image title

ASU launches initiative to support next generation of leaders

Initiative's 1st cohort getting chance to step back, see how parts work together
March 1, 2017

Advanced Leadership Initiative immerses 9 fellows in innovative thinking

Arizona State University is a massive engine that runs at warp speed, and a new initiative is inviting a group of campus leaders to look under the hood so they can keep it going decades into the future.

The Advanced Leadership Initiative is a six-month immersive experience to cultivate a new pool of leaders to keep ASU on a trajectory of innovation and achievement.

“What we’re trying to do is really embed them in the ASU context,” said Minu IpeIpe leads the ASU Design Accelerator and also is a clinical professor with the Department of Management and Entrepreneurship in the W. P. Carey School of Business. She also has helped run the Leadership Academy, which has trained mid-level faculty and staff members since 2012., Senior Knowledge Enterprise Architect and senior fellow for leadership and institutional design, and one of the heads of the new program.

“We want them to understand what the whole of ASU is about and really think about the question of what does it mean to lead ASU into the future and how can we engage the whole institution?”

The team will focus on five leadership competencies:

  • “Think big,” which is thinking about what is being worked on today in its future iterations.
  • “Lead innovation,” which is the ability to understand what innovation looks like at ASU and the ability to challenge the status quo in an empowering way.
  • “Execute with influence,” which emphasizes a proactive approach.
  • “Develop talent,” which is the ability to build and nurture a strong team.
  • “Deploy Yourself,” which is the ability to take chances and be resilient.

Bryan Brayboy is in the pilot cohort. BrayboyBrayboy also is associate director of the School of Social Transformation and serves as affiliate faculty with the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, American Indian Studies and the Department of English., Borderlands Professor of Indigenous Education and Justice in the School of Social Transformation, said it’s nice to be able to take a step back from the sometimes overwhelming day-to-day responsibilities.

“In some ways, we’re all hanging on for dear life with the rate at which this place moves,” he said. “We’re all part of engineering that, but we don’t always get a chance to see how the engine works. This gives us a chance to see how the moving parts work together.”

The nine faculty and staff members in the first cohort of ALI Fellows come from across the university and have already attended the first of three intensive retreats. At the workshops, they met with ASU leaders who have already succeeded at large-scale projects, including Wellington “Duke” Reiter, who developed the Downtown Phoenix campus, and Phil Regier, who launched ASU Online at EdPlus.

“As it turns out, it’s not an accident that ASU continues to do so many things well,” said Brayboy, who is special adviser to the president on American Indian Affairs and director of the Center for Indian Education.

“There’s a brilliance to how this is working, and I had a chance to see some of that.”

Besides the retreats, the fellows will have several hours with an executive coach, who will help them assess a 360-degree review, in which supervisors, peers and subordinates give feedback.

Program manager Chelsea Chamberlain said that after this session, the cohort will provide feedback and then work with the next group.

“As much as they are participants, they are collaborators as well,” she said.

Cynthia Lietz, senior associate dean of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions, said that the camaraderie among the group is meaningful as they share fears and dreams.

“There’s so much work to be done to make the world a better place, and at ASU there’s so much going on that you could feel like how could I, as one person, make a difference?

“But this program has done a great job of highlighting people who have done big things and made a difference and shown that it’s not ever just one person. It’s the ability to coalesce a group of people around an idea and execute it,” said Lietz, a professor in the School of Social Work. “The sense that you’re in it alone is debunked through this process.”

The Advanced Fellowship Initiative Fellows are (front row from left) Matt Delmont, Jen Haughn and Nadya Bliss; (middle row, from left) Ji Mi Choi, Bryan Brayboy and Nina Berman; and (back row, from left) Tiffany Lopez, Cynthia Lietz and Jake Pinholster. Contributed photo

Besides Brayboy and Lietz, the other fellows in the Advanced Leadership Initiative are:

  • Nina Berman, director and professor at the School of International Letters and Culture, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Nadya Bliss, director of the Global Security Initiative, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development
  • Ji Mi Choi, associate vice president for strategic partnerships and programs, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development
  • Matt Delmont, professor and director of the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
  • Jen Haughn, director of client services, Office of Human Resources
  • Tiffany Lopez, director and professor at the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts
  • Jake Pinholster, associate professor and associate dean for policy initiatives, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

ASU President Michael Crow recognized the need to sustainably cultivate a pool of leaders who can advance innovation at ASU, and at his request, the Advanced Leadership Initiative was created, designed and executed by Ipe and May Busch, executive in residence in the Office of the President and senior adviser to the president, along with Chamberlain and Maggie Dellow, program coordinator, both in the Office of University Affairs.

For more information, visit

image title

ASU brain fair engages next generation of scientists

ASU brain fair teaches kids about the expanding field of brain research.
ASU working to better understand neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s
March 1, 2017

Psychology professor started event to draw more minds into the expanding field of brain research

Arizona State University psychology professor and neuroscientist Heather Bimonte-Nelson recently found herself surrounded by hundreds of students examining brains, which wouldn’t have been unusual except that they were third- and fourth-graders with handfuls of Play-Doh.

Hoping to draw children into the field and inspire the next generation of scientists, Bimonte-Nelson, along with her laboratory and team of students and other faculty, host events like these to get kids excited about brain research and other STEM fields. At a time when illnesses like Alzheimer’s, CTE and other neurodegenerative diseases are on the rise, the study of neuroscience has never been more important.

The 11th annual ASU Brain Fair was held earlier this week inside the Psychology building on ASU's Tempe campus. 

“I came up with the idea as a way to start drawing kids into science,” Bimonte-Nelson said. “It is one thing to come in and talk about (brains), but it’s another to bring in the brains and models to show them. It’s really a great way to relate science to them in ways that are very straightforward.”

The model has been a hit with both the students and their teachers. The children, ranging from 8 to 10 years old, bounce around the floor as they compare their Play-Doh creations.  

A pair of undergraduate students monitor a microscope station where the kids peer through a lens and record what they see. They also gather special certificates, pencils and brain-shaped erasers — tokens to take home and help remember the fair long after it ends.

“The kids come from underprivileged backgrounds, and for a lot of them it’s their first time coming on a field trip,” said Stephanie Koebele, a fourth-year graduate student in the Bimonte-Nelson laboratory who both helped at this event and has done many similar ones on her own. “They just look so amazed and have so many questions. It’s fun to share that with them." 

The activities at the fair are focused on neuroscience and the nervous system specifically, an area that ASU researchers are working hard on exploring further.

According to Bimonte-Nelson, area head of ASU’s Behavioral Neuroscience ProgramThe Behavioral Neuroscience Program is part of the Department of Psychology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences., the brain’s function is impacted by so many variables that have yet to be understood. This means that we also have a long way to go before fully understanding human emotions and behaviors.

She said this is why influencing and teaching the next wave of researchers is so important.

“The most important thing I do is mentor the next generation of scientists,” Bimonte-Nelson said. “That is what’s most special to me. I think training the next generation is going to have the biggest impact on future discoveries in the brain, behavior and other functions throughout the body.”

One of those future discoveries they are hoping to make surrounds the ever-growing Alzheimer’s disease. According to Bimonte-Nelson, more than 120,000 people in the state of Arizona are currently suffering from Alzheimer’s, a statistic that includes about 50 percent of residents over the age of 85.

Bimonte-Nelson is a member of the Arizona Alzheimer's Consortium, an organization that has been working since 1998 to find a cure for the disease. 

“We really need to have an interdisciplinary approach from behavior to molecules,” she said. “I think that type of approach is what can help us understand and create innovative treatments for normal age-related memory decline and brain changes, as well as neurodegenerative disease.”

While the field of brain research is still expanding at ASU, community outreach efforts, thanks to the help of Bimonte-Nelson and some of her former students, are growing as well. Many of her graduates have gone on to organize Brain Fairs at their new positions throughout the country, hoping to drive some children toward the field of science in the process.

One of those former students, Liz Engler-Chiurazzi, is now at West Virginia University.

Engler-Chiurazzi is pursuing her post-doctoral fellowship in Morgantown, where she works on aging, Alzheimer’s and traumatic brain injuries, among other things. She loved the outreach initiatives started by Bimonte-Nelson so much that she started doing similar things at her new location.

“I started connecting with schools, brought supplies in and did those activities in the classrooms of the local school kids,” said Engler-Chiurazzi. “We will visit around 250 children in a slow year, but some years it’s up to 500 or 600.”

Because of the work from those like Engler-Chiurazzi and Bimonte-Nelson, interest in brain studies and neuroscience is growing in kids of all ages from all different places across the country.

For Bimonte-Nelson, that is what’s most significant.  

“I think this is something we can really use to bring us together as a community,” she said. “By the time they leave, some of the kids will tell me that they want to be scientists. That makes me a little teary, and it’s why this is so important to me.” 

Top photo: ASU psychology professor Heather Bimonte-Nelson walks children through the different lobes of the human brain and welcomes them to the ASU Brain Fair for Children on Feb. 28. The fair, which involved several ASU students and labs, was organized by Bimonte-Nelson to teach children about neuroscience. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Connor Pelton

Communications Writer , ASU Now