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March 13, 2023

A building bridging our ancient past to our thriving future

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the spring 2023 issue of ASU Thrive magazine.

The desert is a place that tells stories. Petroglyphs. Tire tracks. Paw prints. Who was here. What they did. And so it is with the Rob and Melani Walton Center for Planetary Health, a building of the desert. 

The building is home to the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, the Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation, the Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service, the College of Global Futures, the School of Sustainability and the Institute of Human Origins.

The skin 

The building is on track for LEED V4 Platinum-certification and clad in a shell of glass fiber-reinforced concrete panels that absorb and store less heat. The panels’ design is inspired by a saguaro’s orientation to the sun. South-, east- and west-facing windows are heavily shaded by the angled concrete panels, while the north-facing windows are barely covered.

A gathering place 

The site has long been a meeting place. Today, it’s one of the busiest intersections in the state at the corner of East University Drive and South Rural Road in Tempe. A thousand years ago, the Akimel O’Odham and the Piipaash people brought foods like mesquite pods here. There was a foot path and, later, a stagecoach route. Waters flowing through here once powered the Hayden Flour Mill. 

Climb the steps and traverse history from the ancient to a thriving future. After the Ancient Technology Lab on the first floor, on the second floor, the Lucy skeleton comes into view — one of the oldest known human ancestors, discovered in 1974 by ASU paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson. Going up takes you into interactions with scientists across disciplines working to create solutions to climate challenges.

A geode 

The concept behind the building is a geode — hard and crusty exterior, but in the interior courtyard, there’s an abundance of light and sparkling glass. “When you crack the geode open, there’s all this excitement, there’s all this kind of reflection happening inside the geode.” The interior is also seen as a riparian area, with water flowing through and cool blue walls inspired by the Havasu Falls in the Grand Canyon.

Learn more about the building and the work of ASU’s Global Futures Laboratory at

Top photo: The area near the corner of University Drive and Rural Road, where the Rob and Melani Walton Center for Planetary Health now stands, has been a crossroads for the region since ancient times.

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3 things to start saying right now

March 13, 2023

Signal your commitment, professionalism and empathy with powerful phrases

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the spring 2023 issue of ASU Thrive magazine. Story by May Busch, a former COO of Morgan Stanley Europe, who is now an executive coach, speaker, advisor, author and executive-in-residence in ASU’s Office of the President.

In today’s working environment, commitment, professionalism and empathy are key.

These are the qualities senior leadership looks for, and these are the things people want in a colleague, boss, partner or teammate. 

Maybe you already have these traits. Then the question is, how do you show it? 

Pay attention to your soundtrack

Imagine you have a recording of yourself at work in the last 24 hours, what does it sound like? 

Are you often complaining instead of encouraging? How often do you tell people what to do rather than help them grow?

How your soundtrack lands with others is a critical part of your personal brand and reputation. 

So here are three things to start saying at work right now: 

“What else can we be doing to achieve XYZ goal?”

A simple way to signal your commitment to the team, organization or mission is to ask this question in your meetings or one-on-ones.

This question taps into the wisdom in the room and shows you are dedicated to doing everything to achieve your goal. 

“This was an important learning experience. What I’ve taken away from it is ABC, and here are the actions I’m taking to address it.”

A great opportunity to signal your professionalism is to acknowledge when you’ve made a mistake. 

Not only do you take accountability, you also close the loop and indicate what you’ll do going forward. 

Illustration of two people talking

“Pay attention to your words and choose language that makes you sound like the committed, empathetic professional you are and aspire to be.”

“Tell me more about that” or “I’d love to hear about that”

When someone shares something, take the opportunity to “double-click” on what they said and ask them about it. Then listen.

This presents the opportunity to find out more about someone and demonstrate your interest and investment in them as a person.

This also gives you a chance to find out valuable information — what caused your team member’s frustration? What caused a conflict? What made their project such a big win for them? 

Look for your opportunities 

Every day you have opportunities to show your commitment, professionalism and empathy. It’s up to you to make the most of them.

Pay attention to your words and choose language that makes you sound like the committed, empathetic professional you are and aspire to be. 

Notice which phrases you use that land well with others and which you’d like to change. Keep experimenting and practicing so that sounding like a leader becomes your new normal.

What will you start saying?