ASU alum Ricky Araiza joins new AZ Creative Communities Institute

Teatro Bravo artistic director to engage with Arizona communities through creativity and the arts

July 20, 2017

Theater artist Ricky Araiza has devoted much of his artistic time to working in his native Arizona, from studying his craft at Arizona State University’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, to entertaining audiences as an ensemble member of Childsplay theater company in Tempe, to serving as artistic director of Teatro Bravo — a Latino theater company in South Phoenix. He hopes to contribute even more by taking a new position with the Herberger Institute, where he will work with the AZ Creative Communities Institute, a new program that explores how creativity can make a positive impact on communities.  

“What drew me to this position was the opportunity to engage with various communities all over the state of Arizona,” Araiza said. “I wanted to expand my understanding of the place that I call my home state.” Ricky Araiza Download Full Image

The AZ Creative Communities Institute is a partnership between ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the Arizona Commission on the Arts, with guidance from Southwest Folklife Alliance. Small teams representing nine Arizona communities were selected for the inaugural AZ CCI. Team members, including community and business leaders as well as local elected officials, will receive intensive training over the next year from local and national experts in creative engagement as they look for creative solutions to address needs, challenges and opportunities within their communities. In the latter half of the year, each community will host an embedded artist residency to put what they have learned into practice. 

The Herberger Institute was awarded a $250,000 Surdna grant to help fund the program, and Araiza was recently named coordinator senior.  

“It felt like a great opportunity to work with communities who want to make a long-lasting positive impact through arts engagement,” he said. “I wanted to be a part of that conversation.”

Araiza will be responsible for coordinating activities and functions of the program, including gathering data, managing events and ensuring that program goals are accomplished.

"Ricky has been deeply embedded and engaged in the Arizona community as an artist and community changemaker for a long time — his whole life, in fact,” said Jake Pinholster, associate dean of policy and initiatives for the Herberger Institute. “With his training and expertise — in addition to that personal connection — he is the ideal person to coordinate and drive this program forward."

Araiza has already started work on the program and is excited about its potential.  

“There is so much possibility when you are at the birth of a new idea,” he said. “We can make this one of the most important collaborations in the state of Arizona, and I believe that we all see that. And that concept alone demands that we treat this with the greatest care.”

Sarah A. McCarty

Communications and marketing coordinator, School and Film, Dance and Theatre, Herberger Institute


Underiner named associate dean of graduate academic affairs at ASU Graduate College

July 7, 2017

Tamara Underiner, a scholar of theater and performance studies and associate dean for research for the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, has been named associate dean of academic affairs in the Graduate College at Arizona State University.

In this position, Underiner will serve as the main point of contact for graduate academic integrity, program quality, and oversight of the University Graduate Council.  Tamara Underiner Tamara Underiner Download Full Image

“I wanted to recruit a faculty member who’d bring an interdisciplinary and innovative research perspective in this position at the interface of faculty and graduate student affairs,” said Alfredo Artiles, dean of the Graduate College. “Dr. Underiner has had extensive experience fostering interdisciplinary research collaborations, which will be central as she works to enhance and expand the portfolio of innovative interdisciplinary graduate academic programs offered at ASU.”

Underiner has been at ASU since 2001. In 2004, she was promoted to associate professor and assumed responsibilities as director of Graduate Studies at Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts (HIDA). She ushered in and directed the first doctoral concentration in Theatre in the United States — Theatre and Performance of the Americas.

“The students in Theatre and Performance of the Americas have taught me a great deal about the realities of the world awaiting our graduates, both in and outside of academia. I see a key part of my work as graduate mentor and program builder to nurture the “philosopher” in the PhD,” Underiner said. “I would like to be a part of a concerted effort to cultivate a mindset of inclusion and interdisciplinarity, which have always been the cornerstones of my values and vision. I look forward to making the ‘New American Graduate School’ a reality at ASU.”

In her previous role at the Herberger Institute, Underiner was the liaison between Herberger faculty and ASU's Office for Knowledge Enterprise Development, to identify funding opportunities and develop grant proposals. She served on the Research Committee of the Alliance for Arts in Research Universities and was an active member of the University Graduate Council from 2011–2013.

She earned a bachelor's in communication arts from the University of Dayton in 1980, a master's in theater from Arizona State University in 1993, and a doctorate in drama from the University of Washington in 1997. In 2004, she was named a faculty exemplar by ASU President Michael Crow.

Additionally, Underiner is a founding member of the research team CENAS (Cultural Engagements in Nutrition, Arts and Sciences), which focuses on culturally informed, participatory theatre making for health promotion and education with communities of color. She currently convenes the Creative Health Collaborations team as part of the 2017-18 Team Leadership Academy at ASU.

Underiner is the author of “Contemporary Theatre in Mayan Mexico: Death-Defying Acts” (University of Texas Press, 2004), and has published essays in Theatre Journal, Signs, Baylor Journal of Theatre and Performance, TDR, and critical anthologies from academic presses in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. She is active in the Association for Theatre in Higher Education, the Latin American Studies Association and the American Society for Theatre Research. She also serves on the board of the Hemispheric Institute for Performance and Politics, based in New York City.

Underiner assumed her new duties on Monday, July 3.

Jeff McMahon

July 7, 2017

Jeff McMahon, associate professor in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, presented an evening of his recent monologues at the Dixon Place Lounge in New York City July 12. The evening included performances by ASU students and alumni.

Theatre alum Heather Lee Harper performed one of McMahon’s new monologues, “The Welcome,” and alum Toussaint Jeanlouis presented a new short piece he is developing called “Cotton: Comfortable is Uncomfortable,” which explores the threaded relationship between a slave and slave master. ASU student Brandon Ferderer reprised his performance of McMahon’s short monologue “(Ob)scene.” ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre faculty Jeff McMahon Jeff McMahon Download Full Image

In the fall of 2016, McMahon wrote “(Ob)scene,” a short monologue in response to the mass killing by a lone gunman in the mostly Latinx/LGBTQ Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. In the monologue, he takes the point-of-view of the shooter, the unstable and deeply disturbed young man who decides he is going to embark on this killing spree as a perverse extension of his theatrical training. The monologue was selected for “After Orlando: An International Theatre Action,” a collection of scripts from more than 70 playwrights. Selections from the series were presented in more than 50 theatres throughout the world, royalty-free. McMahon’s monologue was selected for several of those evenings, including as part of the Phoenix presentation of “After Orlando” in January when it was performed by Ferderer and directed by School of Communications Associate Professor Amira De la Garza.

Following the July 12 event, McMahon will make a film of “(Ob)scene.” A film alum, J. Miguel Munguia, will be editor on the project, and Steven Reker will be scoring the film. 

ASU Herberger Institute receives NEA Our Town grant

One of 89 awards given by the National Endowment for the Arts nationwide

June 29, 2017

Arizona State University's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts is the recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Our Town grant, as recently announced by NEA chairman Jane Chu. The 89 awards, totaling $6.89 million to support projects across the nation, included a $100,000 grant to support the Creative Placemaking Policy Fellows program at ASU's Herberger Institute.

The NEA received 274 eligible applications for Our Town this year and will make grants ranging from $25,000 to $100,000. NEA Download Full Image

“The arts reflect the vision, energy and talent of America’s artists and arts organizations,” Chu said. “The National Endowment for the Arts is proud to support organizations such as the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, to cultivate vitality in their communities through the arts.”

The Herberger Institute will partner with the Center for Performance and Civic Practice, which is led by Herberger Institute Professor Michael Rohd, to establish a Creative Placemaking Policy Fellows program with practitioners who have led successful partnerships between the arts and community development fields. Fellows will work together to identify potential barriers to successful creative placemaking and strategies for overcoming them and to find ways to infuse the work across the community development field. They will also produce training tools, such as a podcast, video or piece of writing, for dissemination.

For a complete list of projects recommended for Our Town grant support, visit the NEA website at The NEA recently relaunched the creative placemaking web page, which has multiple resources.

Sarah A. McCarty

Communications and marketing coordinator, School and Film, Dance and Theatre, Herberger Institute


ASU student organizes cultural showcase

Recent graduate Antonieta Carpenter-Cosand leveraged her language, art studies to teach others about Brazilian culture

June 21, 2017

Many students have passions outside of their studies, but recent Arizona State University graduate Antonieta Carpenter-Cosand leveraged her language and art studies to showcase and teach others about Brazilian culture.

“I started taking Portuguese and got very interested in learning more,” Cosand explained, even though she was already a Spanish literature major, “Spanish is my first language...I started realizing that Latino countries, not only Spanish speaking countries, have a lot in common.” Download Full Image

As part of a class project, Cosand’s exhibit featured four paintings representing Tropicalismo, an influential Brazilian music movement from the 1960s she learned about in a class on contemporary Brazilian art. Cosand displayed her paintings and introduced visitors to the Tropicalismo sound.  

“A lot of people do not see painting now as something so important, it’s not as noticeable as it used to be … people don’t realize the power of visualized art,” said Cosand, who graduated from the School of International Letters and Cultures.

“More than a music movement, [Tropicalismo] was an artistic movement in Brazil,” which Cosand explained was a way to dissent against culture regulations by Brazil’s military dictatorship.

She saw her paintings as a way to advertise this aspect of Brazilian art and history, serving as an entry point to the diversity of Latin American culture.

“The sense we use the most is seeing. If people were more open to seeing art, we could use art in other contexts,” Cosand said. “It connects me to them, and it connects a lot of things. For example, this was about Brazil. I connected a country through painting and their culture and their music to other people who might not even know where Brazil is.”

You can see photos from the event and list to the songs that inspired Cosand’s paintings here.

Gabriel Sandler

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One of largest Western film history collections goes on display

ASU-owned Western film collection to debut at Scottsdale's Museum of the West.
The Wild Wild West, as portrayed in film, will be on display in Scottsdale.
June 19, 2017

Acquired by ASU Foundation and Scottsdale's Museum of the West, Rennard Strickland Collection provides unique perspective

One of the largest collections of Western film memorabilia has found a home, appropriately, in the Southwest.

The Rennard Strickland Collection of Western Film History debuts tomorrow at Scottsdale's Museum of the West. The collection was acquired jointly last October by the museum and Arizona State University's Foundation for A New American University. More than 100 posters and lobby cards will be on display, out of the more than 5,000 in the collection, dating from the 1890s to the mid-1980s. The exhibit runs through Sept. 30, 2018.

“The collection, which numbers more than 5,000 works, represents Dr. Strickland’s passion for Western film and the extraordinary graphic abilities of artists from past to present,” chief curator Tricia Loscher said. "It's unique in that many stories about the posters and films are told from Dr. Strickland's perspective." 

Strickland, a professor at University of Oklahoma's College of Law, began to collect the memorabilia in the 1970s. He then passed the collection along to the Museum of the West and ASU to serve as a resource for the university's faculty and students. Strickland himself is of Osage and Cherokee heritage and an expert on Indian law.

Because many of the films were shot in the area, the move made plenty of sense. 

Test your Western film trivia below.

"We have brought his collection home," Loscher said. "This is one of the major centers of the Western region where film has been produced, and it is an honor and privilege for us that Dr. Strickland selected this partnership to see that his collection is shared by present and future generations from around the world."

To celebrate the acquisition, an event will be held for museum members from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26. Attendees will have the opportunity to view the exhibition and meet Strickland, Loscher, ASU President Michael Crow, museum director Mike Fox and others. 

Museum hours are 9:30 to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday. Closed Monday. (Thursday hours are extended to 9 p.m. Nov. through April.)

Admisison prices for the museum are: $13, adults; $11, seniors (65+) and active military; $8, students (full-time with ID) and children (6–17 years); free for members and children 5 and under.

For more information visit

Top photo: The Rennard Strickland Collection of Western Film History is on display at Western Spirit: Scottsdale's Museum of the West from June 20, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now



Did you know? 

Only two Western films have ever received a “Best Picture” Academy Award (Oscar).

“Cimarron,” released in 1931; received the “Best Picture” Oscar in the same year.
An adaptation of Edna Ferber’s novel, it tells the story of a young woman who marries a drifter-gunfighter during the Oklahoma land rush, who go their separate ways. It starred Richard Dix and Irene Dunne.

“Dances with Wolves,” released in 1990, the film received the “Best Picture” Oscar in 1991.
A historical drama set during the U.S. Civil War, it tells the story of Union Army Officer Lieutenant John J. Dunbar and his relationship with a band of Sioux Indians. The film stars Kevin Costner.


Although hundreds of thousands of movie posters rolled off the presses, relatively few have survived.

Posters were shipped from theater to theater, and became worn, ragged and outdated. Paper drives during World War II emptied film-studio storage warehouses, making silent film posters particularly rare.


An 1889 Budweiser saloon poster of a painting entitled “Custer’s Last Fight” was the basis for movie poster art.


“Stagecoach” is considered one of the most important Western films ever made and one of Director John Ford’s greatest achievements.

It demonstrated to the Hollywood studios that there was a viable audience for Westerns films. It also rescued John Wayne from his B-picture status, propelling him to fame.

The historic drama, based on a short story by Ernest Haycox, is about a group of passengers traveling by stagecoach to the town of Lordsburg in the New Mexico Territory. Shot on location in northeastern Arizona’s Monument Valley, John Wayne plays Ringo Kid, an ex-con and the only one among the group who possesses the survival skills to keep them alive.


The earliest Westerns were filmed in New Jersey.

They derived from the Wild West shows that were touring the country in the late 1800s. California’s long days of sunshine and variety of outdoor settings quickly lured film companies to the West.


Silver-screen singing cowboy Tex Ritter was the father of actor Jon Ritter — known by millions for his role as bachelor Jack Tripper in the television series “Three’s Company.”

Tex Ritter appeared in numerous Western films, primarily in the mid-1930s and 1940s, and went on to achieve even greater fame as a Western recording artist.            


Trivia courtesy of Scottsdale's Museum of the West.       

Connor Pelton

Communications Writer , ASU Now

ASU students to present biodesign projects at Museum of Modern Art in New York

June 19, 2017

A team of students from ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts has been selected as a finalist to present at the Biodesign Challenge Summit at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City.

The Biodesign Challenge is an international university competition that partners college students with scientists to envision new ways to harness living systems and biotechnology. ASU’s team was chosen as a representative to compete with 22 universities from seven countries around the world at MoMA on June 22–23. Biodesign Challenge Download Full Image

The students took part in the Herberger Institute's Arts Media and Engineering 410 Interactive Materials class, led by Assistant Professor Stacey Kuznetsov. Throughout the spring semester, the students have been developing their projects in conjunction with artists, designers and scientists from ASU’s Biodesign Institute across disciplines including Rolf Halden and Karen Anderson.  

They wanted to explore the intersection between art, architecture, the future of biotechnology and our environmental stewardship. 

Herberger Institute students Ryan Wertz, Loren Benally, Jacob Sullivan and Veronika Volkova will be presenting their project, called “Life Light,” in New York. For the class, they created a small-scale prototype of an interactive, kinetic art installation that can move with a visitor to envelop them with glow-in-the-dark, or bioluminescent, algae.   

The idea is to create a living forest of light that will move and adapt to the configuration of the exhibit space, and the human interaction within the space. 

“I would like visitors to feel enchanted,” Benally said. “I want them to stop and take a second to experience what’s going on around them and to think about how it affects them.” 

Their end goal is to create an interactive ecosystem that houses a field of lantern-size containers, each growing bioluminescent algae. The algae would be suspended at different heights and the organisms inside will light up when touched by people passing through the exhibit.

Herberger Institute student Veronica Volkova also explained the inspiration behind the project, stating that “we want to make people aware of the relationship between humans and nature.”

Above all, they wanted to create an artwork to show how people’s actions affect the environment, but also how our interaction with the natural world influences us in return. 

The team will showcase its project at MoMA on June 22 and 23 to an audience of 200 curators, artists, designers, scientists and more. They will compete for prizes including the Glass Microbe, an artwork produced by U.K. artist Luke Jerram that symbolizes the intersection of art, design and biology.

“These finalists were selected from a pool of 400 participants. Their projects will be seen by thousands of people around the world,” said Daniel Grushkin, founder of the Biodesign Challenge and executive director of Genspace. “I firmly believe that they are leading us into a sustainable future with their visions.”

The projects will be on display at a gallery show at School of Visual Arts in New York City, running until July 1.

Kuznetsov is optimistic about the future of art-science collaboration at ASU. Participating in this year’s competition has shown her the value of interdisciplinary projects such the Biodesign Challenge.

“I’m so thrilled with this class as a starting point for collaboration. Our students should have lab access, they should be able to go to the Biodesign Institute and vice versa. The Biodesign students should be able to come here and use our 3-D printers and laser cutters,” Kuznetsov said. “I hope that sending our team to New York gets us to collaborate more between the two Institutes.” 

This is the first year that ASU has participated in the Biodesign Challenge. The project is supported by Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the Biodesign Institute.

Written by Michelle Saldana, Biodesign Institute

Claudia Mesch

June 16, 2017

Claudia Mesch’s book “Joseph Beuys,” published by Reaktion Books, was released this month. Mesch, a professor in the School of Art, analyses the controversial German artist and aspects of his work that have offended audiences.

Beuys, one of the most important German artists of the late 20th century, was a former soldier in the Third Reich; his art and persona were therefore intertwined with Germany’s fascist past. “In illuminating the centrality of trauma and the sustained investigation of the notion of art as the two defining threads in Beuys's life and art, this book offers a critical biography that deepens our understanding of his many works and their contribution,” according to the publisher’s description. It is distributed in the U.S. by the University of Chicago Press. ASU School of Art faculty Claudia Mesch Claudia Mesch Download Full Image

Learn more about the book.

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ASU debuts Franco brothers' art exhibit this weekend

Sewer pipes become something beautiful at Franco brothers' show at ASU museum.
"Pipe Brothers" exhibit shines "a light on the art ecosystem," says ASU curator.
James Franco and brother's ceramics exhibit runs June 17-Sept. 23 in Tempe.
June 15, 2017

'Pipe Brothers: Tom and James Franco' by artist/actor duo features ceramic sewer pipes made with help of Phoenix factory

Actor James Franco has made a successful career from being wildly unpredictable, playing a vast array of characters from James Dean to a supervillian in "Spider-Man" to a drug dealer named Alien.

His next project has to do with pipes — no, it’s not what you’re thinking — though it does have to do with the gutter.

The famous actor, writer, director and producer is collaborating with his brother, full-time sculptor Tom (pictured above), in a new exhibit at the ASU Art Museum Ceramics Research Center. It makes its national debut on Saturday, June 17.

“Pipe Brothers: Tom and James Franco” is an exhibition consisting of nine large carved and painted ceramic sewer pipes, which measure seven and a half feet tall and weigh nearly 750 pounds apiece. It runs through Sept. 23.

An artist’s reception is being planned for the beginning of the school semester.

“We love exhibits like these because an artist like James Franco the public knows and this is so unexpected,” said Garth Johnson, curator of ceramics at the ASU Art Museum. “Artists are doing incredible work with ceramics and they are helping to shine a light on the art ecosystem, and that’s a win for me.”

Johnson was quick to point out that Franco’s brother Tom is a respected and dedicated artist from the Bay Area who learned his craft at the California College of Arts in Oakland under the tutelage of veteran artist and textbook author John Toki.

“Tom Franco is an up-and-coming, dynamic Renaissance man who has tremendous drive and talent,” Toki said. “He also has a unique artistic bent.”

The Franco brothers frequently work together, but none of their projects has been as unusual or as ambitious as “Pipe Brothers.”

To create the artwork, the Francos — along with members of the Firehouse Art Collective, a non-profit Tom founded that provides affordable spaces where artists can live, work and collaborate — made frequent visits over the course of a year to Mission Clay Products, a Phoenix-based factory that produces the ceramic pipes, which are more durable and sustainable than plastic.

The Franco brothers had to adjust their working schedules to fit into the factory’s rhythms and equipment.

“We were easily putting in 14-hour days,” Toki said. “We’d have to flood the floor with water so the ceramic wouldn’t crack. It takes a strong soul to endure that, especially in the Arizona heat.”

The countless hours of carving and painting resulted in pipe pieces depicting a rabbit jumping rope, James Dean behind the wheel of his Porsche, and people playing soccer.

Timelapse of the installation for “Pipe Brothers: Tom and James Franco” at the ASU Art Museum Ceramics Research Center.

Under the direction of owner Bryan Vansell, Mission Clay has worked with ceramic artists for more than three decades as part of its arts and industry program, which allows artists to engage with the industrial ceramic fabrication process.

Tom Franco credits Mission Clay for inspiring him to work outside his comfort zone.

“There were so many firsts for me with the medium of clay — the size of the sculptures, working conditions, immersion in process,” Franco said in an ASU press release. “I’ve completely fallen into obsession with the cylindrical form; it’s like finding primal shape that we can’t live without.”

After the exhibition at ASU, the pipes will tour other cities and eventually will live on as public art, Johnson said.

“It’s ideal for public art because they’re durable,” he said. “They’re made to last hundreds of years.”

For hours, directions and parking, visit


Top photo: The ASU Art Museum Ceramics Research Center in Tempe is hosting "Pipe Brothers: Tom and James Franco," an exhibition of nine large carved and painted sewer pipes. The exhibit starts Saturday and runs through Sept. 23. Tom Franco (pictured above) is a full-time sculptor. Photo courtesy of ASU Art Museum Ceramics Research Center

ASU hosts Chinese Language Summer Camp for Arizona students

June 15, 2017

On June 4, thirty middle and high school students arrived at Arizona State University to kick off the ninth annual ASU Startalk Chinese Language Summer Camp.

The camp marks an opportunity for Arizona’s brightest students to come together and develop their Chinese-language skills and cultural understanding. From the day they set foot on the ASU campus, students are immersed in the Chinese language and culture. Students remain at the camp twenty-four hours a day, sleeping in campus dormitories, eating with camp staff and other students, and engaging in full slate of daily activities. Lasting for a total of fifteen days, the camp offers a unique learning environment for its participants who came from nineteen schools in ten cities around the state, Participants pose with the fruits of their labor after practicing calligraphy during Startalk 2017. Download Full Image

The core activity of the camp is Chinese-language instruction. Students spend several hours a day in Chinese classes taught by experienced area instructors and teaching assistants. Classes, which range from the beginner to the intermediate level, are organized around a yearly camp theme. This year’s theme, “Let’s Plan a Family Reunion Trip to China,” places emphasis on giving students the ability to plan travel in Chinese-speaking countries. Students create a travel planner and carry out a variety of in-class activities and presentations based on the camp theme. Students also have individualized tutoring sessions with teaching assistants in the evenings.

Classes are conducted almost entirely in Chinese, forcing students to develop their listening and speaking skills. While full language immersion can be difficult for language learners of any age, learning alongside other highly-motivated students helps create a positive and cooperative educational environment for camp participants, and students note the improvement they make as the camp progresses. At the end of the camp, students create a poster and a slide show presentation advertising a vacation to one of their favorite Chinese cities.

Language instruction, however, is only the beginning of camp activities. Afternoons include hands-on cultural activities with topics such as dance, calligraphy and Chinese knots. Students also participate in evening activities such as Chinese movies and games, and are introduced to a variety of foods through Chinese lunches, a dumpling-making activity and a "fear factor" food-tasting game.

Guest instructors also join the camp to conduct cultural activities; for instance, a disciple of a Shaolin master visited campus this week to give a martial arts class for students. Through these activities, students gain exposure to different aspects of Chinese culture, while learning and practicing specialized Chinese vocabulary related to each activity.

Participants and staff of Startalk 2017 take a break during the intensive fifteen-day program.

 One highlight of the week is an off-campus trip to Mekong Plaza in Mesa. After beginning the day with a dim sum brunch, students are sent on a scavenger hunt at the plaza supermarket. As with other camp activities, students must use their newly-acquired language skills to complete the activity, seeking out a list of Chinese foods and drinks from the variety of items on display at the market. The Mekong field trip gives students an opportunity to utilize their learning in the "real world."

On the last day of the camp, students celebrate and share their progress with friends, family and teachrs by putting on a performance. One aspect of the performance is the presentation of group projects on China’s major cities, done entirely by the students in Chinese. In addition, each does a song and dance number. 

According to program director Xia Zhang, the camp is an enjoyable and valuable experience for students.

“This program strives to provide students with the best learning experience by immersing them in an intensive yet fun environment,” Zhang said. “I hope that through this program, students not only learn a foreign language but also learn to better appreciate another culture.”

After the camp concludes, students will use what they’ve learned as a springboard for further Chinese-language study at their respective schools and colleges. Apart from building their language skills and cultural understanding, students gain exposure to university campus life and build friendships with classmates that last beyond the camp.

Startalk is a presidential initiative funded by the National Security Agency that seeks to expand and improve the instruction and learning of strategically important languages such as Chinese. For the ninth consecutive year, the School of International Letters and Cultures at ASU was selected by the Startalk Central to host the Chinese Language Summer Camp. The camp is largely funded by the U.S. government, and students pay only a nominal fee to attend. Arizona students can apply to attend the camp in the spring of each year.

More information on the camp can be found at or on the program Facebook page at