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Political exits on the rise: ASU professor on why quitting is not a bad option

January 17, 2018

Political scientist says there is good in saying goodbye to power positions

Bob Corker. Jeff Flake. Orrin Hatch. Darrell Issa. The list of political heavyweights who have decided to retire or opt out of bids for re-election is growing. Has flight superseded fight in today’s divisive political climate? And, if so, is quitting in the midst of difficult times a cop-out or simply the right thing to do for the individual involved?

Jennet Kirkpatrick, an associate professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies at Arizona State University, believes in the power of exit. In her new book, "The Virtues of Exit: On Resistance and Quitting Politics," Kirkpatrick puts forward the notion that leaving political organizations can actually be a tool for change, and that political actors can actually benefit from quitting or refusing to be a part of something.

“One of the book’s major themes revolves around the idea that leaving political organizations is not always cowardly, weak or self-interested,” Kirkpatrick said. “It looks at political actors and activists who walk away in a defiant, strong way and who use their departures to create political change.”

But, as Kirkpatrick also notes, the downside of leaving — even for a good reason — is a loss of participation and voice. Principled resignation, she said, has a cost: “This is what makes it a significant political act. It involves sacrifice.”

Kirkpatrick shares more of her insight on the benefits and costs of exits in the current political climate in this conversation with ASU Now.

Jennet Kirkpatrick

Question: What do you think is behind the recent wave of congressional exits?

Answer: While there are many reasons for the wave of resignations and retirements, some Republicans have explained that they are leaving office because they oppose the current administration. In his speech announcing that he would not run for re-election, Arizona Senator Jeff Flake stated that, because of his deep political and moral disagreements with President Trump, he could no longer serve in good conscience. An important idea I learned from writing my book is that exits can be done in different ways. It’s not necessarily that you leave and it’s over. It is possible to walk away in defiance and draw attention to injustices and wrongs occurring within a political organization or country. While this is a serious move that should be carefully considered, this type of “resistant exit” is an option we should be aware of.

Q: Reaction to some of the more dramatic political exits in the midst of a very divided political landscape has been mixed. We have seen descriptions ranging from “honorable” to “cop out” in response to some individual announcements. Are these fair conclusions, or oversimplified judgments?

A: I understand the view that a resignation is a cop out. Democracy depends on civic participation. If good citizens are not willing to stay in office or vote, democracy loses its legitimacy.

At the same time, writing my book made me realize that exits are not always cowardly or selfish. Exits can be courageous acts of defiance and they have the potential to give voice to views that might otherwise be silenced.

In non-democratic contexts, resistant exits can be honorable, too. For individuals living in places where political freedoms are severely restricted, exit is sometimes one of the few safe ways to resist. Taking this course of action, political exiles have left their homelands and opposed those in power from abroad. 

Q: What is the gamble and/or the payoff from quitting a coveted position of power?

A: Exits from powerful posts involve giving up the capacity to influence it from the inside. Someone else can take your spot. In Senator Flake’s case for instance, a number of individuals have declared they will run for his seat, including controversial former Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio. But a resistant exit may, in the long run, be worth the sacrifice. It can rally opposition in others, on the inside and the outside, and it can raise public awareness. 

Q: Can you think of another time in U.S. political history when we have seen a mass exodus of so many legislators — particularly from one political party? What were the results of such an upheaval?

A: Before the American Civil War abolitionists opted out of American politics in a number of ways to express their opposition to slavery. Officials resigned from office, and citizens refused to vote. In his famous essay "Civil Disobedience," Henry David Thoreau argued that public officials who supported abolition should resign and that abolitionists should not pay their taxes. Thoreau even went as far as to write a letter of resignation from citizenship and sent it to the State of Massachusetts. These kinds of abolitionist actions raised awareness about the injustices of slavery and galvanized resistance to it.

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications


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ASU professor casts fear aside to tell the story of female shrimp traders in Sinaloa, Mexico

January 12, 2018

Anthropologist Maria Cruz Torres' work recently earned her a place in the American Association for the Advancement of Science

Twenty years, the threat of personal violence and two unexpected deaths have not quelled the fervor of Maria Cruz Torres to make visible the travails of the female shrimp traders whose literal blood, sweat and tears managed to carve a niche in a historically male-dominated industry, achieving economic independence and securing hope for future generations amidst the height of chaos related to the Sinaloa drug cartel.

For Arizona State University Associate Professor Cruz Torres’ fearless work as an anthropologist, illuminating the interrelations of gender, labor and resource management in aquaculture and its effects on the political ecology and economy of the U.S.-Mexico transborder region, she was recently elected to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

“She has more guts and courage than any anthropologist I have ever known,” said Carlos Velez-Ibanez, ASU Regents’ Professor and founding director emeritus of the School of Transborder Studies, where Cruz Torres is a faculty member.

Her most recent book, “Voices Throughout Time:Available only in Spanish, “Voces en el Tiempo: Testimonios de Vida de las Camaroneras del Sur de Sinaloa” was published in 2015 by the University of Sinaloa Press. It is part of a new series launched by the UAS Press focusing on anthropology in northwestern Mexico. Testimonies of Women Shrimp Traders in Sinaloa, Mexico,” features the personal stories of 52 women who made their living in the fisheries and trading outposts of Mazatlan, a resort town along the Pacific shoreline. Her upcoming book, “Until the Sun Today: Gender, and Seafood Economies in Mexico,” looks at the seafood industry in general, from the perspective of commodification with a feminist political ecology point of view.

But why study the seafood industry? And why do it in Sinaloa, when there are plenty of other, safer, places to conduct research?

It’s a question Cruz Torres says she’s had to answer many times over the years. And like most things in life, it happened by accident.

Discovering a career

Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Cruz Torres attended the University of Puerto Rico where she received a bachelor’s degree in marine biology.

“It’s very interesting how sometimes a career actually chooses you,” she said. “I had no idea what anthropology was at the time. I was a marine biologist, and I thought that I wanted to continue in the sciences.”

But then came an opportunity she couldn’t have foreseen. An anthropology professor from Rutgers University was visiting Puerto Rico for research and invited Cruz Torres to work with her as a research assistant. She accepted, and ended up following the professor back to Rutgers, where she made the switch and pursued a master’s degree and then a doctorate in anthropology.

In 1989, while she was still a graduate student, Cruz Torres chose to do her dissertation on shrimp farming. She originally intended to conduct fieldwork in Veracruz, a port city on the Gulf of Mexico coast. As it happened, the Mexican government at the time was promoting aquaculture as a rural development tool in Sinaloa, and strongly encouraged her to go there instead.

“At that time, you didn’t hear a lot about drug trafficking,” she said. “It was there, obviously, but it wasn’t something that you had to think about … It didn’t really affect my research. I could move freely from one place to another, it wasn’t a big issue.”

Cruz Torres completed her dissertation but found she was still drawn to the area, a region where still very few anthropologists work, making it ripe for study.

“The seafood industry is one of the most important industries in this region, in the Pacific Coast of Mexico,” Cruz Torres said. “Many families were able to build wealth through the seafood industry ... but it’s been a struggle. And this is one of the few case studies that I have seen in Mexico, and specifically on the Pacific Coast of Mexico, where you have a social movement led only by women.”

Maria Cruz Torres
Maria Cruz Torres in her office at ASU's School of Transborder Studies. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

More than just research

In a place severely lacking in economic opportunities, where many resorted to illegal means to get by, the women Cruz Torres met and came to know over a period of twenty years endured persecution, harassment, robberies and threats for the chance to pursue a better life — and not all of them survived.

“Voices Throughout Time” is dedicated to two women killed as a result of drug cartel violence. Their murders are still unsolved, a fact that haunts Cruz Torres to this day.

“I went to their houses, I shared part of my life with them, they shared part of their lives with me,” she said. “Then they were just gone.”

Their households, which had relied upon the women as the breadwinners, suffered.

There were other victims. Daughters who never came home, boyfriends who resisted the influence of the cartel and paid for it with their lives. Victims of senseless violence that Cruz Torres describes as descending on the region like a wave. As the cartel’s power grew in the early 2000s, more and more were left in its wake.

Because seafood is a highly valued commodity in the region, anyone associated with the industry became a target of crime. Robberies and extortion were common. Missing persons flyers plastered the walls in local establishments and reports of brutal killings dominated the news. At some point, Cruz Torres said, it all became too much for her.

In 2011, she fled the region but remained in close communication with colleagues at the University of Sinaloa, without whom, she said, her work there would not have been possible. She now serves as an academic advisor to the Department of Anthropology and the Department of Social Services in the development of their field methodology.

“Anthropology is not just going there and doing the research and just taking the work and coming back,” Cruz Torres said. “For me, it’s also about being engaged, being embedded within the community, and giving back something to the people who really helped me during the research process.”

Linking human stories to sustainability

Conditions there have since improved, and Cruz Torres has been back to teach workshops to both students and professors at the university. She still visits the marketplace in Mazatlan and has reconnected with many of the female shrimp traders there whose stories she shared in her book.

Some of them have retired, their children having taken over the family trade or, in some cases, having gone on to become doctors and lawyers, thanks to the financial backing their mothers were able to provide for them to receive higher education.

Cruz Torres hopes her research will get people thinking about the humans behind the commodities we often take for granted.

“The kind of work these women do is informal. They don’t have any social protection, for example. They don’t have job security,” she said. “A lot of the seafood that is produced in Mexico is exported to places like the U.S., and we consume that but we don’t know the labor and everything that it takes to produce. We don’t know the situation of the people and the difficulties they face to be able to provide us with these commodities.

“We talk a lot about sustainability, and look at it from the point of view of the resource, only. I think we have to look at it from the perspective of the people [providing it] as well. Labor should be linked to how we define sustainability.”

At ASU, Cruz Torres teaches courses on political ecology and ethnology of the border; Latin American and Caribbean culture; and gender, culture and development. Recently, she helped organize the conference “De Tripas Corazones: Puerto Rico's Resilience, Creativity and Solidarity After Hurricane Maria,” which took place on ASU’s Tempe campus to foster engagement with the current humanitarian crisis there.

She is currently working on a new research project focusing on food sovereignty on her home island. Just a few years ago, roughly 85 percent of the food consumed in Puerto Rico was imported, mostly from the U.S. But lately, there has been a growing movement of people getting more involved in agriculture.

“That’s really something I’ve always wanted to do because it’s linked to issues of race and gender and class,” Cruz Torres said. “I want to have that intersectionality looking at food sovereignty in Puerto Rico. And it’s becoming more crucial now than ever before.”


Top photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Global journalists to share lessons from abroad at ASU speaker series

Cronkite Global Conversations feature 12 media professionals from around the world

January 10, 2018

Journalists and media professionals from around the globe will share their perspectives on major international issues as part of an annual speaker series at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

“Cronkite Global Conversations” features members of the school’s Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program, a U.S. State Department-funded initiative that brings 12 working media professionals from around the world for nearly a year of intensive study at Cronkite. Fellows take classes, develop leadership skills and collaborate with other media professionals. Humphrey Fellows The journalists from the “Cronkite Global Conversations” series. Download Full Image

The series kicks off Jan. 24 with a discussion on the global refugee crisis and ends Feb. 28 with a talk on governments at war with the media. Other topics cover Russia’s influence in Eastern and Central Europe and the explosive growth of China and India.

“‘Cronkite Global Conversations’ spotlights important ongoing global issues that can get overshadowed by breaking news,” said Assistant Dean B. William Silcock, director of Cronkite Global Initiatives. “We’re excited to hear from our outstanding fellows and encourage you to participate in these talks.”  

This year’s Humphrey fellows are from Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, China, Croatia, Egypt, Estonia, Hungary, India, Kenya, South Africa and Uruguay. The fellows offer global perspectives to Cronkite students through the speaker series, classes and informal talks during their 10-month stay.

The hourlong “Cronkite Global Conversations” are open to the public. Sessions begin at noon on select Wednesdays through February. They are held in room 444 on the fourth floor of the Cronkite School on the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus.

Spring 2018 'Cronkite Global Conversations' schedule

Jan. 24: “Refugees: Risks, Challenges and Opportunities”

The global refugee crisis has displaced tens of millions of people. Ahmed Elashry, who served on communications teams of three Egyptian prime ministers; Marina Ridjic, a leading journalist from Bosnia and Herzegovina; Kazi Mohua, a prime-time news anchor from Bangladesh; and Paul Udoto Nyongesa, a communications expert from Kenya, share their perspectives on refugee and migration issues.

Feb. 7: “Powerhouses of the East: India and China”

With large populations and booming economies, China and India are becoming major influencers on the global stage. Xiaofeng Wang, a veteran journalist from China, and Kiran Somvanshi, who manages the research bureau at The Economic Times in India, discuss the future of the East and how the two countries can work together to promote regional prosperity and stability.

Feb. 14: “The Kremlin’s Influence in Central and Eastern Europe”

Eastern Europe has long complained about meddling by Russia. Veteran journalists Mila Moralic from Croatia, Holger Roonema from Estonia, and Szabolcs Panyi from Hungary present eye-opening cases of Russian interference in their countries and share what the U.S. can learn from their experiences.

Feb. 28: “Governments at War with the Media”

Attacks on the press extend far beyond the White House. Global journalists Daneel Knoetze from South Africa, Bopha Phorn from Cambodia, and Martín Aguirre from Uruguay share their experiences and important lessons on covering governments that are hostile toward journalists.

Communications manager, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication


Chinese partners bring strong potential to advance research at ASU Biodesign Institute

January 3, 2018

Arizona State University's approach to global research engagement addresses some of the most pressing problems facing us in health today: issues such as global pandemics and a growing cancer incidence in the developing world that require multiple, transnational partners to come up with solutions more rapidly.

Recently, ASU Biodesign Institute Executive Director Joshua LaBaer led a delegation to visit key Chinese partners to further explore new research possibilities. The stops included long-time academic partner Sichuan University and its top-ranked Huaxi Hospital, and a rapidly developing high-tech corridor anchored by Soochow University. Biodesign Institute Executive Director Joshua LaBaer and Sichuan University President Heping Xie Biodesign Institute Executive Director Joshua LaBaer met with Sichuan University President Xie Heping to foster research partnerships. President Xie presented LaBaer with a framed giant panda engraving, the national symbol of China and pride of Sichuan province, which is home to its native habitat. Download Full Image

“ASU’s Biodesign Institute and China’s top research universities have a lot of overlaps and common interests, particularly in developing early disease diagnostics and improved treatments and vaccines for cancer and infectious disease,” LaBaer said.

Currently, ASU works with more than 10 top universities in China, as well as the Chinese Academy of Sciences and the Ministry of Science and Technology. The university’s programs in China include the Global Decision Theater Alliance, the Center for American Culture and an executive MBA program under the auspices of the Chinese Ministry of Finance.

“There’s a lot of parallels between ASU and Sichuan University,” LaBaer said. “Scientifically and culturally, it seems like an excellent match. The idea would be that we would create a Biodesign unit there, having their own centers, but also centers that might bridge the two. Huaxi Hospital is particularly interested in a diagnostics and a precision medicine center.”

At its Tempe campus, ASU has pioneered a dynamic new academic research model that has the world taking notice of its flagship hub of 21st-century innovation, the Biodesign Institute.

With its nature-inspired and convergent, “big team” approach to science, the Biodesign Institute has more than 200 high-risk, high-impact research projects, including research on 100 different diseases with a goal of improving health outcomes, security and the sustainability of our planet.

Pairing the best of the Southwest

In China, ASU already has a well-established partnership with its sister university, Sichuan University — a public, national university in southwest China with 50,000 students in the heart of the Sichuan province’s capital city of 14.5 million people, Chengdu. 

The alliance has emerged over the past two decades, when two-like minded presidents — ASU President Michael Crow and Sichuan University’s President Xie Heping — took the helm around the same time to lead their universities away from the traditional academic status quo in their respective countries. Over the years, they’ve implemented a series of initiatives to foster a new higher education model with global engagement in mind, including the ASU-Sichuan University Joint Confucius Institute.

Now, LaBaer wants to lead the expansion of research partnerships, a win-win proposition pairing China’s top-ranked clinical partner with the most innovative university in the U.S.

“There’s a lot of interest in China to partner with us, set up new collaborations, new research centers, and foster faculty and student exchange, while modeling their research in a similar way to the Biodesign Institute,” LaBaer said.

LaBaer, along with Biodesign Insitute colleagues Hao Yan and Tony Hu, met with Sichuan University President Xie and Vice President Xuehong Wan, who leads the top-ranked Sichuan University’s Huaxi Medical Sciences University and Huaxi Hospital. Huaxi Hospital was recently ranked as “China’s Best Hospital” and is consistently ranked as one of the top five medical schools.

“Huaxi Hospital would really be a highly complementary partner for us,” LaBaer said. “It is an outstanding hospital, and center for excellence in clinical research that is comprehensive in all aspects.

“At Biodesign, we are developing new diagnostic tools that must be tested in patients before they can be available for commercial use,” LaBaer said. “Partnering with Huaxi Hospital would provide access to their patients, opening the door to new opportunities for working with their clinical programs.”  

Unlike many research institutes across the U.S., the Biodesign Institute is not linked to a hospital, but currently partners with hospitals across the Phoenix metro area and the U.S. to test new diagnostics.

Huaxi Hospital’s sprawling medical campus includes four affiliated hospitals. Huaxi Hospital is the largest hospital in China and the largest single-site hospital in the world. It has a staff of 6,000 including 550 doctors and associate professors, with 4,300 beds, 36 clinical departments and 15 medical practice departments. It routinely serves more than 3 million outpatients visits, 100,000 inpatients and 50,000 surgical operations annually.

In medical research, Huaxi Hospital is also a powerhouse, and was recently the number-one ranked scientific impact hospital by the Chinese Academy of Medical Science. Its medical research strengths include clinical and integrative medicine, regenerative medicine and the fields of neurology, oncology, cardiology and laboratory medicine.

“They are one of just six testing centers in the country for the Chinese version of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), called the CFDA,” LaBaer said. “Seventeen of their faculty members sit on the board of the CFDA, so if you have something that you want to get tested for CFDA clearance, having that local expertise would be extraordinary, and a good fit for Biodesign. We don’t have that here, and it would give us that kind of window.”

This would include Biodesign biomarker discoveries, TB screening and medical applications of nanotechnology.

“All of that would be outstanding and there’s a lot of opportunities for making all sorts of connections there that we are very excited about,” LaBaer said.

The fastest-growing research partners

At another stop in their whirlwind tour, Biodesign leadership hopscotched to the east coast of China to explore Soochow University, which is located in the Jiangsu province, about 60 miles west of Shanghai.

Like ASU, Soochow University was a teacher’s college in the 1950s, but has vastly expanded its research to become a comprehensive research university, and now is in the top 5 percent of China’s research rankings, with particular strengths in its engineering and medical schools.

“Soochow is one of the fastest growing research universities in the country, just like ASU,” LaBaer said.

There, they met with Soochow University’s Vice President Xiaohong Zhang, who gave an overview of the region and highlighted key opportunities at one of China’s fastest-rising research universities.

“There is a strategy to have the potential to exchange intellectual property (IP), cultivate shared research interests, to do discoveries and mutual exchanges of faculty and shared students, and perhaps joint appointments to explore,” LaBaer said. “In terms of IP, think of Soochow as the Chinese ‘Boston for bioscience.’ It’s situated in the heart of all the startups. They have a big area called Biobay that incubates start-ups, investors nearby, a few miles down the road from Wuxi, where all the big pharma companies have manufacturing — all right down the road from Shanghai, one of the biggest cities in the world.

“Soochow is very well positioned for us to do a partnership,” LaBaer said. “Monitoring American IP in China has always been a nightmare. But if we had a partner in China, who has their ear to the ground, it would be a lot easier.”

Among the Biodesign Institute's strengths to expand with China are new technologies for vaccine discovery and delivery, including breakthrough efforts made with Ebola, and the early detection and treatment of cancer and infectious diseases.

“They have a strong interest in synthetic biology, so the idea has been discussed about creating a new Biodesign center around this area,” LaBaer said. “The next steps will be crafting an agreement with them.”

Yan, who directs ASU's Biodesign Center for Molecular Design and Biomimetics, currently partners with several Chinese universities to advance the field of DNA origami, which may one day revolutionize medicine by making and delivering drugs inside of cells. 

“Chinese scientists were fascinated by the potential of DNA origami nanotechnology for new health care and electronic applications,” Yan said. “I think we are much closer to real practical applications of the technology and we are actively looking at the first nanomedicine applications with our DNA origami technology.”

Biodesign researcher Tony Hu was most impressed with the speed and pace of Soochow’s progress, and an ideal setup as a “one-stop shop” for translational research into the marketplace.

“In Soochow, you can tell how quickly the technology can be translated within their high-tech park,” said Hu, who has made several important breakthroughs in tuberculosis, or TB, which has infected about one-third of residents in China.

“From the standardization of the product, to licensing, to negotiating with the investor or company for incubation, and also sales and marketing. We call this the ‘dragon line.’ The pipeline for translation is all there.”

This is very appealing to Hu and his research team, who have also adapted their technology to turn smartphones into handheld microscopes to make an impact as a versatile and powerful new tool in the worldwide fight against infectious diseases.

Through these expanded relationships with China, ASU hopes to continue to promote cross-cultural, breakthrough research on some of the world’s most pressing problems, and continue interdisciplinary study and engagement, entrepreneurship, and social and economic development locally and abroad.

“The framework for what we are going to do is starting to take shape,” LaBaer said. “We are tremendously excited to combine our best resources and ideas with these stellar organizations.”

Joe Caspermeyer

Managing editor, Biodesign Institute


Educational excursion: ASU faculty members seeking insights, research partners in Israel

December 22, 2017

Israel offers as intriguing a panorama of cultural, historical, religious and political significance as just about any place in the world.

An opportunity to meet some of the people and see some of the prominent places at the center of such a pulsating environment draws interest from hundreds of faculty members at colleges and universities in the United States in joining the two excursions each year to Israel organized by the Jewish National Fund. group of people touring a kibbutz Tours of some of Israel’s kibbutzim, rural communal settlements, have been on the itineraries of the Faculty Fellowship trips, which seek to give visitors from the U.S. perspectives on daily life in Israeli society. The photo shows a tour group at the Kibbutz Ketura. Photo by René Reinhard/Jewish National Fund Download Full Image

Additional motivation comes from the prospects of establishing relationships with Israeli scholars and researchers who could become valuable professional collaborators.

From among more than 150 applicants for the inaugural Winter Faculty Fellowship Program in Israel, the selected group of 23 participants includes seven Arizona State University faculty members — more than from any other educational institution.

From Dec. 27 to Jan. 9, the U.S. contingent will meet with professors from at least 28 Israeli colleges and universities who have similar academic and research interests, as well as with Israeli government, industry, news media and higher education leaders.

Associate Professor Adam Carberry, one of the five faculty members in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering making the trip, has visited Saudi Arabia, Australia, China, Malaysia, Ireland, Spain, Mexico and Colombia in connection with his work. But he expects the sojourn to Israel to be a unique and especially enriching experience.

Besides getting a look at “a place you hear a lot about in the news,” Carberry — who teaches engineering — said he is looking forward to learning about Israel’s highly regarded education system.

“I’m interested in seeing how students there make their way into engineering degree programs, and then how each institution approaches teaching engineering,” he said. “I plan to share with them how we go about it here at ASU. The focus on education systems and pedagogy will be beneficial for my own teaching and research.”

A broader view of life in Israel

For Assistant Professor Jeremi London, whose expertise is in engineering education research, Israel “is a region of the world that has fascinated me for many years.”

She is embarking on the trip already prepared to “trade ideas” with professional counterparts at Israeli universities for joint research ventures.

Upon her return, London said she will share with ASU colleagues and students what she learns in Israel, hoping to provide “a more holistic view” of the country than the impressions people draw solely from stark headlines about international political conflicts.

Opening a wider lens on the world’s view of Israeli society is also a key mission of the Jewish National Fund, which began the Faculty Fellowship in Israel program a decade ago as part of broader efforts to build positive relationships and foster constructive dialogue between Israel and other countries throughout the world. That mission includes increasing awareness of the Israel’s social diversity and its political and cultural pluralism.

Part of the goal is also to help Israel fulfill aspirations to expand its role as a “startup nation” — as a place with the intellectual and creative resources to aid development of innovative solutions to global challenges, said René Reinhard, chief of staff for the Jewish National Fund and executive director of the Faculty Fellowship Program in Israel. 

The Faculty Fellowship in Israel Program takes participants to major historic and cultural sites such as Masada, where there are remains of an ancient fortress overlooking the Dead Sea in the Judean Desert. Dating to about 30 B.C., the site includes the ruins of King Herod's palace. Recreations of historical scenes and archaeological exhibits are on display in the Masada Museum. Photo by René Reinhard/Jewish National Fund

Fulton Schools Assistant Professor Francois Perreault hopes to team up with Israeli researchers to make progress on new technologies for water treatment and desalination.

“These are critical issues in Israel, as in Arizona and the rest of the United States, and Israel has been a leader in many aspects of desalination and water reuse,” Perreault said. “I think that the relevance of my research to Israel is what got me selected for the fellowship program.”

Expectations of establishing productive relationships

Fulton Schools Assistant Professor Abdel-Ra’ouf Mayyas and Clinical Assistant Professor Jeffrey Wishart are taking the trip to see some of the technological advancements that professors in Israel are working on in areas of automotive engineering.

Between them, Mayyas and Wishart are doing research in autonomous and connected vehicles, automotive systems integration and control, shared mobility, “Intelligent Transportation,” connected power-trains control, vehicle dynamics, electrification, automation and emissions.

Both say they see definite possibilities to find skilled collaborators for potential research endeavors with faculty members at Israeli universities.

So does Clinical Assistant Professor Karen Guerrero in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. She teaches in the Bilingual Education program and does research on eLearning (learning via electronic media, typically the internet) in an emerging field called STEMSS education, which concentrates on the teaching of science, technology, engineering, math and social sciences. Within that field, Guerrero is focusing on geography education.

Her primary goal as an educator is to provide the vast array of information and knowledge that future teachers will need to work in increasingly global educational environments.

Guerrero said she is confident about making connections in Israel with educators from whom she can gain new insights.

“Getting personal experience in such an extremely diverse community will help me better educate my students at ASU in learning how to be culturally responsive in their future classrooms,” she said.

On-the-ground exploration offers valuable perspective

Assistant Professor Blair Braden in the Department of Speech and Hearing Science in ASU’s College of Health Solutions is a behavioral neuroscientist. She studies cognitive and brain aging in adults with autism spectrum disorders, and teaches neuroscience-based courses and courses on autism.

Braden is also expecting to find Israeli professors with whom to seek research funding and co-author articles for research journals in her field.

More than that, she anticipates gaining valuable knowledge by visiting historical sights, eating local cuisine and observing people’s everyday routines in the country.

Those kinds of experiences are also what the travel fellowship program’s sponsors want to provide.

Beyond conferring with officials at the forefront of Israel’s educational, technological and scientific enterprises — as well as joining in debates on current academic, political and economic issues — U.S. faculty members will also spend time in locales where they can mix in with and meet “people from all walks of life” in Israel, said Reinhard, the fellowship executive director.

“It’s exciting to see so many faculty from ASU involved in this,” Carberry said. “It is going to be not only a great professional opportunity but a firsthand exploration that gives us real-life perspectives on Israel. On trips like this, you gain an understanding of things on the ground that you might not be able to learn in any other way. This is a true opportunity of a lifetime.”

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


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ASU coach looks to Japan for partnerships

Sun Devils coach looks to baseball-crazy Japan for partnerships.
December 21, 2017

Potential rule change by the NCAA could fuel Sun Devils recruiting in baseball-crazy nation

As Arizona State University continues to create partnerships around the world, one Sun Devils coach is looking to baseball-crazed Japan for potential opportunities.

Tracy Smith, who has been the head baseball coach at ASU since 2014, traveled to Japan for a week earlier this month to forge ties with university and sports counterparts there.

“I wanted to learn about the baseball culture and, from a program standpoint, whether we could we learn anything about the future of recruitment. And on a much broader scale, I wanted to take this opportunity to be an ambassador for ASU,” Smith said.

He met with administrators and coaches at Fukuoka Institute of Technology, which has already had an engineering faculty exchange with ASU, as well as Keio and Meiji universities.

“We didn’t just talk baseball. We talked about creating and enhancing the relationship between the two countries,” he said.

While NCAA rules restricted Smith from actually recruiting players during his trip, he did talk about baseball with the Japanese — who are huge fans.

“What’s bigger than anything is the high school baseball tournament called Koshien,” he said. “They’ll have 50,000 fans at a game there.”

But the Japanese don’t embrace the concept of the student-athlete the same way Americans do.

“At ASU we’re always trying to find good players who are good students — they want a world-class education but they also want to make it to the big leagues,” Smith said. “In Japan, there’s an emphasis on specialization.

“We’re restricted to working with our student-athletes to 20 hours a week, and there, they practice five hours a day. They have a hard time understanding how you can be a good baseball player if you have to go study at 3 in the afternoon when you should be practicing.”

Smith said that a potential rule change by the NCAA could open the door to sports exchanges, similar to a study-abroad program for athletics. Currently, student-athletes in NCAA sports programs must sit out a year of competition if they transfer to a different university. A committee in the NCAA is considering eliminating that requirement for students who meet certain academic criteria. If that change happens, student-athletes from international universities could study at ASU for a year and also play for Sun Devils sports teams.

Japan is a logical place for Smith to recruit not only because it has good baseball players but also because Japanese schools are academically rigorous. He said other countries have strong baseball-development leagues but that the players typically are not academically qualified to attend ASU.

Smith said that current Sun Devil Lyle Lin is a good example of how recruiting in the Far East could succeed. Lin, who is from Taipei, is a sophomore international business major at ASU who plays catcher for the baseball team with a .291 batting average in the 2016 season. He was the first Taiwanese-born player to be selected in the Major League Baseball draft, picked in the 16th round by the Seattle Mariners in 2016.

“Lyle’s story made me think it could be done. He’s one of our best players, and he learned the English language in six months. The fans love him,” Smith said.

“In Japan, I told the Lyle Lin story a hundred times and said, ‘This can be done.’“

Any international baseball players who are on the roster of an American university team would be much more visible to Major League Baseball scouts, as well.

Smith said that the student-athlete concept is becoming more global and that ASU will take advantage of that.

“We’re the most innovative school in the country. This is an innovative process, and that’s why it makes sense to do it in a place like this,” he said.


Video by Casey Smith

Top photo: ASU head baseball coach Tracy Smith visited with Teruo Shimomura, president of the Fukuoka Institute of Technology in Japan, earlier this month.

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


ASU sets stage to expand collaborations with Vietnam’s higher education leaders

New agreement will further academic, research and economic aspirations of ASU, VNUHCM

December 18, 2017

Arizona State University and Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City (VNUHCM) are forging a long-term agreement to pursue an array of collaborative ventures aimed at mutual goals in academics, research, global educational leadership and economic development.

On Monday, ASU President Michael M. Crow and VNUHCM President Huynh Thanh Dat signed a memorandum of understanding that paves a path toward establishing joint research projects, undergraduate and graduate studies programs, and faculty, student and academic support staff exchanges between the universities. people signing papers at desk Professor Huynh Thanh Dat (foreground, left), president of Vietnam National University Ho Chi Minh City, and Arizona State University President Michael Crow (right) sign a memorandum of understanding on Dec. 18 on an agreement for the universities to pursue a range of joint academic, research and global education leadership ventures. Photo by Jessica Hochreiter/ASU. Download Full Image

The VNUHCM agreement also provides a general framework for exchange activities that will include visits by faculty and students, yearlong study-abroad opportunities and faculty sabbaticals, as well as joint seminars, courses and workshops, and sharing of technical support and services.

The new alliance builds on other ongoing related endeavors between ASU, VNUHCM and several other Vietnamese universities over the past several years.

Those multifaceted efforts focus on elevating higher education in Vietnam, particularly in engineering, science and technology. Projects involve developing advanced curriculum and improving institutional quality assurance assessment to aid Vietnamese universities in attaining higher-level educational credentials and accreditations.

Major objectives set forth in the VNUHCM agreement include creating a “tool kit” for that university’s post-secondary education quality assessment and building an education data center to support assessment projects.

Aiding Vietnam’s efforts to upgrade its university education system so that it can supply a better-trained workforce and boost the country’s economic outlook helps to strengthen key U.S. governmental and marketplace relationships in Southeast Asia, said Crow.

“ASU’s goals in the collaboration agreement with VNUHCM align with the international investment interests of U.S. industries,” Crow said, “and just as importantly with our goals in preparing ASU students to thrive in a global marketplace.”

The first major undertaking will be planning and development of a National Assessment Project to evaluate the quality of higher education in Vietnam.

Inspired by ASU’s New American University strategy, the Vietnam National Assembly Chairman for Education asked ASU leaders to support Vietnam in its efforts to improve access to its universities in addition to ramping up educational quality.

The outcome of the assessment, along with specific recommendations for initiating improvements, will be presented at a national conference in October.

The delegation of 10 Vietnamese education leaders that attended the memorandum signing at ASU included a member of Vietnam’s National Assembly Committee for Culture, Education, Youth, Adolescents and Children. The committee is responsible for the monitoring and evaluation of Vietnam’s education system.

Vietnam’s government wants to see its education system advance to a level where it can help to meet the requirements for the industrialization and modernization necessary for the country to succeed in an international market economy.

VNUHCM President Dat views the collaboration with ASU as particularly pivotal in Vietnam fulfilling the quest to modernize its higher education system.

Dat and a contingent of Vietnamese education officials have been on an extensive trip across the United States, visiting San Francisco, the Boston area — including Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology — and Washington, D.C., before coming to ASU.

“We came here to learn about the American higher education system so that we can adapt it to our university and to the Vietnamese system. We are trying to do everything we can” to achieve that transformation as completely as possible, Dat said.

He emphasized that the joint ventures with ASU will help Vietnam education leaders institute a more advanced university governing system, including improvements in administrative practices, financial management and fund-raising strategies, as well as cultivating entrepreneurship and the generation of business startup ideas from within research and academic programs.

The memorandum signing ceremony was hosted by the office of Global Outreach and Extended Education in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, which has been at the forefront of ASU’s collaborations with Vietnamese universities in partnership with the U.S. Agency for International Development and major industry partners.

USAID also sponsors the BUILD-IT Alliance at ASU, which is leveraging government, industry and academic partners to match science, technology, engineering and math instruction at Vietnam’s higher education institutions to the needs and capabilities of the country’s key industries.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


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What will it take to convince climate skeptics?

December 12, 2017

Early sentinel of global warming Tickell discusses how thinking changed in Europe, what needs to happen to alter US opinion

This week the “One Planet” summit meeting in Paris focused on meeting climate goals without the help of the U.S. government.

The summit comes two years after the landmark climate-change conference in Paris when 196 countries vowed to keep this century’s global temperature increase below 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, a deal known as the Paris Agreement.

The United States is now the only nation on Earth to have rejected the global pact.

We talked to Sir Crispin Tickell (pictured above), a British diplomat, environmentalist and academic, and Distinguished Sustainability Fellow in Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

In Britain, Tickell is influential on environmental issues. He argued in a 1977 book — “Climatic Change and World Affairs” — that mandatory international pollution control would eventually be necessary. He was credited by then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for persuading her to make a speech on global climate change to the Royal Society in September 1988.

Question: What do you think could have been done differently in this country?

Answer: I think if U.S. presidents had been ready to recognize what is happening, and to say so, it would have been very helpful. Obama was quite good on it. He acknowledged it. The science is fairly unequivocal. It’s very clear that’s what’s going on. What is not so clear is what happens in different parts of the world. The Chinese are suffering from a good deal of unexpected change. Indians likewise. The British too and the Americans likewise. But I think it’s a question of how you present it. There are people in the United States who resent the whole thing and reject it all. There are very few people like that in Britain at the moment.

Q: What is your advice on how to turn this situation around?

A: I think you need to have some political strength. Obama is probably going to go on saying what he’s saying, but if other politicians could articulate what they think is going on, it would be helpful. We need a bit of political leadership. We had it originally in Britain from Margaret Thatcher, with whom I used to work quite closely. The current government sits it all out quite clearly. At the moment it’s not contentious. It’s just accepted as part of the natural changes taking place. Of course people are thinking about what we ought to do about it. That’s different; whether we should introduce new taxes on motor vehicles, how we could cope with excessive carbon, that kind of thing is just very tricky.

Q: Do you think the world can be saved from this?

A: Oh yes, I think so. If we are not able to stick to the targets of reducing carbon content in the atmosphere according to those set by the Paris meeting, I think we should all suffer. ... It’d just be very uncomfortable and very inconvenient. The hotter it warms and the more eccentric the behavior, the more people want to do something about it, but that hasn’t happened so much yet. It’s happened a bit — but not yet on any real scale. You need a bit of help from the environment before you can persuade everyone they’ve got to do something about it, especially if it’s something inconvenient, like cutting this or cutting that.

Q: An article this week reported that the Government Accountability Office, which is kind of like a watchdog for Congress, came out and said that the cost of cleaning up after disasters has been more than $350 billion over the past 10 years. We’re a capitalist country — nothing speaks so strongly as the almighty dollar. Do you think people will sit up and pay attention when it continues to cost us billions of dollars because of natural disasters?

A: I think politicians should take a grip and explain clearly to people in language they can understand what is happening and what has to be done about it, and what it will be necessary to do if nothing is done sooner rather than later. It’s a long-term process and very difficult to say at what point it becomes indispensable, but it certainly is becoming indispensable. Different parts of the United States are suffering increasingly from change, whatever it may be.

Top photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

ASU supports Vietnamese student entrepreneurship competition

December 11, 2017

Vietnam is looking to become a country of innovators, and the country’s student entrepreneurs are answering the call.

To celebrate the grand-opening semester of the Maker Innovation Space at the University of Da Nang in Vietnam, the Maker to Entrepreneur Program put on a one-week competition for students to show their ability to innovate. Vietnamese students present their prototype in an entrepreneurship competition in Danang, Vietnam. Vietnamese student teams presented product prototypes at the Maker to Entrepreneur Program’s competition at the University of Da Nang’s Maker Innovation Space in September. Photo courtesy of Thao Nguyen Download Full Image

The Maker to Entrepreneurship Program supports prototypical startups and promotes their innovative ideas and scalable products. MEP came out of a series of Maker Innovation Forums sponsored by the U.S. Department of State and organized by Arizona State University in the cities of Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang, Hanoi and Can Tho. At these forums, entrepreneurs, small-business owners, startups, makers and inventors connected with government representatives responsible for developing and administering innovation and entrepreneurship policy.

Together, these stakeholders identified challenges and solutions to support Vietnam’s burgeoning ecosystem, create economic value and drive development in science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics, or STEAM.

Over the week of Sept. 25, student teams from the University of Da Nang worked to create a viable idea to help real-world communities and businesses, and then build a tangible product.

For the final round, seven student teams brought their best ideas to prototype final products, pitch them and provide demonstrations of their prototypes at the University of Da Nang Maker Innovation Lab.

Team PRIME’s A ROGO-Robot, a modular robot to help teach kids engineering and technology skills, won first place at the Maker and Entrepreneur Program’s competition. Photo courtesy of Thao Nguyen

Products were scored on their originality, innovation, feasibility, social impact or business potential, and their prototype or proof of concept.

The competition was judged in part by Jeffrey Goss, ASU associate vice provost of Southeast Asia, executive director of Global Outreach and Extended Education in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and principal investigator of BUILD-IT, a project implemented by ASU to help Vietnam modernize its science, technology engineering and mathematics higher education system. ASU's Kellie Kreiser, executive director of Thunderbird for Good, was among the additional competition judges. 

First place and $700 went to team PRIME, who created A ROGO-Robot, a simple, modular robot designed to teach community children the basics of programming, integrated circuits, mechanics and other technology skills.

Team PANT9X created a wireless sensor network to monitor soil and weather conditions for a landslide early-warning system, taking second place and $400.

The Guardians team took home third place and $300 for its work creating a smart hydroponic system for growing vegetables that is easy and affordable enough for home use. The autonomous system allows households to grow their own vegetables free of harmful chemicals in an energy- and water-efficient manner.

Additional competing teams created an environmentally friendly tank for burning votive paper, along with a robotic arm and two versions of an Internet of Things platform for smart home technology and devices.

ASU Engineering Projects in Community Service Director Joshua Loughman and Associate Director Hope Parker contributed to the competition. 

 Seven teams competed in the final round of the Maker to Entrepreneur Program’s competition in September 2017. The top three teams took home $1,400 in prizes. Photo courtesy of Thao Nguyen
Seven teams competed in the final round of the Maker to Entrepreneur Program’s competition in September. The top three teams took home $1,400 in prizes. Photo courtesy of Thao Nguyen
Monique Clement

Communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


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ASU professors say military is off when reporting civilian deaths

December 8, 2017

Update: Since this story was originally published, Azmat Khan and Anand Gopal have won two journalism awards for their story, "The Uncounted": the 2018 Ellie National Magazine Award for best reporting and the Overseas Press Club of America's 2018 Ed Cunningham Award for best magazine reporting in print or digital on an international story.

The American-led coalition fighting the Islamic State has killed tens of thousands of ISIS fighters since August 2014, but the military is off when it comes to reporting civilian deaths, say two ASU professors who spent 18 months investigating the issue for an in-depth report for The New York Times Magazine.

In their report, “The Uncounted,” Azmat KhanAzmat Khan is an ASU Future of War Fellow at New America in Washington, D.C. and Anand GopalAnand Gopal is an assistant research professor with ASU's Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and the Center on the Future of War. , both professors with ASU’s Center on the Future of War, write that the military consistently fails to investigate claims properly, keeps poor records, relies on flawed or outdated intelligence and conflates civilian and combatant deaths. Among their claims: “This may be the least transparent war in recent American history.”

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Azmat Khan

Question: In “The Uncounted,” you write of Basim Razzo, a Mosul, Iraq resident whose home was bombed in a drone strike by the U.S. military on Sept. 20, 2015. Why did you highlight his story

Azmat Khan: Though we met so many compelling survivors, Basim was the main character in our story for several reasons. The first is that the particular circumstances of his case met some of the highest coalition standards for an airstrike. By that, I mean that his was a so-called deliberate airstrike, which can be planned over weeks or months, and there is more time for the coalition to consider and vet the target before it is carried out. The overwhelming majority of coalition strikes — 85 percent — are not deliberately planned strikes, meaning they are planned sometimes over minutes or hours based on some urgent need. Additionally, the coalition had classified this target as an “ISIS headquarters” — which we learned often had to meet the highest thresholds of intelligence and civilian casualty mitigation efforts compared to other targets. So essentially, we chose a case that represented the “best case” scenario — some of the best vetting, planning and intelligence.

The second is Basim as a character. He’s so compelling, so resilient. Having lived in both the U.S. and Iraq, he can provide insight into both worlds, and American readers will understand that. He also spoke fluent English, and compared with many of the other civilian survivors we met, he had networks and contacts that made it possible for him to reach out to the coalition himself. Few Iraqis can do that. Not to mention he had compiled such a degree of evidence, and the video of the strike had been put online. So if even he was unable to clear his name on his own, it gives the reader insight into how difficult it would be for an Iraqi who doesn’t have those connections or language skills.

Q: You state in the article that this is the “least transparent war in recent history.” Why is that?

Anand Gopal: Wars always suffer from a lack of transparency. Every government and every military is opposed to transparency; the extent that their activities are transparent is a function of the activity of third parties — watchdogs, journalists and, most important, social movements. Unlike the previous Iraq war (2003–2011), there has been little media interest in this conflict, and almost no anti-war movement. Partly this may be due to the fact that the enemy is ISIS, which many feel is a group so beyond the pale as to not justify the usual humanitarian concerns in war. And partly this may be due to the fact that there are few boots on the ground, and fewer Americans feel connected to this conflict than any other in recent times. 

Q: You wrote that the military is purposely reporting low numbers on civilian casualties, and that the total is likely 31 times as high as reported. What’s the likely motivation?

Anand Gopal: Since the anti-war movement associated with Vietnam, there has been a norm in this country against killing civilians unnecessarily. The United States portrays its military actions abroad as just and humanitarian; to bolster this perception, there is a strong tendency [for the military] to undercount civilian casualties. More generally, militaries are not normally in the job of tracking how many civilians they kill — this is usually done by journalists, watchdogs and social movements.

Man with dark hair
Anand Gopal

Q: Your investigation revealed that in many of the airstrikes resulting in civilian death, there were no discernible ISIS targets nearby. What do you think is the cause for that?

Azmat Khan: These were likely the misidentification of a civilian target due to either poor or outdated intelligence, which is what happened in Basim’s case. So for example, in one case we knew that an ISIS fighter had left an area about half an hour before the airstrike hit. Half of the civilian death incidents we found were likely the result of such poor or outdated intelligence.