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With thesis project, student discovers Korean culture through ASU school


April 9, 2018

The Korean department at Arizona State University's School of International Letters and Cultures (SILC) is one of the college’s fastest growing programs, with more students benefiting every year. Senior Simon Huynh, in pursuit of his thesis project, found out exactly what that growth and energy meant.

“I originally got involved with SILC on a recommendation to find an honors thesis director,” Huynh said. "SILC has a very open faculty, willing to help you. Their level of expertise is very high.” Simon Huynh Simon Huynh used School of International Letters and Cultures classes to explore Korean culture for his thesis project. Download Full Image

Huynh’s thesis project for Barrett, The Honors College, analyzes how Korean popular culture, or K-pop music, is influenced by videos, livestreams and reality television.

“The goal of my thesis was to see how various social media tools generate a very interactive, very invested fan base for K-pop. Something very unique about K-pop is how organized the fans are around a particular group,” Huynh explained.

He said this ranges from active fan clubs to wide-scale donations in a band’s name. Huynh himself has listened to K-pop since middle school, but realized his interest had thesis potential after learning about Professor Jiwon Shin’s class on Korean popular culture. Shin became Huynh’s director.

“Studying culture enables you to obtain and widen your lens of perception,” Huynh said. “You’re able to see people for who they are. In my study of Korean culture, I’ve come to appreciate both the differences and the similarities between my original culture … Vietnamese American.”

Huynh credits his thesis and Shin with helping him become more aware of other cultures and more empathetic of cultural differences. In the future, students can get even more out of the Korean department than Huynh was able to, thanks to the addition of a Korean minor to SILC degree options.

The Korean minor will empower students to explore technological, economic and political realities tied in with Korean language and culture. Korea is at the center of geopolitical, security and global conversations. SILC wants students to be part of those conversations.

“My professors are actually trying to help me publish my thesis,” Huynh said. “I think that’s a huge step I didn’t consider, but they want to help me build that step. … It’s important for me to share my culture and understand other people’s culture.”

Gabriel Sandler

ASU students travel to India for lessons in service, leadership

For 12 accomplished students from the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, this year was not your typical spring break


April 6, 2018

For a lot of students, spring break is a time to recharge and enjoy the benefits of a few carefree days before the storm surge of year-end deadlines hits.

For 12 accomplished students from the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, this was not your typical spring break. SCETL students exchange experiences with college students in India at Fulbright House, New Delhi Arizona State University School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership went to India over spring break for the Global Intensive Experience. Download Full Image

When these students signed up for an immersive service and leadership experience in India, they exchanged beaches, parties, visits home and camping trips for arduous travel to bewildering urban centers and dusty villages, where they would work hard and learn from entrepreneurs, teachers, journalists and nonprofit workers about what it takes to be a leader in the world's largest liberal democracy. 

The Global Intensive Experience, sponsored by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership and led by cultural anthropologist Susan Carrese and political scientist Paul Carrese, exposed ASU students to some of the diverse facets of modern India — from densely populated, technologically advanced cities to the most rural, amenity-poor villages.

Each day, from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m., the students took on new intellectual challenges, and in some cases, confronted personal stereotypes and false assumptions while serving communities with completely unfamiliar cultures and value systems.

When the school proposed this leadership-service trip to ASU’s Study Abroad Office they listed several major themes that students would explore in their Global Intensive Experience in India:

• Cross-civilizational issues of leadership and liberal-democratic politics in a predominantly Hindu and Muslim culture

• The power of globalization

• America’s growing partnership with India as a world power in a prominent but difficult region

• Journalism and a free press in India

• Market economics in a formerly social-democratic or “third way” economy

• India’s vast socio-economic diversity

• The challenge of service and service-learning in a completely different cultural context

To address these complex issues in a short period of time, Susan Carrese curated a syllabus of lectures, interviews, service activities and cultural experiences that offered students the opportunity to engage, not as cultural tourists, but as researchers, collaborators and volunteers.

A cultural tour

The students began their service trip with a visit to Humayun’s Tomb, a great mausoleum of the Mughal dynasty that would later influence the Taj Mahal. Humayun’s Tomb is a UNESCO world heritage site and an important touchstone to understanding the complex interactions of Hindu and Muslim culture in contemporary India.  

During a guided walk through the former center of the Muslim imperial city of Shahjahanabad — now part of the national capital city of New Delhi — they visited India’s largest mosque and participated in a pujaworship ceremony at a Hindu temple.

Students say they were struck by the religious diversity they witnessed.

“While the group was walking down the streets of Old Delhi, we witnessed Jain, Hindu, Sikh and Islamic places of worships all on the same street,” said Ivan Bascon, a junior majoring in molecular biosciences and biotechnology. “Although the relationships between the religious communities are not perfect, I saw a far better form of respect and understanding between religions than in the United States.”

Kira Olsen-Medina, a junior studying sociology, said, “It’s one thing reading about religious conflict and seeing it on the news in distant places, but seeing firsthand the dominant role of religion in another culture was significantly impactful.”

Later, at a visit to the Fulbright House — which administers the Fulbright-Nehru fellowships for educational exchanges between India and the United States — they learned about international scholarship opportunities and talked with Prasad V. Kunduri, a senior editor of The Tribune newspaper, northern India’s largest circulating daily newspaper.

“Speaking with Prasad Kunduri about the state of the news media in India was fascinating,” said Rebecca Spiess, a student of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. “While the numbers of English newspaper consumption have plateaued, other dailies aren’t losing readers across India. I think it will be incredibly interesting to see whether, as the prevalence of smartphones rises, newspapers in India will take a different approach than we’ve taken in the U.S. to make sure revenues stay steady.”

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership cohort also met with Indian university students for an exercise in which the students identified together the issues that mattered to them on local, national and international levels. They then worked toward collaborative, cross-cultural solutions, and exchanged ideas about education reform, democratic participation and the "brain drain" that leads educated students in India to leave smaller villages in pursuit of careers in larger, more prosperous cities. 

Other activities included a Q&A session about transportation, globalization and business leadership with the CEO of a major Indian freight company, an impromptu cooking lesson, and a walking tour through the markets and old city of Jaipur, not far from the Pakistan border.

Making a difference

As the students complete their post-Global Intensive Experience written assignments, an overwhelming majority say that among the many activities on their journey, the service project and the residential experience at Barefoot College, in the state of Rajasthan, was the most memorable.

Barefoot College is a volunteer organization founded in 1986, committed to giving poor, rural communities the tools they need to independently thrive. Inspired by the principles of India’s independence and civil rights leader Mahatma Gandhi, the Barefoot ethos elevates the values of service and citizenship over financial wealth. The college rejects certifications and university degrees, claiming that students who attend Barefoot are certified by the communities they serve.

The mission of Barefoot College is to promote self-sustaining communities. They do so by training older students (often grandmothers) to produce solar energy and clean drinking water technology to take back to their communities.

The Global Intensive Experience cohort met with the Solar Mamasthe school's village-matriarchs-turned-solar-engineers, and learned how — since the program's inception — they have brought solar lighting, cookers, heaters and water desalination systems to over 18,000 households in 83 countries. 

“I was absolutely blown away when I saw the education and work that the Solar Mamas were undertaking in the workshop with electrical wiring and solar panels,” Bascon said. “Inviting these older women from all over the world really speaks volumes about the idea of being a global citizen and serving communities all over the world by educating and creating future leaders and community change makers.”

A unique education

While the training at Barefoot gives students technical skills, the backbone of the multi-faceted approach is civic education. 

Through a network of “night schools,” about 75,000 children, most of whom work during the day taking care of farm animals or their siblings, are able to learn everything from mathematics and reading to how to care for their sheep or what to do if they get arrested.

Among the top priorities of the night schools is teaching the children about democracy and citizenship, even going so far as to elect a 12-year-old “prime minister” and “government cabinet” that monitors and supervises 150 schools.

Sophomore political science major Alexis Kwan noted that India has an astounding 66 percent voter turnout, and it is likely this kind of early civic engagement by Indian youth that leads to a lifetime of democratic participation.

ASU students were lucky to attend a session of the night school — after a long and bumpy ride on dirt roads. During that session, freshman philosophy major Max Fees also delighted the Indian students by leading them in interactive songs.

Because a majority of Barefoot students are illiterate and often don't speak the same language as their peers or teachers, lessons are routinely taught through sign language, art and puppetry. 

School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership students led activities ranging from painting a mural to illustrate the medicinal benefits of plants to coordinating educational games that teach children about gender stereotypes and how to identify and expose sexual abuse. 

In spite of language barriers, the ASU students felt like they made connections with the night-school students.

“By the end of the day, the kids were teaching us phrases in their language, calling us ‘sister’ or ‘friend,’ and walking back with us to the new campus,” Kwan said. 

The Barefoot night school visit was arranged by Shuvajit Payne, Barefoot director of education who left London and a successful consulting career with IBM to return to India and work on developing sustainable rural communities. 

Justin Heywood, a sophomore political science major, said that he learned something about servant-leadership from Payne.

"He had a great job working in the U.K., but was willing to leave it all behind after witnessing he could make a difference in India," Heywood said. "He could have ignored the problems that he saw, but he decided to act. His decision led to him living a less lavish lifestyle relative to the U.K. However, it was my perception that he does not regret his decision and is happier as a result. He is dedicated to his job and truly seeks opportunities for his communities."

Given limited tools, compromised communication and last-minute changes to lesson plans, the Global Intensive Experience students learned to be flexible and find solutions and compromises at Barefoot.

“Barefoot College really taught me a lot about working with the resources you have, being creative and innovative” Olsen-Medina said. “Working together, we realized that sometimes a leader’s responsibility is to recognize individual strengths and direct those energies into one cohesive mission.”

Reflecting on the experience

Before leaving India and a dizzying series of activities, the students visited the Taj Mahal, arguably the most significant cultural site in all of India. But the grandeur of the mausoleum, another UNESCO World Heritage Site, is not without its price, as Olivia Gonzales, a junior majoring in global health, remarked.  

“One of my main takeaways from class has been that the most successful empires understand the importance of balance and moderation," Gonzales said. “They use their power with purpose, not just for the sake of exercising it. Seeing the Taj Mahal and hearing about the life of Shah Jahan really stuck out to me as the dangers of losing sight of moderation.” 

As the students submit reflections on their experience in India, their comments testify to the value of studying abroad, and the life-changing impact that traveling with purpose can have on those who are ambitious enough to participate.

“Diving deeper into the sociopolitical and historical aspects of India gave me a much more detailed understanding of this country than I had from my other short travels," Gonzales said. "More than that, however, our trip reaffirmed my love of service abroad. From now on when I travel, I want to be sure I have a symbiotic relationship with the country I go to. I want to give back as much as I take.”

According to Olsen-Medina, she returned from the Global Intensive Experience experience with big goals. 

“I have a new found sense of global responsibility, and a desire to make meaningful impact," she said. "I see the importance of understanding those you are trying to help and immersing yourself in the issue before trying to make solutions. Often we are so quick to try to ‘fix’ things that we do not fully understand the problem.” 

To learn more about the 250-plus study abroad programs in more than 65 different countries offered at ASU, see the Study Abroad Office website.

Ty Fishkind

Communications specialist, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership

480-965-6130

 
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A life-changing journey of humanitarianism

April 5, 2018

New documentary, 'Seeking Asylum,' features students from ASU's New College as they work with refugees in Greece

The wave of refugees that began flooding into Europe as early as 2014 as a result of massive unrest in the Middle East has shown no signs of ebbing. In the last two years alone, roughly 1.3 million refugees have passed through Greece, a country that, thanks to its geographical location, has become a sort of unofficial gateway to Europe for those fleeing war, famine and religious persecution.

Director of ASU’s master’s program in social justice and human rights Julie Murphy Erfani called it “the nexus of the largest humanitarian refugee crisis since World War II.”

Since 2016, she has directed an annual, two-week study abroad trip that takes students to the region, where they volunteer and engage directly with forced migrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere as they await asylum application processing for residence in the EU.

Last May, Erfani lead a group of 19 ASU students from a variety of disciplines — including social justice, communication, psychology and political science — to Greece’s capital city of Athens. Dave Hunt, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences director of communications and marketing, accompanied them to document their experience on film.

The documentary “Seeking Asylum” takes us through the students’ days before they set off, their time in Greece and the close of their journey. We hear their expectations, their daily struggles and victories, and finally how it changed them in the end.

Criminal justice and international studies undergraduate Dania Kassab was excited when she first heard about the study abroad opportunity. Her parents emigrated to the U.S. from Syria 30 years ago, and she has always wanted to do something to help refugees in some way.

“I feel like it’ll be good for me too,” she said in the documentary before leaving for Greece last year. “I’ll come back with a different perspective and be more aware.”

In Athens, the students spent their time at one of three locations serving refugees: Caritas Refugee Program, a soup kitchen and clothing distributor; Hope Cafe, which also gives free meals and clothing; and Welcommon, a refugee community center providing families a place to live.

There, they witnessed firsthand the reality of life as a forced migrant.

“For the most part a lot of the people who are coming through here are pretty desperate,” said Tony Crowder, who graduated from ASU with a master’s degree in social justice and human rights in the fall of 2017.

“They look like they haven’t been fed, they’re wearing clothes that are torn. … These people aren’t fleeing because they want to flee. These people are fleeing because they have to flee. And they all want to go back home. Nobody wants to have this sort of life.”

Trailer; see the full-length documentary here.

The conditions faced by refugees in Athens are particularly harsh, Erfani said, because they’ve been waiting there, in some cases for years, for asylum applications to be processed. During that time, they’ve been unable to work and their children have been unable to attend school.

The psychological trauma they’ve endured, first as a result of violence and persecution in the home countries they fled, and then as a result of having their lives put on indefinite hold manifests in different ways. Sometimes parents withdraw, spending all day alone in their rooms. Many of the children express their frustration through aggressive behavior.

“From what I’ve just seen with the kids, there’s hostility but it’s because they’re in this survival mode, they’re trying to cope with what they’ve gone through,” psychology master’s degree student Julie Hurd said.

But there are moments of hope: “You can see with some of the kids … we’re building their trust. You see the joy in their face that someone cares.”

With the nation in the midst of an economic crisis and facing a 23 percent unemployment rate, the students were struck by the Greeks’ hospitable attitude toward the refugees.

“[They’re] very altruistic people,” Hurd said. “I’m in awe; I’m impressed, and I wish that more of the world could follow suit.”

Communications master’s degree student Thomas Jouganatos wonders if perhaps the Greek people's openness can be attributed to the fact that they remember a time when they were in the same situation — Jouganatos’ own family fled Greece roughly 100 years ago to escape violence and turmoil associated with the Armenian genocide.

“I can only imagine what my family went through,” he said. “They were fleeing their country and being killed on the roadside. … It’s kind of why I did this, just to give thanks to the people who helped my family.”

As conflict and chaos continue to roil the Middle East, Erfani is monitoring the situation closely in order to adjust the study abroad program’s focus for next year. In the spring of 2019, she plans to take students to Italy, where a new flow of refugees is forming from Africa, through Libya. There, she intends to focus their efforts on two populations of people she calls “involuntary migrants”: those fleeing war-torn regions and those who are victims of sex trafficking.

Erfani’s advice for those who don’t have the ability to travel overseas to help out?

“Welcome the stranger. And adjust your spirit and your heart to be prepared to respect and help restore the dignity of any asylum applicants or refugees who are arriving in your community. If you can pitch in through your local church or your local nonprofit, do it.”

For the students, although the experience is behind them, it will never leave them.

“At the end of the day, we’re all humans,” Hurd said. “We need to be humanitarians.”

 

Top photo: An image from the "Seeking Asylum" documentary featuring ASU students working with refugees in Athens, Greece. 

ASU psychology alumna energizes Washington, D.C.


April 4, 2018

Making a difference is a shared goal among Arizona State University graduates. Many choose to pursue careers in the private sector and donate their time on the side, while others work in the nonprofit sector or for the government.

In fact, millennials increasingly value the culture of a company and careers that change the world over just working to acquire money and possessions. In a Cone Communications report, 70 percent of respondents reported they would sacrifice pay to work in an environment that fosters caring about others and facilitates an attitude of social and environmental accountability. Jordan Hibbs, ASU Psychology Alumna and Presidential Management Fellow Jordan Hibbs, a 2014 graduate from psychology and Barrett, the Honor’s College, serves as a Presidential Management Fellow in Washington, D.C. Photo: Robert Ewing Download Full Image

ASU's Department of Psychology graduates experience first-hand what it means to change the world they live in while earning their degree. From the research done at the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, to the Child Study Lab, to the intervention work performed through the REACH Institute, or the ongoing RISE mentorship program at Red Mountain High School, the research ongoing in the psychology department directly affects the community.

One ASU alumna has taken making a difference to a new venue: Jordan Hibbs, a 2014 graduate from psychology and Barrett, the Honor’s College, serves as a Presidential Management Fellow in Washington, D.C.

The Presidential Management Fellows program is a highly selective and prestigious two-year training and development program at a U.S. government agency for U.S. citizens with a recent graduate degree. At the conclusion of the program, the fellow might be placed in a federal agency as a permanent employee. Notable alumni from the program include Oregon’s sitting U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley.

Hibbs currently works as a management and program analyst for the United States Department of Energy. Her long-term goal is to stay within the department to help the general public through policy changes. She currently works with the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy in their Building Technologies office. Her focus is on efficiency in commercial buildings and advancing energy-efficiency solutions and technologies to help U.S. businesses save energy, time and money.

“Understanding human behavior has always been an influence in everything I’ve done,” Hibbs said. “It was the main reason I was passionate about psychology and it is a driving factor why I applied to the fellows program. The energy technology space has a lot to do with people, in more ways than many think.”

While she was an undergraduate at ASU, Hibbs also worked with Gene Brewer, associate professor of psychology, as the manager of Brewer’s Memory and Attention Control Lab.

“I recruited Jordan to manage my laboratory and contribute to my research program because she is an incredibly hard-working and intelligent young woman with all of the potential in the world. In many ways, Jordan left my laboratory in better shape than she found it,” Brewer said. 

Hibbs said her success at placing data in context comes from her days working with Brewer. She credits the statistical training she received there for her ability to discern trends in information and problem solve for people.

“Human behavior should always be considered for every policy or decision. The psychology department at ASU taught me the importance of understanding what people really need to thrive,” Hibbs said.

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology

480-727-5054

ASU enters international partnership to accelerate research collaborations, educational reforms in Japan


April 4, 2018

Committed to finding pedagogical solutions and educational reforms beneficial to every Japanese citizen, Japan’s universities have begun forging international relationships to face their unique challenges — including a rapidly aging, shrinking population and changing economy.

Arizona State University, along with seven other U.S. universities, has entered into an ambitious collaboration with eight Japanese universities to promote international, cross-institution partnerships and cooperative research. From left to right: Troy McDaniel, associate director of Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing (CUbiC); Satoshi Watanabe of Hiroshima University; Derrick Anderson, adviser to the president; Sethuraman Panchanathan, chief research and innovation officer and executive vice president of ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise Development; Nadya Bliss, director of the Global Security Initiative; Luke Tate, assistant vice president and executive director of opportunity initiatives and Professor Yohsuke Yamamoto of Hiroshima University pose for a photo in Toyko during a Japan-U.S. Digital Innovation Hub event. Download Full Image

Through the Japan-U.S. Digital Innovation Hub, the sixteen institutions aim to facilitate and promote research collaboration, especially in fields such as data science, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity. The hope is that the hub will serve as a platform to create educational projects to develop necessary skills for the digital age.

“The future of education is rapidly changing, providing an exciting and unprecedented opportunity for forward-thinking universities to shape the next iteration,” said Sethuraman Panchanathan, chief research and innovation officer and executive vice president of ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise Development. “As institutions of higher learning, we can empower individuals with the mindsets necessary to succeed in a continually evolving economic and technological landscape.”

From March 19-20, representatives from the hub’s member universities, as well as Japanese government officials, gathered at the University of Tsukuba’s campus in Tokyo for a workshop to discuss the future of the Japan-U.S. Digital Innovation Hub.

Along with Panchanathan, ASU’s delegation included Luke Tate, assistant vice president and executive director of opportunity initiatives; Nadya Bliss, director of the Global Security Initiative; Troy McDaniel, associate director of the Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing (CUbiC) and Derrick Anderson, adviser to the president.

Panchanathan presented a keynote speech to the assembled representatives and guests, who included Yasuo Fukuda, former prime minister of Japan and Michael Chertoff, former secretary of the U.S. Department of HomeIand Security. Both Fakuda and Chertoff delivered lectures as well.

Panchanathan’s keynote covered the accelerating pace of knowledge creation, lifelong learning, the future of work and the relative role of universities. These topics are of particular interest to universities in Japan as the nation weathers great economic and demographic change.

The enormous economic growth of the '80s and '90s, spurred by advanced manufacturing and electronics, has slowed in the past two decades as the population is both declining and becoming older. More than 22 percent of Japanese citizens are 65 or older and working-age adults are either having fewer children later or forgoing parenting altogether. These factors are leading to predictions of an overall population decline of more than 30 percent by 2060, when more than 40 percent of the population will be 65 or older.

This uncertain future is challenging universities in Japan to reconsider the role they have in the broader societal context, said Anderson.

“Within that challenge, many Japanese institutions have connected with ASU out of interest in learning more about the design for a New American University and how that thinking could benefit Japanese higher education reforms,” he added.

The hub’s next summit is slated for summer 2018. ASU will host the event at the newly opened Barrett & O’Connor Washington Center in Washington, D.C.

Japanese universities participating in the initiative are Osaka University, Hiroshima University, Kyushu University, Keio University, Nagoya University, Tohoku University, University of Tsukuba and Waseda University.

In addition to ASU, Case Western Reserve University; University of Delaware; Johns Hopkins University; North Carolina State University; Ohio State University; Washington University in St. Louis and University of Maryland, Baltimore County comprise the U.S. institutions in the Japan-U.S. Digital Innovation Hub.

ASU hosts 2018 Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative fellows


April 3, 2018

Arizona State University recently welcomed 41 emerging leaders from Southeast Asia as part of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative fellowship sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

The academic fellows are undergraduate or recently graduated students between the ages of 18 and 26, coming from Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Laos, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. YSEALI 2018 welcome Arizona State University recently welcomed 41 emerging leaders from Southeast Asia as part of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative fellowship sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. Download Full Image

ASU hosts two academic fellowships. The Civic Engagement Institute, housed under the College of Public Service and Community Solutions, will explore social innovation, sustainable and inclusive practices to consider when developing a project or business, as well as effective networking, leadership and communication strategies. The Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Institute, housed under the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, will shadow successful community organizers, learn tools for effective communication and leadership, explore the key elements of human-centered design, and even develop their own entrepreneurial ideas and business models.

The five-week institutes, which run through April 28, will primarily be held at ASU’s Tempe and Downtown Phoenix campuses. The institutes include academic residency, leadership development, an educational study tour, local community service activities, homestay experiences and opportunities to engage with ASU students.

The programs conclude in Washington, D.C., to allow for engagement with policymakers, governmental representatives, businesses and think tanks.

Launched in 2013, the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative is the U.S. government’s signature program to strengthen leadership development and networking in Southeast Asia. Through a variety of programs and engagements, including U.S. educational and cultural exchanges, regional exchanges, and seed funding, the initiative seeks to build the leadership capabilities of youth in the region, strengthen ties between the United States and Southeast Asia, and nurture an ASEANAssociation of Southeast Asian Nations (asean.org) community. The initiative focuses on critical topics identified by youth in the region: civic engagement, sustainable development, education and economic growth.

More informationContact Jose Quiroga, Social Entrepreneurship and Economic Development Institute, 480-727-4184 or Hector Zelaya, Civic Engagement Institute, 602-496-1308.: Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative.

 
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ASU students storm Gettysburg battlefield

April 3, 2018

McCain Institute field trip with a general and an ambassador offers timeless lessons of character-driven leadership

Atop the hill at the end of a ridge, Union Army Col. Joshua Chamberlain and remnants of the 20th Maine Infantry occupied a vital position, Little Round Top, that had to be held at all costs at Gettysburg. Chamberlain didn’t know what was going to come next or whether he and his soldiers were going to survive, but he had to be ready.

That was one of the many examples of leadership given by a general and a diplomat as they led a group of Arizona State University students around the Pennsylvania landscape that was home to of the Civil War’s most important battle.

“As leaders you never know when you’re going to be asked to do something that’s totally unexpected,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, former commanding general, now a senior adviser to both ASU President Michael Crow and the McCain Institute for International Leadership. “Part of leadership is being prepared for what might come next.”

On March 28, Freakley, former Ambassador Michael C. Polt and nearly 20 students from ASU’s Rule of Law and Policy Design Studio programsThe Washington Policy Design Studio is part of the McCain Institute for International Leadership at the Ambassador Barbara Barrett & Justice Sandra Day O’Connor Washington Center at Arizona State University in Washington, D.C. The Global Rule of Law & Governance is a joint effort between ASU Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law and the McCain Institute. jumped on a bus and dove into a rainy but action-packed extended day trip to Gettysburg National Military Park.

This walk-the-hallowed-ground experience took the diplomacy, military action, intelligence and economic factors at play on the battlefield and shaped them into teachable moments on how to survive and thrive in today’s leadership environment.

Setting the scene

The day before heading to historic Gettysburg, Freakley and Polt hosted a two-hour classroom sessionThe field trip exercise was part of a semester-long course for the ASU Policy Design Studio. This semester focuses on how America creates policy. The students form an embassy team and are focused on a particular country. This semester is Afghanistan for undergraduates and Azerbaijan for ASU Law students. in ASU’s Decision Theater to properly set the scene for this pivotal clash. Students learned about Civil War figures, military and diplomatic tactics, intelligence and communication, leadership strategies and the events leading up to Gettysburg.

Freakley also screened key scenes from the 1993 American film epic “Gettysburg,” starring Tom Berenger, Martin Sheen and Jeff Daniels. The scenes helped students envision what took place on those three bloody days in July 1863.

Polt stated that understanding a country’s history and turning points is highly effective when developing and implementing policy.

“In many cases I’ve found overseas that foreigners know more about our history than we do, and that’s a bit embarrassing,” Polt said. “While this is not a history lesson, it’s an important part of your foreign-policy understanding.”

The following morning when students stepped on the bus, it became a mobile learning lab from the moment it pulled away from the curb in front of the Barrett & O’Connor Washington Center, ASU’s new hub in the nation's capital.

Tennis, anyone?

Gettysburg wasn’t just a bloody conflict between the Union and Confederate armies, Freakley explained: It was the manifestation of war as the ultimate instrument of national policy, its success or failure impacted by the way the leaders in the field interpreted and executed the guidance of this key battle.

“Many of these decisions were made in confusion and lacking full information,” Freakley said. “They were made on the ground where they were standing, the weather they had to deal with, and in the capacity of their organization. In other words, just because you can play tennis doesn’t mean you can play tennis with Serena Williams.”

The American Civil War was anything but a tennis match according to Freakley, who first visited Gettysburg at the age of 11. The fighting was brutal, the death tollHistorians believe that approximately 620,000 soldiers — 2 percent of the nation's population at that time — died in the Civil War. They also estimate that casualties amounted to 23,049 for the Union and 28,063 for the Confederates at the Battle of Gettysburg. high and the future of the country desperately hung in the balance.

Freakley and Polt used 13 planned stopsStops were Frederick, Maryland; Gettysburg Visitor Center; Chambersburg Pike; Oak Ridge; Short Tower Oak Hill; Cemetery Hill; North Carolina Memorial; Confederate Avenue Tower; Chamberlain’s Rock; Little Round Top; Virginia Memorial; Pickett’s Charge and the High Water Mark. to not only discuss the players, politics and policy, but the different leadership skills employed by key Gettysburg figures such as generals Robert E. Lee, George G. Meade, Winfield Scott Hancock, Daniel E. Sickles and James Longstreet.

Union Gen. John Reynolds' story particularly resonated with David Okinyi, an international student from Kenya studying economics and global politics at ASU.

“Even though he died, I was inspired by the fact that Reynolds was the front-runner and that translated to leadership,” Okinyi said. “As a leader, it’s not about giving direction but taking charge of the action.”

Applied leadership field training

This day of applied leadership field training also rubbed off on other students, some who had little previous knowledge of the Civil War. Brazilian-born João Lucas Coimbra Sousa, 27, said he retained what’s important.

“What I’m learning here today is that the right call at the right time can change history,” said Sousa, an ASU Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law student and a criminal defense attorney in Brazil. “You have to be prepared for the unexpected and at the same time, you have to understand the unexpected exists.”

Authority or governorship does not start at a certain age or have an expiration date, and it should be used for the benefit of others, said 22-year-old Kelly Graham, an online student majoring in leadership.

“Being a leader is not something you learn or earn a certificate,” Graham said. “Life’s events will shape and mold you. … Being a leader means you’re constantly growing, and it’s a part of your life’s journey.”

Whether they knew it or not, Freakley said his students became leaders the day they enrolled at ASU.

“They reinforce that the mantle of leadership can fall on our shoulders at any time just like the soldiers at Gettysburg,” Freakley said. “It’s our responsibility to prepare them academically and ethically, and prepare them for when our government, nation or family calls on them to lead.”

Video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Key takeaways from the general

Among some of the leadership tips that Freakley shared with students at Gettysburg:

• Policy is about people: “When you make a decision for an organization, a company or a courtroom, you are affecting people's lives. It may not be as dramatic as death on a battlefield, but policy does have human implications.”

• Trust is a must: “Leadership is about relationships and knowing your people. The essence of leadership is building trust.”

• Information is key: “Good leaders always keep their bosses or superiors informed. I used to keep a 3-by-5 card on my desk asking, ‘Who else needs to know?'”

• A little levity can go a long way: “Humor is a nice trait for a leader to have and helps. It reassures people you haven’t lost your balance and can handle the situation at hand.”

• Don’t let your ego get in the way: “Having a spirit of invincibility can be a dangerous thing, and ego can interfere with policy and leadership.”

• Be good to your peers: “One of the hardest things to grasp for leaders is peer leadership. You don’t really have any authority over them, but convincing, helping and working with your peers is very important.”

• Lead down and roll up your sleeves: “Giving clear instruction to your subordinates. Don’t ever ask anyone to do anything that you can’t do yourself.”

• Stay cool when you rule: “Keep calm. When it gets tense, people are looking to you to lead, so think through and stay calm.”

• Psychology matters: “Leaders have to understand the psychology of those who they lead and what they’ll do when they ask them to do something.”

• Empower your employees: “Not only does a good leader provide vision but resources for his or her employee to be successful. A strong leader does not delegate but empowers you to act. ‘Don’t wait for me — do it!’”

• Teamwork is critical: “None of us will solve tough problems without a network of well-trained employees who believe in the mission and work together to accomplish a result. We not only need to train employees to do their jobs, but the jobs of others in order to move on.”

• Vision can be learned but must be practiced: “It’s like reading. If you don’t read or take on more complicated text and learn, then you don’t improve in your comprehension. It’s like lifting weights — you have to do it in order to build up your strength, your capacity.”

• Good leaders possess strong values: “The most important component of being a leader (is) values. That means being a leader of integrity. Being a leader of responsibility. Being a leader of respect. A character-driven leader has a commitment to do the right thing, in the right way for the right reasons in order to set a good example.”

 

Top photo: Retired Army Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley speaks about cannons used and the power required to man them in the U.S. Civil War at Oak Ridge during a visit to the Gettysburg National Military Park on March 28 in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. The McCain Institute's Policy Design Studio focuses on using the study of the Battle of Gettysburg and how it relates to leadership, policy and understanding of U.S. government. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Students climb military ranks with language skills


April 2, 2018

Arizona State University seniors Benjamin Harris and Brittany Diaz, both majors in Russian at the School of International Letters and Cultures, studied overseas with Project GO and are members of the Air Force ROTC Detachment 025.

Harris and Diaz serve as the cadet wing and vice wing commanders, and they had the opportunity to study abroad, which helped them reach some incredible milestones. While overseas, they learned how language plays a vital role in the military and is extremely beneficial knowledge, opening up a variety of career opportunities. Benjamin Harris Benjamin Harris found career opportunities through the School of International Letters and Cultures, study abroad and ROTC. Download Full Image

“Regardless of what branch you serve in, the United States military is aiming to develop more coalition initiatives with our allies abroad. … In general, knowing a foreign language is extremely useful, it opens up avenues of opportunity, it helps your unit build better alliances,” Harris said.

To prepare for a career in the military, Air Force ROTC gave scholarships to Harris and Diaz to study abroad and integrate with civilian students, developing intercultural communication and language skills.

“Learning a language from the ground up, starting from the alphabet and learning how to speak all over again, it shows you how much you don’t know about the world,” Diaz said.

Harris was studying Arabic at the time, and had the opportunity with Project GO to travel to Amman, Jordan, drastically improving his speaking skills in just two months. For Harris, the best way to study a language is diving right in and speaking with locals. While in Aqaba, Jordan, he mediated a sale between a Russian speaker and an Arabic salesman.  

Diaz went to Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, where she lived with a host family. She credits the outstanding professors at the School of International Letters and Cultures, specifically Professor Donald Livingston and Professor Saule Moldabekova, for their dedication toward providing a well-rounded education.

“It doesn’t matter where you start, what experience you have, as long as you start it and put in your own effort outside of just class and everything to advance. You just have to want to do it,” Diaz said.

Brittany Diaz
Britanny Diaz.

Diaz explained that a big part in creating relationships overseas is trying to understand people's language and their day-to-day lives. The locals are appreciative and respectful when visitors build a rapport and try to understand their perspectives.

“It’s mind blowing to know that there’s that much in the world you don’t know about yet. When I went over there, I thought, ‘I’ve never done anything like this in my life.’ There’s people that are going to go their entire lives without doing something like this and I’m doing it when I’m 20,” Diaz said.

Learn more about the School of International Letters and Cultures' study abroad program.

Kathleen Leslie

Student communications specialist, School of International Letters and Cultures

480-965-4674

 
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Swirling plastic ocean debris a growing problem

March 29, 2018

An ASU expert on new revelations about the scope of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and what it means

If aliens flew by our planet and looked down at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, you wouldn’t blame them for moving along.

Look at the numbers. It’s somewhere between twice the size of Texas and three times the size of France. It contains 80,000 tons of debris. Scientists estimate that’s 1.8 trillion pieces of glow sticks, nets, bleach bottles, straws, toys and drums.

Last week results from the most recent study of the patch were released. A three-year mapping project by eight different organizations revealed the mass is spread across more than 600,000 square miles of water between California and Hawaii.

Beth Polidoro is an assistant professor of environmental chemistry in the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences at Arizona State University. Polidoro has a research grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration marine debris program, working on risk assessment of plastic litter and microplastics in near-shore marine ecosystems and seafood. 

ASU Now talked to her about the findings.

Question: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now estimated to be more than twice the size of Texas and to contain 16 times more plastic than previously estimated. How long has it taken for this mass to accumulate? 

Answer: The garbage patch was discovered in the late 1980’s. However, the size and amount of garbage has exponentially increased, especially over the past decade. Plastic use — and discards in general — have exponentially increased and are projected to reach more than 400 million tons per year by 2020. According to Plastic Oceans (a global nonprofit organization that addresses the issue of plastic pollution and how it impacts waters, sea life and humans), more than 500 billion plastic bags and 35 billion plastic water bottles are thrown away each year.

Q: Can this be cleaned up?

A: Given the enormity of the garbage patch, as well as the fact that there are now vast garbage patches in every ocean of the world, clean up is no easy task and will be very expensive, if not impossible. For example, the break-down products of plastics, including microplastics and hazardous chemicals, are being distributed throughout the world’s marine, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems and can now be found in drinking water and many of the foods we eat.

Q: What will happen if it’s not cleaned up, both to the environment and marine life?

A: Plastic pollution has both physical and chemical impacts. Physical impacts include direct mortality of marine and other animals due to entanglement and ingestion. The chemical impacts are far more pervasive, in terms of microfiber and microbead dispersion throughout the enviromment, and unknown toxicological impact from their consumption, which includes a number of harmful chemicals used in plastic production and adsorbed from the environment. The impact of these chemicals on ecological and human health is still not well-known.

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4502

 
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Phosphorus for all of us

March 28, 2018

Sustainable Phosphorus Forum tackles how to feed a future world of 10 billion while protecting water resources

Our relationship with the essential element phosphorus is both personal and global.

“We each carry about three pounds of phosphorus in our bodies and in our bones, and yet, we are fully dependent upon it to feed a future world of 10 billion people by 2050,” said Professor Jim Elser.

Phosphorus is a nutrient crucial to growing crops, but it washes off farmland in the rain and travels to our waterways, where it can cause major pollution issues. 

Elser, a long-time Arizona State University professor now at Montana State, initiated the Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance a decade ago. The Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance is a unique partnership made up of academics, industry members and NGOs who are committed to finding a way to have a food system that manages phosphorus while protecting rivers, lakes and oceans. The alliance is located at the Biodesign Institute at ASU in the Biodesign Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology, with the support of center Director Bruce Rittmann.

Elser, along with organizer and alliance program manager Matt Scholz, served as hosts for the annual forum, held recently at ASU, which centered on themes of sustainable application of phosphorus fertilizers to farms.

forum
Jim Elser (center), along with organizer and alliance program manager Matt Scholz (far left), served as hosts for the annual Phosphorus Forum, held recently at ASU. They tackled the worldwide issue of how to feed a future planet of 10 billion while ensuring adequate clean water for the planet. Photo by Ben Petersen/Biodesign Institute

“The U.S. has made a broad sustainability goal of having zero hunger, and more food to meet expanding markets,” said Elser. “At the same time, we need access to clean water. Making those things happen at the same time is our most critical challenge. How do we get there without going over a cliff?” 

More than 50 alliance participants, representing diverse fields in agriculture, supply chain economics, green chemistry, regulatory policy and industry, met at ASU’s McCord Hall to tackle key phosphorus management challenges.

The goals of the forum were to facilitate networking, working groups, and represent the North American sustainability community.

“This is such a vastly complex issue that requires the collaboration of all those who handle nutrients — from the mines and fertilizer companies that produce them to the wastewater treatment plants, compost facilities and manure managers that recycle them,” said Scholz. "These groups don’t usually talk to each other, so our challenge is to create that conversation, build trust and move forward with collaborative solutions.”

Wizards or prophets

Elser framed the forum’s presentations with inspiration from a recent book, “The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow's World,” by author Charles Mann (“1491” and “1493”).

In an excerpt featured recently in the Atlantic, Mann categorizes two camps of thought to feeding a world of 10 billion. There are the “prophets,” epitomized by William Vogt, who, Mann writes, “argued that affluence is not our greatest achievement but our biggest problem.”

In the other camp are the “wizards” represented by Norman Borlaug. Borlaug, Mann says, “has become the emblem of 'techno-optimism' — the view that science and technology, properly applied, will let us produce a way out of our predicament. He was the best-known figure in the research that in the 1960s created the Green Revolution, the combination of high-yielding crop varieties and agronomic techniques that increased grain harvests around the world, helping to avert tens of millions of deaths from hunger.

Wizards, following Borlaug’s model, “unveil technological fixes; prophets, looking to Vogt, decry the consequences of our heedlessness.”

Their competing mantras could simply be reduced to “Cut back!” vs. “Innovate!” according to Mann.

The problem with P

The same competing mantras exist for the element phosphorus, which is essential for all of life — including humans and the plants we and animals depend upon for the food we eat.  

“Humans' closest relationship to the Earth is through agriculture,” said Sally Rockey, executive director of the Foundation for Food and Agricultural Research (FFAR), who gave the keynote address at the forum. “We have to protect our Earth in order to provide for that bounty.”

The world is rapidly using up resources, particularly in high-demand countries such as the U.S. and China. And unless there are improvements and we cut back, their native phosphorus supplies could run out by 2050, according to David Vaccari, professor and director of the Department of Civil, Environmental and Ocean Engineering at the Stevens Institute of Technology.

“China and the U.S. are on the same time scale [just 24-36 years from now] with running out of production,” said Vaccari.

If the estimates are correct, this will make the world more dependent on the greatest source of phosphorus, mines in Morocco. “Globally, we still have hundreds of years,” said Vaccari. But the worry is that there may be more political unrest once countries use up their own supplies.

An important aspect to overcoming these challenges is for the Phosphorus Alliance to adopt the wizard approach of fostering innovation.

And so far, the wizards have kept the phosphorus dilemma at bay. During the past generation, agricultural innovation has pulled off a phosphorus magic trick — increasing crop yield several fold (corn yield has gone up an average of two bushels an acre annually since 1965) while using the same amount of phosphorus for growth, from the work of wizards who have developed new hybrids, expanded irrigation, increased fertilizer rates, and introduced modern transgenic, insect-resistant crops.

Soil health has increasingly become a main factor. President Franklin Roosevelt, when commenting on the dust bowl days and Great Depression, once said, “The nation that destroys its soil destroys itself,” according to Rockey.

That’s why, after a 30-year federal research career leading programs at the USDA and NIH, she now leads the publicly funded nonprofit FFAR, with a $200 million annual budget to foster agricultural innovation. Their group is funding innovation in everything from basic research to improve the efficiency of photosynthesis to overcoming water scarcity to improving urban food systems and sharing these results with the Phosphorus Alliance community.

Perhaps one wizard solution that’s good for the soil and plants could be using an entirely different fertilizer.

The fertilizer we buy at the store contains phosphorus in the form of PO4, or phosphate.

The problem is that scientists estimate that up to 80 percent of the phosphorus may never be taken up by plants, leading to millions of tons of wasted fertilizer.

“The main problem we have in agriculture is that 70 to 80 percent of what we apply to the soil gets fixed into the soil, and the crops only use 20 to 30 percent,” said Luis Herrera, director of the Mexico’s National Laboratory of Genomics for Biodiversity at Cinvestav.  

And where do the excess of 35 million tons of fertilizer annually applied to crops go instead? It can lead to runoff and soil erosion and can contaminate our rivers and lakes. Once there, algae can thrive on the overabundance of phosphorus, producing problematic algal blooms and oceanic red tides.

That’s why researchers like Herrera have been trying to come up with a brand-new fertilizer, in the form of phosphite. It has shown early success, using up to 50 percent less fertilizer by using plants genetically changed with an added bacterial component to more readily take up phosphite as their sole phosphorus source. “When you introduce this into an agricultural soil, you should be able to produce the same biomass with using less phosphorus from phosphite rather than phosphate,” Herrera said.

With improvements, he thinks they can reduce the use to only one-third compared with current fertilizers — and with the added benefit of providing weed control — since weeds can’t grow when phosphite is added to the soil.

Increasing sustainable outcomes

Increasingly, phosphorus use is being tied not to crop yields alone, but on having more prophets and sustainable outcomes. Allison Thomson, who works as the science and research director of the independent, 130-member nonprofit Field to Market, benchmarked sustainability performance for leading commodity crops in the U.S, including corn, cotton, potato, rice, soybean and wheat.

Farmers can use their benchmarking tools to help evaluate their farming decisions in sustainable outcomes for biodiversity, energy use, greenhouse gas emissions, irrigated water use, land use, soil carbon, soil conservation and water quality. They compile these against national and state averages, so “the farmer has an immediate sense of how they compare, and how to shrink their footprint.”  

ASU supply chain expert Kevin Dooley is chief scientist of the 100-member Sustainability Consortium, which was founded by ASU and the University of Arkansas to look at particular market products’ carbon footprint, particularly for grocers, and was ranked as a Scientific American “Top 10 World Changing Ideas.”

One of the aspects from his survey work is how little connection people have with the food they eat. Not only is it hard for people to figure out where the food on their dinner plate may originally have come from, but even retailers, suppliers and experts can also find it hard to determine.

“How do we create maps that take that field-level data and aggregate it into product-category data?” asked Dooley.

During a forum workshop, he challenged attendees with an exercise, mapping out the market drivers and supply chain for other commodities, from cotton to corn chips to milk.

He asked forum members to focus on “the market incentives, barriers and solutions to adoption of more sustainable phosphorus practices.”

What became apparent is how vast the challenge is in gathering this type of data. There will need to be more transparency and collaboration among growers, buyers and suppliers to manage more sustainable phosphorus outcomes across the supply chain.

Reduce, reuse, recycle, regulate

Among the best ways to prevent excess fertilizer from being lost to runoff into our waterways is to recycle, and the burgeoning Green Economy has seen a number of companies centered on commercializing compost and recycled fertilizer products. These secondary fertilizer-based companies are starting to have a big impact.

For the recycling community, industry leaders Noel Lyons, president of McGill Compost, and Amir Vashovi, president of Green Technologies, showed the value of using reclaimed water and composting.

“We looked at how we utilize renewable biosolids (organic matter recycled from sewage) in an effort to recycle nutrients,” said Vashovi, who won a Small Business of the Year Award for his Florida-based, sewage recycling fertilizer company. His main market targets our home lawns and gardens, a $40 billion market where consumers buy 70 million pounds of fertilizer annually.

“Composting and the use of composting gives a number of very wide benefits,” said Lyons. “Those of us in the composting industry absolutely believe that the future in this area is about soil health.”

Industrial composting takes the idea of backyard composting to new heights. They take food waste, vegetable waste, and wastewater residuals and use industrial-scale processing to make a high-value composting product.

McGill, with operations mostly centered in Ireland and along the East Coast of the U.S., was founded 25 years ago to transform waste by building and operating large-scale composting facilities to market and sell products to rebuild soils for agriculture, landscaping, erosion control or building soccer and football turfs.

“The one thing organic waste has in common is that it all came from the soil,” said Lyons. “Composting is a very good way of fixing that organic waste so that it can go back into the soil.”

This is especially important for reviving depleted soils, to reverse the cycle and restore more arable lands to renew food production.

Finally, another aspect to change societal management of phosphorus is the power of government to regulate that behavior through new legislation.

Ned Beecher, executive director of the Northeast Biosolids and Residuals Association, showed the big picture on biosolid use and federal and state regulations aimed at better managing phosphorus, both for farms, and increasingly in past 10 years, efforts to change homeowners’ behavior with turf and lawn fertilizers.

“Organic wastes are ubiquitous and cause many issues, including filling up landfills and increasing greenhouse gas emissions” said Beecher. “So, there is a drive to get these out of landfills and put them to use because the nutrients available are good for soils and crops.”

These regulations have served to have a positive effect of increasing the use of biosolids on soils to include the reuse of about 60 percent of all wastewater solids annually in the U.S.

MORE: See how your state is doing to correct and improve P imbalance and the biosolids regulations currently in place

Going forward, the alliance will continue to cultivate research and input from its members to maximize the value of phosphorus to feed the planet, while offering best practices to embrace both the mantra of the prophets to cut back and that of the wizards to continuously innovate.

In the end, Elser commented that perhaps it’s time to change the narrative of the tension between the wizard and prophet camps.

“Maybe we ought to be doing something different. Maybe we have the beginning of a new sort of scientist that’s a combination of these things, someone who recognizes the power of scientific innovation, but also has a systems-level view of all the things it takes for human prosperity.”   

To learn more about the Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance, and subscribe to new updates, join at phosphorusalliance.org. Follow on Twitter @SustainP or join the LinkedIn group Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance.

Watch the forum presentations

• Intro & Keynote

• Vaccari

• Herrera 

• Dooley and Thomson

• Beecher

• Lyons and Varshovi

Top photo: Balancing the needs of feeding a growing population and protecting natural resources in the future is a priority for scientists today. Photo courtesy of pexels.com

Joe Caspermeyer

Managing editor , Biodesign Institute

480-258-8972

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