It's personal: ASU alumnus, scholar working to make UK immigration fair

June 1, 2017

Arizona State University alumnus Thom Brooks has garnered international acclaim for his work on ethics, public policy, law and politics. As an award-winning author, broadcaster and columnist, he focuses his research on immigration rights from firsthand experience.

“I want to improve the British immigration system; make it not only fit for purpose, but show the importance of allowing immigrant voices into shaping how the system works,” he said. “It’s easy to say as immigrants that we’ve come to the scene late. There’s lots of barriers to our voices being heard. There’s lots of excuses to not try, but waiting for someone else to do it is waiting for something to never happen.” ASU alumnus Thom Brooks Arizona State University alumnus Thom Brooks was invited back to campus to speak about citizen testing and the future of immigration procedures as part of the School of Politics and Global Studies Distinguished Alumni Speaker Series. Download Full Image

Brooks originally studied music and political science as an undergraduate in his home state of Connecticut. He decided to pursue a master’s degree in political science at ASU because of the university’s faculty and research focused on South Asian studies and political theory as well as a pleasant change of weather from his native Connecticut. Though he’d never visited Arizona before, Brooks said the university’s interesting research into those topics was what made ASU the best option for him. 

After completing his doctorate in political science at the University of Sheffield, Brooks taught political and legal thought at Newcastle University. In 2012, he moved to the Durham University Law School, where he has served as the dean since 2016. As dean, he said a major goal of his is to expand Durham’s budding law school to be internationally on par in terms of size with other universities. Toward this goal, he works to attract world-class faculty to the department.

Having been in the UK since initially starting graduate studies at the University of Sheffield in 2001, Brooks went through the British nationalization process in order to become a citizen of the UK. It was his experience taking the citizenship test that led him to write a critical report of it.

“The test I took: Many of the correct answers were factually untrue,” he said. “You’re asked questions about the number of members in parliament, but they didn’t even give the actual answer as a choice. Discovering there were these factual errors on this immigration test – getting it right meant you could have all the rights of citizenship and getting it wrong could mean deportation — struck me as alarming.”

Brooks said the extent of the test’s inaccuracy was widely unknown and much of the exam did not test for information necessary to being a British citizen. In fact, he said many British citizens couldn’t have passed the test. His report of citizenship testing has been mentioned frequently in the UK media. It’s also been cited in The House of Lords, garnering a recommendation for Brooks to lead a revision of the test.  

In addition to his academic work, Brooks is active in public engagement. He advises members of parliament and makes frequent media appearances on television. He also writes columns for many prominent newspapers in the UK such as Daily Telegraph, The Independent, The Times and Sunday Express among many others.

He said his broadly focused education at ASU gave him the knowledge base to go on to further study.

“It gave me a robust background in political science that I think digs deeper than many other programs,” he said. “I really did have to know about the different subfields of political science to earn my degree. It was important that we all knew things about quantitative research, the Statistical Package for the Social Sciences program and so on even if my particular [focus] was in political theory. At the time, things didn’t make as much sense to me as they did now. But now, looking back, it’s been enormously beneficial.”

Brooks was invited back to campus in April as part of the School of Politics and Global Studies Distinguished Alumni Speaker Series. He spoke about his work on the citizenship test and the future of immigration procedures. As this year’s distinguished alumnus, Brooks said he is very proud. 

“I feel incredibly honored and really touched to have this bestowed on me,” he said. “It’s the best honor I’ve had in my career. I’ve done a lot of good things, but this really stands out as something special.”

Parker Shea

Student Writer and Reporter, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

ASU doctoral student travels beyond U.S. borders to work with intercultural scholars

June 1, 2017

Elena Steiner has always wanted to travel beyond U.S. borders to see what intercultural educators, trainers, and researchers are doing and talking about in the “rest of the world."

Steiner, a doctoral student in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, will be traveling this summer through Europe and the Far East conducting international research she believes could be incorporated into the ASU classroom. students looking at a computer Download Full Image

She will be conducting research with Steinbeis University, a private university in Berlin, Germany. The Steinbeis Center for Management and Technology, a network of leading institutes within the university, is bringing a cohort of masters of business engineering students to Tokyo to work alongside Japanese students in consulting projects with small to medium size Japanese companies.

Steiner will be conducting data collection in Tokyo for two weeks during the student collaboration, reporting her results back to SCMT. She will also submit a paper for part of her doctoral coursework at ASU. 

Prior to beginning her research in Germany, Steiner will also be attending the Society for Intercultural Education, Training and Research (SIETAR) conference in Dublin, Ireland.

“To really look at intercultural communication, it’s important to live that as much as possible by experiencing the intercultural aspects of the field of intercultural communication,” Steiner said.

Traveling to international conferences is not new for Steiner.

Steiner has been a member of SIETAR USDA for years. She attended the SIETAR Global Conference in Spain several years ago, so SIETAR Europa is a natural choice, she stated.  

Steiner previously lived in Germany six years and said she feels her personal life has guided her somehow back “home.”

The international conference provides her the opportunity to connect with colleagues old and new and explore opportunities for dissertation data collection.  She will also investigate project work in Europe, especially with the NGO sector, and post doc possibilities.

Steiner’s proposal to present at the conference in a doctoral track was accepted. Her plan was to further develop her dissertation interests, but discovered the commitment was more substantial than her time allowed.

The SIETAR conference topics and participants are related to the data collection she will be doing for the Steinbeis Center of Management and Technology in Tokyo.

, doctoral student

Elena Steiner

Steiner will be meeting with several colleagues at the conference associated with the University of Jyväskylä in Finland who conduct programs at the intersection of academia and practical application in the private sector.

The University of Jyväskylä model is similar to the SCMT and Tokyo University models where student consultants have the chance to collaborate on projects in the private sector. 

Steiner stated that the overarching goals are to help people and organizations develop intercultural communication skills, so they can excel in a dynamic and global marketplace.

She said it will be beneficial to see what is being done in Finland and how it might relate to the German/Japanese projects.

Steiner’s data collection largely revolves around field observation of 90 student consultants divided into 15 working teams interacting in a global team to produce a final product for the Japanese company with which they’re working.  

Steiner believes her research results can and should be brought into the ASU classroom.  She believes it is a natural fit, given ASU’s philosophy of the New American University and the focus on innovation and bridging between academia and other sectors.

“I have always thought it is important for students of intercultural communication to hear about how culture impacts just about any endeavor in any field or discipline,” she said. “Making ourselves conscious of our own culture, increasing self-awareness, is always the key and first step to improve intercultural interactions.”

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music, Dance and Theatre