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Putting the world in world-class education

February 4, 2019

This summer, ASU students will snack, snorkel, survey and safari around the globe to gain a broader view of the human story

For those who study humanity, it’s tough to get the big picture if they limit themselves to the culture, history and environment of just one place. That’s why the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University is taking students to four continents and two island nations this summer, where they will learn firsthand about topics like traditional health care practice, the latest in sustainable tourism, global haute cuisine, modern wildlife management and the dawn of humanity.

Checking off bucket lists in Australia

The school’s Australia program is perfect for students craving adventure, says Assistant Professor Katie Hinde, the trip’s faculty leader.

“It includes some incredible adventure activities — kayaking, hiking, snorkeling and canoeing — but no experience is necessary. Many students learn these skills on the program,” she said.

Snorkeling at the Great Barrier Reef checks off a lot of students’ bucket lists, but this summer, Hinde is most excited for the sunset camel ride at the country’s most famous rock formation, Uluru.

During the trip’s four weeks, students will live by the “One Health” concept that human, animal and ecosystem health are all interconnected and explore those connections through hands-on experiences across the country.

“The trip was an amazing experience. It was eye-opening, fun and educational all at the same time,” said undergraduate student Danielle Velasco Padilla, who went to Australia with the school in 2018. “You didn’t feel like you were learning, but when you talked to your classmates the next day, you would be surprised with all the information you retained.”

Listening to tales of the dead in England

The England program suits students from any discipline, as the undergrads from dozens of different majors who have attended in the past can attest. It touches on history, health, forensics and urban life, so there’s something of interest for everyone.

When asked what makes the program stand out, Professor Alexandra Brewis Slade, who will help Professor Kelly Knudson lead this summer’s trip, said, “The learning here is through experiencing, talking with a range of local experts and exploring firsthand so many corners of an amazing city. By the end of the program, many students feel like London is a second home.”

That may be because program participants get privileged looks into many of the city’s otherwise-hidden places, like behind-the-scenes at the famed British Museum or inside the oldest hospital in Europe.

“I was so close with all these remains from ancient Egypt, like a mummified crocodile — really cool stuff. And I was inches away from it, no barriers, no glass,” said undergraduate student Kaeli Stenroos of her British Museum experience last summer.

A key focus of the trip is learning how scientists study human history, including major historical events like the Black Plague, through skeletal remains — a discipline known as bioarchaeology. Students also take walking tours of London with city guide Angie, who has been a group favorite for over a decade.

Sampling the flavors of France

Those who are curious about the relationship between food and identity, culture and health are ideal for the school’s program in France. There, students have the opportunity to explore topics such as the importance of food in French culture, how food has changed with processes like industrialization and immigration, and how people make decisions about what to eat.

“I am really excited to try out my skills in the chocolate workshop,” said lecturer Rhian Stotts, who leads this program. “I also think that chocolate, as well as coffee, another topic we will explore, provides such an interesting way to look at our globalized food system overall.”

As the home of the people who pioneered the concept of cuisine, France is also the perfect place to learn how food has forged relationships and created identities throughout history.

Stotts advises students who join the program to “come with an open mind and be willing to actively engage in new experiences. You might not like stinky cheese, but there is a reason we ask you to try it — to think about the role that cheese plays in French culture and how aspects of food, such as smell, can both attract and repel.”

Exploring the people and nature of New Zealand

New Zealand provides a plethora of learning opportunities, said Research Professor David Feary, a native of the country and leader of this program. It has a socialized health care system, hosts a multicultural society (including the indigenous Maori people) and — as a smaller island nation — takes pains to incorporate sustainability into many aspects of life.

The trip also includes tours to “Lord of the Rings” sites (because New Zealand) and breathtaking encounters with nature.

“This year we’re going river rafting down through this forested area where it’s all about protection of native forests and the environment. Water is a big theme throughout the trip, so I’m looking forward to that,” Feary said.

Students will also get the chance to collect data from interviews with locals for an ongoing climate survey, as well as learn about Maori culture and approaches to health.

“This trip affirmed the things that I’ve been studying as an anthropologist. You learn a lot of theoretical frameworks for taking your mind out of your subjective biases, but actually being in another culture, seeing the different types of diversity, it was a different experience than I had ever had before,” said undergraduate Azzam Almouai, who joined last year’s excursion.

Feary suggests that students pack light, as they often have to carry their luggage while traveling from Northland all the way down to Queenstown, hopping coaches and ferrying between islands.

Eating while learning in Peru

For foodies who’d rather go south of the border than across the ocean, the Peru program uses food as a lens to understand humans and their relationships to each other and to the environment, while also exploring how those relationships shape our identities, daily practices and health.

“Because our focus is on food, there’s a lesson and discussion to be had around every single meal and snack. And what’s more fun than eating while you learn?” said lecturer Sara Marsteller, who leads the trip. “Students will learn not only about Peruvian cuisine and culture, but about themselves as well.”

A major highlight of the trip is visiting the Misminay rural community outside of Cusco. Residents welcome students into their homes and give them hands-on lessons in their techniques for plowing the land and spinning and dying wool.

“Plus, the view of the Andes Mountains from their hillside is even more breathtaking than Machu Picchu in my opinion!” adds Marsteller. (Although, since the trip also includes a visit to that famous Incan site, students can decide that for themselves.)

Encountering wildlife and human history in South Africa

“Anyone who is interested in the exploration of both nature and other cultures would have a great time on the South Africa trip,” said President’s Professor Kaye Reed, the program’s lead.

There, students will learn about everything from animal identification and Khoisan culture to the apartheid system and hominin fossil discoveries.

“My absolute favorite place to take students is Kruger National Park, where we will be identifying mammals of all kinds and working on the Hominins and Habitats Project from a safari vehicle,” Reed said.

The trip also includes an outing at the seaside West Coast National Park, where students hike, kayak and learn about the local wildlife. However, Reed warns, they shouldn’t expect warm temperatures to match the setting.

“July is winter in the Southern Hemisphere — don’t bring light clothing because you are going to Africa. Coats are a necessity in some places,” she said. “But be ready for adventure.”

These are just a few of the many experiences offered through the ASU Study Abroad Office, which has 250-plus programs in more than 65 different countries.

Top photo: Students show their Sun Devil pride on a beach in Australia. Photo courtesy of Katie Hinde

Mikala Kass

Communications Specialist , ASU Knowledge Enterprise


‘Hearts and Scholars’ celebrates ASU student scholarship, philanthropy

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences event gathers donors and students

February 4, 2019

Each year at Arizona State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, alumni, community members and other supporters contribute to the future by investing in student success. And whether it’s extra money for class supplies, or providing the means to complete a career-shaping internship, the scholarships they fund have the power to transform lives.

One of the many donors giving back to ASU is Judy Smith, an alumna who earned both her Bachelor of Science and a doctorate from the college’s Department of Psychology. Nikki Hinshaw pictured at her internship with The McCain Institute's Policy Design Studio program in Washington D.C. ASU junior Nikki Hinshaw during her internship with the McCain Institute's Policy Design Studio program in Washington, D.C., an opportunity she says the Craig and Barbara Barrett Political Science Scholarship helped fund. Photo courtesy of Nikki Hinshaw Download Full Image

Growing up in the tiny Navajo County town of Holbrook in northeastern Arizona, she says campus offered what felt like endless potential to grow. That journey was possible thanks to the scholarships she received herself, particularly during graduate school. Now, through the Smith-Marshall Scholarship established with her husband, Jeff Marshall, in 2014, she’s helping other psychology students do the same.  

"Going to ASU was the thrill of my life as a student,” Smith said. “I would like to help other students from small and isolated Arizona towns to broaden their experiences, meet new people and visit new places to expand their personal horizons.”

She is not alone. Home to 19 departments and schools, the college garners thousands of dollars in scholarships each year dedicated to supporting specific fields of study, bolstering first-generation students and financing study abroad and research opportunities.

Launched in 2004, the Hearts and Scholars event gives philanthropists the chance to hear from recipients themselves about how they’ve been affected.

Annmarie Barton, a dual major in biochemistry and anthropology who received the Deborah Oldfield Reich and John Reich Maroon and Gold Leaders Scholarship, says it’s an opportunity to catch her donors up on a year of changes.

“I want to update them on how I’m doing, that I’ve added a major, and just let them know how appreciative I am that they decided to change their world which, in turn, changed mine,” she said.

For as long as she can remember, Barton has wanted to be a teacher. Coming to ASU, and having the means to focus on studying, has helped that goal materialize.

“A lot of it is about taking the stress off of paying for school,” she said. “Being able to come to university and learn so much gets me one step closer to ultimately helping others learn as well.”

A meaningful experience in college isn’t just about attending classes, it’s also about leaving campus to pursue career-advancing opportunities elsewhere. That was the case for Nikki Hinshaw, a junior dual-majoring in political science and communication in the School of Politics and Global Studies and Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. Receiving the Craig and Barbara Barrett Political Science Scholarship helped her study abroad and complete internships in Washington, D.C.

“Without scholarships, I would not have been able to engage in these unpaid and often costly opportunities,” she said. “I hope that (with the experiences), I’m able to make a bigger impact on my community and give back to others someday as well.”

For many students, finances aren’t the only thing boosted by the funds. Benjamin Mesnik remembers being shy as an incoming freshman in the School of Life Sciences last fall. The support he received from the Dean’s Circle Scholarship made him feel more prepared.

“It allows you to be confident that someone believes in you, someone or some organization is investing in you and letting you know we want you to succeed here, we want you to become academically excellent,’” he said. “I would want to say thank you, thank you countless times.”

The annual Hearts and Scholars Scholarship Dinner will take place Feb. 5 on the Tempe campus for invited guests.

Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences