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

Deborah Sussman Susser

Communications and media specialist, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


ASU News

ASU grad creates new system for interactive media design

May 14, 2015

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Matthew Ragan is the only ASU student graduating from his particular degree program this year. He is earning an master's degree in theater with a concentration in interdisciplinary digital media and performance. portrait of ASU graduate Matthew Ragan Download Full Image

The degree is one of the newer cross-institute degree concentrations in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, which is split between the School of Film, Dance and Theatre and the School of Arts, Media + Engineering.

“The reality that I had the most trouble with coming in as a student, but now I really appreciate on the other end of this experience, is how new this particular thing is,” Ragan said. “I came in wanting someone to sit me down and show me the way. Instead, the experiences I have had with a lot of my faculty mentors is that they would just push me. They’d say, ‘Stop looking to me for answers and go do that thing and come back and report to me about what you learned, and then I’ll push you in a different direction.’ ”

For Ragan, this open landscape of possibility allowed him to explore uncharted territory at the intersection of live performance and interactive design.

But he didn’t discover this path immediately.

After earning his undergraduate degree in theater and dance at Cal State Fresno, he spent several years working at Keene State College in New Hampshire, first in educational outreach and later in educational media creation and distribution. In the meantime, he was also training at the New England Center for Circus Arts and performing circus acrobatics.

“I had this schizophrenic life where I felt like I had this one part of me that was all technology and media and this other part of me that was all performance,” he said. “I finally ended up landing in the Interdisciplinary Digital Media and Performance program here at ASU because it felt like it was a chance to finally steer both parts of my life together in a way that felt less divided.”

During his time at ASU, Ragan estimates that he worked on close to 26 productions in total. He can’t pick a favorite, but he does identify several important benchmarks along the way.

The first of these benchmarks was the thesis project of then-MFA-student Boyd Branch, called “Neuro,” which was a devised piece that had audiences interacting closely with actors and a slew of different pieces of responsive technology.

“Working on ‘Neuro’ was interesting because at that time I didn’t know hardly anything,” Ragan said. “So that was really an opportunity to start thinking about installation artwork and how sensors work and how you build something that’s interactive, not just for an operator, but for some person to interact with in a live environment.

As a more recent benchmark, Ragan points to a summer project in a live quarry in Branford, Conneticut (the same quarry that provided the stone for the base of the Statue of Liberty and portions of the Brooklyn Bridge). The performance, “TERRA TRACTUS: The Earth Moves,” was the largest project Ragan had ever tackled; it was also important because it involved live media mixing in what Ragan describes as a sort of DJ-style improvisation.

This ability to improvise through digital media became the foundation of Ragan’s MFA thesis.

“One of the things I kept coming back to in the process of designing shows in the first two years [in the program] is that we were constantly reinventing the wheel every time we wanted to do any kind of interactivity in a show,” says Ragan. “I just always felt like it was crazy that we were building a program and designing the media every time. So I started to ask, what happens if we think of the interactive environment as something that we can come back to?”

Part of Ragan’s thesis was to design the media for ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre MainStage production “romeo&juliet/VOID.” But he went a few steps further, programming the actual media system for the show and teaching a concurrent class in the School of Arts, Media + Engineering about how to program for live performance.

“For my thesis, I developed a yearlong piece of curriculum that’s really about how you use media with live performance, as well as developed a tool to use in theatres,” he said. “So it was both about building an application and then building all the documentation and curriculum around it.”

In a way, Ragan’s story has come full circle, incorporating performance, design, media and teaching all together.

Completing that circle, he’s moving back home to California. Ragan has a job lined up post-graduation as an interactive engineer at San Francisco-based Obscura Digital, one of the leading creative technology companies in the United States.

“They do large-scale immersive interactive environments, projection, video systems – they run the gamut in terms of artistic work and corporate work, in terms of the kinds of things that they produce,” Ragan said. “And it’s on the scale that we always talk about but never have the time or budget to actualize.”

Editor Assistant and Media Relations Specialist, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the School of Film, Dance and Theatre


ASU News

ASU professor's new book offers taste of bayou magic, culture

May 12, 2015

Award-winning author Jewell Parker Rhodes was born in Steel City U.S.A., but her head, heart and literary works can often be found the Deep South.

Her latest, “Bayou Magic” (Little, Brown and Company, $17), is a middle school reader novel about Maddy, a young African-American girl in Louisiana who finds out that she has inherited her family’s magical legacy. And when an oil leak threatens to ruin the beautiful bayou, she knows she may be the only one who can help. Jewell Parker Rhodes Download Full Image

Rhodes is founding director of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and the Piper Endowed Chair at Arizona State University. She is also a professor in the Department of English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The author of a dozen books, Rhodes spoke exclusively to ASU News about “Bayou Magic” and her Southern roots, and she offered a sneak peak at her next novel, which was influenced by the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Q: “Bayou Magic” takes a very different approach to mermaid lore than the Disney tale so many of us are familiar with. What was the inspiration for this story?

A: I’ve long known about different mermaid lore. I was thrilled when both UCLA’s Fowler Museum and the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art featured an exhibit of Mami Wata, “Mother Water.” I think it’s amazing that African mermaids swam beside slave ships and remained in America to comfort the captured and to remind them of their homeland. Literature teaches culture. I want girls of color to know there are heroic mermaids that mirror them. I want all girls to know there are diverse, global mermaid tales that depart from the Western tale of a mermaid transforming herself to marry a human.

Q: You were born in Pittsburgh, but “Bayou Magic” and many of your previous novels take place in Louisiana. What is it about the Deep South that moves you?

A: My grandmother raised me, and she had deep Southern roots. She believed in holistic healing, and she taught me to honor the past, my ancestors and nature.  Grandmother died when I was 19 just as I was deciding to become a writer.  Whenever I visit Louisiana, I feel her spirit – her good-heartedness and love.  I’m also enthralled by the cultural stew – the delicious food, music and people. History feels alive in Louisiana; the atmosphere encourages dreams, magic and creativity.

Q: Why are magic and myth such an important part of children’s literature?

A: The world is already magical for children. Seeing the moon, a family of rabbits, currents in the water are spectacular for a child.  However, I do think children are drawn to stories in which characters perform magic. Magic can help children overcome their limitations and like Maddy save the day. Combine the mythic hero’s journey with magic and young readers feel empowered.

Q: What’s the best part of writing for a younger audience?

A: Hugs and more hugs! Visiting schools is such a life-affirming delight. But I didn’t expect cards, letters and drawings from students. It’s very precious when a child reaches out. I keep a box filled with cards and letters. I imagine when I’m very, very old, they will never fail to lift my spirits. 

Q: What do you hope your young readers learn from this book?

A: Nature needs to be cherished, and the health of animals, humans and our planet need to be balanced with energy needs. Young people today will be the stewards of the future. I do believe legends of mermaids who valued waters and befriended humanity will add an emotional resonance to sustainability issues for children. Which is why through our Piper Writers Studio and our Desert Nights, Rising Stars – we also support youth writing and workshops. Your Novel Year is a Piper initiative, and we have a second cohort in progress. We teach Young Adult and Middle Grade novel writing. These are genres not taught in traditional MFA programs.

Q: Are you working on any new projects?

A: I’m completing “Towers Falling,” which has a publication date for the summer of 2016.  It’s about Dèjà, a homeless girl who discovers how her life has been impacted by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. I’m also doing research for two other historical novels. I don’t know if I’ll write one or both or none. As always my writing follows my heart. I’m open to voices, characters that appear like ghosts when I’m doing the dishes or dreaming.

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU News

ASU grad's project takes a closer look at teen motherhood

May 11, 2015

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Amanda Mollindo didn’t set out to become a photographer. Photograph from ASU student Amanda Mollindo's show "Young Mothers." Download Full Image

Even though she loved taking photos in high school – of her family, her friends, the landscape around Yuma, Arizona, where she grew up – the Barrett, The Honors College student came to Arizona State University to study digital culture.

One of her first digital culture classes was taught by Betsy Schneider, faculty in the ASU School of Art in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and a renowned fine-art photographer.

“I got to know the photography program really well really fast,” Mollindo said, “and I fell in love with it.”

Mollindo tried double-majoring for a while, but she noticed that all of the classes she was signing up for were photo classes.

“I love photography too much,” she said, smiling. “It got in the way.”

A brief mention of teen mothers, in a women’s studies class her sophomore year, gave Mollindo the focus for her thesis project.

Mollindo’s own mother was just 17 when she gave birth, after which she left to attend ASU and didn’t return. Mollindo was raised in Yuma by her grandparents, who took guardianship of her.

“All of a sudden it clicked and I knew,” she said. “I immediately went to Betsy, because I had worked with her and I knew she had done a lot of work with family. I knew she would be a really great thesis director, and I also worked with Dr. Aviva Dove, in the honors college.”

“Young Mothers: Exploring Life After Teen Pregnancy” took several years of research, interviewing, writing and photographing – 17 families in all, including Mollindo and her mother.

“What was interesting to me was the media portrayal of teen pregnancy,” Mollindo said. “Growing up I knew my mom had me at a young age, I was aware of the fact that it was a little bit taboo and that it was something that wasn’t supposed to happen. I got that from the community and the fact that there was no real media representation that I could relate to.”

Through her job at a preschool in Mesa, Mollindo’s mother helped Mollindo find families to photograph.

“She’s always been really supportive of the project,” Mollindo said of her mother, “and she agreed that there wasn’t a whole lot that really explains what [the experience of teen motherhood] is like. It’s more like how to prevent it.

As supportive as she was, Mollindo’s mother was reluctant to give her own interview for the project, Mollindo said, “because we both knew it was going to be really difficult. Once I finally did interview her, I realized that this was really a project to understand our relationship a little bit better. That was a really important experience for me.”

Mollindo is quick to point out that the project wasn’t “just about me. I was really interested in other people’s experiences as well. It wouldn’t be as effective if it wasn’t both.”

Mollindo mounted her thesis show at Modified, a gallery in downtown Phoenix. The day she began installing the exhibition, she said, she knew she needed to produce a book, too.

“We were like halfway done with installing, and I came back to school to make the book,” she remembered. “It was finished the morning of the opening. It wasn’t a pretty time in my life. I was exhausted. I was fortunate enough to have some really supportive friends to help with the install and get me through it. When I talk to other people in other majors, it’s really clear that we have a very special community in the School of Art, within our programs.”

After graduation, Mollindo has an internship lined up through the middle of September, at Anderson Ranch Arts Center in Snowmass Village, Colorado, where she will help out with workshops in photo and new media.

After that, she said, “I don’t know. I do want to go to graduate school in the next couple of years, but I want to know what it’s like to be a working adult for a while.”

Her mother would like her to continue making art, she says.

“She’s really glad that I’ve chosen to pursue something that I’m really passionate about,” Mollindo said. “And my family is really supportive of me choosing to go into photography. They’re proud of what I’ve done so far. They think that I’ll be ok, that I’ll do fine in the arts.”

So does Betsy Schneider, the professor with whom Mollindo worked on the “Young Mothers” project, who describes Mollindo as “self-motivated and ambitious, but also aware of how much she doesn’t know and eager to have the help to progress.”

“She’s soaked up the best of Barrett [The Honors College] and the School of Art,” Schneider said of Mollindo. “I’ve watched her grow so much over the past four years, and I can’t wait to see where she goes next.”

Deborah Sussman Susser

Communications and media specialist, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


ASU News

ASU design student improves conditions for refugees

May 11, 2015

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Taylor Loutsis has been an undergraduate student for the past eight years. Design student Taylor Loutsis Download Full Image

In that time, he has attended three universities, declared six majors and traveled across multiple continents.

“I’m extraordinarily impulsive,” Loutsis said. “So I saw something shiny, in a sense, and I just ran for it. But that shiny wasn’t materialistic, it was more like curiosity.”

This month, Loutsis will graduate with a Bachelor of Science in design in graphic design from The Design School in the ASU Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, but for this self-motivated, 25-year-old changemaker, the degree is just the beginning.

The journey

Loutsis’ story begins in Seattle, where he was born and raised.

“When I was a little kid, I would ask my dad for a pile of dirt so I could make a city,” he said. “I would make these giant earth cities with lakes and pipes, I would make houses out of shoeboxes. I didn’t really put it together until this year, but I was super interested in designing things or making things that represented space.”

Loutsis started his undergrad at Washington State University, but it wasn’t until he got into the design program at Arizona State University that things began to fall into place, partially because he spent so much time exploring. One summer Loutsis earned an artist residency in New York, another summer he took an internship in Germany, and one semester he studied abroad in Singapore.

“While I’ve been at ASU I‘ve had the opportunity and tools to do an excessive amount of exploring in a short period of time to really fine-tune what I want to do,” Loutsis said. “That paired with the fact that our studio is exposed to all the design disciplines at once. You’re going through the hallways and you see industrial design or you see architecture. It’s like a cross-pollination.”

This exposure to other disciplines within The Design School was essential for Loutsis’ most notable project during his undergraduate career, Erasing Boundaries.

Erasing Boundaries

“On June 20, the Associated Press released an article that there were over 50 million people displaced globally for the first time since WWII,” Loutsis said. “That article connected all the dots for me. For the graphic design program, you have to pick a social issue for your final project, and I knew I wanted to do something architecture-related. So it was like OK – refugee camp housing, architecture, social issue – it just made sense.”

But Loutsis knew he couldn’t tackle such a large issue with his skill set alone. He met with his program director, Al Sanft, and proposed a project that would bring in the help of a civil engineering student from University of Portland, an architecture student from Pratt Institute in New York, an industrial design student and an anthropology student from ASU.

The team Skyped once a week during the semester, and gradually Erasing Boundaries began to take shape. The multidisciplinary project reimagines housing in the Kiziba refugee camp in Rwanda, which has a population of 17,500. 

The group has worked closely with Kigabo Mbazumutima, a doctor from the West African Republic of Benin who survived the genocide and has been instrumental in connecting Loutsis and his peers to the local refugee community in Arizona.

“We’ve learned that one of the biggest issues with refugee camps in Africa is that there are multiple tribes with different languages – so there’re language barriers from within,” Loutsis said. “Part of our concept is erasing the boundaries within the refugee camps.”

Aside from being the initiator of the project, Loutsis created the branding, the book, the exhibit design and the video for Erasing Boundaries.

“Graphics are so important because they unify the project, they make it more cohesive,” Loutsis said.

Next steps

After graduation, Loutsis is moving back to Seattle. He already has a job lined up at Arscentia, a company that specializes in exhibition design and design of retail space. He also has applied to join the committee for urban development of the city, and he has signed up for woodworking and metalworking classes on the weekends.

But, he noted reassuringly, Erasing Boundaries isn’t going away just yet.

“That was what was so beautiful about this experience – it showed that this type of project could be executed without having to be together,” Loutsis said.

In August, Loutsis and the other members of the group are traveling with Mbazumutima to his home village to do a site analysis of potential locations for a new community space that might take the form of anything from a health clinic to a school. The group is applying for a substantial grant to help ensure that these designs can one day become a reality.

“There are so many question marks,” Loutsis said. “But we’ve definitely gained the trust of the refugee community here. They know we’ve already invested a few hundred hours into this out of our own will. That’s the most magical part about it – there’s already been that emotional bond.”

In the end, all of Loutsis’ experimenting at ASU paid off, and he was able to discover a path towards his ideal career.

“My dream is to get a masters in architecture at Yale,” he said. “They do their first year in pro bono and they’re more about storytelling and conceptual design, so it seems like a good fit for me.”

As always, he remains invested in making sure there is a link between graphic design, architecture and all of the different design disciplines.

“But I want to take at least five years off,” Loutsis added. “Eight years of undergrad is a long time.”

Editor Assistant and Media Relations Specialist, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the School of Film, Dance and Theatre


ASU News

ASU students share life lessons through acting

May 8, 2015

Ciara Archer came to ASU with the goal of becoming a journalist, but she had no idea she would add singer, dancer, writer and comedy sketch artist to her resume.

When she was a sophomore, Archer joined DisOrientation, a student-led comedic drama and sketch poetry production, where current students reveal the "real deal" of campus living. Download Full Image

Archer remembers her first impression of DisOrientation during her initial week at Arizona State University.

“The cast members were putting their lives out there for everyone to see, and I was thinking, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s my life.’ I was just mesmerized because it was so cool. The fact that they wrote it all themselves and these were true stories really resonated with me,” said Archer, who is now a senior studying journalism in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Under the direction of Pamela Sterling, an associate professor in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts School of Film, Dance and Theatre, and an accomplished playwright herself, the production is designed to offer advice on everything from roommates to relationships – and a lot in between.

Going on its ninth year with a cast of 15 students, DisOrientation now plays to more than 3,000 first-year students during Fall Welcome.

"Everybody writes, performs and sings, whether you’re a good singer or not,” Sterling said. “Singing, dancing, performing, writing and composing or musicianship are the five main components. I’m looking for all types of students to apply to be part of the paid cast."

As a unique summer opportunity, DisOrientation allows current ASU students to try a new experience and share their Sun Devil stories. Participating students are not required to be theater majors. Past shows have included engineering, biology and math majors, along with Archer, a journalism major.

“We did a lot of trial and error. Some things worked and some things definitely didn’t work,” Archer said. “It’s great to see the dynamics between each of the cast members, because we all come with our own view on college and life. So to be able to have that voice and put it into the show was really unique.”

Accompanying an unforgettable experience for new students, cast members often experience personal growth during the production, Sterling said. A student from the 2014 cast, who is transgender, was able to tell the personal story of her transition, and the challenges it presented, with her parents in the audience.

“They heard some things they had never heard, that she had not been able to tell them. And after hearing her and seeing her tell this story, they came up and hugged me and thanked me for allowing her to have this opportunity,” Sterling said.

The benefits of becoming a cast member are many, according to Sterling. Besides offering a paid campus job, DisOrientation provides students with confidence, new skills to put on a resume and fun collaboration with fellow Sun Devils.

Auditions for DisOrientation will be held May 23-24 in the Fine Arts Center 131 on the Tempe campus. Rehearsals begin July 13, and performances will be held during Fall Welcome, Aug. 15-22. For information on how to apply, email before May 12.

Written by Jim Brophy,

ASU News

Passion for dance, teaching energizes ASU grad

May 8, 2015

ASU 2015 commencement banner

Helping at-risk youth to find confidence and embrace artistic expression through dance is second nature to Chareka Daniel. woman in dance pose in front of Old Main building Download Full Image

Raised in a low-income family, she had no money for dance lessons to fuel her passion.

“I taught myself to dance by watching the movie 'Save the Last Dance,' ” Daniel said. “I studied Julia Styles’ audition scene every single day, sometimes 10 times a day to learn the technique.”

A teacher in her school gave her the first real words of encouragement.

“She always told me, 'You’re going to make it. … There’s something different about you.' She saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself as a creative dancer,” Daniel said.

These words helped Daniel gain the confidence to pursue her goals. She began to use dance as a way to channel any negativity in her life into the positivity that eventually helped her earn a master’s in fine arts from the School of Film, Dance and Theatre in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University.

Her first formal training came as an undergrad at James Madison University in Virginia. Her natural talent earned her scholarships to attend the American Dance Festival and Laban Dance Studio in London.

Daniel wants to continue to teach after graduation in order to empower people through the same creative movement that has helped her.

“Everyone has something to offer, and just as someone gave that to me, I want to give that to them. This is me. This is who I am,” Daniel said.

Daniel focuses on how creative movement can teach youth how to collaborate with others, how to be creative and how to take ownership of their own lives.

“In graduate school I’ve learned and utilized different teaching strategies and methods,” she said.

In addition to student teaching at Williams Field High School, Daniel’s thesis project was a performance at Herberger Institute’s Margaret Gisolo Dance Studio called “Linked Together.” It resulted from a four-month program for a group of girls from a local Boys & Girls Club.

“I learned these kids are already inherently creative; I just gave them the space,” she said.

One of her students in particular demonstrated a dramatic shift in confidence over the course of the program. The young girl came to the program afraid of performing, shy and seldom making eye contact. This same young girl stepped out on the performance stage four months later and boldly proclaimed, “I am just a 10-year-old girl living an extraordinary life!”

Although her research focuses on ages 5-16, Daniel has accumulated experience teaching a wide variety of audiences. She has taught at high schools and at ASU, and she has even traveled abroad to teach in orphanages in India and Panama.

“I have been so blessed. If it weren’t for the graduate college I would not be in school. I am so grateful. ASU has helped me grow, develop as a professional artist. ASU has given me a space where I can look in the mirror and say ‘I am capable of anything,” she said.

As a recipient of the Special Talent Award, Deans Fellowship and Reach for the Stars Fellowship, Daniel will be graduating this May with zero student loans. Her hard work and dedication will continue to help her empower youth and adults through creative movement.

After graduating she plans to spend her time this summer keeping in shape as a Zumba instructor and finishing testing for her K-12 teaching certificate.

By Lizzy Ackerman, Provost Communications intern

Lisa Robbins

editor/publisher, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


ASU News

Symposium paves way for venture creation in the arts

May 7, 2015

ASU doctoral student Kristi Bradford is putting a new spin on the historically stale high school science-education flick by turning the genre upside down.

She wants to give the films an engaging fictional story line to capture the imagination of students, but to really make it work she needs money. ¡Habla! AZ Download Full Image

“Usually there are only two options to make an arts idea sustainable,” Bradford said. “The first is a government grant, and that’s not very reliable. The other idea is to engage a business, company or organization and make them a part of your audience.”

The fourth biennial Symposium on Entrepreneurship and the Arts aims to do just that. The two-day event starts on May 8 at Arizona State University's Tempe campus Memorial Union.

Hosted by the Pave Program in Arts Entrepreneurship, in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and presented in collaboration with the University of Wisconsin-Madison Bolz Center for Arts Administration, the symposium will explore processes, outcomes and impacts of new venture creation in the arts through hands-on workshops, pitch sessions and research presentations. Student ventures and research such as Bradford’s will be showcased in special sessions.

The symposium will be anchored by two keynote speeches from Ruby Learner, CEO of Creative Capital, and Steven J. Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

“Art, like science, is a way of understanding and knowing the world,” said Linda Essig, director of the Pave Program in Arts Entrepreneurship. “Artists create new knowledge through their practice, and we teach them how to generate business so artists can sustain themselves.”

Essig said the program paves the way to the future of the arts by investing in student innovation and creativity, supporting arts education and undertaking entrepreneurial activities and research. That is achieved through classes, investment in and support for student-initiated arts-based ventures, public programming, speaker programs and workshops.

“One of the goals of the symposium is to get students, professors, artists, heads of corporations, the arts policy community together in one room and start talking about new venture creativity,” Essig said. “Pave can help student artists reach an audience for their work. We feel the expected return on investment is more great art.”

Elisa Gonzales, a Herberger Institute performance-arts graduate student, started ¡Habla! AZ last October thanks to Pave. The organization contributed $5,000 to get her Latino youth theater program off the ground. Gonzales said ¡Habla! AZ held an eight-week pilot program and mask-making workshop at Carl Hayden High School in west Phoenix and participated in last month’s El Puente Theatre Festival & Mask Procession at the Tempe Center for the Arts. She recently filed as a non-profit business and hopes to expand programming in 2015.

“I received a lot of great business ideas on how to develop a successful business model, how to seek private funding through in-kind services and sponsorships and how to market myself,” Gonzales said. “We hope we’re able to grow our organization, thrive and give back to our community.”

Since its creation in 2006, Pave has helped develop 37 arts-based ventures and helped launch pilot programs or businesses. This year six artists – ranging from music and dance to films and gaming – will present their arts-based ventures.

Registration is required for the event. The cost is $125 for the general public; $105 for presenters; and $50 for ASU students. The fee covers all events on May 8 and 9, including a light breakfast and lunch both days.

For additional details about the symposium or to register, visit the Pave website at and click on "public programming."

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU News

ASU students spread the word about helping disaster relief

April 30, 2015

Devastation from the recent earthquake in Nepal has brought the need for more efficient global disaster relief to the forefront. But what is the best way to help?

Graphic design students in Arizona State University’s visual communication studio IV course want to spread the message: Despite what some may think, cash donations are actually best. Symbols of Relief, Dillon Johnson Download Full Image

They designed public service announcements, and four of those students were among six total student finalists from across the country in the 2015 Public Service Announcements for International Disasters (PSAid) contest. The annual competition is sponsored by the U.S. Agency for International Development Center for International Disaster Information (USAID CIDI), which educates the public about the best ways to help survivors of disaster events.

Those ASU students are:

• Katherine McNamara, first place, broadcast, “Donation Machine” (see video at end of story)

• Victoria Howell, third place, broadcast, “Myth vs. Fact” (see video at end of story)

• Dillon Johnson, first place, print, “Symbols of Relief”

• Stephanie McNicol, third place, print, “Make the Biggest Impact”

As is evidenced by its name, “Myth vs. Fact,” Howell wanted her video to dispel certain myths about disaster-relief donations.

“Something like a pack of water bottles that costs very little when purchased can end up costing a couple hundred dollars once it is sent, transported, received and distributed,” all activities that cost money, she said.

McNicol enjoyed participating in the competition not just for the opportunity to inform the public about disaster relief, but because “it's a great experience for [us] students … we treat this like a client project. We get to Skype with the people involved in the PSAid competition and ask questions.” 

The course is co-taught by Lisa Peña, instructor in the Design School, part of ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts; John Mahon, faculty associate in the Design School; and Jarred Elrod, a graphic designer with ASU Wellness.

"My colleagues and I are extremely proud of our students," said Peña. "In the past, we have consistently won in the print and/or video categories for PSAid. However, this year, due to the recent events in Nepal, our students have gained a better understanding of how their work can affect communities near and far."

In its 10th year, PSAid has generated hundreds of broadcast and print public-service announcements about practicing “Smart Compassion” in support of international disaster relief. A core tenet of Smart Compassion is that monetary donations to relief organizations do more good for disaster survivors with greater speed and sensitivity than do unsolicited material donations.

“For the past decade, the PSAid competition has increased awareness among Americans that monetary donations to relief organizations provide the greatest help to survivors,” said Juanita M. Rilling, director of USAID CIDI. “The winners of this year’s competition have done a masterful job of illustrating that ‘Cash is Best.’”

The winning PSAs will be distributed through broadcast and cable outlets nationwide. All entries from this year and from prior years may be viewed on the PSAid competition website.

Want to know how specifically to help in Nepal? Visit the USAID CIDI website.

Emma Greguska

Reporter, ASU Now

(480) 965-9657