ASU team receives John Templeton Foundation funding to explore relationship between science, craftwork, soulwork

June 28, 2021

A team of Arizona State University researchers from the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, the School of Life Sciences and the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict was recently awarded funding by the John Templeton Foundation to research how ideas of craftwork and soulwork can transform laboratory culture. 

Historically, religious traditions have used craftwork, the small steps one takes to complete their job, as a means of soulwork, or the progression in one’s spiritual purpose. Photo of John Templeton Sir John Templeton. Photo by John Templeton Foundation. Download Full Image

“The Buddhist monk who progresses toward enlightenment by cooking for others is one example,” said Erica O’Neil, a project manager at the Lincoln Center and one of the researchers on the project.

The research team aims to create an open-access, revisable toolkit for scientific researchers, specifically those at the forefront of genomics and genome editing, that empowers them to understand how their craftwork has a significant, direct impact on human life.

“Meaning-making through doing the work is a tradition in spiritual communities, and this grant explores how those practices can be translated for the lab and help scientific researchers create products that are more attuned to the needs of society,” O’Neil said. 

The collaboration includes experts in spiritual traditions alongside ASU humanists and scientists from three participating labs. The project is led by Gaymon Bennett, associate director of the Lincoln Center and associate professor of religion, science and technology. He is joined on the project by fellow ASU humanists O’Neil, J. Benjamin Hurlbut and Jason Robert; ASU neurobiologists B. Blair Braden, Stephen Helms Tillery and Sarah Stabenfeldt; as well as Gil Stafford, director of the Wisdom’s Way school of spiritual direction, and Carolyn Forbes, assistant director of ASU's Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict. 

“Geneticists are responsible for researching our collective biological future, but we expect them to also commodify those futures in the process,” O’Neil said. “That same responsibility for our future is also felt by leaders of spiritual practice across traditions, thus creating opportunity for shared wisdom.”

The team’s research summary states that the project will advance craftwork’s relationship to soulwork, with the expectation that learning from spiritual formation practices will better prepare those in the advanced life sciences to navigate the power they wield in a way that attunes scientific work to the larger concepts of human life. Over the next two years, the team will conduct preliminary research in the three participating labs to further understand how craftwork as soulwork can benefit scientific researchers and their work.

Victoria Vandekop

Communications Program Coordinator, Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics


3 ASU professors honored as 'hands-on humanitarians'

Arizona Humanities names winners of annual awards

June 28, 2021

Arizona Humanities is proud to announce the winners of the 2021 Humanities Awards.

Every year Arizona Humanities — the statewide 501(c)3 nonprofit organization and the Arizona affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities — honors and celebrates outstanding contributions to the humanities in the state. Since the inaugural awards in 1990, Arizona Humanities has recognized individuals who have advanced the humanities in Arizona through their scholarship, leadership, support and advocacy. This year, the theme is Hands-on Humanities. All of this year's winners are hands-on humanitarians, meaning they engage the community in their efforts to promote the humanities in Arizona. A statue stands above an ASU sign framed by green trees Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News Download Full Image

The recipients of this year's awards — including three Arizona State University faculty members — are:

  • Michael Brescia, Dan Shilling Humanities Public Scholar Award. Brescia is a distinguished historian who specializes in the history of the transnational Southwest, including Arizona, Mexico and cross-border relations. 
  • Christine Marin, Juliana Yoder Friend of the Humanities Award. Marin is a historian, archivist, scholar and professor emeritus at ASU.
  • Paul Alan Taliercio, Humanities Rising Star Award. Taliercio is the curator of the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center and the director and chief curator of the Sapien Museum of Anthropology and Natural History. 
  • Akua Duku Anokye, co-recipient, Outstanding Speaker. Anokye is an ASU associate professor in the School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.
  • Zarco Guerrero, co-recipient, Outstanding Speaker. Guerrero is an artist, storyteller and founder of Cultural Coalition, promoting community engagement through cultural programs, and Xico, a cultural institution serving Latino and Indigenous artists.
  • James and Judith Walsh, Outstanding Supporter Award. James "Jim" Walsh is a former Arizona Humanities board member and friend of founder Lorraine Frank. Jim and Judy regularly attend humanities programs, and especially the annual humanities awards event established in Frank's honor.
  • Thomas J. Davis, Founder's Community Partner Award. Davis is professor emeritus of history at ASU. 

The 2021 Arizona Humanities Awards: Hands-on Humanities will be livestreamed on Sept. 25 from 1–2 p.m. Information about the livestreamed event and registration for the general public can be found at or by calling 602-257-0335. 

Read on for more information about the three ASU professors honored by the organization.

Christine Marin — Juliana Yoder Friend of the Humanities Award

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Christine Marin

Christine Marin is a historian, archivist, scholar and professor emeritus at ASU who has tirelessly promoted the preservation and accessibility of Latino history in Arizona for the past several decades. As the founder of the Chicano/a Research Collection and Archives at ASU, Marin played an essential role in establishing and growing the collection of archival material critical to Chicano/a history. Her outreach and collaboration with local communities in Arizona was crucial to the success of the archive. Marin is also professor emeritus in the School of Transborder Studies and in women and gender studies, where she taught courses on the history of Mexican Americans and the Latino community. Marin has published extensively in her field, preserving the history and stories of marginalized groups in Arizona through her work. Outside of ASU and her scholarship, Marin is widely recognized for her public service, including her commitment to outreach in the Latino community and advocacy for women.

Akua Duku Anokye — co-recipient, Outstanding Speaker Award

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Akua Duku Anokye

Akua Duku Anokye is a distinguished scholar, educator and advocate for the humanities, especially through her efforts to promote storytelling and oral history of communities both locally and globally. Anokye is an associate professor in the School of Humanities, Arts, and Cultural Studies and the director of New College International Initiatives, office of Interdisciplinary Global Learning and Engagement. Her scholarly research focuses on oral history and folklore of the African diaspora and culture, religion, storytelling and dance of Ghana. As an educator, Anokye encourages student community activism and engagement. Through her Telling Arizona oral history project, her students travel across the state to collect and preserve the stories of Arizonans. Anokye has lent her outstanding public speaking voice to university and community events such as the March on West and Black History Month at ASU. Anokye has been an AZ Speaks presenter for many years, engaging audiences on a range of topics including the history and lives of African American women in Arizona, and storytelling in Ghana, the U.S. and Arizona. Anokye's scholarly work, community outreach and outstanding public speaking has led to the production of several documentaries on local African American female activists.

Thomas J. Davis — Founder's Community Partner 

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Thomas J. Davis

Thomas J. "T.J." Davis is professor emeritus of history at ASU, where his research and teaching focused on U.S. constitutional and legal history. Davis is an internationally recognized legal scholar. He has shared his expertise with the public and continually advocated for the humanities in Arizona for decades. Since 1997, Davis has supported Arizona Humanities in numerous capacities: first as a member of the Speakers Bureau, as an early "Road Scholar" when the program was first introduced. He continues to serve as an AZ Speaks presenter to this day, traveling to cultural organizations across Arizona. Davis also helped launch FRANK Talks, now in its fifth year. He was an inaugural program facilitator, and his unique and engaging style continues to receive high praise from host libraries and community members. In 2020–21 Davis served as project director for the "Voices and Votes: Democracy in America" traveling Smithsonian exhibit, where he advised host sites across the state and conducted trainings. Davis has been an eloquent and outstanding humanities ambassador, engaging and inspiring people from all backgrounds to learn about democracy, our nation's laws and civic engagement.