Remembering Associate Professor Daniel Brouwer

June 21, 2021

Daniel Brouwer, associate professor of rhetorical studies at Arizona State University's Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, died unexpectedly on May 26 at the age of 51.

In his 21-year career at ASU, Brouwer was an award-winning teacher and mentor, researcher and treasured colleague. In the communication discipline, he was an intellectual leader in counterpublic theory and the study of public memory. In the Hugh Downs School, he was founder and co-director of the I-4C Research Collaborative — a vibrant and active consortium of students and faculty focused on the intersections of civil, critical and creative communication. Photo by Cindy Dick Download Full Image

Born in 1970 in Lafayette, Indiana, Brouwer received a Bachelor of Science in communication from Ohio University in 1992. He earned his master's and doctoral degrees in communication studies from Northwestern University in 1995 and 2000. Before joining ASU he was an instructor of communication studies at Loyola University Chicago. 

Professor Sarah Tracy joined the faculty of the Hugh Downs School the same year as Brouwer, in 2000.

Tracy said that “the hundreds of tributes pouring in on social media highlight Dan's special ability to listen with care, make others feel seen, provide generous and incisive feedback, gently lead and celebrate others."

“They also highlight his twinkling eyes, affectionate smile, gracious and debonair manner, (and) delight in coffee (shops), white wine and bike riding," Tracy said. “He was a lover of candy, whimsical art pieces, slim-fit graphic T-shirts, desert hiking, inside jokes and international travel."

Jennifer Linde co-directed the I-4C Research Collaborative with Brouwer. 

“Dan was gifted at building community, and the Hugh Downs School and I-4C benefited immensely from that,” she said. “Whether it was performing poetry at The Empty Space, donning bowling shoes for the graduate student-faculty competition, playing his flute at Cornucopia or judging the office chili cook-off, Dan showed up. I will miss his leadership, wise counsel and playful emails that shouted “Super WOWZIES,” making me feel special, honored and appreciated.”

Brouwer was also a pivotal figure in the communication profession, with an active presence at the National Communication Association (NCA) and Western States Communication Association (WSCA). He received multiple research, mentorship and teaching awards from these and other associations. He was a fundamental figure in creating and sustaining the annual NCA “Queer No Host” celebration as well as the 2008 NCA "UnConvention."

“UnConvention” took place at the annual NCA convention in San Diego that year, where workers at the hotel where the convention was being held were striking for better pay.

Belle Edson, director of undergraduate studies at the Hugh Downs School, says Brouwer was part of an organizing committee that moved some of the presentations to other venues in town so that they didn’t have to cross the picket lines. 

Daniel Brouwer

Photo by Cindy Dick

“This was emblematic of Dan’s working-class roots, as well as his compassion and care for people who are paid low wages but do all kinds of heavy lifting in places such as hotels and restaurants,” Edson said.

At WSCA, he served as second vice president from 2006–07 and was honored with the Master Teacher Award in 2005. Further, he was engaged as a panelist, chair or respondent on dozens of rhetorical, organizational communication and instructional communication panels. 

In a Facebook tribute, WSCA spoke of his positive and lasting impact on the association: "Dan's influence spanned across interest groups, across roles and time in such meaningful ways. Over the last 20-plus years, Dan was so fully present at WSCA. Dan shared with us his intellect, his heart, his dancing skills and his humor. We will miss him deeply."

Brouwer was one of the most prolific doctoral mentors at the Hugh Downs School, working with more than 60 graduate students on their dissertations and theses, usually as chair or co-chair.  

"Both graduate and undergraduate students lined up outside his door – literally and figuratively – for the chance to share time and space with 'Dr. Brouwer,'" Tracy said. "Dan's intellect, mentorship and activism have left an indelible imprint on the communication discipline and will continue to do so for generations to come."

Brouwer was also awarded the 2020 Rhetorical and Communication Theory Division Faculty Mentor Award from the National Communication Association. He was nominated for this award by several of his ASU advisee alumni.

Leading the effort was Shuzhen Huang, an assistant professor in communication studies at Bloomsburg University in Pennsylvania.

"Dr. Brouwer has a reputation for promoting diversity by serving students on the margins," Huang said. "He has shown sustained effort and cares to help me and other young scholars succeed in our professional careers, especially in the case of historically underrepresented groups. He has also shown his ability to make students feel seen, recognized and affirmed. Like many of his advisees, my scholarly path is greatly impacted by Dr. Brouwer, who has served as an influential role model that I aspire to be."

Roberta Chevrette, assistant professor at Middle Tennessee State University, said his mentorship "helped me find clarity and confidence in my scholarly expression."

"Not only has Dan long mentored LGBT+ students and faculty through his teaching, scholarship and service,” Chevrette said, “he has also been instrumental in promoting visibility and inclusion within the discipline at large." 

Donna Henson was a teaching assistant for Brouwer's gender communication class during Brouwer’s first few years at ASU.

"He showed me so much about how to be a teacher and a scholar — and a better person," Henson said. "It was a real privilege to learn from him. I loved his humor. What a loss — and what a legacy."

“Dan was not only a bastion of knowledge and world-making, but above all else, he was incredibly intentional in his capacity to make and hold space for others," said Carlos Flores, who was mentored by Brouwer as one of two co-advisers for his graduate committee. "I am incredibly grateful for the care and support he provided to my graduate colleagues and me, both in and out of the classroom. He was truly a beacon of light, and I miss him deeply."

Hugh Downs School Doctoral Director Benjamin Broome said Brouwer's influence on the PhD program is immeasurable.

“Over the past 21 years, I had the privilege of working with Dan as he guided dozens of students through their PhD program,” Broome said. “He mentored them with care and genuineness through the complexities and controversies of contested issues. At the same time, he guided them through the inevitable uncertainties and anxieties that accompany being a PhD student. Losing Dan leaves a huge hole in our community, but it is tempered by the knowledge that his impact is long-lasting for the students he worked with, our doctoral program and his faculty colleagues. Although we no longer have his physical presence with us, he will always serve as a model and inspiration as we strive to be better mentors."

To honor and commemorate his extraordinary impact, friends and colleagues created a fund to establish the Daniel Brouwer Mentorship Award through the ASU Foundation. The award will serve to honor faculty whose work with students reflects a commitment to the outstanding mentorship demonstrated by Brouwer.

In addition, the Hugh Downs School plans to honor Brouwer as part of its ASU reception at the National Communication Association conference in November in Seattle. Details will be shared about this event in the fall.

"Dan's death has left a hole in so many of our hearts, souls and organizations," Tracy said. "Right now, his colleagues and friends are doing their best to hold each other close in a generosity of spirit and with the commitment to emulate the dignity, whimsy, care, advocacy and humility that Dan modeled in his own life. We lost a giant. And our hearts break."

Manager, Marketing and Communication, Hugh Downs School of Human Communication


Scholarship helps students conduct research on heritage languages, transition to college

The Jenessa Shapiro Undergraduate Research Scholarship expands access to psychology research for undergraduate students

June 21, 2021

Balancing work and research can be tough for students. Thanks to generous contributions from the Arizona State University psychology community, the Jenessa Shapiro Undergraduate Research Scholarship is helping to continue the research opportunities of psychology students Ema Angulo Rodriguez and Missy Tran.

The scholarship supports one to two underrepresented students annually with funding of up to $5,000 to conduct psychological research.These students previously may have had to work or meet certain time obligations outside of the lab that prevented in-depth research projects or participating in a research lab.  ENERGIZE meeting Thanks to generous contributions from the ASU psychology community, the Jenessa Shapiro Undergraduate Research Scholarship is helping to continue the research opportunities of psychology students Ema Angulo Rodriguez and Missy Tran. Above, Tran (far right) and Angulo Rodriguez (third, clockwise) attend an ENERGIZE team meeting. Photo courtesy of Robert Ewing Download Full Image

Jenessa Shapiro was an associate professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, an alumna from the social psychology PhD program at ASU, and conducted research on discrimination, in-group and out-group dynamics, and served as a mentor for hundreds of undergraduate students. Shapiro’s memorial scholarship aims to continue her legacy of mentorship and championing underrepresented students.

Tran, a triple major in biochemistry, neuroscience and psychology, is interested in an MD/PhD program. She had previously conducted biology research but wasn’t familiar with getting involved in the Department of Psychology.

“I like being at the intersection of where medicine meets research. I was interested in getting into psychology-based research, but didn’t know where to start,” Tran said. “It can be extremely intimidating to want to begin something new but have no mentors to turn to in order to ask questions.”

Fortunately, both Angulo Rodriguez and Tran saw emails about the ENERGIZE program in the department and applied. The ENERGIZE program helps to facilitate the process of connecting underrepresented undergraduate students with research labs and mentors. 

After meeting with mentors from the program, Tran joined the Trancisiones project led by Professor Leah Doane, and Angulo Rodriguez began conducting research with Assistant Professor Viridiana Benitezin the Learning and Development Lab. 

The Transiciones project follows over 200 Latino students who are attending ASU, tracking sleep data, stress hormones and their general health while making the transition from high school to college. In this project, Tran conducts training Zoom calls with study participants to prepare them for their upcoming study visits and to answer any questions they may have.

Portrait of student

Missy Tran

“We analyze what cultural and institutional factors influence the Latino population as they transition into college and what influences their success academically and socially,” Tran said. 

Her hard work on the project has already stood out to her mentors and teammates.

“Missy is an exemplar from the ENERGIZE program: She is highly motivated, curious and bright, and has persevered with flexibility in the face of adversity,” Doane said. “She currently balances working for her family’s small business, a paid teaching assistantship in chemistry, her leadership of a STEAM mentoring program, in addition to her lab work and coursework as a Barrett Honors College student with a 4.0 GPA.”

Because of her positive experience working with Doane in the Transiciones lab, Tran is also joining the Arizona Twin Project lab this summer. She will conduct research using the Arizona Twin Project data to better understand what promotes resilience in families that face adverse childhood experiences.

“This scholarship award allows me the time to invest in developing my research skills and not having to worry about finances,” Tran said. “It feels good to know that there is a scholarship available for underrepresented students in research.” 

Promoting heritage language learning

Portrait of student

Ema Angulo Rodriguez

Angulo Rodriguez is interested in social linguistics and bilingualism and how to maintain heritage languages. Her research interests center on bilingualism and its impact on academic achievement. As a first-generation college student from Caracas, Venezuela, Angulo Rodriguez has seen firsthand the deterioration of her Spanish language skills, even though it was her primary language growing up.

“Research shows that throughout generations, Spanish language proficiency decreases,” Angulo Rodriguez said. “I want to know what sort of interventions are effective to promote the maintenance of heritage languages in the United States.”

Angulo Rodriguez currently works two part-time jobs and was considering a third until she received the scholarship. Along with her degree in psychology, she is pursuing a minor in Spanish linguistics with a certificate in political economy. She is also part of the Next Generation Service Corps, a four-year leadership development program at ASU.

“Oftentimes underrepresented students face unique obstacles that are very intertwined with their identities. As I’ve come to terms with my trans identity, I’ve lost financial support from my family. That then turns into another challenge of balancing financial independence with being a full-time student,” Angulo Rodriquez said. “I’m just extremely grateful to the Jenessa Shapiro Scholarship because this scholarship allows me to focus on research without needing to financially support myself.” 

Go here if you would like to contribute to the scholarship to help expand research opportunities.

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology