ASU Interplanetary Initiative announces 2nd fellow

Anthropologist to research intersection of space exploration, culture, science and religion

June 2, 2023

For anthropologist John Traphagan, Arizona State University’s newest Interplanetary Initiative Fellow, space is more than the final frontier. It is the opportunity of a lifetime, and the ASU enterprise is the place to explore.

A professor emeritus of anthropology in the Human Dimensions of Organizations program at the University of Texas at Austin, Traphagan has been announced as the second recipient of the fellowship. He joins 2022 fellow Theodora Ogden, a defense and security analyst at Rand Europe. Headshot portrait of John Traphagan. John Traphagan, Arizona State University’s newest Interplanetary Initiative fellow. Download Full Image

“The exploration of space encompasses all different aspects of what humans do,” said Traphagan, who was drawn to ASU by its reputation for innovation and interdisciplinary collaborations. “Everything is there. Engineering, science, medicine. But space also raises the social, cultural, religious and philosophical questions.”

This year, the fellowship — which supports bold interdisciplinary projects and thinkers to further a positive space future — is offered in collaboration with the ASU School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, focusing on projects that address the human, social and cultural implications of exploring outer space.

As a scholar of Japan, Traphagan will explore how the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency's (JAXA's) programs and narratives around space exploration are shaped by Japanese religious ideas. His findings will be included in an edited volume, tentatively titled "Religion and Space Exploration in Cross-Cultural Perspective," and shared as part of a cross-cultural symposium to be hosted in spring 2024. The symposium will discuss how religion, ideology and space exploration intersect in different societies and shape the ways those societies approach space exploration.

“A key goal will be to feature scholars who work on non-U.S. contexts,” Traphagan said, “so that we might explore how these ideas come together in Russia, the (European Space Agency) community, China and India, as well as the U.S."

As more nations from around the globe develop space capabilities, it is more vital to ensure the peaceful and collaborative use of the domain.

“Avoiding conflict in space requires an understanding of how culture, science and religion influence a nation’s political and social ideologies around space exploration and by extension its behaviors in space,” said Jessica Rousset, deputy director for the Interplanetary Initiative. "We believe research such as this is vital to ensuring lasting cooperation in space.”

Widely published, Traphagan received his PhD in social anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh, Master of Arts in religion in social ethics at Yale University, and bachelor's degree in political science at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. At UT Austin, Traphagan teaches coursework in ethics in space exploration; biomedicine, ethics and culture; religion and family in Japan; and multidisciplinary methods in exploring organizations. Now, the fellowship marks another step in what he believes is a natural career progression that mirrors his passion for culture, science and religion.

“We look forward to having Dr. Traphagan engage with our faculty and students and broaden our network of scholars interested in these important topics," said Richard Amesbury, director of ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

Traphagan’s fellowship will begin in the coming fall semester. As an ASU research scholar, his fellowship puts him in a pioneering space for integrated research and learning, and the opportunity to investigate, communicate and help define humankind’s future in space.

“I’m really impressed with what the Interplanetary Initiative is doing,” Traphagan said. “I don’t know of any other place that is trying to do such work. I think it’s extraordinary that ASU realizes the 19th-century model of higher education doesn’t work very well any more. I’m happy to see someone doing something different, and I’m excited to be a part of it, and to be able to contribute to the future of space exploration in such a vibrant setting.”

Story written by Steve Des Georges. 

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ASU announces new medical school, AAU membership and top sustainability ranking

June 2, 2023

Who said university campuses go quiet over summer break? Not Arizona State University President Michael Crow.

It’s been a big week at America’s most innovative university. ASU’s design as a New American University was in full display in the week following Memorial Day. In the past holiday-shortened week, ASU has:

A new 'learning health ecosystem'

The new medical school is intended to address the growing need for health care professionals in Arizona and is the result of the university’s own intentions and a request from the Arizona Board of Regents to expand medical education in Arizona. 

ASU’s School of Medicine and Advanced Medical Engineering headlines ASU Health, a “learning health ecosystem” being created by the university to accelerate and focus its health-related efforts to tackle the state’s urgent health care needs, now and into the future. It is the first in a series of steps that the new ASU Health effort will take to drive transformational change at the state level and is the result of more than a year of working with national industry leaders who examined the needs in public health technology.

ASU will continue to work closely with health care partners across Maricopa County and across the country to bring top talent, technology and research to the effort to improve health outcomes in Arizona.

Read more about ASU's new medical school here.

ASU joins AAU

On June 1, the AAU added ASU into its membership, applauding the university’s academic and research strength and acknowledging its place as a leader in higher education. There are now 71 universities in the association, which was established in 1900.

Members of AAU, including stalwart private universities like Harvard, Stanford, MIT and Johns Hopkins and leading public universities like UCLA, the University of Washington, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the University of Michigan, collectively help shape policy for higher education, science and innovation; promote best practices in undergraduate and graduate education; and strengthen the contributions of leading research universities to American society.

“From deep space to deep in the oceans, we are a university designed for discovery, interdisciplinary research and innovation,” ASU President Michael Crow said. “As one of the fastest-growing research enterprises in the United States, we are focused on solving society’s greatest challenges, and we are excited to become part of the AAU.”

Read more about the AAU membership here.

ASU ranks high for sustainability efforts

On a global front, this week the internationally respected Times Higher Education Impact Rankings recognized ASU as the No. 1 institution in the United States and sixth in the world for addressing the U.N. Sustainable Development Goals, a reflection of the university’s continued investment in high-impact research that tackles global needs and challenges.

The annual publication of university rankings looks at impacts made addressing 17 specific goals aimed at achieving a better world by 2030. Adopted by all 193 United Nations member states in 2015, these goals provide "a shared blueprint for peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and into the future."

The ranking was driven by the university’s efforts on issues surrounding poverty and hunger, clean water and air, gender equality and climate change. ASU also made huge strides in water issues ranging from water security to marine biodiversity. The ranking shines a bright spotlight on the university and is also strongly influenced by partnerships across the university and beyond.

Read more about ASU’s Times Higher Education Impact Ranking here.