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ASU receives grant from Public Interest Technology University Network to support innovation

October 10, 2019

Arizona State University received one of 27 grants awarded as part of Public Interest Technology University Network’s inaugural “Network Challenge,” which aims to support the development of new public interest technology initiatives and institutions in academia and foster collaboration among the network’s partner institutions, which includes ASU. Grant awardees were announced at the network's first annual convening at Georgetown University on Monday. 

The Public Interest Technology University Network (PIT-UN) is a partnership of 21 colleges and universities dedicated to building the nascent field of public interest technology and growing a new generation of civic-minded technologists. Originally convened by the Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation and New America, the network represents a major commitment by partners in philanthropy, higher education and public policy to define and build the public interest technology sector. Clinical Associate Professor Mahmud Farooque Clinical Associate Professor Mahmud Farooque.

We talked with grant awardee Mahmud Farooque, clinical associate professor with the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and associate director of the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, about the grant and the goals of the Community Innovation Fellowship program. 

Question: Why is engaging the public on issues of science and technology important?

Answer: We live in a world of complex natural, scientific and technological changes that can both empower and disempower vulnerable people and communities. These include climate change, sustainability and community resilience; artificial intelligence, automation and technology-driven effects on workforce, privacy, security and equity; and biotechnology, biomedical innovation and the future of health. All technological advances have intended and unintended consequences that can be positive as well as negative. Engaging the public early and often in informed and inclusive dialogues is one way we can anticipate the societal implications and prepare our society, institutions and policies for a better future for all.

Q: How will partnering with science and technology centers lead to more public engagement? 

A: There is growing demand from scientists and policymakers for authentic participation of the public in key global issues and trends. Science and technology centers around the country are trying to answer that call by engaging the millions of people who come to visit, who would never think to be part of a focus group or public hearing, to share their hopes and concerns about the societal implications of emerging technologies. However, they lack the capacity and resources for these new types of dialogue-based societal engagement. The ECAST-ASTC Community Innovation Fellowship will pilot a replicable, scalable, competitive training curriculum and fellowship program for a new generation of public engagement professionals at science and technology centers in PIT-UN cities. Fellows will be trained to work collaboratively with a local government, community or university partner to convene informed and inclusive dialogues on public interest technology issues for their respective communities. 

Q: How will Innovation Fellowship work? 

A: The Community Innovation Fellowship program will forge a partnership between the Expert and Citizen Assessment of Science and Technology (ECAST) network and the Association of Science and Technology Centers (ASTC). Led by ASU’s Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes and the Museum of Science, the ECAST network combines academic research, informal science education and policy analysis to engage experts and citizens on science and technology issues. ASTC is a network of nearly 700 science and technology centers and museums and related organizations that welcome more than 110 million people each year across North America and in nearly 50 countries worldwide. The immersive training curriculum and fellowship program will be piloted at five ASTC centers in PIT-UN cities. Teams of fellows will be chosen through an open competition to be announced in late October. Outcomes will be evaluated against the program's objectives in learning and impact to facilitate recommendations for improvement, replication and scaling to other cities.

Senior Manager, Communications and Marketing Strategy, School for the Future of Innovation in Society


Mexico, let’s talk water

Experts discuss solutions to water issues at latest Convergence Lab

October 9, 2019

Ever since its days as the imperial Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán, where efficient canals reminded invading Spaniards of Venice, Mexico City has had a complicated relationship with water. These days, the city’s underlying but dwindling water supply is literally sinking the city, and increased demand for water is intensifying issues of inequality and corruption. But the quest for water is also triggering civic and technological innovation, as well as a desire to collaborate with other parched regions. 

These were some of the themes discussed at Arizona State University’s latest Convergence Lab event in Mexico City last week, “Mexico City Dehydrated?”, held at the Horizontal ideas journalism space.  water panel From left: Marina Robles, Enrique Lomnitz and Enrique Vivoni at the "Mexico City Dehydrated?" panel in Mexico City last week. Photo by Speyside Download Full Image

In conversation with Horizontal Director Guillermo Osorno, Mexico City’s Secretary of the Environment Marina Robles said the metropolitan area’s 21 million people need to relearn “the relationship between nature and society,” and stop thinking that nature and the environment are foreign concepts, far removed from urban areas. Indeed, Robles added that over 50% of Mexico City is conservation land, providing the city with essential environmental services such as CO2 capture and the recharging of the aquifer that accounts for 70% of the city’s water. Similar to Phoenix’s Tres Rios Wetlands, Mexico City is also constructing artificial wetlands to support water treatment and groundwater recharge.

Of the “mountain of challenges” to Mexico City’s water security, not the least of which are leaky pipes that waste an estimated third of the city’s water supply, Robles argues that the most significant one may be people’s mindsets. While most people acknowledge the water crisis and think that action must be taken, they are hesitant to make personal changes when it impacts their own comfort. 

ASU and the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Mexico’s prestigious national university, have partnered up to create a modeling tool called MEGADAPT to help scientists and policymakers like Robles assess the scope of Mexico City’s water crisis, and how changes in policy and behavior affect it and shift vulnerabilities. Luis Bojórquez, UNAM’s lead researcher for MEGADAPT, told Robles and the audience that graduate sustainability studies at UNAM had been started over a decade ago as a result of interactions with ASU, and he pointed to projects like MEGADAPT and the ASU-UNAM Binational Laboratory on Climate Change Vulnerability as examples of pragmatic and essential cross-border research collaborations to confront shared North American challenges. 

He and Enrique Vivoni, ASU professor and associate dean of the Graduate College, agreed that while scientists are fairly certain that the temperatures will continue rising, it isn’t immediately clear what that means for overall precipitation trends in cities like Mexico City, though we might expect more flooding from severe storms. Hence the need for cities to become far more resilient, to confront both severe weather fluctuations and uncertainty.

In addition to his own involvement with the MEGADAPT project, Vivoni is also focused on regional cooperation closer to home, between Arizona and the neighboring border state of Sonora to address shared issues of water conservation and sustainable economic development. Next spring students of his will respond to sustainability challenges posed by water and natural resource management agencies in northern Mexican communities from Ensenada, Mexicali, Hermosillo and Ciudad Juarez. Both he and Bojorquez stressed the need for more citizen engagement in meeting the environmental challenges our cities face; Vivoni went so far as to hold up his smartphone as a powerful technology in this effort, as citizens can be connected to scan, measure and map water quality and access. 

One such civic enterprise in Mexico committed to preserving as much of the city’s rainfall as possible is Isla Urbana. Enrique Lomnitz, the group’s director, told the Convergence Lab audience that rainwater harvesting systems in Mexico City, where it rains regularly, can provide a family with water independence for 5 to 8 months out of the year. Since being founded in 2009, Isla Urbana has installed 15,000 catchment systems while reducing flooding, energy usage and pumping from aquifers. Isla Urbana has worked with ASU researchers to map potential rainwater harvesting locations and present them to Mexico City officials.  

Referring to Mexico’s water challenges, Lomnitz said, “We are never going to solve this problem solely through government action,” particularly since conservation innovation will require risk-taking and experimentation. Robles agreed, though added that her government had taken significant actions to encourage conservation, such as enforcing a stricter water-usage code on new developments. Bojorquez focused on the societal implications, stressing that adaptation to climate change will have to occur in every sector, and will be an expensive process. 

Depending on their individual perspectives, the Convergence Lab speakers emphasized the role of academic researchers, the private sector, and government agencies in leading efforts to ensure long-term water security in the face of mounting demand and adverse climate change. But as the evening wore on, it became increasingly clear that they all agreed on the need for greater cross-border collaboration to meet the shared challenges ahead. 

Written by Margaret Tucker 

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Thunderbird breaks ground on new global HQ at ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus

Thunderbird breaks ground on new global headquarters at downtown ASU campus.
October 8, 2019

The new headquarters will open in time to mark the 75th anniversary of the international management school

The Thunderbird School of Global Management broke ground on its new headquarters in downtown Phoenix on Monday with a renewed commitment to globalism.

The international management school will move into its new building on the Downtown Phoenix campus of Arizona State University in April 2021 — its 75th anniversary. The school started after World War II as a training program for international businesspeople, and its motto was coined by a faculty member: “Borders frequented by trade seldom need soldiers.”

Sanjeev Khagram, the dean and director general of Thunderbird, reiterated that sentiment during the groundbreaking ceremony.

“That remains the principle we abide by to this day,” said Khagram, an international scholar who lived in a refugee camp with his family before immigrating to the United States.

“Around the world, the forces of nationalism and parochialism are on the rise. We always have to be thoughtful, we have to do the research, we have to be creative, and we are committed to being a champion for globalism.”

The new headquarters, at First and Polk streets, is next to the Beus Center for Law and Society, home of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at ASU. The five-story building will include large gathering spaces, classrooms, a video studio and, on the roof, the pub — an icon from the school’s early days.

This will be the third home for the school, which started in 1946 at a dusty site in Glendale that had been used to train pilots during the war. The students lived in old barracks. Thunderbird grew from a small trade school to a bustling center of graduate education that drew thousands of students from around the world. In the 1960s, students’ wives were offered classes to help them adapt to the countries where their husbands would be employed. They earned a “wives’ certificate.”

By the late 1990s, enrollment began to decline, leading to financial upheaval.

ASU President Michael Crow told the crowd at the groundbreaking ceremony that from the time he arrived in 2002, he wanted to partner with Thunderbird, then a struggling but still prestigious private institution.

“When I came from New York City I was thoroughly impressed by the Thunderbird history, the Thunderbird mystique, the Thunderbird graduates, the logic, the people I got to know,” he said.

“I said, 'We have to find a way to work with these people.' Thunderbird is a leadership academy. It’s a place that takes people interested in how to make the world a better place and brings them together with like-minded individuals,” he said.

In 2014, Thunderbird officially became part of ASU, and in 2018 moved from the sprawling Glendale campus to temporary quarters in downtown Phoenix.  

Crow said the merger and the new Thunderbird site is a “tripling down” on the pledge to ensure the continued development of the global economy and the movement of people out of poverty.

“The only way we can help to ensure that is to make sure the Thunderbird School of Global Management is not only what it’s been in the past, but bigger, better and stronger and more impactful than it’s ever been.”

The new building, which will be built to LEED platinum specifications, also is evidence of ASU’s continued partnership with the city of Phoenix, Crow said. The city pledged $13.5 million toward the school.

“You’re sitting in what is an emergent hub of intellectual and creative energy right here in central Phoenix, which is unparalleled,” he said.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego said that Thunderbird is a good fit for downtown.

“Phoenix recognizes that global trade is the future,” she said. “We are a large city in a border state, and what happens in the global market truly affects us here in the Valley.”

Khagram said that Thunderbird’s passionate base of 45,000 alumni in 140 countries is its greatest asset.

“We have sent people to all corners of the world and they have come here from all corners of the world,” he said.

Hiroshi Hamada, CEO of the ARUHI Corp. in Tokyo, is a 1991 graduate of Thunderbird, and the chairman of the Thunderbird Leadership Council alumni group. He told the crowd that he still has good memories of the old campus in Glendale.

"However, the excitement I have about the new headquarters is big enough to blow away my sentimental memories,” he said.

Top photo: From left, Phoenix City Council member Michael Nowakowski, Rep. Greg Stanton D-Ariz., ASU President Michael Crow, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, Thunderbird Director General and Dean Sanjeev Khagram, Arizona Regent Fred DuVal and Thunderbird alumnus Hiroshi Hamada pose with shovels full of ceremonial dirt at the groundbreaking of the new downtown Phoenix home of the Thunderbird School of Global Management on Oct. 7, 2019.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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New photovoltaic research partnership spans countries, disciplines

October 7, 2019

USA, Ireland and Northern Ireland to shine new light on solar technologies

A new research project spanning five universities in three countries and led by Arizona State University will work to improve solar cell technology and look into new uses for photovoltaic devices.

ASU’s Quantum Energy and Sustainable Solar Technologies (QESST) Engineering Research Center will take the lead in the collaborative project to advance photovoltaic technology and applications. The partnership includes the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s MIT Photovoltaics Research Laboratory; the I-Form Advanced Manufacturing Research Centre at Dublin City University (DCU); the Tyndall National Institute’s (Cork) Irish Photonic Integration Center (IPIC); and Ulster University’s Nanotechnology and Integrated Bio-Engineering Center (NBEC). 

“This project speaks to ASU’s ability to bring together key partners to advance an innovative technology and develop meaningful, scalable strategies for effective deployment,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, executive vice president of ASU Knowledge Enterprise. “The research center provides a platform for promoting transdisciplinary work among prominent scientists and researchers, and will explore technologies with the potential to address global grand challenges.”

I-Form at DCU will provide expertise in additive manufacturing and 3D printing, including the fabrication and testing of solar cell devices at ASU’s Solar Power Laboratory, to demonstrate low-cost solar cell manufacturing. The integration of I-Form’s quality by design nanocolloid production and additive manufacturing capabilities with the latest material development for the next generation of solar cell production provides an exciting new opportunity.

NBEC and ASU will integrate advances in nanoparticle plasma deposition technology into photovoltaics technology for new thin film applications.  

Finally, IPIC’s success in nano- and microphotonics will combine with MIT’s research to integrate small solar cells into indoor "internet of things" sensors and wearables. Converting indoor lighting into electrical power with solar panels will reduce the growing need for extended battery life for devices that don’t have access to sunlight.

“Photovoltaics is a rapidly growing and changing field, not only in its technology but also in its use and applications. Innovative technologies and approaches have helped photovoltaics on its own Moore’s Law-like advancement, with costs declining and performance improving,” said QESST Director Christiana Honsberg. “The collaboration is exciting because it combines advances from new materials and fields, such as additive manufacturing, with those from photovoltaics to achieve both new technologies and transformative photovoltaic applications.”

Cross-center educational opportunities include a student exchange program and the development of web-streamed technology modules on the key technology developments.

Funding partners for the project are the National Science Foundation (NSF) in the U.S., the Science Foundation of Ireland and Northern Ireland’s Department for the Economy.

Top photo: A researcher produces a photovoltaic cell in ASU’s QESST University Research Center. QESST is funded by the U.S. National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. Photo by Marco-Alexis Chaira/ASU

Terry Grant

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications


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ASU faculty, students raise instruments and voices to aid Hurricane Dorian victims

October 2, 2019

Arizona State University faculty and students will join the Dayspring United Methodist Church Choirs on Saturday, Oct. 5, for a concert to benefit victims of Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas.

The fundraiser was organized by ASU Professor David Schildkret, director of choral activities, along with internationally acclaimed opera star Gordon Hawkins, an assistant professor of voice, and Tychiko Cox, an ASU music performance doctoral student from the Bahamas. 

According to Schildkret, the benefit came together in less than a day as faculty members signed on to support Cox’s community at home. Schildkret will direct performances by the Dayspring Choirs and the ASU Chamber Singers

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David Schildkret (left) and Gordon Hawkins will join the ASU Chamber Singers and the Dayspring United Methodist Church Choirs this Saturday.

Proceeds from the concert will be donated to the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR), the global humanitarian aid and emergency relief arm of the United Methodist Church. Donations will go directly to relief efforts in the Bahamas — all costs associated with the benefit will be covered by the United Methodist Church.

In addition to Hawkins, ASU School of Music faculty members performing include: Associate Professor Nancy Buck, viola; Assistant Director and Professor Andrew Campbell, piano; Clinical Assistant Professor Amanda DeMaris, soprano; Associate Professor Carole Fitzpatrick, soprano; Professor Michael Kocour, piano; School Director and Professor of Practice Heather Landes, flute; Clinical Associate Professor Robert Mills, piano; Assistant Professor Nathan Myers, baritone; Assistant Professor Stephanie Weiss, mezzo-soprano; and Instructor Andrea Will, soprano.

The benefit concert will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the Dayspring United Methodist Church, 1365 E. Elliot Road in Tempe, Arizona. Professional childcare is offered during the concert at no cost.

The concert is not ticketed. Donations will be accepted at the door or can be submitted online by selecting the UMCOR fund. 

Top photo: David Schildkret conducting the ASU Choir at Holiday Gala December 2016. Photo by Tim Trumble

Terry Grant

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications


ASU Law helps strengthen rule of law in Mexico through Voz de las Victimas partnership

October 2, 2019

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University recently hosted a group of law professors from Tecnológico de Monterrey, the largest private university in Mexico.

The academic visit was part of a three-year grant the law school received from the Merida Initiative, a program of the Department of State-International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), which began in 2017. During their visit, the professors observed ASU Law legal clinics, visited with the local U.S. attorney’s office and courts, practiced U.S. oral trial techniques and learned experiential learning pedagogical methods. photo of Tecnologico de Monterrey visitors and ASU Law The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University recently hosted a group of law professors from Tecnológico de Monterrey. Download Full Image

The main goal of the project, commonly referred to as Voz de las Victimas, is to support INL’s mission to strengthen rule of law in Mexico through developing and implementing law school programs to train law students, professors and administrators, as well as civil society practitioners, in the effective use of Mexico’s new oral criminal justice system.

“The synergy between Tecnológico de Monterrey and Arizona State University has been amazing,” said Evelyn Cruz, project director and clinical professor of law at ASU Law. “It has led to success that will impact the quality of legal education in Mexico for years to come,” she added.

Over the past two years, ASU Law has trained nearly 40 Tecnológico de Monterrey professors in clinical pedagogy and oral trial teaching techniques, established two victim advocacy clinics at the university’s law schools, and provided over 20 oral advocacy trainings for approximately 460 system actors in the Mexican legal system. The project has given 46 students the opportunity to obtain real-life experience while providing over 5,300 pro bono service hours and handling in excess of 300 active cases at local victim-centered law school advocacy clinics in Mexico.

For more information, please email Evelyn Cruz at Evelyn.Cruz@asu.edu.

Nicole Almond Anderson

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


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Applicants for prestigious awards get support from entire ASU community

ASU rallies campus community to help students apply for prestigious Fulbrights.
October 1, 2019

Faculty, international students help Sun Devils applying for Fulbright scholarships

Arizona State University has been one of the top producers of students who win the prestigious Fulbright award to travel overseas, and this year, the university has engaged even more people in the campus community to support applicants.

ASU has 21 students in the U.S. government’s flagship international educational exchange program for 2018-19 — more than Harvard, Columbia and Stanford universities. And with 21 Fulbright winners out of 53 applicants, ASU’s selection rate was 39.6% — the highest among top-producing schools.

Now, ASU is trying to increase the number of applicants and, hopefully, award winners, according to Kyle Mox, director of the Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement at ASU and associate dean of Barrett, The Honors College.

“Considering the size of ASU, we’d like to see our applicant pool be proportionate to that,” he said. “All of the top 10 performing schools in the U.S. have over 100 applicants each year, and we should be able to get to that.”

Currently, there are 77 applicants in the interview phase of the process this semester.

“We celebrate pressing ‘submit,’” Mox said. “These 77 students have set themselves apart by taking this risk and putting in this time. That’s what we celebrate.”

Writing and reviewing the applications is a lot of work, so ASU has expanded the support community.

“If you consider that the average number of (personal statement) drafts that successful applicants sent to us last year was seven, and if you conservatively say 30 minutes to review each draft plus the time you spend meeting with them plus the time spent on info sessions, it’s 12 hours per applicant and that adds up quickly,” he said.

“We are obligated by the Department of State to interview every single applicant, and we maintain a hands-on, personal approach to that.”

Here are some ways that the scholarship office has marshaled the community to help:

Peer support

The office has increased the number of application workshops, which allows the Fulbright applicants to meet and support each other.

“There are scores of students in these workshops saying, ‘You’re doing the same thing I’ve been doing for the past three months,’” Mox said.

Barrett faculty member Sakena Young-Scaggs (right) and Herberger School of Film, Dance and Theatre Clinical Professor Eileen Standley joined more than 50 of their faculty colleagues in the one-day Fulbright applicant interview process last month at the Memorial Union. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“If they don’t understand each other’s applications, they’re not good applications.”

International students

Applicants aren’t expected to be experts in the country they’re applying to, according to Jennifer Brian, senior lecturer and honors faculty fellow in Barrett, The Honors College.

“But we do ask them to do a fair bit of research and to think critically about what their role will be for the brief period of time they’ll be in that country,” she said.

“They’re not going to change the world in one year, but they can be smart about the positive impact they can leave and not just what they can gain for themselves and their future careers.”

One way to inspire applicants is for them to meet international students who are from the country they’re applying to — an idea that the scholarship office expanded this year.

In 2017, Jacquie Lynch, faculty mentor in the scholarship office, started a partnership with the International Students and Scholars Center as her project when she was in the ASU Leadership Academy. She worked with Daniel Hoyle, International Student and Scholar Experience director, to have international students speak at Fulbright predeparture orientations.

“They were able to talk about what the students should expect. The details were vivid and lovely and engaging,” Lynch said.

From there, the idea expanded to have the students engage with peers who are in the application process. This semester, ASU’s international students were invited to meet with applicants and share insights about their home countries, and so far, nearly 150 have done so.

“They’re so generous with their time, and they’re often yearning for that contact,” Lynch said of the international students.

“The review committee wants to know that the students are actively engaging with the host community in ways that are meaningful to them, but sometimes the students might have engagement ideas that aren’t feasible.

“We’ve had feedback that, after talking with the international student, the applicant will have a more nuanced idea of what they can do and what they’re excited to do in that country,” Lynch said.

International Fulbrights

The university has also leveraged the insight of international Fulbright students who are studying at ASU.

Busra Deniz is a master’s degree student from Turkey studying applied linguistics. She’s on the board of the Fulbright International Students Association at ASU and wants to help her peers as they go through the same rigorous process she did.

“Keeping in touch with resident ASU students will foster cultural solidarity as well as provide perspectives from firsthand experience,” she said.

Applicants are interviewed before being approved by ASU for the next phase of the process — interviews with host countries. But it’s also a chance for the students to get feedback on how to improve their applications, and Deniz was happy to provide that.

“I also emphasized that they should explain clearly why they choose that specific host country,” she said.

“That is one of the things that host Fulbright commissions look for. They also look for the answer of why your background makes you the appropriate person for the scholarship.”


Professors are key to the Fulbright process, providing letters of recommendation, giving language-proficiency examinations and participating in applicant interviews.

In previous years, the interviews were spread over a few weeks, but this year, Mox tried something new: 77 applicants were interviewed in three hours one day last month by more than 50 faculty members. The scholarship office took over 15 rooms in the Memorial Union for the intensive event.

Brian, who has participated in the interviews for several years, said it’s impressive to see how prepared the students are.

“You can see they have visited the staff for repeated appointments to talk about their personal statements, and the work they’ve done in cultivating good relationships to get really strong letters of recommendation. And you see their thoughtfulness about why they want to go to that particular place and what it means, not necessarily for their career but what it means for them as a person,” she said.

She said the interviews are gratifying because it’s a chance to help the student.

“We ask questions but we get a good 15 or 20 minutes to give them feedback to make their application stronger, and the students are frantically taking notes,” she said. “Everyone is there for a common purpose, and that feels awesome.”

Mox and his team spent the summer creating webinars to help prepare students for the interviews, and they’ll sometimes come in the middle of the night to facilitate a student’s video interview with a faraway host country. They advise students on how to get strong letters of recommendation and how to lay out a research project.

Ideally, students begin working on their applications in the spring of their junior year in order to travel 18 months later, typically in the summer or fall after they graduate. But really, interested students — especially graduate students who want to do research — should start the process much earlier.

“These are not simple applications,” Mox said. “In some cases, you’re proposing a yearlong research project that will take place in a foreign country more than a year from now. That takes planning and thought.”

ASU’s hard work in supporting Fulbright applicants has not gone unnoticed. This past summer, ASU hosted the predeparture orientation for all Fulbrighters nationwide who were going to central Asia, which included embassy representatives.

“I have people ask me all the time, ‘How do you have such great success?’" Mox said. “We work incredibly hard. This is a program that doesn’t matter where you’re from — what matters is how much work you put into it.”

Top image: Kyle Mox, director of the Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement at ASU and associate dean of Barrett, The Honors College, talks to more than 50 faculty members who participated in the one-day interview process at the Memorial Union last month. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


Biodesign Institute launches partnership with China’s No. 1 biomedical research complex

September 30, 2019

The world’s problems rarely respect national boundaries. Diseases like autism, cancer, diabetes and Alzheimer’s and infections cross populations, territories, genders and ethnicities. Today’s most formidable challenges require multidimensional, multidisciplinary and creative thinking and action. 

When it comes to innovation, Arizona State University casts a wide net from its metropolitan Phoenix home base. Partnerships form close to home and throughout the far corners of the globe, fertilizing ideas with new perspectives and possibilities. A new partnership was launched on Sept. 20, in the city of Chengdu, Sichuan province, when leaders (front, from left) Li Weimin, president of West China Hospital, and Joshua LaBaer, executive director of the Biodesign Institute, inked an agreement that will bring new resources to both institutions. Pictured in the back row, from left: Zou Ling, director of international office, West China Hospital; Chen Xuerong, professor from respiratory and critical care medicine, West China Hospital; Yang Li, director of gastroenterology department, West China Hospital; Guan Ping, international office of Sichuan University, SCU, and former dean at the Confucius Institute, ASU; Wan Xuehong, executive vice president, West China Hospital; Liu Jie, director of laboratory of infection and vaccine, West China Hospital; Wan Meihua, professor, integrated TCM and Western medicine department; Zhang Wengeng, vice director of Research Center for Precision Clinical Medicine, West China Hospital; Zhou Lingyun, lecturer from Infectious Disease Center; and Chen Jie, vice director of Laboratory Medicine Department, West China Hospital. Photo by Peng Meng Download Full Image

A new ASU partnership was launched on Sept. 20, in the city of Chengdu, China, when leaders from ASU and West China Hospital/West China School of Medicine of Sichuan University inked an agreement that will bring new resources to both institutions, creating the new Biodesign Institute China, West China Hospital.

“ASU’s Biodesign Institute and West China Hospital are committed to pursuing solutions that will create more effective diagnostics and treatments and vaccines that will help in the prevention of cancer and infectious diseases,” said Joshua LaBaer, executive director of ASU’s Biodesign Institute. Both organizations have developed key strengths in areas such as personalized medicine, immunotherapy and synthetic biology. Explaining that West China Hospital matches the aspirational and intrepid culture of the Biodesign Institute, LaBaer noted that the institutions are both "relentless in (their) search for answers to improve the quality of life for people all over the world.”

One goal of the exchange is to accelerate the rate of scientific discovery and bring new solutions to people and the marketplace more rapidly.

“Our collaboration will take advantage of various disciplines at ASU and WCH to promote joint research and innovation in science and technology, especially in the area of biological design,” said West China Hospital President Li Weimin.

Graduate and postdoctoral students from both organizations will have opportunities to work with world-class scientists both in China and the U.S. A joint management committee will guide the development of new programs and the attainment of shared goals.

Like ASU’s Biodesign Institute, WCH is organized into several research centers, each focusing on a specific area of scientific work. For each center established at WCH there will be a scientific center director from either West China Hospital or ASU’s Biodesign Institute, with each partner dedicated to the robust exchange of knowledge and resources. The director will recruit faculty in areas such as biochemistry, physics, software design, cell biology, chemical engineering, bioinformatics, statistics and automation.

Considered China’s Silicon Valley, Chengdu is an international hub for scientific research and advanced technology. The West China Hospital organization includes a pharmaceutical research and development operation, a research park and a translational medicine center. It also has the largest biomedical research facility in China. Comprehensively, it ranked No. 2 among all the hospitals in China for nine years consecutively, while its research influence ranked No. 1 for five yearsAs ranked by the Chinese Hospital Science & Technology Influence Ranking.    

West China Hospital is one of the largest single-site hospitals in the world, with 4,300 beds on the two campuses in Chengdu. 

Entering into a partnership brings not only added brainpower and research support, but also the opportunity to pursue large-scale, high-impact research programs with the goal of fast-tracking new solutions to health and sustainability challenges that cannot easily be solved in isolation.

ASU works with 10 top universities in China, as well as the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Ministry of Science and Technology. The university’s programs in China include the global Decision Theater Alliance, the Center for American Culture and an executive MBA program under the auspices of the Chinese Ministry of Finance. 

ASU’s global outreach extends into numerous countries, including degree programs in biomedical diagnostics and precision medicine with Dublin City University of Ireland; sustainability, energy and engineering partnerships with the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, and the University of Sonora; partnerships with Ben-Gurion University of the Negev-Israel and the Abdulla Al Ghurair Foundation for Education in Dubai; and the PLuS Alliance with King’s College London and UNSW Sydney, a tricontinental partnership with a goal of arriving at research-led solutions to global challenges and expanding access to world-class learning, including a jointly developed Bachelor of International Public Health degree program.

In addition to its growing international presence, groundbreaking international public-private partnerships, such as the Starbucks College Achievement Program and the redesign of engineering education in Vietnam and teacher education in India, add to ASU’s portfolio of opportunity, leading it to recently be named “No. 1 in Innovation” for the fifth consecutive year by the 2019 U.S. News and World Report.

Written by Dianne Price

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UN Champion of the Earth: Begin with agreement to change minds

September 24, 2019

Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe speaks about finding common ground to engage diverse communities in ASU Wrigley lecture

Climate scientist Katharine Hayhoe was once invited to speak at a west Texas Rotary Club luncheon.

It was a tough crowd of Texas businessmen. Arms crossed. Bodies taut in chairs. Side-eye being thrown at the woman who’d invited her. Yeah, we’re going to have a talk about this later.

But Hayhoe, thinking quickly on her feet, had noticed a giant banner with the Rotary Four-Way Test on it when she came in. That test asked four questions: Is it the truth? Is it fair to all concerned? Will it build goodwill and better friendships? Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

She quickly rearranged her prepared talk and began. Arms uncrossed. Bodies relaxed. Expressions softened. She’d won over her audience by connecting with them on common ground.

That was the theme of a talk the world-renowned scientist and communicator gave last night in Phoenix about how to discuss climate change with skeptics of all stripes.

“Talking Climate: Bridging the Divides” was sponsored by the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at Arizona State University.

Hayhoe is a leading climate scientist and professor of political science at Texas Tech, and she is well-known for engaging diverse communities, including evangelical Christians, in the climate change movement. She was just named “U.N. Champion of the Earth,” the United Nations' highest environmental honor, for her "stalwart commitment to quantifying the effects of climate change and her tireless efforts to transform public attitudes.”

About 5% of the population will never have their minds changed. And the rest won’t be swayed by brandishing reports saying climate change is human-caused, Hayhoe said. (Standing in the cavernous Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in downtown Phoenix, she said a stack of those reports would reach to the roof.)

“That constructive conversation begins not with what we disagree with, but what we agree about. We have to begin the conversation with what we agree about,” said Hayhoe, an evangelical Christian herself and the bestselling author of eight books, including “Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions.”

“If you don’t know what you agree with someone about, ask them questions and get to know them,” she said. Do you enjoy the same activities? Hiking, fishing, gardening? You live in the same place. Talk about why you enjoy living there.

“If you don’t find something to agree on, you’re not the right person to have that conversation,” she said. “If you cannot begin a conversation with that person with something you truly, genuinely agree on, then it’s not going to be a constructive conversation.”

But if you do, then you can turn the conversation around.

“Well, if we both care about this, then naturally we would both care about climate change because it’s affecting this thing that we both care about. But then we can’t end without talking about solutions because 99.9% of the people who adopt the science or religiousy smoke screens is not because they have a problem with basic science or what the Bible says; it’s because they’re afraid of the solutions. So you have to talk about the solutions in order to change people’s minds.”

That might take different forms with different people. A scientist Hayhoe knows did a great deal of work taking down his skeptical father’s arguments against climate change. (There are hundreds of arguments against it. It’s a godless liberal atheist conspiracy. The Earth is going through a natural cycle. Where’s the warming when it’s so cold this winter? And so on.) Finally, the father — a fiscal conservative — ran the numbers on a rooftop solar installation. When he found out what he could save, he had it installed.

Not long afterward, the man was a believer. And he proudly proclaimed he was doing his bit — to anyone who would listen. 

Top photo: Climate scientist and Texas Tech Professor of political science Katharine Hayhoe addresses the audience as she speaks about climate change and dialogue during part of the 2019 Wrigley Lecture Series at the Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Phoenix on Tuesday evening. Hayhoe is the best-selling author of eight books including "Climate for Change: Global Warming Facts for Faith-Based Decisions" and used the lecture to speak about climate change and what it means to us and the places that we live. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


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ASU-hosted exhibit sheds new light on old horrors

September 24, 2019

My Lai Memorial Exhibit poses questions about Vietnam's worst civilian massacre and the human cost of war

The My Lai Massacre was one of the most shameful and atrocious chapters of the Vietnam War.

The March 16, 1968, slaughter of more than 500 unarmed civilians — men, women and children — by U.S. Army soldiers saw a quiet village set ablaze, women raped and mutilated and parents killed in front of their kids.

The savage event was covered up by the U.S. military and government brass for more than a year. When it was finally brought to light by American media, it outraged the world and exacerbated the growing anti-war sentiment in the United States.

A traveling exhibit chronicling the tragedy will come to Arizona State University Oct. 2-7 at ASU Downtown Phoenix Library at 411 N. Central Ave. Hosted by ASU’s Center on the Future of War and the Office for Veteran and Military Academic Engagement, the exhibit’s intention is to create a safe space for dialogue to navigate a contested history, to pose questions about the human costs of war and to commit to peace and social justice at home and abroad.

The exhibit will include photos, video, panel information, lectures, discussions and remembrances from Phoenix veterans. Michael Casavantes, a lecturer with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, also will present “War Journalism and Film and War” at 11 a.m. on Oct. 7.

ASU Now spoke to Casavantes about his upcoming presentation and the role of journalism in war.

Man in glasses with mustache

Michael Casavantes

Question: It’s been said that Vietnam was the first conflict that brought war into the American living room. Given that statement, how did media and television shape the particular outcome?

Answer: Coverage of Vietnam has often been referred to as the “Living Room War” simply because it became news after 1964-65 when American involvement escalated so dramatically. The one thing to remember, however, is that unlike the instantaneous coverage of today, the footage being seen on television was likely 48 to 72 hours old. The reporter had to get the film back to a major base and then find a pilot willing to take to the film to someplace like Tokyo where it would then be sent to New York. Once there, the film would be processed and the story would be carefully edited — not to advance an agenda, but rather so some kid’s mother doesn’t see him wounded or worse. That process normally took another 24 hours, so the “news” was really not that new, but it was highly visible on a nightly basis. 

Press access was generally available. Show up at an airstrip at 6 a.m. and you could catch a plane or chopper to wherever something was happening. This unfettered access was during the initial phases of the war: The government and the military were hoping to further public support for stopping communism in Southeast Asia. When the reports began to detail failures of strategy and tactics, the relationship between the media and the government began to become more adversarial. The military was caught in the middle. They had a duty to do — and they all did it well — but the way they were being told to do it was not working and no one seemed to care.

Q: How did Vietnam change the way the media covered the war and future conflicts?

A: What truly changed following Vietnam was how the media interacted with both the government and the military. That “love-hate” triangle has occasionally been cooperative, but generally throughout history, the relationship has been adversarial. Coverage of events and U.S. involvement in Vietnam ranged from almost none during the late 1950s and early 1960s, to “It’s a secret” in the early to mid-1960s to almost unlimited access to combat troops in the mid- to late 1960s to “Why won’t you report what we tell you to report?” from the late 1960s until the end of American involvement.

There are many in the military, and throughout society, who believe that media coverage of Vietnam, in effect, “lost” the war for the United States. Vietnam marked a clear change in the relationship between the military, the media and the government from the common cause during World War II to open enmity still seen today. The initial government position was to minimize U.S. involvement and stress that the conflict was a South Vietnamese affair. Coverage of Vietnam was small: a few of the major papers and the wire services. As these reporters began seeing increasing evidence of U.S. involvement in the actual fighting, they began to report that as well, and that began to spark more interest. The incident that probably brought Vietnam into American consciousness was a major battle in early January 1963 at a place named Ap Bac. It was a major defeat for Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN) troops and the American military advisers speaking with reporters laid the blame squarely on the South Vietnamese. The battle also cost the lives of three Americans. Washington and Saigon portrayed it as a victory. 

The official briefings in Saigon were known as the “5 o'clock follies” because the information nearly always contradicted firsthand accounts and was “spun” to put everything in the best possible light. During one of his many visits to the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications, Mr. Walter Cronkite related to students how he had been present at an incident in the field, and subsequently was struck dumb by the official statement about the incident in Saigon that was most definitely not what he had witnessed. Mr. Cronkite, in a PBS documentary, readily admitted he thought some of the early stories contradicting the official statements were simply “young guns” looking to make a name. But more and more, he came to believe that the way things were, a draw was the best we could hope for. That was the central point of his broadcast from the city of Hue following the 1968 Tet Offensive.

The 1968 Tet Offensive involved simultaneous attacks throughout South Vietnam, at all U.S. bases and in Saigon where the U.S. Embassy compound was briefly taken by the Viet Cong. Overall, the offensive was a major military defeat for the Viet Cong and North Vietnam. All of the attacks failed. But because the press had been fed so much disinformation for so long, when the Army and mission personnel tried to tell them that this time we won, it was met with skepticism and was played that way, uncertain, in the media, leading President Johnson to exclaim that if he had lost Cronkite, he had lost the country. The media revealed a segment of Vietnam to the public, but there were other voices, including many Vietnam veterans, beginning to be heard that increasingly questioned American involvement. The end result was a determination by the military to deny media access or totally control the outflow of information that was seen in the total media blackout of Panama and Grenada, the restricted “pool system” of the first Gulf conflict and the even more rigidly controlled “embed” of the second Gulf conflict. Control of, and access to, information is now an integral element of every military operation.

Q: War correspondents don’t seem to get much attention when looking at the overall history of journalism. Why is that?

A: You pose a very good question. There really are very few books about war correspondents. One good survey is Phillip Knightley’s “The First Casualty.” There are other biographical works on various war reporters, like Murrow and Ernie Pyle that come to mind. Perhaps that could be a future research project for someone.

Q: How is covering wars different for journalists today in the digital age?

A: With instantaneous global communication possible, literally anyone with a cell phone can be a “reporter.” This point was driven home by the “radio news on television” coverage of the initial attacks on Baghdad by fledgling cable network CNN. Bernard Shaw, Peter Arnett and John Holliman became radio correspondents from their hotel room in downtown Baghdad because they had the only land line out of Iraq that the government hadn’t cut. It was their voices over a map of Iraq or other generic graphic, on the screen, but it was coverage and it was live. The big problem with so much of this “instant news” by anyone from anywhere is not what you see, but rather what you do not see. 

The old adage about one picture being worth one thousand words isn’t always true. Sometimes one thousand words are necessary to understand one picture. The explosion of real “fake news” on social media today should make you very cautious about sensational claims or “critical news” about this politician or that one. A lot of the problems with misinformation on social media would evaporate if people would simply verify a claim before passing it on. But with the speed with which information comes to us, that may become increasingly difficult to accomplish, by journalists and ordinary citizens.

Top photo: A U.S. army soldier tossing remnants into a fire at the My Lai village, the site of a massacre that took place on March 16, 1968. The tragedy is the subject of a traveling exhibit coming to ASU Oct. 2-7. Photo courtesy of the My Lai Memorial Exhibit.

Reporter , ASU Now