Student group put ASU charter’s call for inclusivity into multiple learning experiences

Tourism Student Association devoted fall programs to inclusivity in serving travelers

December 2, 2022

The Arizona State University Charter mandates that inclusion is front and center in all of ASU’s programs, classes, research and other activities.

Students in the Tourism Student Association, a student organization based at the School of Community Resources and Development (SCRD), devoted its major fall 2022 activities to focus on inclusive and accessible tourism, said longtime TSA faculty co-advisor Claire McWilliams. Group of people seated in a home smiling and waving as they teleconference with a couple who are visible in an inset in the lower, right-hand corner of the screen. Kevan and Katie Chandler (lower right inset), founders of and creators of a "human backpack," visit with members of ASU's Tourism Student Association during a recent movie night. Photo courtesy Claire McWilliams Download Full Image

McWilliams, an SCRD tourism development and management and hospitality lecturer, said the students decided before the semester began to have an entire slate of fall programs live out the mission of the charter.

McWilliams said she brought the idea to TSA leaders before the semester began, as she admired an author in the tourism industry who sought to travel beyond the constraints of his wheelchair and wanted to integrate his work into the club’s activities. From there, more ideas came up and a schedule of four events was created.

“In all my years advising the TSA, I’ve never been more inspired about what this student organization has achieved,” McWilliams said.

McWilliams said the fall programming included:

• A Sept. 28 appearance by Marisol Vindiola from Visit Tucson, who talked about cross-border tourism, which involved learning about and being aware of guests' needs, no matter what their point of origin.  

• A Nov. 2 conversation with Ed Salvato, an author, editor and professor who is a thought leader in the LBGTQ tourism community. Salvato discussed how anyone can support inclusive tourism as it relates to the strong LGBTQ travel market. “Salvato reminded TSA’s future tourism leaders to go straight to the root of hospitality, to invite, respect and protect, to avoid making assumptions, and to use gender-expansive language that focuses on the reason for visiting, whether camper, cruiser or guest,” McWilliams said. “When in doubt, he said, ask.”

• A Nov. 9 “Fall Fireside” presentation by Alison Brooks from Visit Mesa, along with Camilo Bustos Navarro from Wheel the World and Brett Heising, a disability and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging consultant. The three told students how universal design, training and partnerships can equip industry leaders and frontline service workers to help travelers overcome impediments to tourism activities related to neurodiversity and physical challenges. Visit Mesa’s leadership helped Mesa, Arizona’s third-largest city, to become the first-ever Autism Certified City in the United States.

• A Nov. 18 appearance by Kevan Chandler, author, advocate and founder of, who successfully left his wheelchair behind and journeyed as a “human backpack” by using an invention where he can be carried on the back of a hiker. TSA members raised more than $3,000 to purchase and outfit six of these adaptive backpacks, provide training for users and cover shipping costs. Members met Chandler via Zoom and watched a documentary he produced. McWilliams said members were impacted by his bravery, trust and total freedom-inducing joy in dancing, running and making it to a 360-view at the top of the Great Wall of China — all in the adaptive backpack with his friends carrying and supporting Chandler and enjoying the moments.  

McWilliams said she was struck by a statement from Brooks, of Visit Mesa, that everyone will become disabled at some point in life, through injury, age, disease or some other cause, and so adaptive tourism methods will ultimately apply to anyone who seeks to travel.

McWilliams said all the presenters emphasized that providing equal opportunities to all tourists not only is the right thing to do, but can be profitable to someone in the tourism industry who opens up such opportunities to more people eager to spend on travel.

Students impressed with speakers' messages

Salvato’s message resonated with TSA member Cailia Flatt.

Man carrying his friend on his back as they travel along the Great Wall of China.

Kevan Chandler (top) sits in a "human backpack" as he joins friends traveling along the Great Wall of China. Photo courtesy Kevan Chandler

“My biggest takeaway was embracing the LGBTQ community. At the meeting, (Salvato) told us to yell the words ‘lesbian,’ ‘gay,’ ‘bisexual,’ ‘transgender’ and ‘queer/questioning’ out loud, because it was something to be proud of and not ashamed of,” Flatt said. “I've been an ally since my cousin came out in middle school. I was never ashamed to talk about it; I was just worried I would offend someone. After the experience, I didn't feel like I needed to censor my words anymore. The faster we make it normal, the faster it will be normal. That's what I thought after the whole thing."

TSA Secretary Jordyn Hoff said she found the experience of each event to be rare.

“They had us critically thinking about how inclusivity will fit into all the industries we want to go in. I could tell the students were so engaged through all these events, which is precisely what an officer wants to see in their club,” Hoff said. “It was great to see inclusivity on a local scale through our Fall Fireside, across borders with Marisol and globally with Kevan.”

TSA President Jeneca Kostad said she was “intrigued, inspired and amazed” at how well students learned to surmount obstacles to inclusivity within the tourism industry.

“I believe our club is the next generation to make the world more inclusive as a whole, starting with travel and tourism,” Kostad said. “TSA is out to make a change in the tourism industry!”   

Mark J. Scarp

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


Doctoral student activist melds work on horror, hope and helping hands

December 2, 2022

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2022 graduates.

Clarissa Rubio Goldsmith was relieved to return from cold, snowy Minnesota to the warm, sunny desert in 2016 to attend graduate school at Arizona State University. Goldsmith, who grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and uses they/them pronouns, took a year off between undergraduate and graduate studies to become an AmeriCorps VISTA member. Their assignment was working for Lifetrack, a nonprofit in Minneapolis focused on employment for immigrants, refugees and people with disabilities. Portrait of graduating ASU student Clarissa Rubio Goldsmith, who is wearing glasses and a black, high-necked shirt. Graduating ASU student Clarissa Rubio Goldsmith is now a career coach at the University of Minnesota, where they are working to develop identity-based programs and helping students from marginalized communities find success and fulfill their dreams. Photo courtesy Clarissa Rubio Goldsmith Download Full Image

Upon admission to ASU, they were granted the competitive, university-wide Graduate College Enrichment Fellowship for the first year. This allowed Goldsmith to concentrate on coursework while receiving a stipend and tuition waiver. They served as a teaching assistant in the Department of English during the following years and taught first-year composition courses. This fall, they are graduating from ASU with a PhD in English (literature).

Goldsmith’s research focuses on Latino and Chicano horror and graphic productions. On the strength of their academic promise, they received the Department of English’s prestigious Katharine Turner Dissertation Fellowship for American literature in 2021–22. Goldsmith’s dissertation, which they successfully defended on Aug. 24, was titled “Hope Despite Horror: Theorizing Oppositional Horror and Aesthetics of Resistance in Multicultural Horror,” and was about how horror is more than a genre. Their theory is that horror manifests in marginalized communities through real-life violence and oppression perpetuated by state powers. Goldsmith has been successful in presenting at top conferences in Latino studies and has co-authored and published a chapter with Professor of English Lee Bebout on Latino horror in Jonas Cuaron’s “Desierto.” Goldsmith is now a career coach at the University of Minnesota, where they are working to develop identity-based programs and helping students from marginalized communities find success and fulfill their dreams.

We had a chance to interview Goldsmith to learn about their experience at ASU and goals for the future.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study in your field?

Answer: My "aha" moment was more like a bonk on the head when my chair, Professor Lee Bebout, looked at me like I was an idiot and said, "Well, why don't you just study horror?" This came after me talking his ear off at a conference about this French horror film I had just watched. I had always loved horror, but my intent for the past decade or so was to study Latinxgender-neutral term for a person from, or whose ancestors were from, a Spanish-speaking land or culture or from Latin America literature and political theory. It hadn't occurred to me that the two fields could meld. I am deeply passionate about issues that affect my community, and have been a dedicated activist and advocate for immigration rights, and the sociopolitical issues of the U.S.-Mexico border. My work began to shape a theory of resistance based in Latinx social theory and my love of horror. My chair saw what I couldn't, and I am so glad, because I was truly able to follow two passions that I had thought couldn't converge. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: You can't throw a stone in the English lit program without hitting a medievalist, and it turns out that some of them are pretty great!

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU for both practical and sentimental reasons. I wanted to be in a department that had faculty members working in my field, as well as financial support for several years. But, more than that, I wanted to be home again. I had lived in the Midwest for far too long and wanted to come back to the Sonoran Desert, where I had family and it didn't snow. As the adage goes, you don't have to shovel heat!

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: While I took several incredible courses with Professor Bebout, who was also my dissertation chair, what I think I learned the most from him was how to write high quality academic work. He guided me through the transition of writing seminar papers into writing papers for publication, and he gave detailed (and decidedly non-brutal) revisions. I'll never forget the notes I got most often: "slow down" and "citation needed." But you know what? I did usually need to slow down, and I ended up with just a gob-load of citations that were, apparently, needed.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Don't forget to have a life. I've watched friends abandon the very concept of sleep, or reject invitations, or cry over their work. And I've watched friends laugh with each other, throw parties, and play Dungeons and Dragons. Both sets of friends were successful in their programs, but one group seemed a lot happier.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: I hate to give away the secret of my favorite cafe. I'll just say, if you know, you know... Oh, alright, I'll tell you: Gold Bar cafe on Rural is the be-all, end-all of study spots. Opens early, closes late, tons of natural light, great coffee and they don't play music. But please, keep it to yourself.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I currently work as a career coach for the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities. Yes, I went to all that effort to leave the Midwest, and now I'm back in the cold where I do, once again, have to shovel snow. I love working with students on finding success after college, as well as developing identity-based programs that directly benefit students from marginalized communities find success and gainful employment. But at what cold, shivering, snowy, wet cost?

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: While $40 million won’t fix the immigration system, there are several humanitarian groups along the U.S.-Mexico border where that sum of money would have the power to change countless lives. Organizations like No More Deaths/No Más Muertos, Derechos Humanos and Colibrí Center are dedicated to ending migrant deaths, as well as connecting family members to relatives who have gone missing or may have died. These organizations do incredible collective work, and $40 million could lead to radical change.

Written by Sheila Luna.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

Manager, marketing + communications, Department of English