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University archives working to capture all voices of student activism on campus

ASU to host national conference on preserving history of student activism.
February 20, 2020

ASU to host national conference on preserving social-justice history

For Taylor Notah, a trip to the Arizona State University archives brought the past immediately into the present.

Notah, who was searching the archives for material to use in the latest issue of Turning Points magazine, found a photograph of several students, including her father, protesting on campus more than 40 years ago.

“That was a really huge moment for me, to see this history and how I personally was affiliated with it,” said Notah, who graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications in 2018 and is a management intern in the Center for Indian Education at ASU. She is the editor of Turning Points, a magazine geared toward Native American students written by an all-indigenous staff.

Notah, who is Navajo, will talk about the importance of preserving the history of student activism at a national symposium called Project STAND @ ASU, held at ASU’s Hayden Library on Feb. 27 and 28. The conference, which is free and open to the public, will feature students, alumni, staff and faculty.

The ASU event will be the last in a series of four symposiums sponsored by Project STAND (Student Activism Now Documented), a four-year-old initiative to help universities better record social justice on their campuses. The Institute of Museum and Library Services provided the grant for the project.

Project STAND is devoted to recognizing the importance of recording marginalized student identities, such as black, Chicano, Native American, Asian American, LGBTQ and students with disabilities.

Preserving current student activism isn’t as straightforward as it would seem, according to Shannon Walker, assistant university archivist at ASU, and the lead for the conference.

“A lot of student activists use social media to gather and communicate, so a lot of what we’re trying to figure out is how much we should be documenting that,” she said.

“If they send a poster of their event, that’s straightforward. The digital is much harder to wrangle.”

There are technological challenges to archiving a social media post. Archivists must decide whether to keep only the main post or the comments as well. And the replies to the comments.

“It’s difficult to ethically make sure we have clear permissions for the posts and the photos,” Walker said.

“Otherwise I can’t then provide it as research for people going forward, which is the whole reason I want it.”

Even in the age of communication through the click of a button, the best way for university archivists to collect materials is to painstakingly build relationships — a challenge when dealing with student groups.

“It’s difficult in such a large institution to try to capture everyone’s voice. Not everyone thinks to donate their materials to university archives so we have to proactively go out,” Walker said.

“Student clubs and organizations can be a weakness because they’re in transition all the time. We make a contact, they graduate. We make a contact, they graduate.”

But inclusion in the archives is crucial, Walker said.

“It’s really easy to go after the low-hanging fruit and the prominent people on campus, and that could really take up all of our time,” she said.

“So the challenge for me as a university archivist is trying to capture more voices than just a few, and being aware of which voices I’m capturing.”

All universities are facing this challenge.

“Schools have to keep certain records by law. Those records end up in university archives and that alone is a full-time job for an archivist,” she said. “At some institutions, the university archives is one person. So to think about doing anything else proactively can be a stretch.”

ASU was selected as a site for the conference because it’s already doing good work in this area. Nancy Godoy, associate archivist of ASU's Chicano/a Research Collection, won a $450,000 grant in 2017 to preserve and improve the archival collections of marginalized communities within Arizona.

Godoy will speak at the conference on Friday. Other events include a keynote address by Reyna Montoya, founder and CEO of Aliento, an advocacy organization for undocumented people; a panel that will explore how preservation of diverse voices is a form of resistance against oppression, student performances and a tour of the newly renovated Hayden Library. The event is free and open to the public.

outside view of Hayden Library

Hayden Library. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

The conference also will include presentations on best practices from other institutions, including the University of North Texas, which developed an app that allows student groups to upload materials to be archived.

Conferences like the Project STAND event are one important way for university archivists to make progress in expanding access.

“We are building relationships with communities and making students aware that the archives are not unreachable, and the archives want to capture their voices,” Walker said.

The timing of the conference was perfect for Notah and the rest of the Turning Points staff because their most recent issue was devoted to the legacies of Native American students at ASU. She spent a lot of time looking in the archives.

“Our whole team did a lot of research about students who decades ago advocated for more native student representation and resources for native students,” she said.

“Chicano student groups and students of color were also advocating a lot back then.”

But she said that all students should realize that they’re leaving a legacy to be preserved for future generations.

“Whatever we’re doing in our studies or our work, we’re all leaving legacies that will tell our children what we did,” she said. “It can come back full circle, like my story with my father.”

The photograph that Notah found in the archives showed her father, Ferdinand Notah, who studied agriculture at ASU and was the first in the family to attend college, in the background of a protest on campus. But Taylor Notah said she believes that activism can take different forms and doesn’t necessarily have to involve protests.

“For Native students, activism can be choosing to write a paper about their tribal history or what’s going in their community, because the one thing we encounter and combat daily is invisibility,” she said.

“At ASU, despite the fact that we’re surrounded by tribal nations, it’s a common narrative that they’re the only Native in their class or sports team or dorm floor. So it’s to remind people that we’re here, we exist, and there are major issues going on in our communities.”

Notah is passionate about supporting the archives.

“From an indigenous perspective, archivists are caretakers of stories and that’s a powerful position to be in,” she said.

“Archives can be viewed as our ancestors.”

Register for the symposium by Feb. 24.

Top photo: When ASU alumna Taylor Notah was looking in the university archives, she found this photo of a 1970 protest on campus by Native American and Chicano students. Her father, Ferdinand Notah, is in the background of the photo. Photo from ASU University Archives.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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2 ASU projects among top 100 proposals for MacArthur $100 million grant

February 21, 2020

Youth substance abuse prevention, satellite biodiversity monitoring aiming to expand their global impact through 100&Change

The MacArthur Foundation on Wednesday announced that two Arizona State University projects are among the highest-scoring proposals, designated as the Top 100, in its 100&Change competition for a single $100 million grant to help solve one of the world's most critical social challenges.

The two ASU proposals — keepin' it REAL, a youth substance abuse prevention program, and a Global Biodiversity Observatory, a system of satellites, analytics and decision-support tools to monitor real time changes in Earth’s natural capital in unprecedented detail — are both aiming to expand their impact globally.

The recipient of the $100 million grant will be announced in fall 2020.

'keepin' it REAL'

School of Social Work Regents Professor Flavio Marsiglia and the Global Center for Applied Health Research developed keepin' it REAL (kiR), an adolescent drug prevention program based on scientific data and respect for local cultures. The program teaches a repertoire of drug-resistance strategies: refuse, explain, avoid and leave (REAL).

It has been used in a number of nations, including the U.S., Guatemala, Mexico, Spain and Uruguay. The center is soliciting support to expand its outreach into sub-Saharan Africa.

Video by ASU Research

"Epidemiological data shows that young people in sub-Saharan Africa are in an upward trajectory in terms of their use and abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs," Marsiglia said. "This is the right time ...  Governments and NGOs in sub-Saharan Africa are ready to take action and are ready to collaborate and make it happen."

Time and funding are the main challenges, he said.

"Often governments or NGOs approach us to replicate one of our evidence-based interventions like kiR. They want to do it quickly because of their pressing needs," Marsiglia said. "The challenge is to convince them about assessing the cultural appropriateness of the intervention before implementing it widely. Once we identify what needs to be changed and what components need to be adapted, we have to make those changes in a systematic way and test for the effectiveness of the new adapted program. All this takes time and money."

The group recently completed such an adaptation in Mexico with kiR, with more than 6,000 middle schoolers from three cities participating. Because many programs tend to be male-centered and because current levels of violence in Mexico affect many teens, Marsiglia said, the program added violence prevention and a gender component. Working with a team of Mexican investigators, their study found stronger results as a result of grounding the intervention in local context.

"We cannot make the mistakes of the past and import solutions developed in the rich north and expect that those solutions will be acceptable, effective or sustainable in other contexts," he said. "Investing in creating capacity within country and taking the time to do it right will have a lasting effect that will benefit all of us. Each time we engage in joint projects with partners in other countries, we learn as much from the experience as they do."

Global Biodiversity Observatory

Greg Asner, director of ASU's Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science, is behind the Global Biodiversity Observatory project. Asner's team currently maps land biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions and coral reef health from a "super plane" equipped with 3D mapping tools. With additional funding, the observatory project will employ Earth-orbiting satellites with miniaturized imaging spectrometers connected through artificial intelligence to drive a new internationally accessible decision-support system, empowering a rapid reversal of biodiversity loss.

“Our team and colleagues have done the math, the analysis, and the vetting of the world's climate and biodiversity data. We know this: We cannot solve the climate change problem without simultaneously saving biodiversity,” Asner said. “Biodiversity is a huge part of the solution because nature pulls a large amount of excess carbon that we've put in our atmosphere back into the ground. 
“Think about this: All of the fossil fuel we continue to burn today is literally the carbon we've pulled out of the ground that was previously placed there via photosynthesis by ancient plants. Fossil fuel is past photosynthesis. We need to put it back in the ground, and nature is one of our best chances we have to do it."

Video by Asner Lab

The goal is not to compile academic data, but to provide information that is immediately actionable. This past summer, the center teamed with Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in a massive community effort to constantly monitor Hawaii's coral reefs as the Pacific Ocean experienced record-breaking temperatures. Such conditions can lead to coral bleaching, stressing the reef and causing irreparable damage.

The team was able to give real-time updates of the coral conditions across the islands, recieve coral reef reports from citizen-science efforts and worked quickly with a number of community groups to get the message out about ways to help mitigate damage, such anchoring away from reefs and using reef-safe sunscreen.

Asner says that at this stage, they have the elements lined up to create a new kind of observatory that brings biodiversity and related issues such as carbon and water security into the hands of researchers and the public. Additional resources will allow building out additional satellites and the application of their AI techniques.

"We cannot do this work alone at GDCS,” Asner said. “We are deeply partnered with the world's most innovative aerospace company, called Planet Labs, as well as our impact partner, One Earth. And that's just the inner part of the inner circle. We are teamed up with the U.N., a global network of NGOs and national and subnational governments. We will need to make this information obvious, accessible and everyday to every planetary citizen possible, and that will mean teaming up with the world.”

100&Change vetting

The top 100 represent the top 21% of competition submissions. The proposals were rigorously vetted, undergoing MacArthur’s initial administrative review, a peer-to-peer review, an evaluation by an external panel of judges and a technical review by specialists whose expertise was matched to the project.

Each proposal was evaluated using four criteria: impactful, evidence-based, feasible and durable. MacArthur’s board of directors will select up to 10 finalists from these high-scoring proposals this spring.

The competition cycle repeats every three years. In December 2017, the Sesame Workshop and International Rescue Committee were awarded $100 million in the competition's inaugural round to educate young children displaced by conflict and persecution in the Middle East.

“MacArthur seeks to generate increased recognition, exposure, and support for the high-impact ideas designated as the top 100,” said Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change and MacArthur managing director, 100&Change. “Based on our experience in the first round of 100&Change, we know the competition will produce multiple compelling and fundable ideas. We are committed to matching philanthropists with powerful solutions and problem solvers to accelerate social change.”

Since the inaugural competition, other funders and philanthropists have committed an additional $419 million to date to support bold solutions by 100&Change applicants. Building on the success of 100&Change, MacArthur created Lever for Change to unlock significant philanthropic capital by helping donors find and fund vetted, high-impact opportunities through the design and management of customized competitions.

The top 100 are also now part of the Bold Solutions Network. Launched this week, it's a searchable collection of the top 100 with fact sheets and project overviews that aims to connect donors with projects that align with their goals.  

Top photo by NASA