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Work of professors reflects ASU college's new name

professor Michael White, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice
February 27, 2015

The College of Public Service and Community Solutions is more than a new name. It’s a reflection of those who study, conduct research and teach at the Arizona State University college.

Home to more than 5,500 undergraduate and graduate students, the former College of Public Programs is the second largest on the downtown Phoenix campus. It features four schools and 17 research centers and institutes that tackle real-world problems. Over the course of the year, the college’s students, researchers and professors will be profiled to get a better understanding of work being done and the difference they’re making.

The following is a snapshot of four professors who exemplify the college’s new name.

Michael White, professor, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Michael White is part of a task force assembled by the City of Phoenix to come up with a better way to support police officers and firefighters dealing with severe job-related stress. The panel was assembled after a police officer took his own life.

“I’ve been studying police use-of-force for well over a decade now and I’m intimately aware of the issue,” he said.

White is the co-author of the 2013 book "Jammed Up: Bad Cops, Police Misconduct, and the New York City Police Department." It’s the largest study ever done on officers who break the rules. But it’s another subject matter that has him in the news more frequently – the use of body-worn video cameras by police.

White is the author of a Department of Justice analysis of studies done on officer-worn video cameras. He was recently asked to speak on the matter to the President’s Task Force on 21st century policing. He and fellow criminology and criminal justice professor Charles Katz have also been asked by the Justice Department to create suggested guidelines for police agencies nationwide to use.

Dominique Roe-Sepowitz, associate professor, School of Social Work

As director of the Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research, Dominique Roe-Sepowitz supervises two major projects in January: a “drop-in” event for prostitutes who want helping getting “out of the life,” and a study of sex trafficking during the Super Bowl.

For the drop-in, her office is partnering with the City of Phoenix and 22 nonprofits to provide free food, clothing, medical help and other assistance, such as housing. Roe-Sepowitz even got a company to donate a couple of portable shower trucks. Research from focus groups revealed that the two things women who work as prostitutes want are a shower and items for their kids, like backpacks and notebooks. A total of 22 women show up for help during the pilot event.

Ten days before the Super Bowl, the Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research begins tracking the number of escort ads placed on in Phoenix, Tucson, New York, San Francisco and San Jose. Research assistants are trained to spot ads that have a high likelihood of involving girls under the age of 18. They also place decoy ads to see how many men respond and where their calls and emails originate. The study found a 30 percent increase in ads in the Phoenix area from the year before and a 22 percent increase in responses to decoy ads. The office forwarded 21 Phoenix ads that could involve minors to authorities.

Dave White, associate professor, School of Community Resources and Development

Dave White teaches a fieldwork research methods class for doctoral students, but the subject matter he specializes in is water management. He recently welcomed about 50 guests to a panel discussion on climate change and extreme events, held at the Decision Center for a Desert City in Tempe, where he is the principal investigator and co-director. The event featured a computational engineer from Argonne National Laboratory, anthropology professors from Rutgers and ASU, and an ASU psychology professor.

The goal of the panel is to see what can be learned by studying how other cultures shared water and dealt with crises and disasters. It is part of an interdisciplinary approach that ASU and the College of Public Service and Community Solutions have become known for.

“We have a tremendous amount of flexibility to work across the university to take advantage of collaborations and connections,” White said. “There is not a strict rule to do everything in your own department. The university has made a lot of strides in the past decade to create a fluid environment for the faculty to be able to work in the ways that best advance the work.”

Chris Herbst, associate professor, School of Public Affairs

For the better part of the past decade, Chris Herbst has done extensive research on federally subsidized childcare- and welfare-related programs, pointing out what works and what doesn’t. One particular study involved scouring thousands of pages of government documents to construct detailed datasets to help analyze a World War II universal preschool program.

President Obama made reference to his research in the 2015 State of the Union address. Obama cited its success in calling for expanding preschool subsidies and a two-fold increase in the child tax credit to $3,000 a year.

“A lot of that is grunt work. It’s not sexy at all,” said Herbst. “And so when someone other than the researcher decides that it’s useful, particularly when that person is the president, it’s very gratifying.”