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Sustainability, civic engagement projects receive President's Awards

Local, global impact of employee contributions honored


Michael Crow, president, Arizona State University, ASU, Morrison Institute, Impact Showcase, 2023
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December 08, 2023

Arizona State University President Michael Crow honored staff and faculty members during the 2023 President’s Awards ceremony, held Dec. 7 in the Ventana Ballroom of the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus.

The annual event recognizes collaborative initiatives that have demonstrated excellence in advancing the university’s mission. The categories are: the President’s Award for Global Engagement, the President’s Award for Innovation, the President’s Medal for Social Embeddedness, the President’s Award for Sustainability and the President’s Award for Transdisciplinary Collaboration.

The awards provide the university an opportunity to celebrate the commitment and contributions of ASU employees.

“It’s really exciting to get together with those within the institution that are really advancing us even further on the path of ASU excellence,” Crow said.

“Everybody thinks the great universities have already been built. ... But a truly American university, what would it look like? It would be big. It would be diverse. It would be innovative. It would be all the things that we've made ASU into. So, I'm still of the view that the greatest American university is being built right here, that we are the prototype for that university.”

Here’s a look at the 2023 winners.

President’s Award for Global Engagement

People standing onstage holding an award.
Members of YouthMappers at ASU accept the President's Award for Global Engagement during the 2023 President’s Awards ceremony, held Dec. 7 on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by Tim Trumble

YouthMappers at ASU

YouthMappers — an international network of university-student-led chapters — organizes, collaborates and implements mapping activities that respond to humanitarian and development needs around the globe. As a global community of students, researchers, educators, practitioners and scholars, YouthMappers was envisioned to fulfill the demand for data worldwide — especially where more than 1 billion of the world’s most vulnerable people are not well-represented cartographically. Launched in 2015, the network has reached more than 377 university campuses in 72 countries. By bringing visibility to where problems are located, their data has informed solutions impacting the lives of 52 million people.

“What people don’t realize is that one of the most powerful forces, if guided in the right direction for democratization and economic progress and social progress, is computational assets that will be available to anyone, anywhere, anytime, at any scale, at the lowest possible cost,” Crow said. “The notion of us using public assets, but on a global scale, to help 70 universities — and millions of people have access to information that will help them make better decisions for their lives, better planning, better outcomes — is just a tremendous thing.”

President’s Award for Innovation

People standing onstage holding an award.
Members of Dreamscape Learn accept the President's Award for Innovation during the 2023 President’s Awards ceremony, held Dec. 7 on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by Tim Trumble

Dreamscape Learn

Dreamscape Learn is a collaborative venture between Dreamscape Immersive and ASU, merging the most advanced experiential pedagogy with the entertainment industry's best cinematic storytelling. Dreamscape Learn harnesses state-of-the-art technology that allows students to be fully rendered into a virtual world to discover novel problems, gather data, test hypotheses and develop solutions.

“For decades and decades and decades, I’ve been pondering what new ways of learning can we come up with,” Crow said. “Dreamscape Learn is the first large-scale effort at ASU to find a tool, which can teach complex scientific concepts and other concepts not related to science in ways in which it activates other parts of the brain to enhance learning outcomes. The results have been tremendous."

People standing onstage holding an award.
Members of the Online Undergraduate Research Scholars (OURS) program accept the President's Award for Innovation during the 2023 President’s Awards ceremony, held Dec. 7 on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by Tim Trumble

Online Undergraduate Research Scholars Program

The Online Undergraduate Research Scholars, or OURS, program addresses the challenge of offering quality research opportunities to ASU online students at scale. The central goals of the OURS program are built on the ASU Charter principle: “.... measured not by whom it excludes, but by whom it includes and how they succeed.” In 2022–23, the OURS program served 315 ASU online students — more than five times the number of students served in other established undergraduate research programs at ASU. Of the online students served, 70% are women, 40% are racial or ethnic minorities and 53% are Pell-eligible.

RELATED: OURS program wins 2023 ASU President’s Award for Innovation

“Here’s the funny world that we live in,” Crow said. “Of all the people that are still alive that started college in one way or another, less than half have a degree. They didn't finish. … You make decisions sometimes when you’re 19 that are not the best solutions. Why should you be penalized for the rest of your life? ... If you want to finish college, if you want to go back to college, we now have a way to do that. I don’t know how (the team) figured this all out, but they did. And I think it’s unbelievably powerful.”

President's Medal for Social Embeddedness

People standing onstage holding an award.
Members of the ASU Helios Decision Center for Educational Excellence accept the President's Medal for Social Embeddedness during the 2023 President’s Awards ceremony, held Dec. 7 on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by Tim Trumble

ASU Helios Decision Center for Educational Excellence

The ASU Helios Decision Center for Educational Excellence catalyzes innovative collaborations with students, school leaders and communities across Arizona. Their postsecondary initiative includes four key projects to increase college access and attainment:

  • Enabling communities to set college-going goals with the high school outcomes visualization.
  • Giving schools feedback on preparation for college-going through postsecondary feedback reports and visualizations.
  • Reaching students through proactive personalized admission.
  • Sharing the expertise of teachers through the first cohort of the ASU Impact Corps.

“This is a fantastic project in which we're attempting to use every tool, every insight, every perspective, every technology to help more kids in Arizona to graduate from high school, to go on to postsecondary education, to find a pathway to overcome whatever the past is,” Crow said.

“We’re working with more than 200 school districts across the state, working to take care of young people so that they can really have access to whatever they want.”

People standing onstage holding an award.
Members of the Maryvale One Square Mile Initiative accept the President's Medal for Social Embeddedness during the 2023 President’s Awards ceremony, held Dec. 7 on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by Tim Trumble

Maryvale One Square Mile Initiative

The Maryvale One Square Mile Initiative began through a donation by ASU donors Mike and Cindy Watts, who grew up in Maryvale. The initiative aims to facilitate collaborative efforts between the university and the Maryvale community to address complex community issues and promote comprehensive change. The work is focused on leveraging university resources to support the community’s hopes and dreams for themselves and their families. In addition, all projects are focused on providing opportunities for:

  • ASU students, faculty and staff to learn about the community and use best practices for authentic community engagement based on community voice.
  • Increased collaboration and connection between youth service providers in Maryvale.
  • Increased youth participation in extracurricular activities in sports, arts and culture.

“If you just took one square mile of a neighborhood, or you took the core of a neighborhood, could you, through all of the things that we do, find pathways for the outcomes of that community to be enhanced or the pathways for the people that live in that community to be enhanced?” Crow said. “That's what this team has been working on, under the assumption that if you can do that in one neighborhood, then (you can do that in) the next neighborhood, then the next neighborhood, then the next neighborhood, and the next neighborhood, particularly picking complicated, socioeconomically complicated neighborhoods to start with.”

People standing onstage holding an award.
Members of the Targeted Investments Program Quality Improvement Collaborative accept the President's Medal for Social Embeddedness during the 2023 President’s Awards ceremony, held Dec. 7 on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by Tim Trumble

Targeted Investments Program Quality Improvement Collaborative

Arizona has some of the greatest health disparities in the nation for health care outcomes, life expectancy and quality of life. The Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS, is the Arizona Medicaid Program that provides health insurance coverage for more than 2.5 million of Arizona's highest-risk and underserved populations. The ASU College of Health Solutions team partnered with AHCCCS to help improve equity for Medicaid patients. This was accomplished by building capacity with 17 hospital systems, more than 570 primary care and behavioral health clinics, five law enforcement agencies, as well as over 2,000 physicians and behavioral health experts and their patients throughout Arizona.

“In Arizona, we’re still in the bottom third of states in terms of our health outcomes,” Crow said. “During the pandemic, we ranked second in per capita deaths for lots of different reasons, all of which are exemplars of the problems that we have. (This team) is helping us figure out how to attack this problem. … So, I just want to say thank you on behalf of the university and the people of Arizona for continuing to work on big issues and big audacious problems like this one.”

President’s Award for Sustainability

People standing onstage holding an award.
Members of the Sustainability Analyst Certificate Program accept the President's Award for Sustainability during the 2023 President’s Awards ceremony, held Dec. 7 on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by Tim Trumble

Sustainability Analyst Certificate Program — Grow with Google/Coursera/ASU

In 2022, an ASU team from the School of Sustainability and Learning Enterprise created a new process for the development and launch of three applied sustainability courses aimed at growing the local, national and global workforce of sustainability analysts. Since the launch of these applied and accessible courses, they have attracted hundreds of enrollments. The project exemplifies ASU’s capability to address sustainability, provides a leadership position for ASU’s teaching and learning, and promotes sustainable practices to solve sustainability capacity problems at the local, national and global scale.

“One of the things that we’ve gotten away from is the notion that everything has to be a degree program,” Crow said. “Can we teach other (ways)? Can we get as many people that want to understand sustainability so they can do a better job as a sustainability analyst inside their company or inside their agency, or inside their school or their hospital, or their not-for-profit? Because we want every organization to have the ability to think about sustainability in a different way."

People standing onstage holding an award.
Members of the Sustainable Purchasing Research Initiative accept the President's Award for Sustainability during the 2023 President’s Awards ceremony, held Dec. 7 on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by Tim Trumble

Sustainable Purchasing Research Initiative

Sustainable Purchasing Research Initiative (SPRI) is an international initiative involving scholars, students, governments and community leaders who are expanding capacity and knowledge to address sustainable purchasing challenges. Purchasing is typically overlooked as a climate solution. However, 92% of an organization’s total climate emissions are attributable to procurement decisions, and these emissions account for 40% of all global climate emissions.

“We purchase over $2 billion annually,” Crow said. “We want all of the things that we’re purchasing to be as sustainable as they possibly can be and built in the right way. It turns out that most companies and most organizations don’t know how to do that. They don’t know how to measure it. They don’t know how to calculate it. We have figured that out, not only for ourselves, but for anyone else that wants to learn how we can do it.”

President’s Award for Transdisciplinary Collaboration

The award recognizes multidisciplinary project teams undertaking trans-sectoral collaboration addressing a complex, societally relevant issue. These research teams collaborate with actively engaged participants from different sectors — academia, business and industry, government laboratories and agencies, and organizations in civil society.

People standing onstage holding an award.
Members of the Global Locust Initiative accept the President's Award for Transdisciplinary Collaboration during the 2023 President’s Awards ceremony, held Dec. 7 on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by Tim Trumble

Global Locust Initiative

Locusts and grasshoppers have a long history of coexisting with humans, but their outbreaks and management continue to have devastating impacts on livelihoods and the environment. ASU’s Global Locust Initiative engages with this transdisciplinary challenge through collaboration in locust research and management that develops partnerships and solutions for transboundary pest management in agroecosystems across six continents.

“We don’t have an (agricultural school). We don’t have an entomology department. We don’t have 50 faculty members studying insects,” Crow said. “There’s a lot of things that we don’t have, but there’s a lot of things that we do have, which can then take a different kind of approach. This is an example of that.”

People standing onstage holding an award.
Members of the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems Organic Agriculture Initiative accept the President's Award for Transdisciplinary Collaboration during the 2023 President’s Awards ceremony, held Dec. 7 on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by Tim Trumble

Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems Organic Agriculture Initiative

In 2020, the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems launched a strategic, collaborative, multi-leader and multi-pronged project to advance organic agriculture, which is critical for planetary and human health. Less than 2% of U.S. cropland is managed organically and only 6% of food consumed in the U.S. is organically produced.

The Swette Center works with scientists of various disciplines across multiple research centers, organic farmers and farming organizations, advocacy and environmental organizations, Native American-serving organizations, ASU graduate students and the Organic Trade Association. 

“Humans have been building synthetic compounds for a long time, and then using them to accomplish all kinds of outcomes, like fertilizers, pesticides and insecticides,” Crow said. “Many of them cause cancer in human beings. 

"So, the notion is, could we find ways to do the same job and produce the same quality of agricultural output without using those methods. Could we build a new, modern, more advanced form of agriculture. And this method that is being advanced here is that method.”

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