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A time of transition: British royal family zips through milestones

May 11, 2018

ASU professor says monarchy faces curious time in its history

Royal watchers have had plenty of reasons to rejoice lately: Queen Elizabeth’s 92nd birthday last month, the recent birth of Prince William and Duchess Catherine’s third child, Louis; Princess Charlotte’s third birthday; and, of course, the upcoming wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19.

These are not only milestones but possible torch-passing moments as rumors of Queen Elizabeth’s retirement from public life abound. It begs several questions: what will the face of Britain’s monarchy look if that happens? Who are the players? And is everyone prepared to take on those responsibilities?

ASU Now asked Retha Warnicke, an emeritus professor in Arizona State University's School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and author of seven books, to discuss a possible royal changing of the guard. 

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Retha Warnicke

Question: What will the monarchy look like in the coming years given that transitions seem to be in play?

Answer: I think this royal family will follow the customary procedure. Charles will become Charles III in a grand coronation ceremony. As he has promised that his present wife will never become queen, probably she will remain the Duchess of Cornwall, while enjoying the trappings of royalty. After all, Charles won’t be the first English king to take a second wife. Since he is relatively old when succeeding to the throne and is not very popular (he actually seems to avoid publicity), his heir Prince William will almost certainly have a more prominent public role than would otherwise be the case. William and his family are already popular and are often seen in public gatherings. The media is enthralled, and we see much more of them than of Charles. I suspect Charles, who has always been somewhat withdrawn and reticent about publicity, will welcome his elder son’s and his family’s support and look to them as regular deputies. 

I cannot really see much employment for Harry, who has never played by the royal rules. I find it interesting that the public statements about his future wife, Meghan, refer to her as an American and have seemed to ignore her African heritage. The two have also not attempted to hide the fact that they have been living together at Kensington Palace. The queen, of course, approved of the marriage. I think she worried what he would do (and rightly so) if she said no. As to the future of the monarchy, despite Harry, it is popular enough, especially in the great-grandchildren’s generation so that they will continue on as they have done — appearing publicly when required and supporting whatever government is in power.

Q: Americans love royal-watching, but how do Brits feel about their own monarchy?

A: They are absolutely split on this issue. Some of the working class, in particular, are hostile to the monarchy but they are also hostile to the nobility and rich people generally. By contrast, many in the middle class are enthralled with the monarchy. The royal family attract crowds whenever and wherever they appear in public. Many Brits cannot see enough of them. The press and TV would not spend so much time on them if they were not so popular. This queen and her grandchildren (the children of Princess Diana), as opposed to her son Charles, are extremely popular, if for no other reason than she represents the monarchy that defended Great Britain during the Great War. Many still remember her father’s commitment to his kingdom. There still is a feeling of patriotism about the queen, if not her grandchildren.

Q: It appears as if the queen did exceptionally well in her duties, but how do you think Charles will fare as king of England?

A: Charles does not get high marks. He turned his back on his first, popular wife and after she died, he married his lover. Diana is still extremely popular (as are the children who are associated with her more than with their father). I think Charles will do his duties as king but he has always been shy about public exposure and will almost certainly be less prominent socially than his mother has been. I think he will rely on William and his family to make up the difference in public appearances. He will be where he must be on special occasions but will be somewhat awkward in appearance and avoid publicity when he can. I do not foresee a possibility of a personality change.

Q: What are some of the deeper issues you think Charles and the royal family will face in the upcoming decade? 

A: The lack of privacy will be a continuing, deep issue for the family. With modern technology — smartphones that take photos, for example — they will have more difficulty than ever before protecting the little privacy they have. The problem is that these instruments can be used even when the subject is unaware of them. In addition, royal family members are going to have to develop, if they have not already started doing so, guidelines for electronic usage by the members of their family. The last decade has seen a tremendous jump in this technology and it may accelerate in future years. 

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU student selected to participate in Heidelberg Laureate Forum in Germany

May 10, 2018

Michelle Stuhlmacher, a doctoral student in geography at Arizona State University, has been selected for the prestigious Heidelberg Laureate Forum. Only 200 of the most qualified young researchers in the world are selected for the forum.

The Heidelberg Laureate Forum is a one-week event combining scientific, social and outreach activities. Michelle Stuhlmacher, a PhD student in geography, researches land use/land cover change using a blend of satellite image processing, archival research and on-the-ground social science. Download Full Image

The recipients of the most prestigious awards in mathematics and computer science — the Abel Prize, the Fields Medal (including the Nevanlinna Prize for contributions in mathematical aspects of information science), the ACM A.M. Turing Award and the ACM Prize in Computing — are invited to participate in the forum. According to the organization's website, the Heidelberg Laureate Forum brings these laureates at the apex of their careers together with 200 high-achieving graduate student and postdoctoral counterparts from around the world.

The forum gives early career researchers an opportunity for interaction that is typically not available within the normal university environment or in their home university department, whereby the laureates provide formal plenary lectures and lead small group discussions with topics driven by a combination of prepared presentations by the laureates as well as student questions. Connections will be made between young researchers and future collaborators; these relationships will bridge the gap between the generations of computer science and mathematics researchers.

"It is an honor to be selected to attend the Heidelberg Laureate Forum," Stuhlmacher said. "My research in geography involves the application of big data, image processing, and machine learning to remote sensing. Despite my application of methods from computer science, I very rarely have the opportunity to interact with the scholars that produce the image processing and machine learning scholarship that I build my remote sensing analysis from. Attending the week-long meeting in Germany will give me a chance to interact with those at the cutting edge of these fields in computer science and mathematics. Additionally, learning about how I am applying their methods to questions of environmental sustainability could be of potential interest to many of the leading scholars in computer science."

Stuhlmacher will head to Heidelberg, Germany, in September for the weeklong forum.

Manager, Marketing and Communication, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning


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The journey continues: Central American caravan members reach the US

May 7, 2018

In wake of caravan seeking asylum, ASU transborder professor says it’s hard to gauge American sentiment on illegal immigration

The ordeal is finally over for a Central American caravan seeking asylum, with the last of the members crossing the U.S. border on Friday after a week of delays and heavy media attention.

The caravan, comprised of migrant men, women and children from mostly Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, traveled approximately 2,000 miles from southern Mexico. They say they are escaping a life of violence, organized crime and immediate danger. Despite their reasons, the caravan of approximately 150 people were given a chilly reception at the U.S. port of entry near San Diego. They spent several nights in shelters, tents and makeshift camps, waiting to get processed.

President Donald Trump and the U.S. Department of Justice used the opportunity to send a tough-stance message to immigrants while advocates on the other side of the issue pushed hard for asylum. To gain a better understanding of this complex issue, ASU Now consulted Eileen Díaz McConnell, a professor in Arizona State University's School of Transborder Studies.

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Eileen Díaz McConnell

Question: A caravan of more than 150 people showed up at the U.S. border near San Diego seeking asylum in this country last week. What’s going on? 

Answer: Although many people see Mexico as solely the source of migrants, Mexico has long been a transit country that people from Honduras, El Salvador and elsewhere cross through to get to the United States, crossing Mexico on foot and on commercial trainsMcConnell says the train is called la bestia, or the beast, for that reason to get to the U.S. border. It is an extremely dangerous and long journey, with threat of injury or death from falling off a train that is not intended for passengers, [and threat of] sexual violence and exploitation from many bad actors including corrupt officials. These vulnerabilities are increased by the fact that these travelers are very far away from home and have few resources or networks on the trip. This is part of the reason why people might decide to travel in caravan, especially women and those with young children, to try to use safety in numbers to minimize the risk of assault, sexual violence, robberies, etc.  

A collective, Pueblo Sin Fronteras (Town Without Borders), has had a caravan like this for several years. Reporting suggests that several hundred are women and several hundred are children, most are from Honduras. Some of the people traveling in the caravan have asked for asylum in Mexico, while many are petitioning for asylum in the U.S. based on gang violence, organized crime, corruption, government-sponsored violence and repression. Most Central Americans who petition for asylum are denied. 

Q: Why has their entry taken so long to process and will they be allowed entry into this country? 

A: The process of petitioning for asylum takes a long time involving multiple federal agencies, interviewing and screening, and going before a judge to make a case that the requirements of asylum have been met. About 70 percent or more [of] people petitioning for asylum from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala who have legal representation are denied and denial rates are even higher for those who don’t have legal representation.

Cuban immigrants have been a prioriRelating to or derived by reasoning from self-evident propositions — presupposed by experience. categorized as refugees deserving of protection, although the "wet foot, dry foot policy" was ended in January 2017. The U.S. government has not categorized immigrants from other countries as meriting the same treatment even though they might have a reasonable fear of persecution or harm. Many migrants traveling in the caravan could meet the requirementsTo qualify for asylum, you must establish that you are a refugee who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality, or last habitual residence if you have no nationality, because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (https://www.uscis.gov/i-589). for asylum, either themselves personally or family members experiencing threats or harm in the past and having credible fears of harm if returned to their home countries. However, it’s also clear that judges’ decisions about who meets requirements for asylum are influenced by legal representation and factors that go beyond the specific petitioner, otherwise, there likely wouldn’t be such drastic differences in denial rates across countries.

Q: What are some historical reasons why immigrants flee their native countries to come to the United States?

A: As I begin, it’s important to emphasize that only about 4 percent of the world’s population actually leave their home country for another country, so the reasons that people leave must be incredibly strong.

People leave home countries and come to the U.S. for many reasons. Migration scholars emphasize both factors that push people out of their home country and factors pulling them to another country; and the combination of push and pull factors differ across countries, even within the same region. In the case of those leaving El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, push factors include decades of very high levels of violence. These countries have experienced long and violent civil wars and cities in these countries have some of the highest homicide rates in the world. It has been difficult to recover from hurricanes, floods and other disasters that have wiped out homes, roads, crops, and greatly affected agriculture and other industries. There are high poverty rates and unemployment rates. Governments in these countries have not only sponsored violence, but have not been able to resolve these long-standing problems that push people out. At the height of civil wars in countries like El Salvador and Honduras, emigrants sought political asylum in the United States, which means that people in El Salvador, Guatemala [and] Honduras may have family members who have been in the U.S. for decades. These social networks already in the U.S., coupled with work opportunities and a higher economic standard of living, help pull political refugees and economic migrants to the United States.

Q: Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently said, “When respect for the rule of law diminishes, so too does our ability to protect our great nation, its borders, and its citizens.” That seems to encapsulate the sentiment of many Americans regarding illegal immigration. What is it that most people do not understand or see regarding this situation?

A: In my view, it is difficult to know for sure whether Americans agree with this statement (that declines in rule of law affect ability to protect the nation) or whether Americans believe that this particular caravan of migrants at the border formally seeking entry into the U.S. is not respecting the rule of law. This particular caravan of migrants from Central America are trying to regularize their status and ask for asylum by presenting themselves at the border for admission, they are not trying to enter without formal authorization or overstay visas. That some migrants seeking admission may have been in the U.S. previously without legal status or after a stay of deportation does not necessarily suggest that the same people do not respect the rule of law. The reasons why people remain in the U.S. without legal status are complex and misunderstood. …

Regarding American sentiments about “illegal immigration” — with respect to immigrants in the U.S. without documentation (migration scholars tend to use terms like unauthorized or undocumented rather than illegal) — Americans are relatively divided in views about undocumented immigrants generally, especially by whether the respondents are Republicans, Democrats or Independents. And there is quite a bit of variation in public opinion about what the federal government should do about undocumented migration.

On the other hand, polls results actually suggest that Americans are increasingly positive about immigrants overall as constituting a strength rather than a burden to our country, compared to the 1990s. They are also pretty positive about groups such as undocumented youth finding a way to remain in the U.S. and the majority oppose the construction of a wall on the Southern border.

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Leapfrogging to educate the world

May 3, 2018

Brookings scholar Rebecca Winthrop discusses rapidly accelerating education at scale to reach world

There is a perception — shared by education professionals as well as the general public — that education is resistant to change and slow-paced.

Eight hundred million children around the world are not getting an education. How will that change?

By leapfrogging, said Rebecca Winthrop, a senior fellow and director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution.

Winthrop spoke at the biannual Frank Rhodes Lecture Series on the Creation of the Future at Arizona State University on Thursday. Each semester an individual with a commitment to institutional innovation visits ASU to deliver a public lecture on the creation of the future as well as meet with members of the university and greater community.

In a new book, “Leapfrogging Inequality,” Winthrop and colleagues at Brookings chart a new path forward in global education by examining the possibility of “leapfrogging” educational development — rapidly accelerating progress to ensure that all young people develop the skills they need to thrive in a fast-changing world.

“The real question is where are we trying to leapfrog to?” Winthrop said. “In education there is a wide range of goals.”

Mass education began in Prussia in the 1700s, when the country was creating a powerful military. There are two problems in global education, Winthrop said. 

Skills inequality happens when one group receives a better education than another. How do you get the best of what education has to offer to everybody? In the U.S., wealthy urban children are better-educated than poor rural children.

The other problem is skills uncertainty. In the future, 50 to 70 percent of current worker tasks will be lost to automation.

“Educational systems have to reorient teachers to educate kids for an uncertain future,” Winthrop said. “We have to have young people who are prepared to enter that future.”

Being prepared for that future means having the “competencies and skills to deploy that knowledge in different areas in life,” she said.

That’s achievable by transforming what and how children learn, with access to quality and relevant education.

The core elements of change will be learning and teaching coupled with the recognition that someone else — and not necessarily a school or college — will take over the reins and provide continuing education. She gave employers and nongovernmental organizations as examples.

She cited a successful innovation by a nongovernmental organization in India. The organization went to a number of rural schools. Groups of 10 children were given a tablet loaded with educational material. (Five were to use it in the morning, five in the afternoon. A parent was given the responsibility of charging it.) The tablet was password-protected, so they could only access the educational content.

Most of the kids hacked the portal and began producing videos, seeking out information beyond what they were being taught, and barraging their teachers with unexpected questions.

Six months later, they had a massive increase in literacy skills, and they also became excellent collaborative problem-solvers.

Top photo: Rebecca Winthrop, a senior fellow and director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, delivers the Frank Rhodes Lecture, "Can we Leapfrog?" on Thursday at Old Main on ASU's Tempe campus. Winthrop spoke about "leapfrogging" educational development — rapidly accelerating progress to ensure that all young people develop the skills they need to thrive in a fast-changing world. The "Frank Rhodes Lecture Series on the Creation of the Future: A Lecture Series for a New American University" began in 2011. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


Asian Pacific American program provides opportunity for all

May 3, 2018

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is celebrated at Arizona State University in April and nationally in May, but in the Asian Pacific American Studies program in the School of Social Transformation, heritage and culture are celebrated every day.

The program seeks to educate students about justice and ethnic movements, immigration, globalization and race relations nationally and internationally. Xena Baza is a graduating senior in the Asian Pacific American Studies program in the School of Social Transformation. Download Full Image

“In addition to research and teaching on Asians in the Americas, [the Asian Pacific American Studies program is] also committed to focus on the ‘P’ in APA studies, which refers to indigenous peoples and cultures in the Pacific/Oceania,” said Karen Kuo, associate professor of the program. “We have faculty and research in both Hawaiian and Pacific Islander studies and all of our courses teach both Asian Americans and Pacific Islander history, culture and experiences.”

The program offers a bachelor’s degree, minor and undergraduate certificate in Asian Pacific American Studies, and has faculty specializing in a variety of fields including ethnic studies, history, gender studies, literature, psychology, education and equality.

“Because the program is inherently interdisciplinary, the faculty that are part of this department are experts in many different areas,” said Xena Baza, a senior graduating this May with a Bachelor of Arts in Asian Pacific American Studies and a minor in American studies. “The passion behind the faculty and the dedication they have is so inspiring.”

With access to experienced and dedicated faculty and staff, students in the program receive a well-rounded liberal arts education in critical thinking, communication and community engagement.

“The program prepares its students to think critically about society and the institutions of power behind it,” Baza said. “It helps us to understand today's political climate better and prepares us to be competent contributors to our society. By learning about the historical factors that have affected our ancestors, we can learn how to improve our current conditions and move closer to equity and make a difference.”

After graduating, students often go on to conduct graduate-level education research or pursue careers in fields including law, business, nursing and others.

Ronae Matriano is currently a junior in the program, pursuing Bachelor of Arts degrees in biological sciences and Asian Pacific American Studies, and minoring in communication. After graduating, she plans to pursue her doctorate in counseling psychology and continue her research in Asian-American psychology.

“I feel that the program has prepared me for life outside of college by teaching me how to work with diverse populations and understand the power of my role in the community,” Matriano said. “The classes have taught me how to enact social change to improve my surroundings, which is incredibly valuable to me.”

Baza and Matriano’s ability to engage in multiple areas of social sciences while pursuing their degrees is something the program’s well-rounded curriculum offers. Students of all backgrounds have the chance to explore various fields, as the courses offered cover topics relating to numerous aspects of life.

“Unlike most other Asian-American studies programs nationally, [our] program brings together the social sciences and humanities,” Kuo said. “Our students are empowered to make a difference with diverse communities; they learn and develop skills to work with people who are different than themselves.”

With such a diverse population of students, faculty and courses available, the Asian Pacific American Studies program seeks to encourage lifelong learning and community engagement in the hope of creating a better future.

“We all have something to learn and every course provides students with something valuable,” Matriano said.

Olivia Knecht

Student writer-reporter, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


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Did sanctions bring Kim Jong Un to the negotiating table?

April 30, 2018

ASU expert remains cautious regarding North Korea's about-face on nuclear ambitions

A peace treaty is potentially in the works for North and South Korea, and leaders say they plan to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula within a year. They are also pursuing talks with the United States to put an end to the war that has continued for more than half a century, providing a reason for optimism.

President Donald Trump is taking credit for imposing his “maximum pressure” policy, which includes tough new sanctions on North Korea. He claims sanctions have finally brought their leader, Kim Jong Un, to the negotiation table.

To find out whether that claim has merit, ASU Now consulted Scott Silverstone, a former U.S. Naval officer, an ASU Senior Future of War Fellow with the Center on the Future of War and the author of a forthcoming book, “From Hitler’s Germany to Saddam’s Iraq: the Enduring False Promise of Preventive War.” 

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Scott Silverstone

Question: President Trump believes tough sanctions are bringing North Korea to the table with talks of freezing their nuclear program. Do you believe that sanctions brought them to this point?

Answer: Decision making within the North Korean government remains a mystery to outside observers, so it’s impossible to say with confidence how much impact economic sanctions have had on the regime’s behavior. In recent years, North Korean President Kim Jong Un has been pursuing dual priorities — the development of a potent nuclear weapons capability and economic growth to satisfy the expectations of a network of North Korean elites that his regime’s internal stability depends on. Recently, he announced that his nuclear goals have been met, so it’s now time to prioritize his economic objectives.

Sanctions relief is clearly an important factor for growing the economy. I’m not convinced, however, that Kim Jong Un would have abandoned his nuclear ambitions just to find relief from the “maximum pressure” campaign. For years the Kim regime has bluntly declared that its survival depends on the ability to deter an American attack. We have heard repeated references to the fate of Saddam Hussein of Iraq and Moammar Gadhafi of Libya from the North Koreans, and their determination to avoid a similarly violent end through the deterrent effect of a nuclear arsenal. It is no surprise that Kim Jong Un embraced diplomatic engagement after North Korea launched a missile that is believed to have a range capable of hitting dozens of American cities.

Q: Sanctions don’t seem to be foolproof, however. It has been said that Russia and China are violating the U.N.’s international sanctions. What can be done about this violation currently and again in the future?

A: Some of the best research on this question has uncovered a sophisticated network linking North Korean “state trading companies” and private Chinese companies, as well as foreign companies operating in China, which has provided North Korea a way to procure a range of foreign products, including key technical components for their nuclear weapons program. Interviews with North Korean defectors who previously worked for these companies have convinced John Park of Harvard University and Jim Walsh of MIT that the sanctions have not only been largely ineffective, they have provided an incentive for creativity by North Korean agents.

Disrupting these networks is a worthy policy goal, but success runs through Beijing and the Chinese firms doing business with North Korea. Park and Walsh note an interesting option: International sanctions have spurred the development of a “compliance culture” among Chinese businesses who increasingly fear the negative impacts to their reputations and their ability to do business with American and other foreign firms if they are caught in these relationships with North Korean state trading companies.

Q: In your opinion, do sanctions against other countries work, and when are they most effective?

A: The dominant view among scholars that have been studying economic sanctions for decades is that they are largely ineffective as a tool to inhibit weapons proliferation. While there are grounds for skepticism that sanctions will solve this problem, from a policy perspective it seems reasonable to include sanctions as part of a larger international effort to isolate countries that are violating nonproliferation goals. It sends a strong signal that proliferation is illegitimate, and will make it harder for the target states to operate freely within the global economy.

Three important cases demonstrate that sanctions can have an effect on those tempted to pursue illicit weapons. The sanctions regime imposed on Iraq in the 1990s was full of holes, but Saddam Hussein did in fact feel the pressure created by his inability to sell oil freely in the global market. One key motive for his decision not to reconstitute his illicit weapons programs after the Gulf War was to eventually win relief from oil sanctions. In the early 2000s, Libya came in from the cold, opening its suspect weapons sites to international inspectors in order to secure an end to U.N. oil sanctions.  And it is impossible to explain Iran’s willingness to agree to cap its nuclear ambitions in 2015 without the immensely painful international sanctions put in place in 2012.

Q: If North Korea does freeze its nuclear program, where do we go from here? How do we keep them in check?

A: This is the million-dollar question: How will the United States react when Kim Jong Un fails to offer complete unilateral nuclear disarmament in the coming negotiations? Kim will likely offer to “freeze” his nuclear activities, which could include foregoing weapons and missile tests for some period into the future.  Since this will lock in the status quo, preserving the various nuclear capabilities North Korea possesses today, the United States will likely refuse to consider this a legitimate option. On this point, the talks will deadlock. In the meantime, North Korea will try to use the offer to freeze its nuclear programs to drive a wedge between America and South Korea, and to gain greater support from China for its call for sanctions relief and normalized relations on the Korean peninsula. 

Logically, and historically, there is no reason to expect North Korea to denuclearize, since the regime believes its very survival depends on the ability to threaten nuclear reprisal against the United States and its regional allies. While American officials will never openly accept this status quo, the most likely response will be to continue with the United States’ de facto current policy: containment of a nuclear-armed North Korean adversary and deterrence of its potential aggression.

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay

Les Schiefelbein endows Global Dispute Resolution Program and scholarship at ASU Law

April 26, 2018

Les Schiefelbein, CEO and founder of Schiefelbein Global Dispute Resolution, has announced a gift to the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University to establish the Les Schiefelbein Global Dispute Resolution Program and Endowed Scholarship.

A goal of the global dispute resolution program is to provide students at ASU Law an innovative and interactive environment to gain knowledge, experience and develop professional connections that will help prepare them for practice in international arbitration and mediation with global law firms, multinational corporations, governments and nongovernment organizations. Les and Linda Schiefelbein Linda and Les Schiefelbein. Download Full Image

The program will feature an annual International Arbitration Forum where top lawyers, counsel for global corporations, internationally recognized arbitrators and mediators, and leaders at arbitration institutions will engage in discussions on timely issues in international dispute resolution.

The Les Schiefelbein Endowed Scholarship Fund will provide scholarship support for law students pursuing careers in global dispute resolution.

"The generous gift from Les and Linda Schiefelbein to create the Global Dispute Resolution Program, at the law school's Lodestar Dispute Resolution Center, will improve our ability to offer a world-class legal education to our students and prepare them for careers in the field of global dispute resolution," said Douglas Sylvester, dean of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. "Through this collaborative program, our students will have opportunities to interact with and learn from leading lawyers, arbitrators and mediators across multiple disciplines."

"International dispute resolution is complex, constantly evolving due to the breadth of a global economy and the fast pace of technology innovation and the need for new practitioners, both men and women, is paramount," said Les Schiefelbein. "The Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law has an impressive commitment to dispute resolution education, being ranked number seven in U.S. law schools for dispute resolution by U.S. News & World Report.

"It is the right place and this is the right time to provide a focused program to nurture the learning, talents, passion, and leadership skills for the next generation to be successful practitioners in global dispute resolution, especially where it is growing at a rapid pace in Asia, Europe and the United States."

Schiefelbein is a leading domestic and international arbitrator serving in complex commercial, government and technology disputes. Les has an extensive business and law background that includes 30 years as vice president and deputy general counsel at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. At Lockheed Martin, Schiefelbein advised senior leaders on a wide range of international aerospace, technology and national security matters and acted as counsel in many international arbitrations. He also is a retired colonel, Air Force judge advocate lawyer.

Schiefelbein currently serves as CEO and vice chairman of the executive committee of the Silicon Valley Arbitration & Mediation Center, a nonprofit that serves the global technology sector by promoting business practical resolution of disputes. He made the Silicon Valley Arbitration and Mediation Center's "Tech List," a catalog of the world's leading technology arbitrators and mediators, in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Schiefelbein received his JD from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.

Senior director of communications, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law


ASU program partners with scouts in Nicaragua on drug and conflict intervention program

April 24, 2018

In recognition of the need to curb drug use and violence for adolescents, the president of the National Scouting Association of Nicaragua signed a partnership agreement with Dale se REAL, an Arizona State University program that teaches young people practical ways to handle situations involving drugs and conflict.

The project is led by Hugh Downs School of Human Communication Assistant Professor Jonathan Pettigrew. It has received funding since 2013 from the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, a division of the U.S. State Department. Nicaraguan Scouts Asociación de Scouts de Nicaragua. Photo by Televicentro (Canal 2) Download Full Image

Dale se REAL is a program customized by Nicaraguan youth, for Nicaraguan youth. The program builds on the best drug and violence prevention practice in the U.S. and has adapted it to fit the Nicaraguan context. 

The story of the partnership agreement between the scouting program and ASU was recently covered on a national television station in Nicaragua.

“It was the scouts who called the news agency to witness the signing, which indicates the value they see in Dale se REAL and its role in their mission to support youth development,” Pettigrew said.

Dale se REAL teaches middle school students in 47 schools and organizations in Nicaragua skills for developing healthy relationships. The program also surveys some of the students in these institutions to learn about their family experiences, parent-child communication, and health behaviors like drinking alcohol or bullying. This enables Pettigrew and his team to examine direct and indirect associations between family bonding and adolescent alcohol use. 

Josh Allsup
Jorge Katín, president of the Asociación de Scouts de Nicaragua at a news conference with Josh Allsup, national director of Dale se REAL.

“We have discovered that it is the quality of direct communication about drugs and alcohol between parents and children that predicts adolescents' anti-drug perceptions, rather than the quantity," said YoungJu Shin, assistant professor in the Hugh Downs School who served as co-investigator for the grant project. "One good conversation between a parent and a child can be better than a series of conversations.”  

“Nicaraguans face unique substance-related challenges,” Pettigrew added. “For one thing, there is no legal drinking age, per se. The legal age for purchasing alcohol there is 18, but it is rarely enforced. Alcohol is relatively inexpensive and readily available. It is the most commonly used substance, which has led to numerous alcohol-related deaths. Because of this, the role that parents and prevention programs like Dale se REAL play in deterring teenage drinking is extremely valuable.”

Pettigrew is optimistic about the expansion of the program through the scouting program in Nicaragua. “Because of this agreement, hundreds more Nicaraguan youth will develop skills to keep them healthy throughout their lives.”

Manager, Marketing and Communication, Hugh Downs School of Human Communication


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ASU scholars save priceless manuscripts from obscurity

ASU profs' monumental find to inform virtual reconstruction of medieval church.
The Brigittine order of nuns gave women autonomy as far back as the Middle Ages.
Artifacts in monastery would be "El Dorado" for 18th-, 19th-century scholars.
April 23, 2018

Art historian, musicologist felt it was their duty to preserve centuries-old manuscripts detailing lives of unconventional nuns

In 1799, soldiers of Napoleon’s Egyptian campaign were knocking down walls to build a fort near the city of Rosetta when they found a large basalt slab inscribed with strange symbols. In 1820, a peasant searching for marble building blocks on the Greek island of Melos uncovered the statue of an armless woman. In 1974, Chinese farmers digging a well near the city of Xian unearthed 8,000 life-size terra-cotta soldiers, horses and chariots.

The Rosetta Stone; the Venus de Milo; the Xian Terra-cotta Army — priceless relics of the past, each imbued with a unique historical significance.

More recently, in October 2015, an international group of scholars visiting a monastery in Altomuenster, Germany, were unexpectedly granted entrée to its usually off-limits library. Inside was a treasure trove of texts and artifacts belonging to the unconventional Brigittine Order of Catholic nuns, dating from the 15th century to present day.

“You never think you’re going to discover an unknown library ever in your career,” said Corine Schleif, Arizona State University professor of art history. She and Volker Schier, a musicologist and visiting faculty at the Institute for Humanities Research, were leading the fortuitous scholars on a tour of European women’s monasteries.

The Altomuenster monastery, just northwest of Munich, was their last stop.

Left undisturbed for 500 years, the library contained over a thousand previously unknown manuscripts, as well as works of art and devotional objects. If it had belonged to another order, such as the Benedictines or Franciscans, about whom a great deal is already known, it probably wouldn’t have been as monumental a find.

“For the Brigittines,” Schier said, “it more than doubles the number of known manuscripts.”

Immediately recognizing the magnitude of the discovery but with impending flights back to their countries of origin, the group vowed to return at a later date and properly delve into the bounty. A month later, a proclamation came from the Vatican that the monastery was to be permanently shuttered.

“We assumed we could go back any time, that there was no immediate rush,” Schleif said. “Then when they closed the monastery we became very concerned.”

The location of the monastery, in the suburbs of Munich at the end of a commuter rail line, means real estate there is at a premium. Many older buildings have been converted into luxury housing to capitalize on the area’s popularity. Once it was announced that the monastery would be closed, Schleif and Schier feared it would succumb to the same fate, and the precious artifacts inside cast heedlessly asunder.

“You can only turn a monastery into condos if it’s empty,” Schier said.

Alarmed at the sheer volume of historical knowledge that stood to be lost if the ancient texts were split up and sold off to private buyers, or worse, thrown in a landfill, he and Schleif sprang into action. At first, they appealed to the papal commissar in Munich, offering to write a grant and secure funds to catalogue and digitize the collection.

Their offer was denied.

“They kept saying that they didn’t have any valuable books there,” Schleif said. “We had seen enough of them that we knew they were very valuable. They had more Brigittine texts than the whole rest of the world.”

So they went higher up the chain of command, writing a letter to Cardinal Reinhard Marx, the Archbishop of Munich and Freising, and had it signed by all the scholars in their tour group — including the late Tore Nyberg, a well-known Swedish professor and influential historian, whose clout they hoped might sway the church.

But still, nothing.

Once again, Schleif and Schier upped the ante. They drafted an online petition that garnered roughly 2,500 signatures from experts in fields as diverse as anthropology, literature and religious studies, who all agreed the Altomuenster library was a rare and invaluable find.

Adding to the pressure, several news outlets had gotten wind of the story and began sniffing around the monastery, where they were met with a less-than-warm reception. According to Schleif, one representative of the church told an Associated Press reporter something along the lines of: “We don’t need Americans telling us what to do with our cultural heritage; we have been at it much longer than they have.”

“So somehow our whole group — through me — became American,” Schleif said. Aside from her, the group of scholars included Schier, who is German, as well as citizens from such countries as Sweden, Finland and the Netherlands.

“That was kind of hard to take,” Schleif said. “This notion of ownership. That historical and cultural artifacts don’t belong to all of us.

“I feel really strongly that [for example] my African-American PhD student should not have to work [only] on African-American art. … Or a Native American student at ASU shouldn’t have to work [only] on Native American art. If we want to talk about global history and global culture and ‘worlding,’ as the new term is, then we have to find ways of practicing that.”

“What we are interested in as scholars is world cultural heritage,” Schier added, “and this is clearly world cultural heritage. Anybody on this planet should have the possibility to enjoy it, to see it, to study it, to work on it.”

The Altomuenster texts provide an excellent opportunity to study women’s history, in particular. The Brigittines were founded in 1344 by Saint Bridget of Sweden, who had a distinct vision for the order — one that gave women the upper hand. Whereas other orders were still presided over by men, Brigittine monasteries were entirely under the rule of an abbess.

“Women ran this institution for hundreds of years,” Schleif said. During the Middle Ages, that was no small feat. At the time, one of the only acceptable alternatives to marriage was to become a nun, and the Brigittines gave the women in their order the autonomy to make their own decisions, especially in financial matters.

One Brigittine Schleif and Schier learned of through letters recovered from the monastery was a widow who had entered into the order (one of the only ones to allow widows) upon her husband’s death in order to maintain control of her self-made fortune. As a Brigittine, she was able to use her wealth and influence to improve the lives of other women in the order.

“They were responsible for their own destiny, until right now,” Schleif said, alluding to the state of affairs the order finds itself in today; the reason behind the Vatican’s decision to close the Altomuenster monastery for good — presently, the Brigitine order counts just a handful of members. Both Schleif and Schier agree it’s on its last legs and that its impending demise only underscores the urgency to preserve the library and related artifacts.

“As an institution in the Middle Ages and beyond, where women had the option [to be autonomous] … we certainly want to keep documentation of that,” Schleif said.

The petition had been the tipping point. Soon after it went viral, Schleif and Schier received an email inviting them to come view the manuscripts at the diocesan archives in Munich, where they had been moved following the announcement of the monastery’s closing.

Over three days during the summer of 2017, Schleif, Schier and a third colleague sorted through towering stacks of dusty, weathered tomes, flipping the embrittled pages with diligence and alacrity. It wasn’t long before the treasures began to surface: a meticulous, hand-written card catalogue of the entire library, which proved exceptionally accurate and immensely helpful; processionals whose margins had been curiously torn away; and page after page of brilliantly colored illustrations.

Eventually, Schleif, Schier and their interdisciplinary group of scholars — including musicologists, historians and computer scientists — hope to use the texts to create a virtual reconstruction of a medieval church, where one can become immersed in the experience whilst listening to the songs that were sung, reading the prayer books and looking around at the architectural elements and fellow congregants, nuns and priests in period-appropriate dress.

They’ve titled the project Extraordinary Sensescapes. Their hope is that the combined effect of visual details and acoustics will transport users to another point in time.

“It’s important that we are able to empathize with each other and that we’re able to think ourselves into situations that are so vastly different from our own,” Schleif said. “And if we go back into history, maybe we can do it in a way that’s nonthreatening because we have analytical distance, and apply it to our own situations today.”

They’ll need to digitize whatever manuscripts from the Altomuenster library they intend to use for the project, and ideally they would like to digitize the entire library to make it accessible to scholars everywhere. However, both Schleif and Schier agree the need to protect the physical texts themselves is just as crucial because of what we can learn from the material elements.

“It wouldn’t be enough to digitize them,” Schier said. “A photo can never show you the real colors. It jumps at you. But it’s not only the colors that you can’t digitize, it’s also the utmost detail, down to every little brushstroke.”

And every little torn margin. He and Schleif presume that the margins torn out of the processionals may have been used to stiffen the fabric of the Brigittines’ distinctive crowns, which are composed of several white strips fastened with five red dots depicting the wounds of Christ.

“That gives you an idea of how important the material is,” Schleif said. “These things tell stories. It’s not just about the text. You really do want to touch it and look at it carefully. These books were put in oxcarts and traveled through Europe. Each book has its own history, if it could only talk.”

Thanks to the efforts of Schleif, Schier and their colleagues, those histories will continue to be shared, now that the library is safely housed at the diocesan archives.

“I see it as one of the major successes of my career, and [a major success for] ASU, actually,” Schleif said. “We’ve preserved world cultural heritage, even though we’re so far away. I think our interests should go beyond the desert, to the rest of the world, too.”

Another win for the scholars is the fact that the Altomuenster manuscripts are being kept as an ensemble. Often, through accidents of preservation, collections of texts become irrevocably separated as books are lost, sold or thrown out, leaving scholars with the task of piecing together and trying to make sense of what remains.

“Here, we have this intact library,” Schleif said. One that serves as an uninterrupted historical account of the life and culture of the Brigittines from 1496, when the Altomuenster monastery was built, to present day.

The future of the nonliterary items that filled the monastery remains uncertain. Schleif and Schier witnessed their removal from the monastery vicariously, through photos taken and sent to them by one of the last nuns still residing there. They described the manner in which centuries-old habits, altars, crucifixes and statues were handled and transported as “appalling”: roughly packed into ordinary moving trucks without protection. And they’re still unsure as to where the items ended up.

That, however, is a mantle they hope a more suited champion will assume.

“If one fights, one has to try to succeed. And we were happy that we could succeed [where the library was concerned],” Schier said. “But we thought that perhaps another scholar might take up the fight for the other objects. And they’re worthwhile to fight for. Somebody working in the 18th or 19th century … for them, this is El Dorado.”

Looking back on the ordeal, it’s no question Schleif and Schier would do it all over again if they had to.

“We are scholars. We have to pipe up if we see important cultural heritage endangered,” Schier said. “This is our responsibility, and we have to make it known and take on necessary actions.”


Top photo: Liturgical manuscript dated 1486, probably written in Nuremberg and brought to Altomuenster by the founding sisters from the monastery of Maihingen. Photo by Volker Schier

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Barrett senior wins one of world's most prestigious scholarships

April 19, 2018

ASU student and Zimbabwe citizen heads to UK for pharmacology doctorate with Gates Cambridge Scholarship

Charity Bhebhe had about a 1.5 percent probability of winning one of the world’s most prestigious scholarships.

It was enough.

This month, the Arizona State University senior from Zimbabwe found out she beat out thousands of other applicants from around the world to earn a Gates Cambridge Scholarship.

One of 92 scholars, the molecular biology and biotechnology major in the School of Life Sciences — also a Mastercard Foundation Scholar — will pursue a doctoral degree in pharmacology at Cambridge University in the United Kingdom.

“I am very excited, and I am proud of myself,” Bhebhe said. “I am also very thankful to everyone who helped me with the application — especially my advisers, professors and my mentor and (principal investigator) Dr. Heather Bean for all the guidance and support. I wouldn’t have done it without their help.”

While at Cambridge, scholars pursue the full range of subjects available and are spread through its departments and colleges. Up to 95 scholars are selected each year, including 40 from the U.S. and 55 from other countries. Of this year’s almost 5,800 applicants, 423 were shortlisted by their departments and, of these, 201 were interviewed in the U.S. and Cambridge by four panels of interviewers drawn from across Cambridge University.

“Winning a Gates Cambridge Scholarship is a remarkable achievement, and my office and the Barrett leadership could not be prouder of Charity,” said Kyle Mox, associate dean of Barrett, The Honors College at ASU and director of the Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement.

“She is among a cohort of only 92 stellar students from around the entire world chosen to receive this honor, which illustrates not only her remarkable academic and intellectual potential, but her long-term leadership potential,” Mox said. “She’s somebody that is going to make a real difference in the future.”

The lack of basic resources to treat minor illnesses in Zimbabwe spurred Bhebhe to study the molecular mechanisms of diseases with the goal of successfully preventing them.

“It has always been my goal to be able to apply my medical research skills in investigating and preventing diseases to improve health care standards and give people from disadvantaged communities like my own a fair chance to fight against disease,” she said. “I intend to use my training in pharmacology to continue researching molecular and cellular systems involved in disease progression and, consequently, develop therapies for human disease.”

ASU and Barrett were a huge help in winning the honor, Bhebhe said. She heard about the opportunity from the Barrett Office of National Scholarship Advisement.

Mox talked her through the process and provided pointers for the application.

“I received a lot of help and guidance from my professors and advisers as well on the writing portion of the application and the preparing for the interviews,” she said.

Charity is the third Gates Cambridge Scholar from ASU in the past four years. In the 2016 competition year, ASU alum Michael Meaney was selected, and in the 2015 competition year, Blake Thomson was honored. Other recent ASU winners include Nicole Person-Rennell in 2011 and Ben Strauber in 2010.

“This high level of commitment — to research, leadership, and service — is a fundamental quality of the Barrett community, and we try to encourage our students to see how they can leverage their talents against the opportunities that they receive at ASU to go out into the world and tackle the big problems,” Mox said. “It isn’t always apparent to our students, when they’re walking back and forth to meals or study sessions, that they live and study at a global campus. When our students win these sorts of awards, I hope they say, 'Yes, I can do that, too.'”

The Gates Cambridge Scholarship program was established in October 2000 by a donation of $210 million from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to the University of Cambridge. Scholarships are awarded to outstanding applicants from countries outside the U.K. to pursue a full-time postgraduate degree in any subject available at the University of Cambridge. Scholars are selected on the basis of their outstanding intellectual ability, leadership potential and commitment to improving the lives of others.

Top photo: Charity Bhebhe will head across the pond to study on the Gates Cambridge Scholarship. Photo by Nicole Greason

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now