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Survey finds education, immigration reform are priorities for Arizonans

ASU-sponsored poll finds wide support for expanding voting access in Arizona.
April 22, 2021

ASU-sponsored poll also reveals agreement on expanding access to voting

A new statewide survey of Arizona residents finds broad agreement on several key issues facing the state, such as the need to close education gaps for low-income students and the desire to reform immigration laws.

The results were released April 21 by the Center for the Future of Arizona in a new report titled “The Arizona We Want: The Decade Ahead.”

Sybil Francis, president and CEO of the center, said the report shows common ground across a wide swath of the population.

“I have felt somewhat discouraged by the national narrative and relentless focus on partisanship,” she said during a livestreamed event Wednesday.

“When I saw the results of the survey, it became clear to me that we agree on many of the things that we need to. Across Arizonans’ diverse geography, and across age, income and education levels, race and ethnicity and party affiliation, we agree on what we want and what we need to do.”  

Among the highlights of the survey:

  • 70% of respondents are proud to live in Arizona, but only 44% agree that the state is heading in the right direction.
  • Only 26% agree the state’s public K–12 education is of high quality, while 79% believe action is needed to close educational gaps for children who are low-income, have disabilities or are English language learners.
  • Only 28% agree that race relations are good. Of respondents who are people of color, the following said they felt discriminated against in the past 12 months: Black, 53%; Latino, 39%; Asian, 39%; and American Indian, 38%.
  • College-educated young people are less optimistic. Only 45% agree that Arizona is the perfect place for people like them, vs. 64% of all other respondents. Just 34% agree that Arizona is headed in the right direction, vs. 45% of all other respondents.
  • 86% agree that there should be comprehensive immigration reform that includes a pathway to citizenship.
  • 87% agreed that it’s important to guarantee affordable health care and insurance for Arizonans with preexisting health conditions, and 85% said it is important to make mental health services available and affordable for all Arizonans who need them.
  • 27% of Arizonans with children 18 or under say the cost of child care is preventing them from going back to work or school – a figure that increases to 54% among Black Arizonans who were surveyed.

The survey asked Arizonans about their confidence in their elected leaders. Screen grab by Charlie Leight/ASU News 

The Center for the Future of Arizona is a nonprofit organization founded in 2002 by Lattie Coor, former president of ASU. Part of the center’s mission is to share data. The report was based on a 2020 Gallup poll of more than 3,500 Arizonans. This was the second Gallup poll commissioned by the organization in the past 10 years.

The center distilled the results into seven key areas in the report: education, health care, jobs and economic opportunity, environment and sustainability, civic engagement, equitable systems, and immigration reform.

Francis called the key areas “a powerful agenda.”

“Education consistently tops the chart on issues that matter to Arizonans,” she said. “They believe that a highly educated and skilled population is important to our future.

“Yet as you heard, only 1 in 4 considers our state’s K–12 public education to be high quality.”

Low-income respondents believe they don’t have access to the education and training needed for higher-paying jobs.

“We’ve seen that lower levels of education correlate with lower job satisfaction and job security, while those with higher levels of education don’t see a path to growing their careers in Arizona,” Francis said of the results.

Michael Crow, president of ASU, one of the sponsors of the survey, said the results can help guide him in directing the university. 

“We need to focus on the needs and aspirations of Arizona’s young people and create more opportunity to build careers in Arizona.”

The survey results, released a day after a jury found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty in the killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in 2020, showed a division of opinion on inequity in the criminal justice system in Arizona: 32% agree that law enforcement treats everyone equally, while 45% disagree and 23% are neutral. On the question of whether the criminal justice system treats everyone equally: 26% agree, 45% disagree and 29% were neutral.

However, 77% agreed that Arizona’s prisons need to focus more on rehabilitation.

And, even as the state legislature is currently fielding several bills to restrict voting access in Arizona, the survey found overwhelming and broad support for making it easier to vote.

  • 73% favored sending all registered voters a mail-in ballot, and that support was 91% among respondents ages 18 to 34.
  • 77% favor automatic voter registration when applying for a state driver’s license.
  • 79% favor adding early in-person voting over multiple weeks leading up to Election Day.

The results of the poll can help leaders make decisions, according to Michael Crow, president of ASU, one of the sponsors of the survey.

“It tells me where the people of Arizona have shared public values, where they connect, and it gives me a compass heading to help guide the university on where to focus our energy and what new things to create,” he said.

“The way to get started is to begin effort after effort around implementing those values and then measure the progress we’re making.”

The livestreamed event featured comments from several leaders in Arizona. Zach Yentzer, executive director of Tucson Young Professionals, said the data support the general feeling among his members, who are anxious about affordable housing, health care and career opportunities.

“We think of Arizona as this beautiful state, but we also have a lack of confidence that careers can be built in Arizona,” he said.

“We know this to be certainly true in Tucson, which has entry-level opportunities and senior-level leadership opportunities. But that middle part, where young professionals are looking to buy a home, raise a family, grow into the mid-stage of their careers, we’re seeing that as a donut hole. I think that has to be solved.”

Reyna Montoya is an ASU alumna and the CEO and founder of Aliento, a nonprofit that provides support and resources to immigrants, including young people in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. She said that the overwhelming support for immigration reform shown in the results must translate into action.

“I wish I could wake up one day and imagine what our young people could do with their time if they didn’t have to constantly worry about deportation, family separation and not being able to pay in-state tuition because they are undocumented,” she said.

“Imagine the brilliant capacity these young people could feel, becoming a teacher, becoming a counselor, to maybe being our next mayor or state legislator or being able to do research on cancer.”

Top image: Sybil Francis, president and CEO of the Center for the Future of Arizona, presented the results of the recent Gallup survey during a livestreamed event on Wednesday. Screen grab by Charlie Leight/ASU News.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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2 from ASU elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

April 22, 2021

ASU President Michael Crow, Shakespeare and race scholar Ayanna Thompson honored for achievements

Editor's note: The induction ceremony for members elected in 2020 and 2021 will take place on Sept. 9, 2022, at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in Cambridge, Massachusetts. 

Two members of the Arizona State University community are named in the new membership rolls of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences announced on April 22.

ASU President Michael Crow and Regents Professor of English Ayanna Thompson are among those newly elected to the prestigious academy, one of the oldest learned societies in the United States. Others elected this year include former Starbucks CEO Howard D. Schultz, Oprah Winfrey, former U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis, journalist Maria Hinojosa, activist Angela Y. Davis and neurosurgeon and medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta.

Members are recognized for their outstanding achievements in academia, the arts, business, government and public affairs. Their charge is to conduct policy studies and nonpartisan public policy advocacy.

The academy was founded in 1780 and included George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in its first membership cohort. Over 1,300 nominations are considered each year; in 2020, around 270 members were elected — including two from ASU

“We are honoring the excellence of these individuals, celebrating what they have achieved so far, and imagining what they will continue to accomplish,” David Oxtoby, president of the American Academy, said of this year's newly elected members. “The past year has been replete with evidence of how things can get worse; this is an opportunity to illuminate the importance of art, ideas, knowledge and leadership that can make a better world.”

Headshot of ASU Professor

Ayanna Thompson

Thompson, who directs the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (ACMRS), is an internationally recognized scholar of Shakespeare, race and performance. She is the author of several books, including “Shakespeare in the Theatre: Peter Sellars” (2018), “Teaching Shakespeare with Purpose: A Student-Centred Approach,” co-authored with Laura Turchi (2016), “Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America” (2011), and “Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage” (2008). She is the editor of “The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race” (2021), “Weyward Macbeth: Intersections of Race and Performance” (2010) and “Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance” (2006). She wrote the new introduction for the revised Arden3 “Othello” (2016) and is collaborating with Curtis Perry on the Arden4 edition of “Titus Andronicus.”

“I am truly honored by this recognition, and I hope to use this platform to amplify the needs of BIPOCBIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous and people of color. scholars in the academy,” Thompson said. 

Her most recent book, “Blackface” (2021), unearths the history and legacy of the performance of Blackness, from premodern stages to contemporary media. Thompson discussed the book with students and faculty in a virtual event as part of ASU’s TomorrowTalks series on April 15.

Thompson is a Shakespeare scholar-in-residence at The Public Theater in New York. She chairs the Council of Scholars at Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn, New York, serves on the board of Play On Shakespeare, serves as a trustee on the board of the Royal Shakespeare Company and previously served on the board for Woolly Mammoth Theater in Washington, D.C.

When Thompson began her tenure as director of ACMRS in 2018, she announced that the center’s mission would be daring and inclusive. “This will be the place where people want to go to try out their new ideas,” she promised. “… My goal is for this to be the world-leading center for the study of medieval and Renaissance work."

By many accounts, Thompson has already accomplished that goal. ACMRS has played host to globe-spanning events and has been recognized in national media for its vision and impactful work. The center’s wildly successful RaceB4Race series challenges scholars of premodern studies everywhere to acknowledge race as a lens for investigation, to support scholars of color and to address the systemic inequity in their universities and institutions. Publishers Weekly announced that ACMRS Press, another new venture by the center, was “pulling Shakespeare into the 21st century,” with the publication of the Play On Shakespeare series. And most recently, Thompson helped guide a cluster hiring initiative that will bring five new faculty of color to the Department of English and ACMRS in fall 2021.

“Ayanna Thompson is amazing, and the work that she undertakes is changing the world,” said Jeffrey Cohen, dean of humanities in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU, of which both the Department of English and ACMRS are part. “I’ve never met anyone so brilliant, visionary and selfless: Everything she does is for a greater good. I joke that I have made a second career out of composing tributes to her latest achievements — and there have been so many well-earned ones over the past few years! Her election into AAAS is extraordinarily special. The humanities community is fortunate to have her with us, blazing a trail towards a better future.”

Headshot of ASU President

Michael Crow

Crow, who spearheaded ASU’s rapid and groundbreaking transformative evolution into one of the world’s best public metropolitan research universities, is an educator and a science and technology policy scholar in addition to being a higher education leader. As a model “New American University,” ASU simultaneously demonstrates comprehensive excellence, inclusivity representative of the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of the United States, and consequential societal impact.

Lauded as the “No. 1 most innovative” school in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for six straight years, ASU is a student-centric, technology-enabled university focused on global challenges. Under Crow’s leadership, ASU has established 25 new transdisciplinary schools, including the School of Earth and Space Exploration, the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, and the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, and launched trailblazing multidisciplinary initiatives including the Biodesign Institute and the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, and important initiatives in the humanities and social sciences.

Since Crow took the helm of ASU in 2002, research expenditures have grown from $110 million to $639.6 million in expenditures in fiscal year 2019, putting the university at No. 6 in the latest National Science Foundation Higher Education Research and Development rankings. Enrollment has grown to more than 120,000 students while success metrics have kept pace: First-year retention and four-, five- and six-year graduation rates have all increased since the start of Crow’s tenure, and the student body’s demographics have diversified to better match that of the state.

The inaugural recipient of the ACE Award for Institutional Transformation, Crow is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Public Administration, and a published author.

“It is with deep appreciation that I welcome my election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,” Crow said. “It is recognition of the incredible evolution of this institution, which is the result not of my work alone but the collective effort of so many to advance our charter — pursuing excellence in the classroom, the lab and in the community, opening access to education to learners across their life span and across demographics, and working in and with communities to make life better for all. There is unbelievable potential when we step away from how we’ve always done things and move toward new ideas and new approaches, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

For a complete list of new American Academy of Arts and Sciences members, visit the organization’s website.

Leah Newsom and Kristen LaRue-Sandler contributed to this story.