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Sanford School welcomes 4 new professors eager to make a difference

Faculty bring expertise in topics like American gun culture, inequality and positive human development


Collage of portraits of new ASU Sanford School faculty.

Clockwise from top left: Jennifer Carlson, Abraham Calderon Martinez, Mengya Xia and Jasmine Suryawan Buenviaje.

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September 07, 2023

This semester, the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics at Arizona State University is ushering in four new faculty members to its programs. With expertise in sociology and family and human development, the incoming professors aim to bring enriching discussions to their fields and explore new perspectives alongside students.

Meet the four new professors and learn about their research interests and goals for this academic year:

Jennifer Carlson, professor

Carlson, who previously taught at the University of Arizona, researches the sociology of guns in America. Her courses, which will be available in the spring semester, take a nuanced approach to the various facets of gun culture, including gun law, violence, rights and regulation. She seeks to explore the topics in terms beyond the either-or gun debate dominating the national conversation. One of her goals is to help students appreciate the complexity of gun culture in America and have productive conversations despite disagreeing views.

“What I hope students get from taking my course Guns in America is actually understanding that one-dimensional ways of categorizing people's views on guns … doesn't get us very far,” Carlson said. “My job isn't to tell you what to think. It's to help you think through what you do.”

Abraham Calderon Martinez, assistant teaching professor

Calderon Martinez is interested in the dynamics of inequality in society, specifically the ongoing tension between the powerful and the less powerful. By taking a historical approach to issues in equality, Calderon Martinez seeks to investigate and analyze how the distribution of resources in society influences control. This semester, he hopes to not only help students break down societal issues but see the resilience and optimism in humanity.

“I hope students will learn from me that there is hope," he said. Society is filled with struggle, hardship and difficult circumstances — and it's very easy to focus on those. And we, of course, should, as people who want to fully understand society. But I hope to impart that there's also so much inspiration that we can get from digging deeper into the human condition: that will to survive, that will to thrive and that spirit that is inherent.”

Mengya Xia, assistant professor

As an assistant professor in family and human development, Xia studies personal well-being and positive development in all cultures and life stages. Using a systems-oriented, inquiry-based approach, her research explores how day-to-day familial interactions promote positive adolescent development. She is also interested in how positive social interactions make people feel loved in general. She aims to make her classes welcoming of all views and backgrounds so students have a place to belong.

“I hope my students can learn from me (new) ways to approach problems in life,” Xia said. “I like to tell (students) that my class is a safe space. That you are accepted as who you are because we all understand that people have different perspectives and have different paces.”

Jasmine Suryawan Buenviaje, assistant teaching professor

Suryawan Buenviaje specializes in race, ethnicity, gender and sexuality, with an emphasis on queer and trans studies. As a queer and transgender Southeast Asian American, her desire is to reach out to understudied or hidden populations and provide them with a voice and a way to tell their stories. This semester, she is teaching courses in social science research, research methods and the sociology of relationships. She looks forward to connecting with students and learning from their experiences.

“My favorite thing about working with students is the connections I am able to make with them,” Buenviaje said. “I hope students learn the capacity to connect their individual lives to their larger social worlds and better understand their place in the community.”

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