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Public Service Academy develops purpose-driven civilian, military leaders

November 6, 2017

ASU undergraduate program leverages the experiences of both ROTC and non-military students with service-oriented career goals

Brett Hunt sits in his seventh-story office on Arizona State University’s Downtown Phoenix campus, interviewing millennials a good portion of his days.

Often he feels like he’s the one been interviewed. They want to know the values of his organization. What it is doing for the community and how it will benefit society as a whole?

“They’re past it. They’re post-political,” said Hunt, director of the ASU’s Public Service AcademyThe Public Service Academy is a unit inside the College of Public Service and Community Solutions.. “They are purpose-driven like you and I weren’t.”

The students Hunt sees today are mostly service-oriented and unlike those of his generation, he said. They’re not looking for careers that will bring them financial rewards and riches. The rewards will come from helping others, they believe.

“That’s radical, right?” Hunt said. “These students are the signal shifters and actively changing the world. Those are the kinds of students we’re preparing for the future workforce.”

Now in its third year, the Public Service Academy is a first-of-its-kind undergraduate programPublic Service Academy students complete a four-year, six-course program of study and graduate with a certificate in Cross-Sector Leadership, in addition to an undergraduate degree in their chosen field of study. to develop leaders of tomorrow who are prepared to find solutions for society’s biggest challenges and create a culture of service. It does so by leveraging and combining military and civilian experiences. It has two tracks: Reserve Officer Training Corps, the existing university-based program to commission officers into the U.S. Armed Forces, and Next Generation Service Corps, a program for service-oriented students from all majors to become civilian service leaders.

"Having served in combat twice with the millennials, recruited them for four and a half years during my last command and have served with them at ASU for the past five years, I have seen firsthand that they have an exceptional heart and passion for service and the drive to make a difference," said Benjamin C. Freakley, former commanding general for the U.S. Army and special adviser to ASU President Michael M. Crow for leadership initiatives. "Our world needs character-driven leadership more than ever and our Next Generation Service Corps leaders are stepping up. Our adaptive student-leaders are preparing for their critical roles of service in the future."

The 400-member academy was launched in 2015 in part on the idea that society needs collaborative leaders of character committed to serving the public good. They are trained in hopes of being the next generation of leaders in the United States Armed Forces, Peace Corps, Teach for America, AmeriCorps, the private and nonprofit sectors, and all branches of local, state and national government.

Twenty-year-old academy member Jakob Luttrell, who is attending ASU on an ROTC scholarship, said he always knew he was destined for a life in the military. When he graduates in 2019 with a degree in global studiesThe degree is offered through ASU's School of Politics and Global Studies., he’ll enter the Army as a second lieutenant.

“Sure there were a lot of other career opportunities where I could have made more money, but I didn’t feel that was my calling,” Luttrell said. “I felt that it was necessary that I do my part to serve my country.”

Luttrell said he views the military more as peacekeepers than a war machine, and combat is only a small part of what they do.

“The military is about supporting families, fellow soldiers and people in need,” he said. “They are some of the most dedicated and selfless people I know.”

Beth Evans
Tourism junior Elizabeth Evans holds a meeting with her student chapter of Meeting Planners International directed toward tourism and hospitality majors. The group's mentor, ASU alumna Ceré Netters, is guiding the fledgling group and is giving them ideas to attract more members. Evans is a member of the Public Service Academy and has served internships in both the public and private sectors. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Helping people in need has been a constant theme in the life of Elizabeth Evans, a member of the Next Generation Service Corps.

“I know it sounds cheesy, but when I help someone it makes me feel happy inside,” said Evans, a tourism development and managementThe degree is offered through the College of Public Service and Community Solutions. major. “Yes, I could do things for me and me only, but I don’t feel that’s my purpose.”

Evans, who comes from a small town in Northern California, said the Public Service Academy has opened her up to new situations and scenarios, including an internship with the Salvation Army in Washington, D.C.

“Getting exposed to places and perspectives allows you to see how the other side of the planet lives,” Evans said. “Before my internship, I had never thought about going into nonprofit work. But now it could be a real possibility.”

Chris Frias
Economics and public service and public policy dual-major junior Christopher Frias takes a break between classes and meetings on the Tempe campus. He served as the Public Service Academy's first chief of staff. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Lots of possibilities abound for Christopher Frias, a junior double-majoring in economics and in public service and public policy. He said as a minority growing up mostly in south and west Phoenix, he wants to “pave the way for others to follow in his footsteps.”

A Next Generation Service Corps member, Frias said he hopes to be a congressional aide one day. However, if he finds a job in the private sector he said he’ll pull up several people along the way.

“This organization has showed me that you can be successful in an organization and gear it towards having a social impact and making a difference in your community,” Frias said.

Imani Stephens
Journalism junior Imani Stephens volunteers at the downtown Pitchfork Pantry for students in need. When she isn't working on journalism projects or her dual minors in justice studies and Spanish — or her Leadership and Ethics certificate — she spends much of her time volunteering for public-sector groups as a member for the Public Service Academy. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

That’s the same mind-set held by journalism major Imani Stephens, a Next Generation Service Corps member raised in a single-mother household in Compton, California.  

“Even though my career choice will be journalism, I have found a way to give back to society by shining a light on marginalized communities and bringing awareness to all types of people,” said Stephens, who joined the academy three years ago. “I don’t want to leave anyone out of the conversation.”

She said the most important thing she has learned while in the academy was simple, but important.

“Just to be myself and focus on my personal mission, which is how to be of service to others,” she said.


The Public Service Academy originated from a $1.2M gift from ASU President Michael Crow and his wife, Sybil Francis.  


Top photo: Public Service Academy member Jakob Luttrell is using his Army ROTC experience to serve in the public sector. Last summer he served in Lithuania alongside NATO allies, and taught English to first responders. He's a third-generation military serviceman. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

As NSF grant ends, ASU-led Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance continues to grow

November 2, 2017

Following a five-year National Science Foundation grant, the Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance continues to grow to take on the phosphorus problem in the global food system. Phosphorus, a basic element found in all living things, enables modern agriculture as a key component of most fertilizers. But phosphorus also poses a serious threat to the environment.

Phosphorus runoff contaminates rivers, lakes, and streams, providing an overabundance of nutrients that leads to toxic algal blooms. Phosphorus runoff can cause harmful algal blooms that endanger wildlife and business in areas like the Great Lakes region. Image courtesy: NASA. Phosphorus runoff can cause harmful algal blooms that endanger wildlife and business in areas like the Great Lakes region. Image courtesy: NASA.

“We have highly impaired waters all over the United States that are causing major economic damage and killing wildlife, so this is a huge issue,” said Matthew Scholz, research professional and senior sustainability scientist at Arizona State University.

Scholz is program manager for the National Science Foundation’s Phosphorus Sustainability Research Coordination Network (RCN) and the Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance, housed in the Biodesign Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology. He describes the alliance as an industry nonprofit, and one of the major deliverables from the NSF grant.

“We are very focused at this phase on implementation of sustainable phosphorus solutions,” Scholz said. “We have done five years of research in our prior project with our NSF grant and now we are working with industry to affect some change.”

Attracting industry attention

The Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance recently received a second round of funding from the OCP Group, a Moroccan mining company that owns the largest deposits of phosphate rock in the world. OCP has already provided the Alliance with $200,000 in funding and will provide an additional $150,000 over the next three years.

Scholz said phosphorus pollution is a major issue for the industry, so their support of the alliance shows, “they are trying to take a more proactive stewardship role.”

OCP staff first attended an Alliance event in 2015, and Bruce Rittmann, director of the Biodesign Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology and a Regents’ Professor at ASU, gave a talk at an OCP event in Morocco earlier this year.

The alliance grew out of industry interest in phosphorus sustainability and recycling during the original NSF grant period, which brought together dozens of researchers from around the world. Scholz said they wanted to broaden the network while the grant was extended for an additional period.

Forging new partnerships

This year, the alliance grew to nine member organizations representing different stages of the phosphorus value chain, Scholz said.

“We’ve made our first forays into the composting industry, which is interesting because OCP represents the beginning of the value chain for phosphorus, they are pulling it out of the ground, and then composting is at the very end, they are the folks taking the food waste and turning it into nutrients,” he said. “If you think about those two, if you want to close the loop, those are your end players and everyone sits in between, and that is our mission, to bring all the different nodes together along that value chain and get them to interact and think about how to manage phosphorus more sustainably.”

“It’s a really complex problem and there aren’t any silver bullet solutions,” Scholz said. But he points to innovative agricultural techniques that could help, like extracting legacy phosphorus from the soil, practicing regenerative farming or reducing tilling.

“There is a whole suite of practices, this is kind of ‘known art,’ that has not necessarily been disseminated, so there is room for education.”

An outreach mission

The alliance hosted a Phosphorus Forum in Washington, D.C. in May with more than 80 attendees, which Scholz said is “quite a good response for such a narrow topic.” The alliance also distributes a quarterly newsletter and publishes daily updates on Twitter, @SustainP, reaching hundreds of interested professionals.

On Nov. 16, the alliance will livestream “Extreme Climate, Extreme Phosphorus,” a webinar about the impact of climate change on phosphorus issues. Scholz said he anticipates more extreme weather events like hurricanes or flash flooding will cause erosion and runoff, push nutrients like phosphorus into waterways and lead to harmful algal blooms.

Upcoming alliance projects will focus on the land application of fertilizers because agriculture remains “the main driver of phosphorus use and unfortunately phosphorus pollution as well,”  Scholz said.

He hopes to educate more people about the problem of phosphorus pollution and recruit more companies to grow the Alliance.

“A large part of this moves based on corporate initiative,” he said. “A lot of this happens beyond the regulatory sphere.”

The Sustainable Phosphorus Alliance is North America’s central forum and advocate for the sustainable use, recovery, and recycling of phosphorus in the food system. Its director is James Elser from the ASU School of Life Sciences, and it is located at the Biodesign Institute at Arizona State University in the Biodesign Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology with the support of center director Bruce Rittmann. For more information visit phosphorusalliance.org.

Ben N. Petersen

Student Science Writer, The Biodesign Institute


ASU center shares knowledge of Chinese scholars with students

November 1, 2017

"Ai-si-yo" is homophonoushaving the same pronunciation as another or others but different meaning, origin, or spelling to ASU in Chinese and also translates to "friends who are passionate about ideas."

Dedicated to introducing the most recent social science research by young Chinese scholars at Arizona State University, the International Students & Scholars Center (ISSC) launced their first event this month on the Tempe campus. The program hopes to share the knowledge of Chinese scholars and experts through face-to-face conversations with students while discussing how to report politics in China and in the U.S. through the lens of Beijing-based Chinese journalist Xiaofeng Wang. group of students at event Download Full Image

Co-hosted by Wang, who’s now a Humphrey Fellow at ASU Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and Tianlong You, a scholarly activist and freelance writer who is attending the justice studies doctoral program at ASU, the event explored the topic at the intersection of the challenges media is facing: fake news, censorship, social media, Eurocentric bias and media ethics.

“I hope this program will invoke people’s curiosity in other fields of study and let them care about things beyond themselves,” You said.

Chinese students filled up the Cochise Room at the Memorial Union for the event.

“It deepens my understanding of China’s media environment,” said Tianyu Xu, a Thunderbird School of Global Management junior. "It's an opportunity to voice our opinions and concerns”.

A second event, featuring Chinese farmers’ “enclosure movement” in East Africa, will be hosted by geography doctoral student Puyang Li in mid-November.


Written by Yu ZHANG

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ASU professor explores Catalonia-Spain feud

November 1, 2017

Catalonia’s official quest for independence from Spain was squashed by the country’s constitutional court Tuesday, temporarily ending the long-simmering separatist movement towards total autonomy.

Spain’s central government has now taken direct control of the Catalonian government, sacking more than 100 officials, chasing its former president to Belgium and attempting to restore order to the region.

Catalonia’s bid for succession has placed Spain in its worst political crisis since the 1970s. To gain a better understanding of this complex situation, ASU Now turned to Jeffrey Kassing, a professor of communication studies in Arizona State University's School of Social and Behavioral Sciences who teaches an annual study-abroad class in Catalonia.

Man in green shirt
Jeffrey Kassing

Question: Can you give us some historical context why Catalonia wants succession from Spain? 

Answer: There are several key reasons. First, Catalans see themselves as distinct culturally from the rest of Spain. The history of Catalonia as a European nation state predates modern Spain by several centuries. In fact, Catalonia was a thriving economic/Mediterranean power from the 12th to 15th centuries, which spanned from Barcelona to Naples, Sicily and Athens. Catalonia has its own language derived from Latin that achieved status similar to Spanish, French and Italian during the development of Europe.

Second, there is a history of repression against Catalonia, with their language and government institutions being banned on several occasions. This was particularly evident during Franco’s rule from the late 1930s through the 1970s.

Q: Is there a financial subtext for Catalonia wanting its own government?

A: Catalonia currently and historically has maintained a robust economy. Many Catalans feel that the level of taxation the region incurs does not match the resources re-invested in Catalonia.

Spain would suffer economically if Catalonia would depart. Thus, there is support for keeping Catalonia as part of Spain.

Q: How do Spaniards outside of Catalonia feel about this issue? 

A: My impression is that most Spaniards are quite dismissive of the Catalan independence movement. It is not well understood outside of Catalonia, particularly if people do not know the region’s history.

Catalans have a strong cultural identity that is lost on Spaniards generally. This takes the form of maintaining traditional festivals, dances and games as a key part of their culture through active participation in these activities. So their cultural practices aren’t simply folklore that exists in books and museums but rather something that is enacted routinely in public displays. For example, human tower building, or castells, is a unique Catalan sporting tradition. It is practiced widely throughout the region, routinely put on display at festivals and even has a biannual competition that draws the best teams, large crowds and a televised production.

Q: Speaking of sporting traditions, does the role of soccer play a part in this?

A: Yes. FC Barcelona (FCB) has a long and clear association with Catalonia. The team badge carries the Catalan flag on it as does the collar of the team’s jersey. During the Franco regime the stadium was one of the few places large groups could gather. Thus, it became a place where one could go and show their Catalan identity. Although finding itself in a tenuous place at the moment, the club has historically embraced its role and place as a representation of Catalan identity.

Catalan flag

A fierce rivalry exists with Real Madrid, the capital club and one that has become synonymous with Franco’s regime and the Spanish state. The rivalry is littered with stories and myths about the advantages Real Madrid received over the years in relation to FCB. So the rivalry between these clubs has mirrored and paralleled the perspective that Catalonia has been persecuted and disadvantaged by the Madrid-based centralized Spanish government.

Q: What do you teach in your class about Catalonia, and what is the work that you do give clarity about this complicated region?

A: The course begins with a focus on Catalan history and culture. We then examine the politics of the independence movement. The final part of the course considers the role sport plays in cultural identity generally, but particularly in Catalonia. The involves a close examination of Barcelona playing host to the 1992 Olympics and the role FCB plays in embodying Catalan identity. All of this is brought together when we visit Barcelona. There we see the distinct art and architecture that makes the city uniquely Catalan. We examine historical sites that remind students of the long history in the region and the struggle against repression (e.g., bomb shelters used in the Spanish Civil War). And we visit the Olympic Village and Museum as well as the FCB stadium and museum.

On the first day of class I ask students to share why they wanted to take the course. Many are interested in studying abroad in Spain. To which, I pose the question, “What if I told you, you weren’t going to Spain but to Catalonia?” This serves to introduce the idea that while part of Spain, Catalonia is a place that sees itself as distinct from Spain.

On the research side, I am preparing to collect data from foreign supporters of FCB related to their impressions of the club and how it represents Catalan identity. This is an exploration of the global brand FCB has developed and the degree to which the club has exported the idea of Catalan identity and independence.

Top photo: The Spanish flag. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

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The meaning behind Day of the Dead

October 30, 2017

ASU professor, students share how they celebrate the holiday, thoughts on its commercialization

Sugar skulls at craft stores and processions in James Bond movies — the imagery associated with Day of the Dead has spread through the United States and often the line between it and Halloween is blurred for many Americans.

However, while modern Halloween celebrations are all about costumes, candy and thrills, Dia de los Muertos is about honoring those who have passed. 

Rather than mourn the deceased, the Mexican tradition celebrates their lives through their favorite foods, drinks and songs.

Assistant Professor Monica De La Torre, whose family did not regularly commemorate Dia de los Muertos, recognizes the appeal of the traditions to outsiders.

“That’s the beautiful part of the practice, it’s a constant remembering of that person that isn’t always tied to grief but tied to celebration and tied to happiness,” she said. 

The two-day holiday is an amalgam of indigenous celebrations of death and the Roman Catholic calendar. It’s observed Nov. 1 and 2 — during All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

Some families create altars or boxes that contain symbols of the four classical elements — often represented through candles, incense, cups of water and corn. Other offerings that can be placed on the altar include salt, marigolds (Cempasuchil) and tercio rojo (cockscomb), pan de muertos (bread of the dead) and sugar skulls. 

While not all families create altars, most will go to the grave of their loved one and tend to it and spend the day eating and drinking together with the deceased in spirit.

“We bring different foods for each person that we’re celebrating, sometimes we try to do their favorite food, sometimes it’s like tamales and arroz rojo,” said film junior Miguel Guteerriez.

“I would just hang out with my parents and my tios (uncles) and they would just sit in the cemetery next to graves.”

This year, Gutierrez and his classmates spent time making tissue-paper marigolds for the School of Transborder Studies altar, created by the Latinx Graduate Student Alliance.

Alejandra Nieland Zavala, an education policy graduate student and alliance member, originally introduced the idea to make the altar to her fellow graduate students.

“This is like the huge holiday for me, I can still remember as a little girl walking to the cemetery on Nov. 2 and cleaning the graveyards of my great-great grandparents, and leaving flowers and leaving their favorite foods. It makes me feel homesick so I was like I need to celebrate this special day, to remember where we’re from,” she said.

Nieland Zavala decorated the case with Calavera Catrina imagery that she created herself. 

Mexican illustrator Jose Guadalupe Posada originally created the bust of a woman’s skeleton wearing a large fancy hat in the early 1900s, as a commentary on Mexico’s Eurocentric elite. The name we know today — Calavera Catrina — was dubbed by muralist Diego Rivera and over time has become a central Day of the Dead image.

Soon, the holiday will get even more recognition from “Coco,” a Disney movie about a young boy in the Land of the Dead, which will premiere in the U.S. next month. However, it originally received blowback in 2013 for attempting to copyright the name Day Dead. 

“That goes hand in hand with the process of capitalizing or commercializing on a cultural holiday. But on the other hand it brings the visibility to the Latino community on a large scale,” De La Torre said. 

In her Latina/o Media and Pop Culture class, De La Torre showed a slide of a “sexy day of the dead costume,” which was sold out online. She asked students to share their personal experiences celebrating the holiday and to share their opinions on the costume. 

“You can’t control how people take on a cultural tradition, you can’t police people around that,” De La Torre said. “I think that’s the wrong move, I think the move is to educate.”

For De La Torre, those who want to utilize the Mexican holiday as their Halloween costume should ask themselves a simple question.

“The first thing is asking yourself some really basic questions around what your motivations are for doing it, whether or not you understand it. If you’re going to paint your face, do you know what the significance is of donning a skull on your face?” 

If you can’t answer that question, De La Torre suggests researching the history and tradition because it’s too easy to erase Latinos — in particular Mexican and indigenous Mexicans from the holiday.

“I hope people see it more as a reward, that it is complicated, and if you make an effort to learn it and to really have an understanding, that goes beyond the fun aspect of it, right? To just take the fun is irresponsible, about any cultural aspect.”

Deanna Dent

Photographer , ASU Now


'Immigrant mentality' gives Thunderbird student competitive edge

October 30, 2017

This profile is part of a series highlighting the personal stories and achievements of Thunderbird students. Ready to read more? Subscribe to the Knowledge Network newsletter.

Fernando Cruz credits “the immigrant mentality” — along with his mother — for taking a boy from a Brazilian shanty town, or favela, and turning him into a successful entrepreneur. Fernando Cruz '17, Brazil, Executive Master of Global Management Download Full Image

“I grew up in a poor family, but I was blessed to have a mom who had a vision for me,” said Cruz, who is pursuing an executive master’s degree in global management at Arizona State University's Thunderbird School of Global Management. “She didn’t have an education past 3rd grade, but she’d say, ‘Education is very important.’”

Hard work was important too. As a young boy, Cruz would help his mom sell water on the beach: “We didn’t have a license or anything, but we had that entrepreneurial spirit.”

He also went door to door in the neighborhood, offering to do odd jobs: “I could’ve been out playing soccer, but this was our mentality. Nothing is given to you, so you always work hard for what you want.”

Cruz relied on that work ethic to graduate from high school. “That was a big thing in our favela,” he said.

But college was out of reach. “I just didn’t have the money,” he said. “So when I came across an opportunity to work in the United States. I said ‘Let’s do it.’

Cruz had been promised a $10-an-hour job as technical mechanic at a soon-to-be launched company. He would draw field plans and work with big machines. “I thought, at $10 an hour, I’ll be a millionaire!”

“Some people said I was crazy, but I had nothing to lose. I lived in a shanty town with crappy jobs and no future,” he said. “If it didn’t work out, at least I’d learn English and I could go back to Brazil and get a better job.”

A change of plans

With $250 in his pocket, Cruz arrived in the United States. Just four months earlier, at age 23, he had married his high school sweetheart, but they were too broke for her to accompany him on the initial trip.

Cruz was excited to chase the American dream.

“In Brazil, you’d hear all about the United States. Hollywood is the best marketing tool,” he said. “When we met Americans, we’d ask them, ‘Do you know Arnold Schwarzenegger? Do you know Sylvester Stallone? Why not? You’re an American!’”

But his new path in the U.S. quickly took a detour: the job Cruz was promised fell through.

“You do whatever it takes, working two or three jobs, 20 hours a day if necessary. And that mentality becomes your competitive advantage.”

“So I started mowing lawns. Then I learned to do snow removal. Then I got a job cleaning restaurants,” he said. “It was tough, because I probably slept only two hours a day. I was going to school to learn English during the day. Then I’d go home, change clothes and mow lawns. Then at night I’d shower and change and go clean restaurants. The next day, I’d go back and repeat. It was like ‘Groundhog Day.’

“But the experience was valuable because it taught me the immigrant mentality,” he said. “You do whatever it takes, working two or three jobs, 20 hours a day if necessary. And that mentality never really goes away — it becomes your competitive advantage.”

Building a business

The detour didn’t change Cruz’s long-term goals, which were to “go to school, get my master’s, go back to Brazil and get a great job,” he said. “But then an opportunity came. Somebody came to me and said, ‘I want to open a company with you.’ I had never dreamed of being an entrepreneur, to have my own business. But every time I’d close a door, two or three would open.”

Cruz and a friend started a small import-export business and in the first few years tried their hand at solar, janitorial services and even importing granite.

“I had never dreamed of being an entrepreneur, to have my own business. But every time I’d close a door, two or three would open.”

He was a skilled salesman, but the insecurity of sales reminded Cruz of what awaited if he failed: “If you don’t sell it, you don’t make money. And if you don’t make money, you go back to the shanty town.”

But Cruz was making money. The janitorial company, Dynamond Building Maintenance, which they launched in April 2006, hit $800,000 in sales by the end of that year. Two years later, it jumped to $3.7 million. 

“It grew like crazy,” he said. “But when the economy dropped in 2008, clients stopped paying and we lost 52 percent of our sales. We had to use our own capital to keep it going.”

That’s when Cruz realized the company needed a new approach. “We had four partners — too many chiefs.” he said. “We changed our strategy and growth goals. We hired dedicated people with a lot of experience. And today, we have a great organization.”

‘Thunderbird was perfect’

Those changes gave Cruz enough breathing room to pursue his master’s degree. A Utah resident, Cruz lives near quality executive MBA programs. But after speaking with Thunderbird alums, reviewing school rankings and doing research, he chose Thunderbird.

“Thunderbird was perfect,” he said. “The executive master’s in global management program really focuses on numbers, and I needed to know how to make decisions based on numbers. My company had plans to go international, and it was important for me to get a master’s that would help me with connections and knowledge.”

He also points to Thunderbird’s emphasis on systems and cultures. “The tools we get at Thunderbird really help us understand differences. I wouldn’t get that in another MBA program,” he says. “If I’m missing that huge part, then how could I make the best decisions for our employees?”

Cruz gives an example from a recent industry seminar: “I was talking with a supplier and told him what I was studying at Thunderbird. He tried to be funny and asked, ‘How does a global management degree help you in Utah?’ I looked at him and said, ‘In my company alone, we have over 10 countries represented. So, where can you use a global management education? You can use it anywhere.’”

Now that he’s in the program, Cruz is impressed with Thunderbird’s influential network. “It’s mind-blowing,” he said. “For example, I just met Carlos Neuhaus from Peru. He’s the CEO of the Pan-American Games in 2019. And he is a Thunderbird alum.”

“Thunderbird was perfect. It’s important for me to get a master’s that helps me with connections and knowledge.”

Cruz knows he has come a long way from his favela, and he has advice for other budding entrepreneurs: “I never forgot where I came from. Don’t give up. You’re going to have bad days, but just keep working and keep pushing. It’s amazing to see the journey.

“Money is great, but it’s not everything. It’s what you do with it,” he said. “My organization could stop growing right now and I’d be fine for the rest of my life. But I want to create something special. So with all these influential contacts, I’m always thinking ‘ How can we help each other?’We can use our network to do something good.

“December feels really far away,” he laughed, “but after graduation, it’s going to be a real honor to say I’m part of this family — I’m a Thunderbird alum.’"

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Former investigative journalist to speak on parallels between fake news proliferation in Southeast Asia, rest of world

The proliferation of fake news is a global media phenomenon.
October 27, 2017

The reign of corrupt Filipino dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the 1970s and '80s was marked by a heavily controlled, strictly censored national media.

His fall from power in 1986 resulted in the removal of those constraints and a swell in independent reporting that came with a set of problems all its own, fueled by fierce competition and mounting sensationalism.

“It was a free for all,” said Sheila Coronel, professor, dean and director of the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism at Columbia University.

She was there to see it all happen, reporting for underground opposition outlets during Marcos’ final years in power, and then for mainstream outlets on human-rights issues and the growing democratic movement after his fall.

On Tuesday, Oct. 31, Coronel will speak to ASU students and faculty on the current state of the news media in Southeast Asia as part of the Center for Asian Research’s Asia Mediated Lunch and Lecture Series.

The talk, “Speaking Truth to Power in the Era of Fake News and Propaganda: Insights from the Philippines and Southeast Asia,” will examine how news media in the region — and elsewhere in the world — are being challenged by the online dissemination of “fake news” and propaganda.

“The challenge, especially for the ordinary citizen, is how to make sense of this deluge,” Coronel said.

Her talk will consider lessons learned from the not-so-distant past and how we might apply them to this modern-day conundrum in order to find truth amid an increasingly polarized and propaganda-rich media environment.

Here, Coronel explores the topic in advance with ASU Now.

Sheila Coronel

Question: What does news media in Southeast Asia look like right now?

Answer: The same things that are happening elsewhere in the world — including in the U.S. — are happening in Southeast Asia as well. The business model of independent journalism is failing. At the same time, the ubiquity of the internet and the availability of Facebook, particularly — which many Southeast Asians get for free on their mobile phones — have provided alternative channels for propaganda, misinformation and fake news, oftentimes overwhelming the work done by traditional news organizations.

There have been efforts by political parties and other groups to propagate this information to demonize certain sectors of the population, such as drug addicts in the Philippines, Muslims in Myanmar and non-observant Muslims in the case of Indonesia. This has led to the coarsening of public discourse as well as to the incitement to violence toward these demonized sectors of the populations.

Q: What was it like reporting under such tight restrictions during the Marcos dictatorship, to suddenly having freedom afterward?

A: During the Marcos dictatorship, most of the media was owned by either relatives or business cronies of Marcos and his family. So there was strict censorship in most of the newspapers, and everything we wrote was vetted or even photographed or censored. All photos of Marcos had to show that he was robust, strong and capable — especially during the last years of his dictatorship when he was very ill and underwent a kidney transplant. Many of the Marcos-controlled media outlets could not present that truth.

There was a big difference when he fell out of power. Before that, issues like human-rights abuses were taboo. All of that changed almost overnight. He fell in a popular uprising that lasted three and a half days. There was a new government, all the constraints on media were removed, the organization of media changed. People could report freely. But then what became the problem was the media environment became more competitive, there was sensationalizing of news, especially on TV. It was a free-for-all.

Q: What insights can Americans and the rest of the world glean from what happened then and what is happening now in Southeast Asia?

A: I think we all have the same problems in terms of dealing with the deluge of propaganda and fake news coming from various channels, produced by people who just want to make money or governments who want to make political gains. It has become increasingly difficult to stem the tide of hate speech, false information and propaganda, coupled with the real efforts of the government to demonize the press and destroy the reputation of the press as a purveyor of information. The challenge, especially for the ordinary citizen, is how to make sense of this deluge.

I remember there were demonstrations against propaganda in the last years of Marcos. There was a demand for freedom of information. The public saw the importance of a free press to defend their own rights. The U.S. is not under a dictatorship, but there are [people in power] who want to muddle the press. So it’s important to have public support; the crusade for a free press should not just be limited to journalists. A free press is strongest if it has popular support. That can be patronizing independent newspapers or going to the streets to demonstrate if press freedoms are threatened. The battle should be fought by citizens, not just the press alone.

Q: How does a free press help citizens defend their rights?

A: A free press is important to be able to express yourself freely and to be informed so that you can take action. In many ways, having a free press is a prerequisite for exercising your other rights. For example, your right to get public services. How do you know what rights you’re entitled to if you don’t have that information and the press doesn’t disseminate that information publicly? And there’s your right to hold the government accountable; you cannot exercise that right if you don’t have that information. Without the press providing information with which you can make decisions and can be informed about your rights and about your government, it’s impossible to exercise your full rights as a citizen.

Q: What can be done about the spread of misinformation right now?

A: Citizens need to be more critical of the information they receive. Social media is still quite new, so people have not yet been able to develop the skills and the faculties to be able to discern real information from false information. But also, this is media we’ve never seen before because it’s controlled by algorithms that are not transparent. We don’t know what information is being withheld from us. We don’t know whether we have been exposed to fake news, for example, because the speed and velocity with which news information is produced makes it nearly impossible to verify and to vet.

We’re at a very early stage of this phenomenon, so over time, I hope we will develop both technological and other means that are able to exercise some sense of control or rationality in this information technology ecosystem. Right now, people are confused and overwhelmed by propaganda, but over time, we will develop critical faculties and develop better means of vetting information.


'Speaking Truth to Power in the Era of Fake News and Propaganda: Insights from the Philippines and Southeast Asia'

What: Lunch and a lecture by Sheila Coronel of Columbia University as a part of the ASU Undergraduate International Studies and Foreign Language Asia Mediated Lecture Series.

When: Noon-1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 31.

Where: West Hall, room 135, Tempe campus.

Admission: Free.

Details: Find more at the ASU Events site.

Emma Greguska

Reporter , ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

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Get ready for game day with 3 fascinating sporting events from around the globe

October 24, 2017

In honor of this week's Homecoming, ASU anthropologists share games from other cultures they’ve seen while out in the field

Sports are embedded in college tradition, and no other time reminds us of this quite like Homecoming. But what do sports look like in other cultures? Below, anthropologists from Arizona State University's School of Human Evolution and Social Change reveal the amazing and unexpected sporting events they’ve seen while doing research all over the world.


1. The Mien sports and culture festival

The Mien, an ethnic minority group of highland farmers in Thailand, gather from across the countryside once a year for their sports and culture festival. It’s a time to celebrate and take pride in their traditions.

“The festivals that I have attended seem geared to show off minority culture and identity as fun, presentable and a good fit for national life,” said Professor Hjorleifur Jonsson, who studies Mien history and culture.

Sepak takraw, played throughout Southeast Asia, is a featured game that looks as dramatic as it sounds. It’s similar to volleyball, but because the players can’t use their arms, they launch the ball over the net with lightning-fast high kicks and backflips.

In addition to cross-cultural sports, Mien also have contests specific to their own culture, such as singing tournaments. This is no simple karaoke setup. Their language has a special — and very challenging — dialect used only for songs, so singing tests not only vocals but also memory, pronunciation and accuracy.

“One woman was legendary for her singing skill,” Jonsson said. “When she was about 19 years old, these three young men challenged her to an evening song duel. As I heard of it — many decades later — she sang them all under the table by morning.”


2. The Tsimané soccer tournament

photo of Tsimane soccer players
Photo by Ben Trumble

Soccer is often called “the world’s game” because it’s played everywhere — even in remote places like the Bolivian Amazon. There, the indigenous Tsimané people have made the sport an important part of their lives. After a day of farming, hunting and fishing, men gather before sunset to play soccer.

ASU Assistant Professor Ben Trumble helped put together a huge soccer tournament so he could research how male testosterone changes during competition. (His study found that, while Tsimané men have lower average testosterone levels than men from the U.S., they get the same testosterone spike after playing a sport.)

The two-day tournament was unique in that it brought together remote communities that normally wouldn’t get to play against each other. Trumble describes it as a lively social event, complete with crowds of family and spectators as well as lots of food — specifically, two pigs and a cow that he had to go pick out himself.

Although most players didn’t have shoes and the goals were made of tree branches, Trumble said the differences stopped there, with the rules and overall feel of the game like any other.

“It was basically the same pick-up soccer game you would find in any Tempe park on a cool Saturday afternoon,” Trumble said.


3. The Fourth of July games in Alaska 

Each village in northern Alaska hosts a Fourth of July festival that celebrates their region’s indigenous cultures. Athletes compete in a variety of sports — many borrowed from the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics — that test their fitness to survive in the harsh North.

Everyone in town is there to play or cheer others on, explained Assistant Professor Shauna BurnSilver. And after the games are done for the day, there’s a big meal, music and dancing. BurnSilver went to a festival herself while studying cooperation and food-sharing patterns in an Athabascan Gwich’in community in Venetie, Alaska.

One of the most popular sports is the one-foot high kick, where contestants use one foot to jump, kick at a little ball hanging in the air, and then land balanced, all without the other foot touching the ground. According to the WEIO website, the high kick originated as a way for hunters to signal their villages to help them bring home large game.

The most unexpected contest BurnSilver saw had competitors putting their bodies on the line — literally. Known as the mosquito hunt, kids had five minutes to catch as many of the bugs as they could.

“Techniques varied, but my favorite was to go stand under the trees, push up your sleeves and then catch as many as landed on you. The winner had 38!”


photo of fireworks during ASU football game

While these sporting events may not all focus on the same kinds of skills that will be on display at this week’s ASU Homecoming game, they all share key traits that make up the core of what everyone loves about game day: community spirit, traditions, good food and the thrill of a shared experience.

Let’s kick that off in our corner of the world by cheering, “Go Sun Devils!”

Mikala Kass

communications assistant , School of Human Evolution and Social Change


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Condoleezza Rice encourages students to be the solution during talk at ASU

October 20, 2017

Former secretary of state talks about the state of international affairs at Barrett, The Honor College's Global Leader Series lecture

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2017, click here.

For the first woman to hold the position of U.S. national security adviser and the second to serve as secretary of state, it should come as no surprise that strength and strategy have always been in play for Condoleezza Rice — especially in the male-dominated world of politics.

Growing up in segregated Birmingham, Alabama, Rice says she deployed tactics she learned from her father to turn racism on its ugly head and used those tactics again when confronted with sexism in her early career.

“My father once told me if someone doesn’t want to sit next to you because you’re black that’s just fine, as long as they move,” Rice told students, faculty and invited guests at the Barrett Distinguished Global Leader Series at Arizona State University on Friday in Tempe. “That was also the attitude that I went in with when people looked at me like I was in the wrong meeting as a young professional. I was never taking somebody else’s sexism or somebody else’s prejudice onto me because when you start doing that, you start thinking ‘I’m victimized’ — now you’ve lost control of the situation.”

Rice’s follow-up advice to emerging leaders who might find themselves in a similar situation: “Walk in there like you mean it, like you believe you belong there because you do; you worked really hard to get there; own the room and they’ll back off.”

The former secretary of state was invited to participate in the Barrett, The Honors College’s new global lecture series by former U.S. Ambassador Barbara Barrett. The two became acquainted in the administration of President George W. Bush.

“Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice brings to Arizona State University exceptional global experience and insights,” Barrett said. “The new Distinguished Global Speaker Series invites ASU students to hear, meet and interact with top global leaders right on campus. Getting to know and learn from experienced cabinet members, heads of state and other decision-makers enriches the campus-learning environment. Secretary Rice exemplifies the speakers of distinction who share their insights with interested ASU students through the BHC Distinguished Global Speaker Series.”

Barbara Barrett listens as Condoleezza Rice delivers remarks at the Barrett College's Distinguished Global Leader Lecture on Friday in Tempe. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Barrett and her husband, former Intel CEO Craig Barrett, are funding the lecture series and other global initiatives at the honors college as part of their renewed commitment made during Campaign ASU 2020 to their namesake college. The series launched in late September with a lunch meet-and-greet with Elisabeth Rehn, Finland’s first female minister of defense.

Before taking student-submitted questions moderated by Barrett Dean Mark Jacobs, Rice — a noted expert on Russia and current professor of political science at Stanford University — addressed the room of 300 that included Barrett students as well as students from ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and Thunderbird School of Global Management.

Rice offered a background on the current international system, which she described as “chaotic” right now with headline crises in such places as North Korea, Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela and Russia, whose relationship with the U.S. Rice said is in the lowest place it has been since the darkest days of the Cold War.

She said one of the more pressing threats facing the international system right now is the rise of populism, which has had its echoes in Brexit and in Austria and Germany where right-wing populist parties have gained prominence — an event not seen in such frequency since World War II. She also cautioned against the expansion of identity politics, or the idea that everybody is an ever-smaller identity group — each with its own grievance and narrative that tends to divide instead of unify.

On those subjects, Rice called on ASU students to use their time in college to become a part of the solution by finding a passion and acting on it. Passion is something Rice said she found in international politics after coming to grips with the reality that she wasn’t going to be a concert pianist (her first love) or an English literature major (no love lost there). Her message resonated with many of the students in attendance, including Ceci Shell, a first-year law student.

“It was finding that passion that led me to go to law school. So for someone of her caliber — the secretary of state — telling us young people that ‘you too can be that global leader and that change when you find that passion’ really meant a lot to me,” Shell said.

A former athlete now studying sports law, Shell said she had hoped to also ask the former secretary a question about her passion for sports. Rice is well known for her love of football and golf and was recently named chair of the new NCAA Commission on College Basketball.

Regarding the former secretary’s comments on women, Barrett student Hanna Maroofi said Rice’s remarks on confidence were very genuine.

“Hearing her talk about the importance of going in with confidence and knowing what you want and understanding — that it’s not necessarily you who has to change and conform but to make yourself aware of your surroundings and be confident with those surroundings — was very uplifting and inspiring,” said Maroofi, a sophomore studying biomedical sciences and global health with a minor in French.

Edward Nolan, also a Barrett student, said he was excited when he got a chance to move up to the front row to listen to Rice.

“I don’t know where we’d get this but at Barrett at ASU,” said Nolan, a junior studying political science and biology with an emphasis in genetics and cell development. “She spoke a lot about what we’re learning right now. It was great to hear all of the different areas that she mentioned from just having studied them and from having personal experience. My family is from Colombia, and right along the Colombia border is Venezuela and we talked a lot about the humanitarian crises that are going on along that border.” 

Barrett honors students Hanna Maroofi (left) and Edward Nolan. Photo by Beth Giudicessi

The students say they are looking forward to interacting with more global leaders in the Barrett Distinguished Global Leader Series.

“I think the topic of globalization for college students is very crucial, especially at ASU,” Maroofi said. “We are very passionate about various topics in the Barrett Honors College and being able to combine all of these topics and areas of study into this globalization series is a key aspect to Barrett and the future of our students here.”

In addition to her professorship at Stanford University, Rice is also the Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business, the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution and a founding partner of RiceHadleyGates LLC. She served as the 66th secretary of the State of the United States from 2005-2009, the second woman and first African-American woman to hold the post. Rice was also the first woman to hold the position of national security adviser from 2001-2005.


Top photo: Condoleezza Rice has a discussion with Barrett, The Honors College Dean Mark Jacobs following her inaugural keynote address Friday in Tempe. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications


Energy center draws engineering grad back to ASU, makes global impact

October 19, 2017

The U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Energy, better known as USPCAS-E, is bringing an Arizona State University Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering alumnus back to campus, just in time for homecoming. Edward J. William Jr. graduated with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering in 2005.

William values his experience with the Fulton Schools, saying that, “My electrical degree has opened up doors to specialize in high-voltage power systems. It helped me to focus on obtaining a Professional Engineering License in the professional field as a practicing engineer.” Edward J. William Jr. graduated from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and has returned to ASU as the technical advisor to USPCAS-E in Islamabad, Pakistan. Photographer: Arsal Latif/ASU Download Full Image

During his time at ASU he thoroughly engaged in the Fulton Difference by becoming the president of the Eta Kappa Nu fraternity, an honor society specializing in electrical engineering.

Fulton Schools graduate on the move

Before working for USPCAS-E, Williams worked for Commonwealth Edison and served as a power systems protection and controls (P&C) engineer. He offered his P&C engineering skills to Primera Engineers Ltd. in Chicago, IPS-Energy in Germany and SPX Transformer Solutions since graduating from ASU. He also acquired more than five years of technical engineering experience with The Boeing Company and Honeywell International.

Along with his scientific contributions to publications for the IEEE and CIGRE Canada, he also held national leadership positions in IEEE Power and Energy Society Standards committees and the National Society of Black Engineers.

Coming home for homecoming

Currently William is in Pakistan trying to help solve Pakistan’s dire energy situation using the country’s most renewable source of energy – it’s students.

He will be acting as a research advisor with the National University of Science and Technology through the USPCAS-E project as their technical adviser. His work will include inspiring new ideas to create innovative energy solutions at NUST.

Part of his time will be spent in Pakistan and the rest will be at ASU. Having come back to Arizona, he said, “I have to admit, it feels like coming home. When its home it becomes your obligation as alumni to make the university transcend to the next level.”

His work with USPCAS-E not only does just that, but it also makes the world a better place. Pakistan is suffering from an extreme energy crisis and the hope of the project is to invest in the future of the country's people through education, innovation and ingenuity.

His time abroad sharing knowledge and experiences is symbolic of the long-lasting, 70-year, friendship between the two countries. Reflecting on his time overseas, he remarked that, “Pakistan is a beautiful country, full of great people that I have grown to call family. I have received kindness and hospitality.”

“I see continuing growth in the strength of our relationship. This will be by advising on research, curriculum review, exchange program and sustainability. There is tremendous opportunity to build a lasting and fruitful relationship between ASU-PCASE, NUST and UET.”

The journey of William's career has been extensive and is indicative of the impact and influence Fulton Schools graduates can have in the world. William should be back in Tempe in time for homecoming before setting out on another venture to Pakistan later this year.

Erika Gronek

Communications Specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering