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ASU professor leads youth workshop in Romania

September 6, 2017

Editor's note: This summer, Arizona State University School of International Letters and Cultures Professor Oana Almasan participated in an event in Cluj-Napoca, Romania, to share her experience as an expert in designing participatory processes, and help youth workers from seven European cities better understand what it takes to design and implement successful participatory projects for involving youth in local governance, and build stronger and more self-reliant communities. Here she reflects on the event.

The workshop I attended shows an increased interest in building strong, self-reliant youth communities across Europe, able to further the democratic principles of EU. It was part of a EU-financed project meant to develop a platform for youth participation at the EU level. Members of the youth workshop to encourage participatory policy-making Members of the youth workshop to encourage participatory policy-making. Download Full Image

My role there as a trainer was to help youth workers from 9 European countries (10 cities) to understand how participatory mechanisms could benefit their communities and how to plan and design such processes adapted to their specific cultural and societal needs, in such a way that they would actually increase their chances of success.

Studying how culture impacts societies helps you understand how promoting some specific practices enables the development of democratic behaviors. This is the field of public participation. I studied, in the beginning, the specific culture and cultural processes in Romania, right after the fall of communism, when the main preoccupations in the public discourse was to get super-fast to the state of established democracy, so that everybody's life would be better off.

Despite such great hopes and expectations, if you do not take culture into account in designing public policies and local/national strategic development plans, those plans and policies have really high chances of failure. I designed the first collaborative-based participatory budgeting process in a former communist country, eventually drawing the interest of the World Bank. Then, I got to share my experience with countries with similar cultures, with other European countries, and even with students here at ASU.

The summer workshop was the first step in giving 10 European cities spread over 9 countries a better chance in having their youth heard and actively involved in local/central European policy. This would also mean that more and more local/central governments would actually start recognizing the need of employing culturally-specific tools in public decision-making for reaching common goals such as democracy and economic development.

Every two years or so, ASU organizes a conference on participatory democracy. Listening to the stories of European youth, I realized how great it would be to have them shared with our SILC students as well. So, while telling them about the participatory democracy conference that could help them advance their plans in the public sector, I was inviting them to consider a humanities approach to their quest through a potential round table event at SILC. They can share their stories and hear others' stories of resolve and identity. There is interest in it, maybe we can make it work.

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ASU professor wins PLuS Alliance prize for SolarSPELL innovation

SolarSPELL creator wins international award for portable digital library.
Laura Hosman's SolarSPELL device brings a suite of learning resources anywhere.
No Wi-Fi or power? No problem with SolarSPELL, designed for learning anywhere.
September 3, 2017

Laura Hosman's solar-powered digital library brings resources, educational opportunities to remote, off-grid communities

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2017, click here.

In a highly connected world where nearly everyone is just a text or tweet away, there still exist many remote, off-grid regions where communities don’t have access to information and resources that open up educational opportunities.

Arizona State University Assistant Professor Laura Hosman is working to change that with SolarSPELL, a portable, solar-powered digital library that comes with its own digital Wi-Fi hotspot, able to function without electricity or existing internet connectivity.

Her innovative device was awarded one of the inaugural PLuS Alliance Prizes this weekend at the Times Higher Education World Academic Summit in London. The $50,000 prizes recognize research and education innovation.

The PLuS Alliance is a unique international collaboration between ASU, King’s College London and UNSW Sydney. Launched in February 2016, the PLuS Alliance enables research-led solutions to global challenges while expanding access to world-class learning.

“I've been working with students in project-based classes to come up with technologies that would be both useful and appropriate,” Hosman said. “It's been a process of continually simplifying technology to make it more relevant for people. Now, we have a library that can fit inside a backpack.”

ASU Assistant Professor Laura Hosman works with a local teacher in Somoa
ASU Assistant Professor Laura Hosman shows a Samoan teacher how to use the SolarSPELL digital library at a training in Samoa, which took place with both Peace Corps volunteers and their local counterpart teachers. Photo by Bruce Baikie

The SolarSPELL library is full of educational resources. The only thing needed to access the information is a laptop, smartphone or iPad.

Hosman was recognized in the Education Innovation category. UNSW Professor Veena Sahajwalla was awarded the Research Innovation award for her work in recycling science to enable global industries to safely utilize toxic and complex wastes as low-cost alternatives to virgin raw materials and fossil fuels.

“Dr. Hosman and Professor Sahajwalla are contemporaries in research and education innovation,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “They’re truly impacting their fields and bringing about a positive difference with proven global application. The level of competition for the inaugural PLuS Alliance Prize was awe-inspiring, and we’re already looking forward to the nominees for the 2018 Prize.”

The information in SolarSPELL is curated to include as much localized information as possible. This allows the device to teach things like science and mathematics, but also to preserve local indigenous knowledge.

Like a community library, it’s meant to be a hub for people of all ages, aligning with ASU’s mission of expanding access and serving communities.

“This project hits on a lot of ASU's charter aspirations,” said Hosman, who holds a joint appointment in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. “I'm all for engaging globally and providing access to those who don't have it.”

Hosman and ASU engineering students brought SolarSPELL to a handful of Pacific islands this summer, creating content specific to the region in addition to hands-on lesson plans. The trip also provided the ASU students with an eye-opening experience.

“Two of my students who traveled with me had never left Arizona before,” Hosman said. “These opportunities are always transformational for ASU students, and I love that aspect of it.”

Video by John Hebrank and Brandon Main

Judging the shortlisted PLuS Alliance Awards candidates from across the U.S., the United Kingdom and Australia were six industry leaders including former LinkedIn Vice President Ellen Levy, now managing director of Silicon Valley Connect.

“Innovation in research and education is vital to advancing society in a positive direction, whether by addressing some of the biggest challenges our world faces today, or creating new impactful opportunities,” said Levy, who also will be co-chairing the ASU Innovative Network Council with Crow.

The panel included the three presidents of the PLuS Alliance universities, NSW Chief Scientist and Engineer Mary O’Kane and former Vice President of GE Medical Europe Timothy Irish.

Two additional awards recognized global excellence. Narayana Murthy, an Indian IT industrialist and co-founder of Infosys, received the PLuS Alliance Prize for Global Leadership, and CRISPR researcher Francisco Mojica won the PLuS Alliance Prize for Global Innovation.


Top photo: Assistant Professor Laura Hosman has traveled with ASU students to a number of Pacific Islands (including Vanuatu, pictured), where they worked with Peace Corps volunteers on training and implementation of the SolarSPELL digital library. Photo by Bruce Baikie

Connor Pelton

Communications Writer , ASU Now

McCain Institute’s Next Generation Leaders Program announces Catalyst Grant winners at 2016 cohort graduation

September 1, 2017

The McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University congratulates the three winners of the 2017 Catalyst Grant: Giorgi Akhmeteli of Georgia, Urmo Kübar of Estonia and Karambu Ringera of Kenya.

As part of the Next Generation Leaders Program, the Catalyst Grant supports and encourages top achievement in the implementation of an NGL’s Leadership Action Plan. Catalyst Grants are annual monetary awards of up to $10,000. Awarded funds must go toward further enhancing character-driven leadership and impact in the NGL’s home environment. McCain Institute Next Generation Leaders Program 2016 cohort graduation At the graduation ceremony of the 2016 Next Generation Leaders cohort (from left): Leon Hernandez of Venezuela; Rosie Gomez of the U.S.; Dael Dervishi of Albania; Eman Elabd of Egypt; keynote speaker Sen. Kelly Ayotte; Ezzeddine Ben Rhima of Tunisia; Esra Assery of Saudi Arabia; Diego Mora Bello of Colombia; and Mira Koroma of Sierra Leone. Photo by Neshan Naltchayan/McCain Institute Download Full Image

The winners were announced at the graduation ceremony of the 2016 NGL cohort, held Aug. 30 at the McCain Institute in Washington, D.C. Since 2013, the NGL program has trained 44 leaders from 33 countries in values, ethics and character-driven leadership.

“We are extremely proud of the accomplishments of our 2016 cohort and have full confidence that they will take on the implementation phase of their Leadership Action Plans with great passion and determination,” said Ambassador Michael Polt, senior director. “We are also delighted to recognize our previous graduates Giorgi, Urmo and Karambu for the positive change they have already achieved. Exemplifying the spirit of character-driven leadership, each will use their Catalyst Grant awards to further create a lasting impact in their communities and beyond.”

Giorgi Akhmeteli, a member of the 2013 cohort, is the founder and chairman of the Georgian NGO Accessible Environment for Everyone, an organization that advocates the interests of persons with disabilities. Akhmeteli uses a wheelchair due to a spinal trauma, and through his Leadership Action Plan, he works with the Georgian Parliament on health care, rehabilitation and habilitation issues within the disabled Georgian community. Akhmeteli will use his Catalyst Grant to fund disability-awareness seminars at five Georgian universities.

Giorgi Akhmeteli speaks to media
In Tbilisi, Georgia, Next Generation Leader Giorgi Akhmeteli advocates for disability rights. Courtesy photo


Urmo Kübar, a member of the 2014 cohort, is an experienced civil society leader in Estonia. He is dedicated to promoting more civic activism and social action, building a supportive environment for civil society organizations and strengthening their capacity. His Leadership Action Plan is to establish a venture philanthropy foundation in Estonia to support non-profit organizations that make a difference in people’s lives. As the Civil Society advisor to the president of Estonia, Kübar will use his Catalyst Grant to develop a website, the first of its kind in Estonia, that will catalyze philanthropic engagement and turn Estonians into more active and impactful financial contributors.

Urmo Kübar
Civic activist Urmo Kübar (right) with Estonian President Kersti Kaljulaid. Courtesy photo


Karambu Ringera, a member of the 2015 cohort, is the founder and president of International Peace Initiatives, an NGO that aims to create models of sustainable development and peace in Kenya. By implementing her Leadership Action Plan, she is building an advocacy agency for citizens and developing a leadership-training program to educate and train current and future leaders. Her work has received national attention in Kenya and has directly impacted 1,000 people. Ringera will use her Catalyst Grant to support leadership workshops across Kenya.

Karambu Ringera with students
Karambu Ringera (left) shares her perspective with students in Kenya. Courtesy photo


“I am honored to receive a Catalyst Grant from the McCain Institute’s Next Generation Leaders program,” said Ringera. “Through the NGL program, I have been able to not only deepen my commitment to driving positive change in Kenya, but I have also learned to lead more effectively through trainings and networking with other leaders. I plan to use the Catalyst Grant to host leadership workshops in five regions of Kenya and throughout other countries in the region as I continue to expand the impact of my Leadership Action Plan, which is focused on building citizen agency to impact policy in Kenya.”

International student finds home at Thunderbird School

September 1, 2017

Editor's note: 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

An international student with a global history, Nancy Shereni has found a home at the Thunderbird School of Global Management. T-bird Nancy Sherini Nancy Sherini '17, Master of Arts in Global Affairs & Management, Thunderbird School of Global Management Download Full Image

The Zimbabwe native was an undergraduate marketing student at Oral Roberts University in Oklahoma when a professor steered her attention away from graduate school in the United Kingdom and toward Thunderbird.

An economic development trip to help Brazilian cashew farmers create sustainable practices – and the inspiration of her mother half a world away, caring for her disabled younger sister, working two jobs, and mentoring African business women – drove home Shereni's desire for a degree with global impact.

On that front Thunderbird stood out, Shereni said, for covering standard business topics such as finance and strategy as well as teaching about cultural issues with diverse faculty who have hands-on global experience. Now, she can’t imagine learning business theory without lessons in international relations and country-specific issues, such as the lecture on China from a professor who had worked to expand an American business there.

Shereni has long linked her global mindset and taste for adventure to her mother, Sherree. Shereni was 10 years old when her mother moved the family from Harare to Johannesburg, South Africa, so her younger sister could have open-heart surgery. Shereni lived in Johannesburg with her mother and younger sister, as well as an older brother and sister, for seven years. Her mother decided to move to Nairobi for two years, where Shereni earned the International Baccalaureate degree that allowed her to go to college in the U.S.


Friendly competition

Shereni remains close to her mother, whose directness is meted out with love, kindness, and support. They talk every Saturday, and her mother imparts life lessons, including this favorite: “There will always be someone better than you, and you will always be better than someone, so don’t be too hard on yourself on your journey.”

“My mother taught me to fall forward,” Shereni said. “She really motivates me, and also made me realize there may be learning opportunities in life. Failures are so many chances to learn.”

“Failures are so many chances to learn.”

With her family half a world away — her mother and sisters still live in South Africa, and her brother is in Hungary — Shereni steeled herself for intense competition from driven classmates when she arrived on campus. But learning has taken a different shape at Thunderbird, where it starts with a ‘collaborate to graduate’ model — meaning students cheer each other on in coursework, share notes about their hometowns and home countries, and even travel to visit families for holidays.

Shereni recalled a drive with fellow students from Asia, South America, North America and Africa, all crammed into a car and talking about their lives. “At what other school could you go for a hamburger with fellow students from nearly every continent?” (Only here.)

When news happens in a far-off country, Shereni can just turn to her friend from that country to get a better sense of what people there are thinking.

“Having that first-hand experience, it’s life-changing honestly,” she said, adding, “People here are just really willing to teach, to learn, to grow together. It’s competitive but it’s a good competition. People are willing to help each other and genuinely want to see each other succeed.”

“At what other school could you go for a hamburger with fellow students from nearly every continent?”

Professors with real-world experience

Thunderbird’s diverse student body is guided by faculty who encourage involvement and engagement, Shereni said. Professors make it clear that the goal is learning, not grades. Shereni has had professors mentor her formally, share their personal experiences, and take time beyond office hours to help quench her thirst for experience-based insight.

Having faculty who teach from their own real-world experience has helped Shereni sharpen her own career goals. The Master of Arts in Global Affairs and Management (MAGAM) program has taken her passion for marketing and given her an international lens through which to develop more sophisticated skills in areas such as branding and customer decision making. She has delved into the world of global social media marketing, a potential minefield given different cultural sensitivities.

“The world is evolving at a very fast pace in general and global marketing is more important than ever. To keep up, companies need to take into account that you can’t force your ideas on another country,” Shereni said.

“That’s why it’s so important to come to Thunderbird, where we get opened up to a global/local way of doing things,” she added. “Marketing is about the people you intend to reach and thinking locally about those people. Understanding the details of people within a given country is becoming more and more important, and its importance will just keep growing.”

“Marketing is about the people you intend to reach and thinking locally about those people.”

Business and development

“The first thing I noticed about Thunderbird was the combination of global business and development,” Shereni said of the Master of Arts in Global Affairs and Management program. “It’s the only program and the only school that merges business and development in a way I think fits me best. This is exactly where I am supposed to be.”

Armed with a deep understanding of the intersection of business and society, Shereni plans to work at a Fortune 500 company upon graduation. Getting experience for several years at a large firm will help her further hone her marketing and development skills for an eventual return to Africa, she says.

Ideally, Shereni would replicate the kind of work she did on that pre-Thunderbird trip to Brazil — working on a plan to help increase the standard of living in a community, say in Zimbabwe, by building business ties elsewhere. On the side, she envisions a nonprofit that mentors children, as her mother does.

Shereni knows that the network Thunderbird has helped her cultivate — fellow students, professors, and alumni — will be critical for every step. And she has no doubt she made the right decision to study where that network has already lifted her, just as she lifts others.

“We’re a family”

“It would have been so unfortunate if I didn’t come,” Shereni said. “I’d heard it before, how close people are here, but I didn’t know if it was going to happen.

“Thunderbird is very authentic and very real. It’s more a family. I didn’t think I’d see people in graduate school as family, but we have created our own community here.”

ASU scholar collaborates on solar research, benefits Arizona and Pakistan

The U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Energy is making gains in research

August 28, 2017

It can be tricky balancing affordable electricity bills for customers and profits for utility companies, but the happy medium might lie in solar energy storage.

Abdul Kashif Janjua, a fall 2016 exchange scholar from the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Energy at Arizona State University, analyzed data and patterns to find an equilibrium for both sides of the equation. Above: Abdul Kashif Janjua, exchange scholar from the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Energy, known as USPCAS-E, with his certificate of completion from the Power System’s Lab in fall 2016. Photo courtesy of Abdul Kashif Janjua. Above: Abdul Kashif Janjua, exchange scholar from the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Studies in Energy, known as USPCAS-E, with his certificate of completion from the Power System’s Lab in fall 2016. Photo courtesy of Abdul Kashif Janjua Download Full Image

Kashif collaborated on a research paper titled, “Customer Benefit Optimization for Residential PV with Energy Storage System” under the tutelage of George Karady, a professor of electrical engineering at ASU's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and an Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Fellow.

Different combinations of solar panels and different sized batteries were tested in concert to find the right combination. The research accounted for variables like load, temperature and battery discharge rates to derive the best result for both customers and utilities.

The paper was presented at the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Power Engineering Society’s general meeting in Chicago in July. Presenting the paper at the Power Engineering Society was significant because the organization acts as one of the largest forums for sharing the latest in technological developments in the electric power industry, for developing standards that guide the development and construction of equipment and systems, and for public and industry education.

Dr. George Karady representing the U.S.-Pakistan Centers for Advanced Energy and ASU, surveys posters at the IEEE PES 2017 General Meeting . Photo credit: IEEE PES


Kashif compared the climates of Arizona and Pakistan saying that, “they are quite similar so photovoltaic systems are feasible in both areas.”

The research can be used to optimize variables like the size of the photovoltaic system and various charging strategies, “[with] the only difference being the tariffs which can be programmed into the developed algorithm,” Kashif explained. This leaves a door open for computers to eventually determine the right balance, possibly even using artificial intelligence in the future.

Over the next five years, Arizona is expected to install 3,380 megawatts worth of solar electric capacity, ranking it fourth in that time period in the United States. Meanwhile, Pakistan has been suffering from rolling blackouts from six to 16 hours a day. Both areas have much to teach each other about renewable energy.

The collaboration process with Pavan Etha and Anil Chelladurai, electrical engineering graduate students at ASU, as well as the mentorship he received from his time at ASU has been an invaluable asset to his education. Of Karady he stated that, “he was [the] most supportive, helpful and encouraging professor.”

He went on to say that Karady’s “knowledge and experience with electrical systems can be rarely found even in the best universities of the world and he was not reluctant to share each of his experiences related to our field."

This type of collaboration between the United States and Pakistan is a hallmark of USPCAS-E because it allows for progress in energy research for the countries’ mutual benefit.

Kashif’s time at ASU rolls into the eventual completion of his master’s degree at Pakistan’s National University of Sciences and Technology in the field of energy systems engineering. Plans are in the works for him to pursue a doctorate and then potentially apply his research in the commercial sector. In the meantime, he is in the process of publishing another research paper along similar lines in Pakistan.

The USPCAS-E project has now reached a point in its evolution where the return from this type of investment in education is now resulting in exciting research findings. Outcomes from USPCAS-E’s scholars are timely as they fall at the heels of Pakistan celebrating its 70th anniversary of independence and its continued collaboration and development with the United States.

Erika Gronek

Communications Specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

Former refugee goes on journey of empowerment through education

ASU Thunderbird graduate's life changed on 9/11

August 24, 2017

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

When the twin towers fell on Sept. 11, 2001, millions of people watched in horror from living rooms, offices, airports or anywhere a TV could be found. Among those watching: a schoolgirl in Iran named Fatima Heravy. That day would change the course of her life. Thunderbird Fatima Heravy Fatima Heravy '17, Afghanistan, Thunderbird Master of Arts in Global Affairs and Management. Download Full Image

Heravy's parents had fled Afghanistan amid the Soviet invasion and war that dragged on from 1979 to 1989 and led to the Taliban takeover in 1996. She was born and raised in Iran as a refugee, but that was never home.

“We always had a very strong attachment to Afghanistan,” said Heravy, who graduated this May with a Master of Arts in Global Affairs and Management from Thunderbird Global School of Management. “Being a refugee, you never have the peace of mind that you are in a safe situation. You always think, ‘This is not my home.’”

Her family dreamed of returning to Afghanistan. “It’s so funny because my parents would work so hard to buy things to take to Afghanistan,” she said. “‘We need this door, we need this window, we need this frame.’ That was the big activity, just thinking about what they needed for building a house in Afghanistan.”

‘Dream big, achieve big’

During her childhood in Iran, Heravy absorbed the values of her parents. “Living that hard life and seeing my parents working super hard to make better lives and a future for their four children — that has always pushed me forward, made me a stronger girl,” she says. “I wanted to be independent. I wanted to make a difference. I wanted to be someone who is useful.”

Despite their struggles, Heravy's parents promised she could achieve those goals.

“My parents taught us that education is the only thing that can put you at same level as others,” she explained. “So I always studied so hard that I was always among the top five in my class.” 

“Being a refugee, you never have the peace of mind that you are in a safe situation. You always think, ‘This is not my home.’” 

Heravy gives much of the credit to her mother.

“My mom is my role model and probably the best leader I’ve ever known,” she said. “I remember once she told me years ago — and this is from someone who lived in an isolated area of Afghanistan, lived the refugee life and never went to school — ‘If you don’t dream big, you’re not going to achieve big.’”

Today, Heravy and her siblings are the family’s first generation to attain college degrees. 

‘The Taliban were gone’

Even after the Soviet invasion had ended, Heravy's family remained discouraged by the situation in Afghanistan, especially when the Taliban came to power in the late 1990s.

“Every day, I would come home from school, and the first thing I did was watch the TV news to see what was happening in Afghanistan,” she said. “I didn’t live in Afghanistan during the Taliban, but I felt it.”

“There was no hope for going back,” she said. “Nothing was getting better; the Taliban were getting stronger every day.”

But 9/11 changed everything. “I remember I went home from school and I was just standing there watching TV, and I saw the twin towers — they went down. I said, ‘What’s happening?’”

In the turbulent days that followed, the United States set its military sights on Afghanistan to find and destroy al-Qaeda training hubs and hideouts. The U.S.-led coalition targeted the Taliban regime for harboring terrorists, and the regime collapsed.

“The Taliban were gone,” she said. “In just three months, everything had changed. There was hope for us to go back, finally.”

To be sure the country was safe and stable, Heravy's father decided the family should wait a few years before returning. Her brother returned first after being accepted into an engineering college (today, he is a civil engineer). And in 2006, the rest of her family finally packed up to leave Iran.

It was time to go home.

First taste of Thunderbird: Project Artemis

By 2008, Heravy was working with USAID in Afghanistan and had her first encounter with Thunderbird.

“I received a mass email about this project. It said, ‘If you have a business, if you are an entrepreneur, this is an educational program for Afghan businesswomen you can apply to.’”

It was Project Artemis, a Thunderbird initiative that trains Afghan women entrepreneurs in business skills. Since 2005, more than 75 women have graduated. They run successful businesses, creating more than 2,500 jobs and mentoring more than 15,000 fellow Afghans.

“I had no idea even how to start a business,” she said. “This program put that idea in my mind, so I applied.” She was not accepted but was encouraged to seek more experience.

“That pushed me toward leaving Afghanistan and going after an education,” she said. Heravy began applying for schools and scholarships in the United States. “I got the results and my letter said ‘Congratulations’ — I read it but I could not believe I got admission.” 

“Education is the only power that you have.”

“My mom was so happy, but at the same time, I knew that inside she was sad,” Heravy remembered. The moment was bittersweet, but there was no question her parents would let her go to the United States. “My parents knew how valuable education is. Especially since my country was going through many decades of war. Education is the only power that you can have.”

‘My heart is happy’

In 2011, Heravy was on her way to the U.S. to pursue undergraduate studies in business administration. But she struggled to adjust during freshman year.

“I thought, ‘I can’t wait to finish these four years and go back home. It’s so hard to live here by myself.’”

She noticed a divide between international students and American students, and it bothered her. “We never felt included. No one ever tried to connect.”

“I had a couple of friends who were thinking of a PhD or master’s degree. And I was like, ‘Are you crazy? Go home.’ But by my sophomore year, I was thinking about a master’s degree. I don’t know how that happened,” she said with a laugh.

Aiming to combine international affairs and business, her online research led right to Thunderbird’s Master of Arts in Global Affairs and Management and the SHARE Fellowship, a Thunderbird alumni-funded program that provides full-tuition scholarships for high-potential students from emerging markets.

Heravy had come full circle. Thanks to Project Artemis, she already knew of Thunderbird as a positive force back home.

“I thought, ‘This is exactly what I want.’ I had no idea back in 2008 that one day I would be here studying for my master’s.”

“My heart is happy. I’m thousands of miles away from home, and I can still do something for my country.”

“Now that I’m here, I know personally three Artemis graduates. I am proud of them, and they are proud of me. And they are all successful. It is a very good program. And I really appreciate that someone here in the U.S. does things for women in Afghanistan. It means a lot. My heart is happy. I’m thousands of miles away from home, and I can still do something for my country.”

During her degree studies, Heravy supported Project Artemis and other programs like it as a student worker in the Thunderbird for Good division.

‘Included and appreciated’

Heravy's experience at Thunderbird started off on a perfect note.

“I remember walking toward my room. A couple of guys and girls were making BBQ, and they were like, ‘Oh hi — come join us. And I did not know them, but they were so warm and welcoming that I felt, ‘I’m in heaven.’”

“I always feel included. I always feel appreciated,” Heravy said of Thunderbird. “Being from Afghanistan, a refugee, coming from a war-torn country, it’s not embarrassing here. This is not something I should be ashamed of.”

 “There are no borders. We are all human beings.”

“Before, I was just different from others. But here, I’m actually appreciated for being different. Not only do I love the diversity of the students, I love the diversity of the staff and faculty. I’m so happy I have professors from France, India, Korea, Nigeria, U.S., Australia — it’s just awesome,” she said. “It’s not only the numbers that make it international, it’s the actual people — the life here.”

“I am learning here and seeing the world differently. Going back, I can transfer that knowledge, I can encourage my people to learn and see the world through a different lens. Thunderbird gave me that lens.”

Hopes and fears

Heravy would love to return to Afghanistan but worries about her country’s dangerous decline.

“When we went back in 2006, I was really hopeful that everything was getting better — we had a government, people were out and about, we had businesses and an economy. But it’s kind of slowed down, and now it’s getting worse.”

As she considers her family’s future, Heravy's voice cracks with emotion: “It’s scary, and I’m sad for my nephews and nieces there. My sister moved to Germany last year. This is hard,” she said. “And I’m here, and I don’t know when I’ll go back.”

At the very time her sister’s family was migrating, one of Heravy's classes was discussing the Syrian refugee crisis.

“It was super hard when my sister moved to Germany — she went through the refugee journey that you see in the media. It took them a month,” she said. “So I was going through that but just not sharing it in class.”

“It was so sad, but I am happy that my nephews can see the world now,” she said. “I’m happy they can play soccer with other children their age, that they can understand that there are oceans — they see things that they would never have seen inside Afghanistan.” 

“There are many Afghans who have big dreams, but mostly we want just a peaceful life.”

“Back home, we always have tension, anxiety, war. We struggle between life and death. Nothing in between,” she said. “There are many who definitely have big dreams, but mostly we want just a peaceful life.”

“I have a big dream. I want to work for a president’s office. I’ve always wanted to be a policy adviser,” she said. “Maybe I’ll get to Parliament. I want to work for the government. I can do a lot more for my home country. Hopefully one day.”

As for her time at Thunderbird, Heravy made “the most out of these differences and the diversity.”  

“Just being kind and open to other people and cultures," she said. "Because at the end, the whole world is like one thing. It’s our planet. There are no borders. We are all human beings.” 

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Leaders at ASU conference debate cybersecurity challenges

August 23, 2017

Questions include what is critical infrastructure, who should defend what, and how to best train workforce to fight it

Cybersecurity is a slippery thing, hard to define, train for and fight against.

And it may be the biggest threat of the 21st century.

Is a cyberattack on a movie studio an attack on the United States? What is the Department of Defense responsible for in cyberspace? How do you train a sorely needed workforce when the diploma they earned a month ago is already outdated? How do you deal with a threat that outpaces legislation? What should people in government know?

Six members of Congress, one senator and representatives from academia, business and the military gathered at the first Arizona State University Congressional Conference on Cybersecurity on Wednesday to frame questions and paths forward.

“An unbelievable economic and military threat,” ASU President Michael Crow called cyberthreats. “I don’t think any of us, including those in this room, understand how important it is.”

Invisible, with minimal resources and maximum speed, cyberattacks are a “bloodless way to disrupt democracy,” Crow said. Because the internet was designed with none of this in mind, cyberattacks are “not easily solvable.”

The entire information domain has become a battle space. Hackers have attacked everything from NASA to businesses to a dam north of New York City.

Cyberattacks are a blend of conventional and unconventional power projection, said U.S. Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services.

There is no plan from the White House on cybersecurity, McCain said.

“I can assure you our enemies are not the junior varsity,” he said. “If they’re able to change the results of a presidential election, then they’re able to change democracy. ... We must make sure our adversaries pay a price for these attacks.”

The current system is overgrown with bureaucracy and poorly defined authority, McCain said. Compounding the problem is a lack of personnel and trained workforce.

“There is no widespread definition of what people in government need to know,” said retired Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle, former deputy director of U.S. Cyber Command. “The biggest vulnerability in any network is us.”

Schmidle described a Marine field exercise in the desert using a wireless internet network. He had cyber experts hack it. The biggest problem with it wasn’t being shut down; it was sowing doubt about enemy and friendly positions. Officers simply didn’t know where red forces were.

ASU Cybersecurity Congressional Conference
Panelists discussing what is cybersecurity listen to retired Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle at the first annual ASU Congressional Cybersecurity Conference on ASU's Polytechnic campus Wednesday. Panelists incuded (from right) Matt Salmon, vice president of ASU's Office of Government and Community; Nadya Bliss, director of ASU's Global Security Initiative; Jamie Winterton, director of strategy for the Global Security Initiative; and Jai Galliott of the University of New South Wales in Australia. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Every major weapons system has to undergo a cyber resiliency assessment for the Department of Defense, said retired Brig. Gen. Linda Medler, cyber director at Raytheon Missile Systems and former director of Capability and Resource Integration at U.S. Cyber Command.

She described cybersecurity as the nexus of information systems and hardware. None of the panelists could agree on a definition of the term. The word “attack” suffers from the same handicap.

“Is an attack on Sony an attack on the country?” Medler asked. “In my mind the Department of Defense has a responsibility to protect the nation in air, land, sea and space. That should extend to cyberspace.”

Should corporations have offensive capabilities? “I don’t know,” Medler said. (McCain said yes, they should.)

Policy and technology are speaking different languages, and they need to come together. There is a lack of communication between parties that need to communicate most.

“In order to make good policy, you have to understand the technology,” Schmidle said. “It’s not enough to rely on the one article you read in Wired magazine on the plane.”

Schmidle described meetings at the Pentagon where no one understood the geek speak in one meeting nor the policy wonks participating in the discussion from 64,000 feet, “with no idea how their return key works,” he said.

Intelligence and the military have different authorizations.

“I would suggest the line go away altogether,” Schmidle said.

Congress should update what is considered critical infrastructure, and then who should defend what should be delineated.

“I would suggest Sony is not going to make the list,” Schmidle said.

ASU Cybersecurity Congressional Conference
Retired Brig. Gen. Linda Medler speaks as one of the panelists on "Scoping the Problem — What is 'Cybersecurity?" at the ASU Congressional Cybersecurity Conference. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Holding a hairdresser’s data for ransom is different than monkeying with a nuclear power plant.

“What is an attack?” asked Jamie Winterton, director of strategy for ASU's Global Security Initiative. “Understanding a little bit more of what we’re talking about would help.”

There are currently more than 200,000 vacant cybersecurity jobs, with an estimate of up to 1 million vacancies in the field by 2020.

“Skills are having a hard time keeping up with our requirements,” said Maj. Gen. John Baker of Network Command at Fort Huachuca. Baker commands 15,000 people around the globe working in cyberdefense.

“I’m not looking for the person who is just better,” he said. “I’m looking for the person who is a hundred times better.”

There is a dire need to build skills in the current and emerging workforce.

“When we teach our students, we teach them not only the white-hat"White hat" refers to a person who hacks into a computer network in order to test or evaluate its security systems. "Black hat" refers to a person who hacks into a network with malicious or criminal intent. perspective, but the black-hat perspective,” said Raghu Santanam, a professor of information systems at ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business and a cybersecurity expert. “That’s where you learn the real warfighting skills.”

“You cannot practice defense unless you have a good understanding of offense,” said Adam Doupe, assistant professor in the School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering at ASU.

Business has discovered some ways of speeding up the pipeline of qualified cyberwarriors.

Brian Johnson, senior director of global security at PayPal, outlined a few ways his company is building a talent pipeline. Paypal retools and reskills its existing workforce, uses academic partnerships and teaches K-12 kids basic coding and cybersecurity fundamentals.

The company also job-trains underprivileged young people.

“Out of these we get a great group of candidates,” Johnson said. “That’s a good pipeline.”


Top photo: U.S. Sen. John McCain, chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Armed Services, talks about the universal threat of computer hacks and attacks at the first Arizona State University Congressional Conference on Cybersecurity on Wednesday at ASU's Polytechnic campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


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ASU boosts services to help international students thrive

ASU works to boost success skills for thousands of international students.
August 22, 2017

Orientation, counseling, social activities help ease 'culture shock' experienced by global visitors

Every year, thousands of young people leave their home countries and travel thousands of miles to seek degrees at Arizona State University, where it's both exciting and overwhelming dealing with a different language, a new academic system, making friends and the scorching heat.

They need help in their journey. So in recent years, ASU has expanded its services for international scholars.

“It’s not hodgepodge or scattershot, and not just, ‘We’ll give them English and culture,’” said Bob Schoenfeld, executive liaison for international student services in the W. P. Carey School of Business.

“Now we choose what is valuable, what will make them successful, and then we design workshops and get feedback from faculty and staff and the students themselves.”

This fall, ASU is hosting 12,500 international students, with China and India sending the most young adults here. Graduate students and undergraduates get a full week of orientation, where they learn about all the services available to them — social clubs, conversation groups, tutoring, legal information, grammar sessions and tips on how to attend a football game. They find out what’s expected in an American classroom and how to ask for help.

As the world changes, ASU’s strategy has evolved, with university leaders traveling abroad to welcome students in their home countries.

“Things that were obvious before, we now have to spread the word. Some international students think that things have changed in six months’ time but they have not,” said Holly Singh, senior director of the International Students and Scholars Center at ASU.

Singh went to six cities in India last spring with a team from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering to answer questions from students who had already been admitted into graduate programs at ASU but were uncertain about accepting their offers.

“First we told them, ‘We are still a welcoming community.’ That hasn’t changed,” Singh said.

The ASU team reassured the Indian students about opportunities to work here for a few years after they earn their degrees.

“Startups and venture capitalists are still looking for talent,” Singh said.

Creating a safety net

The Sun Devil welcome begins at the airport, where international students are greeted by an ASU team and given free transportation to whichever campus they’re attending.

Many come with their families, and ASU’s weeklong orientation includes information for parents, Singh said. The orientation is meant to create a safety net for the international students with each other.

“Otherwise, they would stick with students from their own countries,” he said. “There’s comfort in speaking their own language.”

The ASU orientation staffers use ice breakers, information sessions and games to promote important concepts of American life, such as speaking up.

“American students have grown up in a culture where they are given the freedom to ask for things they need,” Singh said. “But many of the international students have the mindset, ‘I’m a guest in this country and I shouldn’t speak first.’

“We tell them, ‘If you need anything raise your hand. That’s the only way we’ll know. We’re your first contact but we won’t know if you’re sitting at home and can’t meet people.”

That’s what happened to Jiayi Lew, a junior environmental engineering major from Malaysia. He came a few days before the general move-in date and spent two entire days speaking to no one.

“It’s scary. You’re alone and there’s no one to talk to,” he said. Now starting his second year here, Lew said that when the students arrived, he found the Americans friendly and he quickly made friends. He is now the president of the Coalition of International Students, a group of 19 student organizations that helps visiting scholars with social and professional events.

When Lew arrived, he met another Malaysian student through Global Guides, a program that matches international students with peers to help with the transition, and now his guide has become his roommate.

He has especially enjoyed the classroom culture in America.

“I wanted the interactive style of teaching,” said Lew, who transferred from a small college in Malaysia. “There, the professors are like high school teachers. They lecture and we would just write it down.”

In many Asian countries, student participation is neither required nor expected, Schoenfeld said.

“Students coming from China don’t volunteer to speak because if they’re wrong, they lose face. We tell them that the classroom is a safe environment to ask questions and the professor expects it.”

Likewise, the students learn that in some countries, making eye contact is considered to be aggressive and rude, while in America it’s a sign of trustworthiness and respect.

“We have two versions of the workshop on academic integrity, because we want to transfer accountability from us to them and we say out loud, ‘This is so important, we’re talking about this twice.’ "

International students learn that after the begining of the semester, they can stay engaged with conversation groups, game nights and coffee chats. The Coalition for International Students holds several signature events, including a “Football 101” session and a “Glo-Ball.”

Schoenfeld especially likes to teach the foreign students about American idioms.

“This is where we teach nonacademic English,” he said. “I use a ‘Walking Dead’ episode to explain slang terms like ‘chick’ or ‘halfcocked.’ “

Easing culture shock

The first few weeks of the semester can be a blur of excitement and fun for international students, and their expectations are fueled by what they see in the media.

Kudret Muhammad, a freshman from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in China, arrived at ASU’s Lake Havasu campus a few weeks ago. He chose ASU over Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania after he won a national English contest in high school.

“I saw a video about ASU and the Lake Havasu campus, and the feeling was, ‘This is it. This is what I’ve been looking for,’ “ said Muhammad, a communications major. “It hasn’t been a month yet and I’m sure I will miss my family but at the same time I’m sure I’ll work hard to make myself and them proud."

Singh said that culture follows a pattern, and after the first few weeks, international students can face a rough patch.

“They begin to miss their families and their daily life,” Singh said. “Everything is annoying and different.”

Lew faced one of those terrifying moments when he was mystified in a new culture. Not long after arriving in Tempe, he went to a restaurant alone and noticed that other diners were leaving money on the table as they left.

“So I googled, ‘Why would people leave bank notes on a restaurant table?’ and I found out about tipping,” he said.

That initial inconvenience might typically pass, but a few months later, some international students can hit a deeper disorientation as they’re facing months away from home.

“Now they’re truly stuck in a different culture and it can clash with their sense of identity,” Singh said. “They’re adjusting at many different levels – emotionally, socially and academically.

“But when this is talked about in the first few days of arrival, when they see this depression coming, they can say, ‘oh, so this is what I’m experiencing.’”

Muneera Batool is a graduate student from Pakistan studying theater and interdisciplinary digital media on a Fulbright fellowship. She's already felt some pangs of homesickness in the three weeks she's been here.

“I just allow myself to feel it and it passes,” said Batool.

“But it's also very overwhelming. I'm constantly pushing myself and it feels like I have to do more work than I'm used to. There is an expectation but I also really want to excel and learn and have fun at the same time,” she said.

When the stress builds, all students can take advantage of the counseling services at ASU. Last spring, when the national political situation fueled uncertainty over travel and the status of international students, ASU Counseling Services stepped up to ease the anxiety by offering sessions that, as with all its services, took cultural needs into consideration.

“That often means leaving the office and going to where students are and providing support in ways different than what might be often thought of as the traditional approach, which is in the office, behind the door with one person,” said Aaron Krasnow, associate vice president and director of ASU Health and Counseling Services.

For example, the counseling center designed a workshop called, “The science and practice of stress management” at the request of a group of international students who were mostly science and math majors. It focused on what happens in the brain and body, what interventions are supported by science, and how to apply them.

“They said this approach felt consistent with both their academic and their cultural point of view and it still had all the material about what to do when you’re stressed out,” he said.

Finding the value

This year, for the first time, American students in the W. P. Carey School’s full-time master’s program also had international orientation.

“We have American students who are in a class with 30 percent of their classmates from China or India,” Schoenfeld said. “How do we communicate the value of that to them?”

The workshop included information on hiring trends.

“We help them see the benefits of a global community and how to communicate that to potential bosses. That’s an acquired skill that makes you a more attractive candidate.”

Schoenfeld, who’s worked with international students for several years, said that the best way for American students to help their counterparts is to cultivate empathy.

“Sympathy is, ‘I had the same experience so I understand.’ Empathy is, ‘I don’t have the same experience but I’ll try to understand.’

“Try to understand what it’s like to come here, 18 years old, and your English might not be perfect. But you’re trying to get a degree from the number one most innovative school in the country.”

For information on the International Students and Scholars Center, go here, and for ASU Global Guides, go here. Find out about ASU Counseling Services here.


Top photo: Accounting student Jinxue Chen (left) listens to marketing student Zuhao Wan, both from China, at the International Undergraduate Orientation earlier this month in the Memorial Union. More than 500 freshmen from 50 countries listened to speakers talk about American and ASU culture and how to flourish. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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SILC Café serves up coffee with a side of culture to ASU language students

You don't always have to travel abroad to be immersed in culture.
Play a game of international Scrabble at the SILC Café this fall.
August 21, 2017

Weekly social gathering allows students to practice speaking skills while learning about other people and places

It is said that one of the best ways to learn a language is to immerse yourself in the culture. At Arizona State University’s SILC Café, a group of students and faculty have found a way to do that without even leaving campus.

“Language and culture is a social experience,” said Michael Tueller, associate director for administration with the School of International Letters and Cultures. “So we provide that here.”

SILC Café is a weekly social gathering for anyone at ASU who wants to learn more about international language and culture. Attendees meet every Wednesday during the spring and fall semesters from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. in the Language and Literature Building, room 165; the first meeting of the fall semester is Aug. 23.

Tueller, who also teaches Greek, attends as often as possible and encourages his students to do the same. The atmosphere is intentionally informal, with people coming and going as they like, stopping for a moment here to add a word to the ever-evolving multilingual game of Scrabble, or lingering there to sample from the assortment of international epicurean delights.

“I’m French, and food is a way we bring people together,” Frederic Canovas said. He has been teaching the language at ASU for 17 years and appreciates the opportunity SILC Café provides to interact with students outside the traditional classroom setting.

The cafe itself began as a weekly tutoring session for SILC students that also offered free coffee. After it gained popularity, the organizers decided to open it up to everyone, regardless of their major. In addition to coffee, people began bringing food from around the world, as well as games and activities such as origami.

Barbara Fleming serves as the head faculty adviser for the student group SILC Attachés, which sponsors SILC Café. She’s there every week, making sure things run smoothly, engaging with students and learning new things herself. Fleming has taught French classes at ASU on and off over the past few years and espouses the benefits of language studies.

“It can make you much more desirable as an employee, and of course it enriches your life,” she said. “And think how it can widen the dating pool.”

At any given meeting, the languages spoken at the cafe can range from Chinese to Portuguese, Spanish to French, Greek to Japanese, and even sign language.

When asked to spell her name aloud, English junior Tonissa Saul begins signing the letters, then catches herself and laughs.

“I always wanted to learn sign language, and I’ve had jobs in retail where I thought it could be useful” because customers had hearing impairments, she said.

Knowing how to sign with them allows her to forgo speaking “through a little box,” that is, a smartphone or other tech device, which she feels can take away from making a more personal connection —something that is true of all languages.

SILC Attachés president and vice president, Michael Napolitano and Alexandra Carrillo (pictured at top left), agree that one of their favorite things about the weekly meetings are the relationships they’ve built.

Carrillo, a sustainability undergradaute student, said she originally came to SILC Café for the extra credit but soon realized it had much more to offer her; after spending her first couple of years at ASU wondering where she fit in, she suddenly felt a sense of belonging and purpose.

“It was like, ‘Yay! I finally found my niche!’” Carrillo said. “I’ve made such great connections with students and faculty … that I wouldn’t have had without it.”

Video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now


Top photo: (From left) SILC Attachés vice president Alexandra Carrillo, civil engineering sophomore Morgan Alkahlout and business sophomore Amanda Garza play an improvised game of French/German Scrabble. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now. 

ASU students, faculty gain insights, create impact in Nepal, Ecuador

August 18, 2017

Study abroad programs give participants — faculty and students alike — an opportunity to learn alongside others in order to understand cultures different from our own, gain valuable insights, challenge our assumptions and contribute to the betterment of the communities we visit.

Students and faculty from Arizona State University's School for the Future of Innovation in Society traveled to Nepal and Ecuador this summer to engage culturally with host communities, broaden their worldviews, and roll up their sleeves to make a lasting impact. Each program had specific learning goals and a final project tailored to the experiences of each student. Students in Tena, Ecuador. Students explore in Tena, located in the Amazon region of Ecuador. Download Full Image

With crucial support provided by the Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives and ASU’s School of Sustainability, participants learned first-hand about social justice, capacity building, entrepreneurship, and community empowerment.

Students from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering — including The Polytechnic School, the School of Sustainability, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Global Resolve participated in these cross-disciplinary projects with SFIS.


Nalini Chhetri, clinical associate professor and assistant director at School for the Future of Innovation in Society, and Netra Chhetri, associate professor at the school and senior sustainability scientist at the School of Sustainability, led two groups of students from multiple disciplines, colleges and schools to various regions in Nepal.  

Both groups included master’s students from Tribhuvan University, the largest university in Nepal, which turned out to be one of the best aspects of the collaborative peer learning experience, according to the ASU students.

With Chhetri’s guidance, students learned first-hand about global best practices in sustainable development. The group visited with people from indigenous communities who are successfully earning livelihoods while protecting the buffer zone areas of the national parks in the region — the home of Bengal tigers and one-horned rhinos — by instituting their own societal governance systems.

Chhetri and her students met with successful farmers, both men and women, who practice organic but profitable farming such as vegetable growing, bee keeping, and an organic coffee plantation. Her group also installed a photography exhibit at Tribhuvan University.

The homestays, site visits and expert seminars in Nepal brought participants face to face with new ways of thinking, feeling and living, Chhetri said.

“The experience of learning about new cultures and confronting new contexts, especially in developing countries, is invaluable for our students,” she said.

Netra Chhetri’s group outfitted community members in Nepal’s Nawalparasi district with several locally engineered pyrolysers, which are large kilns used to reduce organic matter — in this case, an invasive plant species — to biochar, a usable fuel, fertilizer and filtration resource that can be sold for profit.

The group also installed a solar-powered irrigation system that pumps water from a depth of 157 feet, providing local farmers with access to reliable water year-round, including the ability to grow out-of-season crops that sell at a higher price point. 

“This was truly project-based,” Chhetri said. “The students worked with community members and experts from a local company that distributed the biochar, and then implemented the project design themselves, collecting research data in the process.”

Students even brought samples of the biochar home to continue to analyze it.

“Now, we’re trying to help the company scale this and improve the quality,” Chhetri said. He hopes the process will result in activated charcoal, which could filter water and be sold in retail stores, providing a major boost to the community’s economic security.

“This has been the most satisfying project I have done since coming to ASU,” he said.


In Ecuador, Mary Jane Parmentier, clinical associate professor and chair of the Global Technology and Development program, and Carlo Altamirano, a doctoral candidate in the Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology program, introduced the group to several varieties of social entrepreneurships, including the solidarity economy model.  The trip acquainted students with multiple economic empowerment strategies in an environment where local traditions and culture compete with the challenges brought on by globalization.

Parmentier’s students stayed with families in the city of Cuenca for five nights. Students also visited the town of Tena in the Amazon region. They stayed in lodges in Tena with no electricity, which included the occasional encounter with “big black tarantulas,” the students reported. They learned about the Andean knowledge system, visited the Isla de la Plata, and even met Balthasar Ushka, the last Iceman of the Chimborazo.

Parmentier’s groups led seminars on social entrepreneurship using the bilingual Dreambuilder programs, developed at Thunderbird School of Global Management, at a women’s vocational training program in Quito — Ecuador’s capital, and to business students at the Technical University of Ambato.

Students also visited two Ecuadorean universities, the Catholic Pontifical University of Quito and Yachay Technical University, to learn about the government’s initiative to foster science and technology research and teaching for national development.

They also spent three days working with the Intensive Ambulatory Therapy program at the Health Center of Cuenca to build a healing garden at an outpatient medical center for adults recovering from addiction.

While students from all three groups were assigned research papers, some of the students in the Nepal group expressed what they had learned through less traditional formats, such as photo essays and poetry. Parmentier noted that many of the research questions her students developed before the trip to Ecuador changed just prior to turning in their final assignments.

“Some of the students realized their initial questions were naïve,” Parmentier said. “This kind of experience succeeds when it overturns assumptions. That’s hard to get across when you don’t get out of your comfort zone.”

The great advantage of study abroad programs is the opportunity to engage culturally with people and places students have not encountered before. Yet, study abroad is really a “learning community abroad,” Parmentier said.  And it’s not just for students.

“It’s made up of students and faculty, and we’re all curious, we’re all learning,” she said. “We all benefit from each other’s questions.”

Denise Kronsteiner

Director of Strategic Communications, School for the Future of Innovation in Society