Home Page Display: 

To Thunderbird from Bolivia: Student seizes opportunities to succeed and give back

August 17, 2017

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

What do Bolivia, the United States, Israel, Madagascar and Iran have in common? thunderbird juan carlos Juan Carlos Quiroga '17, Bolivia, Thunderbird Master of Global Management Download Full Image

The answer is right here at Thunderbird: Juan Carlos Quiroga, who is traveling a dynamic path across countries and cultures to pursue his goals in international business development.

Born and raised in La Paz, Bolivia, Quiroga first came to the United States for a study abroad program at the University of Oklahoma. After returning to Bolivia, he tried his hand at entrepreneurship, co-founding an online magazine called Socialité Bolivia. Next came a scholarship from FUNBOLIDER to do a certification at the Leadership Institute in Arlington, Virginia, and Georgetown University to obtain a certification in leadership and global competitiveness.

Quiroga continued to steer his path toward business, later securing an internship in the oil and gas industry in Houston, where within four years he moved up from intern to operations manager. During that time, he had the honor of representing Bolivia as an ambassador at the World Youth Forum, organized by Fundacion de Jovenes Lideres in Argentina.

After this whirlwind of experiences, Quiroga was ready to pursue a master’s degree at Thunderbird.

“Of course, I’m a businessperson so I did my research,” he said. “Thunderbird was in my top three, so I applied to it and the others. But I was always aiming for Thunderbird because I knew what I wanted to achieve and the opportunity Thunderbird would give me in international business.”

Since arriving on campus, Quiroga has kept the same brisk pace of activity.

“I’m a firm advocate of doing things,” he said. He is a campus ambassador, a member of honor council, student government and the Latin American Club, as well as a co-founder of the Bolivia Club. He also recently represented Thunderbird at the International Business Ethics Case Competition in Santa Monica, California, where his 90-second pitch was the winning presentation.

And there’s more to come. In the months ahead, Quiroga will travel to Israel for a Forbes 30-under-30 global summit, networking with about 600 other young leaders, CEOs and start-up founders. He will then travel to Madagascar with Thunderbird Emerging Markets Lab (TEM Lab), a competitive consulting opportunity available to students, to work with Rio Tinto.

“A lot of things are happening,” he said. “Thunderbird gave me the opportunity to meet people from all over the world and to expand my cultural condition and mindset. I believe there’s always room to improve and learn.”

One of those learning experiences came in December 2016 when he traveled to Iran for the first time.

“A fellow T-bird extended an invitation. It wasn’t planned at all. So when I saw myself with my classmate in Tehran, walking around in this bazaar carrying my Thunderbird backpack, I told myself, ‘Wow, what made this happen?’ Somebody opened the doors to his house, to his culture and invited me to discover new places I’d never imagined. It was a really good experience — and it showed me the real Iran.”

Beautiful, complex Bolivia

After graduation in December 2017, Carlos plans to establish himself in the United States for a couple of years.

“I want to work in international business development for the oil and gas industry and in mining,” he said. “Eventually, I would like to go back to Bolivia to transfer all the knowledge that I have.”

Quiroga’s roots run deep in Bolivia and even include a great-grandfather, Felipe Segundo Guzman, who was president of the country in 1925. “Growing up there, it is very family-oriented. I learned the importance of caring about others. My family taught me since I was a little boy and gave me a lot of values and love that made me the person I am today.”

 “I’m focused on expanding and opening minds, and ideally I would like to go back and do that in my country.”

“Bolivia is a beautiful country but a complex country,” Quiroga said. As he sees it, the biggest problem is the mind-set.

“People tend to think 500 years in the past instead of 500 years ahead,” he explained.

“So I think we need to change that mentality. I’m focused on expanding and opening minds, and ideally I would like to go back and do things for my country. I believe that life isn’t just about receiving — you have to give back.”

‘Everything is interconnected’

Quiroga credits his fellow T-birds for helping expand and open his own mind. “You interact with people from all over the world, whether you’re in class or out of class. It’s beautiful, because you learn from so many cultures 24/7.”

He also understands that cultural awareness and global focus can translate into business success.

“We all are somehow immersed in globalization and the internationalization of things,” he said. “When we eat, when we buy, when we do business, we are all exposed to it. Where is the country of origin branding, what emerging markets are we supporting overseas, how do we negotiate with suppliers? Everything is interconnected now.”

“It’s important to know how to negotiate with individuals, always respecting the culture and the people you are doing business with. And thinking locally when you’re doing business, but also having a strategy globally.”

“We all are somehow immersed in globalization … when we eat, when we buy, when we do business, we are all exposed to it.”

Thunderbird is right to emphasize business ethics, he says, because “overseas, there may be regions that are not very regulated. Informal and illegal things can occur, and some people may try to do things under the table. So here we learn the honor code. There are some things to read and some things to just carry in your heart. It’s all important.”

Quiroga looks forward to representing Thunderbird in the upcoming ethics case competition in Santa Monica. “It’s a great opportunity — Thunderbird won first prize last year, so we’re aiming to come back with good news for a second time.”

T-bird ‘brand awareness’

Whether he’s in an ethics case competition, an internship or any other activity, Quiroga is always mindful of Thunderbird “brand awareness.” One appeal of that brand, he said, is that Thunderbird is an unconventional business school.

“It’s a super collaborative environment,” he said. “Of course it’s competitive — that’s healthy. But people help and collaborate in every aspect so all of us can grow as a ‘we.’”

As an example, he points to ThunderLeaf, a campus garden created by fellow T-birds.

“It goes beyond just gardening,” he explained. “Gardening reduces stress, and by reducing stress we increase productivity. We go to the garden to talk, to just sit down in the grass and study. Those little things make Thunderbird great.”

“Wherever I go, I try to reinforce the T-bird brand,” he said. “I feel privileged to be a part of Thunderbird — we’re a family. It is amazing how the T-bird family and culture and values do not disappear over time. And of course that also leverages into business opportunities and networks for the future.”

“We are all here facing the same opportunity. We’re investing our two top resources: time and money,” he said. “If you stay in your room, sleeping all day, you’re not going to have the same experience as people who are involved. Opportunities will not knock at your door— you have to go out and look for them.”

“So if it’s up to you, why not do it?”

ASU welcomes international journalists as Humphrey Fellows

August 16, 2017

A veteran editor who led Uruguay’s largest newspaper, a South African strategic communications executive dedicated to eradicating the legacy of apartheid and a Cambodian reporter who was shot at while covering a story are among the 12 global journalists and communicators studying at Arizona State University.

The professionals are at ASU as part of the Hubert H. Humphrey Fellowship Program at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Humphrey Fellows ASU's Cronkite School welcomes professional journalists and communicators from around the globe as part of the U.S. State Department's Humphrey Fellowship Program. Download Full Image

Each year, the Cronkite School welcomes a cohort of midcareer professionals from around the globe to study journalism, receive leadership training and connect with media organizations as part of the Humphrey Fellowship Program, an initiative of the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.

The 10-month program, which starts this week, is administered by the Institute of International Education. The Cronkite School is the only school in the U.S. hosting a Humphrey Fellowship in Journalism.

“The Humphrey Program brings the world into the Cronkite classroom,” said Assistant Dean B. William Silcock, director of the Cronkite Global Initiatives and curator of the Humphrey program. “Doing so opens doors of understanding and opportunity about the complexities and challenges covering world events in the accurate and ethical manner Walter Cronkite would expect.”

The fellows study under Silcock and participate in classes at the Cronkite School as well as give presentations as part of Cronkite Global Conversations, an annual spring lecture series on global journalism.

They also travel across Arizona and the U.S., sharing their experiences and learning about democracy and journalism. In the final weeks of the program, the fellows test their training by working at professional media organizations across the country.

This year’s fellows have a wide range of professional backgrounds. They are from Bangladesh, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Cambodia, China, Croatia, Egypt, Estonia, Hungary, India, Kenya, South Africa and Uruguay.

Award-winning Cambodian journalist Bopha Phorn said she hopes to gain insights into investigative journalism and explore the economic and political impact of social media, while studying at the Cronkite School. Phorn, who has more than a decade of reporting experience covering crime and corruption, was shot at by military police while reporting on a story on illegal logging.

“The incident made my belief in investigative journalism even stronger,” she said. “Though my work could have ended my life, I believe it is more important than ever to work hard to make sure more and more people believe and take part in journalism."

This is the eighth year that the Cronkite School has hosted the program. Since 2010, 80 journalists and communicators from 53 countries have studied at the school.

Established in 1978, the Humphrey Fellowship Program provides non-degree academic study for experienced professionals from countries undergoing development or political transition. Fifteen major universities host a total of approximately 120 fellows each year.

2017-2018 Humphrey Fellows in Journalism

Martín Aguirre, Uruguay

Martín Aguirre is the newsroom director of El País, the oldest and largest newspaper in Uruguay. With more than 15 years of experience, Aguirre has covered a variety of topics, ranging from politics to sports. He also is a lawyer and a college professor, having taught courses on ethics, freedom of speech and legal regulation of media. Aguirre specializes in regional politics in South America, having published the paper “The Progressive Wave: A Decade of Left Wing Governments in South America.” Aguirre has an undergraduate and master’s degree in law from the Universidad de la República.

Ahmed Elashry, Egypt

Ahmed Elashry has served on the communications teams of three Egyptian prime ministers and has been recognized as one of the “Most Effective Young Arab Leaders” by the Arab League. He currently works at the Middle East Africa Strategic Advisors, where he develops policies for companies and organizations. Elashry has extensive experience in media and communications. He founded a youth-run radio program, coordinated communications for the Women’s International Peace Movement, and co-founded a community newspaper. Elashry has a law degree from Ain Shams University in Egypt and a master’s in public administration and public policy from the University of York in the U.K. as a Chevening scholar.

Daneel Knoetze, South Africa

Daneel Knoetze is the communications officer at Ndifuna Ukwazi, a South African activist organization and law center dedicated to constitutional rights and social justice. His work has included a campaign combating the legacy of apartheid spatial planning through affordable housing development in Cape Town’s inner city. Previously, he worked as a news reporter and features writer for the Cape Argus and GroundUp. He also was a freelancer for the Mail & Guardian. His reporting focused on the struggles of working-class people living in shack settlements on the Cape's urban periphery, evictions, gentrification and the challenges faced by farmworkers in the Cape’s winelands region. Knoetze graduated with an honors degree in journalism and media studies from Rhodes University in 2012. Knoetze hopes to use his time as a Humphrey fellow to develop skills that can assist working-class and marginalize communities to communicate their struggles for equality and justice.

Kazi Mohua, Bangladesh

Kazi Mohua has been a prime-time anchor and current-affairs editor for nearly a decade, anchoring news and talk shows for a 24/7 news channel. Mohua also is an op-ed writer for a national English daily newspaper and a motivational speaker. Her talks focus on empowering women in journalism, and she has helped many women pursue journalism careers in her home country. Mohua holds a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English literature and language from University of Dhaka.

Mila Moralic, Croatia

Mila Moralic is an experienced journalist, with a focus on foreign policy and international affairs. Moralic currently works as an executive editor at Media Servis, the Croatian national radio news agency. With 10-plus years of experience, she has hosted broadcasts and round tables and has taught classes on a wide range of subjects, including democracy and rule of law, voting, minority rights and pluralism. Moralic holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the University of Zagreb.

Paul Udoto Nyongesa, Kenya

Paul Udoto Nyongesa has 20-plus years of experience as a high-school teacher, journalist and communications expert. Nyongesa has written about wildlife and tourism for a variety of publications, including Msafiri (The Traveler), the inflight magazine for Kenya Airways. Nyongesa also is the communications manager for the Kenya Wildlife Service and has been an associate consultant with Impact Africa, a Nairobi-based communications firm. He is a volunteer publicist with Rhino Change, an off-road motorsport fundraising event for environmental conservation. Nyongesa holds a bachelor’s degree in education from Moi University as well as a postgraduate diploma in mass communication and a master’s degree in communication studies, both from the University of Nairobi in Kenya.

Szabolcs Panyi, Hungary

Szabolcs Panyi is a leading investigative journalist at Hungary’s most-read independent news site, Index.hu. There, he has won the Gőbölyös Soma Prize, awarded for the best investigative articles in his country, for two consecutive years in 2015 and 2016. His reporting focuses on anti-corruption and national security-related issues. He has participated in the U.S. State Department’s Edward R. Murrow Program for journalists in 2014 and the U.S. Foreign Press Center's election reporting tour in 2016. Panyi holds a bachelor’s and master’s degrees in philology and literature from the Eotvos Lorand University in Budapest.

Bopha Phorn, Cambodia

Bopha Phorn is an award-winning journalist with more than a decade of experience, covering economics, politics, corruption, crime, security, and environmental and social issues. While working on a story on rampant illegal logging, Phorn was shot at by military police. For her dedication, she received the prestigious Courage in Journalism Award from the International Media Foundation. Phorn started her career at Deutsche Presse Agenteur in 2006 and worked for the Cambodia Daily newspaper from 2008-2014. She currently is a stringer reporter for Voice of America Khmer service and part-time lecturer at Pannasastra University in Phnom Penh. Phorn holds a bachelor’s degree in education in English from the Institute for Business Education.

Marina Ridjic, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Marina Ridjic has been a journalist for more than a decade and is currently a news presenter for Al Jazeera Balkans. Her reporting focuses on politics — in particular campaigns and elections, political marketing and spin. Ridjic has played a key role in helping public institutions in her home country establish communication strategies to promote new partnerships between groups with different ethnic and religious backgrounds. She holds a master’s degree from the Faculty of Political Science in Sarajevo, where she analyzed nationalistic propaganda of political parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Holger Roonemaa, Estonia

Holger Roonemaa is the head of news for Eesti Päevaleht and delfi.ee. Under his leadership, his reporters have won several national journalism awards. Individually, Roonemaa has been nominated for the Journalist of the Year award from his newspaper, the only journalism award event in Estonia, conducted by the Estonian Newspaper Association. With 10-plus years of journalism experience and an expertise in politics, defense and security, corruption and crime, Roonemaa has been involved with several cross-border investigative journalism projects. Roonemaa received a bachelor’s and master’s degree in journalism from the University of Tartu.

Kiran Somvanshi, India

Kiran Somvanshi is the chief manager at the research bureau of India’s leading financial daily, The Economic Times. She has a decade of experience in financial journalism, tracking consumer goods and pharmaceutical companies. Her interests include corporate governance, gender diversity and corporate responsibility. Somvanshi earned her doctorate for her study on the state of Corporate Social Responsibility in Indian Companies from the Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Mumbai. She graduated in psychology as well as law from the Mumbai University. Somvanshi also is a qualified company secretary and cost accountant.

Xiaofeng Wang, China

Xiaofeng Wang is a senior journalist with the Beijing News, where she has worked for six years, covering political and international news with a focus on China’s foreign policy. Wang has traveled to many Asian countries to cover issues in the region, including the Korean peninsula crisis and Fukushima nuclear accident. She holds a master’s degree in politics from the University of Sheffield in the U.K. 

Communications manager, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication


China’s water infrastructure, food-energy-water nexus subject of ASU professor's research

August 11, 2017

The Social Science Research Council’s InterAsia Program recently selected Britt Crow-Miller as an SSRC Transregional Research Junior Scholar fellow for the 2017-2018 year. Crow-Miller is an assistant professor in Arizona State University's School for the Future of Innovation in Society and a senior sustainability scientist with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

Crow-Miller’s SSRC proposal, "The Emerging Geography of Chinese Water Infrastructure: InterAsian and Transregional Connections in the Food-Energy-Water Nexus," was one of only 14 selected for the award from more than 150 eligible initial proposals and 37 finalists. Britt Crow-Miller Britt Crow-Miller, assistant professor at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, during a visit to the South to North Water Transfer Project in China during its construction. Download Full Image

Collectively, her cohort represents five countries, multiple academic disciplines, and 10 different universities. The fellowship supports projects that re-conceptualize research on Asia, especially work that pushes the boundaries of current frameworks for transregional and transnational research.

“I’m excited to be connected with the SSRC,” Crow-Miller said. “The fellowship’s focus on transregional research has allowed me to enter a new space and think about China’s water infrastructure issues in a way that I might not have considered otherwise.”

That new space is the food-energy-water nexus, a holistic framework that allows researchers to consider how all three domains interact, and to manage resource use, trade-offs and synergies within a given system. The nexus is new to Crow-Miller.

“I’ve been thinking about the water-energy-food nexus for a few years now, and the fellowship call triggered a lightbulb,” she said. “China’s water projects are creating new connections across sectors and regions, and right now we just don’t have a good framework for taking that complexity into account.”

Crow-Miller’s research sits at the intersection of politics, environment, development and technology — with a focus on China’s water infrastructure, which she says is part of a fundamentally unsustainable model of water management governed by a mix of corporations, bureaus, universities and government ministries that she and her colleagues have dubbed the “China Water Machine.”

“By taking a critical inventory of the InterAsian and transregional nexus interconnections of Chinese water infrastructure, I expect a complex web of connections to begin to emerge,” she noted in her project proposal.

The huge and still growing Chinese population, along with rapid urbanization and industrialization, has motivated the government to implement massive projects to meet its domestic need.

China’s traditional reliance on “hard path” solutions — characterized by delivery of more water rather than more sustainable use of what is already available — and big, concrete infrastructure projects significantly affect neighboring nations and entire regions that do not share a border with China.

China’s tens of thousands of dams and water-transfer projects — including the world’s largest, the South to North Water Transfer Project — affect flow for everyone downstream.

“China is such a political powerhouse in the region, at this point there’s nothing to really compel them to take downstream interests into serious consideration,” Crow-Miller said.

Meanwhile, China leverages economic and political resources to encourage or coerce nations outside of its region — mainly in South America and Africa — to implement water infrastructure projects similar to its own.

“China has built up the capacity and expertise to implement these water projects at massive scales, but they can only build so many domestically,” she said. “They want to export that expertise for profit.”

Crow-Miller’s interest in China began to emerge when she participated in a study-abroad trip to China in high school. She studied Chinese history and environmental history in college. For her master’s degree, she studied environmental protest movements in modern China before earning her doctorate in geography, where she studied water, development, political geography and political ecology.

In addition to her work in the East, she has also worked on a number of sustainable urban water management projects in cities of the American West. Her background in history gives her a unique perspective that has proven useful in her new faculty position alongside SFIS’s future-focused mission.

“We have to understand where we come from,” she said. “The water management decisions of the past become the inheritance that informs and often constrains the decisions of water managers in the future. Unfortunately, that insight isn’t always part of the conversation, especially in developing countries focused on shorter-term economic growth goals.”

One important output from her research will be a new sustainability index that will be capable of improving outcomes associated with both existing and planned water infrastructure projects.

She hopes her research will encourage decision-makers in water management positions and citizens affected by such projects to foresee how water infrastructure involves impacts beyond water — and beyond their immediate physical proximity.

“When the topic of sustainable development comes up, everyone talks about social, ecological and economic perspectives, but no one has taken a serious look at how those three dimensions interact across sectors, borders and regions when it comes to water infrastructure,” she said. “The index is the end goal of the project and will likely take several years, but when it’s completed I hope it will give us a better picture of what the trade-offs really are by looking at projects all over the world through a more holistic lens.”

Written by Denise Kronsteiner and Adam Gabriele

Denise Kronsteiner

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


image title

ASU prof on the relationship between religion and the media

ASU prof: Society doesn't do good enough job educating ourselves about religion.
Scholars and journalists can help promote a better understanding of religion.
August 10, 2017

Exchange program with university in Pakistan seeks to promote greater understanding between religious scholars, journalists

The ideals of a presidential candidate, the histories of persecuted peoples and the motives behind terror attacks are all things that can be better understood with a knowledge of the religions that influence them. That knowledge is especially important for those whose task it is to communicate those ideals, histories and motives to a vast audience.

“At a time when political forces at home and around the world are questioning and attacking the academy and the media, the work these institutions perform is more important than ever,” said John Carlson, director of Arizona State University’s Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict.

The center has touched on the relationship between religion and journalism as part of its exchange program with the University of the Punjab in Lahore, Pakistan, and just this summer was awarded a grant from the Henry Luce Foundation that will allow them to zero in even further through the Luce/American Council of Learned Societies Program in Religion, Journalism and International Affairs.

The program seeks to promote greater understanding between religious scholars and journalists who report and write about religion. To that end, the center will be partnering with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU to develop faculty workshops, curricula and public events that will enable journalists and scholars of religion to interact and learn from each other.

“Both academics and journalists are writers and interpreters of culture, but they do it on different timelines and using different tools,” Carlson said. “Both professions should be committed to improving knowledge about religion in ways that are meaningful and accessible to the larger public.”

As an associate professor of religious studies at ASU, Carlson teaches courses that look at religion in relation to war and peace, as well as such issues as sexuality, the environment and bioethics. In the following Q&A, he provided ASU Now with some insights on the relationship between religion and the media.

man at front of classroom pointing to whiteboard
John Carlson lectures students in his religion, war and peace class at ASU. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Question: What would you say are some of the most widely reported on religions in the media today, and why?

Answer: Any religious group or tradition that finds itself the topic of a major news story can expect to attract significant attention from journalists. When Mitt Romney was running for president, there was great media interest in Mormonism. Viewers, readers and listeners who knew very little about Mormonism wanted to learn more, including how it was relevant to Romney’s candidacy. When the Yazidis were being persecuted in Iraq, journalists and others realized they needed to learn about this relatively unknown Christian sect. And of course, after 9/11, there was a massive effort to deepen our understanding of Islam — one of the world’s largest and most influential religious traditions. Since then, because of terrorist groups like al-Qaeda, ISIS, Boko Haram (Nigeria) and al-Shabab (Somalia), there has been extensive coverage and certainly scrutiny of Islam — more so than many other traditions.

The problem with this approach — using “newsworthy” events as the basis for why and how journalists cover religion — is that the public doesn’t learn about religious peoples, traditions, institutions and histories on their own terms. Instead, religious topics are framed through the limited context of a current event. Rarely do major events provide a well-developed context for introducing the public to a religious group or peoples, including what aspects of their culture and identity are “religious” — or what aspects are not.

Q: Do you think when one religion is especially prominent in the media that journalists should focus more on learning about that particular religion as opposed to others?

A: This approach has its strengths and weaknesses. To go back to an earlier example, it would have been a grave mistake not to cover Romney’s Mormonism, including attention to some basics of what Mormons believe, the history of the faith and how it is similar to and different from Protestantism and Catholicism. If anything, though, I’d say the coverage was too fleeting. I doubt that most Americans, for example, know significantly more about Mormonism today than they did before the 2012 election.

This points to a deeper problem, though — one that affects journalists but has deeper roots than the media. Namely, as a society, we don’t do a very good job educating ourselves or our children about religion.

The distinction I am making here is learning about religion vs. religious instruction. That is, for the most part, we don’t teach about religion in our public schools. Within the modern university, many academic disciplines in the humanities and social sciences write religion out of the curriculum — deferring the topic to religious studies departments or divinity schools. Furthermore, many college students never take a course in religious studies, let alone major in it. These are the institutions in which journalists are trained and educated. So, as a society, we’ve got our work cut out for us at multiple levels: schools, universities and, yes, the media too. I’d also say that many churches and other religious institutions have not focused on education as seriously as they used to. That doesn’t help the situation.

Q: What is unique about the way the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict is addressing some of the issues you raise?

A: The center, working closely with religious studies faculty and faculty in many other parts of the university, has undertaken extensive efforts over the past decade to deepen understanding of how religion impacts society and international affairs. Through a variety of interdisciplinary efforts — including research grants and programs, public dialogues and courses with these colleagues — we have tried to “mainstream religion” across the disciplines in ways that more accurately reflect religion’s influence in our world.

On one hand, that means not assuming religion is confined to sites of worship on a given day of the week. On the other hand, that means understanding that religion is not the sole or determinative cause that propels current events and issues — especially where violence is concerned. Consequently, we work in a complicated gray area, trying to understand the religious intersections of culture, politics, gender, race, justice, violence and peace. And we are working with journalists who want to explore these areas too.

Q: You have a few specific programs in which you are working with journalists. Please talk about your partnership with Punjab University.

A: We are currently administering a grant, funded by the U.S. State Department, to partner with Punjab University faculty from journalism and other fields. What is unique about this project is our interdisciplinary team. Led by Assistant Professor Chad Haines, the project team includes faculty from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies; the School of Politics and Global Studies; and the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Throughout the semester, PU scholars present their work to the ASU team to receive feedback for improving their research. An extended network of faculty from other units — such as the School of Social Transformation, School of Sustainability, and the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center — fleshes out this advisory cohort. Through this collaborative review process, PU and ASU faculty advance a conversation in which issues of religion, cross-cultural research and public dissemination are engaged. American and Pakistani participants alike become more aware of how issues of religion and culture are involved in the research process and, in turn, how the findings of their research can be better presented to the media.

Q: How will the ACLS/Luce grant you’ve recently received try to address some of the problems you mention? Why is it important for both journalists and religion scholars to have a good understanding of each other?

A: The Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict was just awarded a grant through this program in Religion, Journalism and International Affairs. I will be working with my colleagues Kristin Gilger and others from the Cronkite School, as well as Anand Gopal, a journalist and assistant research professor in the center, to help increase journalists’ understanding of religion. The project also helps scholars who study religion learn skills for engaging with the media.

One of the biggest challenges in the academic study of religion is its complexity. That is, the study of religion engages so many levels and benefits from different approaches — textual studies, history, theology and ethics, anthropology, politics, gender studies. We can’t just study religion in a textual vacuum or through a doctrinal microscope. The lived experience of religion – of peoples and cultures in different regions of the world and in different historical periods — is crucial. It can be hard for scholars to take their vast repository of detailed knowledge and present it in a pithy sound bite or to fit their nuanced knowledge of an issue into a narrative taking form by a journalist writing on deadline.

Our goal for this project is, first, to help scholars and journalists better understand one another’s professions — their different strengths and limitations. Both academics and journalists are writers and interpreters of culture, but they do it on different timelines and using different tools. Both professions should be committed to improving knowledge about religion in ways that are meaningful and accessible to the larger public.

Through this collaborative exchange, we also hope to achieve a second aim, which is to strengthen these two vital institutions of civil society. At a time when political forces at home and around the world are questioning and attacking the academy and the media, the work these institutions perform is more important than ever.

Q: How do you think the rise of secularism will affect the media’s coverage of news that deals with religion?

A: Well, that’s a complicated question. While there may be fewer Americans today who describe themselves as religious in the traditional, institutional sense, there is an increase in those who identify as “spiritual, but not religious.” Additionally, many immigrants bring deep reservoirs of faith with them when they come to the United States. Whether implicitly or explicitly, religion is woven deeply into our national heritage, history, culture and even our laws. Finally, scholars note that religion is growing around the world, not declining. Consequently, it can be misleading to say that secularism is rising.

That said, you are right that certain secularist assumptions have become more widespread and engrained within certain institutions such as the media and the academy. That is why it is all the more important for journalists to think about how they approach and cover religion stories and for religion scholars to pay careful attention to how religion is discussed in the media and in scholarship. And both need to work together to learn ways to contribute to accurate, in-depth reporting of religion.

image title

New ASU Online course to provide historical context of global migrations

In relation to migration, there's a long history of scapegoating certain peoples
Historical context provides a better understanding of today's migration issues
August 3, 2017

Alexander Avina grew up the son of undocumented Mexican migrants in California, constantly aware that at any moment his parents could be deported, leaving him and his siblings, all American-born, to fend for themselves.

Fortunately, that never happened. But migration, the reasons people do it and the complications associated with it were concepts he became intimately acquainted with at an early age. Later, they became subjects of inquiry and research. Now, they are relevant knowledge he will impart in a new Arizona State University online graduate course this fall called Global Migrations.

“There’s a political and intellectual urgency to teaching this class now, in this moment,” Avina said, “considering the stigmatization of migrants from Mexico and Latin America, and the ongoing refugee crisis in Europe.”

When Avina joined ASU in 2016 as an associate professor of history, facultyAvina said School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies Professors Matthew Garcia and Penelope Moon were instrumental in the creation of the new online Global Migrations course. in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies were already discussing the need for a course that considered the historical context of migration on a global level, looking at how it has affected and continues to affect politics, economics, society and culture. As the year progressed and new political landscapes unfolded, ideation became imperative reality.

The 7.5-week courseGlobal Migrations is a Fall 2017 Session B course, beginning Oct. 11. Students can register for the course through the start date. is the first of its kind at ASU. It is unique in that it was created as part of the PLuS Alliance, a tri-continental partnership between ASU, King’s College London and the University of New South Wales in Australia that aims to address global challenges and expand access to world-class learning through online programs.

This fall, the course will feature interviews with faculty from King’s College London about the current state of migration in Europe. As the class progresses, Avina hopes to integrate faculty from UNSW Australia, as well. The goal is for students to gain a more holistic understanding of human migration by learning about what it looks like in various parts of the world, from experts witnessing it firsthand.

Though contemporary issues of global migration will certainly play a role in the curriculum, Avina wants his students to come away from the course knowing that migration and related concepts, like borders and empires, have “long, historical antecedents.”

man with camera filming man speaking
School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies Associate Professor Alexander Avina (right) films footage for his Fall 2017 Global Migrations online graduate course at the U.S.-Mexico border in Douglas, Arizona. Photo by Erica May

“There’s a dialectical relationship between the past and the present,” he said. “The past never goes away; it continues to shape and influence political policies and decisions that are made today.”

In April of this year, Avina traveled to Douglas, Arizona, to take footage of the U.S.-Mexico border so that students could get an idea of what it really looks like. A local rancher served as his guide, pointing out a spot where there were two or three conflicting border markers; it’s evidence, Avina said, of the reason behind a common sentiment among many Mexican migrants that “we didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us.”

“Borders are fictitious, artificial creations that come out of processes of military conquests and political power, but they have real, material consequences, and in many cases, people are victims of that,” Avina said, adding that today, those victims include citizens of Europe, where the refugee crisis has had huge consequences.

Four main themes will be explored throughout the course, with readings, discussions and videos as supplement. The four themes are: empire, borders, detention and exclusion.

“By giving historical context to those concepts and processes, hopefully we’ll give students a more nuanced understanding as to why these issues have such saliency and political power in the present day,” Avina said.

image title

Thunderbird students take part in #YouAreWelcomeHere movement

July 28, 2017

The national #YouAreWelcomeHere campaign, promoted by NAFSA Association of International Educators, affirms a shared commitment to provide a diverse, supportive and safe environment to all students. Thunderbird continues to extend a warm welcome to international students.


Top photo: Fungai Mandaza, '17, Master of Global Management, Thunderbird School of Global Management.

Marketing associate director , Thunderbird School of Global Management


ASU grad student co-directs Ghana study abroad program

July 27, 2017

Arizona State University student Alicia Ellis’s trip to Ghana this summer was two-pronged.

First, a co-director was needed to assist in leading an undergraduate study abroad program — one of more than 250 in more than 65 countries organized by the ASU Study Abroad Office. Students can participate in programs as short as a week, as long as a year and everything in between for academic credit. Alicia Ellis's trip to Ghana provided the political science grad student an opportunity to meet sources and build a network as she began to look into case studies for her dissertation. Download Full Image

Second, traveling to Ghana provided the political science graduate student an opportunity to meet sources and build a network as she began to look into case studies for her dissertation on the relationship between the political economy of agriculture and democratic accountability.

When discussing a typical day on the trip in Ghana, Ellis highlighted the fact that every day the group was best served by “planning for the unexpected.”

The group would go on academic visits so that they could see in person the topics they were studying in their Politics, Culture and Society course that they took while in Ghana. 

An example of this was when the group toured the W.E.B. DuBois Museum and Cultural Center. In the classroom the students learned about W. E. B. DuBois, a Pan-Africanist and pre-eminent scholar of race and power in the 20th century and one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples (NAACP). The museum, which is now a mecca for the world-wide African Diaspora, showcased his grave and the house where DuBois lived and studied.

Students can read and study these topics in the U.S. but actually experiencing them first hand is “mind blowing,” according to the program director and political science professor, Okechukwu Iheduru.

While it was difficult to choose just one stand-out experience of the trip, Ellis made a point to describe the personal connections she and the group made while in Accra, Ghana’s capital city, and Kumasi. A connection in Accra, her Uber driver for a trip around town, pointed her in the direction of a woman in Kumasi who ran a cocoa farm and a preschool. She described eating a palm soup with dough and fish, being told to use her hands. She also joked about being teased by the woman as she struggled to eat the soup, fondly describing the atmosphere within the small farm.

While visiting the city of Kumasi, the group was fortunate enough to attend the Akwasedie ceremony at the Asantehene’s (king’s) palace. This event marks the end of the Ashanti 42-day calendar month and features every sub chief and leader who must attend to pay homage to the king. While typically visitors sit in stands to view the ceremony, the study abroad group were treated as special guests. Each student had the pleasure of personally bowing to the king who was dressed in all gold traditional regalia.

Ellis said that this trip reaffirmed something she had learned from serving abroad in the past: humanity is the same despite geographic location. When arriving in a foreign nation with a starkly contrasting culture, it is easy to focus on the differences. But the fact is that humanity is continuous despite borders and distance — people have love, families, aspirations, and desires everywhere.

Now that she is back, Ellis is planning her next steps in completing her dissertation. Next summer she hopes to return to her newly-established network in Ghana, following up on a case study for her research.

Matt Oxford

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Politics and Global Studies


image title

Young African leaders learn about successes, challenges of solving problems in America

Young African leaders find innovation during fellowship at ASU.
July 25, 2017

ASU hosts 50 Mandela Fellows in 6-week State Department program

A group of young African leaders has been visiting Arizona to learn how American institutions collaborate to solve problems — and also how sometimes they fail.

Arizona State University is among several universities that are hosting the Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders, an intensive six-week program of academic work and community service. This is the fourth year of the fellowship program, begun in 2014 as the main part of the Young African Leaders Initiative in the U.S. Department of State. The 50 fellows at ASU are from 28 countries in Africa and are in one of two study cohorts: civic leadership and public management.

“It’s eye-opening for them to see the continuing issues we’re dealing with in the U.S.,” according to Alberto Olivas, the academic director for the civic leadership group. Olivas is executive director of the Congressman Ed Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions at ASU, which is hosting the program.

“A lot of them are surprised that we’re as frank as we are about the challenges we’re still dealing with in terms of racism. Homelessness as an issue has been very surprising for them,” he said.

“It’s good for them to see that not everything is perfect in America, but here’s what we’re working on and here’s what we’ve learned so far in confronting these issues of race and class and historical conflicts,” Olivas said.

The fellows are between the ages of 25 and 35 and are selected based on their accomplishments in their home countries. Many own their own businesses, lead nonprofit organizations or teach. While here, each scholar develops a project that he or she can implement back in the home community. They also learn practical skills, such as marketing strategies and the best way to write a grant application.

Video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Labran Alio Maidoukia is a fire captain in charge of security at a uranium processing plant in Niger, a French-speaking country in west Africa.

“Uranium is like our bank account. So I’m in charge of the safety of our bank account,” he said.

Maidoukia was hired by the United Nations to work with other countries in Africa on developing a response plan for terrorist attacks.

“I am a fire captain, so I don’t have public management and policy skills. That’s what I’m looking for here,” he said.

The fellows are meeting with several community organizations including the Tucson Urban League, Ability 360 and Native American Connections.

“The Tucson Urban League CEO was very frank and open with them about the struggles the organization has had and her efforts to turn around the organization to be on more solid footing,” Olivas said. “It was very practical for them, and they asked a lot of questions.”

The fellows have also had fun. The group has visited the Grand Canyon, Kartchner Caverns, the Musical Instrument Museum and an adventure course in Flagstaff.

Shaakira Chohan, who is an architect in Johannesburg, South Africa, said the rope course taught her a lesson about leadership.

“I’m an active person, and I like the outdoors. I took it for granted that it was something everyone would be excited to do,” she said. “Then I saw firsthand that some people were genuinely scared. So instead of moving quickly through the course, I realized that it was a role I could play to help people use their bodies to move forward, so it became about teamwork.”

The brutal summer heat has been challenging for some of the scholars. Chohan said that as an architect, she was surprised by Phoenix.

“It’s a desert climate but yet as I walk around the city, I haven’t seen a particularly responsive design, with elements like shading. Why is there so much tarmac?” she said.

“I’m looking to learn how we increase effective community participation in our design so it doesn’t happen from the top down but is reflective of the culture.” 

Olivas said that he has had to gather a lot of local expertise in his role as academic director.

“It’s been a rediscovery of how rich this community is in expertise and talent and heart, and it’s been an opportunity to create new networks of mutual support within ASU and local institutions,” he said.

“And having the Mandela program here gives our community leaders an opportunity to have a global impact by sharing what they know.”

Top photo: Simphiwe Petunia Dube, a Mandela fellow from Swaziland, makes her way across a ropes course during a leadership training exercise at Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course on June 26. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


image title

ASU students work with Himalayan farmers on irrigation solutions

ASU students help Himalayan farmers support their farms beyond the monsoon.
July 14, 2017

Solar-powered system helps provide water beyond the annual rainy season

In the Hindu Kush Himalaya region, an area that extends 3,500 kilometers across eight nations including Nepal and India, approximately 210 million smallholder farmers engage in a practice known as rain-fed agriculture. However, 80 percent of the annual rainfall in the area occurs during the annual four-month monsoon, so costly infrastructure is required to transport water from distant sources during the rest of the year.

This summer, a group of 11 Arizona State University sustainability and engineering students enrolled in a study abroad course organized through the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives that implemented solutions-based projects to help local farmers support their farms year-round instead of having to migrate to lowlands or to other countries as seasonal laborers. The program was coordinated through ASU's Study Abroad Office. The ASU students were partners with five students from the Tribhuvan University Institute of Engineering in Kathmandu. 

The course, Grassroots Innovation for Sustainable Development, was developed through GlobalResolve. The student workers, who traveled to a community in the buffer zone around Nepal’s Chitwan National Park, developed hardware during the spring semester and then deployed it while they were onsite in June.

“This class cooperates with local farmers to combine existing irrigation and solar technologies to provide a refreshing shortcut for the region’s food and energy challenges,” said Netra Chhetri, associate professor and senior sustainability scientist at ASU. “With assured water supply, these farmers can plan their crops better and grow offseason vegetables that fetch four times more value than cereals, which are the current crops being harvested.”

To address the irrigation challenge, the class integrated a solar-powered lift irrigation system in the community of Kuleni. Due to declining costs of producing solar panels and solar integrator pumps, solar lift irrigation has the capacity to double the productivity and income of more than 25 smallholder farmers. A 10-kilowatt solar array that pumps approximately 7,100 cubic feet of groundwater per day from a 158-foot-deep aquifer has the potential to irrigate about 50 acres of land throughout the year.

Support for the installation, including $20,000 in material costs, was provided by the Kuleni community and a local private company, Sunbridge Solar Nepal. A Nepalese NGO, Local Initiatives for Biodiversity Research and Development, helped to identify the community.

Using a cellphone link and antenna, the system operation is monitored remotely from Kathmandu by Sunbridge Solar so they can identify problems and call local technicians for repairs without the difficult and costly commute from Kathmandu. Sunbridge also provided maintenance training to the farmers.

“Over the decade of experience that I have working in agriculture and rural development in this region, I have learned two things: Smallholder farmers have the ability to feed themselves but they cannot do it alone, and that technological and social innovation customized to location-specific needs of smallholder farmers can be part of the solution to lift people out of poverty, empower communities and ultimately contribute to regional geopolitical stabilization,” Chhetri said.

This program is one of more than 250 offered in more than 65 different countries around the world through the ASU Study Abroad Office. Students can participate in programs as short as a week, as long as a year and nearly anything in between to earn academic credit. For more information about study abroad programs, visit the Study Abroad Office website: https://mystudyabroad.asu.edu/

Top photo courtesy of ASU/Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives/GlobalResolve

Jason Franz

Senior manager, Marketing and Communications , Walton Sustainability Solutions Initiatives


image title

McCain Institute's Kurt Volker talks about what's ahead in new role as Ukraine envoy

July 13, 2017

A former ambassador to NATO, he will work with both sides of urgent, deadly conflict

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has seen a chance for progress in the conflict in Ukraine and has tapped Kurt Volker, executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership, a unit of Arizona State University, to work with both sides in the peace process.

Kurt Volker

Volker was named a special representative for Ukraine negotiations on July 7 and immediately traveled to Kiev with Tillerson, meeting the president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko, and other key players.

Ukraine and Russia have been in a violent conflict since 2014, after Russia annexed Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula. The fighting has cost some 10,000 lives. Volker is working on convincing both sides to comply with the Minsk Agreement, a blueprint for ending the tensions that was negotiated by France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia.

“This conflict has been around for over three years, and there are still daily cease-fire violations,” Volker said. “There are still people dying. In fact, more people died in 2017 than in prior years. It’s still an urgent issue that needs to be addressed.”

Volker has worked in the U.S. Foreign Service, as a legislative fellow on the staff of Sen. John McCain, as acting director for European and Eurasian Affairs for the National Security Council, and was appointed U.S. ambassador to NATO by President George W. Bush in 2008.

Volker answered some questions from ASU Now in between trips to Kiev.

Question: How did Secretary Tillerson come to appoint you to this role?

Answer: I had met Secretary Tillerson on a number of occasions from when he was preparing for his own confirmation hearing and also since he’s become secretary of state.

In getting to know him, he asked me if I would be willing to take on this role of giving a new impetus to the negotiations to resolve the conflict in Ukraine.

Q: Are you doing the nitty-gritty work of diplomacy in this position?

A: In the sense of traveling and meeting and trying to find solutions with all of the stakeholders, that’s what I’m doing. If it’s sitting at a table and scrubbing a text, adding and deleting, that’s not what I’m personally doing a lot of.

The issue is fundamentally a political issue rather than a textual issue. The reason there is conflict in Ukraine is not that there is something wrong with the text.

We need to tackle this issue at a strategic level, not a textual level.

Q: With whom did you meet?

A: On this visit to Ukraine I accompanied Secretary of State Tillerson. I stayed on after his departure and had meetings with the president, prime minister, several members of parliament, several ambassadors, the civil societyThe civil society refers to the non-governmental organizations and institutions that work for the citizens of a country., the Red Cross, the International Organization of Migration. I also had a number of meetings at the U.S. Embassy with our ambassador, Marie Yovanovitch.

I had a lot of meetings to understand who all the players are in Ukraine and to touch base with them directly and understand the shape of the conflict and what’s been done already.

Q: Will you be returning to Ukraine?

A: In order to carry out this responsibility, I’m going to travel a fair amount. I have not yet visited the line of contact, the cease-fire line in Ukraine. I expect to go back in 10 days to do that. In addition I’ll need to speak with the other players.

It will be an intensive period over the next several weeks because there is a sense of momentum right now.

Changing the status quo and really getting a settlement in Ukraine is something we’ll be able to figure out in a year or so, or less. It’s not going to be something that drags out forever.

Q: Have you been to Ukraine before?

A: I’ve worked on Ukraine as a substantive issue in terms of its reform, its integration into Europe and NATO, and I have many friends and contacts in Ukraine as a result of that. A lot of this is not new, but it’s the first time I visited there.

Q: Will you remain executive director of the McCain Institute?

A: Yes. Secretary Tillerson asked me to take on this responsibility, and I’m happy to do so and I’m doing it on a voluntary basis without compensation.

The McCain Institute was created as a “do tank” and we want to get our hands dirty and actually solve our problems, and so taking on this responsibility is very consistent with that approach at the McCain Institute.


Top photo: St. Andrews Church, Kiev, Ukraine. Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now