As world's challenges grow more complex, new ideas are needed more than ever — and ASU's creative minds are finding solutions from the ocean to the reaches of space
Editor’s note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now’s year in review. Read more top stories from 2020.
Long before it was a buzzword, innovation was a concept that Arizona State University embraced in the name of reimagining the role of an institution of higher education.
Over the past several years, that credo has manifested in a host of breakthroughs, advancements and transformations. In recognition of the university’s culture of discovery, U.S. News & World Report has announced that it has named ASU the most innovative university in the nation for the sixth year in a row, as well as one of the top 50 public schools in the U.S.
“Innovation is infused in ASU’s DNA because we are designed to spark, support and manifest new ideas,” President Michael Crow said. “Innovation can be found at all levels of our education, our research and our community engagement. It drives our perpetual evolution and it will continue to guide us as we work toward solutions to the next great challenges of a complex future.”
The ranking is based on a survey of peers that includes college presidents, provosts and admissions deans from around the country who nominate up to 15 schools that are making the most innovative improvements to and for curricula, faculty, students, campus life, technology or facilities, according to the magazine.
After ASU, U.S. News & World Report ranked the most innovative universities for 2021 as the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Georgia State University, Georgia Institute of Technology and Purdue. Rounding out the top 10 this year are Stanford, California Institute of Technology, Carnegie Mellon, University of Maryland – Baltimore County and Elon University.
In addition to ranking No. 1 in innovation, ASU earned multiple spots on the badge-eligible list of 2021 Best Colleges. U.S. News badges are widely recognized as symbols of excellence in higher education that are conferred by an unbiased trust agent.
Those rankings include:
- No. 9 in First-Year Experiences. For the second year in a row, ASU’s Tempe campus ranked ninth in the nation — outperforming Brown University, Princeton University and University of Texas at Austin — for its commitment to helping students transition from high school and community college to life at a four-year university. This fall, the First-Year Success Center – which is home to Game Changers, a program specifically for first-generation freshmen – has expanded its remote options to include Zoom sessions with peer coaches and other digital support services, including YouTube videos on how to successfully work in ASU Sync, coaching communities through Slack and one-on-one coach-student texting through SalesForce.
- No. 16 in Undergraduate Teaching. ASU is among the top 20 in the nation for undergraduate teaching, with its more than 4,700 faculty members counting five MacArthur fellows, five Nobel laureates, seven Pulitzer Prize winners and hundreds of other award recipients among them. In recent years, ASU has expanded the use of adaptive learning, a personalized method of teaching that combines online and classroom work, and offers a vast array of undergraduate research opportunities. In this category, ASU was ranked ahead of Carnegie Mellon University, MIT and Emory University, among others.
- No. 19 in Senior Capstones. ASU moved up nine spots from No. 28 last year with the variety and robustness of its senior capstone experiences. Sometimes referred to as a senior thesis, these are large, multifaceted projects that integrate knowledge and skills from the student's years of undergraduate studies. At ASU, those can range from prototyping a robotic explorer for the Psyche asteroid, to delving into how exposure to different media affects people's attitude toward social change, to helping a real-world vehicle-management firm better project its inventory based on repairs data. ASU tied with — among others — the Georgia Institute of Technology, and it was ranked ahead of Swarthmore College and Butler University.
- No. 24 in Best Undergraduate Business. The undergraduate program at ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business moved up seven spots in the rankings from last year, tying with Boston College, Michigan State University, Pennsylvania State University, Purdue, Texas A&M, University of Florida and University of Georgia. W. P. Carey’s supply chain management program came in at No. 3.
- No. 46 in Top Public Schools. In the overall category of top public schools, U.S. News ranked ASU among the top 50 in the nation, up seven spots from last year. ASU tied Temple University and the University of Oregon and was ranked ahead of the University of Illinois–Chicago, among others. Universities are graded on more than a dozen diverse measures of academic quality including student outcomes such as how many first-year students return for their sophomore year and how many students earn a degree in six years or less. ASU’s retention rate for first-year students is 86.7%, an increase of 10 percentage points since 2002. The university’s six-year graduation rate is 70.4%, an increase of nearly 17 percentage points since 2002.
In other accomplishments this past year, ASU achieved carbon neutrality six years earlier than its goal of 2025; researchers at the Biodesign Institute developed the state’s first saliva-based COVID-19 test; and ASU Prep Digital, launched in 2017 as a public charter school for grades nine through 12, expanded its offerings to kindergarteners through eighth graders.
This summer, when Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan began his six-year appointment as the 15th director of the National Science Foundation, Neal Woodbury took over as interim executive vice president of ASU Knowledge Enterprise. In this role, Woodbury will continue to advance ASU’s research, economic development, international development and corporate engagement and strategic partnership agendas, as well as oversee activities related to Knowledge Enterprise operations, institutes and initiatives.
“The No. 1 in innovation ranking is a welcome reminder of the mission and beliefs that fuel discovery and progress at ASU,” Woodbury said. “Particularly at a time when universities worldwide are reimagining what traditional and remote learning looks like, I am very proud of our continued efforts to innovate with speed, at scale.”
Top image: ASU scientist Jesse Senko’s solar-powered lights are rescuing sea turtles and transforming the future of sustainable fishing.
Learn more about the stories highlighted in our video:
- ASU scientific team finds new, unique mutation in coronavirus study