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Watts IDEA Office marks 1st year with programs that encourage inclusion, anti-racism

IDEA Scholars, grant-funded 'we work' among first initiatives

Visitors at booths at Celebrating Black Brilliance event, Watts College, IDEA Office, April 2022

Dozens visited booths in the lobby of the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus' University Center in April during the three-day Celebrating Black Brilliance event, presented by the inclusive Design for Equity and Access (IDEA) Office at the Watts College for Public Service and Community Service. The IDEA Office recently marked its first anniversary. Photo by Chandra Crudup/ASU

May 06, 2022

Last year, Chandra Crudup set out to use her new position as a Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions associate dean to put what she called “real feet” to ASU’s Charter to uphold inclusion over exclusion, meeting that goal by doing “we work, not me work.”

Crudup, who is also a clinical associate professor in the School of Social Work, reflects on the first year of the Inclusive Design for Equity and Access (IDEA) Office, which she oversees, and has identified several initiatives well underway with a record of significant accomplishment.

Among examples of that “we work,” she said, are:

  • Establishing the IDEA Scholars program.
  • Issuing IDEA mini-grants to financially support the work to achieve inclusivity at the college.

IDEA Scholars work on projects, plan events

The IDEA Scholars and Junior Scholars framework provides students with the opportunity to develop leadership skills and promote inclusivity by assisting with college programming and other projects.

The IDEA Scholars — Cynthia Mackey, Tasha Holmes and Trey Jenkins — are PhD students, each working on different projects, ranging from exploring ways the Watts community can learn from the experiences of Black students to reviewing the college curriculum for improvement opportunities

For example, Jenkins’ project involves creating an evaluation process.

“I began my project guiding the team of scholars — with support from Dr. Crudup — in a conversation that led to the co-creation of the IDEA mission, definitions of our key concepts and the foundation that the office will use to measure success,” Jenkins said. “Key to the mission of the IDEA Office is collaborative, active partnerships in creating a Watts College that is inclusive and anti-racist. Our next steps are to work with the college's diversity committee and other stakeholders to finalize language and measures of success.”

Celebrating Black Brilliance, University Center, IDEA Office, Watts College, April 2022

IDEA Senior Scholar Cynthia Mackey, a Watts College PhD student, speaks to attendees on April 14 during the Celebrating Black Brilliance Event at the University Center on the Downtown Phoenix campus. Photo by Mark Scarp/ASU

Two Junior Scholars — Jeri Perkins and Qihao Zhan — are pursuing master’s degrees. They are implementing all of the college’s programming celebrating various heritage months, Crudup said. Heritage months honor and recognize underrepresented groups.

Perkins and Zhan are responsible for coordinating a directory of resources for the Watts Day of Learning, during which members of the college are encouraged to take time to read, watch a movie, participate in an organized activity or volunteer in the community to learn more about the group that is the focus of the heritage month. They also produce the AZWattsInfluencers’ Heritage Month "Mosaic" podcast series on, and generate social media content to promote both the Day of Learning and the podcast. 

Perkins said she wants to use the platform to help change the narrative of how the Black, Indigenous and other people of color communities are portrayed in the curriculum, curriculum delivery and culture within Watts College and the ASU community.

“The goal of heritage month programming is to represent ‘culture as a strength and not a deficit’ by highlighting the many contributions of those who have positively influenced us,” Perkins said. “By amplifying the voices of heritage month influencers on our podcast series, we create a strengths-based narrative that empowers diverse communities to celebrate their cultural identity.”

Zhan said she sees the podcast series as providing opportunities for more people to know about the impactful work the influencers are doing or have done, as well as to empower diverse communities to move forward.

“I have learned so much by talking and working with our AZWattsInfluencers, Dr. Crudup and my amazing colleagues on the team,” Zhan said.

Grants fund projects throughout the college

In the past year, the IDEA Office issued nine mini-grants, up to $2,000 each, to provide modest funding to members, groups and projects that are working to build a more inclusive, equitable and accessible Watts community, such as the Diverse Perspectives on Justice 2022 series of speakers.

The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice Graduate Student Committee began the series in 2020 with two primary aims: to uplift and center the voices of diverse scholars and research agendas that challenge existing assumptions on justice, and to create more opportunities for ASU students to hear from scholars whose experiences, ideas and research provide insights on criminological problems that extend past what is offered within traditional curriculum, said Skyler Morgan, a doctoral student and graduate research assistant in the school.

The mini-grant is funding three speakers in spring 2022.The idea for the mini-grants stemmed from findings that many people in the college were already doing good equity and inclusion work that doesn’t always get funded.

Celebrating Black Brilliance, University Center, IDEA Office, Watts College, April 2022

A visitor looks over information at a booth at the Watts College IDEA Office

Recipients throughout the college included:

  • The ASU Watts College Women Faculty of Color Initiative, which provides a supportive community specifically for faculty who identify as women of color through luncheons, professional development workshops and other events, with the goal that this historically underrepresented group will thrive at ASU and in academia, according to Lily Hsueh, an associate professor in the School of Public Affairs.
  • A new borderlands course offered this spring by the School of Social Work at ASU’s Tucson campus. The course, co-led by Assistant Professor Matt Ignacio and Professor Michael Shafer “is designed to expose students to the range of roles and responsibilities social workers perform in an ethical, evidence-informed and socially just manner,” Ignacio said. Taught in ASU Sync, it also involves three in-person Saturday field immersion experiences in Tucson, Nogales and Sells, Arizona. The course, SWU457/SWG557 Immigration and Border Issues, is planned to be offered again in spring 2023. It is designed to develop, strengthen and sustain partnerships between The School of Social Work's Tucson campus and the agencies and systems serving migrants and refugees in southern Arizona, Nogales and the Sonoran borderlands region.
  • Creation of the Youth Education Program, a brand new tutoring program for youth experiencing juvenile detention, said School of Criminology and Criminal Justice Assistant Professor Adam Fine. Its first cohort of ASU student tutors, which includes Nia Black, Malia Wilson, Jonathan Cruz and Naya Craig, began in February 2022. 
  • Updates to the School of Social Work's PhD program manual, based on doctoral student input, led by Associate Professor David Androff, the school’s associate director for doctoral education. “Our goal is to turn the current, outdated PhD student manual into a useful tool that promotes accessibility, inclusion and allows all students to be able to see themselves in the program,” he said.
  • Marisol Diaz, senior research analyst at the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center and the Collective for Research Equity and Diversity (CRED), a Watts College ad hoc group, to host an April talk on decolonizing research by Jameson D. Lopez of the University of Arizona. The funding will also support encouraging college-wide learning and conversation about equitable and inclusive research methodologies, as well as to sustain learning and dialogue through ongoing and future CRED activities. CRED formed to advance learning and build a network of scholars, educators, students and community members committed to anti-racist and decolonizing research.
  • School of Social Work Lecturer Brett Petersen and the Yuma Student Mentor program, to support the launch of a formal mentoring program pairing current School of Soical Work Yuma students with recent graduates and community members.
  • School of Social Work Assistant Professor Stephanie Lechuga-Peña and Latin@s Unid@s, the school's Latino student mentorship program composed of undergraduate and graduate students who support Latino students in academic and professional pursuits, to support the continued activities and efforts of the group to help students feel connected during their time at ASU, while also engaging in their community. They are planning events on the Downtown Phoenix campus and Yuma location, as well as ways to include other campuses and online students.
  • School of Public Affairs Visiting Professor Colleen Wessel-McCoy and the Welfare Rights Collaborative Research Project, to support an April in-person research talk, “Welfare Rights Activism as Grassroots Moral Leadership,” and a course guest lecture by Carolyn Baker. The grant provides an opportunity for ASU faculty, staff and students and the larger community to learn from both the research partnership and the important history of marginalized and oppressed women of color.
Celebrating Black Brilliance, University Center, IDEA Office, Watts College, April 2022

An artist works on a drawing during the Watts College IDEA Office

Watts College Dean Cynthia Lietz praised Crudup for the impact she is making as she leads the college’s efforts to create an inclusive work and learning environment.

“Associate Dean Crudup’s knowledge, energy and ability to bring people together is creating space for us to have important conversations about what it means to be an anti-racist college,” Lietz said. “We are not there yet, but with Chandra’s leadership and the integration of this commitment across every aspect of the college, we are making huge strides in realizing this goal.”

The IDEA Office is now in its second year, with more projects to come. 

“We’re going to keep the momentum going in our community with dialogue, continuing to attune the work we’re doing to be more anti-racist and anti-oppressive,” Crudup said.

She said it’s been gratifying to watch the growth that has occurred and she’s eager to continue building on the efforts that were already underway when she began her position a little more than a year ago.

“This work is not new to the college. The Watts Committee on Diversity and Inclusion and other committees across the college, as well as a number of faculty and staff who have been committed to this work, have forged the way and requested a commitment, like the IDEA Office, from the college,” she said. “Building on this foundation of work, it is encouraging to see the progress we have made in just one year of a dedicated IDEA Office. This work is not ‘me’ work, it is ‘we’ work!”