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Travel Channel follows Thunderbird alum to Peru's 'Land of the Giants'

September 18, 2018

There are few things that rattle American-Brazilian financier James Lynch. 

He’s spent weeks living with Amazonian cannibals who he remembers as being “very nice and kind.” He came close to death on a trek deep into the jungle in search of the source of El Dorado Falls, one of the tallest waterfalls in Brazil.

He’s spent many nights lying on the open ground looking up at more stars than you can possibly imagine blanketing the night sky, cloaked in a cloud of warm damp air, listening to the orchestra of jungle sounds at night. 

And once, when he was leading an expedition of 17 people, including his teenage son, in the Mato Grosso backlands of Brazil, the whole group was kidnapped and held hostage by a hostile tribe in the Amazon. 

At 64, Lynch, who has pursued physically and mentally challenging adventures for 40 years, tends to take things in his stride these days. But he’s hardly slowing down. His most recent journey to Peru is the subject of a documentary on the Travel Channel, scheduled to premiere on Oct. 16.

Hidden treasures, lost legends

James Lynch, a 1977 graduate of Thunderbird School of Global Management, is the founding partner of Phoenix Strategic Financial Advisors. The name was inspired by his time at Thunderbird, but the company is based in Sao Paulo, Brazil, where he grew up. Lynch’s parents moved to Brazil in 1945, before he was born. They planned to stay three years, but fell in love with the country and stayed for 30.

Prior to launching his company, Lynch worked in senior investment banking positions for the Chase Manhattan Bank in New York and Latin America for 20 years.

During his time at Chase in Brazil, Lynch met René Delmotte, a Brazilian engineer. The two men were chosen out of a pool of 25,000 applicants to be part of the 1987 Camel Trophy challenge, a grueling 14-day, 2,252-kilometer road race in Range Rovers from the northern tip of Madagascar to the southern tip. The two have been adventure partners ever since.

two men in the jungle
James Lynch and René Delmotte after arriving home from time with cannibals.

Overlap between his work skills and explorations may be obvious: Both took a great degree of organization, the ability to inspire a team of people, persistence and negotiating skills. Yet the stakes can be very different during a project at work and an adventure in the jungle.

“I never had to negotiate for someone’s life at Chase,” Lynch said. 

Lynch’s personal passion is pursuing adventures that combine physical challenges and exploration into lost worlds. His expeditions are all inspired by some historical question. His objectives are to decipher a mystery or myth. And the results often include lessons that he’s been able to use in all aspects of life. 

Finding Fawcett

In the summer of 1996, when Lynch had to negotiate for the lives of his expedition team, including his 16-year-old son, James Jr., the group had set out in the jungles of Brazil in order to help solve one of the greatest exploration mysteries of the 20th century.

With the backing of BayerBF Goodrich and other corporate sponsors, Lynch and his crew set out to retrace the footsteps of Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, a British explorer who, in 1925, had disappeared in the forest along with his son and another companion. When they vanished, Fawcett’s party had been trying to uncover a lost civilization hidden in the Amazon. 

For two months before setting out to solve the 71-year mystery, Lynch and Delmotte studied Fawcett’s records and satellite images of Brazil to plot their course. Their gear included turbo-charged Jeeps and 25-foot boats. Their team included a forensic anthropologist who could confirm the origins of objects they might find, including bones.

explorers with Kuikuro tribe
James Lynch and his son, James Lynch Jr., in 1996 with the Kuikuro tribe.

Deep into the jungle, along the Xingu River, Lynch and his crew found trouble. They were in a village of the Kuikuro people, one of the few tribes that still lived in the Amazon much as they had before the arrival of Europeans. They were surrounded by dozens of men from another tribe armed with bows and arrows and then loaded onto small boats. 

“Where are you taking us?” Lynch asked.

“You are our prisoners for life,” one man responded in Portuguese. 

Negotiation of a lifetime

After being held hostage in the jungle for three days, about 200 men appeared for a council. Lynch led the negotiations.

“Since my son was with us, that added a new level of adrenaline to the whole thing,” Lynch remembered.

Eventually, they agreed to a swap. The explorers would leave about $30,000 worth of gear in exchange for their freedom. Deal done? Not quite. They still needed to get out and get home. 

Lynch’s team was given permission to have a small plane land on a nearby clearing, but the plane could only hold six people at a time. James Jr. was on the first flight out, which eased his dad’s mind.

Like many of Lynch’s stories, this one took several dangerous turns before it was over. He and another explorer had to stay one more night before the final flight out. And then when they returned to their starting point, they found that their vehicles had been stolen. 

Negotiations began again. 

Travel Channel: ‘Warriors of the Clouds’ 

The close call in Mato Grosso as they followed in Fawcett’s footstep (reassuring spoiler: they did get out safely) didn’t hold Lynch back from continuing to launch expeditions, looking for more adventures.

three men looking at two mummies
Photo courtesy of the Travel Channel

The most recent is his journey to Peru to find the not-so-mythical “Land of the Giants,” which became the subject of the Travel Channel documentary.

The program focuses on the Chachapoyas, the “Warriors of the Clouds”, a tribe of light-skinned, exceptionally tall Andean people who lived high in the forested mountains of the Amazonas region of present-day Peru, a place where civilization predates the Incas. All of the Chachapoya villages were above 10,000 feet altitude, very high in the jungle. Lynch said nearby villagers knew of rock ruins “on that mountain” and urged the explorers to go see it. 

Of course, that’s easier said than done in the jungle, which grows over quickly, not to mention over hundreds or thousands of years. Lynch’s crew used a technology called LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) to map out the area. Using a large drone, they targeted LIDAR which essentially stripped out on the screen the jungle foliage to reveal massive rock ruins.

“We were looking at the printouts from the LIDAR and we found a structure that was very large and rectangular in shape,” Lynch said.

The explorers got their bearings from the LIDAR maps and headed out, cutting their way through the jungle toward what turned out to be the remains of a temple. 

“We found what I believe to be a platform used to sacrifice people or animals. It was a flat platform with a 1,000-foot drop off. They wouldn’t have used that for anything else,” Lynch said. “The locals knew of the existence of this place, but nobody had really mapped it. Nobody had studied it.”

As fascinating as the platform and the surrounding area is, Lynch stops short from saying his crew “discovered” it.

“We didn’t discover it,” he stressed. “First of all it was populated by the people who built it and all the people who lived there, they know what’s up there.

“Even Hiram Bingham didn’t ‘discover’ the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu. All he did was listen to the locals who knew Machu Picchu was there and report on it to the outside world. We sort of did the same thing.”

Professional lessons from a life of adventure 

The greatest lessons Lynch takes away from his adventures have not been found in artifacts or by walking through the former villages of ancient people. The lessons he takes with him every day come from talking to the direct descendants of those ancient people. 

“Yes, I like the jungle,” Lynch explained. “The green does something for me. It recharges my batteries in an emotional way that I can’t explain. But what’s really fascinating to me is sitting down and talking to these people who live relatively isolated lives and who have had substantially different approaches to life than we have.”

"People may seem very different than you, but in the essentials, the basics, we are identical."
– James Lynch

In fact, one of the only things that rattles Lynch these days is coming across someone who assumes people who are different — especially natives living in isolated regions or the jungle — are ignorant or lack the knowledge required to make complex decisions.

“If we were left in the jungle for a week we’d be dead and they’ve been living there for a thousand years,” Lynch said. 

It’s a lesson that every person in leadership can use every day.

“People may seem very different than you, but in the essentials, the basics, we are identical. We go through the same stages in life, from being born, becoming independent from our parents, finding mates and having children, growing old and dying. There are variations, of course, but we all go through a cycle very similar to this.”

Yet, we come up with different ways to cope with the problems and challenges that life presents and learn how to use our surroundings to our benefit.

Adventure-filled bucket list 

Lynch says his life has been enriched immeasurably through this wonderful hobby. And he isn’t slowing down a bit.

“I have a rather long bucket list,” he said. “Places I want to go. Things I want to do. People I want to meet.”

And if the Travel Channel documentary is a success, Lynch, Delmotte and their film crew may develop many of those ideas into a series of adventure documentaries.

Top photo: Expedition leader James Lynch, navigator Rene Delmotte and field scientist Marsh Mokhtari journey deep into the mountain jungles of the Amazon for the Travel Channel.

Marketing associate director , Thunderbird School of Global Management


ASU partners with the Saudi Arabian Ministry of Education, welcomes cohort of Saudi educators

September 12, 2018

Arizona State University has welcomed 52 Saudi Arabian educators to the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College as part of the yearlong Building Leadership for Change Through School Immersion program. Developed by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Education, the program — which will run through February 2019 — is in direct response to the Saudi Arabian government’s goal of investing in the future of their country by improving and innovating their schools.

To further meet the needs of the program’s participants, ASU’s Global Launch program is offering specially designed intensive English language courses for participants to improve their academic English. Saudi educators pose at ASU's West campus as part of the Building Leadership for Change Through School Immersion program. Photo by Rebecca Grijalva Download Full Image

As part of the program, participants also attend various workshops, facilitate quality problem-based lessons and lead others in developing problem-based learning opportunities, develop teacher leadership skills by exploring topics like communication, collaboration and adult learning, participate in a STEM camp, attend the Teacher Leadership Institute conference in Tucson and participate in a mentorship program with Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College professors. According to Ruhi Khan, the program’s director for Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, “We at Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College pride ourselves in supporting the scholars to meet the objectives of the project but also to support their social and emotional well-being. Many of the scholars have brought their families with them, and they are experiencing new ways of life in school, shopping, transportation, housing etc. — we try to support them as they face these challenges and miss the comforts of home.”

Through a combination of rigorous English language skills training and professional development coursework, ASU Global Launch is providing additional support to enhance the immersion program. The specialized course for English language instruction includes key vocabulary and pedagogical concepts to support participants for classroom immersion and English as a Second Language communication in academic settings. According to Dianna Lippincott, Global Launch’s strategic innovation manager, participants “are focusing on academic English, from writing structured essays to reading academic research to discussing current issues in education. We at Global Launch find it critical to support ASU’s international initiatives because English proficiency continues to prove foundational for success in international programs”.

Following the coursework this summer, all participants will be embedded in top Phoenix-area schools within the Washington Elementary, Phoenix Elementary and Cave Creek Unified school districts during the fall semester. Through ASU’s wide range of school and community partnerships, participants will learn firsthand how the American educational system works and will develop individual professional learning plans that will support their role in leading change in Saudi Arabia.

“This program is an excellent example of how ASU collaborates across units to bring meaningful educational experiences to educators both locally and globally,” said Ann Nielsen, associate director of the Center for Advanced Studies in Global Education. “The program aligns to our strategic initiatives of internationalizing curriculum by promoting global and intercultural learning on campus and in our local community, and developing and implementing international initiatives through partnerships and educational innovations.” 

For more information about the Building Leadership for Change Through School Immersion program, please contact the program’s director, Ruhi Khan, at ruhi.khan@asu.edu. For more information about the Global Launch intensive English program or international partnerships, please contact Dianna Lippincott at dianna.lippincott@asu.edu.

Samantha Talavera

Marketing and Communications Manager, Global Launch


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Fulbright scholar will spend fall semester studying US Native American children’s education

September 11, 2018

Maggie Walter is using her award to build on her body of work in indigenous-releated research

Maggie Walter has flown more than 8,000 miles to study how Native American children, families and schools in Arizona work to maximize educational outcomes. The 2018 Fulbright Scholar will also bond with fellow researchers and build on her body of work in indigenous-related research.

Walter is an Australian sociologist, author and a palawa (aboriginal) woman descending from the Pairrebenne people of northeastern Tasmania. The pro vice-chancellor of aboriginal research and leadership at the University of Tasmania, Walter will spend the next few months at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus gathering data and stories for a potential new book.

ASU Now spoke to Walter days after she landed in the U.S. to discuss her work and research opportunities.

Question: Tell us about the work you'll be doing this semester.

Answer: My Fulbright program of work is based around two main activities: a comparative quantitative of educational outcomes for aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander children in Australia and Native American and Alaskan Native here in the United States, plus some policy analysis. And network building with indigenous scholars here who work in the area of indigenous education. 

So while there will be some heavy-duty statistical work happening, I will also be out and about as much as possible meeting and talking with other scholars.

Q: Why did you specifically want to come to ASU?

A: I was inspired to come to ASU because Professors Bryan Brayboy and Tsianina Lomawaima are based here and I am an admirer of their scholarship in the field. I have much to learn from them. ASU is also located in an area of the U.S. with a relatively large Native American population; I really want to see some of the work happening in schools. 

Q: Are there any similarities in the experiences of indigenous peoples in the U.S. and Australia? 

A: Yes, there are very strong similarities in how disadvantaged our peoples are and the difficulties of living as an indigenous minority within a nonindigenous majority population. These similarities are very evident in relation to our children’s educational outcomes with both populations recording relatively low levels of educational achievement as measured within current schooling systems. But this is not just a story of underachieving — I am more interested in what indigenous people here in Arizona are doing to improve those outcomes in ways that are culturally safe and culturally strong and engaging with the scholarship around this. 

Major differences are found in systems of governance, especially tribal leadership and the relationship of those systems of governance with state and federal authorities.

Q: What are you most excited about with the Fulbright?

A: I am really excited about the opportunity to come and actually live and research here at ASU. This provides a wealth of opportunities to both grow my own scholarship as well as initiate collaborations and connections that are just not achievable through emails, visits or other ways of interacting. 

Top photo: Professor Maggie Walter, sociologist and pro vice-chancellor of aboriginal research and leadership at the University of Tasmania, poses for a portrait outside the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing on the Tempe campus on Sept. 7, 2018. Walter will be at ASU this fall to connect her research on aboriginal people and Native American tribes in the Southwest.

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ASU doctoral student studies Nepalese vulnerable to tiger attacks

September 9, 2018

Invasive vine creating danger risk in national park's buffer zone; social research looks at community-driven solutions

Fear of being eaten by a wild animal is our most ancient emotion.

Physiologically, evolution has equipped humans with a cocktail of chemicals that automatically shoot into our systems at the sound of a guttural roar.

But being attacked by tooth and claw in the 21st century for most people is as likely as being killed by a sword or an arrow. Unless they live in parts of Africa and Asia, where it remains a very real threat.

Between 2007 and 2016, 40 people were killed in tiger attacks in the vicinity of Chitwan National Park in Nepal, according to park officials. Almost half of them were killed by one tigress. The cat remains at large.

An Arizona State University doctoral candidate in environmental life sciences spent last summer in Nepal near the national park, studying how an invasive vine is helping tigers and other wild animals attack people.

Michele Clark is earning her PhD in environmental life sciences from the School of Life Sciences. Last summer she worked in the buffer-zone forests the Nepalese government has established surrounding Chitwan National Park.

The buffer zones, or community forests, were established so local people can gather firewood or fodder for their animals.

In 2007, the area began to be invaded by a vine similar to kudzu. One plant was recorded that year. Seven years later, it covered 75 to 100 percent of the forest surveyed. “In just a matter of years, things have changed drastically,” Clark said.

Women go to the jungle every single day for about two hours to collect wood and grasses.

“In that time you’re really risking your life because there are so many animals there that are threatening,” Clark said. “In that way it’s taking more time to collect resources because where they used to go is now covered in the vine. They have to go deeper and deeper into the jungle to find the things they need.”

The vine, called mile-a-minute leaf (scientific name is Mikania micrantha), can grow very rapidly within a week, and it can cover the forest and kill the trees. The Nepalese jungle is trees and grasses, not vines, so the vine changes the dynamics. It creates extremely dense cover in the jungle.

Clark started her research by doing social surveys instead of ecological surveys.

“When I was asking them those questions, at least in terms of this vine, they were starting to become more fearful that they couldn’t escape tigers and rhinos if they were to attack them in the forest because they would trip on the vine,” she said. “Or they couldn’t see because it forms these impenetrable mats. If you were in a really dense invasion and you didn’t have a machete or something, it would be like climbing over boulders. You’d have to step over this, crawl under that. It would double your time.”

A young woman was killed in the same forest Clark worked in. On a day Clark was working in the jungle a woman had her arm broken in a rhino charge.

“It helped me put into perspective how important and dangerous resource collection is for women in these areas,” she said. Newspapers ran graphic photos of the tiger attack’s aftermath.

“It was really gory,” she said. “They show way worse photos in Nepal than we would ever imagine seeing in the U.S. That’s what brings it home. It’s a true problem, not a made-up problem, and it’s happening all the time. Even if it happens once a year it’s too many times for people to feel safe in the buffer zone.”

The wildlife is protected, so killing the animals is not an option. The Nepalese government is trying to double the tiger population, which has been on the rebound in the country over the past decade.

Clark researched different treatments for the vine that were viable culturally and economically. Chemicals were out — they’re too expensive, and to the Nepalese, the forest is a sacred place where no one would want to bring them.

Chopping down the vine just made it spread more and faster. They found out the best way to get rid of the vine was to remove it and bury it so it wouldn’t resprout.

“I know that sounds crazy, but there’s a lot of people and a lot of hands and labor available in Nepal. It’s relatively cheap, because there’s people available to do this,” Clark said.

She did social surveys to see if people would implement it. It turned out avoiding tigers was more important than eradicating the vine.

“They ended up saying while they thought it was a good idea, they were still concerned that when you do that technique, the forest itself was a scary place to be in,” she said. “... (The conflict with wildlife) was an issue that became more pressing than invading plants.”

In some places the local people had cut away everything. To them, that looked better than places where only the vine had been eradicated, because they could see farther and more clearly.

“Really they were doing it so they could see and feel safer,” Clark said. “Our ivory-tower scientist impression of what people were doing wasn’t like that on the ground at all. It was for a totally different reason.”

Clark is working on a paper now, and analysis of the social research will be out in about a year. Her work was funded by a Fulbright Research Scholarship as well as a National Science Foundation: Coupled Natural and Human Systems grant.

“People feel helpless,” Clark said. “There’s not much they can do. They can’t stop the vine, they can’t protect themselves from wild animals, but they still need resources so much that every day they go back to the jungle. My conclusion is I don’t have an answer for how it all works, but my hope is to create a forest management plan to reduce the vine while meeting some of the goals these people have like being able to see further, not being fearful of wild animals while incorporating traditionally or culturally important plant species into the forest plan. It would be what indigenous people want to see.”

Top photo: Tigress with cubs, Chitwan National Park, Nepal. Courtesy of World Wildlife Fund, Nepal

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


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As football season returns, so does sports name controversy

Prof: Disingenuous 'honor' of Native mascots tied to nation’s history of racism.
September 6, 2018

ASU professor says sports teams' indigenous names and mascots intensify prejudicial attitudes toward Native Americans

Editor's note: ASU Now chooses not to use the word that is the proper name of the Washington NFL football team in this or any future story, given its nature to many in our community as a deeply hurtful racial slur.

The NFL season kicks off this weekend in Glendale with the Arizona Cardinals taking on the Washington football team, whose name has been the source of much controversy.

The Sunday matchup will draw thousands of fans to cheer for these two longtime rivals. It will also draw a smaller group of detractors to the game, Arizona to Rally Against Native Mascots, who will host a press rally and march of protest on the morning of the game. They claim that Washington's name is a “dictionary-defined racial slur rooted in the attempted genocide of indigenous people.” They are calling for the immediate retirement of the name and logo because it denigrates Native Americans.

And the problem isn’t limited to just one or two teams — it’s pervasive, according to Terry Kaiser Borning, a senior Drupal developer with ASU’s Enterprise Marketing Hub. Borning is the creator of MascotDB.com, a searchable database website for team names of high school, college and professional sports. He recently completed a link of sports teams past and present who use indigenous names and mascots. Some of those team names: Halfbreeds, Injuns, Squaws and Scalping Braves.

That’s simply unacceptable, says James Riding In, a founding member of ASU’s American Indian Studies Program and a citizen of the Pawnee Nation of Oklahoma. Riding In’s scholarly works have been published in numerous academic journals and books, and he has served as an expert witness in several legal cases, including Pro-Football Inc. v. Amanda Blackhorse (2015). He said sports teams who use indigenous names, logos and mascots are offensive and “inextricably tied to this nation’s history of racism” and that their behavior is “self-serving.”

ASU Now recently spoke to Riding In on this controversial subject.

Man in black coat and glasses
James Riding In

Question: Many people who follow sports, especially teams with indigenous names and mascots, say the names are meant to be respectful and to pay homage to Native American people, and their mascots focus on bravery and courage rather than anything derogatory. What would you like to say to them?

Answer: I flatly reject the contention of team owners and sports fans that American Indian-oriented team names, logos and mascots in professional and amateur sports pay homage to Indian bravery and courage. Their so-called honoring celebrations of Indian heroism are not only misguided, harmful and offensive to Indians but are also inextricably tied to this nation’s history of racism. Because their behavior falls within a historical pattern of white American privilege that includes devising images of others for self-servicing purposes, they are participating in a disingenuous culture of honor. Indians, victims of this unwanted attention, should be the ones to determine what constitutes honor and respect in instances such as these.

Since the early 1960s, indigenous individuals, including Suzan Shown Harjo and Amanda Blackhorse, have acted with undaunted bravery and courage in their challenges to the phenomena of offensive sports pageantry. The National Congress of American Indians, joined by the National Indian Education Association and many other groups, has been at the forefront of this human rights movement. Research supports contentions that the mascots and names have harmful psychological effects on Indian high school and college students. These studies also indicate that Indian-themed names, logos and mascots reinforce negative views held by non-Indians toward Indians. Fortunately, these findings have encouraged many churches and professional organizations such as the American Psychology Association to adopt resolutions calling for the retirement of the negative imagery in sports.

These efforts and resolutions have encouraged hundreds of schools, colleges and universities across the nation to do away with offensive team mascots, logos and names. Yet holdouts, mostly at the professional sports level, have refused to change behaviors that promote harassment and prejudice toward Indians. Indian voices of defiance calling for common-sense solutions are often met with threats, ridicule and mockery.

Q: In the specific case of the Washington, whose team owner Dan Snyder refuses to budge on the name and logo, fans and members of the public say the mascot does not look foolish, weak or clownish — and it reminds them of our country’s heritage and that indigenous people are resilient and strong.  

A: Despite facing criticism from Indians since the 1960s, the Washington team steadfastly refuses to change its name. That team’s fans all too often act in foolish and clownish ways that make a mockery out of Indian cultures. At other stadiums, fans often make outlandish “Indian” war hoops and do “tomahawk chops” while humming a Hollywood tune. Zealous fans from competing teams express their team loyalty by using such disparaging phrases as “scalp the Indians.”

Historically, white America has not viewed indigenous peoples as being resilient and strong. Euro-American colonizers and their descendants sought to rationalize and justify the fulfillment of their “Manifest Destiny” by creating and articulating dehumanizing stereotypes and myths that branded Indians as inferior, fierce savages who lusted uncontrollably for the blood of innocent white women and children.

White Americans concocted and used (racial slurs) in public and private discourses to denigrate and justify the mistreatment of Indians. For instance, Thomas Jefferson’s use of the words “merciless Indian savages” in the Declaration of Independence illustrates the pervasiveness of this disparaging term. This language of Indian inferiority and white superiority gave rise to a history of United States laws and policies designed to “kill the savage but save the man.” Serial acts of violence and coercive assimilation left unoffending Indian nations and peoples in a state of abject poverty, poor health and political subjugation for more than half a century. The theme of civilization's triumph over savagery remains a prevalent theme in U.S. history.

Q: The Washington Post conducted a 2016 survey of Native Americans and found that 9 out of 10 did not find the nickname offensive, insinuating that this is a case of fake outrage spurred by the media. If Native Americans don’t find it offensive, then why should the rest of the public?

A: Two methodologically flawed telephone surveys, the 2004 Annenberg survey and the 2016 Washington Post survey, purport that the vast majority of Indian respondents do not find the Washington’s team name to be offensive or are not bothered by the moniker. These surveys erred by relying on a single question to people who identified themselves as American Indians or Native Americans. They also asked a single question without regard for the best social science methodologies of considering nuances of opinion.

While a few schools in Indian country have Indian-themed team names and a minority of Indians do not find those team names to be offensive, it is a stretch to say that the two surveys accurately captured the full extent of Indian opposition to the Washington team name. A 2018 study found that four out of five Indians who participated in focus group discussions expressed their opposition to mascots. It should be also noted that a 1963 study of the students at Haskell Institute, now Haskell Indian Nations University, found that almost all of them resented being called (the term).

Q: Part of the reluctance of changing a name has to do with team history and branding. Some have said that when the NBA’s Washington Bullets changed their name in the 1990s, it harmed their franchise in terms of money, branding and loyalty. How do you get an owner to overcome those fears?

A: It is questionable if changing the name of the Washington Bullets to the Wizards actually resulted in the loss of money, branding and loyalty for the team. In 1997, team owner Abe Pollin took the moral high road when he changed the team’s name because he saw an epidemic of violence linked to guns and bullets in Washington and elsewhere. The 1995 assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Pollin’s close friend, also influenced his decision.

The decline of the team’s quality of play mostly likely led to the team’s declining attendance and financial problems. Putting winning teams on the court and fields is the best solution for economic success in sports.

Q: In the case of the Washington football team, the Supreme Court ruled that a trademark law barring disparaging terms infringes on free speech rights. So if a team or owner doesn’t want to voluntarily change the name, what other methods can be used to get them to change the name?

A: The facts in Matal v. Tam differ from those in Pro-Football Inc. v. Blackhorse. In Tam, an Asian-American rock band filed suit against the decision that the Trademark Office had violated its freedom of expression by disallowing the band’s attempt to trademark the name of The Slants. The Trademark Office made its holding on the grounds that the band’s name was disparaging to people of Asian descent. The U.S. Supreme Court, however, held in favor of Tam declaring that the disparagement clause of the Lanham Act violated the band’s freedom of speech and the U.S. Constitution. It must be noted, however, that Tam involves a matter of self-expression while Blackhorse represents a challenge to a non-Indian team’s use of a name disparaging to many Indians.  

As a result of Tam holding, the Blackhorse case, which sought to remove federal trademark protection for the offensive team name, has been dropped. Yet, many Indians still see the name of the Washington team as racist and offensive. They will undoubtedly continue their protests in hopes of swaying public opinion to pressure the team to change its name.

Q: The Cleveland Indians baseball team recently announced that they will no longer display the controversial Chief Wahoo logo as part of their 2019 uniform, but are keeping the name. In this case, is this a victory?

A: American Indians and others have been protesting the Cleveland baseball team since the 1970s because its Chief Wahoo logo is seen as an offensive caricature and because the team’s name encourages fans to make a mockery out of Indian culture. The team’s recent decision to no longer display its controversial logo on team uniforms and stadium signs is only a partial victory. The team has retained its license to sell merchandise with the Chief Wahoo logo. Most likely, the offensive behavior of fans will continue unabated. Such is the nature of sports fan behavior in America.

Q: What’s the future look like for this issue? 

A: As noted, the movement against offensive and disparaging names, symbols and mascots in sports has made substantial progress. It has encouraged many schools, colleges and universities to change their names and drop offensive mascots. Numerous leading Indian and non-Indian organizations have spoken out against this problem in sobering terms, showing that offensive sports pageantry not only has harmful consequences on the self-esteem of Indians but also intensifies prejudicial attitudes towards Indians. Thus, it is very likely that the struggle may continue for years to come. 

Top photo: Florida State University Seminoles mascots Osceola and Renegade, who represent the historical leader Osceola and his Appaloosa horse. The two introduce home football games by riding to midfield with a burning spear and planting it into the turf. The Seminole Tribe of Florida has approved this portrayal of Osceola by FSU. Courtesy of Wikipedia 

Japanese troubadour to perform in Arizona as part of music and art series

September 4, 2018

Japanese performer Tsutomu Arao will present a musical program of "The Tale of the Heike" at Arizona State University’s Katzin Concert Hall on Sept. 24. His performance of musical storytelling with the accompaniment of the biwa (lute) is part of a larger program of events that includes a display of Japanese prints relating to "The Tale of the Heike" from the Frank Lloyd Wright Collection at Taliesin West together with prints from the ASU Art Museum collection. These will be available for viewing by appointment in the Jules Heller Print Study Room of the ASU Art Museum. These prints, all from the 19th century, illustrate characters and episodes from "The Tale of the Heike" and related literature and theater, and many feature verses by famous poets alluding to related stories.

"The Tale of the Heike" is the greatest of all Japanese warrior tales and one of the seminal works that have shaped Japanese literature, theater, art and film down to the present day. The Heike were the most powerful clan in the late 12th century and had close ties to the Imperial Court. The story is about the battle between the Heike and another powerful clan, the Genji, and it ends with the total defeat of the Heike in the tragic sea battle at Dan-no-ura. Wandering troubadours, blind musicians, chanted the tale, and later poets and playwrights took inspiration from it. Tsutomu Arao Tsutomu Arao performs Gion Shōja from "The Tale of the Heike" on Feb. 24, 2013, at Rokkakudō, Izura, Kita-Ibaraki City. Download Full Image

Tsutomu Arao plays the biwa (a lute that originated in Persia or Central Asia, much like the Chinese pipa) while singing"The Tale of the Heike." He is one of the very few people who can recite the whole story in the original style from the 13th century, and he has established a school to preserve this style for the future.

He is also a special lecturer at Keio University, one of the oldest and most prestigious private universities in Tokyo. By the end of 2016, he had performed Heikyoku more than 900 times. His most recent performance outside of Japan was at the Tchaikovsky State Conservatory in 2016, when he was one of the invitees from many countries around the world. This will be the first performance in the United States of this style of Heikyoku. In modern Japan, many biwa performers rely on rapid, dramatic strumming of chords. Arao, however, preserves the original heikyoku emphasis on vocal performance, which relies on a variety of traditional modes of narration and song, often punctuated by short, single-string phrases from the biwa, to express the changing drama of the tale. While in Arizona, Arao will also perform at the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University.

The American architect Frank Lloyd Wright became interested in Japanese art in the 1890s, and in 1905 he traveled to Japan. From that time to his late years spent at Taliesin West in Scottsdale, he maintained his collecting and studying of Japanese prints. Prints that he once owned are in major art museums around the United States. Taliesin West holds his collection of surimono, the privately printed Japanese prints commissioned by poetry societies in the early 19th century. A selection of surimono relating to "The Tale of the Heike" will be lent to ASU Art Museum for several weeks so that ASU students and faculty and members of the community can view them. ASU Art Museum will make its collection of ukiyo-e prints relating to "The Tale of the Heike" vailable for viewing as well. One of Arao’s Arizona performances will be held at Taliesin West.

Colin Pearson, curator for Asia, Oceania and the Middle East at the Musical Instrument Museum, will speak on the origin and development of the biwa in the Recital Hall of the ASU School of Music on Sept. 21. Pearson holds a master of arts degree in ethnomusicology from the University of California, Riverside, specializing in the music of Thailand, Cambodia and immigrant communities. One of his current projects involves the musical instruments of Japan.

 Toyohara Chikanobu, Chronicle of the Dan-no-ura Helmet: Torturing a captive courtesan, Akoya, by making her play the koto (a Japanese musical instrument), dated 1898, woodblock print, ASU Art Museum, gift of Drs. Thomas and Martha Carter.
Toyohara Chikanobu, "Chronicle of the Dan-no-ura Helmet: Torturing a captive courtesan, Akoya, by making her play the koto" (a Japanese musical instrument), dated 1898, woodblock print, ASU Art Museum, gift of Thomas and Martha Carter.

The series is organized by ASU’s Center for Asian Research and supported by several other units at ASU, including the Emeritus College; the Office of Vice President Christine Wilkinson; ASU Art Museum; ASU Library; the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies; the School of Music, Barrett, The Honors College; and the art history faculty of the School of Art. Additional sponsorship is provided by the Department of East Asian Studies, University of Arizona, and the Asian Studies program, Northern Arizona University. Funding has also come from the Japanese Culture Club of Arizona and more than 10 individual donors.

All events are free and open to the public.

'Eight Hundred Years of Tradition: "The Tale of the Heike" in Music and Woodblock Prints'
Fall 2018, Japanese surimono prints from the Frank Lloyd Wright Collection at Taliesin West, viewing available by appointment in the Jules Heller Print Study Room of the ASU Art Museum. Japanese ukiyo-e prints from the ASU Art Museum collection will also be shown. Contact Claudia Brown (claudia.brown@asu.edu) for more information.

'Popular Heroes: An Album of Japanese Print Triptychs'
Sept. 14, 10:45-11:30 a.m.; ASU Design and the Arts Library 
Collector Darlene Goto, connoisseur Laurie Petrie-Rogers and scholar Sarah Gossett

'Silk Strings and Crescent Moons: The Story of the Japanese Biwa'
Sept. 21, 10:45-11:30 a.m.; Recital Hall, School of Music
Colin Pearson, curator for Asia, Oceania and the Middle East, Musical Instrument Museum

Tsutomu Arao, performing 'The Tale of the Heike'
Sept. 24, 7:30 p.m.; Katzin Concert Hall, ASU School of Music
Sept. 25, 7 p.m.; Cabaret, Taliesin West, Scottsdale
Sept. 26; time and specific location at the University of Arizona in Tucson to be announced
Sept. 27, 4:30 p.m.; Liberal Arts Building, Room 120, Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff 

Other fall programs on Japanese art:

  • "Contemporary Japanese Prints," collector Mary Way. Oct. 5, 2-3 p.m.; ASU Design and the Arts Library.
  • "Japan’s Living National Treasure Ceramic Artists," scholar Sarah Gossett. Oct. 19, 10:45-11:30 a.m.; ASU Art Museum Ceramic Research Center.
  • "Contemporary Japanese Ceramics," Collectors Elaine and Sidney CohenNov. 16, time to be announced; ASU Art Museum Ceramic Research Center.

ASU professor receives high honor from Romanian president

August 29, 2018

Twenty years after Romanian studies arrived at Arizona State University, and a century after Romania became a modern state, ASU Professor and Director of the Romanian and Central European Cultural Collaborative Ileana Orlich is being honored with high distinction by the president of Romania, Klaus Werner Iohannis.

The president will award Orlich the medal in a special ceremony at Bucharest's Cotroceni Palace on Aug. 30. A group of people outside in Romania ASU Professor Ileana Orlich (first row, second from right) with ASU summer study program in Cluj, Romania. Download Full Image

The distinction, marking the country’s centennial, is one of several given out to civilians by the Romanian government. Orlich’s award honors Romanians who “promote Romanian language and national identity abroad.”

But the ASU President’s Professor said the award exemplifies the quality and contributions of ASU's faculty and her school, not just her.

“All this is made possible by the incredible opportunities offered by ASU,” Orlich said. “And by the great support that our program has had in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and my wonderful and supportive colleagues in SILC, the School of International Letters and Cultures, which is the home of many vibrant language and culture programs of which Romanian is one.”

This is the second time the Romanian government has recognized Orlich, giving her a similar cultural distinction in 2004, in part for her translation of Romanian plays and other cultural contributions representing Romanian cultures abroad.

Orlich started the Romanian language program with only 10 students in 1998. Twenty years later, it has expanded into the largest Romanian studies program in the world, the only freestanding Romanian studies program in the United States and first Lectorate of Romanian funded by the Romanian Language Institute in a traditional academic environment.

In addition to domestic studies, the program participates in cultural and academic exchanges with the Babes-Bolyai University in Romania, and is planning similar collaborations with Ovidius University.

In addition to her distinctions, Orlich was named Honorary Consul General of Romania in Arizona in 2010, a position that has enabled her “to reach out to the Romanian community, to visit various parishes and cultural halls and become very involved with the dialogue within the community." 

Orlich said that moving forward the program will continue making progress on academic collaboration.

“My hope is that through cultural collaboration, we can only strengthen all the tiers of the strong connections that exist between Romania, as a strong ally of the United States, and being also a great academic partner, through the universities with which we partner,” she said.

In addition to helping facilitate a dialogue between the two countries, Orlich said the inception of the New American University, a concept pioneered by ASU President Michael M. Crow, ushered the program into its current stature and international acclaim.

“The New American University was the most powerful turning point in the program in the sense that we now had academic support, administrative encouragement and student activities all geared toward the growth of the Romanian studies program — nationally — and internationally,” Orlich said.

But the most integral people in making the program successful, Orlich said, are the students.

“The distinction is a recognition of this program’s faculty, and of course the students.” she said. “At the end of the day I am grateful to my students for making it all possible — they are my world.”

Isaac Windes

Reporter, Media Relations and Strategic Communications

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McCain Institute carries on senator's work in human rights and national security

August 26, 2018

Sen. John McCain’s support for Arizona State University is attested to by the Washington, D.C.-based institution bearing his name: The McCain Institute for International Leadership was established in 2012 with a $9 million grant to ASU from the McCain Institute Foundation.

McCain died Saturday at age 81.

READ: McCain’s legacy at ASU one of philanthropy and service

“An American icon passed away — a leader whose life was one of national service and who exemplified courage, honor and sacrifice,” said ASU Enterprise Partners CEO R. F. “Rick” Shangraw Jr. “Sen. McCain has long been one of my heroes, and my thoughts and prayers are with his family now. He served faithfully and fearlessly. A truly great American.”

The McCain Institute promotes character-driven leadership, research and decision-making in the areas of humanitarian work, human rights and national security.

McCain and his wife, Cindy McCain, a leader in global efforts to end human trafficking and co-chair of the institute’s human trafficking advisory council, envisioned a unique think tank distinguished by its partnership with ASU’s world-class faculty, students and programming.

The senator's “character, values and example impacted the world over, with much of his immense positive influence on leaders, emerged and emerging, still to come,” said Ambassador Kurt Volker, executive director of the McCain Institute. 

A core principle of the institute is its promotion of rigorous debate, an American tradition McCain proudly maintained in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate throughout nearly four decades of service to Arizona. When the institute was established, Steve Clemons wrote in The Atlantic that McCain “... believes in the kind of rough-and-tumble politics where political actors and branches of government responsibly and vigorously compete and knock into each other … an approach to politics that is often misunderstood and should be more greatly valued.”

Since its earliest days, the institute has reflected McCain’s energetic approach to informed decision making with:

• Recommendations for leaders arrived at through open debate and rigorous analysis by experts, policy-relevant research, and decision-making training events using cutting-edge technology, including ASU’s Decision Theater Network.

• Programs that identify and train new national security leaders, both American and international, from the public service, private enterprise and military spheres.

• The McCain Debates, a speaking series in Washington that provides an arena for experts and policy makers to debate key issues.

In establishing the institute as part of Arizona State University, McCain, a member of the ASU Leadership Society, envisioned more than a traditional think tank. He insisted that it offer an internship program for undergraduate and graduate students, a McCain Leadership Fellows Program, and a class of Next Generation McCain Fellows composed of rising national security professionals.

In September, the McCain Institute welcomed Next Generation Leaders from Albania, Belarus, Germany, Haiti, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia and Mongolia. In 2017 it hosted 20 events on human trafficking, international security and leadership, and partnered with 31 organizations in the U.S. and around the world.

Top photo: The Barrett & O'Connor Washington Center, launched in March, is the new home for the McCain Institute for International Leadership and a number of other ASU programs in Washington, D.C. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Director of Media and Public Relations , ASU Enterprise Partners


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August 24, 2018

But don't pack your bags, says ASU volcanologist

Most natural disasters drop off the news after a few days. Producers and editors have a sixth sense for knowing when viewers and readers have had enough walls of flame, floating cars or flattened houses.

But the spectacle of an erupting volcano vomiting streams of molten rock across a suburb and into the sea proved irresistible all summer long. The eruption of Kilauea on the big island of Hawaii brought lava coursing across roads, refrigerator-size rocks flying into the air, and homes burning furiously while correspondents stood feet away. It was compelling stuff.

Kilauea is a volcano that can vogue, and a little more than a week ago it revealed it wasn’t done yet.

A new island was born in the sea a few yards from the mainland. About 20 by 30 feet (around 600 square feet, a small studio apartment), it immediately raised silly questions. Can I live on it? Who owns it?

We talked to David Williams, an associate research professor in Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. Williams studies volcanology and planetary geology, and every few years teaches a class on planetary volcanology. Williams talked about the danger, the fact that Kilauea has been erupting since the year before Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” album came out, and the real island that will someday rise from the sea to become part of the Hawaiian archipelago.

Question: Is Kilauea still erupting?

Answer: Kilauea started erupting in January of 1983. This thing that started back in May, this eruption that came out of the Leilani Estates and destroyed all those houses and created a new lava field and channels that’s leading to this island here, there might be temporary pauses in some locations but there could be movement in the volcanic plumbing system underneath the volcano. The Big Island of Hawaii is actually composed of five separate volcanos. Kilauea, which is active right now, and Mauna Loa, which is not active at the moment but it has been, are still places where obviously stuff can happen. The other three volcanos haven’t been active in recent times.

Q: How did the island form?

A: What this island is, is you have hot basaltic lava that’s typical of what erupts on Hawaii and it’s being carried in lava channels and lava tubes from a source there. It flows down towards the sea and sometimes it’ll erupt underground or underwater. It’ll be like a submarine. It’ll flow underwater and you’ll have this crust will form that will insulate the lava so it’s still warm. Eventully if the pressure is great enough it will push this lava up and it’ll break the surface. That’s what this small island — 20 by 30 feet or whatever it is — is. It’s a place where magma from the main flow erupted underwater and just built up this small island.

Q: There’s another island in the making?

A: Eventually a whole separate island coming up from the ocean floor will happen later in time. It’s called Loihi. It’s forming in the ocean to the southwest of the Big Island. Eventually it will become the next major Hawaiian island. The idea is that the Pacific plate is moving over the surface of a hot spot, and that hot spot produces this chain of islands. If you look on a globe and see the whole Hawaiian island chain, then there’s a break and another whole chain of volcanic islands from when the plate changed direction. This is a manifestation of plate tectonics and volcanism on Earth that’s been going on in the entire planet’s history.

Q: Is the new island habitable?

A: It’s a very, very small spot of hot lava which is cooling. Probably over a period of months maybe if it’s cooled enough and getting some fresh water, then maybe plants will grow on it.

Q: Who owns it?

A: It’s part of Hawaii. If this island came up and it’s part of the chain, and it’s close enough to Hawaii, I would assume it remains part of the state of Hawaii and part of the United States.

Q: We learned this summer that lava insurance doesn’t exist. Is there anything that can be done if you live beside a volcano?

A: People have tried all sorts of things, like squirting water on the hot lava to freeze it so that it won’t advance. None of those techniques work really well. You’re sort of at the mercy when you build your houses close to an active volcano. It’s one thing for these slow-moving lava flows in Hawaii, but if you were on a big stratovolcano like Mount St. Helen’s or Mount Fuji in Japan or Vesuvius in Italy, and you have one of those eruptions that produce those hot pyroclastic flows, that’s total mayhem. You’re not going to be able to outrun those things.

Top photo: The new baby island, courtesy of the Hawaii Volcano Observatory, United States Geological Survey.

Editor’s note: As of press time, the island became connected to the main flow by a strip of lava. Geologists predict it will be washed away by the Pacific once the lava flow stops.

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU sociology senior awarded Millennium Fellowship

August 24, 2018

This April, the United Nations Academic Impact and Millennium Campus Network launched the Millennium Fellowship. The selective fellowship is a semester-long leadership development program that convenes, challenges and celebrates student leadership for U.N. goals. Over three months, students applied from 285 campuses across 57 nations. Only 11 percent of the campuses were selected to host fellows in the global pilot this fall and Arizona State University was among them.

The Class of 2018 has just been announced. Five hundred and twenty-eight extraordinary Millennium Fellows have been selected on 30 campuses across 13 nations to participate this year. Leading campus cohorts have been selected from every region of the globe. From August through November, Millennium Fellows will take action to help make the Sustainable Development Goals and United Nations Academic Impact Principles a reality.   Kira Olsen-Medina painting a mural on a brick wall. Kira Olsen-Medina paints a mural at the Good Things Grow Roosevelt School District Wellness Center in Phoenix. Download Full Image

Representing ASU’s T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics is sociology senior and Diversity and Inclusion Science Initiative (DISI) fellow Kira Olsen-Medina. Not only a first-generation college student, Olsen-Medina is also a first-generation American (her mother is an immigrant from Mexico). In addition to her course work here at ASU, she is currently working as a research assistant in two funded research projects — the Equity in Engineering Project, funded by the National Science Foundation, and the Teacher Experiences Across Subjects Project, funded by the Institute for Education Sciences, among many other on-campus initiatives. 

Receiving this fellowship and being among the outstanding cohort representing ASU is an incredible accomplishment.

“I congratulate Kira Olsen-Medina for her bold commitment to strengthen community and help make U.N. goals reality,” said Sam Vaghar, executive director and co-founder of the Millennium Campus Network.

Olsen-Medina's project, Engagement Through Art, includes two service projects with research and funding supported through the Sanford School’s DISI fellowship, with additional funding by the Civic Engagement Changemaker Grant from ASU.

Two service learning art projects will commence this fall with underserved youth populations to complete public murals, empowering students in Latino communities to promote social change and education through the arts.  

The service learning projects will be led by an international artist and educator, collaborating with the youth cohort to create a public mural in Phoenix and Havana. Due to the political climate in Cuba, the curriculum has been modified to focus mostly on higher education.

“Through service learning art projects, students will examine complex social inequalities and gain social-emotional competencies by community engagement and artistic expression,” Olsen-Medina said. “Building students' self-efficacy, the project’s framework focuses on the values of higher education, inclusion, and civic engagement.”

The project will begin with an educational workshop covering the history of murals throughout civilization and their significance for sharing ideas or making statements. A second workshop will facilitate a collaboration between students and the artist, giving the opportunity for students to have an active role in the design process. Lastly, the experience will end with a community paint day, where students are challenged to engage and lead within their community.

Qualitative and quantitative data will be collected from both project locations for a mixed-method analysis of the program's impact on participating youths. Also being evaluated will be personal growth from social-emotional learning skills achieved throughout the process, and self-efficacy gained through artistic expression and community engagement.

Collaborative organizations involved with the project include Aguila Leadership Institute in Phoenix and Amigo Skate Charity in Cuba.

Olsen-Medina will receive additional faculty support for her project as well — Stacie Foster from ASU's Sanford School will supervise her project.

“Kira is an amazing student who has a passion for working with underserved communities both in the U.S. and internationally," Foster said. "Her mural project is a terrific example of interdisciplinary work — merging art and sociology — to make a difference in the lives of youth in Phoenix and Cuba. We are so proud to have Kira representing our school.”

When the cohort begins, Olsen-Medina is looking forward to having opportunities to share ideas and learn from one another while comparing visions for the future.

“The best thing you can do is voice your ideas," she said. "There are tons of support mechanisms within the ASU community for social impact ideas. Talk to your professors, talk to your peers, visit changemaker central, you will find a large network of like-minded people seeking to make positive impacts on local and global levels.”

Upon graduation, Olsen-Medina aspires to attend graduate school and pursue a PhD in sociology. 

John Keeney

Media Relations Coordinator, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics