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ASU students win national award for Spanish Honor Society Sigma Delta Pi

June 13, 2018

Bridging language instruction and community is a proven winner for Rosti Vana and Rosita Scerbo, PhD students at the School of International Letters and Cultures at Arizona State University who are also leaders in the Spanish Honor Society Sigma Delta Pi.

Vana, who studies Spanish linguistics, is president of the organization, and Scerbo, who studies Spanish literature and culture, is vice president. Together, they led their members to win Sigma Delta Pi's 6th annual Best Practices Award after merging together the Spanish Club and the Honor Society to create a space for students to practice and promote the Spanish language and culture. The recognition is incredibly prestigious and competitive — only four out of 594 chapters (368 of these are considered active) in the U.S. actually win it. Rosti Vana, (pictured sitting down), and Rosita Scerbo, (pictured on left in black), president and vice president, with members of the Spanish Honor Society Sigma Delta Pi. Download Full Image

“This is the first time that our chapter has been recognized for something big,” Vana said.

What started with Cynthia Tompkins, a Spanish professor and faculty adviser to the society, urging Vana to apply turned into a whirlwind when he was asked to visit Spain this summer to represent the School of International Letters and Cultures as well as the Sigma Delta Pi chapter.

“I think that’s the best part about going. I’m able to interact and network ASU,” he said.  

The society is open to both undergraduates and graduates, and prides itself in creating a club for everybody. Schedules are sent out to teacher’s assistants who let students know they can come practice their language skills. Vana and Scerbo said it’s usually students helping students. There are about 10 to 15 members in the club, all of whom are majors in Spanish — the only requirement to join. 

“I really like working with students because they become more comfortable since it is a friendly environment. ... They won’t feel judged or evaluated; they’ll be able to practice Spanish in an natural way,” Scerbo said.

Vana and Scerbo will be returning to ASU in fall 2018, continuing to provide Spanish scholars a space to practice their language skills and the opportunity to join Sigma Delta Pi.

Kathleen Leslie

Student communications specialist, School of International Letters and Cultures


Why the next big archaeological discovery may not come out of the ground

ASU professor champions a new kind of research that uses virtual teamwork to solve modern human problems

June 7, 2018

Keith Kintigh has seen the future of archaeology — and it’s not what you might expect. His vision includes projects that examine multiple sites together, rather than separately, and a science that answers questions about our present, instead of focusing only on the past.

Kintigh, a professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and the co-director of its Center for Archaeology and Society, studies ancient political organization in the Zuni Pueblo region of New Mexico. image of globe with network around it Download Full Image

But in recent years, he’s devoted his attention to collecting archaeological data from numerous sites and regions, exploring overarching trends, and making information accessible to other scientists so they can do the same.

This process is known as archaeological synthesis. It first gained Kintigh’s interest nearly 30 years ago, when he and other faculty from the school decided to compare the trajectories of the prehistoric societies each of them studied independently in order to explore the conditions that led to their resilience or collapse.

“Archaeology is not about the artifacts we collect — it’s about what we learn from them.” 
— Professor Keith Kintigh

In collecting and combining their information sources, Kintigh and his peers realized this type of research’s potential to answer important questions about society today.

“It became clear that resolving these questions depended not on new fieldwork and discoveries, but on synthesizing the data already collected over the last 100 years,” Kintigh said. “Archaeology is not about the artifacts we collect — it’s about what we learn from them.”

That revelation led to his involvement in creating the Digital Archaeological Record. This virtual storehouse, where researchers can share their archaeological data and combine it with that of others, recently celebrated its 10th anniversary. But Kintigh’s newest project takes the concept one step further.

In April, he helped launch the Coalition for Archaeological Synthesis at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, which was held in the ASU Barrett & O’Connor Washington Center.

This international group aims to encourage and support — financially and logistically — synthetic research that tackles broad questions to find solutions for today’s problems. Kintigh currently serves as its co-president alongside archaeologist Jeffrey Altschul, the coalition’s co-creator.

The ambitious effort already has buy-in from 30 partner organizations and 87 associates, including the school’s Center for Archaeology and Society and Center for Digital Antiquity, as well as 15 ASU faculty.

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Keith Kintigh speaks at the Coalition for Archaeological Synthesis launch. Photo courtesy of Keith Kintigh

“Without the transdisciplinary environment and highly collegial atmosphere that characterizes both ASU and the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, this never would have happened,” Kintigh said.

And it’s not only archaeologists who will soon be clamoring for this research, but all types of scientists, as well as the curious public.

For example, there are many people who would be interested to know how environmental stresses impacted five Southwestern and northern Mexican societies over the course of 500 years — a synthetic research project that Kintigh tackled as part of a team of ASU faculty before the coalition’s creation.

“Accounting for the differences in resilience of these societies is certainly relevant in addressing the climate-change-related problems of the near-two billion people today who practice subsistence farming, especially in semi-arid areas,” he said.

Moving forward, the coalition’s first two funded projects have already begun studying how past humans’ interactions with plants and animals affected their societies’ long-term survival and how historical use of controlled fire impacted ecosystem health and diversity.

Scientific work aside, the initiative faces a series of logistical and operational hurdles in the months ahead, including organizing a board of directors, finding a university host and securing funds for future synthetic research projects. But as usual, Kintigh has the big picture in mind.

“My goal is to see this inspire more efforts, through the coalition or otherwise, devoted to synthetic research on social science questions that matter for today,” he said. “Continued innovation in this area will create even more opportunities to provide real public benefits.”

Mikala Kass

Editorial Communications Coordinator, School of Human Evolution and Social Change


It takes a village: Acting locally, thinking globally

International community outreach projects are preparing a Fulton Schools doctoral student for a career making the world more environmentally sustainable

May 30, 2018

Evvan Morton has a clear-cut, big-picture career ambition. The Arizona State University doctoral student wants to help bridge the gap between the worlds of engineering and science and the sphere of public policy on a global level.

As Morton sees it, bringing the goals and mindsets of those often-divergent camps into harmony is the only way definitive progress can be made against widespread looming threats to the planet’s environment. Evvan Morton (far left), a sustainable engineering doctoral student in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and Shakira Hobbs (far right), an engineering research associate at the University of Virginia, are shown with school teachers in the Belize village of Sittee River. Morton and Hobbs are leaders of a project aimed at helping the remote rural community to adopt renewable energy technology and establish an environmentally safe waste management system. Photo courtesy of Evvan Morton and Shakira Hobbs Download Full Image

For the past several years, she has been taking on college studies, research and outreach projects to gain the knowledge and experience for playing a role in prevailing against such a vast and complex challenge.

During her junior year as a materials engineering student at the University of Cincinnati, Morton joined a small team of students on a trip to Haiti to build a home for earthquake victims.

In her senior year she took a course focused on developing solar power solutions for energy-poor regions of Africa. She and other students in the class traveled to Ethiopia to help install a photovoltaic solar power system for a health clinic.

After earning a bachelor’s degree, Morton did two stints as an intern at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado. One of her assignments there was with the Strategic Energy Analysis Center researching the role of the United States in deployment of renewable energy technologies in developing countries. She performed a case study of a project to assist the Philippines in pursuing sustainability objectives.

Morton’s most long-term hands-on project began in 2015, the summer after her first year in the Civil, Environmental and Sustainable Engineering doctoral program in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

She became part of a team of engineering teachers, researchers and students at the University of Virginia, the University of North Carolina at Charlotte and Clemson University working to introduce renewable energy technology and environmental protection practices to a remote rural village — Sittee River, population estimated at no more than 350 people — in the Central American country of Belize.

In July, the team is returning to the village for a fourth straight summer for a monthlong stay to continue training members of the community to participate in the project and “empowering them to take ownership of it,” Morton said.

The mission is to establish a sustainable waste management system in the Sittee River, which started with the team building an anaerobic digester for use by the village residents.

two women posing for a photo with children in Belize
Shakira Hobbs and Evvan Morton pictured with children in the Sittee River community as they conduct a house-to-house census in the village. Morton and Hobbs also interviewed residents about their waste disposal practices as part of their efforts to introduce environmental health measures to the village. Photo courtesy of Evvan Morton and Shakira Hobbs

The digester consists of a large container in which food waste and other organic waste can be placed — including manure, which acts to balance the acidity level inside the container — to undergo a series of biological processes through which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen.

One of the end products of the process is biogas, which can be combusted to generate electricity and heat, or be processed into renewable natural gas and fuels. The team has designed its digester to provide gas that villagers can use to cook food.

“You can hook up gas from the digester to a stove. And the sludge left over from the anaerobic breakdown of the waste material can be used for fertilizer,” Morton explained.

With the extra fertilizer, villagers can expand their farming and produce more vegetables to sell to support their local economy, she said.

The anaerobic digester is only one phase of the project. The digester enables villagers to refrain from their usual practice of burning waste materials in open fires, which puts harmful particulates in the air and produces the kind of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to troublesome climate change.

“We want to make this the starting point for a broader waste management system that would include people in the village employed to pick up the waste to transport it to a landfill or some type of recycling center,” Morton said. “There aren’t many recycling resources and the closest landfill is an hour’s drive away and most people don’t have a car, so there are hurdles.”

Despite the low-tech devices involved and the project’s relatively small scale, it presents all the challenges of instituting sustainable energy systems and environmentally beneficial practices in larger regions of developing countries.

Project team members have had to find effective ways to communicate with, earn the trust of, educate and motivate people in a different culture.

They have had to build a working relationship with the village council and will try to help the community seek aid from Belize’s government to support Sittee River’s local sustainability efforts.

They also had to secure funding for the project, which they did through a competitive process for a grant from the Integrative Graduate Education and Research Traineeship: Solar Utilization Network, known as the IGERT-SUN program, a National Science Foundation doctoral student training program.

The Belize project has so far also led to the team establishing BioGals, a nonprofit group working to empower and increase the visibility of women of color who are conducting research to develop sustainable solutions to problems around the world.

Coincidently, Morton has recently been elected president of ASU’s Black Graduate Student Association, whose empowerment goals align with those of the BioGals organization.

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Evvan Morton won ASU’s 2018 Martin Luther King Jr. Student Servant-Leadership Award. Her academic and service achievements have made her a National Science Foundation IGERT-SUN Fellow, a Walton Global Sustainability Studies Scholar and a recipient of and the Brown and Caldwell Women in Leadership Scholarship. Photographer: Charlie Leight/ASU

Four of the team’s members, including Morton, have produced a research paper, “Sustainability Approach: Food Waste-to-Energy Solutions for Small Rural Developing Communities,” published earlier this year in the International Journal of Environmental, Cultural, Economic, and Social Sustainability. 

The project also relates to the doctoral research Morton is doing under the supervision of Klaus Lackner, a professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment in the Fulton Schools.

Lackner directs the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions and is an international leader in the promising area of carbon-capture technology.

Systems being developed in Lackner’s lab have the potential to contribute substantially to combating the negative impacts of climate change by removing harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

Morton’s role in that research encompasses both technical and public policy aspects of paving the way for the use of carbon-capture systems.

“My system will integrate [Lackner’s] technology with sequestration and carbon-capture permitting methods to create a sustainable waste management system for a negative carbon emission future,” she said.

“Evvan is a natural leader who is committed to helping people to do the right thing for the environment,” Lackner said. “In Belize she is doing this on a village scale, but for her thesis she is exploring how this can be achieved on a global scale. How can individuals and corporations be convinced of the critical need to prevent and clean up the carbon waste we produce every day by consuming energy?” 

Along with the sustainable engineering doctoral degree she will earn within the next two years, Morton is studying to earn a graduate-level academic certificate in Responsible Innovation in Science, Engineering and Society from ASU’s School for the Future of Innovation in Society.

With those credentials and the international experience she is getting through community outreach projects, Morton said she hopes to get on a career path to becoming a decision maker in matters that help turn the tide for the country and the world toward an environmentally sustainable future.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


ASU student fosters connections with Taiwan Pilot Tour and International Forum project

May 23, 2018

Doctoral student Chia-Mei Hsia had a vision of connecting her native Taiwan to the United States around the theme of community development. That dream is coming to life as she launches the Global Community Development Partnership — a collaboration between Arizona State University’s Partnership for Community Development (PCD) and Feng Chia University.

The initiative started with her research data collection in summer 2016 when she interviewed people in Taiwan and noticed the need for community collaboration. Chia-Mei Hsia in Taiwan School of Community Resources and Development doctoral student Chia-Mei Hsia leads a forum as part of a pilot effort to encourage open communication and collaboration among nine communities in Taiwan. Photo courtesy of Chia-Mei Hsia Download Full Image

“Numerous communities have attained incredible achievement and made great progress in enhancing well-being and quality of life, but they are confronted with larger issues and challenges, particularly from globalization and urbanization,” Hsia said. “Coincidently, these communities seek sustainable solutions for various issues they are tackling. This motivated me to think of ways in which my skills as a community organizer could help them.”

When Hsia traveled back to Arizona from Taiwan, she recruited two volunteers from ASU to launch an “idea think tank” through which resources and ideas could be shared and collaborations formed among various communities.

“We knew we had the right direction but needed to find funding,” she said.

Hsia connected with her colleagues at ASU’s PCD and shared the idea with her mentor, Richard Knopf, professor in the School of Community Resources and Development. At the same time, Hsia reached out to Chieh-Ying Chen, director of the Center for Studies of Everyday Life at Feng Chia University and found he shared her vision. A new partnership was formed.

Chen, with a background in sociology and years of experience in fieldwork with communities, sees community development as the potential solution for social change.

“I witnessed some amazing community development cases and believe they have influential roles in a bigger society structure. The key issue is how we can leverage an individual community’s influence to amplify its strength and impacts,” he said.

A forum to open collaboration

The idea of creating a platform for international community collaboration and partnership formation became a reality when Hsia and her colleagues launched the Taiwan Pilot Tour and International Forum project in summer 2017.   

The trip featured visits to communites and an academic forum that focused on eco-tourism, community culture exploration and participatory art activities. The forum also included a professional symposium for the communities to collaboratively brainstorm on community issues. Scholars and representatives from ASU’s PCD and Arizona nonprofit organizations visited nine Taiwanese communities and learned about their culture and history. A community development forum was held on the last day of the trip at Feng Chia University as the capstone event. It served to incubate community innovation and to facilitate a comfortable environment for honest and open-minded dialogue among members from the various communities.  

“Community development is all about facilitation and dialogue,” said Knopf. “One fundamental thing we added is what we call listening conversations. We start not with a premise that there is a problem to be solved and we bring in the experts. Instead, we just open conversations in which community members can discover their gifts and build a collective vision for change.”

Hsia’s understanding of Asian culture has been a key element in fostering open dialogue.

“There were great conversation dynamics happening in the forum. Even in the midst of occasional disagreement, people listened to each other and began to understand the perspectives of others. I think that is a big step,” she said.

The forum participants included community members and practitioners, professionals and government officers together with ASU scholars who collaboratively examined insights gathered during the site visits. They shared challenges, successes and issues present in the various communities visited. The topics ranged from youth community engagement to tribal culture preservation. Also, the discussions explored how to boost community economic viability without compromising local traditions and cultural heritage.

“There was lots of spirited conversation,” Knopf said. “They shared opinions, then listened, and we co-discussed a way to draw the community together for forward movement.”

Aiming to scale up 

The pilot tour to Taiwan was the first step in a larger goal to provide a global platform to incubate creative ideas, reciprocal networking, exchange of resources, and facilitate international partnerships to increase community capacity building.

To continue the collaboration between ASU’s PCD and Feng Chia University, Hsia plans to launch a community participatory tour program aiming to send a team to Taiwan in the summer of 2019. The tour will identify and more deeply explore select communities and building partnership with locals in those communities.

“The destination for future tours is not limited to Taiwan,” Hsia explained. “Any country with unique community development cases would be in our visiting destination list.”

To extend the partnership network, Rodney Machokoto, a current ASU doctoral student and Zimbabwean financial professional, and Ethan Hsu, a former ASU student and Taiwanese travel professional, are helping to contribute their connections and expertise to broaden the scope of the GCDP collaboration. The ultimate aim of the collaboration is to expand the concept to other parts of Asia, Europe, South America and Africa.

“It is a big dream, but we start where we are, leverage what we have, and achieve what we can,” Hsia said.   

Heather Beshears

director marketing and communications, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


ASU alum combines law, Spanish

May 14, 2018

Katherine Nelson is an alumni of Arizona State University's School of International Letters and Cultures. Now she is studying law at ASU's Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at ASU.

Here, she answers some questions about her time at the School of International Letters and Cultures (SILC), her reason for studying a langauge, and how her degree from SILC and law go hand in hand. Download Full Image

Question: You mentioned that you were now studying law. Are you studying law here at ASU? What specifically drew you to study law?

Answer: I am studying law at ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. I came to law school because I wanted to be an advocate and make a positive impact in my community.

Q: Has your degree in Spanish helped you in any way when it comes to law?

A: Absolutely. The skills I developed while studying Spanish also helped prepare me for law school. Learning a foreign language made me a more critical thinker, and reading Spanish literature made it easier for me to understand legal opinions from the 1800’s. All of the practice I had in class also made me a more confident public speaker. For example, I had to give presentations in several of my classes in a foreign language — this made the oral argument I had to do second semester of 1L seem easy in comparison.

Q: What are your goals for the future? Do you plan on continuing to merge law and Spanish together in your professional career?

A: I am planning to be a public defender after I pass the bar. My knowledge of Spanish will help me connect with clients because I will not need an interpreter to communicate with them.

Q: Let’s talk about your time here at SILC. Did you major in anything else besides Spanish? What drew you to study Spanish?

A: I wasn’t entirely sure when I was coming to ASU what I wanted to study, but I knew I wanted to continue studying Spanish because I took it all four years in high school. I knew if I majored in Spanish I would improve my fluency and be able to explore other courses of study. I graduated with a Spanish major and a minor in justice studies.

Q: Do you have a favorite memory of SILC?

A: It’s hard to pick just one, but all of my favorite memories from SILC are connected to being involved in the language student organizations. Volunteering at Night of the Open Door, playing in the SILC Soccer Cup, and eating at new Latin restaurants with classmates and practicing conversation are some of my favorites.

Q: Did you study abroad during your undergrad? If so, how did going abroad help you understand the language better? Were there any chances here at ASU for you to continue to sharpen your Spanish skills outside of the classroom?

A: I studied abroad in León, Spain in the summer of 2012 with Professor [Carlos] Garcia-Fernandez. This was easily the best experience of my life and I encourage everyone to study abroad if they can. The summer I was there the European soccer cup was going on, and Spain won the final when we were all there. Although I was only there for five weeks, my fluency went up significantly because I could only communicate with my host family and the locals in Spanish. At ASU, I was involved in OLE, the undergraduate Spanish club, and helped create EntreAmig@s. The conversation practice clubs are really helpful for learning and meeting new people.

Q: One piece of advice to those students wanting to study Spanish and/or law?

A: For Spanish — get involved! Practicing your speaking skills with EntreAmig@s or reading books in Spanish outside of class will really help improve your fluency. Also, talk to the SILC advisers. I could have found out about Justice Studies earlier and gotten a double major in something I loved, instead of just a minor because I found the program too late. For law — make time for your family, your friends, and your hobbies. You have the time and you’ll be happier and better off if you do.

Kathleen Leslie

Student communications specialist, School of International Letters and Cultures


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A time of transition: British royal family zips through milestones

May 11, 2018

ASU professor says monarchy faces curious time in its history

Royal watchers have had plenty of reasons to rejoice lately: Queen Elizabeth’s 92nd birthday last month, the recent birth of Prince William and Duchess Catherine’s third child, Louis; Princess Charlotte’s third birthday; and, of course, the upcoming wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle on May 19.

These are not only milestones but possible torch-passing moments as rumors of Queen Elizabeth’s retirement from public life abound. It begs several questions: what will the face of Britain’s monarchy look if that happens? Who are the players? And is everyone prepared to take on those responsibilities?

ASU Now asked Retha Warnicke, an emeritus professor in Arizona State University's School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and author of seven books, to discuss a possible royal changing of the guard. 

Woman in glasses smiling
Retha Warnicke

Question: What will the monarchy look like in the coming years given that transitions seem to be in play?

Answer: I think this royal family will follow the customary procedure. Charles will become Charles III in a grand coronation ceremony. As he has promised that his present wife will never become queen, probably she will remain the Duchess of Cornwall, while enjoying the trappings of royalty. After all, Charles won’t be the first English king to take a second wife. Since he is relatively old when succeeding to the throne and is not very popular (he actually seems to avoid publicity), his heir Prince William will almost certainly have a more prominent public role than would otherwise be the case. William and his family are already popular and are often seen in public gatherings. The media is enthralled, and we see much more of them than of Charles. I suspect Charles, who has always been somewhat withdrawn and reticent about publicity, will welcome his elder son’s and his family’s support and look to them as regular deputies. 

I cannot really see much employment for Harry, who has never played by the royal rules. I find it interesting that the public statements about his future wife, Meghan, refer to her as an American and have seemed to ignore her African heritage. The two have also not attempted to hide the fact that they have been living together at Kensington Palace. The queen, of course, approved of the marriage. I think she worried what he would do (and rightly so) if she said no. As to the future of the monarchy, despite Harry, it is popular enough, especially in the great-grandchildren’s generation so that they will continue on as they have done — appearing publicly when required and supporting whatever government is in power.

Q: Americans love royal-watching, but how do Brits feel about their own monarchy?

A: They are absolutely split on this issue. Some of the working class, in particular, are hostile to the monarchy but they are also hostile to the nobility and rich people generally. By contrast, many in the middle class are enthralled with the monarchy. The royal family attract crowds whenever and wherever they appear in public. Many Brits cannot see enough of them. The press and TV would not spend so much time on them if they were not so popular. This queen and her grandchildren (the children of Princess Diana), as opposed to her son Charles, are extremely popular, if for no other reason than she represents the monarchy that defended Great Britain during the Great War. Many still remember her father’s commitment to his kingdom. There still is a feeling of patriotism about the queen, if not her grandchildren.

Q: It appears as if the queen did exceptionally well in her duties, but how do you think Charles will fare as king of England?

A: Charles does not get high marks. He turned his back on his first, popular wife and after she died, he married his lover. Diana is still extremely popular (as are the children who are associated with her more than with their father). I think Charles will do his duties as king but he has always been shy about public exposure and will almost certainly be less prominent socially than his mother has been. I think he will rely on William and his family to make up the difference in public appearances. He will be where he must be on special occasions but will be somewhat awkward in appearance and avoid publicity when he can. I do not foresee a possibility of a personality change.

Q: What are some of the deeper issues you think Charles and the royal family will face in the upcoming decade? 

A: The lack of privacy will be a continuing, deep issue for the family. With modern technology — smartphones that take photos, for example — they will have more difficulty than ever before protecting the little privacy they have. The problem is that these instruments can be used even when the subject is unaware of them. In addition, royal family members are going to have to develop, if they have not already started doing so, guidelines for electronic usage by the members of their family. The last decade has seen a tremendous jump in this technology and it may accelerate in future years. 

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU student selected to participate in Heidelberg Laureate Forum in Germany

May 10, 2018

Michelle Stuhlmacher, a doctoral student in geography at Arizona State University, has been selected for the prestigious Heidelberg Laureate Forum. Only 200 of the most qualified young researchers in the world are selected for the forum.

The Heidelberg Laureate Forum is a one-week event combining scientific, social and outreach activities. Michelle Stuhlmacher, a PhD student in geography, researches land use/land cover change using a blend of satellite image processing, archival research and on-the-ground social science. Download Full Image

The recipients of the most prestigious awards in mathematics and computer science — the Abel Prize, the Fields Medal (including the Nevanlinna Prize for contributions in mathematical aspects of information science), the ACM A.M. Turing Award and the ACM Prize in Computing — are invited to participate in the forum. According to the organization's website, the Heidelberg Laureate Forum brings these laureates at the apex of their careers together with 200 high-achieving graduate student and postdoctoral counterparts from around the world.

The forum gives early career researchers an opportunity for interaction that is typically not available within the normal university environment or in their home university department, whereby the laureates provide formal plenary lectures and lead small group discussions with topics driven by a combination of prepared presentations by the laureates as well as student questions. Connections will be made between young researchers and future collaborators; these relationships will bridge the gap between the generations of computer science and mathematics researchers.

"It is an honor to be selected to attend the Heidelberg Laureate Forum," Stuhlmacher said. "My research in geography involves the application of big data, image processing, and machine learning to remote sensing. Despite my application of methods from computer science, I very rarely have the opportunity to interact with the scholars that produce the image processing and machine learning scholarship that I build my remote sensing analysis from. Attending the week-long meeting in Germany will give me a chance to interact with those at the cutting edge of these fields in computer science and mathematics. Additionally, learning about how I am applying their methods to questions of environmental sustainability could be of potential interest to many of the leading scholars in computer science."

Stuhlmacher will head to Heidelberg, Germany, in September for the weeklong forum.

Manager, Marketing and Communication, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning


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The journey continues: Central American caravan members reach the US

May 7, 2018

In wake of caravan seeking asylum, ASU transborder professor says it’s hard to gauge American sentiment on illegal immigration

The ordeal is finally over for a Central American caravan seeking asylum, with the last of the members crossing the U.S. border on Friday after a week of delays and heavy media attention.

The caravan, comprised of migrant men, women and children from mostly Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala, traveled approximately 2,000 miles from southern Mexico. They say they are escaping a life of violence, organized crime and immediate danger. Despite their reasons, the caravan of approximately 150 people were given a chilly reception at the U.S. port of entry near San Diego. They spent several nights in shelters, tents and makeshift camps, waiting to get processed.

President Donald Trump and the U.S. Department of Justice used the opportunity to send a tough-stance message to immigrants while advocates on the other side of the issue pushed hard for asylum. To gain a better understanding of this complex issue, ASU Now consulted Eileen Díaz McConnell, a professor in Arizona State University's School of Transborder Studies.

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Eileen Díaz McConnell

Question: A caravan of more than 150 people showed up at the U.S. border near San Diego seeking asylum in this country last week. What’s going on? 

Answer: Although many people see Mexico as solely the source of migrants, Mexico has long been a transit country that people from Honduras, El Salvador and elsewhere cross through to get to the United States, crossing Mexico on foot and on commercial trainsMcConnell says the train is called la bestia, or the beast, for that reason to get to the U.S. border. It is an extremely dangerous and long journey, with threat of injury or death from falling off a train that is not intended for passengers, [and threat of] sexual violence and exploitation from many bad actors including corrupt officials. These vulnerabilities are increased by the fact that these travelers are very far away from home and have few resources or networks on the trip. This is part of the reason why people might decide to travel in caravan, especially women and those with young children, to try to use safety in numbers to minimize the risk of assault, sexual violence, robberies, etc.  

A collective, Pueblo Sin Fronteras (Town Without Borders), has had a caravan like this for several years. Reporting suggests that several hundred are women and several hundred are children, most are from Honduras. Some of the people traveling in the caravan have asked for asylum in Mexico, while many are petitioning for asylum in the U.S. based on gang violence, organized crime, corruption, government-sponsored violence and repression. Most Central Americans who petition for asylum are denied. 

Q: Why has their entry taken so long to process and will they be allowed entry into this country? 

A: The process of petitioning for asylum takes a long time involving multiple federal agencies, interviewing and screening, and going before a judge to make a case that the requirements of asylum have been met. About 70 percent or more [of] people petitioning for asylum from Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala who have legal representation are denied and denial rates are even higher for those who don’t have legal representation.

Cuban immigrants have been a prioriRelating to or derived by reasoning from self-evident propositions — presupposed by experience. categorized as refugees deserving of protection, although the "wet foot, dry foot policy" was ended in January 2017. The U.S. government has not categorized immigrants from other countries as meriting the same treatment even though they might have a reasonable fear of persecution or harm. Many migrants traveling in the caravan could meet the requirementsTo qualify for asylum, you must establish that you are a refugee who is unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality, or last habitual residence if you have no nationality, because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution on account of race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. Source: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (https://www.uscis.gov/i-589). for asylum, either themselves personally or family members experiencing threats or harm in the past and having credible fears of harm if returned to their home countries. However, it’s also clear that judges’ decisions about who meets requirements for asylum are influenced by legal representation and factors that go beyond the specific petitioner, otherwise, there likely wouldn’t be such drastic differences in denial rates across countries.

Q: What are some historical reasons why immigrants flee their native countries to come to the United States?

A: As I begin, it’s important to emphasize that only about 4 percent of the world’s population actually leave their home country for another country, so the reasons that people leave must be incredibly strong.

People leave home countries and come to the U.S. for many reasons. Migration scholars emphasize both factors that push people out of their home country and factors pulling them to another country; and the combination of push and pull factors differ across countries, even within the same region. In the case of those leaving El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala, push factors include decades of very high levels of violence. These countries have experienced long and violent civil wars and cities in these countries have some of the highest homicide rates in the world. It has been difficult to recover from hurricanes, floods and other disasters that have wiped out homes, roads, crops, and greatly affected agriculture and other industries. There are high poverty rates and unemployment rates. Governments in these countries have not only sponsored violence, but have not been able to resolve these long-standing problems that push people out. At the height of civil wars in countries like El Salvador and Honduras, emigrants sought political asylum in the United States, which means that people in El Salvador, Guatemala [and] Honduras may have family members who have been in the U.S. for decades. These social networks already in the U.S., coupled with work opportunities and a higher economic standard of living, help pull political refugees and economic migrants to the United States.

Q: Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently said, “When respect for the rule of law diminishes, so too does our ability to protect our great nation, its borders, and its citizens.” That seems to encapsulate the sentiment of many Americans regarding illegal immigration. What is it that most people do not understand or see regarding this situation?

A: In my view, it is difficult to know for sure whether Americans agree with this statement (that declines in rule of law affect ability to protect the nation) or whether Americans believe that this particular caravan of migrants at the border formally seeking entry into the U.S. is not respecting the rule of law. This particular caravan of migrants from Central America are trying to regularize their status and ask for asylum by presenting themselves at the border for admission, they are not trying to enter without formal authorization or overstay visas. That some migrants seeking admission may have been in the U.S. previously without legal status or after a stay of deportation does not necessarily suggest that the same people do not respect the rule of law. The reasons why people remain in the U.S. without legal status are complex and misunderstood. …

Regarding American sentiments about “illegal immigration” — with respect to immigrants in the U.S. without documentation (migration scholars tend to use terms like unauthorized or undocumented rather than illegal) — Americans are relatively divided in views about undocumented immigrants generally, especially by whether the respondents are Republicans, Democrats or Independents. And there is quite a bit of variation in public opinion about what the federal government should do about undocumented migration.

On the other hand, polls results actually suggest that Americans are increasingly positive about immigrants overall as constituting a strength rather than a burden to our country, compared to the 1990s. They are also pretty positive about groups such as undocumented youth finding a way to remain in the U.S. and the majority oppose the construction of a wall on the Southern border.

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Leapfrogging to educate the world

May 3, 2018

Brookings scholar Rebecca Winthrop discusses rapidly accelerating education at scale to reach world

There is a perception — shared by education professionals as well as the general public — that education is resistant to change and slow-paced.

Eight hundred million children around the world are not getting an education. How will that change?

By leapfrogging, said Rebecca Winthrop, a senior fellow and director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution.

Winthrop spoke at the biannual Frank Rhodes Lecture Series on the Creation of the Future at Arizona State University on Thursday. Each semester an individual with a commitment to institutional innovation visits ASU to deliver a public lecture on the creation of the future as well as meet with members of the university and greater community.

In a new book, “Leapfrogging Inequality,” Winthrop and colleagues at Brookings chart a new path forward in global education by examining the possibility of “leapfrogging” educational development — rapidly accelerating progress to ensure that all young people develop the skills they need to thrive in a fast-changing world.

“The real question is where are we trying to leapfrog to?” Winthrop said. “In education there is a wide range of goals.”

Mass education began in Prussia in the 1700s, when the country was creating a powerful military. There are two problems in global education, Winthrop said. 

Skills inequality happens when one group receives a better education than another. How do you get the best of what education has to offer to everybody? In the U.S., wealthy urban children are better-educated than poor rural children.

The other problem is skills uncertainty. In the future, 50 to 70 percent of current worker tasks will be lost to automation.

“Educational systems have to reorient teachers to educate kids for an uncertain future,” Winthrop said. “We have to have young people who are prepared to enter that future.”

Being prepared for that future means having the “competencies and skills to deploy that knowledge in different areas in life,” she said.

That’s achievable by transforming what and how children learn, with access to quality and relevant education.

The core elements of change will be learning and teaching coupled with the recognition that someone else — and not necessarily a school or college — will take over the reins and provide continuing education. She gave employers and nongovernmental organizations as examples.

She cited a successful innovation by a nongovernmental organization in India. The organization went to a number of rural schools. Groups of 10 children were given a tablet loaded with educational material. (Five were to use it in the morning, five in the afternoon. A parent was given the responsibility of charging it.) The tablet was password-protected, so they could only access the educational content.

Most of the kids hacked the portal and began producing videos, seeking out information beyond what they were being taught, and barraging their teachers with unexpected questions.

Six months later, they had a massive increase in literacy skills, and they also became excellent collaborative problem-solvers.

Top photo: Rebecca Winthrop, a senior fellow and director of the Center for Universal Education at the Brookings Institution, delivers the Frank Rhodes Lecture, "Can we Leapfrog?" on Thursday at Old Main on ASU's Tempe campus. Winthrop spoke about "leapfrogging" educational development — rapidly accelerating progress to ensure that all young people develop the skills they need to thrive in a fast-changing world. The "Frank Rhodes Lecture Series on the Creation of the Future: A Lecture Series for a New American University" began in 2011. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


Asian Pacific American program provides opportunity for all

May 3, 2018

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month is celebrated at Arizona State University in April and nationally in May, but in the Asian Pacific American Studies program in the School of Social Transformation, heritage and culture are celebrated every day.

The program seeks to educate students about justice and ethnic movements, immigration, globalization and race relations nationally and internationally. Xena Baza is a graduating senior in the Asian Pacific American Studies program in the School of Social Transformation. Download Full Image

“In addition to research and teaching on Asians in the Americas, [the Asian Pacific American Studies program is] also committed to focus on the ‘P’ in APA studies, which refers to indigenous peoples and cultures in the Pacific/Oceania,” said Karen Kuo, associate professor of the program. “We have faculty and research in both Hawaiian and Pacific Islander studies and all of our courses teach both Asian Americans and Pacific Islander history, culture and experiences.”

The program offers a bachelor’s degree, minor and undergraduate certificate in Asian Pacific American Studies, and has faculty specializing in a variety of fields including ethnic studies, history, gender studies, literature, psychology, education and equality.

“Because the program is inherently interdisciplinary, the faculty that are part of this department are experts in many different areas,” said Xena Baza, a senior graduating this May with a Bachelor of Arts in Asian Pacific American Studies and a minor in American studies. “The passion behind the faculty and the dedication they have is so inspiring.”

With access to experienced and dedicated faculty and staff, students in the program receive a well-rounded liberal arts education in critical thinking, communication and community engagement.

“The program prepares its students to think critically about society and the institutions of power behind it,” Baza said. “It helps us to understand today's political climate better and prepares us to be competent contributors to our society. By learning about the historical factors that have affected our ancestors, we can learn how to improve our current conditions and move closer to equity and make a difference.”

After graduating, students often go on to conduct graduate-level education research or pursue careers in fields including law, business, nursing and others.

Ronae Matriano is currently a junior in the program, pursuing Bachelor of Arts degrees in biological sciences and Asian Pacific American Studies, and minoring in communication. After graduating, she plans to pursue her doctorate in counseling psychology and continue her research in Asian-American psychology.

“I feel that the program has prepared me for life outside of college by teaching me how to work with diverse populations and understand the power of my role in the community,” Matriano said. “The classes have taught me how to enact social change to improve my surroundings, which is incredibly valuable to me.”

Baza and Matriano’s ability to engage in multiple areas of social sciences while pursuing their degrees is something the program’s well-rounded curriculum offers. Students of all backgrounds have the chance to explore various fields, as the courses offered cover topics relating to numerous aspects of life.

“Unlike most other Asian-American studies programs nationally, [our] program brings together the social sciences and humanities,” Kuo said. “Our students are empowered to make a difference with diverse communities; they learn and develop skills to work with people who are different than themselves.”

With such a diverse population of students, faculty and courses available, the Asian Pacific American Studies program seeks to encourage lifelong learning and community engagement in the hope of creating a better future.

“We all have something to learn and every course provides students with something valuable,” Matriano said.

Olivia Knecht

Student writer-reporter, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences