Year in review: ASU professor's 'Border' poem part of U2 tour

Arizona Poet Laureate Alberto Rios' work featured during preshow, 30 years after Irish band's Joshua Tree Tour began and ended at ASU

June 6, 2017

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2017, click here.

Arizona State University’s Department of English is feeling a little pride in the name of Alberto Rios: the Regents' Professor's work is part of U2’s Joshua Tree Tour 2017. ASU Professor Alberto Rios poem on screen at U2 concert ASU Professor Alberto Rios' poem, shown here in a screenshot, is part of the pre-show of U2's current world tour. Download Full Image

Rios’ poem “The Border: A Double Sonnet” is being projected on giant video screens during pre-show segments of the Irish rock band’s current world tour. Rios, who is also Arizona's first poet laureate, said he first got wind that his poem was opening for U2 when his son forwarded a screenshot of an image that a friend captured at one of the band’s recent shows in Los Angeles.

“I confess I didn’t think too much of it, except that it seemed like a kind of fluke,” Rios said. “Then, about a week later, I got an excited call from my editor who said they had just signed a licensing agreement with U2. He said that I would probably see a few dollars — it’s never much in poetry, of course — and I said, ‘Oh, no. There goes my pro-Bono joke!’” — a reference to the band’s lead singer Bono.

Marking the 30th anniversary of the band’s 1987 America-themed concept album “The Joshua Tree,” U2 launched its world tour in mid-May in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Alberto Rios

The original Joshua Tree Tour, interestingly, started and ended at ASU. The trek kicked off April 2, 1987, at ASU University Activity Center (now Wells Fargo Arena) and closed Dec. 20 that year at Sun Devil Stadium.

Rios was in his fifth year of teaching at ASU when U2 launched its 1987 tour. Thirty years later his “Border” poem is now part of the band’s multimedia tour production. The piece is featured in Rios’ most recent book, “A Small Story About the Sky.” He describes the poem as “simply 28 ways of looking at the border wall that don’t get reported in the news.”

“I think of each line as a small poem in and of itself,” Rios said. “That the lines can join together and make something greater strikes me as worthy.”

That’s a concept Rios says he also likes to share with his students in the classroom at ASU. He encourages them to work from choice, not from habit, emphasizing that poetry and writing in general is a craft that takes some work to master.

He should know. Rios has written 10 books, several chapbooks of poetry, three collections of short stories and a memoir. He is wrapping up a new book of poems and has submitted two long works of fiction for publication review.

In addition to Rios’ “Border,” U2’s tour also includes the poem “Wingfoot Lake” from Pulitzer Prize winner and former U.S. Poet Laureate Rita Dove, who also has ties to ASU. Dove taught creative writing at ASU from 1981 to 1989. She is now a Commonwealth Professor at the University of Virginia.

While Rios has worked with musicians over the years, he has yet to meet any members of U2. He said he wouldn’t hesitate for one second if given the opportunity to share the stage with the band.

As to whether he has any favorite songs by the venerable Irish rockers, Rios said, “Since they used the poem, my favorite U2 song is, um ... every one of them.”

Sr. Media Relations Officer, Media Relations & Strategic Communications


New ASU scholarship program helps transfer students LEAP into science

June 6, 2017

When community college transfer students start taking courses at a larger, more complex university setting, they face a variety of challenges. Navigating a new campus, succeeding in larger classes and securing undergraduate research opportunities can be daunting.

But Arizona State University is launching a new scholarship program aimed specifically at helping transfer students get involved in undergraduate research — something that increases a student’s chances of being accepted into medical and graduate schools. A new ASU scholarship program will provide $600,000 in scholarships to transfer students in science over the next five years. Photo: Andy DeLisle Download Full Image

“We found that transfer students are not participating in undergraduate research as much as students who start their college experience at ASU,” said Sara Brownell, assistant professor with ASU’s School of Life Sciences and primary investigator for a new grant funding the program. “This is a problem because undergraduate research can provide students with a unique opportunity to learn how to conduct research. We also know participation in research as an undergraduate helps students secure their futures beyond earning a bachelor’s degree.”

The National Science Foundation is providing $1 million to establish a new scholarship program at ASU called the LEAP Scholars program, which will provide $600,000 in scholarships to transfer students in science over the next five years.

As LEAP Scholars, students will learn about research, conduct research in a faculty member’s research lab and present their research findings to the community. Incoming transfer students from community colleges who demonstrate academic success, financial need and intend on majoring in degrees offered by ASU’s School of Life Sciences, School of Molecular Sciences, School of Earth and Space Exploration, or Department of Physics, are eligible for the program.

The scholarships are meant to increase the number of transfer students conducting research by helping to offset their need to work while going to college.

“We know that transfer students are often working at the same time they are attending school and that frequently means they don’t have time for research. This scholarship program is meant to help students alleviate their need for an off-campus job so that they can instead focus on doing research,” added Brownell, director of the LEAP Scholars program.

This scholarship program is the first program specific to transfer students, a group that ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is particularly interested in helping. A recent college-wide initiative called Transfer Matters highlighted concerns for transfer students and identified possible solutions to identified issues. This scholarship program stemmed from one of those recommendations.
LEAP Scholars program manager Katelyn Cooper said there is a real need for scholarships directed to transfer students.

“Until this program, we did not have any scholarships programs that were specifically focused on transfer students interested in research, even though transfer students make up more than 40 percent of the students who graduate with a bachelor’s degree in the School of Life Sciences. This meets a huge need,” Cooper said.

For more information about the LEAP Scholars Program, visit or contact

Sandra Leander

Assistant Director of Media Relations, ASU Knowledge Enterprise