peter Norman, the Australian sprinter who won silver in the 200-meter race and wore it while standing on the podium alongside Smith and Carlos. Norman also faced a severe backlash afterward.

“There are no final victories, but with all of these things we went through, we came out better.”
— Harry Edwards

Gina Hemphill-Strachan, a TV producer and ASU alumna, talked about her grandfather, Jesse Owens, and how he was reluctantly pressed into asking the black athletes in 1968 to refrain from protesting.

“He understood what the black athletes were feeling,” she said. “But he was in a position where he was sent there to try to get them to change their minds, but knowing once he got in there that there wasn’t going to be any change. 

“What he shared with us and what I learned throughout the years … was the strength of the black athletes finding reverence in each other and strength together.”

Edwards said movements wane after a few years, and that the protests of police brutality by athletes including football player Colin Kaepernick taking a knee during the national anthem will likely fade soon. But he said that protest movements “are in the DNA of American democracy.”

“There are no final victories, but with all of these things we went through, we came out better.”

Earlier Tuesday, Carlos, Hemphill-Strachan and Hoffman spoke to Sun Devil student-athletes as well as students in a class called “Sports in U.S. History,” taught by Victoria Jackson, a sports historian and lecturer in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

“Sports is so rich. The systems of power and the ideas that play out in society are kind of hard to put your finger on, but we see them play out in sports,” Jackson said.

Hemphill-Strachan told the class that everywhere she goes, she hears stories about her grandfather and that influenced her career.

“My vision as a TV producer is that I’m a storyteller. I look to have stories be told that are transformative — stories that don’t just transform people, but change lives, change laws and change people's ways of thinking,” she said.

Carlos told the young people that these days, he declines to pose for photographs with his fist raised, as in the famous image of him on the podium in Mexico City.

“I say, ‘My fist never came down. Furthermore, I am the fist.'"

Top photo: John Carlos speaks on a panel about raising his fist for the rights for his son and future generations before a group of students and athletes on Tuesday at the Carson Student Athletic Center in Tempe. Joining him (from left) are Paul Hoffman, 1968 Olympic rower and outspoken ally to black athletes; Gina Hemphill-Strachan, Jesse Owens’ granddaughter and ASU alumna; and moderator and sports historian Victoria Jackson (out of frame). Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now