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ASU expert on violent conflict in Nicaragua


August 1, 2018

In late April, citizens of Nicaragua began protests against President Daniel Ortega when the government announced a social security reform. Now, more than three months later, protesters are asking for Ortega’s resignation. The series of protests have been met with extreme violence, making this the deadliest civil conflict in the country since the end of the Nicaraguan revolution.

Upon his return from visiting Nicaragua this summer, Arizona State University Instructor Charles Ripley agreed to answer questions regarding these protests. Ripley taught for five years at the Jesuit University of Central America in Managua, Nicaragua, and continues to do field work throughout Central and South America. ASU expert on violent conflict in Nicaragua Photo from ASU Instructor Charles Ripley's time in Nicaragua. Download Full Image

Question: Why and for how long were you in Nicaragua?

Answer: I lived in Nicaragua for eight years (beginning in 2000) doing a wide range of work for governmental and nongovernmental agencies. I went back to visit for the month of June and the protests against President Daniel Ortega and his powerful wife, Vice President Rosario Murillo Zambrana, exploded. Despite U.S. embassy travel warnings, it was an important time to be there.  

Q: The Nicaraguan government’s announcement of an increase in social security last April prompted days of protests that resulted in the plan being dropped. How are the current protests demanding the exit of Ortega different than those back in April?

A: I have witnessed lots of protests in Latin America, particularly in Nicaragua. When I was a professor at the Jesuit Universidad Centroamericana (2000-2005), classes were often canceled due to protests, and once the students even seized the university. Currently, things are different, escalating into a quasi-civil war. Protesters are being met with violence by both official police and riot squad forces, as well as paramilitary groups affiliated with the government. Anti-governmental forces have also committed acts of violence against the police and supporters of the government. The death toll stands at over 400, with hundreds injured, political prisoners, kidnappings (rare previously in Nicaragua) and a destroyed economy.

Q: The protesters have been met with the national police and pro-government groups resulting in extreme violence and many deaths. Do you think we will see a peaceful resolution in the near future?

A: No. The motto for the opposition is “Your mother should give up” (“Que se rinda tu madre!”). No one is giving up. The government and its supporters see themselves as democratically elected. They are in the right fighting against coup plotters (“golpistas”). The opposition sees itself as fighting against a family dictatorship, pejoratively dubbed the “Ortega-Murillo regime.”

The Civic Alliance for Justice and Democracy in Nicaragua, the umbrella group of various opposition movements, carries out marches, builds barricades across the country and even has the power to carry out national strikes (“paros nacionales”). I witnessed the whole country shut down. It was quite a feat! The opposition is also strong with an incredibly large group of dissident Sandinistas who broke with Ortega due to his authoritarian proclivities. Both sides are committed and have the forces to fight well into the future.

Q: Protesters are asking for President Ortega’s resignation, but he stated they should “seek the vote of the people.” Do you expect President Ortega to serve out his current term, which runs through 2021?

A: He has a very good chance at serving his term. He still has a passionate base, though it may be shrinking. Additionally, the opposition fails to concede the benefits the government has afforded the lower classes. One notable example is removing student fees from public schools (“colegios”) and organizing free breakfast and lunch initiatives in which parents would participate by bringing staples such as rice and beans. I witnessed this interesting initiative years ago in different barrios and was actually impressed with its implementation. He is still popular in some sectors.

But possibly more important, this base is extremely well-trained. Ortega still commands respect from former military guerrillas as well as the police and military. When a police station of Masaya was barricaded by an opposition movement for two weeks, the police, riot squad and paramilitaries (evidence of retired soldiers) took it by force to liberate the police commissioner and vast areas of the town. If protesters continue with demonstrations, barricades and strikes, there is a large disposal of former guerrilla forces who can assist the government.

Q: The U.S. Department of State, the United Nations and various nations have condemned this violence. Do you foresee an outside country or agency stepping in to help resolve this conflict?

A: Countries have cut aid and applied other forms of sanctions. A broad range of people and agencies — from leftists like Noam Chomsky and former Uruguayan President José “Pepe” Mujica to the Organization of American States and the United Nations — have denounced Ortega. However, I do not think any country has the will to invade and, as we have seen in various instances, this is not always the optimal policy. It is also important to stress that if the United States did use force, it could backfire and create a rally-around-the-flag-effect for Ortega. In any case, it does not look like any mother is giving up soon!

Matt Oxford

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Politics and Global Studies

480-727-9901

Office of Naval Research awards ASU $1.6 million to study Russian propaganda


July 30, 2018

Arizona State University has been awarded a $1.6 million grant from the Office of Naval Research, a division of the United States Department of the Navy. The project will examine thousands of mass media and social media postings in the Baltic States — Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia — to help detect if Russia is planning a military invasion there.  

Directing the research for the grant is Professor Steve Corman, director of the Center for Strategic Communication at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. ASU collaborators on the project include the School of Computing, Informatics & Decision Systems Engineering, and the Global Security Initiative. Part of the work will be subcontracted to the aerospace and defense company Lockheed Martin. Funding will span a three-year period. steve corman Professor Steve Corman Download Full Image

“Dr. Corman has a long history of funded research dedicated to the application of theories of persuasive communication, to identify the ways in which strategic communication attempts to influence public opinion,” said Linda Lederman, professor and director of the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication.

Corman and his team won the grant in part due to a pilot project funded by Lockheed Martin examining Russian and pro-Russian press reports prior to the takeover of Crimea by pro-Russian separatists and Russian Armed Forces.    

“About four months before the invasion of Ukraine, we saw huge changes in Russian anti-Ukrainian propaganda,” Corman said. “The Russians were clearly trying to rile up the Russian-speaking minorities to sow support for their cause. Obviously, there hasn’t been an invasion in the Baltics yet, but we will be trying to figure out if there are correlations between propaganda framing and conflict events in the Baltics.” 

Russian strategic communication techniques were so successful that in 2014, a referendum, deemed unconstitutional by the Ukrainian Constitutional Court, was held on whether Crimea should leave Ukraine and join Russia. The official result was that a large majority of Crimeans wished to join with Russia. 

“The Russians are known for using skewed facts, half-truths, rumors, and misinformation to work in their favor,” Corman said. “They were able to soften up the Russian-speaking minorities by planting stories and telling them that the Ukrainian government is corrupt, they are violating their human rights, and that the government is backed by Nazis. These narratives and other tactics were obviously quite useful to them.”

Corman added, “The Russians do this in their own backyard, and they’ve done it in Europe. They’re also doing it here in the United States, where they are trying to stir the pot by amplifying both sides of hot-button issues. It’s really important to keep our eye on them.”

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

480-965-5676

 
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Energizing endeavors

July 30, 2018

ASU researchers helping Pakistani colleagues take on their country’s energy sustainability challenges

A lack of sustainable energy sources in far-flung underdeveloped regions is among the most daunting roadblocks to quality of life still plaguing much of the world. The challenge is not only technological — requiring advances in engineering and science — but also economic, cultural, educational and governmental.

Those causal factors figure into the pursuits of the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Energy, called USPCASE.

Funded by the United States Agency for International Development, known as USAID, the program partners Arizona State University with the National University of Sciences and Technology, known as NUST, and the University of Engineering and Technology, Peshawar, known as UET-P, two of Pakistan’s leading institutions of higher education. Oregon State University works with ASU to host exchange scholars in the U.S. and to facilitate workshops in Pakistan and partner on joint research projects.

Through the collaborative efforts of researchers at each of the universities, USPCASE is developing multifaceted energy solutions with the potential for global impacts beyond alleviating Pakistan’s severe energy deficiencies.

There are five components to the USPCASE project — curriculum, research, student and faculty exchange and scholarships, governance and sustainability.

Joint research projects pair NUST and UET-P faculty with ASU and OSU faculty. Pakistani faculty benefit from working with faculty from larger and more established research environments and gain skills and experience needed to be competitive in future funding opportunities. As part of the five-year project, USPCASE is to undertake 11 joint research projects, six with NUST and five with UET-P.

In addition to joint research projects, USPCASE is facilitating 30 applied research projects in Pakistan, 15 each at NUST and UET-P. NUST is also awarding 10 applied research projects to students with each awardee receiving $5,000 for their project.

The applied research projects are funded for a year and are focused on finding immediate energy solutions for communities and promoting scientific research in areas relevant to national needs.

fareeha Ahmad
At the first USPCASE Research Expo, Fareeha Ahmad (center), a student at Pakistan’s National University of Sciences and Technology, discusses the joint research project Solar Space Heating Systems Integrated with Thermal Energy Storage with Christopher Steel (right), the USPCASE education director. Photograph courtesy of USPCASE

Energy deficiencies hampering Pakistan’s progress

USPCASE focuses on creating models and methodologies that could lead to establishing robust energy development initiatives. By connecting researchers internationally, USPCASE is encouraging the social and political progress necessary for successful, long-range planning and support in the energy sector.

“One of our big ambitions is to provide paths to solutions that can be significant contributions to many countries and to many energy industries,” said Ahmed Sohail Khan, a mechanical engineer and a USPCASE technical advisor and research scientist.

Pakistan offers what is in effect a universal testbed for possible remedies to many energy development challenges, Khan explained.

The country has about 200 million people living in densely populated areas with an insecure supply of electricity. Many areas endure frequent rolling power outages that can last for 10 hours or more. More than one-quarter of Pakistan’s population have no access to electricity at all, living primarily in rural areas far from the country’s electric grid.

USPCASE faculty and students are researching ways to provide access to power in rural areas, while also researching renewable sources and energy efficiency.

“There are no policies in Pakistan to require that houses be energy-efficient,” Khan said. "So many people live in housing that is poorly designed and built, and their homes use enormous amounts of energy, so a lot of it is wasted.”

The energy inefficiencies also raise production costs for many industries, making them less competitive in the international marketplace and dragging down the national economy “through billions of dollars’ worth of lost productivity,” he said.

Khan said the situation is made more frustrating by mismanagement and a lack of political leadership to take on the hard work to develop and put in place a comprehensive energy policy.

A diverse array of energy projects

Through both its research and education components, USPCASE is laying the groundwork for developing a comprehensive energy policy. Joint research projects span a range of focal points, including power systems, electric power grids, solar energy and related photovoltaic technologies, thermal energy, micro-hydro hybrid systems and energy materials. There are also studies on energy policy, economic management and energy security.

Microgrids for remote communities

ASU’s Photovoltaic Reliability Lab, led by Govindasamy Tamizhmani, an associate research professor in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, is partnering on three projects.

With collaborators Muhammad Shoaib Khalid, the principal investigator, and co-principal investigator Abdul Basit at UET-P, one of the projects focuses on the joint design, development and implementation of a hybrid microgrid system for rural communities in Pakistan.

The goal is to showcase a real-world concept of a hybrid microgrid application, integrating hydro, biomass and solar photovoltaic energy sources into a community-level electricity distribution network. UET-P is using a remote village in northern Pakistan as the test site for the project, one of the many small communities in Pakistan without access to the country’s primary electric grid. Microgrids are self-contained energy generation, transmission and storage systems that can operate independently from the primary power grid.

Tamizhmani says the ultimate objective is to put hybrid microgrids to use in rural communities throughout Pakistan to provide reliable and clean energy in the hope of achieving long-term positive impacts on remote communities. These microgrids can provide power to a small surrounding community consisting of houses, a school, a community center and a mosque, for lighting, fans, water purification, water pumping, sanitation, internet and electric charging.

According to Khan, the hybrid microgrids project is gaining traction with government agencies seeking solutions to the widespread energy shortages in large rural regions in Pakistan known as Federally Administered Tribal Areas. Government leaders overseeing one of the most prominent of the FATA regions have initiated an extensive pilot project with UET-P to install the new hybrid microgrids throughout that region to test their effectiveness.

A second joint project Tamizhmani is undertaking with NUST and OSU focuses on the simulation and development of a microgrid testbed to serve as the benchmark for the design of a “smart” microgrid that employs a monitoring system to ensure all components of the technology are operating at maximum efficiency.

Solar panel coatings to improve energy collection and transmission

Tamizhmani’s third project, with Saim Saher from UET-P, aims to develop an anti-soiling coating with dust-repellent properties to improve the solar power transmittance and output of photovoltaic modules, which convert sunlight into electricity, installed at Pakistan’s Quaid-e-Azam Solar Park and other solar plants.

For this project, researchers will collect and analyze dust samples from the exposed surfaces of photovoltaic panels, develop anti-soiling coating and test the new coating and the performance of photovoltaic panels to which the coating has been applied.

High-capacity battery storage

Bertan Bakkaloglu, a Fulton Schools professor of electrical engineering, is collaborating with NUST faculty member Khawaja Arsalan to develop highly accurate, rapid ways to detect aging and degradation in large-scale lithium-ion batteries, which are becoming an essential component in high-capacity residential energy storage, electric vehicles and power supplies.

Battery lifespan monitoring methods are critical to reducing the cost of battery replacement. The project goal is to develop hardware and firmware that will self-test batteries, obtaining information on the condition and performance of various kinds of battery chemistries.

Energy modeling and policy

Professor Clark Miller, an associate director of ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society, is the principal investigator on two projects — one with NUST faculty members Kafait Ullah and Kashif Imran, and one with UET-P faculty member Irfan Mohammad. The goal of both projects is to provide Pakistan with national energy system modeling strategies and to develop a team to help alleviate poverty in the major Pakistan province of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa through access to energy. The latter effort combines hydrological and social research to improve the impact of distributed energy on sustainable development.

Green buildings

Harvey Bryan, a professor of design in ASU’s Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts, is collaborating on a project with NUST faculty members Muhammad Bilal Sajid and Muhammad Zubair to erect a “green building” on their campus that adheres to the stringent energy-efficiency and sustainability rating and certification standards for such structures in the United States.

The building would serve as a model green building for other institutions and developers in Pakistan to emulate, Bryan said.  

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Muhammad Zubair (left), an assistant professor at National University of Sciences and Technology, worked in Arizona State University Associate Professor Tae-Woo Lee’s lab during the spring 2018 semester. Zubair is co-principal investigator on two joint USPCASE research projects. Photo by Marco-Alexis Chaira/ASU

Capturing thermal energy for heat

Fulton Schools Professor Arunachala Mada Kannan worked with NUST faculty members Majid Ali and Muhammad Aamir and OSU faculty member Brian Fronk on a solar-power space-heating system involving a solar thermal collector, thermal energy storage unit and a radiator heat exchanger.

In the system, a heat transfer fluid carries harvested thermal energy from the solar thermal collector to the thermal energy storage tank during the hours of exposure to the sun. The stored thermal energy is then utilized at night for space-heating applications.

Collaborative endeavors benefit faculty and students

Kannan said such collaborative efforts foster interaction that produces benefits through the varied array of expertise that research team members bring to the work.

“We always achieve a synergy that results in something better than what we could accomplish alone,” he said.

Equally as valuable, joint research projects lead to other kinds of collaborations, particularly co-authoring papers for publication in research journals and generating ideas for innovative approaches to future research, Kannan added.

The collaborations are also providing ASU, NUST and UET-P graduate students valuable experience in advanced multidisciplinary research.

It is an especially sought-after opportunity among students at the Pakistani universities who typically are given little hands-on training in research labs in their country.

In most USPCASE research collaborations, students “are developing classical mathematical models and implementing the theory into practice,” said Edward William, a technical advisor and research scientist for the program.

Some of the students assisting on USPCASE projects also receive funding to cultivate new ideas and are being provided sources of data and technologies to support their lab work, William said.

pakistan panels
Student researchers with the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Energy, known as USPCASE, install solar panels at a project site in Sakhakot, a village in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan, as part of the hybrid energy testbed for remote communities joint research project with Arizona State University, Oregon State University and Pakistan’s University of Engineering & Technology Peshawar. Photo courtesy of USPCASE

Promoting knowledge sharing and cultural exchange

In addition to joint research project visits, USPCASE has a visiting scholar program at ASU each semester for both Pakistani graduate students and faculty members. They get research training in one of eight labs on ASU’s Tempe and Polytechnic campuses that focus on energy policy, energy materials, power systems, power electronics, fuel cells and batteries, photovoltaics reliability and thermal energy.

So far, more than 135 NUST and UET-P graduate students and faculty have completed semester-long exchange programs enabling them to study at ASU and participate in research. ASU and OSU faculty members also visit the Pakistan universities to work on joint research projects.

More than 200 students and faculty are expected to participate in the research and cultural exchanges over the life of USPCASE project. Even more faculty and students benefit from a series of research workshops held in Pakistan that are facilitated by ASU faculty and international experts.

The exchange students also benefit from the USPCASE program’s professional development instruction, which includes studies in policy and entrepreneurship to prepare students to be Pakistan’s future leaders in energy development efforts.

Working to sustain what USPCASE has started

One of the most important impacts of partnering with a research university of ASU’s stature and capabilities are the connections this relationship is helping to build between government, industry and university researchers in Pakistan, said Ahmed Khan.

“Industry is now coming to us. They are interested in our laboratories and the energy possibilities we are exploring,” he said.

“We are taking some important steps forward on technologies and power systems,” said Khan, adding that many of Pakistan’s government and industry leaders are recognizing the goals of USPCASE endeavors as critical to the country’s social and economic stability.

“It gives us hope of being able to sustain our research projects and of getting the support to stand on our own in the future,” Khan said.

Jake Kupiec, USPCASE communications director, contributed to this article. 

Top photo: Arizona State University Associate Research Professor Govindasamy Tamizhmani (left), pictured with two USPCASE exchange students, is the co-principal investigator on multiple joint research projects with faculty at Pakistan’s University of Engineering & Technology, Peshawar and National University of Sciences and Technology. Photo courtesy of ASU’s Graphic Information Technology Studio

Joe Kullman

Science writer , Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

480-965-8122

PLuS Alliance launches International Interdisciplinary Researchers program


July 26, 2018

The PLuS Alliance, a partnership between Arizona State University, King’s College London and UNSW Sydney, has announced the PLuS International Interdisciplinary Researchers program (PIIR), designed to enhance the global and interdisciplinary skills and perspectives of the next generation of research leaders.

PIIR aims to provide researchers with training in developing global networks, working across transdisciplinary teams, communicating research and leadership and career development. Download Full Image

The program is open to PhD candidates and postdoctoral researchers (up to five years post-PhD) from ASU, King’s or UNSW Sydney, with a research focus across one of the PLuS Alliance’s key themes: global health, sustainability, social justice, and technology and innovation. PIIR also aims to provide PhD and postdoctoral researchers with training in developing global networks, working across transdisciplinary teams, communicating research and leadership and career development.

Brian Smith, inaugural trustee professor with ASU’s School of Life Sciences, has been driving the development of the PIIR program at ASU in his role as PLuS Alliance fellow and associate dean of graduate initiatives in the Graduate College.

“Through the PLuS Alliance, faculty across the three partner universities, in broad areas of research, have been able to develop productive collaborations related to major global challenges. The PIIR program will enable students and postdoctoral researchers to take greater advantage of the strong cross-border and cross-disciplinary linkages fostered through the PLuS Alliance, and also provide an avenue for them to become more directly involved in this unique partnership,” Smith said.

To be granted a PIIR certificate, researchers must complete the one-year program, which includes a blend of online courses, in-person meetings at each institution, workshops, and monthly webinars with all partners. Researchers will also develop one scholarly output, such as a conference poster, funding proposal or policy position paper. Co-mentoring by faculty at different universities is encouraged, and researchers will have the opportunity to apply for funds to support travel to one of the PLuS Alliance institutions in Phoenix, London or Sydney.

The program will run from September 2018 through September 2019, with applications open through the end of July.

Carrie Lingenfelter

Media Relations Manager, EdPlus at Arizona State University

4808841541

Director’s research in Senegal inspires School of Art’s plan for more global learning


July 25, 2018

In Dakar, Senegal, you can find a gas station or a hair salon turned into a space for seeing art. A dance club becomes an exhibition venue. A mixed-media installation pops up in a traffic circle. Old cellphones find new life as textured artwork. These transformations happen every two years during the Dak'Art Biennale of Contemporary African Art — one of the largest biennials in the world, and the longest-running arts biennial in Africa.

The 13th edition of Dak’Art, which was held in May, included a special talk from Joanna Grabski, director of the School of Art in Arizona State University's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Graffiti artist works on mural Graffiti artist Docta works on a new mural at the Hotel Novotel during the Dak’Art Biennial. Photo by Ashley Czajkowski Download Full Image

“The entire city becomes engaged for this period of time with art, and it’s really transformative to see,” Grabski said. “It has implications for how we engage with art here.”

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Grabski’s relationship with Dakar. She has been conducting research with artists and art collectors since 1998, and she has written a book about the city’s art scene and place in the global art world: “Art World City: The Creative Economy of Artists and Urban Life in Dakar” was published last summer.

“It was really touching and really wonderful to go back to a country where I worked for 20 years,” Grabski said. “I was able to share my book, which was a product of many generosities of people who informed the story I was telling, and it was great to be able to reconnect with those individuals.”

In her book, Grabski outlines how the biennial plays a vital role in the city’s art scene.

The alternative venues and much of the local art exhibited during the biennial are part of Dak’Art Off, offsite exhibitions scattered throughout the city’s neighborhoods and organized by artists, gallerists and individuals active in Dakar’s art scene. Grabski said there were more than 300 exhibitions happening in the city, and she and ASU School of Art Associate Director Forrest Solis, who also traveled to Africa for the biennial, went to at least six events each day.

“The Off sites are really important to the city itself because it’s where residents come forward to show the art they make,” Grabski said. “It means everybody gets to participate, and there’s something really lovely about that level of success. It tells me there are many kinds of art that can be out there, and they can all coexist. I think that’s an important message for us.”

From art historians who do research internationally to faculty artists who work across the globe to students studying abroad, the School of Art already taps into the global art world, and Grabski said the visit to Dakar is the first step in expanding the school’s global focus.  

“I think that we have a lot to learn from artists who are making art in other parts of the world,” she said, “especially about the publics that they access, how they work with communities, their reasons for making art and how they use technology — and by that I mean any kind of indigenous knowledge and new knowledge. I think asking questions helps us better understand our own practices.”

Solis and photography alumna Ashley Czajkowski interviewed and recorded artists discussing their work and the art-making process. Solis said they hope to share those stories and what they learned in Dakar with students this fall.

“One of the Herberger Institute’s biggest initiatives is engaging community and the arts,” Solis said. “We’re seeing that in a place where this engagement is thriving and looking at how we can take that away and bring some of those interventions here.”

Grabski said she wants the global initiatives in the school to lead to more off-site experiential learning for students. She also said this global focus will provide alumni a platform to engage in new conversations about their work and will allow faculty to scale their work.

While in Africa, Solis and Czajkowski also interviewed mothers from the region for Creative Push, an ongoing multimedia visual-art and oral-history project that explores birth.

“It was fascinating and expanded my thinking about this subject,” Solis said.

In addition to scaling work and learning from artists around the world, Grabski said she plans to eventually create a global art school alliance.

“What I’d like to do is to bring together different interlocutors from different art schools around the world and create a conversation about global art practice at the level of art school pedagogy. We have so much to learn from each other,” Grabski said. “We need a platform for larger conversations about being an artist on this planet.”

Sarah A. McCarty

Communications and marketing coordinator, School and Film, Dance and Theatre, Herberger Institute

480-727-4433

 
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ASU adds Ukrainian to offerings of languages crucial to national security

ASU adds Ukrainian to roster of language courses crucial to national security.
July 20, 2018

Critical Languages Institute teaches immersive classes to accelerate proficiency

The Critical Languages Institute at Arizona State University has added Ukrainian to its roster of languages taught to bolster national security, and it’s one of the few immersive programs for that language in the United States.

Five students are taking beginning Ukrainian at the Tempe campus this summer in a seven-week course designed to accelerate competence in beginners. Besides the spoken language, they're also learning to read and write in the 33-letter Ukrainian version of the Cyrillic alphabet.

The U.S. government has designated Ukrainian as a critical language with proficient speakers in high demand, and the institute, part of the Melikian Center in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, teaches 11 of those languages. This summer, in addition to Ukrainian, the institute offers Albanian, Armenian, Bosnian/Croatian/Serbian, Hebrew, Indonesian, Persian, Polish, Russian, Turkish and Uzbek.

Geopolitics plays a role in why languages are deemed to be important. After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine achieved independence, and after that, “A whole new generation is growing up speaking Ukrainian,” said Mark von Hagen, a professor of history and global studies who was interim director of the Melikian Center last year. He launched the program after securing donations to fund it.

Video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

The institute’s courses are tuition-free, funded by federal agencies, partnerships and donors, though students pay an administrative fee and the cost of study abroad. The classes are open to anyone, including high school juniors and seniors. The federal Title 8 program pays for language instruction for graduate students, such as Brandon Urness, a student at the Thunderbird School of Global Management at ASU.

He became interested in Ukraine after hearing Sen. John McCain discuss the Russian invasion of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Clashes between rebels and Russian forces in the region continue.

“Ukrainian is the most critical language in the world today with what’s happening in eastern Ukraine with the Russian annexation,” said Urness, who has a bachelor’s degree in political science. “That was the first time in my life I’ve seen something like that and it was shocking to me.”

Creative writing master's degree student Kalani Pickhart (left) laughs as she practices her verbs of motion with Brandon Urness, a student at the Thunderbird School of Global Management at ASU, during their Ukrainian class. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Urness, who would like someday be an election observer in Ukraine, said the class is so intense that he’s been dreaming in Ukrainian every night.

“One of the biggest challenges is the amount of time it takes to master a language,” said Urness, who became fluent in Mongolian while serving on a mission there.

Jordan Tomlinson, a senior majoring in medical studies, is learning Ukrainian because he plans to attend medical school in Ukraine, where tuition is much cheaper.

“One of the hardest things about Ukrainian are verbs that differentiate between doing something once versus multiple times,” said Tomlinson, who’s also studied Russian. “Having to differentiate between the two is difficult.”

After the half day of class, the students spend many additional hours studying Ukrainian on their own.

“For me, it’s listening to music, watching videos and talking to my friends in Ukraine,” Tomlinson said.

“You just have to try to speak the language as much as you can.”

Ukrainian instructor Olena Sivachenko (left) assists students Olena Melnyk and Jordan Tomlinson in the Critical Languages Institute course. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

The immersive courses are not just for prospective diplomats, but also for people who study anthropology, history, literature, human rights and military policy, von Hagen said.

“A lot of people who are doing research in Russia are finding it more difficult because of restrictions on archives and interviews with officials, but many of us are aware that it’s easier to do the same work in Ukraine. They’ve declassified pretty much everything,” said von Hagen, who is teaching at the Ukrainian Free University in Germany this summer.

He said that the country is safe, except for the occupied area, which will likely have to adjust to being a “militarized democracy.”

“I teach Ukrainian history as an example of empires,” he said. “Russia was an empire and they’re still parting painfully with the past. All empires go down ugly.”

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503

 
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A century after his birth, Nelson Mandela's legacy lives among young Africans

Young African leaders at ASU reflect on Mandela 100 years after his birth.
July 17, 2018

Mandela Washington Fellows at ASU working to empower their communities back home

Twenty-five young African leaders visiting Arizona State University this summer are part of a generation that has grown up with the legacy of anti-apartheid revolutionary Nelson Mandela.

Mandela, South Africa's first black head of state and the first elected in a fully representative democratic election, was born July 18, 1918. As president of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, he fought to dismantle apartheid and worked for racial reconciliation.

The young people are at ASU as part of the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, an intensive six-week program of academic work and community service. This is the fifth year of the program, begun in 2014 as the main part of the Young African Leaders Initiative in the U.S. Department of State.

The 25 fellows at ASU are from 17 countries in Africa and are selected based on their accomplishments. Many own businesses, lead nonprofit organizations or teach. While here, each scholar develops a project that he or she can implement back in their communities. They also learn practical skills, such as marketing strategies and how to write a grant application.

The fellows are between the ages of 25 and 35, so they were children during Mandela’s presidency and the major changes that swept South Africa.

Video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Jordan Griffiths, 28, is the policy adviser to the executive mayor of Pretoria, one of the three capitals of South Africa.

“My journey is unique. I’m a young, white South African, so I am a minority,” he said. “I’m an English-speaking white South African, which also puts me in a smaller group as well.

“I was born in 1990, which is when apartheid was still in effect, and I was 4 years old when apartheid ended. I went to a school that was racially diverse, but my siblings did not. They were in high school when apartheid ended and all of a sudden the racial demographics in the school changed. I’ve been grateful to grow up in that society.”

Griffiths said that Mandela’s legacy is in how he effected such dramatic change.

“He spent well over a quarter of his life in prison, under apartheid, and he came out of prison and was able to negotiate a peaceful transition for South Africa from apartheid to a democratic society,” he said.

“If you think about Africa’s history and the levels of conflict on the continent, these things often don’t happen that way.”

Daniel Kanyambu Mbonzo of Kenya said that among Mandela’s lasting contributions to Africa is the leader’s public acknowledgment in 2005 that his son died of AIDS.

“Back when his son died, HIV was not accepted in Africa. We still had stigma. People were thrown out of their communities because they were HIV-positive,” said Mbonzo, who is a nurse and runs a wellness organization.

“But he did not hide it, and he succeeded in pushing the acceptance of HIV across the whole continent.”

Mandela often spoke of the importance of educating all African children, and Janet Leparteleg of Kenya said her favorite Mandela quote is: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

“I use that in my personal project,” said Leparteleg, who is from the Samburu community in Kenya. Known as the “Butterfly People,” they move around frequently in search of water and pasture for livestock, and most of the girls do not go to school.

“I got a degree in business information technology, which was a first for my community. When I started a career in technology I decided to go back and empower the girls,” she said.

Lelparteleg started an education organization, Butterfly Techies, to encourage girls to pursue education and careers in science or technology.

“I’m having my first bunch of girls clearing high school and hopefully (will) have them get their bachelor's in STEM careers,” she said.

Top photo: A statue of Nelson Mandela is in Johannesburg, South Africa. Photo by Pixabay

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503

 
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ASU to honor CNN anchor Anderson Cooper with annual Cronkite Award

July 16, 2018

35th winner of the school's namesake honor, the famed journalist will accept his award at a ceremony in Phoenix in October

Anderson Cooper, the Emmy- and Peabody Award-winning primetime anchor at CNN, will be the recipient of the 2018 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism, Arizona State University announced Monday.

Cooper, the anchor of CNN’s “Anderson Cooper 360” and a correspondent for “60 Minutes” on CBS, will receive the 35th award given by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at a luncheon ceremony Wednesday, Oct. 17, at the Sheraton Grand in Phoenix. The award recognizes distinguished journalists who embody the values of the school’s namesake.

“I’m so honored and humbled to accept the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism,” Cooper said. “I’m proud to honor Mr. Cronkite’s legacy. He sparked my interest in journalism at a young age and remains a guiding star for generations of journalists.”

Cooper, who has reported live from more than 40 countries since his journalism career began in 1992, has earned a reputation as one of television’s leading journalists, having won 13 Emmys.

anderson cooper
Anderson Cooper

Cooper’s award-winning coverage at CNN has included on-the-ground reporting of major natural disasters. He won two Emmy awards for his reporting on the Haiti earthquake in 2011. He also helped lead CNN’s Peabody Award-winning coverage of Hurricane Katrina in 2005. And in 2004, he worked on prime-time specials on the Indian Ocean tsunami, which won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Award. 

As a regular contributor to “60 Minutes” since 2006, he reported on Congo’s civil war in 2008 as well as the dire conditions of coral reefs near Cuba in 2011, for which he won an Edward R. Murrow Award.

Cooper, who joined CNN shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, plays a key role in the network’s political and election coverage, anchoring from the national political conventions and serving as moderator during several presidential primary debates and town halls. In 2016, Cooper was selected by the Committee on Presidential Debates to co-moderate one of three debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.

Since the launch of “Anderson Cooper 360” in 2005, Cooper has covered presidential inaugurations; the Newtown, Connecticut, school shooting; Republican and Democratic National Conventions; uprisings in the Middle East and the aftermaths of earthquakes in Haiti and Japan. He traveled around the world in 2007 and 2008 for “Planet in Peril,” a documentary about issues threatening the planet.

Cooper previously was an ABC News correspondent from 1995-2000, where he served as anchor of ABC’s overnight newscast, “World News Now.” He also was a correspondent for “World News Tonight” as well as “20/20.” He joined ABC from Channel One News, a school television network seen daily in more than 12,000 classrooms nationwide.

A best-selling author, Cooper’s 2016 novel, “The Rainbow Comes and Goes: A Mother and Son on Life, Love, and Loss,” chronicled his correspondence with his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt. The book debuted atop the New York Times best-sellers list, where it remained for three months. His first book, “Dispatches from the Edge: A Memoir of Wars, Disaster, and Survival,” published in 2006, also topped the New York Times best-sellers list.

Cooper graduated from Yale University in 1989 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science. He also studied Vietnamese at the University of Hanoi.

“Like Walter Cronkite, Anderson Cooper’s on-the-ground reporting has brought important global issues closer to home,” said Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan. “He is a model for our students, and we look forward to honoring him with Walter’s award.”

Related: Learn more about past Walter Cronkite Award winners

Other Cronkite Award recipients include TV news anchors Scott Pelley, Diane Sawyer, Judy Woodruff and Gwen Ifill; newspaper journalists Ben Bradlee, Helen Thomas and Bob Woodward; and media executives Katharine Graham, Al Neuharth and William Paley. Cronkite personally presented the award during its first quarter-century until his death in 2009.

The Cronkite School, named in Cronkite’s honor in 1984, prepares the next generation of journalists in both the time-honored fundamentals embraced by Cronkite and the skills necessary to thrive as journalists in the digital age.

Housed in a state-of-the-art media complex in downtown Phoenix, the school has been featured in The New York Times, The Times of London and USA Today as a leader in 21st-century journalism education and innovation.

The Cronkite School is also the home of Arizona PBS, which serves as a journalistic teaching hospital for hundreds of students who work under 15 full-time faculty in professional programs that include a nightly television news broadcast on Arizona PBS, digital reporting bureaus in Phoenix, Washington and Los Angeles, business and borderlands reporting bureaus, an entrepreneurial digital innovation lab, a digital production desk, an audience engagement lab and the Carnegie-Knight News21 investigative reporting program.

Assistant editor , Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

602-496-7497

 
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England's potential World Cup glory may shape country's attitude on Brexit

July 10, 2018

ASU professor draws parallel between globalization of English soccer and politics

When England won a penalty shootout against Colombia on July 3, it earned itself a place in the World Cup semifinals for the first time since 1990. English fans were overjoyed — including Prime Minister Theresa May, who told the team via Twitter to “keep the flag flying for us.”

While May hopes to keep England’s flag flying at the World Cup in Russia, she’s struggling to find a way to lower a the European Union flag back at home. This week, the U.K.’s withdrawal from the European Union, known as Brexit, faces a political crisis after the resignations of Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and Brexit Secretary David Davis. Arizona State University Professor Andrés Martinez sees a telling contrast between the political chaos surrounding Brexit — which has been widely interpreted as a rejection of globalization — and the English team’s success at the World Cup.

On the eve of England's semifinal match against Croatia, ASU Now spoke with Martinez, a professor of practice in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, the editorial director of Future Tense, and a special adviser to ASU President Michael Crow. He is currently working on a book about the globalization of the English Premier League, supported by a seed grant from ASU’s Global Sport Institute.

Question: Before the World Cup, you wrote in The Los Angeles Times that if the English team were to find success in Russia, it might make the country want to "revisit its Brexit vote." And now during the final week of the tournament, Theresa May's government is coming apart at its seams over Brexit, and England is making a rare appearance in a World Cup semifinal. You really think these stories are related? 

andres Martinez
Andrés Martinez

Answer: Well, I do see a connection, and a contradiction, between what has been taking place in English politics, on the one hand, and on the playing field of the world’s most popular sport on the other — a sport the English themselves will always remind you they gave the world. To put it bluntly, English politics, much like politics everywhere in recent years, are retreating from globalization, while English football and sports more generally have been doubling down on globalization, and thriving as a result. The question now is whether sports or politics are the leading indicator of where society is headed.

Q: You mean that England is embracing globalization by succeeding in the most popular sporting event?

A: More than that, I am talking about English football being strengthened in recent years by its opening to the outside world. The English Premier League, the country's domestic football league, is a massive globalization success story. English football was very insular as recently as the early 1990s, but the league has within the last generation overtaken the Spanish and Italian leagues to become the world's strongest. Driven by the deregulation of the media marketplace, an openness to foreign investment, and EU rules allowing for the freedom of labor movement within the Union, the English Premier League has attracted foreign owners, foreign players, and foreign coaches. English owners, players, coaches — and fans too, when you think of the massive TV audiences the EPL commands in Asia and elsewhere — are all now a distinct minority in their own league. Imagine if in the NFL you had Americans as a minority in all those roles.

Q: Have fans in England resented this internationalization of their league?

A: Well, it’s interesting. For my research, I have been traveling to places like Manchester, Leicester and Swansea, cities in which their football clubs often date back to the 19th century and are more embedded in the local community than our sports teams. Now these teams are owned by billionaires in Abu Dhabi, America and Thailand, and they are followed by far more fans outside the U.K. than inside. All of this is both flattering and disturbing to local fans whose families have been rooting for these teams for generations, long before they played in what's become a world's all-star league. There’s an appreciation for how much the game has improved, but also a sense of the unease we see in other arenas when it comes to globalization, especially around the erosion of local identity. And obviously some foreign owners do a better job than others at preserving their clubs’ identity and community roots.

But the biggest criticism of the league’s globalization until now has been the protectionist charge that welcoming all the outside world’s stars to make their homes at the likes of Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool stunts the development of English-born talent, and ultimately hurts the English national team. 

Think of it as the sports equivalent of the classic import-substitution pitch to protect domestic industry from globalization and foreign competition. In a globalized Premier League, it's true that there are fewer starting positions for English nationals, and you can only send English nationals to represent your country at the World Cup. Foreign stars who play in English league still represent their countries of origin in international play. And in recent years, England’s team has not fared well in big tournaments like the World Cup and the Euros. The Premier League might be top notch, but England as a nation has been a second-tier football power, compared to perennial contenders Germany, Brazil and Argentina.

Q: So how significant is it that England has made it to the World Cup semifinals, and how does that affect whatever resentment fans have about their league being populated by outsiders? 

A: I’d say it is very significant. The relationship English fans have with their national team and the World Cup is rather amusing to us outsiders; a combination of existential angst, eternal hope, self-loathing and hubris. The English have only won the World Cup once, when they hosted the tournament in 1966, and have made the semifinals on only one other occasion, in 1990. And yet, English fans sing about the cup “coming home” if they win, as if it’s their birthright. The story of England in World Cups is one of almost invariable disappointment and spectacular collapses, and critics of the Premier League’s open-border strategy warned that the league’s cosmopolitanism would continue to keep England from becoming a dominant football power.

But now the widespread excitement in Britain around this team of young stars like Harry Kane and Jordan Pickford coached by the understated, vest-wearing Gareth Southgate is giving credence to a counternarrative and a counterthesis about the consequences of being open to the world and of welcoming outside talent. And that is, that these English players are better because they have to compete against the best players from all over the world every Saturday in their domestic league. And however commendable a job Southgate has done with the squad, he benefits from the fact that Harry Kane is coached year-round in his day job at Tottenham by one of Argentina’s best coaches; by the fact that John Stones has become a better defender under the guidance of Barcelona’s former coach, Pep Guardiola, at Manchester City; by the fact that midfielder Jordan Henderson has become a more aggressive passer under the coaching of Liverpool’s brilliant German coach Jürgen Klopp. And so on.  

The success of this team is a refutation of the Brexit thesis that Britain’s integration into the European Union and the outside world made the country weaker and less competitive. Quite the opposite. 

Q: But isn’t that a big leap? I mean, we’re talking sports here. Could there really be a spillover effect into English politics and other areas of life?   

A: I’m interested less in the sports story as such, or in the politics story, and more in the question of how people situate themselves in the world. How do we see ourselves connecting to place, and to others, both here and elsewhere? I think culture plays an important role in answering that question, and sport looms large as an influential identity-shaping form of popular culture.

It’s hard to quantify, of course, but I do think if you’re English you are going to feel better about your place in the world after this World Cup. And you will feel less likely to buy into arguments that all those imported stars — whom you might already appreciate if your home team is winning — are “hurting” English football.

The question now is whether you then analogize to other aspects of life. Is Britain made stronger or weaker by having its financial system be the hub for all European banking and a springboard into Europe for companies that can be headquartered anywhere? Are English companies made stronger or weaker by having to compete with foreign companies in a borderless world? And likewise, do English workers in the aggregate win or lose from having access to goods from all over the world, and being integrated into an EU-wide workforce?

There is undoubtedly a great deal of anxiety everywhere — we’ve certainly seen it in our politics here — about globalization and trade, and the dislocations that come with it. And there is an ancillary temptation to blame technology-driven dislocation and change on foreigners. 

But overall, I think there is a pretty compelling case to be made that for England, Europe and the rest of the world have represented more of an opportunity than a threat. And if you are a fan of globalization, you should root on the English team, because its success will make it easier to make that case going forward.

Written by Mia Armstrong

 
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Is the world a safer place than it was on 9/11?

July 6, 2018

Yes and no, says Nicholas Rasmussen, leader of the new Counterterrorism Program at ASU's McCain Institute

The world can be a scary place.

Perhaps no one knows this better than Nicholas Rasmussen, senior director of the new Counterterrorism Program at Arizona State University's McCain Institute for International Leadership.

Rasmussen assumes his new role with clear program goals: to increase public capability to meet the risk to our national security posed by extremists, to forge new international partnerships, and to train the next generation of young counterterrorism professionals.

ASU Now spoke to Rasmussen, who joined ASU last month, to discuss the institute’s mission and guiding philosophy, and action-oriented solutions. We also got him to answer the $1 million question that nags most Americans: Is the world a safer place than it was on 9/11?

Question: Is the world a safer or more dangerous place to live than it was when 9/11 happened?

Answer: If you are thinking globally, I don’t think that there is any question that the world is a more complicated and potentially dangerous place than it was at the time of 9/11. Today, the pool of extremists — terrorists and potential terrorists — is wider, deeper and more geographically dispersed than it was in 2001. The rise of the Islamic State, or ISIS, caused terrorism to spread to more places and to touch more populations than what we saw when al-Qaida was our primary terrorism concern.

In thinking about terrorism here inside the United States, the homeland, I believe that we are in many ways quite a bit more safe today than we were at the time of 9/11. Our defenses are stronger and more robust, our ability to identify and disrupt potential terrorists is far more developed and getting stronger all the time, and our terrorist adversaries have suffered significant losses in their capability due to our counterterrorism work around the world. I would never say never, but I believe it’s increasingly unlikely that a foreign terrorist organization could manage to carry out inside the United States the kind of large-scale, mass-casualty attack we experienced on 9/11. The attacks that are the most likely today typically involve lone actors with a relatively low level of training and capability. Those individuals are often inspired by ISIS and al-Qaida to carry out terrible acts, but these acts are of a different magnitude than what we experienced on 9/11.

Q: Is terrorism a bigger problem today than it was in other decades?

A: From my perspective, the problem is bigger today than in other decades because modern communication tools and technology have made it much easier for terrorist organizations to identify and recruit new extremists to join their cause and their movement. In many cases, a terrorist group like ISIS or al-Qaida can interact in only the most limited way with an individual around the world and still manage to turn that person into a potential terrorist who poses a real threat. Terrorists also operate today in a world that is in many ways without borders. Terrorists have always benefited from physical safe havens in ungoverned spaces around the world, but increasingly, the safe haven they enjoy can be in the virtual or cyber world.

Q: What are the most effective tools in combating terrorism?

A: An effective counterterrorism strategy requires a truly whole-of-government approach that draws upon many different kinds of tools. The collection of good intelligence is required in order to understand terrorist intentions and capabilities. Collecting that intelligence requires that we work in close cooperation with partner countries all around the world. When appropriate, we share terrorism-related intelligence with those partners, and we rely upon them to do the same.

Similarly, effective counterterrorism strategy requires that we have the highly developed military capabilities we need to locate and disrupt potential terrorists before they act. The effort to kill or capture the terrorists most threatening to the United States and its citizens remains a centerpiece of our counterterrorism strategy. At the same time, we also rely heavily on our law enforcement community to collect intelligence, prosecute individuals who have committed terrorism-related crimes, and to ensure that our terrorism-related laws are vigorously enforced.

Effective terrorism strategy also demands that the United States develop and maintain strong diplomatic partnerships and relationships around the world. The United States is always more effective — militarily and diplomatically — when it is acting in concert with other nations that share our interests in combating terrorism.

Lastly, effective counterterrorism strategy has an important soft-power component. We must always strive to address the conditions that give rise to conflict around the world and that feed extremism. Particularly here inside the United States, we must also do a better job of giving communities and local authorities the tools and knowledge that they need to recognize the presence of extremism and potential terrorism. The federal government is an important actor, but by no means the only important actor, in the effort to keep Americans safe from terrorism here at home.

Q: What will your role at ASU be as the new director of the McCain Institute’s Counterterrorism Program, and how do you see this role complementing or continuing your past work? 

A: My goal at the McCain Institute is to find new and innovative ways to add value to our national counterterrorism efforts. There are some terrorism tasks that fall exclusively to the federal government, particularly the intelligence and military work that our counterterrorism professionals do around the world and here at home. At the same time, as I left government service after 27-plus years, I was convinced that there is room for purpose-driven organizations like the McCain Institute to help build additional counterterrorism capability here at home and around the world. My challenge will be to identify those opportunities to make a difference in the never-ending effort to keep Americans safe from the threat of terrorism.

Q: What attracted you most to the McCain Institute and ASU as a potential platform for your counterterrorism work?   

A: The McCain Institute was founded on the idea that we have an obligation to demonstrate character-driven leadership on national security issues and to develop real, practical solutions to the national security problems that we face at home and around the world. Pursuing that vision is truly important to me. At the same time, the McCain Institute’s affiliation with ASU is an extraordinary source of strength and comparative advantage, given the amazing breadth and depth of resources available to the ASU community. In my very short tenure, I have identified and begun to develop numerous potential partnership opportunities with individuals and organizations all across the ASU universe. That is genuinely exciting to me, and I look forward to learning even more about the amazing array of important work going on in Phoenix, in Tempe, in Washington, D.C., and indeed anywhere where ASU operates.  

Top photo courtesy of the McCain Institute for International Leadership

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-5176

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