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Honored faculty chart new territories in inclusion and community


The ASU Charter sign in front of a building

Photo by Deanna Dent/Arizona State University

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February 21, 2024

When Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow developed the ASU Charter, his intention was to shape the vision of the New American University and define its fundamental responsibility to students and their success and society at large.

This past fall, Nancy Gonzales, executive vice president and university provost, created a new honor, the Charter Professorship, to specifically recognize exceptional ASU tenure-track and career-track faculty members engaged in projects that advance the values of the ASU Charter. The appointment comes with significant funding for Charter Professors’ projects over a period of three years.

“The ASU Charter is part of ASU’s DNA, central to all of our innovations in research, teaching and mentoring,” Gonzales said. “On the 10th anniversary of the charter’s establishment, it seems particularly relevant, institutionally, that we recognize and honor those among us who exemplify some of the best that we do to serve our students, their success and our communities in ways that further our culture of inclusive excellence. Congratulations to our inaugural cohort of exceptional Charter Professors.”

The four inaugural faculty members selected — Sara Brownell, Gilberto Lopez, Stacey Gandy and Karen Knierman — experienced a bit of a surprise in their first moments as Charter Professors. “When I was contacted to meet with the provost, I had no clue as to why,” Gandy said. “There are so many people doing significant work that aligns with and exemplifies the charter; it is an incredible honor to be chosen.” 

2023 Charter Professor Sara Brownell, President’s Professor in the School of Life Sciences and director of the Research for Inclusive STEM Education Center.
Sara Brownell

Sara Brownell — a President’s Professor in the School of Life Sciences and director of the Research for Inclusive STEM Education Center. Brownell’s research focuses on inclusive excellence in undergraduate STEM education, attending to strategies to promote student success across a range of intersectional identities and lived experiences. She plans to expand the reach and impact of her undergraduate RISE Ambassadors program, which is designed to translate research from the RISE Center into actionable and inclusive practices in STEM teaching and research programs at ASU and beyond.

“Dr. Brownell is changing the conversation around teaching at ASU. ... She works tirelessly to make the student experience better, with a particular focus on marginalized students, so that ASU as a whole will be better,” says Kenro Kusumi, dean of natural sciences in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Gilberto Lopez, 2023 Charter Professor, assistant professor and head of the project El Laboratorio.
Gilberto Lopez

 Gilberto Lopez — an assistant professor in the School of Transborder Studies. Lopez drew from his personal experiences as a Latino first-generation college student to establish the Social and Health Inequities Research Training (SHIRT) program. SHIRT aims to develop the next generation of leaders, scholars and changemakers to address social inequities that disproportionally impact Latino communities. With the additional project support, Lopez plans to launch “El Laboratorio” to design and disseminate science-based, culturally tailored information campaigns that will address the unique needs of the Latino community across Arizona. 

Irasema Coronado, director of the School of Transborder Studies, describes Lopez and his open-door policy as fostering “a mentoring relationship with almost 70 students. ... He is an excellent teacher because of his passion, ability to share knowledge and for creating positive learning environments.”

photo of Clinical Assistant Professor Stacey Gandy, a 2023 Charter Professor who leads The Collaborative in the School of Social Work at ASU
Stacey Gandy

Stacey Gandy — a licensed clinical social worker and clinical assistant professor in the School of Social Work. Gandy’s commitment to ASU’s charter and design aspirations are most clearly reflected in her work with the Community Collaborative, an interdisciplinary community project that crosscuts six colleges or schools across ASU, and leverages countless community partners, to support the health and well-being of more than 300 individuals who qualify for housing subsidies due to low income and disabilities living at the Westward Ho in downtown Phoenix. With charter funding, Gandy hopes to mentor student interns in grant writing and fundraising, and increase staffing at the collaborative and expand its hours of operation.

“Ms. Gandy does an amazing job with few resources to make a huge impact on our local ASU and Phoenix community. She is continuously innovating and trying to do more to make meaningful the resident and student experience,” says Megha Budruk, associate dean for faculty affairs at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Read more

Charter Professor invests in the power of connection

Karen Knierman, 2023 Charter Professor, assistant teaching professor, astronomer and astrophysicist in the School of Earth and Space Exploration.
Karen Knierman

Karen Knierman — an assistant teaching professor, astronomer and astrophysicist in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. Knierman’s passion for astronomy and physics education is not only evident in her ASU classrooms, but in her impact on the broader community. For more than a decade, Knierman has trained more than 500 teachers to use the Starlab portable planetarium, opening immersive, interactive learning experiences to more than 34,000 students. As a Charter Professor, she will build upon her work with Starlab to create a Digital Starlab in collaboration with faculty and students in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, allowing teachers across the state to supplement standard earth and space science lessons with dynamic, virtual multimedia content. Dean Kenro Kusumi describes Knierman as embodying “each of ASU’s nine design aspirations at every level.”

As ASU leads the nation in innovation as a research university, its charter is core to its mission of teaching and educational innovation, supporting all students and their success. Two new Charter Professors will be supported each year. Nominations for Charter Professors are made by ASU deans and are now open for 2024.

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