ASU distinguished alumnus gives lecture with mentor

March 1, 2018

For alumnus See Seng Tan, coming back to the Arizona State University campus was surreal.

“I am thrilled to be able to come back here and meet with former professors of mine,” said Tan. “It’s great to come back to such a friendly environment; really it’s like coming home.” Political science alumnus See Sang Tan Political science alumnus See Seng Tan. Download Full Image

Tan, who graduated ASU with a PhD in political science in 1999, is this year’s Distinguished Alumni Speaker for the School of Politics and Global Studies. Each year the school honors an outstanding alumnus for their accomplishments by inviting them back to ASU to speak with faculty and students.

“I think the education I received at ASU was very rigorous and diverse intellectually,” he said. “I felt [there] was the sense of comradery, friendship and cooperation amongst the faculty despite their ideological differences.”

Tan is a professor of international relations at Nanyang Technological University’s S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore as well as the deputy director of the Institute of Defense and Strategic Studies.

During his time visiting his alma mater, Tan had two speaking engagements. On Feb. 28, Tan spoke with the School of Politics and Global Studies faculty and graduate students about some of his research and findings. After Tan’s talk, director of the school and former classmate, Cameron Thies, presented him with a plaque to commemorate Tan as this year’s distinguished alumnus.

On March 1, Tan was joined by his former dissertation chair, Sheldon Simon, for a joint lecture co-hosted by the Center for Asian Research. The colloquium featured each colleague covering topics relating to the origins and possible solutions of the South China Sea conflicts.

Tan shared that Simon was a “quintessential mentor figure” to him during his time at ASU, applauding his sense of diplomacy and his generosity toward students.

“Those were the kind of takeaways that, to this very day, serve as guides for me in the way I engage with my students and with fellow faculty. It’s not just the academics, it’s also how you live your life.”

Tan is the author/editor of 15 books and monographs and has published more than 70 scholarly articles and book chapters. Some of his research centers around politics and security in Southeast Asia and the Asia-Pacific region.

He is working on a book about understanding the responsibly of sovereignty and how it is expressed within the Southeast Asia region.

“When I think of the PhD’s about whom I’m particularly proud, he’s at the top of the list,” said Simon.

Matt Oxford

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Politics and Global Studies


Groundbreaking indigenous architect signs on to ASU faculty

Wanda Dalla Costa joins Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts; also cross-appointed to Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

March 1, 2018

Wanda Dalla Costa, an architect who has spent nearly two decades working with indigenous communities in North America, has joined the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University as its fifth Institute Professor. A member of the Saddle Lake First Nation in Alberta, Dalla Costa was the first First Nations woman to become an architect in Canada.

Dalla Costa was originally inspired to pursue architecture after spending seven years backpacking around the world. What began as a six-month adventure ended up taking her to almost 40 countries. Herberger Institute Professor Wanda Dalla Costa in front of a shade structure she built in Gila River Indian Community. Herberger Institute Professor Wanda Dalla Costa stands in front of a shade structure she built in Gila River Indian Community, as part of a dialogue with GRIC around traditional building, design and materials. Photo by Selina Martinez

Dalla Costa said she “fell in love with walking around in cities and the vitality of the indigenous architecture overseas; … ‘indigenous’ means everyone who’s trying to maintain their ancestral environment. For me it’s a broad definition … about built environments nurturing our cultural connections.”

When she returned to North America, she applied for a master's degree in architecture at the University of Calgary.

The question that drove her, she said, was this: “Why are we living in these boxes in the landscape that have no relation to our culture? The reservation is so divergent from the way we were traditionally so connected to our environment and to the land.”

“My mom grew up on the reservation,” Dalla Costa said. “She was very tied into her culture growing up. We spent a lot of time on the rez. For me there’s a clear disconnect — when I got to architecture school, nobody was teaching (indigenous architecture); nobody understood it.”

In addition to teaching and mentoring students at ASU, Dalla Costa is acting as an adviser on issues of creative placemaking and as an adviser on the Herberger Institute’s Projecting All Voices initiative.

“Wanda is an architect who thinks deeply about the social and cultural aspects of place,” said Herberger Institute Dean Steven J. Tepper. “She has developed a practice that fully engages community partners and honors local knowledge and traditions.”

“As an Institute Professor, Wanda will help us build nationally funded projects around creative placemaking and indigenous culture, and she will help us extend and deepen relationships with the tribal nations in our region.”

Jason Schupbach, director of The Design School at ASU, said that Dalla Costa will be “a key partner in bringing new voices and ideas to the design school, creating a school that is collaborative, relevant and equitable.”

Dalla Costa is one of the nation’s leading authorities on indigenous architecture, with expertise in culturally responsive design, sustainable-affordable housing, climatic resiliency in architecture, and built environments as a teaching tool for traditional knowledge. She joins four other Institute Professors already teaching at the university: creative placemaking expert Maria Rosario Jackson, dance legend Liz Lerman, composer and multi-disciplinary collaborator Daniel Bernard Roumain and theater artist and civic innovator Michael Rohd.  

Dalla Costa's position at ASU is a cross-appointment between The Design School and the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. She held the Eminent Visiting Scholar position in the Del E. Webb School of Construction for two years prior to joining the Herberger Institute.

“We are thrilled to have this opportunity to partner with the Herberger Institute,” said Edd Gibson, director of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment in the Fulton Schools. “Our built environment increasingly requires thinking about the intersections of technology, construction, design and culture. Wanda’s position helps us build those ties.”

Dalla Costa’s first priority, she says, is mentoring students. To that end, she hopes to start an indigenous design collaborative at ASU.

“I do a lot of projects with tribal communities,” Dalla Costa said. “In the courses I teach, I bring students out to the reservation, and the students design or plan or build something for a tribal client. I think it’s a powerful way to teach.”

Ideally, she said, “there would be a system or a mechanism in place that could help think through a best approach, a best practice for each project we’re embarking on. It would be a resource center, and it would be a center of mentorship for those up and coming in this field, creating the support system for this work to come alive at ASU.”

Dalla Costa holds a Master of Design Research (City Design, Planning and Policy) from the Southern California Institute of Architecture (SCI-Arc) and a Master of Architecture from the Faculty of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary. She is the owner of Redquill Architecture, and is also one of a team of 18 indigenous architects representing Canada at the Venice Architecture Biennale, which opens in May.

Deborah Sussman

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