Crow awarded NCSE Lifetime Achievement Award on Science, Service and Leadership

ASU president speaks on need for outcome-driven research that makes a difference

January 8, 2020

When hundreds of scientists and science advocates attending the National Council on Science and the Environment’s (NCSE) annual conference crowded into the Regency Ballroom at the Omni Shoreham Hotel in Washington, D.C., for a lunchtime session, they were visibly excited for more than the food being served.

On Tuesday, Jan. 7, Arizona State University President Michael Crow was presented the 2020 NCSE Lifetime Achievement Award on Science, Service and Leadership for his commitment to pursuing environmental sustainability while improving higher education. Crow receives an award James Buizer (left), interim director of the Arizona Institute for Resilient Environment and Societies at the University of Arizona, presents ASU President Michael M. Crow with the 2020 NCSE Lifetime Achievement Award on Science, Service and Leadership on Jan. 7 at the National Council on Science and the Environment’s annual conference in Washington, D.C. Photo by Hager Sharp Download Full Image

The session opened with an introductory video featuring Crow and several of his colleagues explaining his career and how it has influenced his passion for sustainability. Crow has devoted his time in academia to creating programs that promote sustainability both at ASU and beyond, with an emphasis on developing program models that are fully inclusive and representative of the communities they serve. His colleagues also described how Crow has motivated and inspired others to follow his innovative thinking to achieve environmental sustainability.

Upon accepting the award from James Buizer, interim director of the Arizona Institute for Resilient Environment and Societies at the University of Arizona, Crow emphasized the need to break down barriers between academia and the rest of the world if we are to improve how we communicate the need for sustainability to combat environmental crises.

“We need to understand that some people can’t hear us, and they can’t hear us because we’re not speaking in a way that they yet understand,” Crow said. “It’s not because they’re stupid.”

He added that academic institutions should be responsible for finding ways of communicating relevant research to the public if we, as a society, are to better understand both the scale of social problems and the costs and benefits of possible solutions.

Following his acceptance speech, Crow was interviewed by Frank Sesno, Emmy Award-winning journalist and director of the School of Media and Public Affairs at the George Washington University. Their discussion focused on Crow’s career-spanning efforts on sustainability and included dialogue with the scientists in the audience.

Sesno’s questions led Crow to discuss how academic institutions need to rethink how they are structured and how they encourage their faculty to pursue certain research projects. Crow encouraged academia to be more adaptable in order to produce knowledge and outcome-driven research that will make the world more sustainable.

“We haven’t designed an interactive, alive, yet protected, culture of knowledge production, knowledge transfer, knowledge use,” Crow said, “And then how do we communicate that knowledge within a democracy?” He believes we should be pushing academics to think about how they want their understanding of certain topics to contribute to the social good.

Throughout the discussion, Crow highlighted how ASU has incubated innovative and outcome-driven research, pointing to the university’s School of Sustainability as just one example.

Questions from the audience mostly centered on the theme that traditional academic bureaucracy can inhibit the outcome-driven research Crow encourages, and attendees wanted to understand how to push for the kind of academic structure he has established at ASU.

Crow’s responses to these questions generally dealt with the “archaic” nature of academia. He believes institutions are set on being just like every other university and are afraid to be different.

The take-home message Crow left with session attendees was that change will come from action and that younger generations need to implement the ideas they have in order to create sustainable change. In addition, universities should be supporting — not hindering — their students’ goals of enacting new ideas.

“This is not as much a rhetorical fight as it is an action fight,” Crow said. “The rhetoric is out there, the words are out there, so let’s just do things.”

How to succeed by cultivating adaptability for the future of work

Sethuraman Panchanathan shares a mindset that will serve you well into the future

January 8, 2020

All jobs require critical thinking skills that allow us to assess situations, projects and directives, make informed judgments and pivot as necessary when changing circumstances and priorities dictate. In today’s workplace climate, the term "adaptability" takes on new meaning. Jobs and career paths are in a state of flux. This presents opportunities for dynamic growth and advancement, particularly if you can demonstrate to a current or potential employer your understanding of this changing paradigm.

As an adviser to the White House American AI and Industries of the Future initiatives, I am innately aware of the nation’s perception of the advancement of automation and its potential impact on the ways we live, learn and work. With the recent, rapid advances in technology and artificial intelligence (AI), we’re all looking for ways to position ourselves to be successful in the future of work. I encourage an attitude of optimism, as we collectively embrace a world in which machines and humans work together to accomplish things neither could do alone. It’s imperative that as lifelong learners, we continually strive to adapt to evolving workplace dynamics in the following ways: The word Adaptability Download Full Image

Develop and employ an entrepreneurial mindset. This doesn’t always mean you have to launch your own business, but rather, it’s a matter of finding ways to innovate, to grow, take calculated risks, and expand and excel in your profession. 

Be aware of factors that stand to change the fundamentals of the way you work. Is automation playing an increasing role in how your company operates? Are new hires expected to have particular skill sets that you don’t have? Pay attention to what’s coming through the pipeline, and be proactive in adapting as necessary to ensure you remain relevant.

Be enthusiastically prepared to evolve with your company. This could mean requesting mentoring to come quickly up to speed on institutional knowledge, cross-training to learn the needs and operations of other departments, or upskilling and reskilling as necessary to advance and thrive in your company.

Expect and embrace change and prepare accordingly. Develop not only your professional abilities, but other skills, like critical thinking, empathy and creativity. Being well-versed and well-rounded in your mindsets will ensure you are an asset to your employer (or employers) throughout the course of your career.

As the future of work continues to evolve, corporations will be drawn to lifelong master learners who possess an innovative, creative mindset. As such, being adaptable in today’s workplace includes recognizing and accepting that change is continuous. Choose to go with changing the tide rather than fight against it.

Written by Sethuraman Panchanathan, ASU’s chief research and innovation officer. “Panch” leads the Knowledge Enterprise, which advances research, innovation, strategic partnerships, entrepreneurship and international development at ASU. His research is in human-centered multimedia computing, haptic user interfaces, person-centered tools and ubiquitous computing technologies.

This story appears in the winter 2020 issue of ASU Thrive magazine.