3 ASU faculty members awarded course redesign grants

April 27, 2022

Earlier this semester, three School of International Letters and Cultures faculty members at Arizona State University were selected as winners of the school’s course redesign grant competition. They were each provided with funding to update the curriculum of an existing course to give it a new focus.

Spanish Instructor Sean McKinnon, one of the three recipients, is currently teaching the revised version of SPA 194: Language in the U.S. The course examines why only about 20% of the United States population is bilingual despite it being a nation of immigrants and Indigenous peoples. McKinnon said he plans to revise the course again over the summer based on student feedback before teaching it again in fall 2022.  Illustration of hands holding speech balloons that say "hello" in several languages. Download Full Image

“I am enjoying teaching this general education course because I get to teach students to think critically about language and how it’s used in society,” he said.  

McKinnon's proposal was to reframe the course around social justice and equity issues through critical perspectives. He used the pedagogical framework of critical language awareness to teach students about how language is embedded in social meaning and power dynamics. Some of their assignments include examining social media posts for their messages about language ideology. Students get to create a meme or TikTok video demonstrating what they have learned; McKinnon said this helps teach students that linguistic messages are present in their everyday lives.

“I think it is important for educators to think critically about what they’re teaching, how they’re teaching it and why, especially since ASU is known for being a center of innovation,” McKinnon said. “I’ve found that revamping my courses around social justice/equity issues has increased student engagement and enrollment, which hasn’t surprised me, since Gen ZGeneration Z (or Gen Z for short), colloquially also known as zoomers, is the demographic cohort succeeding Millennials and preceding Generation Alpha. Researchers and popular media use the mid-to-late 1990s as starting birth years and the early 2010s as ending birth years. Most members of Generation Z are children of Generation X. is so in tune with social justice and equity issues.” 

Portrait of ASU German Lecturer .

Sara Lee

German Lecturer Sara Lee had a similar social justice-minded approach to updating her class, GER 494: Language and Disability. The course already engaged deeply with social justice and equity topics, so the redesign enabled Lee to add more opportunities for students to participate in community outreach, learn about career and internship options in the field, and complete projects applying their knowledge to real-life situations. 

For example, students will develop material for after-school language classes that focus on the needs of learners with disabilities. Barrett, The Honors College students will be encouraged to complete an honors enrichment contract diving deeper into the course material, or even consider focusing their honors thesis on disabilities, inclusion and equity in different cultures. 

Spanish Lecturer Dulce Estévez was one of five members of the award committee tasked with selecting which faculty members’ proposals should receive the funding to support their curriculum redesign projects. 

"We were especially interested in courses that aimed at connecting students to their local community and challenged them to complete projects that enhanced their portfolios for their professional careers or future academic pursuits,” Estévez said. “Updating course content and adjusting course objectives to align with evolving students' interests and the job market requirements is essential.”

Portrait of ASU Senior Lecturer in Italian .

Enrico Minardi

Senior Lecturer in Italian Enrico Minardi was the final recipient of the course redesign grants. His class, ITA 319: Italian for the Professions, will be taught in fall 2022 with newly added career-specific material and assignments. Minardi said that while many of the assignments and readings of the previous version of the course have been kept, “this class represents a profound revisitation and reworking of Italian for the Professions as it used to be.” 

Reflecting a broader trend across the school, the revamped course will focus on sustainability and how this concept affects the economy and Italian job market.  

“It is the most popular economic sector among youth nowadays,” Minardi explained. “Italy is one of the leading countries in the sector, having started working on environmental protection legislation by the end of the 70s and 80s as the early implementation of recycling and the victory at the referendum to abolish nuclear energy in 1987 show.” 

Students will receive training in the differences between Italian and U.S. business etiquette, the most important trends of the Italian economy, how to build a resume and apply for jobs, how to be successful in a job interview and how to apply for a work visa.  

Their semester-long project will be an analysis – from the standpoint of sustainability – of socioeconomic organizations in Italy. They will prepare a multimedia exhibit documenting their findings that will be open to the public on campus and could be presented to other students or community members. 

Portrait of ASU Spanish Instructor .

Sean McKinnon

For each of these three updated classes, students will be learning not just their course subject matter, but also how to apply it in the personal and professional worlds they hope to inhabit after graduation. McKinnon said he wants students to take what they learn and use it beyond the classroom. 

“For my bilingual students, I hope that the class teaches them how to linguistically advocate for themselves and for their community, as well providing them with ideas and strategies for how to pass down their language to the next generation, if they decide to have children,” he said. 

“And for my monolingual English students, I hope that they become better linguistic allies for bilinguals in the U.S. and also consider becoming bilingual themselves. … Knowing two languages promotes better cognitive flexibility, delays the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and exposes you to new cultures and ways of being/thinking.” 

This is in line with the principles that Estévez and the other members of the award committee were guided by as they reviewed applications for the funding. The school's mission is to prepare ASU students to become global citizens, which extends beyond linguistic proficiency to also include cultural awareness and lifelong curiosity about the world around them. 

“At (the school), we aim to make the world more equitable and just by equipping students with a worldview that values the contributions and knowledge of diverse people groups to the field of study and profession students choose to pursue,” she said.

Kimberly Koerth

Content Writer, School of International Letters and Cultures

ASU professors use Institute for Humanities Research funding to support research at ASU, abroad

April 27, 2022

As the spring semester draws to a close, several School of International Letters and Cultures faculty members are wrapping up research projects they undertook with the support of funding from the Institute for Humanities Research at Arizona State University.

Judit Kroo, assistant professor of modern Japanese linguistics and comparative cultural studies, was awarded a seed grant a year ago for her project “Sustainable Artisanship: Mapping Alternative Lifeways in Contemporary Japan.” Hand holding a magnifying glass hovering over a page with several words on it. The magnifying glass shows the word "humanities." Download Full Image

Four other professors received IHR fellowships for the 2021–22 academic year:

• Serena Ferrando, assistant professor of environmental humanities and Italian, for “City of Water: How Poetry Shaped Milan.”

• Daniel Gilfillan, associate professor of German, for “’The Unsung Planet’: Resilience, Resonance and Our Sonic Imagination.”

• Natalie Lozinski-Veach, assistant professor of German and comparative cultural studies, for “Creaturely Constellations: Animals, Language and Critical Thought After Auschwitz.” 

• Francoise Mirguet, associate professor of ancient Hebrew and the history of emotions, for “Rediscovering Consolation: Can Three Antique Cultures Help Us Reimagine Grief and Its Relief?” 

Kroo’s project “maps forms of self, community and political building among Japanese shokunin (artisans) in zones of ecological devastation,” she said. Her approach is transdisciplinary – using ethnography, linguistic anthropology and digital humanities. She hopes to explore what these communities’ linguistic practices demonstrate about endurance, resilience and risk management under socioeconomically and ecologically precarious conditions. 

Portrait of ASU Assistant Professor .

Judit Kroo

Kroo has used the seed grant funding to build a prototype website for her project, communicate and conduct Zoom interviews with artisans across Japan, transcribe her interviews, and form a research partnership with Akita International University in Akita, Japan.  

She was invited to present her research at the annual meeting of Anthropology of Japan in Japan and the annual conference of the Association for Asian Studies. She has also been applying to additional funding sources in order to continue work on the project beyond this school year. 

“This award has been crucial to allowing me to connect with not only artisan communities, but also with other scholars of artisanship in Japan,” Kroo said. “Besides funding data collection, the grant has enabled me to demonstrate proof of concept for the project, which is crucial for successful applications for further grants. I am exceedingly grateful to the IHR for their support of my research!” 

Kroo isn’t the only School of International Letters and Cultures faculty member currently being supported by an IHR seed grant.

Assistant Professor of Portuguese Ligia Bezerra was awarded seed funding at the end of the fall semester in support of her project "Defending Democracy: Twenty-First Century Brazilian Songs of Protest." That funding will carry her through the end of 2022, but like many recipients, she expects to continue work on her project for several years. 

Meanwhile, the IHR fellowship recipients each received research funds, a course buyout and registration for the National Center for Faculty Development and Diversity’s fall 2021 Faculty Success Program. Both Mirguet and Lozinski-Veach hope to use their funding for travel abroad – to Toulouse, France, and Marbach am Neckar, Germany, respectively. 

Portrait of ASU Assistant Professor .

Natalie Lozinski-Veach

Lozinski-Veach is working on a book manuscript that “analyzes the aesthetic functions of animals in German and Polish literature and thought after 1945,” she said.

She has conducted research for, written and revised various chapters of the book over the past year, including submitting for publication an article on animals and trauma theory, and another article on the connections between aesthetics after the Shoah (also known as the Holocaust) and in the Anthropocene. The latter article will be part of a special issue of The Germanic Review on the poet Paul Celan; Lozinski-Veach is co-editing that forthcoming issue. 

She said her current research “traces how nonhuman animals disrupt and expand conventional notions of language and so open up alternative approaches to challenges of Shoah representation and the unspeakability of trauma.” 

In addition to the IHR fellowship, Lozinski-Veach has applied for a fellowship to conduct archival research for her book at the Deutsches Literaturarchiv Marbach, or German Literature Archive Marbach. 

Mirguet is also currently researching and writing a book. Hers “explores the construction of grief and its relief in three ancient cultures — ancient Israel, Imperial Rome and Hellenistic Judaism — in comparison with contemporary Western societies,” she said.  

Portrait of ASU Associate Professor .

Francoise Mirguet

She has submitted an article for publication about the political value of the lamentations voiced by the first-century C.E. Jewish historian Flavius Josephus in his history of the Judean War. She will present that research this summer at the biennial conference of the North American Chapter on the History of Emotion. She also submitted an abstract to present on gestures of consolation and comfort in the Hebrew Bible at the annual conference of the European Association of Biblical Studies. 

Mirguet sees a timeliness to her research as grief remains at the forefront of many people’s minds due to the pandemic and other national and global events.  

There is an intense need for comfort and consolation as we emerge from the pandemic,” she said. “I love exploring how other cultures perceived the experience of grief and imagined ways to provide soothing and comfort to those in distress. I believe that practices of consolation, across cultures and history, may inform how we deal with our own pain and how we comfort those around us.” 

Kimberly Koerth

Content Writer, School of International Letters and Cultures