ASU sports historian to speak on state of sports in the US

September 5, 2023

A former NCAA national champion with a PhD in the history of sport, Victoria Jackson is well suited to speak on the subject, something she does often in the media and at Arizona State University, where she is a clinical associate professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

On Sept. 6, Jackson will continue doing what she does best when she gives opening remarks for a public hearing: The Future of Olympic and Paralympic Sports in America. Portrait of ASU Clinical Associate Professor Victoria Jackson. ASU Clinical Associate Professor Victoria Jackson Download Full Image

The hearing, held by the Commission on the State of U.S. Olympics and Paralympics, will hear witnesses from across the movement, including more than 11 million Americans participating in youth and grassroots sports at all levels.

During her opening remarks, Jackson will share a historical view on the U.S. Olympic and Paralympic movement. Following her remarks, other key members of the sports industry will discuss topics including: 

  • Governance and accountability.

  • Protecting the safety of participants.

  • Athletes’ rights, equity and accessibility, and ensuring fair play.

  • How to build a better future for sports in America.

C-SPAN will begin broadcasting the hearing at 6 a.m. Arizona time.

ASU News talked to Jackson about how history can keep sports accountable ahead of the commission’s public hearing.

Question: How can history help keep sports and the future of sports accountable?

Answer: I believe strongly that any policy team should have a historian at the table. Historians’ jam is contexts and complexities, and an essential part of the job of policymaking is to foresee and nip in the bud “unanticipated consequences.” Historians know how to look at a complex institution of the past and explain how and why it developed and the individual decision-making and broader forces influencing that development over time. A knowledge of history helps us understand the present and build a better future.

Q: Why is providing historical context vital to setting the stage for the hearing?

A: I have been asked to set the stage for the day by providing a sweeping, 10,000-foot historical overview of the past half-century of the American sports ecosystem. The commission will then hear from various stakeholders in the Olympics, Paralympics and grassroots sports. I will be showing, through history, the evolution of the system, recent reforms, and how this system does and does not operate the way it is intended to under the law. The historical analysis I provide will not only set the stage for the day, but it will also set the stakes.

Q: As a sports historian, what does it mean personally that you are being asked to speak and provide that historical context?

A: My goodness, I am so grateful for this opportunity. My work sits at the intersection of Olympic sports, college football, women’s intercollegiate athletics and big-time college sports, and it also positions the U.S. approach to sport within a global context. Making connections among institutions and factors often considered individually and independently of the others — looking holistically at the American sports ecosystem — is more valuable than playing whack-a-mole and treating the various parts of our sports industries as if they are not interrelated. That the commission has asked me to speak in this manner tells me they want to take on a bold, ambitious project, too.

I also care deeply about building a society where sports are for all. I want sports to be fully inclusive, equitable and accessible for all Americans (for everyone everywhere, but in this context, we are talking about U.S. sports) because I know that sports can be personally transformative and can serve communities in ways to help everyone thrive and to bring people from all backgrounds together. I believe in the power of sport. Speaking at this hearing matters a whole lot to me.

Q: Congress created the commission to seek better oversight of the Olympics and Paralympics in this country. What can you share about the topics discussed throughout the hearing?

A: One focal point will be an evaluation of the USOPC’s execution of its dual mandate from Congress to serve both the apex of the sports pyramid — Olympic and Paralympic development — and the massive grassroots base. I look forward to hearing from grassroots sports experts, including Tom Farrey and Dr. Vincent Minjares from the Aspen Institute’s Sports and Society Initiative and Project Play. Their work on youth and grassroots sports is a game changer.

Another topic, and a primary reason for creating the commission, is athlete health, well-being, safety and protection from abuse. Grace French, the founder and director of The Army of Survivors, Donald Fehr, who has served as executive director of players’ associations in the NHL and MLB, and others will testify about athletes’ rights and protections.

Q: What is the importance of these hearings to help move forward the future of sports in America, especially the Olympics and Paralympics? What does this mean for supporting athletes?

A: The American sports ecosystem is at a crossroads. Business practices in some sectors have been irresponsible and unsustainable to a breaking point. Barriers to access we see in other elements of society are very much present in grassroots sports, making access to sports teams too often a product of privilege. Though intercollegiate athletics is not part directly of the American Olympic and Paralympic Movement, Olympic development happens within American higher education, and recent events show that significant changes to the design of big-time college sports are likely on the horizon. We have the best sports infrastructure in the world, thanks to our schools, and more — all — Americans should have access to sporting spaces, not just as spectators but as participants, too.

I will not be making policy recommendations at the hearing. But I do have lots of policy ideas. I would like to see an overhaul and redesign of the American sports ecosystem. I want to see an independent body, perhaps a sports ministry, that serves as a hard backstop of regulation, coordination, transparency and accountability through checks on power, something the American sports ecosystem does not have.

The impressive people on this commission know what they are doing and will be putting brilliant policy recommendations before Congress in a convincing way. I am honored to play a small part in this critical work. 

Stephen Perez

Marketing and Communications Coordinator, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

7 new faculty join ASU’s Department of English

Cohort includes MacArthur and Grammy award winners

September 5, 2023

The Department of English at Arizona State University welcomes a new group of award-winning faculty into its ranks this fall. 

Joining other international leaders in the humanities at ASU, this new group consists of literary scholars, theater practitioners, rhetoricians and linguists.  From left, new faculty in ASU English: Cedric Burrows, Ty Defoe, Larissa FastHorse, Michael John Garcés, Mariam Galarrita, Shahar Shirtz, and Peter Torres From left: Cedric Burrows, Ty Defoe, Larissa FastHorse, Michael John Garcés, Mariam Galarrita, Shahar Shirtz and Peter Torres Download Full Image

“The English department has been fortunate in its hires, and this year is no exception,” said Krista Ratcliffe, Foundation Professor and chair of the Department of English. "The new faculty are not only top-notch scholars; they are also deeply committed to ASU’s charter and students.” 

The Department of English has six distinct areas of study — creative writing; film and media studies; linguistics and applied linguistics; literature; secondary English education; and writing, rhetorics and literacies — in addition to the nation’s first cross-humanities undergraduate degree in culture, technology and environment, which just launched this fall.

The department also administers the university’s Writing Programs, which delivers writing instruction to increasing numbers of undergraduates each year. In fall 2023, that’s again a record number — more than 12,000 in the program’s courses — according to enrollment projections.

Let’s meet the newest stellar crop of humanities teachers, scholars and artists at ASU: Cedric Burrows, Ty Defoe, Larissa FastHorseMichael John Garcés, Mariam Galarrita, Shahar Shirtz and Peter Torres.

Cedric Burrows, associate professor (writing, rhetorics and literacies)

ASU directory photo of Cedric BurrowsBurrows joined the English faculty this fall and will begin teaching during spring of 2024. His book “Rhetorical Crossover: The Black Presence in White Culture” (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020) won the David H. Russell Award for Distinguished Research from the National Council of Teachers of English for outstanding contributions to rhetorical scholarship.

Currently, Burrows is researching a new book on how narratives surrounding Black history are constructed in public spaces such as museums and memorials. He holds two advanced degrees in English: a PhD from the University of Kansas and an MA from Miami University (Ohio).

Ty Defoe, professor of practice (literature)

Courtesy image of Ty DefoeDefoe is a citizen of the Anishinaabe and Oneida Nation, a Grammy Award-winning interdisciplinary artist, and a self-described “sovereign story trickster” who “fosters relations for Indigenous and decolonial futures.” Defoe creates work with, and for, diverse stakeholders, including rural communities, Broadway productions and the metaverse, and has earned fellowships from MacDowell, Sundance and The Kennedy Center, among others.

Defoe’s artwork spans creative work of all kinds, from performance to dramatic writing; his play “Firebird Tattoo” was published in “The Methuen Drama Book of Trans Plays” (Bloomsbury, 2021). He holds two MFA degrees: one in musical theater writing from New York University and another in creative writing from Goddard College. He is the co-founder of Indigenous Direction, an arts consulting firm, with Larissa FastHorse.

Larissa FastHorse, professor of practice (literature)

Photo of Larissa FastHorse by Conor HorganFastHorse (Sicangu Lakota) is a 2020–25 MacArthur Fellow whose satire, “The Thanksgiving Play,” made her the first known female Native American playwright on Broadway. FastHorse is the book writer for the updated “Peter Pan” musical, which will play at ASU Gammage in 2024. She is also a film and television writer, most recently for NBC, Dreamworks, Disney, Netflix and others.

Together, FastHorse and Defoe created Indigenous Direction to advise companies and artists who want to create accurate work about, for and with Indigenous peoples. According to the organization’s website, they "use Indigenous cultural protocols and ways of looking at the world to guide theater and filmmaking/writing.”

Michael John Garcés, professor of practice (literature)

Photo of Michael John Garcés courtesy Stage Directors and Choreographers SocietyGarcés is a playwright, director and a recipient of a 2020 Doris Duke Artist Award in the theater category. His other honors include recognition from the Princess Grace Foundation, Sundance Institute and National Association of Latino Arts and Culture. He is the author of the chapter “Beyond Demographics” in the anthology “Theater and Cultural Politics for a New World” (Routledge, 2017).

For many years, Garcés was the artistic director of the Cornerstone Theater Company in Los Angeles, where he oversaw myriad productions of groundbreaking work, including “Native Nation,” “Urban Rez” and “Wicoun” by FastHorse. He is currently the executive vice president of the Stage Directors and Choreographers Society.

Defoe’s, FastHorse’s and Garcés’s appointments at ASU are affiliated with the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (ACMRS), whose mission is to “promote the most expansive, creative and daring scholarship in medieval and renaissance studies.” The trio will offer programming for ACMRS and teach English and film and media studies courses.

Larissa, Ty and Michael are all leading figures in the theater world who are working at the intersection of the classics, Indigenous narratives and community-designed pieces,” said ACMRS Director Ayanna Thompson, a Regents Professor of English at ASU. “They bring a wealth of knowledge and experience, and they will enrich our students’ lives immensely.”

Mariam Galarrita, assistant professor (literature)

Courtesy image of Mariam GalarritaGalarrita has been a postdoctoral fellow in the Department of English since 2021 and looks forward to taking on her new faculty role. Also an affiliate of ACMRS, her research focuses on early modern English drama and travel writing, premodern critical race studies, racial trauma, science fiction and language. Her current book project explores the first recorded Asians in early modern England.

Galarrita is teaching two, filled-to-capacity literature courses this fall, one on-ground and one online. She holds two advanced degrees in English: a PhD from the University of California, Riverside and an MA from California State University, Fullerton.

Shahar Shirtz, assistant professor (linguistics and applied linguistics / TESOL)

ASU directory photo of Shahar ShirtzShirtz will begin his appointment in the Department of English in January 2024. In his research, he combines quantitative and qualitative methods, and concentrates primarily on Indo-Iranian languages and the Indigenous languages of the Pacific Northwest. Shirtz’s interests in theoretical linguistics include linguistic typology and constructional models of grammar, with a focus on the grammatical and lexical means deployed by language users to express various discourse functions.

Shirtz is co-editor of the volume “Beyond Aspect: The Expression of Discourse Functions in African Languages” (John Benjamins, 2015). He holds two advanced degrees in linguistics: a PhD from the University of Oregon and an MA from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel.

Peter Torres, assistant professor (linguistics and applied linguistics / TESOL) 

Courtesy image of Peter TorresTorres's current work in applied linguistics, most recently published in the Journal of Pragmatics, unpacks the language of pain in the context of the American opioid crisis. Additionally, Torres investigates the intersection of sociocultural and race factors with language, exploring their combined impact on patients’ perceptions of pain.

Torres is teaching two introductory courses in linguistics this fall, one at the undergraduate level and one at the graduate level. He holds a PhD and MA in linguistics from the University of California, Davis.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

Manager, marketing + communications, Department of English