Home Page Display: 
image title

ASU events to explore themes of populism, immigration from trans-Atlantic perspective

"No one is born a neo-Nazi." ASU programming tries to understand how it happens.
October 9, 2017

Two weeks ago Angela Merkel won a fourth term as Germany’s chancellor. At the same time, however, a far-right party, Alternative for Germany, gained a spot in Parliament for the first time in more than 60 years.

The New York Times reported the AfD’s victory showed evidence of “voter anger over immigration and inequality,” with “anxieties over security and national identity” on the rise.

This fall, ASU’s School of International Letters and Cultures and School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies (SHPRS) will host “Germany: Making Choices,” a series of events that will include film screenings, visiting lecturers, a roundtable discussion and a student project competition. The program is supported by funding from the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Germany.

“We wanted students to engage with some of the issues that Germans are engaging with and try to think about ways in which those issues are actually not just specific to Germany but global in many respects,” said Daniel Gilfillan, associate professor of German studies.

Gilfillan worked with SHPRS Assistant Professor Volker Benkert to plan the series of events.

“We don’t want to convert anyone,” Benkert said, “but we want students to be willing to engage the topic of populism, of immigration, of nationalism from many different angles.”

The first event in the series, which is free and open to the public, is the screening of the film “We are Young. We are Strong.” It will take place at 4:30 p.m. Thursday in Wrigley Hall, room 201 on the Tempe campus.

Gilfillan and Benkert sat down with ASU Now ahead of the screening to delve into some of the issues the program will explore.

Question: Why is Angela Merkel’s opening of Germany’s borders to refugees problematic?

Volker Benkert: At least a million [refugees] came [to Germany] in 2015. The number of refugees seeking asylum in Germany now has gone down dramatically to about 200,000 this year. However, this has very little to do with what the German government did and a lot to do with other countries closing their borders.

So Angela Merkel trying to claim that she solved the migration crisis is a very difficult claim to make. I think she’s doing the right thing, she’s trying to think about how we can make decisions about asylum in the countries where people are from ... But it’s a humanitarian crisis that has been looming for a long time and that Angela Merkel failed to acknowledge until it was literally on Germany’s doorstep.

So she decided, without consulting the federal government or consulting European partners, to open Germany’s borders for refugees. The humanitarian act is laudable, but we have ignored the problem so long that even today what Germany can actually do to solve the refugee crisis is very limited. Germany has no impact on what’s going on in the Middle East, in Syria; it’s a war zone, it has been for a long time. The German government has no leverage to change that in any way. … So at the end of the day, if Merkel claims that this was a one-time humanitarian crisis where Germany had to step up to the plate … that argument is laudable, but that humanitarian crisis still exists.

Daniel Gilfillan: This was and still remains one of the issues behind voters’ choices at the ballot box. And I think that had a great influence on how they voted. So we now have what we can describe as an extreme right party, the Alternative for Germany party, winning enough percentage of the vote to have seats in Parliament. They’ll be the third-largest party in the German government for the first time in 60 years.

Q: Why should Americans be paying attention to this?

Gilfillan: One of the themes we’re exploring through this programming is rising populism and nationalism, not just in Europe and Germany but globally. I was attracted to that topic from the idea of immigration and the refugee crisis, which is a global issue.

Benkert: We also want to explore this theme of transatlantic populism. [One of our visiting lecturers] will discuss the themes that pervade populism both in the United States as well as in Germany. And in fact, there are quite a lot. There is a certain amount of fear-mongering, there is a certain amount of xenophobia. But there is also this very clear critique of existing structures that don’t seem to offer solutions to real problems. [For example], illegal immigration.

Because illegal immigration is real, and it is a problem, and the American government has not found a solution to that. When Angela Merkel opened the border, populists in Germany argued that she violated constitutional rights because it was just not her call. And they do have a point there. So there’s a perception among these populists — and I think that they exploit this for very problematic causes — that the existing parties are unable to solve problems. You’ve got immigration, you’ve got globalization, movement of jobs and people who feel left behind, the blue-collar workers … And these are very complex problems that clearly any government will have a very hard time solving. But that alleged weakness of existing structures is exploited into a narrative that these structures are somehow wrong.

Q: Why the focus on immigration?

Gilfillan: My idea was to try to engage students in thinking about what’s going on beyond our own borders, and to look at the humanitarian side of these issues. Immigration is a sort of a hub issue that brings together serious questions about the impact of war, the impact of climate change, the impact of economic disparity … And these types of issues run deep, and this [situation in Germany] is just one of the reactions when those deep issues aren’t addressed adequately. There are these micro-connections between what a lot of Americans consider to be single issues. They don’t understand necessarily that below them, behind them, beyond them, there are these underlying reasons for why people are on the move. And I think it’s not going to be solved overnight, but I also don’t think the tide of refugees is going to ebb any time soon. I think with climate change, especially, we will be seeing more and more of it.

Benkert: Immigration poses the question of: Who is an American? Who is a German? What does it take to become an American? What does it take to become a German? What is, essentially, the nation state? If the defining feature of a nation state is that it has borders, and Angela Merkel says you can just come in, what then? And there are other things that challenge the nation state as well. There are global corporations that wield enormous powers that transcend the nation state, and even play nation states against each other. So the big question is, in this age of globalization, where does that leave the nation state? Which, after all, is the paradigm under which we all live. We pay taxes to the nation state; we follow the laws of the nation state. And I think that’s the question that, especially this election in Germany now poses because there is now a party that clearly has the idea that German-ness is connected to your ancestry and who obviously wants to make it much more difficult for others to become German. And that sentiment, I think, is the same [in America].

Q: How does that nationalist sentiment get spurred on?

Gilfillan: The German film we’re showing this week, “We Are Young. We Are Strong,” is about a very specific incident in the northeastern city of Rostock, just after unification, in which there was a riot around a group of asylum homes that was spearheaded by some neo-Nazi groups but then eventually joined by regular German citizens, ostensibly because of feelings of disenfranchisement.

Benkert: There’s also a very tender love story built into that because there’s always a chance for this group of people to not set those homes of asylum seekers on fire. To find opportunities to find love, to do what young people do. So I appreciate that deeply because no one is born a neo-Nazi. It is societal disappointments that socialize you in a way that you become susceptible to this kind of rhetoric. So these far-right populists that we see, both in America as well as in Germany, are not just as helpless victims of propaganda but [are influenced] by deeper problems in our society that obviously we have failed to address. So where do we as a society fail that we get to this point where we are right now, with two deeply divided societies. With the emergence of, in both countries, I think it’s fair to say, kind of a rhetoric from the right that is deeply disturbing.

For more information about the film series, including a list of upcoming screenings, click here. 

Top photo: Brandenburg Gate in Berlin. Photo by Sven Gross-Selbeck (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

image title

Q&A: How to help coastal communities build weather resilience

The time to talk about coastal resilience is now, says ASU professor.
October 5, 2017

ASU professor part of group of researchers charged with identifying sources of coastal resiliency, implementing them in Caribbean

As extreme weather events become more commonplace, regions of the world that get hit the hardest are often left scrambling to put the pieces of their homeland back together.

Sian Mooney, associate dean and professor at Arizona State University's New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, researches the use of natural resources and the environment. She recently returned from a trip to Cuba, where the economist attended a tri-national workshop on the theme: “Enhancing Resilience of Coastal Caribbean Communities.”

It couldn’t have been more timely.

“This is certainly a great time to be looking at [coastal resilience],” Mooney said, “because the time we had the workshop was right after Hurricane Irma, and while we were there, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.”

The group of scientists and researchers gathered for the event have been charged with defining and identifying sources of coastal resiliency and then working to implement them in the region over the next few years. It was the first convening of the group and the project is still in the planning and discovery phase, but Mooney was game to speak with ASU Now about initial discussions and potential trajectories.

woman smiling
Sian Mooney

Question: How urgent is it that we address the issue of coastal resilience?

Answer: The time is now to be looking at coastal resilience in the Caribbean. It’s time to find out what are the interventions or policies that make the most sense for each area, because it’s very diverse, so the same things don’t make sense from place to place. It’s a very complex issue.

Q: How is the region faring at the moment?

A: It really varies from location to location because in the Caribbean, you have small islands and large coastlines, like those along Florida and part of Mexico. So you can’t really define one state of coastal resilience, but one thing we can say is it’s certainly becoming much more of an issue of concern, with greater numbers of hurricanes, high winds and weather-related factors affecting the region.

When I was in Cuba, the country had just been hit by Hurricane Irma, and very fortunately for Cuba, it had not been hit by the high winds of Hurricane Irma. It was mostly subject to extremely high tides, which caused flooding and rain. But Havana showed very little evidence of the area having been hit by a hurricane, except for the boardwalk area, which was completely closed because it had been completely eroded away. But old town HavanaOld Havana is the city center and one of the 15 municipalities forming Havana, Cuba. and the surrounding areas showed very little evidence, at least to the naked eye, that anything untoward had occurred. In comparison, I had spent the evening before arriving in Cuba in Miami, and it looked like a war zone. There were trees down everywhere, piles of shrubs, power lines down, boats piled up on top of each other.

Q: What factors influence an area’s ability to be resilient?

A: We need to be looking both at communities and the physical nature of the land. One factor is topography, what does the land look like? Is it mountainous or low-lying? Also, human development and settlements. Have people located their homes right on a beach? Have they created instances where they have removed lots of vegetation so there is increased erosion and greater saltwater inundation or high tide?

One of the topics that came up really frequently [at the workshop] as having a big impact on coastal resilience, particularly in the Caribbean, was tourism. Tourism might encourage more development on coasts [which is not resilient], and it also creates a strain on resources in some areas because you need more water, more food, more infrastructure to support the tourism industry. And certainly, the Caribbean is very dependent on tourism for much of its income.

Q: Are there any efforts currently underway to promote coastal resilience?

A: In Cuba, they’ve already started to move the community away from the coast and resettle them in other areas. It’s really complicated because people become very attached to houses and areas where they grew up. So even when new housing was provided, people still had a tendency to keep going back and living in their old houses.

Q: What are the next steps?

A: One thing we talked about [at the workshop] was what does resilience actually mean? It can be viewed in many different ways depending on if you’re a physical scientist, a natural scientist, a social scientist. Also, communities might define for themselves very different definitions of resiliency. So I’ll be working with local communities and scientists to try and understand what does the local populace really understand about coastal resilience? What are their thoughts, what do they feel resilience might look like? And then come up with ways we can help them adapt to the future and have healthy, active and productive lives.

It’s a new area of research I’m looking forward to. We’re going to write two papers as a result of the workshop: one looking at resilience and adaptive capacity, and the other looking at the relationship between food, water and health systems, because they’re all related, and if you disturb one of those systems, it impacts the others. So those are the two areas we’re going to start with.


Top photo: A beach in Cuba. Photo courtesy of Sian Mooney

ASU Thunderbird student carries many homes in her heart

October 5, 2017

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

Even amid the rich diversity at Thunderbird School of Global Management, Faduma Mohamed stands out: She was born in the United States to Somali parents but raised entirely in Kenya. As a result, Faduma speaks fluent English, Swahili, Somali and “a bit of Arabic.” Faduma Thunderbird School Faduma-Dhool Mohamed (center) '17, Master of Arts in Global Affairs and Management, Somalia/Kenya Download Full Image

“Kenya is my home — my friends and family members still live there. But because of my parents, I am 100 percent Somali, and that’s my culture. My American identity is something I’m still discovering since I came to Thunderbird,” she said. “I was raised with a multicultural background — there was diversity even within our house. So that’s something I appreciate.”

Faduma said people often find her background intriguing or even confusing. “But I grew up with it, so it’s normal to me,” she said. “With Kenya, we have so many tribes, and each tribe has their own culture, language and food delicacy.”

“So I appreciate where I come from and my Somali blood, but at the same time I appreciate the country that I am in.”

‘Use business to do good’

Faduma came to Thunderbird to “find ways to use business to do good,” she said, and her childhood in Kenya offered an early glimpse of the path she would later choose.

“Growing up, I always had a passion and interest in helping people. I remember as a kid, it was as simple as collecting money and giving it to the street children anytime I’d see them,” she said. “As I grew up, the ways I’d help people matured, and I increased my thinking outside the box.”

In high school, for example, Faduma launched a fundraising campaign to create “Kindness Kits” that provided basic essentials for orphans. She was overwhelmed by the support it received and the number of people who got involved.

“It helped me realize that people want to do good if you just give them an opportunity,” she said. “People want to help but don’t know how or who to contact. Sometimes you have to be that person, step up and put that idea out there.”

“People want to do good if you just give them an opportunity. Sometimes you have to be that person, step up and put that idea out there.”

Faduma said her passion for helping people “has always been with me — I think that comes from my parents. Especially my mom.”

Her mother was born and raised in Somalia but moved to Kenya during a period of civil war in the 1990s. Kenya is also where her mother and father met.

“Coming from a war-stricken country that’s affected by poverty and unemployment, my mother always had that sense of giving back to her country. She had family members still back in Somalia,” Faduma said. “So my mom instilled that value in me.”

It would be another four years before she applied. Faduma wanted more work experience, so after a brief stint at an international bank, she moved into the environmental services industry and worked with a company that sold solar energy panels, water sanitation and environmentally friendly products.During her undergraduate business studies in Kenya, Faduma first learned about Thunderbird, but not from a recruiter or a professor. Her uncle had recently attended Thunderbird through an executive program with Intel: “He told me all about it and he said, ‘If you want to do your master’s degree, Thunderbird is the place for you.’”

Thunderbird ‘a perfect mix’

“That was a great experience because I was young and it was a mid-sized company, so there was a lot of room for me to grow within the company,” she said. “I gained a lot of responsibility and experience that helped when I came to Thunderbird. During class discussions, for example, I could share my experiences. Or I could get input from professors about how I could take that experience further.”

“That’s why Thunderbird was such a perfect mix for me,” she said, “because it has that global affairs aspect of business. It’s a place where I could leverage my business degree and my work experience and then do something that I’m passionate about.”

“When I got here, I immediately started working with Thunderbird for Good.

They have programs that train women entrepreneurs from all over the world, empowering them to run their own businesses. And so working with them has definitely opened my eyes to how you can combine both.”

Thunderbird Faduma

‘We get each other’

Faduma said she loves learning from Thunderbird professors because they reach beyond business theory to include experiences in the field. “I’m so glad I’ve had a chance to learn from them but also to chat with them outside of the classroom and have them as mentors.”

Her fellow students are also a source of learning and inspiration, Faduma said.

“In my class, we had so many different backgrounds. In terms of culture, of course, but also in terms of undergraduate degrees, people with lots of experience or little-to-no experience. But everyone has worked at some point in their life,” she said. “We all have different ways of thinking, and you see that in the classroom discussions or group projects. That’s better than thinking in just one direction. We realize that none of our experiences are superior to the other.”

“I think the fact that we students are so different but we share so many commonalities, that makes it much stronger. We get each other.”

Long after Faduma has left Thunderbird, these people and relationships will still leave a lasting impact, she said: “That’s something I heard over and over from alumni, and it’s true. Thunderbird is such a unique place. I think the fact that we students are so different but we share so many commonalities, that makes it much stronger. We get each other.”

Faduma graduated in May, but her goal is to gain more international experience before heading home to make an impact in Kenya.

“How I see myself in the future of Kenya, and also Somalia, is to make them a better place for youth and for disadvantaged communities. And to use business to do that, because business is powerful,” she said.

“Being independent, making your own money — that’s a gift that anyone would be forever thankful for. Helping or giving aid is one thing, but what if you can teach someone how to start their own business and provide for themselves and their families?”

“That’s priceless, and that’s something I want to take back home — to both of my homes.”

ASU sustainability efforts to shine at annual conference

October 4, 2017

Arizona State University will be represented at the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE) annual conference this month, as staff from Environmental Health and Safety, University Sustainability Practices, Energy Innovation and the Zero Waste departments will shine a light on the ASU's broad range of sustainability programs. 

Environmental Health and Safety's John Svenson and Michael Ochs will be participating in the event for ASU, delivering a 30-minute presentation on ASU's Laboratory Standard and Design Guide. They will be exploring everything from lab ventilation and conditioning to talking about how a proper lab is monitored. bottles in lab Download Full Image

“All of our laboratories need adequate ventilation so chemicals don’t create exposure,” Ochs said. “There are regulations that require us to meet a certain minimum air changes in the lab while still keeping within regulatory requirements.”

With help from Svenson and Ochs, ASU is pushing to make as big of an impact on environmental safety as possible.

“There are so many different departments here,” Svenson said. “Everyone is always very open in collaborating and wants to reach similar goals as they try to make a positive impact on our environment.”

The university is also working towards improving air quality while conserving energy. Laboratories are designed to make a certain number of air changes per hour in an attempt to minimize the effects of hazardous chemicals, so Svenson and Ochs updated the EHS design guide to make those changes as small as possible.

“It’s important because if you do it properly you can reduce your carbon footprint and energy usage,” Svenson said. “Doing that while maintaining a safe environment to work in is critical.” 

This will be the fifth consecutive year that University Sustainability Practices has presented at the AASHE.

Not only does the conference provide a chance for ASU to shine on a national stage, but learning and networking opportunities also come with the trip.

“Networking with others who work in sustainability is a huge benefit for ASU,” Svenson said. “We also get to learn about some of the methods and procedures that other universities use and compare them to the programs we have here.”

This year’s conference will be held in San Antonio from October 15-18. 

Connor Pelton

Communications Writer, ASU Now

Libraries still essential to cities, concludes ASU panel in Mexico City

October 3, 2017

Libraries are an essential part of a city’s social infrastructure and of its information nervous system, as people affected by the devastating September earthquakes in Mexico City are well aware.

This was the topic of an Arizona State University-sponsored event last Thursday held in Mexico City’s iconic Porrúa bookstore on the edge of Chapultepec Park. people sitting in a panel Veronica Juárez (center), a former librarian at Mexico City’s prestigious Biblioteca Vasconcelos turned independent consultant, speaks during the latest Arizona State University Convergence Lab event in Mexico, titled “Are Libraries Obsolete?”, alongside Heriberto Hérnandez (left), manager of Mexican book publisher and book seller Libreria Porrua, and ASU librarian Jim O'Donnell (right). Photo by Zayda Avila Download Full Image

“It’s at times like these when we appreciate more than ever our shared cultural urban spaces,” said Andrés Martínez, ASU Professor of Practice in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, at the opening of the latest ASU Convergence Lab conversation in Mexico, titled “Are Libraries Obsolete?”

Jim O´Donnell — ASU university librarian and professor of historical, philosophical and religious studies — postulated that the need for libraries has never been greater, while acknowledging that he wasn’t sure which of two competing scenarios would be true by 2100: we might have 3 million libraries in the world, a number he gets by globally extending the density of libraries-to-population in the U.S., or one networked central library for all humankind. 

There will always be a need for local, unique materials — such as Sen. Barry Goldwater’s papers at ASU to be archived — O’Donnell said, though a more rational access to such resources as digitized scholarly articles will need to be developed. 

O’Donnell added that while libraries are far from obsolete, they do need to rethink their design and purpose for a new era, as opposed to continuing to assume that their end-all, defining metric is the number of physical volumes in their stacks (4.5 million at ASU). He also joked that coffee is a new element that needs to be incorporated in all library redesigns. 

But if there is one thing that will not change, ASU’s librarian insisted, it is that libraries will always be discrimination-free spaces, facilitating the discovery of new ideas.

“That to me is the social value of libraries,” O’Donnell said.

During the panel, Veronica Juárez, a former librarian at Mexico City’s prestigious Biblioteca Vasconcelos turned independent consultant, said that at a critical period of social and political change for Mexico, “libraries should become the ‘third space’ in our lives — a place where we go to read, think and relax.” She also described ongoing efforts by libraries and other cultural organizations to bring books and public reading to those displaced by the Sept. 19 earthquake.

Heriberto Hérnandez, the manager of Libreria Porrua, a Mexican book publisher and book seller established in 1900, said that his company remained committed to being a part of the broader ecosystem that encourages making reading a lifelong, affordable habit.

“Whether it’s here in our bookstore, in a library, or on the metro, you see people eagerly reading physical books these days, belying the notion that Mexico is not a nation of readers,” he said.

When asked how ASU’s commitment to be a public university that is deeply embedded in the community affects its academic library, O’Donnell cited as an example the current archiving of oral histories and other documents pertaining to a wide cross-section of Arizonans. 

“We don’t merely want to compile the paper of business and political leaders,” O’Donnell said.

O’Donnell was heartened by the presence in the audience of fellow librarians from several of Mexico’s leading research libraries, as well as library science students.  He told them they were the information Jedi knights of the future, arbiters of truth and facts in a world conspiring against clarity.

Imagine a world without libraries and librarians, O’Donnell said.

“What if the number of libraries in 50 years is zero and we all become dependent of whatever information we get from whatever devices we have in our hands?” he asked. 

For her part, Juárez answered that would be a dystopian future.

“Libraries have always been a response to censorship in favor of truth, in favor of discovery, in favor of the kind of social good that comes when human beings have access to the best of other human beings,” she said.

ASU student blogs 'through the eyes of a refugee'

October 3, 2017

Change isn’t always grand or sweeping. Sometimes something as simple as a blog, can open people’s eyes to a global issue that needs our attention.

For Arizona State University global studies major Natalija Staletovic, this is where she started. A spray-painted wall that lined the "barracks" where refuges lived. Download Full Image

Every year, global studies majors within ASU's School of Politics and Global Studies enroll in the Global Experience program. Staletovic is one such student, and in early 2017, she earned the internship of a lifetime: working with UN Women in Belgrade, Serbia.

Staletovic began her work in the United Nations House in Belgrade. After becoming acquainted with her supervisor and coworkers, she was given several folders filled with documents on the UN’s mission in Belgrade and its goals for the refugees who stayed in the camps there.

She remarked that, while she understood that women and girls face much abuse, the statistics shocked her. Staletovic decided to dedicate her time with the UN towards serving women and girls who had become victims of violence in the region and abroad.

Once she had familiarized herself with the statistics, Staletovic began working with female refugees in the camp, engaging with them in the “Women’s Corner” where they made crafts. She also taught some English classes, and in general communicated with those who knew some Serbian or English. From them she heard — and in some cases, saw — the abuse they had suffered and baggage they carried with them as a result. Staletovic said none of the statistics did justice to the personal and horrific experiences these women had faced.

Natalija Staletovic

After working for the UN for some time, Staletovic began a blog titled “Through The Eyes Of A Refugee” on Tumblr. The original purpose of the blog was of a personal nature; hearing the stories first-hand from men and women who had suffered so much, Staletovic was moved, coming to the conclusion that it was necessary for their stories to be shared with the world. In a style reminiscent of Humans of New York, a popular blog also started on Tumblr, Staletovic began to record the experiences of the many refugees stuck in Serbia.

A common theme found throughout the refugees’ stories is hope in the face of all odds and the endurance of the human spirit. One story follows a young man whose name is redacted at his request; he is referred to as “Dglesh,” which means “Flash Fire” in the Kurdish language. He spoke of starting work at only eight years old, helping the family make ends-meet until he fled to Iraq at the age of thirteen to make more money for his family. The way in which Staletovic describes the young man’s battles with depression and suicidal thoughts, to eventually having dreams of reaching Germany, are uplifting.

Staletovic explored the humanity of the refugees and what could be characterized as “frustrated desperation.” Her blog features images and a video from a bundle of abandoned warehouses commonly known as “the barracks.” Here, young men make home as they prepare to illegally enter other nations which are known for being extremely hostile to refuges such as Hungary. 

The barracks are filled with “tents, makeshift beds, and smoke from fires of the food cooking.” Amidst the “unhygienic conditions” are spray-painted walls, home to pleas for help and reminders of their humanity; one reads, “Refugees are Not terrorists,” while another, in bright orange, states “Please Help Us.” It is a stark reminder of their fate and the horrific conditions they face, conditions easily forgotten when thousands of miles away.

Staletovic’s supervisors saw her blog as a unique project; it became her main project for UN Women, and was eventually shared by UN Women Serbia and plans to be shared by the UN Women Europe and Central Asia website.

By May 31, she had finished her project and ended her internship with UN Women. However, that does not mean she is done. Staletovic hopes to one day return and work again with the UN House, possibly even working with the United Nations Development Programs (UNDP) in Syria.

“Even if [I] made an inch of a difference to the world, at least it was an inch and its one inch closer to making this world a better place,” Staletovic said. “The world won’t change overnight; it’s going to take a lot of time and a lot of patience.”

office assistant, School of Politics and Global Studies

image title

Managing the digital divide within the global classroom

Study finds students in U.S., India have different views on phone use in class.
October 2, 2017

New ASU study examines in-class use of digital devices through a multicultural lens

The increasing globalization of U.S. colleges is inspiring professors and school administrators to find creative ways to compete with students’ use of digital devices in the classroom.

However, as the diversity of the U.S. class population expands, so too is the diversity of opinion on how to manage classroom device use — and that could just make things a little more challenging for all involved.

With a focus on college students in the U.S. and India, a new study suggests a few similarities — including high levels of cellphone penetration and widespread use of digital devices in American and Indian college classrooms — and more differences between the students’ expectations for managing classroom devices including:

  • frequency in digital use
  • policies to control use in classrooms
  • preferred strategies for instructors to handle distracting uses of digital media
  • perceived impact of digital use in classrooms on learning, attention and student participation

“We know communication and cultural behaviors in societies of the U.S. and in India operate differently,” said Uttaran Dutta, one of three research professors from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University who participated in the study. “We were interested to learn and compare how culture and values of two countries and societies influence and shape students’ digital behaviors in the classroom.”

Outnumbering American students in preference for classroom policies regarding the use of digital devices, the study shows that Indian students believe in-class cellphone use is significantly more disruptive to learning and that cellphone interruptions in classes should result in reprimand, discipline or a grade penalty. Indian students are also overwhelmingly in favor of universities establishing digital policies for classrooms to prohibit the use of devices during class unless required by the instructor.

In contrast, American students surveyed for the study believe that instructors should either ignore cellphones that ring during classes, or address it in a light-hearted way.

“It was very interesting to see how the authority of the Indian professor in the classroom was diminishing and being replaced by Indian students’ preference that university bureaucrats determine digital policies,” said Robert Shuter, ASU research professor.

“American students preferred that the classroom instructor determine digital policies, an indication of the continued power and authority of professors in American classrooms,” Shuter added.

The collaborative study is published in the Western Journal of Communication under the title: “Digital Behavior of University Students in India and the U.S.: Cultural Values and Communication Technologies in the Classroom.” A continuation of a previous study on the influence of culture and cultural values on new media use in the university classroom, the India-U.S. study surveyed 920 college students across both countries.

Among the latest study’s other findings: Americans owned significantly more tablets and laptops than Indians own, and used the devices twice as much.

Researchers hope the study will increase cross-cultural understanding between American and Indian students and professors in terms of their awareness of the differences in both cultural values and mobile media use and preferences.

“For educators these findings could help them recognize the diversity of ways we can manage digital distractions in the classroom and to know that different students might have different expectations,” said ASU Professor Pauline Cheong.

Other collaborators on the study included Yashu Chen, at California State University, San Marcos, and Jeff Shuter, a doctoral candidate at the University of Iowa.

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications


image title

ASU honors college grants access to global leaders

September 29, 2017

Europe’s first woman defense minister lunches with Barrett honors students

In the week marked by Angela Merkel’s historic re-election as chancellor of Germany, another woman of global political prominence called on more women to take their seat at the table.

Elisabeth Rehn, the first woman to hold the title of minister of defense in Finland and in Europe (1990-1995), has now also become the first guest speaker for the new Global Fellow Program through Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University.

Announced in May 2017 — along with a $2 million gift from the college's namesakes Ambassador Barbara Barrett and her husband, Craig Barrett — the Global Fellow Program offers honors students access to international leaders visiting the ASU campus, international study trips and a curriculum designed to expose students to major global issues.

Rehn met with honors students during a lunch meet-and-greet at the college's Tempe complex Wednesday, following enthusiastic introductions from Mark Jacobs, dean of the college, and Barbara Barrett.  

(From left) Ambassador Barbara Barrett; Barrett, The Honors College Dean Mark Jacobs; Former Minister of Defense for Finland Elisabeth Rehn.

Offering illustrations of Rehn’s character and recognition as a global leader, Barrett introduced the visiting foreign leader as fearless yet mild-spoken and self-deprecating — attributes Rehn herself said were key to the popularity and success she has experienced in the male-dominated world of international politics.

An anecdote offered testimony to Rehn’s sharp wit and resilience: She shared a story about deploying her sense of humor to deflect what she described as a “silly” question during one of her first press conferences as minister of defense.

“You know in Finland we have a culture of sauna. Men are sitting in the sauna and making the decisions,” Rehn said during her visit with the honors students.

So, when a journalist asked her how she was going to cope with the generals in the sauna in her new role, Rehn said she shot back with the response: “I normally like to make my decisions with all my clothes on.”

In the wide-ranging discussion that also touched on some of the more serious challenges she experienced in her simultaneous roles as Finland’s minister of defense and minister for gender equality, Rehn emphasized the need for more gender balance in matters of mediation and peacekeeping on the world stage.

Rehn, 82, also ran for the presidency of the Republic of Finland in 1994, narrowly losing to Martti Ahtisaari. She later went on to serve as the undersecretary general of the United Nations during Kofi Annan’s tenure as UN secretary general. Her work has taken her to some of the most conflict-ridden areas of the world including Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosovo, Serbia, East Timor, Namibia and Colombia.

Rehn is also the co-author of the UN report “Women, War, Peace” with Liberia President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Among other international affiliations, Rehn is currently a member of the Global Leadership Foundation, which is composed of former world ministers and heads of state including the organization's chair, former President of South Africa F.W. de Klerk.

Rehn's visit was the first of what is hoped to be many interactions between students and world leaders at Barrett, The Honors College through the Global Fellow Program and Barrett Global Initiatives.

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications


3 ASU students to attend Clinton Global Initiative University in Boston

September 29, 2017

In June 2017, three Arizona State University students received a very exciting email — they had been selected to attend the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) later this year.

The students had submitted a global change idea proposal for a special graduate research conference they will be hosting, Feb. 1-2, 2018. Larissa Gaias, Michelle Pasco and Chanler Hilley — who are all enrolled in the Family and Human Development Doctoral program in ASU's T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics — are committee members of the Diversity and Inclusion Science Initiative (DISI) Graduate Research Conference. Their conference idea led to their invitation to this year’s CGI U. Picture of conference stage with a filled room of attendees Image from CGIU (2016) website

The CGI U, launched in 2007 by former President Bill Clinton, engages over 1,000 college students yearly to discuss and take action on pressing global challenges. Over 8,700 college students from 150 countries have attended the CGI U meetings over the past ten years. To be eligible to attend, each student or student group must establish and submit a Commitment to Action. The CGI U commitments aim to address challenges in the CGI U’s five focus areas: education, environment and climate change, poverty alleviation, peace and human rights, and public health.

Of the five CGI U focus areas, Gaias, Pasco, and Hilley’s submission was in the area of education. The DISI Graduate Research Conference at ASU aims to address issues of diversity and inclusion through scholarship, which can help create and promote an inclusive society that enhances compassion, equity and empowerment, while reducing prejudice, stereotyping and exclusion. The interdisciplinary nature of this conference will bring together ASU graduate students with diverse academic backgrounds to collaborate by sharing research, teaching strategies and personal experiences that incorporate and address diversity and inclusion.

Picture of ASU DISI committee members
DISI committee members from left (Annabelle Atkin, Bobbi Bromich, Kenton Woods, Michelle Pasco, Chanler Hilley, Arlyn Moreno Luna and Larissa Gaias)

Gaias is the steering committee chair for the conference. Originally from Southampton, New York, Gaias obtained her Bachelor of Science in psychology and environmental studies from Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Maine before receiving her Master of Science in family and human development from ASU. Her current research focuses on educational equity and how schools can better support marginalized youth.

“Getting accepted to the GCI U was very encouraging as it affirmed that this work is of broader interest beyond our team and our school,”  Gaias said. “I am looking forward to getting a global perspective on diversity and inclusion and bringing back ideas to our own conference.”

Michelle Pasco, conference steering committee chair elect, was also thrilled by the special invitation to attend the CGI U: “I was really excited and happy that the goals and objectives we have for the graduate research conference was being recognized and valued at a broader level.”

An Azusa, California native, Pasco earned a Bachelor of Arts in psychology with a minor in Asian American studies from UCLA, and hopes the CGI U will provide some valuable insights.

“I hope to learn tools and skills to help promote the (DISI) conference to a larger and broader audience so we incorporate even more disciplines to the conference,” Pasco said.

In the meantime, Pasco will continue her study of adolescent development, particularly Latino adolescents, living in ethnically and racially concentrated neighborhoods.

Chanler Hilley sits as the logistics committee chair for the conference. Hailing from Calhoun Falls, South Carolina, Hilley obtained his Bachelor of Science in health promotion from Coastal Carolina University before going on to receive his Master of Education in higher and postsecondary education from ASU. His research focus is on adolescence and the transition to adulthood.

“I was excited and overwhelmed to learn we were accepted to CGI U,” Hilley said. “CGI U focuses on global issues, and the acceptance reinforces the impact we can make through this conference (DISI).”

“I hope to meet other students who are interested or engaged in the type of work we’re doing at ASU," he said. "I hope we are able to continue to strengthen the conference and learn about ways to sustain our efforts through participation in CGI U.”

ASU is part of the CGI U network and hosted a meeting in 2014. This year, the CGI U will be hosted by Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts from Oct. 13-15. Over $750,000 in funding will be available to select CGI U 2017 students to help them turn their ideas into action. 

Click here to register for the DISI Graduate Research Conference (must be an ASU graduate student in Spring 2018).

John Keeney

Communications Manager, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics


image title

ASU launches new tourism college in partnership with university in China

September 28, 2017

Students in Hainan-ASU program will earn dual degrees without having to leave China

Arizona State University opened its first permanent location in China this week as part of a partnership to offer degrees in tourism.

ASU now has a building on the campus of Hainan University, a top-tier college in the south of China, and will offer three dual degrees in the new initiative, called the Hainan University–Arizona State University Joint International Tourism College.

It’s the first time ASU will offer undergraduate The W. P. Carey School of Business offers MBA, master’s in business management and doctorate degree programs in China without requiring students to travel to ASU. degrees to students entirely in another country, according to Kathleen Andereck, director of the School of Community Resources and Development, who is leading the program. The Chinese government, which is fully funding the venture, chose ASU as a partner in the new college because it wants to develop a tourism workforce in Hainan, an island province at the southernmost tip of China, she said. Hainan University has about 30,000 students and has programs in agriculture, business and hospitality.

“Hainan is like the Hawaii of China — it’s a beautiful, subtropical island that has a lot of resort development,” said Andereck, who also is a professor and the director of curricular initiatives in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“And they picked ASU because we’re large and have the capacity to handle this kind of program, and also because we have a large tourism faculty that’s highly ranked in research.”

Jonathan Koppel, dean of ASU's College of Public Service and Community Solutions, addresses the freshmen on the first day of the semester at Hainan University–Arizona State University Joint International Tourism College in Haikou, Hainan, China.

This week, 253 freshmen started their academic year in the new college with a welcome ceremony and their first course — the one-credit ASU 101, a weeklong intensive being taught by Andereck and Rebecca Barry, a senior lecturer the School of Community Resources and Development.

The college hopes to enroll about 300 a students a year in the dual-degree program, in which ASU degrees are paired with Hainan degrees. Students will graduate with a bachelor’s from each university, with some credits transferring between the institutions, Andereck said, noting that Chinese students typically take a higher course load than American students.

Two of the degrees are in ASU’s School of Community Resources and Development: tourism development and management, which is matched with Hainan’s hotel-management degree, and parks and recreation management, which is paired with Hainan’s geography and urban and rural planning degree.

The third degree program is with ASU’s School of Public Affairs — public service and public policy, matched with Hainan’s public administration degree.

The 253 freshmen in the new joint tourism college will spend this semester working on their English proficiency.

Andereck said the freshmen are taking general-education courses this year and focusing on English proficiency. They’re admitted as non-degree-seeking students until they pass English 107 in the spring — the English class for non-native speakers.

About one-third of the faculty for the tourism college will be from ASU, which will hire professors to live and teach in Haikou, where Hainan University is located. In addition, current tourism faculty from ASU will have the option of teaching a half-semester or semester there.

Hainan University renovated a building to house ASU, which includes computer labs, modular classrooms and touch-screen smartboards. In a few years, university will build a new site for the tourism college on another Hainan campus nearby.

“They even planted a cactus garden to be more ‘Arizona,’ ” Andereck said.

The partnership gives ASU a physical presence in China, where the university already has many partnerships.

“This will be good for ASU’s reputation in China,” she said.


Top photo: Students in the new Hainan University–Arizona State University Joint International Tourism College gathered on the first day of the semester earlier this week.

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now