ASU News

Digital Performance Lab designed to keep creatives in Arizona

June 26, 2015

Arizona is suffering a drain of young artists and creative designers leaving for more arts-friendly areas. But a Phoenix-based ensemble is hoping to invigorate the local small-theater landscape with cutting-edge technology for the stage and a dynamic place to showcase their talents.

To get there, they’ll need to find funding and financial support from the community. Orange Theatre Digital Performance Lab Matthew Watkins (on stage, second from left), artistic director of Orange Theatre – a residency led by ASU alumni – takes questions after the demonstration of Orange Theatre's Digital Performance Lab technology on June 25 at the Lyceum Theatre on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by: Courtney Pedroza/ASU News Download Full Image

Phoenix’s Orange Theatre is a residency led by ASU alumni that brings together digital media designers, developers and actors to collaborate on the creation of new, interactive technologies for the stage and performing arts.

“One of the reasons we formed is because we have a lot of experience in digital media and the theater but very little financial support from the community,” said Matthew Watkins, Orange Theatre’s artistic director and a 2010 ASU graduate. “It’s the reason why a lot of people end up leaving Phoenix.”

Watkins said that although Phoenix is the fifth-largest city in the country, Arizona is 50th when it comes to arts funding. He said he has seen talented Valley-based artists leave for well-paying jobs in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Seattle and London.  

Made up of seven ASU alumni and two artists in residency, Orange Theatre recently launched a new initiative called the Digital Performance Lab to attract and retain young creatives to do exciting work without leaving the state.

After the Arizona Commission on the Arts put its Art Tank initiative on hold, Orange Theatre is asking the public for funding to support its programming and ideas. In January, Orange Theatre received a $10,000 prize from the Art Tank but now needs additional funding to bring its “revolutionary” wireless 3-D tracking system to market.

“With funding we could easily do this in three to six months,” Watkins said. “Without funding, considerably longer.”

On June 25, members of the ensemble held a free public demonstration of their work at ASU’s Lyceum Theatre on the Tempe campus. Actors and designers demonstrated a network of portable, matchbook-size wireless sensors that allows instant triggering of complex lighting, sound and media cues and creates a more interactive and exciting theater experience for actors and audience members alike.

The system would allow for a less expensive stage tech setup, which would benefit small theaters that often have smaller budgets. For example, high-quality projections of scene backgrounds could take the place of a physical set that must be built and painted, and a less instrusive microphone assembly would allow for better sound.

“This technology adds another paintbrush to use as a tool to execute a design,” said Ian Shelanskey, an Interdisciplinary Digital Media and Performance graduate student in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

“Custom technology in theater will be as cutting-edge as Computer-Aided Design was to architecture. It can make a presentation really come to life.”

It also adds a little spice to an actor’s performance, according to Katrina Donaldson, who along with Carrie Fee and William Crook performed a scene from Federico Garcia Lorca’s “Blood Wedding” as part of the demonstration.

“I’m excited for all of the possibilities this system can bring to a production,” Donaldson said. “A small movement by me on stage could trigger a tidal wave of chaos, and having that secret knowledge makes it kind of fun.”

The company plans to make the software and hardware developed in the Digital Performance Lab available to other independent performing-arts groups at an affordable price.

Future plans for the lab include an education program that teaches best practices for actor-designer collaboration and a digital performance resource library based in Phoenix. Pending other future funding, the company hopes to make the residency an annual program.

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU News

Big man, big legacy: Artwork of 'Big Al' Carter comes to ASU

June 25, 2015

An artist who refused labels, Allen "Big Al" Carter fused styles and invented techniques to share his vision with the world.

More than 80 of his powerful paintings, sculptures, drawings and assemblages are on view this summer at the ASU Art Museum, thanks to Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts Dean Steven J. Tepper. portrait of Allen "Big Al" Carter painting The late Allen "Big Al" Carter was classically trained, but the artist presented himself as an outsider to the fine arts world, someone who was just “trying stuff” and “messing around.” Photo by: D.A. Peterson Download Full Image

Tepper first met Allen “Big Al” Carter in 1992, when Tepper commissioned the artist to create a mural for the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s 200th anniversary.

“I knew, from the beginning, that I was in the presence of an epic creative force whose work would leave a huge legacy,” Tepper said. Standing 6 feet, 4 inches tall, “Al had a big laugh, a big personality, a big imagination, a big heart and immense talent.”

Over the course of the next decade and a half years, Tepper visited Carter’s studio in Virginia every chance he got, “enveloping myself in more than 10,000 works of art, crammed into a 750-square-foot house,” Tepper said. The two men became friends.

After Carter died of complications from diabetes in 2008, his daughters allowed Tepper, who was then the associate director of the Curb Center for Art, Enterprise and Public Policy at Vanderbilt University, to curate the first posthumous exhibition of their father’s life’s work. The show opened at the Curb Center in 2010.

Now Tepper is bringing Carter’s unique vision to ASU’s Tempe campus. Featuring more than 80 pieces, “Big Al: Larger Than Life” opened June 6 at the ASU Art Museum, with additional works to be displayed in Dixie Gammage Hall, which houses the dean’s office, later in the summer.

“I am honored to share [this exhibition] with our community,” Tepper said. "Allen Carter was a prolific painter whose life and work represents the very best ideals that we are advancing at the Herberger Institute.”

“While Big Al was classically trained,” Tepper explained, “he was constantly fusing styles and media and inventing techniques. He was an artist-teacher, an artist-citizen and an artist-community builder. His work drew powerfully from his own experiences but was always deeply connected to exploring and investigating central issues of our times — poverty, inequality, suffering and family.”

As Tepper writes in an essay that accompanies the show, Carter presented himself as an outsider to the fine arts world, someone who was just “trying stuff,” “messing around” and “having fun.” But Carter was also someone who had earned his BFA from the Columbus College of Art and Design in Ohio, pursued graduate work at American University, received critical acclaim from critics in Washington and New York, and exhibited at the Corcoran Gallery of Art and the Freer Gallery of Art, both in Washington, D.C.; the Virginia Museum of Art in Richmond; and the Southeastern Center for Contemporary Art in in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.

Carter refused labels of any kind, Tepper notes, but was keenly aware of technique and had a firm grasp of artistic tradition. His influences included James McNeill Whistler, Henri Matisse, Robert Rauschenberg, Elijah Pierce, Sam Gilliam and artists from Black Mountain College, including Josef Albers. He worked in a wide variety of media: painting, drawing, murals, printmaking, sculpture and photography, as well as in multimedia constructions.

Growing up in the public-housing complexes of Virginia in the ‘50s, Carter was driven by a passion to draw everything he saw. It was not a passion his parents encouraged, Carter told The Washington Post in 2006, but “I was gifted in art, so I never stopped. There weren’t any gifted and talented programs back when I was coming up. So they all just thought I was weird.”

Carter remained true to the beat of his own dream, and to art, for the rest of his life. Not interested in prestigious dealers or conventional ideas of success, he made his living teaching art in Virginia’s public schools for decades. He also declined to date most of his work, partly because he was bad with dates, partly because he liked to continue working on the pieces, and partly because, as Tepper writes, “He did not want his life set down in a neat chronology or simple narrative.”

As Carter himself put it, “My art is my freedom.”

“Big Al: Larger Than Life” runs June 6-Aug. 22 at the ASU Art Museum. It was curated by Dana and Steven J. Tepper and designed by Stephen Johnson, chief preparator at the ASU Art Museum. All works in the exhibition are on loan from Flora Stone and Cecilia Carter. The exhibition is supported by the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and by the Evelyn Smith Exhibition Fund. 

ASU News

Chapter 2: More ASU summer reading recommendations

June 23, 2015

A good book can make the long, hot days of summer a bit more bearable.

A few weeks ago, we ran the first installment of our summer reading recommendations from faculty and staff around ASU. There's no shortage of hot weather left, so here's a second group of book ideas to enjoy by the pool or curled up in the air-conditioning. Find a comfy chair and dig in. ASU Student at Library A good book can make the long, hot days of summer more bearable. Take our list from round 2 of ASU faculty and staff recommended books to your local library and dig in. Photo by: Charlie Leight/ASU News

‘The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,’ by Rebecca Skloot

Henrietta Lacks was a poor Black tobacco farmer whose cells – taken without her knowledge in 1951 – became one of the most important tools in medicine, vital for developing the polio vaccine, cloning, gene mapping and more. Lacks’ cells, referred to as HeLa cells, have been bought and sold by the billions, yet she remains virtually unknown and her family can't afford health insurance. This phenomenal New York Times best-seller tells a riveting story of the collision between ethics, race and medicine; of scientific discovery and faith healing; and of a daughter consumed with questions about the mother she never knew. – Group recommendation from the College of Health Solutions

‘Diffusion of Innovations,’ by Everett M. Rogers

The QWERTY keyboard that’s probably in front of you as you read this is incredibly inefficient. It was actually designed to slow typists down to prevent keys from jamming in the era of typewriters. Have you ever heard of a Dvorak keyboard? It was created to allow for much faster typing based on a series of rigorous studies, a true evidence-based keyboard. So why does no one use it? Rogers provides an incredibly detailed account of why some good ideas get adopted and others seem to get ignored. Using a number of fascinating stories and case studies, he explores the characteristics of innovations that are embraced by organizations and why some new technologies quickly diffuse. The book is essential reading for anyone interested in how change happens in criminal justice agencies or elsewhere. – Cody Telep, assistant professor, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions

‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ by Harper Lee

During a summer when we are again confronted by the unfortunate reality of racism in American society, this classic would make a good addition to any summer reading list. (It will also be a good refresher before the July 14 release of Lee’s much-heralded second book, “Go Set a Watchman,” featuring many of the “Mockingbird” characters 20 years after the events of that book.) – Don McLaughlin, PhD alumnus

‘Mountains Beyond Mountains,’ by Tracy Kidder

The true story of a gifted man who loves the world and has set out to do all he can to cure it.
In medical school, Paul Farmer found his life’s calling: to cure infectious diseases and to bring the lifesaving tools of modern medicine to those who need them most. Kidder’s magnificent account takes us from Harvard to Haiti, Peru, Cuba and Russia as Farmer changes minds and practices through his dedication to the philosophy that “the only real nation is humanity.” – Group recommendation from the College of Health Solutions

‘Inside the O’Briens’ and ‘Still Alice,’ both by Lisa Genova

“Inside the O’Briens’ is the story of a Boston family with a dad newly diagnosed with Huntington’s disease, exploring the impact on the four grown children (one with a newly pregnant wife) and how they cope with deciding whether to learn if they test positive for the disease. Also by Genova, “Still Alice” tells the story of a famous linguistics professor coping with early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. It was turned into a film last year starring Oscar winner Julianne Moore, but the book is so much better than the movie! – Linda Vaughan, director of the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion and professor of nutrition, College of Health Solutions

‘Walden,’ by Henry David Thoreau

This classic memoir summarizes Thoreau’s two years of living in the “woods” as he confronts the essentials of life.  Written in an older prose during the American Romantic era, Thoreau was deeply influenced by transcendentalist philosophy.  Throughout the book, he skillfully weaves philosophy, spirituality, independence, self-reliance, closeness to nature, and simple living.  His quotes such as “simply simplify” or “we can never have enough of nature” allows us to contemplate our place in the larger scheme of things.  A century and a half later, Walden continues to inspire generations.  This is a must read for anyone building a personal philosophy of life. – Megha Budruk, associate professor, School of Community Resources and Development, College of Public Service and Community Solutions

‘A Sand County Almanac,’ by Aldo Leopold

This is another classic that has deeply shaped the American conservation movement by treating ecology as a science and introducing the idea of ethics or a responsible relationship between humans and nature.  The book contains several essays of which “Thinking Like a Mountain” is perhaps best known for its description of Leopold’s wolf hunting experience.  Through his work, Leopold encourages us to build a value system in relation to our natural world. – Megha Budruk, associate professor, School of Community Resources and Development in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions

‘Don’t Shoot: One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America,’ by David Kennedy

One of the most important and influential criminologists in the world didn't even go to graduate school (which probably explains why his writing is so easy to read!). Kennedy details how he became involved in criminal justice work and charts his research on a series of projects that led to impressive declines in crime in a number of U.S. cities. Kennedy avoids the lengthy descriptions of statistics and equations that often make academic writing difficult to digest. Instead, he uses his years of work in the field to present the rich backstory to an approach that has the potential to significantly impact the violent-crime problem in many urban areas. Kennedy gives a voice to communities that have often felt ignored and overlooked, and his elegant and passionate discussions about crime, race, and the police have, if anything, become even more relevant today. – Cody Telep, assistant professor, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions

‘Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End,’ by Atul Gawande

Medicine has triumphed in modern times, transforming birth, injury and infectious disease from harrowing to manageable. But in the inevitable condition of aging and death, the goals of medicine seem too frequently to run counter to the interest of the human spirit. Nursing homes, preoccupied with safety, pin patients into railed beds and wheelchairs. Hospitals isolate the dying, checking for vital signs long after the goals of cure have become moot. Doctors, committed to extending life, continue to carry out devastating procedures that, in the end, extend suffering. Gawande, a practicing surgeon, addresses his profession's ultimate limitation, arguing that quality of life is the desired goal for patients and families. – Alison Essary, director of Student Affairs and clinical associate professor, College of Health Solutions

‘Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play,’ by James C. Scott

The eminent scholar of modern governance and development, James C. Scott, offers us a thought-provoking, surprisingly personal series of reflections on anarchism, modern life and the human desire for freedom. Scott contends, "What I aim to show is that if you put on anarchist glasses and look at the history of popular movements, revolutions, ordinary politics, and the state from that angle certain insights will appear that are obscured from almost any other angle." In particular, we will see in politics a deep yearning for mutuality, play and cooperation; and a "tolerance for confusion and improvisation that accompanies social learning." Both of these are frequently at odds with and stifled by modern formal institutions, like government, schools and workplaces. But, as the title suggests, Scott gives two – not three – cheers for anarchism. His reasons for offering this qualified enthusiasm will stir productive thinking about government, markets and political resistance today regardless of where you sit along the political left-right continuum or in one of our society's many hierarchies. – Thomas Catlaw, associate professor of public affairs, Frank & June Sackton Professor of Public Administration, School of Public Affairs in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions

Four quick recommendations from Professor Angadi

• ‘Bright-Sided: How Positive Thinking Is Undermining America,’ by Barbara Ehrenreich: A thorough debunking of the false promises of positive thinking, “conventional” wisdom and faux science.
‘The Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal,’ by Desmond Morris: An absolute classic. Morris puts on his zoologist hat and examines human behavior and human physiology from the perspective of just another recently discovered species.
‘On Human Nature,’ by Edward O. Wilson: This book pretty much laid the foundations for evolutionary biology. Very well-written, accessible prose.
‘The Emperor of All Maladies,’ by Siddhartha Mukherjee: A biography of cancer and cancer research. This book won the Pulitzer a couple of years ago.
– Siddhartha Angadi, assistant professor, School of Nutrition and Health Promotion in the College of Health Solutions

‘Justinian’s Flea,’ by William Rosen

This explores how the bubonic plague in the sixth century helped bring about the demise of the Roman Empire and how it led to creation of Europe as we know it today. It’s more history than health/human physiology, but it does go into great depth about the Y.pestis bacteria, how it evolved, how it is transmitted, the role of human and environmental conditions that allowed it to spread. The book blends history and science nicely. – Tannah Broman, principal lecturer of Exercise Science and Health Promotion, Kinesiology, College of Health Solutions

‘Poetry of the Law: From Chaucer to the Present,’ edited by David Kader and Michael Stanford

Forgive me this recommendation, but I am encouraged by others to suggest this. It is the first serious anthology of law-related poetry published in the U.S., uniting two disparately perceived subjects. These 100 poems from the 1300s to the present range from the witty to the wry, sad to celebratory, and funny to infuriating poetic treatment of the law, in settings from the courtroom to prisons, from jurors to police.  – David Kader, professor emeritus, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

A few final recommendations from an alum

• ‘Lion in the White House: A Life of Theodore Roosevelt,by Aida D. Donald: Some (including me) would argue that Teddy Roosevelt was one of our better Presidents. Take a look at this man's life and get to know him a little – then decide for yourself.
‘Good Leaders Ask Great Questions,’ by John C. Maxwell: Maxwell outdoes himself in this work of art on leadership principles. Either you lead, or you follow. This can help you get a better feel from both angles.
‘Gen Y Now: Millennials and the Evolution of Leadership,’ by Buddy Hogart and Herb Sendek: This is like the ultimate reboot. Solid, sound concepts, applied to those in today's market. But the messages hold relevance for the oldest in business to those newly beginning their careers.
‘The Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business,’ by Charles Duhigg: Duhigg has brought to light essential data regarding what makes people tick. Clearly, we become conditioned to certain behaviors over time. Whether you agree or not, there is plenty in here to pique your interest.
‘The Retirement Miracle,’ by Patrick Kelly:  I consider this the new bible on saving for retirement. He's a professional and an expert from way back. If you can get your hands on a copy, do it. (It's not even that lengthy.)
– John Long, member of the ASU Alumni Association; BAE – secondary education, history, 2006

What did we miss?

Are you a member of the ASU community with a great book recommendation? E-mail the title and a short paragraph on why you're recommending it to and we'll run another installment of our summer reading list in the coming weeks.

Heather Beshears and Laura Kaufman contributed to this story.

Penny Walker

senior editor, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


ASU News

Scholarship grows from ASU alums' viral 'It Was Never a Dress' campaign

June 17, 2015

What does a creative disruptor do? She changes the way we look at the world – by taking something as mundane and universal as the sign on a women's bathroom and making it soar.

Arizona State University alum Tania Katan has been making international waves as the “curator of code” at Axosoft, a local software company, with a new campaign called “It Was Never a Dress.” woman's bathroom symbol changed to look like a superhero cape Is it a dress? Or is it a superhero cape? "If we see women differently, we see the world differently," said ASU alum Tania Katan, co-creator of the campaign, "It Was Never a Dress." Photo by: Courtesy of Axosoft Download Full Image

The campaign aims to shift societal perceptions about women through storytelling, community building, innovation and creative disruptions.

“If we see women differently, we see the world differently,” said Katan, who earned her Bachelor of Arts in theatre from the School of Film, Dance and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

The campaign began with Katan, colleague Sara Breeding and Axosoft CEO Lawdan Shojaee – also both ASU alumni – brainstorming ideas together. (Breeding earned a bachelor's in design studies from the Herberger Institute and a bachelor's in marketing from the W. P. Carey School of Business; Shojaee received a bachelor's in exercise and wellness from what is now the School of Nutrition and Health Promotion, in ASU’s College of Health Solutions.)

“We wanted to make a really big splash at the Girls in Tech Catalyst Conference (in April),” Shojaee said. “We did a couple of exercises. We played off cliches. Tania and Sara said, ‘We know what you want,’ and they took off ... A few hours later they said, ‘We’ve got something for you.’ The minute you heard it and absorbed it, you knew it was big. Tania sketched it out (and said), ‘Bam! Look at that!” And Sara said, “Oh my gosh, it was never a dress!”

“This campaign was a culmination of all the creative arts training that I’ve had, all the intervention ‘arts’ training,”  Katan said in an interview.

“It Was Never a Dress” went viral almost immediately, with coverage on BuzzFeed, The New York Times, CNN, The Huffington Post and Time, among others. The New York Times headline read, “’It Was Never A Dress Graphic’ goes bananas online.” And BuzzFeed proclaimed Katan would “change the way you look at signs for the women’s bathroom forever.”

With the campaign’s meteoric rise in popularity, Axosoft expanded “It Was Never a Dress” to allow people to share their own stories about what it means to change perceptions and assumptions.

Axosoft is selling “It Was Never a Dress” T-shirts and other merchandise and has announced that profits from sales will fund a scholarship in the Herberger Institute for a need-based student entering a STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts & Mathematics) field.

It was a natural fit.

“ASU has been really vocal about this bridge between science, technology, engineering, mathematics – and art,” Katan said.

“I hope these scholarships create the diversity and creativity that this state needs,” Shojaee said. “There are already pockets of it, but if an institution started pumping it out, that would create that bridge that engineers and artists need. They’re not different, artists and engineers. They’re very similar.”

Shojaee said that when she first hired Katan, based on her faith in Katan’s vision and creative abilities, she told Katan that programming is “like art – we just have a different medium that we paint on.”

Early on, she said, Katan went to a coding event and heard people talking about the code on the screens as beautiful.

“She came back,” Shojaee recalled, “and she said, ‘I get it.’ ”

To learn more about the “It Was Never a Dress” campaign, visit

ASU News

Hands-on summer institute challenges students to blend tech, art

June 17, 2015

The assignment was simple enough, but the task would be daunting for most people: Take random household items and turn them into musical instruments.

Armed with a piece of paper, a pencil, wires, alligator clips and a "Makey Makey" kit, 15-year-old Spencer Pote created a graphite piano (similar to this) within 10 minutes and started composing music. group of students watching instructor construct small electronic instrument High school junior Angelina Longoria, from Flagstaff, checks the conductivity and sound as she begins constructing a small electronic piano at the ASU Digital Culture Summer Institute. Photo by: Charlie Leight/ASU News Download Full Image

“It wasn’t that big of a deal,” said Pote, who knows how to play percussion, piano and flute and will be a sophomore at Corona del Sol High School in Tempe. He is also a participant in the inaugural Digital Culture Summer Institute at ASU’s Tempe campus.

The three-week program, which began June 8, is sponsored through the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. The summer institute challenges incoming high school freshmen through just-graduated seniors in a series of short, project-focused modules ranging from producing digital music to computational imaging to programming and projection mapping.

The institute blends artistic and technical skills and attempts to turn students' interests into a possible vocation, according to Loren Olsen, an assistant clinical professor at ASU’s School of Arts, Media and Engineering who is also an instructor at the institute.

“We want to give students a taste of the many ways that computers are used in creative activity,” Olsen said. “They are really enthusiastic but some in very narrow ways. They’ve been exposed to animation in movies, video games and music, but we want to show them how it’s done so that maybe one day they might consider it as a career.”

Angelina Longoria, who traveled from northern Arizona to attend the institute, said she’s interested in pursuing a musical career. She already knows how to play the guitar but on June 16, she was able to expand her repoirtoire in a class called Experimental Musical Instruments.

“It’s the first time I have ever experimented with these sounds,” said Longoria, a junior at Coconino High School in Flagstaff. “I like how they are giving us free rein. Our only limit is our imagination.”

Sam Jones, who will be a junior at Mesa’s Heritage Academy, sat alongside Pote and Longoria for the Experimental Musical Instruments class. His passion is film; he said he has already edited about 20 short films. He enrolled in the institute to make him a better all-around filmmaker, and music plays an important role in mastering the craft.

“I made a silent movie about a year ago, and it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done because the music had to fit the beats of the film,” Jones said. “What I’ve found is that this institute is more than developing your skills; it’s about developing your own work ethic and discovering your creativity.”

In addition to Experimental Musical Instruments, other classes include How to Code, Interactive Media, Digital Fabrication, Video Production, Animation, Unity for Games, Projection Mapping and Computational Photography.

The Digital Culture Summer Institute runs through June 26.

Digital Culture Program 2015 - Tempe from Arizona State University on Vimeo.

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU News

ASU professors' passion for history wins them prestigious fellowships in Berlin

June 11, 2015

Two professors are 1st ever Berlin Prize Fellows from ASU

Monica Green had just finished editing a volume on the Black Death when in the spring of 2014, the Ebola virus outbreak erupted in West Africa. statue of a man on an altar During her semester in Berlin, ASU history professor Monica Green will focus on turning her historical analysis of the disease landscape into a book, tentatively titled “A Global History of Health.” Photo courtesy of Zach Schaffer/The Pitt News. Download Full Image

As the number of people succumbing to the disease grew, it became clear to the ASU history professor that there was a dire, worldwide need for a resource that could help people understand diseases and how to deal with them.

“People (at both local and global levels) were paralyzed by not having a conceptual framework for thinking about this disease and how to react to it in a 21st-century context,” Green said.

“I realized that I simply couldn’t wait any longer before putting forward my historical analysis, which – I believe – helps us make better sense of disease in the present-day world by understanding why the disease landscape today looks the way it does.”

Luckily for Green, a professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, she will have plenty of time to hunker down this fall and turn that historical analysis into a book, tentatively titled “A Global History of Health,” during her semesterlong fellowship at the American Academy in Berlin.

Green and ASU art history professor Corine Schleif share the honor of being the first two Berlin Prize Fellows chosen from Arizona State University. Schleif – who, like Green, specializes in medieval history – will attend the academy for the spring 2016 semester.

Also like Green, Schleif is passionate about the role history, specifically art history, plays in informing the present and future.  

“There’s this idea that a piece of art always says the same thing because, once it’s finished, it stays that way forever,” said Schleif, a professor in the School of Art, within the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. “But art actually has the ability to participate in society throughout the centuries.”

During her semesterlong fellowship, Schleif will be working on a book about Adam Kraft, a 15th-century late-Gothic sculptor based in Nuremberg, Germany, whose work was appropriated by the Nazi Party some 400 years after his death.

The conscription of Kraft’s work by the Nazis, Schleif says, is just one example of how art and history endure and continue to “participate” in culture, politics and even religion.

Both Green and Schleif look forward to their respective fellowships in Berlin, as they will be joining a group of scholars, writers, policymakers and artists from all over the globe to pursue their individual work and also engage in stimulating conversation and thought.

“It’s an honor to be chosen, and I’m very flattered,” Schleif said.

Since the American Academy in Berlin welcomed its first fellows in 1998, it has become one of Europe’s most visible and effective institutions of transatlantic dialogue and has built up an extensive and enduring network in the corporate, political, academic and cultural communities in the United States and in Germany.  

The academy is now accepting applications for the 2016-2017 academic year.

Reporter, ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

ASU News

ASU summer program allows youth to explore the craft of writing

June 5, 2015

Tasmin Hurlbut felt like royalty.

That’s what the eight-year-old read after she wrote about standing atop University Bridge during a rare summer rain in Tempe. young children sitting and writing Eight-year-old Tamsin Hurlbut, with others, writes her thoughts after walking over the University Bridge on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by: Charlie Leight Download Full Image

Chances are she also felt like a writer.

The fourth grader was one of several children in rl txt ­– or “real text” – a two-week summer youth writing camp sponsored by the Central Arizona Writing Project within the Department of English at Arizona State University. The course aims to help students of varied ages feel more comfortable about their writing skills.

On Friday, June 5, rl txt students across ASU’s Polytechnic, Tempe and West campuses joined together in a “writing marathon.” Groups of students stopped at various monuments and points of interest and spent time writing there, allowing the physical spaces to inspire their words.

Before heading out on the tour, class instructors encouraged students to think about the question: “Where does writing hide?”

For Hurlbut, it was on that bridge.

“This is a very big bridge. It was raining when I crossed it,” she read aloud. “I felt like I was the emperor of the world.”

Encouraging students to feel like writers

The mission of rl txt isn’t just to get young people to track their prose. It’s also to instill the confidence of writing onto future generations of educators.

Dawn Lambson, clinical assistant professor of English at ASU, is just one of several instructional team members, who are writers themselves, overseeing a class of rl txt students.

“I’ve taught for 30 years, and the last 10 years with university students who are thinking of becoming teachers. I find very few of them who are comfortable teaching writing because they don’t see themselves as writers,” she said.

Lambson says she conducts an exercise at the start of each semester. She asks the students to raise their hands if they are “readers.” Nearly every one of them raises their hands. Then she asks the class how many of them are “writers.” Maybe one or two students will raise their hands. She says that’s indicative of how students think.

“We need to start instilling in kids and teaching them when they are young and creative that they’re writers,” Lambson says. “Once they get that into their heads, there’s no stopping them and it makes all the difference in the world. We need to start changing the idea of what a writer is.”

ASU's Central Arizona Writing Project is an affiliate of the National Writing Project, where teachers are trained in leadership and best practices in writing pedagogy.

“Each place we go to is an invitation to write,” Lambson said to the students before they departed. “Write about the space or how it inspires you.”

Caitlin Vasko, who will be entering eighth grade at Copperwood Elementary in Glendale this fall, had no trouble finding inspiration on the lawn outside West campus’ Fletcher Library.

The 13-year-old, who signed up for rl txt after her language arts teacher expressed enthusiasm for one of her short stories, wrote about the beauty of nature around her – the wind in the tree branches, the swaying blades of grass and how they contrasted with the solid, immovable brick buildings.

Both students and instructors responded to the writing with a polite “thank you.” No other comments were permitted in order to discourage students from thinking of one another’s writing as “good” or “bad,” and to teach them that there is no right or wrong way to express one’s self.

Rohan Nishtala, 14, who is about to start his freshman year at Basis Chandler, wore a brown T-shirt that read: “I’m Not Lazy, Just Energy Efficient.” He says he was inspired by Ray Bradbury’s 1954 short story, “All Summer in a Day,” when writing in the stairwell of Santan Hall at the Polytechnic campus. His writing had more of an apocalyptic, sci-fi take.

“I wanted to write about my own little world, and so I created it in my head,” Nishtala said.

Returning as writers

Upon returning to their classrooms for a de-briefing after the tour, instructors were first to share about their experiences with students.

Debra LaPlante, a librarian at SS. Simon & Jude Cathedral School in Phoenix, told her students how she “went to Paris in her mind” while she was writing around West campus.

Eight-year-old Azael Anchondo, replied, “I know how! Because when you’re writing about it, your mind’s in Paris.”

LaPlante smiled and nodded approvingly.

“I love to watch the kids grow in confidence as writers, to see them go from writing being a mandatory thing to them wanting to have a chance to grow in creativity.”

Marshall Terrill and Charlie Leight contributed to this story.

Reporter, ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

ASU News

ASU Gammage director makes Broadway a Tony affair

June 4, 2015

Rock-and-roll tours with the Stones, U2 and Van Halen.

Dancing under the direction of legendary choreographer Martha Graham. ASU Gammage Colleen Jennings-Roggensack Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director for ASU Gammage, has been a Tony Awards voter for almost two decades. She is the only member of the Broadway League from Arizona. Photo by: Charlie Leight/ASU News Download Full Image

White House dinners with the Clintons. And the time Isaac Hayes’ manager set a gun on the table, demanding a recount of tickets.

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack has stories that could mesmerize you for hours, gathered during her years of working in the entertainment industry.

After this weekend, the longtime ASU Gammage executive director will have a new story to tell when she attends the 2015 Tony Awards in New York City.

But first, back to Isaac Hayes and the gun.

Jennings-Roggensack was in her early 20s when she was hired by Shelton Stanfill, the director of cultural programs at Colorado State University in Fort Collins. Stanfill despised rock music and assigned the division to Jennings-Roggensack, who teetered around 90 pounds, often wore her hair in pigtails and looked about half her age.

“Back then we didn’t have computerized tickets like we do today, so we had to rack tickets and do a count with the band at intermission,” said Jennings-Roggensack. “Isaac Hayes’ manager thought we were palming tickets and didn’t feel as if he were getting his fair share, so he shut the door, put a gun on the table and said, ‘We’re not leaving this room until I get my cash.’ My rock-and-roll days weren’t always so pretty but they taught me a lot about negotiating, dealing and being under fire and how you react to those types of situations."

With her rock-and-roll days behind her, Jennings-Roggensack is running with a more sophisticated crowd. She is considered one the country’s most influential tastemakers where it concerns the arts, specifically Broadway plays and musicals.

Jennings-Roggensack is the only member of the Broadway League from Arizona and has been a Tony voter for almost two decades. This year, that required her to watch 68 plays and musicals with several flights each month back and forth from Phoenix to New York City. This weekend she’ll actually get to relax and rub shoulders with artists, producers, directors, choreographers and playwrights.

“The show is way more spirited than the Academy Awards, and the people are fun and charismatic,” she said. “Broadway is more alive than ever. It’s the reason why you’ll see Bradley Cooper in ‘The Elephant Man’ or Jake Gyllenhaal doing ‘Constellations.’ Every actor aspires to work on the stage."

They also aspire to come to the Valley, said Jennings-Roggensack, who brings about 20 weeks of touring Broadway shows each year to ASU Gammage.

“Phoenix has really grown up and is considered one of the top three touring stops on the road,” she said. “We have a very well informed public that spans several generations. This is a town where you do your best work or you don’t come.”

The 2015-2016 Broadway season at ASU Gammage kicks off with the Tony Award-winning “The Book of Mormon” on Oct. 20.

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU News

Summer reading recommendations from around ASU

June 2, 2015

Escaping into a good book is one of the great rites of summer – so why settle for a ho-hum tome?

Faculty and staff from around ASU share their recommendations for summer reads, from a humorous tale of a caveman that sheds light on modern-day business-thinking to a story of hubris and the deadliest hurricane in history. Salim Moslehi at Hayden Library Freshman Salim Moslehi gets into his book on the sustainability of energy infrastructures at the Hayden Library on June 1. Hayden and the other campus libraries are filled with books that can be enlightening summer reading. Photo by: Charlie Leight/ASU News Download Full Image

‘The Idea Factory,’ by Jon Gertner

For several decades of the 20th century, Bell Labs – a part of AT&T – was the premier research and development institution in the world. Merging engineering, applied sciences and fundamental science, Bell Lab’s leaders were responsible for many of the technologies that form the basis of the world today – transistors, satellites, lasers, digital and cellular communications, photovoltaics and more. The lab operated in a unique way at a unique time in American history. In his book, Gertner chronicles the origins of the ideas that led to these important modern inventions and tells an inspiring story that shows how research impacts our society. – Owen Hildreth, assistant professor, School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

‘Shadows of the Neanderthal: Illuminating the Beliefs That Limit Our Organizations,’ by David Hutchens

No matter what industry a student targets, he or she will end up in some sort of organization. Reading the quick and easy – but still meaningful – “Shadows of the Neanderthal: Illuminating the Beliefs That Limit Our Organizations” by David Hutchens will help anchor success both in school and in business. Don’t be fooled by the fun approach of this animated fable; there is much there to learn about how one’s ways of thinking, or “mental models,” have an impact when dealing with change, growth and people with different “truths” or mental models. This book offers serious wisdom and tools to bridge the gap. – Stephanie de Lusé, Honors Faculty Fellow at Barrett, The Honors College

‘Salt: A World History,’ by Mark Kurlansky

This is a fascinating book that every engineer should read. If you look back in human history, you will find salt is one of the rare materials that changed our world in many ways. Like oil and sand, salt is one of Earth’s abundant substances that in some times and places was seen as largely undesirable (because it caused rust) and at other times and places became extremely valuable (as food). It makes you wonder: Are there other materials we think of today as “undesirable” that will someday make some people rich and powerful? – Oswald Chong, associate professor, School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

'David and Goliath,' by Malcolm Gladwell

Gladwell deftly interweaves inspiring stories about underdogs who have excelled and then dissects the successes of these unlikely giant-killers in sports, business, education, social activism and other arenas. We see time and again how digging in psychologically to overcome adversity and face down fear builds a confidence and resilience that is transferable to many life challenges. The stories in “David and Goliath” remind us that effort and independent thinking often trump ability and material advantage. Malcolm Gladwell, a brilliant prose stylist, is also a great read for any writers wanting to hone their rhetorical tools. – Duane Roen, dean of the College of Letters and Sciences, and University College

‘Alice, Let’s Eat: Further Adventures of a Happy Eater,’ by Calvin Trillin

When you have had enough of homework and are ready for something both fun and funny, pick up this Calvin Trillin book. I challenge you not to enjoy yourself (and drool a bit) as you follow Calvin on his adventures in search of something decent to eat. Have you heard of anyone else boarding a short flight with a “picnic” of caviar, smoked salmon, crudités with pesto sauce, tomato-curry soup, butterfish, spiced clams, lime and dill shrimp, tomatoes stuffed with guacamole, mussels, pâté, veal, a bottle of wine from Burgundy, chocolate cake and praline cheesecake? (Don’t worry – he loves barbecue, too.) – Zachary Holman, assistant professor, School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

‘The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History,’ by Elizabeth Kolbert

“The Sixth Extinction,” by New Yorker staff writer Elizabeth Kolbert, tells us what we don’t want to hear: Species throughout the world are declining at a rapid clip thanks to us. Kolbert meticulously reports the necessary fact-checked science critical to understanding the alarming consequences of human actions. Although the facts are disturbing, the book reads like a travel narrative. It’s a heartbreaking but vivid and necessary journey to fragile biomes. “The Sixth Extinction” tells the truth, and we need to know it. Once we understand that species are rapidly vanishing, we can choose whether we want to do anything about it. – Terry Greene Sterling, writer in residence, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

‘Isaac’s Storm: A Man, a Time, and the Deadliest Hurricane in History,’ by Erik Larson

Hurricanes as a rule do not strike Texas and those that do are weak storms, stated Isaac Cline in an 1891 article in the Galveston Daily News. Cline was the director of the Texas section of the Weather Bureau and his office was in Galveston. Educated, dedicated to his job and having proved himself a sufficiently accurate forecaster, Cline was what the newly formed Weather Bureau needed as it struggled to achieve legitimacy.

Strangely, Cline’s confident statement on the matter of hurricanes glossed over what had happened when two strong hurricanes had hit the Texas coast just a few years prior, one in September 1875 and another in August 1886. Cline considered these weak aberrations unlikely to happen again. Cline knew that hurricanes always moved up the Atlantic coast; they did not cross the Gulf of Mexico.

On Sept. 8, 1900, the hurricane that struck Galveston would shatter Cline’s statements the same way it would shatter the homes, businesses and, unfortunately, the lives of an estimated 6,000 residents and visitors. This cautionary tale presents the reader with many issues to consider: the mixing of politics with science, stifling bureaucracy, and mistakes made because of humanity’s foibles. Master storyteller Erik Larson effectively weaves the history of late 19th-century weather forecasting with Cline’s life and work.

The story races to an end you know is coming but compels you to finish.  At the end, you have to ask the question that most likely haunted Isaac Cline for the rest of his life: Could more lives have been saved? As a librarian I would be remiss if I did not also mention author Larson’s use of primary source material from both the National Archives as well as local Texas collections. The first-person accounts give life to the historical facts, as noted by many reviewers. More importantly, Larson found evidence challenging some of the commonly held beliefs of what happened that day and the events leading up to it. – Linda Shackle, librarian, Daniel E. Noble Science and Engineering Library, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

‘How to Win Friends and Influence People,’ by Dale Carnegie

“Computer-connected” students who could benefit from better “real world” communication skills should read the much-loved classic “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. The book, synonymous with business, started a genre of business/self-help books.  Newer books won’t have the occasional outdated examples, true, but none will be better than this readable best-seller (more than 15 million copies sold) with its timeless, on-target and practical principles and specific tips to improve one’s likeability, influence and skill in better dealing with people. – Stephanie de Lusé, Honors Faculty Fellow at Barrett, the Honors College

‘Set Phasers on Stun: And Other True Tales of Design, Technology, and Human Error,’ by Steven Casey

This book recounts 20 true stories of disasters (in some cases very gruesome disasters) that result from the failure of technology to effectively connect to humans. Most of the disasters are not the result of a single point failure in the system or human interface, but multiple issues that often interact to result in unanticipated consequences. In one instance, an individual receives more than 125 times the prescribed dose of radiation therapy due to a poor interface for delivering the doses, coupled with the fact that the screaming patient was in a different location from the technician, the video monitor in the patient’s room was not plugged in and the voice intercom between rooms was not working. Needless to say, the patient died a slow, agonizing death. When you read these stories you can’t help but be bewildered by the poor design of technology and the lack of consideration of the human user. These true stories inspire me to help make systems that are useable, resilient and safe for humans. – Nancy Cooke, professor, The Polytechnic School, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

‘Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America,’ by Barbara Ehrenreich; and ‘The Working Poor: Invisible in America,’ by David Shipler

I think it is important to have a deeper understanding of poverty (for those of us lucky enough not to have experienced it firsthand), and several books could contribute to that knowledge.  I was seriously moved by Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America.”  She is a writer who attempted to adopt the lifestyle of the working poor and found she just couldn’t make it.  Another widely read book is “The Working Poor: Invisible in America” by David Shipler, who looks at a range of such situations. – Chuck Redman, Distinguished Sustainability Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability; and professor and founding director of the School of Sustainability

‘The Nature of Design: Ecology, Culture, and Human Intention,’ by David Orr

I require Sustainable Cities students to read David Orr's “The Nature of Design.”  Although a “classic” (13 years old) in the field of sustainability, the variety of topics runs the gamut from Slow Knowledge to Loving Children, very thought-provoking and relevant to current concerns. – Brigitte Bavousett, student recruitment/retention specialist, School of Sustainability

‘Making News in the Digital Age: Everybody's Talking But Nobody's Listening,’ by Steve Garagiola

Media careers can be both exciting and challenging. From the long hours to frequent moves, this book helps you balance your professional and personal life. It has helpful tools and advice to give you guidance in your career, whether you work in a newsroom, a marketing agency or a small business. “Making News in the Digital Age” is a great introduction for students entering the news and media business. – Ian MacSpadden, director of broadcast engineering and operations, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

‘The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight,’ by Thom Hartmann

There are a variety of books on climate change that have reached the mass market and are quite readable.  Of course, if you have not seen the movie (and even if you have), Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” is worth the time to read (or watch) and I believe has helped move the world.  A bit more academic is Tim Flannery’s “The Weather Makers,” which tries to put the history, science and future options all into context.  A bit less academic and preachier is Thom Hartmann’s “The Last Hours of Ancient Sunlight.” – Chuck Redman, Distinguished Sustainability Scientist, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability; and professor and founding director of the School of Sustainability

'Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World,' by Peter H. Diamandis 

I would recommend this book for anyone who is interested in the future of business and the future of technology, anyone who maybe feels stuck and lacking creativity for the next step, and certainly aspiring entrepreneurs who want to make a dent in the universe. The authors introduce core concepts that guide the evolution of technology and adoption of technology, they introduce some bold players who offer major inspiration, and then they give you some thoughts and tips on how to "be bold" yourself. So far this read has sparked tons of ideas and inspirations large and small for me, and I think this could inspire all kinds of people to view your world, your business and your impact in a new light. – Sidnee Peck, director of the Center for Entrepreneurship, W.P. Carey School of Business

What did we miss?

Are you a member of the ASU community with a great book recommendation? E-mail it to and we'll run another installment of our summer reading list in the coming weeks.

Joe Kullman, Sharon Keeler, Joseph Giordano, Maureen Roen, Nicole Greason, Michelle Schwartz and Elizabeth Farquhar contributed to this story.

Penny Walker

senior editor, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


ASU News

ASU faculty member recognized for work in music education

May 22, 2015

Marg Schmidt, associate professor of music education in the School of Music at Arizona State University, was recently honored with two prestigious awards: the 2015 national String Researcher Award by the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) and the 2015 Arizona Governor’s Arts Award for an Individual in Arts in Education.

“Being chosen for even one of these awards, let alone two, speaks volumes about Schmidt’s dedication to passing on her knowledge and love of music to others and for her unwavering commitment to furthering music education,” said Heather Landes, director of the School of Music. Marg Schmidt (center) receives her Governor's Arts Award from Rossitza Todorova, Download Full Image

ASTA is a membership organization for string and orchestra teachers and players, helping to develop and refine their careers. The ASTA award is presented annually to a deserving string researcher “whose work has contributed significantly to scholarship in string education and performance.”

Schmidt received tenure at ASU in 2007, and since then, she has been actively involved in publishing in leading research journals, presenting research at professional meetings, mentoring students and participating in the strings community. Schmidt accepted the award at the ASTA National Conference, March 18-21, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

The Governor’s Awards are a statewide celebration of the arts that recognizes distinguished artists, arts organizations, businesses, educators and individuals for their passion, creativity and devotion to Arizona’s arts and cultural community. The winners of the 2015 awards were announced at a ceremony on March 24 at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel. Appropriately, each recipient was awarded an actual work of art made by a living Arizona artist.

Schmidt’s career as a string educator and researcher has spanned over 30 years. She is an expert on string education and pedagogy and on music teacher preparation and development. Her research has focused on sociological issues of race and class among and between music learners and teachers, and how these concepts mesh with the reality of teaching strings in today’s schools.

“I am so pleased that both these awards bring recognition to the music program at ASU,” Schmidt says. “I have always loved the idea of ‘lighting your candle in your own little corner.’ Neither award is completely about me, as I couldn’t do the things I do without the support and encouragement of the administration, staff, my colleagues and our students in the School of Music. They inspire and encourage me every day in so many small ways. If we each keep lighting our candles, we can collectively make a difference in the lives of our students and the larger community.”

In addition to teaching in the School of Music, in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, Schmidt is also the founder and director of the ASU String Project, which won the Robert Jesselson String Project Consortium Award in 2005 for the nation’s most outstanding string project. Schmidt holds a doctorate in music education from the University of Michigan, a master's in music (violin performance) from SUNY-StonyBrook and a bachelor's in music education from Lawrence University.

Heather Beaman,
communications liaison, School of Music