Don't pass on protection: 5 tips for stronger passwords

May 6, 2021

For many of us, not a day goes by that we aren’t logging into an account for various tasks, entertainment or work. As such, we've all heard stories of failed password protection ... the cousin who had their bank account emptied after their account was accessed or the friend who had their data stolen from a companywide hack. 

Beyond the stories we share, recent statistics tell an even more compelling story in favor of strong passwords: According to recent studies, 81% of breaches at companies or organizations leveraged stolen or weak passwords (2020 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report) and 1 million passwords are stolen every week (2019 Breach Alarm).  Download Full Image

The ASU University Technology Office sat down with Zachary Jetson, director of information security, to dive into password protection and share tips to help design secure passwords and keep our information safe.

Exploring how hackers think

Understanding how passwords are cracked is the first step for devising an approach to designing good passwords. 

“Hackers can automate the cracking of stolen password hashes between billions and trillions of passwords per second using high-performance supercomputers,” Jetson said. To do so, hackers apply brute-force cracking, an automated process that uses every possible letter, number and word combination to guess your password. 

“To combat this, we moved to more complex passwords by adding characters, but even those have patterns that are replicable; like using the @ symbol to replace the letter A,” Jetson continued. He explained that this is a great place to start, but went on to share more details on how to create even stronger and more secure passwords.

Five tips for designing more secure passwords

Although no password is uncrackable, increasing the complexity of the password can make the process more difficult and has proven an effective method for dissuading hackers, ultimately keeping your accounts and information protected. Check out these five tips, provided by Jetson, to inform a more secure password strategy:

Tip 1: Length is the number one determinant for a secure password. 

Passwords are at their strongest when they are over 14 characters long. A good strategy to create a password is to select four or five unrelated words that are strung together by a special character; think along the lines of horse-blue-rain-earphones (but please don’t go using this exact password now!) Using words that are unrelated increases the complexity of the password so that hackers cannot as easily guess.

Sometimes, there can be a password character limit that prevents the use of this strategy. In that case, another method is to think of a sentence — like “Jack and Jill ran up the hill” — and use every letter to create the base of the password. You can add further complexity with characters and numbers; for example, add a colon and a date to make it jajruth:2021.

Tip 2: Vary your passwords.

While it may seem easier to use the same password for multiple services and logins, it can quickly become a threat to all of your accounts. That’s because if your password gets stolen in one instance it can be used to access multiple sites and organizations you belong to. Databases of stolen usernames and passwords are used in attacks called credential stuffing and password spraying. When third-party services are compromised and improperly encrypted, user credentials can be leaked. Hackers then use these credentials in bulk to attempt login, with commonly observed passwords, significantly reducing the number of attempts.

This makes using different passwords across services critical. The good news is that password managers, like LastPass, are an effective way to maintain uniqueness and keep track of your credentials for all of the platforms we use on a day-to-day basis.

Tip 3: Utilize multifactor authentication.

While we strongly urge everyone to use different passwords across services, multifactor authentication can be used as an additional security measure against hacks that stem from a multitude of attacks against passwords.

Multifactor authentication requires something you know (a password) and something you have (a mobile device, YubiKey or hardware token) to log into an account. This prevents hackers, who may obtain your password, from accessing your information without your knowledge. The exception comes into play, however, if they have somehow also obtained the device to which the multifactor authentication service sends a verification code via text, call or push notification through a dedicated mobile app or acquires the hardware token.

Tip 4: Avoid malware.

Malware is software that is intentionally malicious, typically containing capabilities such as a keylogger. A keylogger is a type or a function of malware that can track every stroke you enter on your keyboard. As you could probably imagine, this can allow hackers to view your accounts and credentials that are being accessed. Avoid sites and links in suspicious emails that could be rife with malware like keyloggers. You can also stay proactive by having antivirus installed and updated on your device.

Another level of protection against malware can be to avoid using the administrative account on your computer. That’s because if malware runs under the administrator context on your computer, it maintains all the administrator capabilities, including disabling your antivirus or installing additional malware to embed itself deeply within the system. So even in the case that malware does slip through, if you don’t use the administrative account on your computer, it won’t have the same access to your files and information that you do under a “standard” user account.

Tip 5: Act quickly when a hack occurs.

Finally, even with the strongest measures, sometimes your passwords can be compromised. In that event, change your password immediately to mitigate illegitimate access to your information.

You can also find out more about the first line of defense to protect your and others’ information with these resources:

Editorial specialist, University Technology Office

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The LIFT Conversations: Advancing pathways for ASU's Black community

April 26, 2021

ASU president, advisory council discuss commitments in new video series

In a year that has put a glaring spotlight on America's long and troubled history with systemic racism and social injustice, ASU President Michael Crow announced a commitment in fall 2020 to contribute to a national agenda for equity, diversity and inclusion and accelerate meaningful change throughout the ASU community. 

Twenty-five actions advocated by and for students, staff and faculty leaders across ASU has since become the LIFT initiative, a programmatic pathway in the strides toward structural and effectual change at ASU.

An acronym for Listen, Invest, Facilitate and Teach, LIFT is elevating conversations around the importance and significance of this transformation for the lived experiences of ASU’s Black students, faculty and staff. 

President Crow and members of the Advisory Council on African American Affairs are sharing these conversations in a series of video discussions now available for viewing on the website for the Office of the President.

Here is what they had to say:

ASU President Michael Crow

LIFT Initiative: Listen

LIFT Initiative: Invest

LIFT Initiative: Facilitate

LIFT Initiative: Teach

Sr. Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications


ASU IT professionals to 'SOAR' into the future at Empower 2021

April 22, 2021

Arizona State University IT professionals and academic faculty are invited to come together for the fourth annual Empower conference. 

Taking place virtually from May 13–14, this is the premiere event for ASU's IT professional community to design, ideate and partner with their peers. Attendees include data scientists, learning designers, professors, support staff, human resources personnel and more. Download Full Image

ASU President Michael Crow will kick off the two-day community event with a talk about the present and future of ASU. Following his keynote address, Crow will engage in a Q&A discussion, with questions sourced directly from ASU’s IT community.

Empower invites all registered participants to submit a question for consideration. 

Day 1 will continue with fellow ASU community members sharing how their ideas and projects align with one of the five Empower 2020 projects: "Empowering Student and Employee Growth and Change," "Collaboration Across the University," "Public Dashboards," "Hybrid Virtual Working and Improved Work-life Balance" and "Sustainable Technological Practices."

Over the course of three, 30-minute rounds, participants will be invited to join a range of session topics, including “techie” discussions around ASU and global trends and challenges, as well as the culture work being done across the university.

Empower logo

Check out a sampling of the 16 sessions across the three rounds on day one:

Round 1:  

  • “Mindfulness and Ambition: Can They Coexist?” with Teri Pipe, ASU chief well-being officer, and Nika Gueci, executive director of the ASU Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience.

Round 2:

  • “Humanize and Personalize Email Communication Through Video” with Edward Garcia, director of law information technology at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.

  • “Empowered to Stay” with Cary Lopez, director of strategic initiatives at the University Design Institute, and Abby Baker, program manager at Osher Lifelong Learning Institute.

Round 3:

  • “No One Sits by Silently: Driving the Future of Teams” with Lindy Elkins-Tanton, vice president and professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

  • “Creating a Smart Fleet for ASU” with Bobby Gray, director of digital transformation at the University Technology Office.

Participants will actively collaborate with these headliners on their ideas and projects using the SOAR analysis as the guiding framework. Similar to the traditional SWOT analysis, a SOAR analysis takes a more appreciative approach by highlighting the strengths and opportunities as well as aspirations and results of a particular activity. As such, the SOAR framework allows for an analysis of present and future initiatives while also incorporating both internal projects within the university and external partnerships with regional and global organizations. 

Day 2 will open with a keynote from Jacqueline Stavros, originator of the SOAR framework and professor in the College of Business and Information Technology at Lawrence Technological University. Stavros will discuss the ways in which this appreciative inquiry model is perfectly poised for designing the future of the New American University. 

Participants will then spend the bulk of their time in Open Space gatherings where fluid, dynamic groups will form their own agendas exploring issues of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging through a technological innovation lens.

“Both days of Empower are loaded with opportunities to take responsibility for what lights you up," said Christine Whitney Sanchez, chief culture officer for the University Technology Office. "Through the power of self-organization, you are invited to learn and contribute to fostering an enabling, catalyzing culture within the ASU-wide IT community. Coming out of Empower, your ideas and action commitments will lay the foundation for ongoing collaborative tech innovation at ASU.” 

An attendee at last year's Empower event said: “This is the best, most engaging conference I attend every year.”

“I liked seeing how the concept of motivating stories can move people into action,” one participant said.

Another said, “I enjoyed the open environment and sharing of ideas. Every voice is important to build our future.”

Register now and join the conversation in the #asu-it-community Slack channel or on major social media platforms using #ASUEmpower. 

Andrea Fossum

Management Intern, University Technology Office, Creative + Communications

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2 from ASU elected to American Academy of Arts and Sciences

April 22, 2021

ASU President Michael Crow, Shakespeare and race scholar Ayanna Thompson honored for achievements

Two members of the Arizona State University community are named in the new membership rolls of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences announced on April 22.

ASU President Michael Crow and Regents Professor of English Ayanna Thompson are among those newly elected to the prestigious academy, one of the oldest learned societies in the United States. Others elected this year include former Starbucks CEO Howard D. Schultz, Oprah Winfrey, former U.S. Secretary of Defense James N. Mattis, journalist Maria Hinojosa, activist Angela Y. Davis and neurosurgeon and medical correspondent Sanjay Gupta.

Members are recognized for their outstanding achievements in academia, the arts, business, government and public affairs. Their charge is to conduct policy studies and nonpartisan public policy advocacy.

The academy was founded in 1780 and included George Washington and Benjamin Franklin in its first membership cohort. Over 1,300 nominations are considered each year; in 2020, around 270 members were elected — including two from ASU

“We are honoring the excellence of these individuals, celebrating what they have achieved so far, and imagining what they will continue to accomplish,” David Oxtoby, president of the American Academy, said of this year's newly elected members. “The past year has been replete with evidence of how things can get worse; this is an opportunity to illuminate the importance of art, ideas, knowledge and leadership that can make a better world.”

Headshot of ASU Professor

Ayanna Thompson

Thompson, who directs the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (ACMRS), is an internationally recognized scholar of Shakespeare, race and performance. She is the author of several books, including “Shakespeare in the Theatre: Peter Sellars” (2018), “Teaching Shakespeare with Purpose: A Student-Centred Approach,” co-authored with Laura Turchi (2016), “Passing Strange: Shakespeare, Race, and Contemporary America” (2011), and “Performing Race and Torture on the Early Modern Stage” (2008). She is the editor of “The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and Race” (2021), “Weyward Macbeth: Intersections of Race and Performance” (2010) and “Colorblind Shakespeare: New Perspectives on Race and Performance” (2006). She wrote the new introduction for the revised Arden3 “Othello” (2016) and is collaborating with Curtis Perry on the Arden4 edition of “Titus Andronicus.”

“I am truly honored by this recognition, and I hope to use this platform to amplify the needs of BIPOCBIPOC stands for Black, Indigenous and people of color. scholars in the academy,” Thompson said. 

Her most recent book, “Blackface” (2021), unearths the history and legacy of the performance of Blackness, from premodern stages to contemporary media. Thompson discussed the book with students and faculty in a virtual event as part of ASU’s TomorrowTalks series on April 15.

Thompson is a Shakespeare scholar-in-residence at The Public Theater in New York. She chairs the Council of Scholars at Theatre for a New Audience in Brooklyn, New York, serves on the board of Play On Shakespeare, serves as a trustee on the board of the Royal Shakespeare Company and previously served on the board for Woolly Mammoth Theater in Washington, D.C.

When Thompson began her tenure as director of ACMRS in 2018, she announced that the center’s mission would be daring and inclusive. “This will be the place where people want to go to try out their new ideas,” she promised. “… My goal is for this to be the world-leading center for the study of medieval and Renaissance work."

By many accounts, Thompson has already accomplished that goal. ACMRS has played host to globe-spanning events and has been recognized in national media for its vision and impactful work. The center’s wildly successful RaceB4Race series challenges scholars of premodern studies everywhere to acknowledge race as a lens for investigation, to support scholars of color and to address the systemic inequity in their universities and institutions. Publishers Weekly announced that ACMRS Press, another new venture by the center, was “pulling Shakespeare into the 21st century,” with the publication of the Play On Shakespeare series. And most recently, Thompson helped guide a cluster hiring initiative that will bring five new faculty of color to the Department of English and ACMRS in fall 2021.

“Ayanna Thompson is amazing, and the work that she undertakes is changing the world,” said Jeffrey Cohen, dean of humanities in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU, of which both the Department of English and ACMRS are part. “I’ve never met anyone so brilliant, visionary and selfless: Everything she does is for a greater good. I joke that I have made a second career out of composing tributes to her latest achievements — and there have been so many well-earned ones over the past few years! Her election into AAAS is extraordinarily special. The humanities community is fortunate to have her with us, blazing a trail towards a better future.”

Headshot of ASU President

Michael Crow

Crow, who spearheaded ASU’s rapid and groundbreaking transformative evolution into one of the world’s best public metropolitan research universities, is an educator and a science and technology policy scholar in addition to being a higher education leader. As a model “New American University,” ASU simultaneously demonstrates comprehensive excellence, inclusivity representative of the ethnic and socioeconomic diversity of the United States, and consequential societal impact.

Lauded as the “No. 1 most innovative” school in the nation by U.S. News & World Report for six straight years, ASU is a student-centric, technology-enabled university focused on global challenges. Under Crow’s leadership, ASU has established 25 new transdisciplinary schools, including the School of Earth and Space Exploration, the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, and the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, and launched trailblazing multidisciplinary initiatives including the Biodesign Institute and the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, and important initiatives in the humanities and social sciences.

Since Crow took the helm of ASU in 2002, research expenditures have grown from $110 million to $639.6 million in expenditures in fiscal year 2019, putting the university at No. 6 in the latest National Science Foundation Higher Education Research and Development rankings. Enrollment has grown to more than 120,000 students while success metrics have kept pace: First-year retention and four-, five- and six-year graduation rates have all increased since the start of Crow’s tenure, and the student body’s demographics have diversified to better match that of the state.

The inaugural recipient of the ACE Award for Institutional Transformation, Crow is an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and the National Academy of Public Administration, and a published author.

“It is with deep appreciation that I welcome my election to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences,” Crow said. “It is recognition of the incredible evolution of this institution, which is the result not of my work alone but the collective effort of so many to advance our charter — pursuing excellence in the classroom, the lab and in the community, opening access to education to learners across their life span and across demographics, and working in and with communities to make life better for all. There is unbelievable potential when we step away from how we’ve always done things and move toward new ideas and new approaches, and I’m excited to see what the future holds.”

For a complete list of new American Academy of Arts and Sciences members, visit the organization’s website.

Leah Newsom and Kristen LaRue-Sandler contributed to this story.

ASU named a 'best value college' by The Princeton Review

April 22, 2021

Arizona State University was named a Best Value College for 2021 by The Princeton Review. ASU is among 200 school profiles featured and selected out of more than 650 institutions that were considered for the ranking.

The Princeton Review considered more than 40 data points to tally the return on investment ratings of the colleges to determine its school selection. Topics included academics, cost, financial aid, graduation rates, student debt, and career and salary data. girl laying in bed taking classes on her laptop Download Full Image

It notes that the schools chosen are the most exceptional in the nation at delivering great academics, affordable cost and great career foundations.

ASU has been at the forefront of providing affordable and accessible quality education, welcoming its largest student community to date when, nationally, college enrollment was declining.

Historically, the university has maintained a model that ensures students have limited financial barriers to attend the university and have access to the maximum amount of financial aid available. And despite recent challenges, the university is committed to providing a quality academic experience, available to all students regardless of their geographical location, to ensure they remain on track to graduation.

Beyond graduation, 89% of undergraduate students start their own business or receive at least one job offer within six months of graduation.

The Princeton Review is also widely known for its college rankings in dozens of other categories which the university is also a part of such as Best 386 Colleges and Best Business School lists.

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ASU Staff Council sponsors 1st Diversity and Inclusion Conference

April 13, 2021

Two-day virtual event examines the myriad efforts underway at the university to combat social injustice

In fall 2020, after a renewed cry for social justice in America, Arizona State University President Michael Crow announced the university’s commitment to address social transformation by implementing 25 actions designed to support Black faculty, staff and students.

The LIFT Initiative, which aims to Listen, Invest, Facilitate and Teach, is a universitywide effort to support equity and inclusion and to advance the national conversation about social justice. Those efforts are being led by ASU’s new Advisory Council on African American Affairs, which is co-chaired by Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, vice president of ASU Cultural Affairs, and Jeffrey Wilson, a professor of economics in the W. P. Carey School of Business.

As part of those collective efforts to “accelerate meaningful change,” the ASU Staff Council sponsored its first Diversity and Inclusion Conference on April 8–9. The event, which was held virtually on Zoom, created a space for reflection, collaboration and action.

In a prerecorded message, Crow thanked participants and attendees for their efforts to make ASU a comprehensively diverse and inclusive institution that lives up to its charter — and emphasized the hard work that’s still ahead.

Diversity and Inclusion Conference 2021

ASU President Michael Crow posed some of the difficult questions that ASU students, staff and faculty are facing regarding how best to achieve inclusion and diversity.

“It’s not just about the diversity of our student body or the inclusivity of our student body,” said Crow. “It’s about our workforce. It’s about our environment. It’s about our culture. It’s about how we’re thinking, how we’re moving forward.

“What you have to ask yourself is: How do we do better? How do we create an environment where everyone feels welcome and comfortable and culturally expressive, culturally creative? How do we make that all happen?”

The inaugural conference’s many voices helped shape some of those conversations. Valencia Clement, a doctoral student in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College who is studying educational policy, shared her perspective on social justice through an enlightening poem called “Parasites of the Planet.” The Haitian American artist, scholar, activist and entrepreneur from Queens, New York, said she wrote the poem after working with the city of Tempe and the ASU Office of Sustainability.

Clement explained, “It’s not just about justice for the planet, it’s also about justice for the people — especially for the people who are disproportionately impacted by climate change — like unsheltered populations, people in developing countries, etc.”

Although the LIFT Initiative was born from ideas and feedback from ASU’s students, faculty and staff, this conference leaned on perspectives from community partners and leaders who advocate for social justice on a daily basis.

The conference’s keynote speaker was Danielle Shoots, the founder and CEO of the Daily Boss Up, a digital startup focused on professional development, and vice president and CFO for the Colorado Trust, a private health equity foundation. She said she’s optimistic about the collective leadership taking place in our nation right now.

Danielle Shoots keynote speaker

Danielle Shoots, founder and CEO of digital startup the Daily Boss Up and vice president and CFO for health equity foundation the Colorado Trust, offered the keynote address at the ASU Staff Council Diversity and Inclusion Conference.

“I think that people really are learning this work and engaging in this work in such a way that is profoundly exciting and gives me so much hope to be a part of it, and to watch where we’re moving as a country and as people in this space," she said. "All the things that we do and who we influence and who we interact with in our environments, in our cultures, require us to lead, especially this conversation.”

Leadership is a key component to inclusion, as expressed by Grace O’Sullivan, vice president of corporate engagement and strategic partnerships at ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise, and Minu Ipe, managing director and vice chair of the University Design Institute at ASU, whose presentation was titled “How Do We Create a Level Playing Field for Women?”

In order to create an inclusive university — to benefit all underrepresented groups and individuals — everyone must be a leader, no matter where they sit, explained O’Sullivan and Ipe. They shared the importance of developing an intentional “personal board of directors” — the advocates who can help make the work visible to others — and the importance of speaking up, especially within “spheres of influence.” They believe everyone is a part of the solution.

“There have been times in my career at ASU where I didn’t know I could speak up and change things,” said O’Sullivan. “I thought I just had to make it work — nose to the grindstone, take what was given to me and just make that work. Anything is possible, as long as you’ve thought about it, you have a good proposal, you have some data and experience to support it.”

Ipe points out that ASU has momentum right now, with the university’s recent shift at the top: the hiring of three women to lead the university’s three enterprises. But more must be done.

“This is an invitation to all of us to say, we are all in it together and what we do may not always be visibly moving the needle, but if enough of us are involved, there will be momentum that propels the institution forward, especially when it comes to leveling the playing field,” said Ipe.

The conference hit on key topics, like cultivating an equitable and inclusive educational and working environment, creating inclusive events, making mentorship opportunities available and designing inclusive online courses.

“What I think is really important about what President Crow is doing with the 25-point plan he put together is really helping to lift all of ASU, to look at our charter as our aspirational selves,” said Jennings-Roggensack. “We will be valued and measured by whom we include, not whom we exclude, and the success of those we include.”

Jennings-Roggensack provided a detailed update of the progress of the Advisory Council on African American Affairs, including plans for a multicultural center at all of ASU's campuses and the locations in Washington, D.C., and Los Angeles. By July, she says, the council should have the designs and timelines ready for review.

ASU Diversity and Inclusion Conference 2021

Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, vice president of ASU Cultural Affairs and co-chair of ASU’s new Advisory Council on African American Affairs, gave an update on the plan to create multicultural centers on every ASU campus.

To understand where ASU stands, and where the university needs to go, the council put together a report on the history of African Americans at the university. The council has also been conducting “stay interviews,” asking those who are part of the ASU community what’s working and what’s not, especially those in staff positions. ASU is also reimagining campus security, exploring what policing means at the university and what other resources are needed to keep the community safe.  

The goal of the two-day conference was to raise awareness about social issues and to help attendees apply practical steps to shift culture and to create more inclusive institutions by giving everyone a voice, especially those who are underrepresented in various facets of society.

Top photo by ASU News. Conference screen grabs by Jimena Garrison/ASU News

Jimena Garrison

Copywriter , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

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ASU's College of Integrative Sciences and Arts to welcome new dean

April 8, 2021

Art historian Joanna Grabski will lead the college effective July 1

When Joanna Grabski took over as director of the School of Art at Arizona State University, she increased enrollment 20%, rebranded it as a globally oriented school for the 21st century, established several interdisciplinary and cross-program collaborations, increased access to the arts for an expanded community of learners, and designed new programs and initiatives to leverage ASU’s No. 1 ranking in innovation as well as its commitment to justice, equity, diversity and inclusion.  

Now Grabski has been named the next dean for the College of Integrative Science and Arts, ASU’s fourth-largest college. It’s home to more than 6,300 undergraduate majors at ASU’s Polytechnic, Downtown Phoenix and Tempe campuses as well as the Lake Havasu location and ASU Online, with more than 200 graduate students and more than 350 faculty.

It’s a springboard from community colleges into the university system and a landing pad for returning adults who want to complete their degrees. The college’s degrees integrate applied learning, creativity and theory and include specialty fields such as technical communication and user experience, sustainable horticulture, natural resource ecology, preveterinary medicine and counseling psychology.

With a doctorate in art history and African studies from Indiana University, Grabski has applied sustained participatory ethnographic practices and interviews in studying African artists for more than two decades. This work includes two books, numerous articles, curated exhibitions and a feature length documentary film about the narratives around a secondhand goods market in Dakar, Senegal. Her work has been supported by several fellowships, grants and awards, including from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. 

She begins her new position July 1. ASU News sat down with her to discuss her new role and what she hopes to accomplish.

Question: You are stepping into a different role from what you've done before. How do you feel about that?

Answer: I am incredibly excited and very honored to have the opportunity to lead the college and to continue contributing to ASU. I'm absolutely thrilled — over the moon actually.

Q: What direction do you want to take the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts?

A: The critical thing will be for me to get a better understanding of the landscape and all the contributions that Dean (Duane) Roen put in place. I understand that he's had great success with building a community, serving students, building out online programs and igniting new programs, basically. I need to get a sense of all that he's accomplished. I'd like to build on those successes of course, and then really optimize the way that CISA can be a connector. A couple of the features that really strike me — that I think really compelled me to apply for the job — are the uniqueness of CISA’s position across campuses. They're really important in terms of being a portal of entry for community college students and for accessing educational pathways for students coming from LA. So there's a lot happening that sounds like we can optimize it and really increase the impacts. The idea of many points of entry is really interesting. The ability to be a connector is really interesting across programs.

Q: What else was of interest to you at the college?

A: Another thing that was really of interest to me was the idea of them being a hub for experiential and applied learning. I see that as absolutely critical to President (Michael) Crow's vision of building out the economy here, in creating a workforce. So that was a big factor in my enthusiasm. They have a number of applied degree programs. So I'm very interested in finding ways to build those out to continue to maximize the impacts, and then also find ways for students to get internships that lead to jobs so they can have wonderful lives and contribute to the economy. So that's really exciting to me.

Top image: The next dean of the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, Joanna Grabski. Photo courtesy Ryan Parra

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News


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Meet the new director of ASU's Institute for Humanities Research

April 6, 2021

Nicole Anderson says societal problems such as racial discrimination and climate change can be eased by the humanities

COVID-19 has impacted lives across the globe in a variety of ways. Some have lost loved ones, others have lost their jobs or their homes, and many suffered isolation from friends and family. In Nicole Anderson’s case, it meant staying eight months in Australia before claiming her new job at Arizona State University.

Anderson, the new director at ASU’s Institute for Humanities Research (IHR), safely arrived on U.S. soil in March and is about four weeks into her new job, ready to resume her life and career.

She's also ready to share her experience and wealth of knowledge with the ASU community. Anderson's research interests are interdisciplinary and span fields such as cultural theory and practice, art theory, posthumanism, animal and environmental studies, ethics, bioculture, biopolitics, poststructuralism and continental philosophy.

ASU News spoke to Anderson about the past year, what the future might bring and how she can help students understand the importance of the humanities.

Question: You were originally supposed to arrive at ASU about a year ago, but the pandemic struck. What was the past year like for you?

Answer: It has been a challenging year for everyone everywhere in different ways. For me, over the last year my aim was to keep those around me in Sydney, as head of a large school/department, as well as myself — amidst uncertainty around obtaining a visa, challenging government travel restrictions and cancelled flights — focused, motivated and forward-looking. That was helped by the fact that I felt incredibly fortunate and privileged to have the support of ASU in general and in particular my colleagues Dean Jeffrey Cohen and Ron Broglio, associate director of IHR, as well as the patience of the wonderful IHR staff. The empathy and generosity extended to me during this past year is testament to the strong leadership and values of ASU. I look forward to repaying that incredible generosity.

Q: Why are the humanities critical right now in 2021?

A: One way I tried to explain the humanities to my inquisitive young nephew once was to tell him it concerns the way we think about ourselves. I even gave him the idea that if we ever colonize Mars, he could think of the humanities as providing diverse tools — philosophy, history, politics, literature, art, media and so on — to represent, communicate, transform, shape or create the new world we might live in (Mars) and understand the world (Earth) we came from and the history of human endeavor; in other words, our story. What is critical is how and for what purpose we tell those stories.

For this reason, I believe that the problems we face today — such as climate change denial; sexual, gender and racial discrimination; poverty; and the role of technology to name but a few — are not merely technical and economical in nature, but have to do with what and how human beings are taught to value and how they go about interpreting their world. To change values and perspectives it is not enough to present facts: Cimate science denial is an example. What makes the humanities critical right now is that it can provide a narrative that includes ethical and social justice rhetoric and stories around these issues that the general public can understand and that presents another interpretation or view of the world, with which they can interact. Part of what the humanities can do is turn the facts into the compelling stories that need to be told and influence and change the way people view the world.

Q: How can the humanities create just, ethical and sustainable worlds?

A: As we all know in the past few years there has been increasing public skepticism around "facts" and with that an escalation of tensions in many areas of thought. The humanities provides the visual, oral and digital communication skills about who we are and where we are going, and through the myriad forms of story can continue to shape the cultural, social, political and ethical imagination in socially just and inclusive ways. How the humanities can do this is through research and translating that research into our teaching. It comes down to how we collaborate with each other as well as the sciences and industry here, now, today. It is about the relevance of what is learnt in the classroom and in our research and the way we connect, convey or communicate that to students and/or the general public, so that better more thoughtful approaches to issues can be embraced.

Q: Tell me briefly what it is that the Institute for Humanities Research does and what is the scope of its work?

A: The IHR exists to facilitate research in all its varied forms. It supports research projects, it increasingly enables internal and external grants and fellowships that bring visibility to the university, and it puts on events that address the issues we are facing today in order to inspire and generate ideas and further interdisciplinary collaborations. A distinctly modern initiative is working with the sciences because they are impacting our lives more dramatically every day.

Q: What do you hope you will bring to the institute and how will it change or evolve?

A: The IHR has increased research and grown an inspiring program of events — see the newsletters — due to a range of previous directors, including the amazing work of founding director Sally Kitch and Cora Fox. More recently this is particularly due to the strong leadership of both Elizabeth Langland and Ron Broglio. Also the work that has been done by IHR staff: Elizabeth Grumbach, Lauren Whitby, Celina Osuna, Barbara Dente and Sarah Moser, has been incredibly professional and outstanding. My aim is not to come in and simply change things for the sake of it, but to respect their legacy by building on the work they have done and in consultation with them, the faculty and the university.

So it is for these reasons that as director of IHR I would want to continue to promote and support the various ways that humanities research already fosters an understanding of how humans continue to shape, traditions, customs and cultures; foster the values of dignity, agency and equity; and continue to situate the institute as the facilitator in inter- and cross-disciplinary research collaborations; making ASU greater than the sum of its parts. In and through all of this, at the same time the IHR could develop as a provider or facilitator of significant and innovative contributions and solutions to industry, government, community and the real-world problems of our times, and to increasingly engage and involve all ASU students and faculty.

Q: What’s the best thing you think you’ll like about ASU and living in the States?

A: ASU represents the best of the United States in enabling opportunities and possibilities to contribute to effecting positive and socially just changes for a better world for all. Also the inter- and cross-disciplinary work that is allowed to happen at ASU is incredibly exciting because it is empowering and innovative.

Top photo: Nicole Anderson is the new director of ASU’s Institute for Humanities Research. She earned her PhD from the University of Sydney. She recently served as the head/dean of a large interdisciplinary department (Media-Communications, Creative Arts, Language and Literature) at a leading university in NSW, Australia. Anderson is the co-founder and chief editor of the journal Derrida Today, published by Edinburgh University Press, and the founder and executive director of the Derrida Today Conferences. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Indigenous Culture Week emphasizes unification

April 2, 2021

There’s something new this year for Indigenous Culture Week.

It’s the word “Indigenous.” Sacramento Knoxx portrait Interdisciplinary artist Sacramento Knoxx will lead a live performance and an interactive workshop as part of Indigenous Culture Week at ASU. Download Full Image

Previously known as Native American Culture Week, and before that, American Indian Culture Week, the new name can be accredited to the advocacy and hard work of current Indigenous students. 

“We’re unpacking this term ‘Indigenous’ and sharing it with our communities,” said Lourdes Pereira (Hia-Ced O’odham and Yoeme), an undergraduate student double-majoring in American Indian studies and justice studies, who works at the ASU Library’s Labriola National American Indian Data Center. “It’s not a new term, but it’s still something people are learning how to use. It’s an international term.”

Indigenous Culture Week events are happening April 2–11 across all campuses at Arizona State University, located on the ancestral homeland of the O’odham and Piipaash people.

It’s an opportunity to celebrate Indigenous people and promote Indigenous voices.

Voices like Sacramento Knoxx, an interdisciplinary artist from Detroit, whose “versatile background with different forms of music allows him to blend traditional and contemporary styles creating dynamic storytelling experiences with live music performances, dancing and video projections that take audiences on a participatory journey and a creative experience.”

Knoxx will be leading two events for Indigenous Culture Week. Sponsored by the Labriola Center, the RED INK Indigenous Initiative and the Department of English, Knoxx’s interactive workshop on April 6 will focus on creating music and lyrics from patterns and structures of sound. He will present a virtual music performance on April 7. 

Other events include a pride run, a virtual walk-through experience of the American Indian Boarding School exhibition at the Heard Museum, a talk on unresolved trauma and a screening of the film “Sisters Rising,” the story of six Indigenous women fighting for their personal and tribal sovereignty.

Pereira says the push for the term “Indigenous” came out of a desire to communicate greater inclusion and a more deeply rooted connection to the land and to each other — an idea threaded throughout the Indigenous Culture Week Library Guide, created by Pereira and fellow student workers at the Labriola Center, including undergraduate students Elizabeth Quiroga (Tohono ‘O’odham), majoring in social justice and human rights with a minor in American Indian studies, and Mia Johnson (Navajo), majoring in applied computing.

The library guide is aimed at informing Indigenous and non-Indigenous students alike about all the resources available to them at ASU, and it offers a historical look at the culture week celebration. 

It is also an attempt at examining the language surrounding Indigenous people – an idea conveyed visually through a gallery of promotional posters of past culture weeks.

“We need to think about our words more carefully and what we’re advocating for,” said Quiroga, who identifies with the term “Indigenous” rather than “Native American.”

“I feel like part of the issue in America is being focused on our own issues, individualizing all of our problems, but the issues we face here in America as Indigenous people, recognized or unrecognized, these are the issues being faced across the world,” Quiroga said.

Johnson offers an important reminder that Indigenous issues are not just historical — they are current.

“We’re not extinct. In classes, I’ve heard instructors talk about us as if we’re not around anymore,” Johnson said. “The O’odham and the Navajo – this is not just a historical story. These are contemporary issues — legal issues and social issues.”

To learn more about Indigenous Culture Week, visit the ASU students’ library guide and check out the week’s calendar of events.

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library

New psychology summer course teaches students how to learn

March 31, 2021

One of ASU’s goals as part of its charter is to have a first-year persistence rate of 90% and to graduate students at a rate of 85%, or approximately 32,000 students each year. These goals mirror the idea that the university is measured not by who it excludes, but by who it includes and how they succeed.

The transition from high school to college can be a jarring experience and barrier to these goals for students who don’t know how to study properly for college courses. Often, students graduate high school with a high GPA only to discover that the strategies they use don’t offer the same results in college. These students may face extraordinary struggles if they aren’t able to learn and apply more effective practices. overhead shot of people sitting on a couch and pointing at a laptop screen Eevin Jennings, a lecturer in the ASU Department of Psychology, is teaching a course about “how to learn in college” and aims to correct some of the gaps in students’ learning foundation. Photo by John Schnobrich Download Full Image

Eevin Jennings, a lecturer in the ASU Department of Psychology, has a doctorate in cognition and cognitive neuroscience, and knows how important proper learning techniques are to academic success. She proposed teaching a course about “how to learn in college” that aims to correct some of the gaps in students’ learning foundation. Additionally, this course focuses on the neuroscience of learning and how different regions of the brain are involved in learning different tasks.

The approach of the course is to understand the science behind learning in order to improve and maximize how students study for future courses in any major. 

“I realized that many students in other courses I teach aren’t necessarily prepared to learn in college. I think that part of being in the ASU community is finding ways to help elevate the strengths of all of our students and teach them new ways to succeed,” said Jennings. “I hope to teach students new strategies that expand their toolkit for success.”

High school learning is based on a set of standardized learning expectations that vary by state and district. Teaching strategies align with rote memorization for many of these standardized test scores, and when students come to college, that structure is gone.

In high school, students are used to spending four to six hours studying per week in total, whereas each 15-week, three-credit course at ASU requires six to nine hours per week – for every single class.

“Things as simple as proper note taking, or better time management, or assigning a learning space, can be very important for students to succeed in any major, let alone psychology,” said Jennings.

“We are going to examine their misconceptions about learning. Learning takes work, and the people who do the work are the ones who succeed.”

The course will cover operant and classical conditioning, cutting-edge research in online versus face-to-face approaches, attention management and the brain structures behind learning.

“Students will learn how to identify problems that they are facing and use tools that they will acquire to take charge of their own experiences,” said Jennings.

The course is open for students in all majors and will be available in Session B for summer 2021. Sign up now.

Video courtesy of Robert Ewing

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology