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Narrative Storytelling Initiative founder Steven Beschloss takes on new role at ASU

Award-winning writer and journalist Steven Beschloss is taking on a new role within the university as a professor of practice in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the College of Global Futures.

July 15, 2021

After nearly six years at Arizona State University, award-winning writer and journalist Steven Beschloss is taking on a new role within the university as a professor of practice in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the College of Global Futures.

“Steven’s track record of innovation and transdisciplinary collaboration at ASU will allow him to engage students and faculty in a meaningful way,” said Pardis Mahdavi, dean of social sciences in The College. “I am grateful to have him in The College and look forward to seeing what new initiatives and collaborations will arise with his leadership.”

Beschloss joined ASU in 2015 as a senior communications manager to work with President Michael Crow to craft essays and opinion pieces that focused on critical issues facing higher education and society. Over the years his role expanded to director of executive communications and strategic initiatives and the senior director for narrative development. His experiences in these roles ultimately led to the launch of the Narrative Storytelling Initiative in 2019, where he continues to serve as founding director.

"Ensuring a just, sustainable future for everyone begins with telling compelling stories about the challenges we face and the opportunities to solve them," said Christopher Boone, dean of the College of Global Futures. "Steven brings to the college extraordinary experience in crafting narratives that engage people and motivate them to act for positive outcomes. Our students, staff and faculty will learn a great deal from Steven on how to communicate effectively for building better futures."     

Now, Beschloss is eager to transition into his position as a professor of practice, where he will have the opportunity to teach about narrative storytelling while continuing his work of leading the Narrative Storytelling Initiative across the university. 

“I think ASU is still at an early stage in positively disrupting higher education and fulfilling its potential to influence society and build a more just world. I’m excited to be a part of it,” Beschloss said. “This triple appointment represents my strong belief in transdisciplinary thinking and collaboration that pulls together faculty and students who are motivated to ask significant questions — including about the state of our planet, our democracy and the roles we can play in driving societal and global change.”

As an experienced journalist, Beschloss will lend his expertise to the Cronkite School.

“We are very excited to have Steven as a part of the Cronkite community," said Battinto Batts Jr., dean of the Cronkite School. "Our students, faculty and alumni will benefit greatly from his presence, and I look forward to him playing a significant role in our vision for the future.”

Beschloss said he is particularly excited about the potential expansion of Transformations from personal essay series to books and other storytelling modes, the development of a global storytellers network, advancing a new graduate degree focused on narrative storytelling and working with teams of faculty to confront issues like climate crisis, environmental degradation and societal dysfunction. 

This fall he will co-teach ENG 598: Climate Narratives, Apocalypse and Social Change with languages and cultures Assistant Professor Sarah Viren. In the graduate-level course, students will explore the origins of apocalyptic narratives while studying a variety of alternative approaches from the history of writing for social change. The course, that is open to graduate and undergraduate students, grew out of a multidisciplinary initiative on Apocalyptic Narratives and Climate Change led by the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict and funded by a grant from the Luce/ACLS Program in Religion, Journalism and International Affairs. In the course, students will select the winner of ASU’s first Climate Narratives Prize, a biennial award for the best published narrative exploring the state of the planet and society.

“This is the kind of multidisciplinary course that I hope will pull students from various disciplines at The College,” Bechloss said. “The College possesses such an extraordinary range of thinkers, writers and storytellers; I’m looking forward to identifying new ways to work together and produce original content.”

Beschloss has written articles and essays on economics and politics, urban and international affairs, art, culture and education for The New Yorker, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The New Republic, Smithsonian, The Economist/Economist Intelligence Unit, National Geographic, Times Higher Education and other outlets.

He was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, selected as Journalist of the Year in Virginia and honored for his magazine writing by the American Society of Journalists and Authors. He has been a featured guest on MSNBC, Fox Business and NPR, and recently quoted on politics and culture by the BBC, Time, The Guardian, Newsweek, Vogue and USA Today.

In addition, he has authored two books including "Adrift: Charting Our Course Back to a Great Nation," with co-author William Harris, and "The Gunman and His Mother: Lee Harvey Oswald, Marguerite Oswald, and The Making of an Assassin,” which is the basis for a television series currently under development. He also writes and publishes “America, America” on politics and democracy.

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