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August 10, 2021

Incoming engineering student from Ghana is on a mission to increase access to electricity

Editor's note: ASU News is highlighting some of its impressive incoming students for fall 2021.

When Doreen Marfo was growing up in Ghana with her grandparents, they didn’t have access to electricity. Areas with electricity were very difficult to tap into because there were no transmission lines. Marfo decided she wanted to do something to get electricity to her village.

That was years ago now, and although the village has electricity, the grid could be more robust. This fall, Marfo begins work at Arizona State University on a master’s degree in electrical engineering with a focus on power and energy systems.

“That's why I'm majoring in that in order to get the exposure and experience to go and help my country,” she said.

ASU News asked this incoming student a few questions about becoming a Sun Devil:

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: Because ASU is No. 1 in innovation. And I read about the power system laboratories and research centers. It's very huge and having good professors like Dr. Vijay Vittal and Dr. Raja Ayyanar and very robust professors who can really equip you in the power sector. And again, Arizona’s weather is equivalent to what we have in Ghana. And so I just said, why not? Let me just come, and it will be very easy to fit in.

Q: What are you most excited to experience your first semester?

A: I'm looking forward to an exciting semester and collaborating with professors in terms of research and even students as well. I'm looking forward to joining the National Society of Black Engineers and even the Fulton Engineering Center, engaging in community services that will enhance people's live here and even back home. And I can't wait for a successful semester.

Q: What do you like to brag about to friends about ASU?

A: ASU has a very nice community, and it's very different from what is in Ghana. … The school is so huge, more like a town or city back home. And it's a very large community and people are always willing to offer help wherever you are when you're lost. … And I want to share that with my friends as well.

Q: What’s one interesting fact about yourself that only your friends know?

A: I'm a twin — and I miss her already.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem in our world, what would you choose?

A: One thing I'm passionate about is helping home in terms of the power system. I did an internship this summer at Ghana Grid Company Ltd. And I had the opportunity to work with their system control center and also to get to know the transmission network of Ghana. And so I would love to invest in the security infrastructure of the whole network and to make it more robust, to accommodate enough power. Because the system keeps evolving, the network keeps going and we need to make it such that there will be some sort of redundancy in the network as time goes on so that we can accommodate the power that it needs and ensure security as well.

Top image courtesy of Doreen Marfo

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News

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ASU center reaches out to children traumatized by witnessing domestic violence

August 10, 2021

Family Violence Center provides public information, aid to families

Researchers and staff at Arizona State University’s Family Violence Center confront domestic violence through aid to families and a wide variety of public information, but as they do they frequently address a particularly unnerving victim experience.

Children who witness a family member killing another often suffer deep and complex trauma, said Family Violence Center Director Neil Websdale, who said he hopes the center’s efforts helping child victims in Arizona could be duplicated at the national level.

“Often they have witnessed these killings, so this is a direct service program,” said Websdale, a professor in the School of Social Work. “We assist these kids and their new caregivers, who are also grieving the homicide. This is a traumatized group of kids who need wraparound services, often over the long term.”

The center made its home at the School of Social Work in 2020 after seven years at Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, where it was the Family Violence Institute. It opened as the Family Violence Center at ASU last June. After spending more than a year working remotely, on Sept. 8 staff will move into office space at the Arizona Center in downtown Phoenix.

One of the center’s principal projects is the Arizona Child and Adolescent Survivor Initiative (ACASI), which for the past six years has helped about 100 children and a similar number of new caregivers who have experienced the loss of a parent to a domestic violence killing.

ACASI provides a number of what Websdale called wraparound services, everything from post-scene crisis intervention and social supports, to mentoring and longer-term counseling, to courtroom advocacy and legal assistance.

Websdale said ACASI, funded by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office for Victims of Crime, is the only service of its kind in the nation, but he hopes to be able to set up a national assistance center modeled from it.

The Family Violence Center supervises two other main projects.

It continues to administer the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative, which since 1997 has received Justice Department funding, Websdale said. Through it, the center provides technical assistance to 46 states whose officials seek to review domestic violence fatalities in their jurisdictions, including suicides and killings within families.

Looking at these killings, which mostly involve men who kill women, includes a review of systems that Websdale said is similar to how investigators reconstruct the circumstances of an airliner crash.

“It’s like looking at why the plane went down,” he said. “We look at how this tragic situation occurred and what can be learned to prevent future tragedy.”

The effort involves law enforcement, courts and advocates, as well as finding and interviewing friends of the affected families and co-workers of those who were killed.

The third project is the Community-Informed Risk Assessment Project, funded locally by the Arizona Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family and nationally by the Office on Violence Against Women, Websdale said.

The project involves work with community agencies, organizations and stakeholders who deal with domestic violence cases. The entities include police, county attorneys, courts, victim advocates, public health authorities, probation officers and other community organizations.

“Two senior police officers administer the project in-state and nationally, working primarily with law enforcement bodies to improve responses to domestic violence cases,” Websdale said.

The center’s base at ASU provides a more entrepreneurial environment within which to work, Websdale said.

“For example, we have already been involved in exploring grant opportunities in Central and South America, particularly in regard to extending domestic violence fatality reviews in those settings,” he said.

“We know that there is a clear connection between women’s rights, women’s empowerment, gross domestic product, democracy and the rule of law. These things all go together. Reviewing domestic violence fatalities with a view to developing preventive interventions dovetails nicely with these broader development goals.”

The center is an important component of the School of Social Work’s approach to take on issues involved with domestic violence, said school Director Elizabeth Lightfoot.

“The School of Social Work is so fortunate to have Dr. Neil Websdale and the Family Violence Center as one our multifaceted endeavors to address domestic violence,” Lightfoot said. “The valued work done by the center complements our other effective efforts in this area, such as that of Dr. Jill Messing and the staff of the Office of Gender-Based Violence.” 

Top photo by Eric Ward/Unsplash

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer , Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions