Rebecca Sandefur named director of ASU Sanford School

Award-winning professor brings research, experience and integrity as new director of ASU's School of Social and Family Dynamics

August 10, 2022

Since its founding by Richard Fabes in 2006, the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University has focused on empowering communities through social impact. Offering degrees in sociology and family and human development, the school has helped countless students make their mark on the world by becoming professionals and business people focused on improving their communities. 

Now the Sanford School has a new director.  Portrait of ASU Professor Rebecca Sandefur. Rebecca Sandefur

For professor and sociologist Rebecca Sandefur, who previously taught at the University of Illinois, joining ASU as a faculty member in 2019 was a matter of values: “I came to ASU because of those values that are in the charter,” she says. “It's about excellence in teaching and research, and it's about having a positive impact on the communities that we live in and that we serve. And it was wonderful to me that there was a place where I could do my work that had those values.”

Sandefur, a faculty fellow at the American Bar Foundation and the editor of Law & Society Review, has lived these values for more than two decades through her research pursuing a more equitable, accessible civil justice system. Sandefur’s numerous recognitions include a MacArthur "genius" Fellowship in 2018, the Warren E. Burger Award in 2020 and a New York Times feature. Having authored dozens of publications on civil justice, she is bringing both an in-depth research expertise and a passion for empowering others to her new role in a school dedicated to social impact.

RELATED: Exploring new ideas about civil justice reform

Sandefur is eager to welcome new students during her first academic year as director. In preparation for the fall, we asked a few questions to get to know her. 

Q: What inspired you to become a sociologist?

A: I became a sociologist in college really, because I was really interested in inequality and where it came from and … why it was so persistent, despite all of our attempts to reduce it. And so my work since then has been looking at inequality in different kinds of contexts. My dissertation was about inequality in the American legal profession, and now I work on inequality and access to law.

Q: Describe your research on social reform. What is the purpose?

A: My goal is to live in a world where people can have safe, healthy, flourishing lives. It turns out that access to law to resolve civil legal issues is critical to that. These would be issues like being paid for the work that you’ve done, being at risk of losing your house, needing to take care of your grandkids because your kids can't take care of them.

Being able to solve those issues is really critical to having a good life. And you need access to justice or to law to solve almost all of them. So my work is about finding new ways to help people solve those problems so that they can have healthy, safe and flourishing lives.

Q: What do you hope students will take away from your research and experiences?

A: I think one of the things that we want them to learn is that they're citizens of the world, and the world is the way it is because we've decided it's going to be this way. So we're capable of having new ideas and taking new actions that would make the world more like what we want it to be. And I hope that's how they come out of ASU.

Q: What’s your advice for students who want to change the world?

A: My advice to students who want to change the world is to realize that you can, and you cannot do it by yourself. You're always going to have to be working with other people to do things that are important and impactful. So find those people and get together with them and start.

Q: Now for some fun questions. Do you have any pets? 

A:  We have two! We have a Chihuahua who’s 14 and a half, and runs our household, and we have a big hairy yellow dog of indeterminate ancestry that is about 35 pounds.

Q: What are your favorite hobbies?

A: I love to go hiking and camping, and I love cooking. I also really enjoy eating!

Q: What are you most excited about for the coming school year? 

A: Well, my dog might finally learn how to sit!

One of the most exciting things as a faculty member is to look forward to the fall when the new PhD students and the new master’s students and the new undergraduate students all arrive. And they're so excited, and so fresh, and so ready to learn. So I'm really looking forward to that.

Jennifer Moore

Communications Specialist Associate, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics

Who's new at the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies?

August 10, 2022

The School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, the largest transdisciplinary school in the humanities at Arizona State University, is welcoming new faculty members to their roster of impressive scholars.

The school is excited for the new research topics, courses and ideas they will all bring. Photo of the "explore" sign at the top of Coor Hall on ASU's Tempe campus. Download Full Image

Nathan Ballantyne, associate professor, philosophy

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Nathan Ballantyne

Nathan Ballantyne joins the philosophy faculty at ASU from Fordham University, where he was an associate professor of philosophy. He earned his PhD in philosophy from the University of Arizona.

His research includes questions about improving human judgment and inquiry, especially during times of conflict. During times of conflict and uncertainty in society, problems of knowledge and rational opinion bubble up to the surface: What do we know? Whom should we trust? How can we improve our beliefs? HIs research grapples with these questions and aims to give inquirers good cognitive advice by blending philosophical reflection with insights from the sciences. 

Maurice Crandall, associate professor, history

Maurice Crandall joins the history faculty from Dartmouth College, where he was an assistant professor of Native American studies. He earned his PhD from the University of New Mexico.

His research focuses on Indigenous peoples of the U.S.-Mexico borderlands. Currently, he is working on a book that explores the role played by Yavapai and Dilzhe’e Apache Scouts in building their communities after the “Indian Wars.”

Alan Shane Dillingham, assistant professor, history

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Alan Shane Dillingham

Alan Shane Dillingham is joining the faculty at ASU from Albright College, where he was an assistant professor of Latin American history. He earned his PhD in Latin American history from the University of Maryland.

His research focuses on the historical experiences of Native peoples of the Americas. In particular, he focuses on 20th century Mexico, the intersection of anti-colonial politics and educational and development policy, and labor and youth-led social movements.

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Estibalitz Ezkerra Vegas

Estibalitz Ezkerra Vegas, postdoctoral scholar, ACLS fellow

Estibalitz Ezkerra Vegas is joining the school from the University of California, Santa Barbara, where she was the Etxepare lecturer in Basque studies. She earned her PhD in comparative literature from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign.

Her research involves interdisciplinary, transnational and comparative approaches to the politics of memory, violence and the demand for justice in cultural production in post-conflict territories such as Ireland and the Basque Country in Spain. She is invested in illuminating the voices and narratives of minority and Indigenous communities that are generally rendered invisible in Western and U.S. accounts of the past, with particular attention toward literature and the arts.

Jimmy Licon, lecturer, philosophy

Jimmy Licon is joining the philosophy faculty from George Mason University, where he was an emergent ventures fellow at the Mercatus Center. He earned his PhD in philosophy from the University of Maryland, College Park.

His work centers on issues in ethics, epistemology philosophy, politics and economics. He also researches philosophy of religion and metaphysics.

Ashley Tickle Odebiyi, assistant professor, history

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Ashley Tickle Odebiyi

Ashley Tickle Odebiyi recently earned her PhD in history from the University of Alabama and is joining the ASU history faculty as an assistant professor of history.

Her research includes women's religious movements in medieval and early modern Europe and Renaissance Rome. Currently, she is examining the networks that pious laywomen, called bizzoche, created in Rome during the 15th century. These networks include religious, economic and political networks among other pious laywomen, male clerics and the men and women in their local neighborhoods.

Nandita Punj, postdoctoral scholar, Jain studies

Nandita Punj is joining the ASU faculty from Rutgers University, where she earned her PhD in art history. She also holds a PhD in history from the University of Delhi.

Most recently, her research focuses on early modern Jain manuscript painting and examines the role of vernacular art in the visual culture of western India.

Mónica Espaillat Lizardo, assistant professor, history

Mónica Espaillat Lizardo earned her PhD in history and sexual diversity studies from the University of Toronto.

She researches gender, sex and sexualities, Latin American and Caribbean history, migration and diaspora studies, and state, politics and law. Her recent project examined the construction of Dominican citizenship from the Trujillo dictatorship (1930 – 1961) to 2012.

*Not all new faculty members submitted a photo at the original point of publication.

Rachel Bunning

Communications program coordinator, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies