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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

ASU cinema certificate lets students engage culture through many mediums

October 18, 2017

Arizona State University's School of International Letters and Cultures is offering students a chance to explore a range of international cultures through film and earn a Certificate in International Cinema.

The 18-credit program offers a broad array of courses ranging from subject-based examination to regional focuses. “Identity and World Film,” for example, explores cinema genres and issues in gender, race, ethnicity and sexual orientation. “Italian Cinema” looks at trends in Italian films from the end of World War II to the present day. Download Full Image

The variety of course options allows students to pair film studies with their language work, or explore a new subject of interest to complement another field of study.

Professor Frederic Canovas teaches a course within the certificate, “French Language and Culture through Film.” He sees film as a valuable media that goes beyond language exposure.

“These films are used the way one would use excerpts from literature or newspaper articles to discuss vocabulary, grammar and culture,” Canovas said. “The goal is to help students increase their language skills while studying language in context through a story and a cultural environment provided by the films.”

According to the certificate description, “the power of international cinema lies in its ability to underscore national differences and engage diverse viewpoints.”

The values and skills that come with this certificate pair well with many majors, as film offers a window into cultural diversity, politics, culture, economics and history. Professor Dan Gilfillan, director of the International Cinema Certificate, points out that while anyone can watch a film, studying them is even more substantive.

Gilfillan explained that, “when one delves more deeply, international film can provide a point of access to understanding how people in these cultures engage with emotion, approach social and economic problems, dream about their futures, and care for their families and loved ones.”

Enroll now by reaching out to silcadvising@asu.edu or schedule an advising appointment.

Gabriel Sandler

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ASU students discover passion for holistic health care in Mayo Clinic Global Medical Brigade

October 17, 2017

When Mayo Clinic School of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota, readied a group of volunteers for its summer Medical Brigades Volunteer Program to Nicaragua, three Arizona State University students seized the chance to join them for a life-changing medical outreach.

Selected by ASU’s Pre-Health Internship Program in the Office of Clinical Partnerships through a rigorous application and interview process, the students traveled to rural areas of Nicaragua with Mayo Clinic physicians and medical students to provide much-needed medical support. All three ASU members knew the Spanish language, a requirement for their selection.

The three students chosen — Roseanne Nguyen (nutrition, College of Health Solutions), Cristina Musch (biochemistry, College of Liberals Arts and Sciences), and Chance Marostica (biological sciences, College of Liberals Arts and Sciences, and Barrett honors student) — translated for the Mayo team. They also learned how to administer primary care in a holistic manner, delving into all aspects of a patient’s mental, physical and psychological health.

“This trip redefined how I would like to practice medicine,” said Marostica. “If you want to heal someone, you can’t first look at their symptoms. You have to look at the person as a person. Medicine without a human connection is hollow.”

During the 10-day trip, the Mayo Clinic team offered medical services to 2,200 residents of underserved and impoverished rural areas. In addition to physical and dental exams, psychological counseling, medications and a health fair, they also journeyed down muddy backroads to treat patients unable to travel. Long lines of hopeful people formed as soon as each day’s clinic opened. The ASU students helped perform triage, conducting initial interviews with the patients and taking vital signs, and they packaged medications for patients and local clinics, in tandem with translating for the Mayo Clinic physicians, staff and students.

Students traversed muddy trails with the Mayo Clinic Global Medical Brigade
Volunteers traversed muddy paths to make house calls when vehicles couldn’t traverse the roads.

“Our roles changed every day,” said Nguyen. “We rotated between being a dental assistant, taking patient history, packaging medications. We also played with the kids for a few hours. So it gave us a good feel ofwhat can happen in a clinic.”

Mayo Clinic’s global medical brigades visit Nicaragua four times a year. Along with full medical evaluations, they teach preventative methods and the basics of living a healthy life to the community.

Although the diagnoses of patients differed, there were two primary causes of ill health that the students found. Due to the lack of access to pure water, many needed a prescription for parasites, which resulted in chronic headaches, fever and gastrointestinal disorders.

What Musch found most striking was the amount of stress that affected many people, particularly women.

“Many people just needed someone to talk to and get some advice on how to handle their situations,” Musch said. “They didn’t want to talk to others in their small town for fear of gossip.”

A lot of mothers were afraid of being alone during the long months that their husbands had to be away for work, said Musch.

“Some of the women were in an abusive relationship, but were afraid to leave because they had children and no place else to go,” she said. “When they came in, they had these troubled eyes, then gave us a hug and thanked us for listening to them. They told me they prayed to God to have someone listen to them.

“Some of the psychiatrists gave them exercises to relieve the headaches and stress. Some cases were so extreme that they could only give them medication to help them sleep at night so they didn’t lay awake thinking about their fears and problems.”

Volunteers play games with kids at a Mayo Clinic Global Medical Brigade clinic
Volunteers took turns playing games with children while parents waited for clinic visits.

All the ASU students spoke of how kind and welcoming and palpably grateful the villagers were to see the brigade. They were particularly struck by the peoples’ strength and determination to create a better life, despite the poverty and difficulty in their lives.

Marostica remembered one woman he met who “came in distressed and extremely concerned for her health, and she walked out with tears of joy. She works so hard and really just wanted someone to talk to. We spent over an hour talking about the hardships of life, but more importantly, how to still find joy. I can't believe the power that resides in empathy and compassion for others.”

The community was hungry for all of the information shared in the health clinics, particularly on women’s health, he says: “I am confident that they will continue to share it. Education is empowerment.”

“The most important thing I learned from this trip is the power of empathy,” Nguyen said. “The compassion that came from everyone on this team was unbelievable. On our last clinic day we were planning on leaving at noon. When we arrived at the town, hundreds were waiting outside the clinic. Everyone worked extra hard that day until 3 p.m., so we could see every single patient.”

After powering through lunch break and forgoing their afternoon plans, the team broke a record, seeing 300 patients on what was intended to be a half-day.

The ASU students received advice, encouragement and knowledge from the trip’s Mayo Clinic students and physicians, which has already shaped their thinking about their career paths and interests.

Chance Marostica and other Mayo Clinic Global Medical Brigade volunteers
ASU student Chance Marostica (center) translated for medical students and doctors in San Jose de Pire.

“The consulting doctors taught me how important it is to learn about someone's past, their family, interests and passions before you dive into their health problems,” Marostica said. “It gives insight into some of the underlying causes of an ailment, but more importantly, it forms a clinician-patient bond of trust and empathy.”

Nguyen said that talking to Mayo medical students inspired her and increased her confidence in choosing a medical career.

“Keep an open mind and heart,” she advised other students. “Perspective gained from medical outreach activities will ignite your passion for health care.”

Musch said she could relate to the Nicaraguan villagers, as she grew up in a rural area in Mexico with a lack of access to water.

“Like these people, my parents had to search for water. However, what I took away from this was that I wasn’t the one being helped this time; I was the one helping. I’m not just some girl from a poor country, but I’m actually doing something for someone else’s life.”

Top photo: ASU students Roseanne Nguyen (left) and Cristina Musch help set up clinic in La Laguna, Estelí, as patients began to form lines to see the Mayo Clinic team.

Editor Associate , University Provost

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Study Abroad planning scholarship provides pathway for first-gen students

October 17, 2017

Family members, loved ones and friends gathered last month to celebrate the third cohort of the Study Abroad Planning Scholars. These scholars are first-generation Arizona State University students who were invited to apply for a scholarship designated just for them during their second semester of freshman year. Students demonstrating high financial need and that they’re the first in their families to go to college were invited to apply.

“We developed the Planning Scholars scholarship program because we identified that not enough of our ASU first-generation students were studying abroad,” said Adam Henry, director of the Study Abroad Office. “After reviewing the research literature on first-generation students studying abroad, we also created the program around a model of support, and helping participants identify their particular support needs before, during and after their study abroad experience.”

Since its inception in 2015, the Planning Scholarship has supported more than 150 first-generation students. 

“We launched the program with committed funding for the first three years. We are thrilled that we now have additional funding for another three years. Every three years equates to $420,000 in scholarship monies,” Henry said. 

Half of these recipients have already gone abroad, are currently abroad or will be going on programs next semester to nearly 30 different countries across the globe.

Students already putting their scholarships to good use

Two such students in this cohort are studying abroad in spring 2018. Political science major Bartia Cooper will be studying in South Korea at Yonsei University. She plans on graduate school after finishing her bachelor’s degree.

“I need to make myself the best possible candidate (as anyone should want to be). Not only having study abroad experience, but being able to say I got to immerse myself in the culture I’m studying will show my dedication to my field and provide me with an extra leg over competition, both for graduate school and for future careers,” she said.

Olivia Boyd has her sights on getting her Doctor in Nursing Practice as a long-term goal. Gaining cultural competence skills is her goal with her semester abroad in England on an exchange program with the University of Birmingham.

“When offered the chance to do a study abroad, my first concern, and only hesitation, was finances,” Boyd said. “It seemed to be an amazing opportunity, and one that many of my graduated friends had regretted not taking. As I was researching scholarships, the Planning Scholars award caught my eye as it described exactly me — I am a first-generation college student, I had already applied to my desired university I would be studying abroad in, I fit the GPA requirement and I received the financial need requirement. It seemed to be a perfect fit.” 

The September reception kicked off a series of workshops to foster a sense of community among recipients and to personally meet the students’ differing needs as the first in their family to study abroad. Study Abroad Office staff serve as mentors to guide students on the process on things such as program selection, budget management, travel logistics, navigating culture shock and more.

Study abroad made a reality with Planning Scholars award

Keeping up with his studies while embarking on an adventure is what drew kinesiology major Jonathanael Gonzalez to want to study abroad.

“In five years I see myself in my second year of dental school putting that work in and also working with the community to fix health disparities and hopefully enjoying life to the fullest,” Gonzalez said. “Studying abroad can help me see how privileged this country is and being able to step out can then widen my view of the world to appreciate all the little things that are taken for granted every day.” 

Genetics and Spanish literature double major Amalie Strange didn’t think studying abroad was possible before receiving this scholarship. 

“Whenever I used to think of studying abroad, it was always through a dream-like lens,” Strange said. “It never felt like a tangible reality until I learned about the Planning Scholars award. It would be extremely difficult for my family and me to gather all of the funds necessary to send me on a study abroad program.” 

When asked about her family’s reaction, Strange discussed how proud her family is.

“I am the first to go to college, so I’m very happy that I can be a role model for my younger brother and sister. Both of them have aspirations of attending college, and they frequently ask me about my experiences at ASU,” she said.

Once awarded, students have the next five semesters to use their scholarship on a Study Abroad Office-facilitated program. This allows them time to weigh their program options, align them with their professional, academic and personal goals and to budget accordingly.

Top photo: The third cohort of the Planning Scholars pictured with Study Abroad Office advisers Abby Dalpra and Carmen Pitz.

Carrie Herrera Niesen

Communications and marketing specialist , Study Abroad Office


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At 500, Protestant Reformation still influencing our world

ASU professor discusses how Protestant Reformation shaped our world today.
October 16, 2017

ASU Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict to host panel looking at lasting reverberations of Luther's actions

It is hard to imagine that something that happened 500 years ago could still influence world events today, but that is exactly what many historians, political scientists and religious studies scholars argue when it comes to the Protestant Reformation.

And that is the question at the heart of a panel discussion that Arizona State University’s Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict will host from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Thursday in Katzin Concert Hall on the Tempe campus.

The Protestant Reformation was set off by Martin Luther, a monk and scholar who wrote a document in 1517 attacking the Catholic Church’s practice of selling “indulgences” as a way to absolve sin.

The popular telling is that he dramatically nailed the document, known as the “95 Theses,” to the door of the Wittenberg Castle church. But reality is much more mundane. Luther hung the document on the door to announce an academic discussion, much like the fliers one sees around campus announcing events such as Thursday’s.

When Luther hung that flier on Oct. 31, 1517, he had no way of knowing that his writings about church doctrine would alter the course of religious and cultural history, setting off civil strife, rebellions and wars in Europe and England that would last more than 130 years and culminate in the establishment of the nation-state system that we know today.

Nor could he have known that his ideas about salvation and the authority of the church would ultimately lead a small group known as the Pilgrims to set sail on the Mayflower in 1619 to establish a religious colony in Massachusetts.

Nor could he have known that the reverberations from this event would still be felt today, in everything from the way religion is practiced to the development of secular governance and modern capitalism.

To address the impact of the Protestant Reformation on the world today, the center has assembled a panel of renowned scholars that includes Susan Schreiner, a historian from the University of Chicago; Daniel Philpott, a political theorist from the University of Notre Dame; Tracy Fessenden, a religious studies professor from ASU; and John Carlson, interim director of the center.

Fessenden, an associate professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, spoke with ASU Now in advance of the event to share more about why the Protestant Reformation was so important and what we can understand about religion and conflict in the world today from learning more about it.

Question: Why is the Protestant Reformation important to talk about, 500 years later?

Answer: In a sense, the history of the individual in the West begins with the Protestant Reformation.

In a nutshell, the Reformation moved the focus of religious authority from the church — the institution — to the Bible. That made one’s experience of reading of the Bible the path to knowing the divine will.

The hope of the original reformers was that this would put an end to religious corruption and disputes over authority by settling the question of where truth resides: sola scriptura, only in the word of God. But the outcome could not have been further from what they hoped. Lodging religious authority in the individual’s encounter with scripture ultimately unleashed a hyperpluralism of opinion, of interpretation, of the concept of the good and the options for pursuing it.

A momentous consequence of shifting the locus of religious authority from the church to the Bible was that it empowered the reading subject, the individual, to discern the divine will and the answers to the big questions — and to do so with or against institutional guidance. 

The legacy of the Reformation is massive, complicated and mixed — not all good or all bad, but very powerfully formative. It has affected all parts of our society, religious or not.

Q: What did a religious revolution have to do with political and social change?

A: For most of Christian history the church was the temporal authority as well as the spiritual one. The church was the government, basically.

The reason we have church-state separation in modern liberal states has to do with the way that bloody disputes between Christian factions over doctrinal and theological differences came to be settled. If the divine will was to be known sola scriptura, through Bible reading only, still the Bible needed to be interpreted. Rival interpretations matter when these drive the actions of states. But if the state takes itself out of the religion business to focus on politics, law and trade, then rival interpretations essentially come down to individual differences of belief, and these are manageable in civil society. Religion came to be centered on belief, which could vary from person to person, and which no government or other power could compel or enforce. You could believe as you wanted to believe. The state could make laws about behavior but not about belief, which would be left to the individual, and to churches.

As a result, the individual comes to matter more and more, because a tremendous burden of interpretation, of figuring out the will of the divine or the meaning of life or the answers to life’s pressing questions, comes to center on the self. Roman Catholicism did not go away once Protestants began asserting independence from the Roman Catholic Church, just as Judaism didn’t go away when Christians decided that a part of Jewish scripture would be their Old Testament and Christian revelation a New Testament. Both Judaism and Roman Catholicism became modern phenomena alongside Protestantism, and both share in the modern sense that our interior lives are constitutive of who we truly are. But the idea that we have an interior life that matters that much is very much a Reformation product. 

Q: What can we understand about religion and conflict in the world today from studying the Protestant Reformation?

A: As Americans, the Protestant understanding that religion is primarily a matter of belief, and that we are free to believe or not as we wish, is something a majority agree on and take for granted. And that’s traced to the Reformation. Most of us, if we thought about it, might say that leaving religious belief up to the individual acknowledges the equality of individuals and protects us equally in our choice of whether and how to practice religion. 

But not all religions center on belief, and not all religious practice involves solitary reading and reflection. When we understand religion to be about belief, often we’re making Christianity the implicit norm. For example, in France, there’s still controversy over whether Muslim women can wear headscarves in public. The thinking behind the ban on headscarves is that religious difference is a private matter, and so markers of religious difference don’t belong in public. You can do whatever you want in private, but in the public square we’re all equal. But the Muslim woman would argue that she doesn’t wear a headscarf at home but only in public. There’s a built-in conflict.

Q: How can the Reformation help us think about peace?

A: (laughs) I wish I knew! I think the Reformation is an essential part of our history, and understanding it helps us understand our history. It helps us to see how some things we simply take for granted were bitterly contested and fought over. It helps us to see how technology can change our ideas of what it means to be human: for example, the shift in the locus of religious authority from the church to the Bible and from there to the inner drama of the reading subject would never have happened without the invention of the printing press. 

That one could presumably know the divine will without recourse to institutions, that one could decide on the nature and intensity of one’s own religious life — these were answers that were supplied over centuries of fighting over the questions and sorting through other possible answers. We can look at that history and think about where we have room to move if some of the answers we live with now seem wanting. 

Carolyn Forbes contributed to this story. Top photo: The tower of the church where Martin Luther most likely posted his 95 Theses is seen in Wittenberg, Germany. Photo courtesy of neufal54/Pixabay

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ASU military expert on the future of nuclear weapons

October 16, 2017

North Korea. Iran. Trump’s tough talk on beefing up the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

Not since the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 has the world heard such nuclear saber rattling, leaving many Americans on edge.

Are we on the brink of nuclear disaster, or did we simply forget how to play nice? For answers, we turned to Jeffrey Kubiak, a retired U.S. Air Force colonel and senior fellowKubiak is also a professor of practice in the School of Politics and Global Studies. at the Center on the Future of War at Arizona State University.

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Jeffrey Kubiak

Question: To what extent have nuclear weapons provided global security in the past?

Answer: It's my opinion that nuclear weapons haven't provided global security. While it's true that we've enjoyed a world absent of major wars between great powers since 1945 — at least partly because of nuclear weapons — in many ways we've enjoyed security despite nuclear weapons.

Nuclear weapons are inherently offensive in nature and are really only useful to deter attack. The U.S. and the world avoided unimaginable destruction on more than one occasion during the Cold War by luck and the good judgment of national leaders and some low-ranking operators. Even today, the security of nuclear weapons and nuclear material is a huge, perhaps underappreciated concern. Growing up in the 1960s and attending college in the 1980s, it was obvious to me that America didn't feel secure almost entirely because of nuclear weapons.

Q: Has the role of nuclear weapons fundamentally changed, and is mutually assured destruction (MAD) a feature of future international relations?

A: Mutually assured destruction means that as long as the great powers have nuclear arsenals that can devastate each other (which will be true for the foreseeable future), no country will be the first to use nuclear weapons, because their destruction is assured. The mechanisms of MAD still operate today between the U.S. and Russia and China much as they did during the Cold War.

Other nuclear powers have a slightly different calculus, but the mechanism is largely the same: make costs of aggression on the part of an adversary unacceptably high. Israel's adversaries don't have nuclear weapons, so its arsenal deters conventional attack. North Korea can't destroy its adversaries, including the U.S., but it's apparently on the verge of being able to inflict nuclear damage on the U.S. This will very likely alter in some way the U.S. strategic calculus with regard to its security obligations in East Asia.

MAD for the smaller nuclear powers is “mutually assured damage.” Their arsenals are not likely to be large enough to threaten the existence of other states but can inflict enough damage to significantly alter the strategic decision making of their adversaries.

Q: Is there a better way to keep the proliferation of nuclear weapons in check?

A: The fundamental reason for having nuclear weapons in the contemporary environment is to deter attack or any attempt at regime change. Nuclear weapons are an insurance policy for regimes that feel threatened by their neighbors or are at odds with the U.S.-led world order. As long as there are regimes with reason to feel insecure, especially if they face explicit threats to their hold on power, there will be an incentive by those regimes to develop a nuclear capability. Insecurity is an inherent characteristic of the international system. It can be made worse or better by behaviors of neighbors and global great powers, but it is unlikely to go away. 

Q: Is it possible to eliminate all nuclear weapons?

A: Possible? I'll go out on a limb and say — maybe. Is it likely? I'm not putting any money on that bet. It is a dilemma that exists in any violent conflict: Disarming can be unreasonably dangerous. Creating a sufficiently credible commitment by all parties to disarm is incredibly hard to do in the anarchic international system, so states rationally decide that they simply cannot do it.


Top photo: The Air Force launches an unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile during an operational test from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on April 26. Courtesy of Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center Public Affairs

ASU Italian department lets students eat their education

October 13, 2017

Fresh pasta, ideally ravioli with ricotta and spinach. Pizza and antipasto, made from organic ingredients sourced from local farms. These are some iconic Italian foods that Juliann Vitullo wants to share with students inside and outside of the classroom.

Arizona State University's School of International Letters and Cultures is most closely associated with language learning — many majors including a language requirement. But cultural studies at the school are just as immersive, and its Italian department lets students eat their education. Juliann Vitullo Juliann Vitullo teaches courses at the School of International Letters and Cultures that focus on Mediterranean food and diet. Download Full Image

“Food is a big part of everyday life, everyday discussions,” explained Vitullo, an Italian professor at the School of International Letters and Cultures. “It’s accepted as part of everyday pleasures and respected as part of that, as an important element of everyday life.”

With culture in mind, Vitullo has helped put together courses focused on different aspects of Italian food and Mediterranean lifestyle. Students examine local food cultures through restaurant samplings, local farm visits, history of food and nutritional aspects of Mediterranean diets. Eventually, the students come together over their own culinary traditions.

“We’re looking at questions of lifestyle ... to adapt whatever aspects they find interesting, to adapt certain aspects of that diet and lifestyle,” Vitullo said.

In one of her courses, students have to plan and prepare multi-course group meals, reflecting on the ingredients, and cooking and sharing the courses with friends. For Vitullo, this teaches students about Italian food but also about their own food networks.

Vitullo takes her students outside the classroom when she can. She partners with Maya’s Farm to educate students on sustainable eating and cultural farming, and reflect on Phoenix’s diverse culinary history. Vitullo also organizes a study abroad trip during spring break to Sorrento Italy and a summer program to San Severino Marche, Italy.

“I came up with this idea of having students first work at Maya’s Farm in the spring and study Italian if they haven’t already done that, and then participate in the San Severino Marche program ... and study the role of organic farms in two different local food networks,” Vitullo said.  

The Sorrento trip includes visiting local markets, a traditional pizzeria and even class making mozzarella cheese and Neapolitan pizza.

“What many of [the students] discover is that they really missed dedicating the time to doing that, dedicating the time to shopping and reflecting about what they’re eating and to inviting friends over, cooking together,” Vitullo said. “Really spending the time at the table together.”

Learn more about ASU's Italian courses and offerings here.

Gabriel Sandler

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ASU Law professor sees water project as part of solution for peace in Middle East

Cultural and legal issues complicate installing water systems in Middle East.
October 10, 2017

USAID project to provide affordable access to clean water in Jordan and Lebanon celebrates installation of 1st systems

The ripple effects of Syria’s brutal civil war have been felt across the globe, and countries nearest to the epicenter are straining to accommodate a massive influx of refugees. In those areas, water is perhaps the most precious and threatened resource. That is why an Arizona State University-led team is working to bring lasting relief.

One year into a two-year, $1.95 million project to provide affordable sources of clean water throughout Jordan and Lebanon, a launch event to celebrate the installation of the first systems is scheduled for Oct. 13. Rhett Larson, an associate professor at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law and an expert on Middle East water issues, has played a leading role, along with Northern Arizona University Professor Richard Rushforth and ASU Polytechnic School Assistant Professor Nathan Johnson.

The project, funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), involves an international mix of public and private partners: H2O for Humanity (Illinois), GreenCo Water (Australia), Mercy Corps (a global development organization), the René Moawad Foundation (Lebanon) and Zero Mass Water (Arizona).

At an initial brainstorming session, Larson brought up H2O for Humanity, which had been successful installing small, reverse-osmosis kiosks as sustainable business enterprises in India.

“I thought, well, if we could perhaps replicate what H2O for Humanity is doing in the Middle East context, particularly for refugee host communities in Lebanon and Jordan, perhaps this would be able to help alleviate some of the water stress in those communities,” he said. “I’ve worked on Middle East water issues and have a lot of friends and contacts there, so I thought perhaps we could connect these two things.”

Regional unrest

Using the technology and resources of all the partners, the consortium designed small-scale water systems that use reverse osmosis, or desalination, to avoid further depleting scarce groundwater supplies. The project, titled “A Holistic Water Solution for Underserved and Refugee Host Communities in Lebanon and Jordan,” has a target goal of providing water to 36,000 people in 18 communities.

Larson says the project is already providing water in some communities, but it has required adjustments as refugee numbers have swollen.

“We envisioned putting this in really small communities and more or less replicating what H2O for Humanity had been doing in India,” he said. “But the sheer number of refugees in these communities has forced us to look at larger wells and scaling up the system. So we had initially thought that we would have a lot of small treatment systems on a lot of small wells. And it looks like it may work out to be fewer numbers of wells, but much larger wells and larger communities.”

Although there are water needs throughout the world, the already-acute problems in the arid region have been exacerbated by the refugee crisis.

“Jordan and Lebanon are, by far, the two countries that have absorbed, on a per capita basis, the greatest number of Syrian refugees,” said Larson, who is also a senior research fellow with the Morrison Institute of Public Policy and sits on the advisory board of the institute’s Kyl Center for Water Policy. “The Lebanese people and the Jordanian people have been remarkably hospitable and generous to the Syrian refugees, but there’s a limit to that hospitality. They themselves are water-poor countries that struggle to manage that resource. And having that influx of people, it creates tensions, real tensions, between the host communities and the incoming refugees.”

Legal matters

Bringing water to distressed areas of the Middle East involves infrastructure, requiring expertise in science, sustainability and engineering. Less obvious, perhaps, are the myriad legal issues, ranging from the typical challenges of a startup enterprise to the complexities of Sharia lawSharia law is a set of guiding principles in the practice of Islam derived from the teachings of the Prophet Muhammad..

“There’s a lot of law involved in simply setting up these businesses and in establishing contractual relationships with customers and suppliers for these businesses,” Larson said. “So as with any other startup business, each one of these systems represents a new startup business and has all the same legal issues that any other startup business would have.”

Men look at a well in Lebanon
Anthonio Moawad (center), project manager at the René Moawad Foundation, and ASU Law faculty Rhett Larson (right) discuss the water-quality details of a well under consideration in Qubbe, Lebanon, with a local utility expert (left). Photo by Ashley St. Thomas/ASU Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives

One focus of the project has been to create entrepreneurial opportunities, particularly for women, in operating the water systems. But ownership issues have complicated matters, because some of the wells are owned by municipalities, not the operators.

“We’ve had to be creative about how these entrepreneurs can make money when they aren’t the ones that necessarily own the well,” Larson said.

That creativity led to a surprising innovation: the monetization of wastewater.

“A big obstacle to reverse osmosis or desalination technology is there is a waste product at the end, and how to dispose of it,” Larson said. “These businesses are now selling it to construction sites to use in mixing concrete. We don’t need to have high-quality water to mix concrete, so you’re having construction sites that are buying the wastewater. So even our waste is generating money in at least some of our sites. That’s been really exciting.”

Navigating the legalities of water infrastructure in the Middle East may also require, in some instances, an understanding of Sharia law.

“Sharia has a water-rights component to it,” he said. “It has a right called shafa, which is the right to drink, and a right called shirb, which is the right to irrigate. And different communities may interpret those rights differently. Some will think that you can never charge for drinking water. And some will say, well, you can charge for drinking water if it’s a private water right, but not if it is a public water right. And some will say that you can charge for drinking water if it’s a public water right, but only to the extent that the person buying it from you can afford it.”

Neither the water systems of Jordan nor Lebanon are officially governed by Sharia law, but Larson says a related Ottoman civil code known as Majalla still has some influence.

“It isn’t the recognized water law, but it has some influence, particularly for some of the older water rights,” he said. “And in Jordan, you’ll have certain tribal water rights that are recognized that still have elements of Sharia law in them. So my long-term research interests are to be able to map and understand the way different communities are interpreting their understanding of Sharia law and shafa and shirb.”

Peace and prosperity through water

The roots of Syria’s civil war are tangled in global politics, religious strife, the authoritarian regime of President Bashar Assad, and the rise of ISIS. And perhaps the most overlooked factor: water.

“The reason that the Assad regime was destabilized is in part because there was a drought in the Euphrates River basin, and drought meant that crops failed and food prices went up and rural communities began moving into cities,” Larson said. “And when you have rural communities that are displaced, that can’t afford food, that lost their crops and they come into cities and they’re desperate, it’s dry kindling for radicalization and instability.”

And water is not only the essence of life, but, as Larson says, the key to peace and prosperity.

“If we want to be able to solve the problems of mass migrations and refugee issues in the world, if we want to address issues of instability, if we want to address issues like radicalization and terrorism, we should invest in water security,” he said. “People do what people have done for thousands of years: They look for water. And they might say that they’re looking for peace or prosperity, but peace and prosperity are functions of water security. Places that have water security tend to have peace and prosperity. Places that don’t, they tend to be unstable.”

He added, “If what we want is a world of safety, if what we want is to let people stay in their homes and feel safe, then investing in water security is really important. And what USAID in particular is doing is they are showing these refugees that the American people care about them, and that the American people are bringing them this most vital resource and they recognize how important this resource is to their long-term security and to the stability of their own communities and of their own nations.”

The project is a perfect fit for Larson, aligning with his interests and expertise in water, legal issues and the Middle East. More importantly, it allows him to pursue a bigger passion, underscored in his simple answer when asked why he got involved: “To help people.”

This study/report/website is made possible by the support of the American People through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID.) The contents of this study/report/website are the sole responsibility of Arizona State University and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States government.

Top photo: ASU Associate Professor of law Rhett Larson is an expert on Middle East water issues. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

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