ASU Foundation attains highest rating from Charity Navigator

ASU earns 9th consecutive four-star rating for foundation’s financial health, transparency and accountability

March 11, 2021

The ASU Foundation for A New American University attained Charity Navigator’s coveted four-star rating for the ninth consecutive year because it continuously demonstrates strong financial health and a commitment to transparency and accountability.

“We take the Charity Navigator four-star rating seriously and work hard to sustain this honor,” said Mark Antonucci, ASU Foundation vice president and chief of staff. “The ASU Foundation’s mission is to raise and manage private contributions to support the success of Arizona State University, and we can only fulfill that mission when we are financially sound and accountable to our donors.” Charity Navigator Four Star Charity Logo Download Full Image

The four-star rating is the highest a charity can achieve and is given to organizations that exceed industry standards and outperform most charities in its cause. Charity Navigator, an independent nonprofit charity evaluator, assesses more than 1.6 million charitable organizations’ financial health, accountability and transparency to guide donation decisions, according to its website. It does not charge the organizations for its evaluations, nor the public to access the information.

"In ASU Foundation's most recent Charity Navigator evaluation, the organization received its ninth consecutive four-star rating, which is considered the premier trust indicator of the nonprofit sector. Of the thousands of nonprofits we rate, only 2.7% have achieved this milestone," said Charity Navigator President and CEO Michael Thatcher. "ASU Foundation supporters can give confidently knowing that the foundation has a strong commitment to financial efficiency, accountability and transparency."

GuideStar by Candid has also recognized the ASU Foundation with a Gold Seal of Transparency for 2020 for voluntarily and publicly describing its goals, strategies and accomplishments.

Transparency, accountability and strong corporate citizenship are some of the things that attracted Malissia Clinton, senior vice president, general counsel and secretary of the Aerospace Corporation, to join the ASU Foundation board in 2018.

“The ASU Foundation plays an essential role in raising private support for Arizona State University to fulfill its charter, a mission that embodies my own beliefs on inclusion, diversity and being responsible citizens for the communities we serve,” said Clinton, who is an ASU alumna. “I’m very much into diversity and inclusion, and I feel like I have a duty on these boards I sit on to bring those issues forward and to help the organizations be better corporate citizens.”

Read ASU Foundation’s full Charity Navigator rating profile.

Michelle Stermole

Director of communications, Enterprise Partners


5 new faculty join ASU's Department of English, Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies

March 9, 2021

This fall, Arizona State University’s Department of English and Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies will welcome five new faculty members who will work toward the center’s mission of enabling and promoting the most expansive, creative and daring scholarship in medieval and renaissance studies. 

This hiring initiative was led by Ayanna Thompson, director of the center and a Regents Professor in the Department of English, in an effort to elevate scholars of color working on issues of race in premodern studies. ACMRS new professors From left: Lisa Barksdale-Shaw, Madeline Sayet, Ruben Espinosa, Brandi Adams and Mariam Galarrita. Download Full Image

“With the five BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) scholars joining our seven other early modernists, ASU will have the strongest Shakespeare program in the country,” Thompson said.

“The university’s investment in early modern studies is groundbreaking, and it will put ASU’s Department of English and the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the forefront of Shakespeare studies.

"The scholars in the cluster hire are remarkably impressive teachers, scholars and community members. The ASU community will be enriched by their inclusion.”

Meet the new faculty members of the Department of English and the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies:

Brandi Adams, assistant professor

Adams' interests lie at the intersection of book history, history of reading, early modern English drama, premodern critical race studies and gender along with modern editorial practices of early English drama. She is also interested in the early history of artificial intelligence, early modern automata and how studying literature can have a significant and positive impact on computing.

In her work in early modern and Renaissance studies and literature, she presents a history of reading and books as told through early plays published in England during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Prior to coming to ASU she served as an undergraduate program manager at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and in several roles at the University of Maryland including as associate director of communications. Adams received a PhD in English literature from the University of Maryland. She joins ASU as an assistant professor in the Department of English.   


Lisa Barksdale-Shaw, assistant professor

Barksdale-Shaw’s work examines narratives of justice by combining several disciplines including law, literature and medicine. In her work, she foregrounds evidence and criminology, litigation practices and procedure, trial advocacy, drama, material culture, stage properties and performance, racial trauma, ethics, state actors and the history of law. She is currently working on several research projects, specifically on written evidence, conspiracy and racial trauma.

Using critical race theory, Barksdale-Shaw teaches her students how to read law, literature, culture and race as they critique narratives of justice domestically and globally.

She joins ASU from the James Madison College at Michigan State University, where she was a visiting assistant professor. She received a degree in law at the University of Michigan Law School and a PhD in English language and literature from Michigan State University. She joins ASU as an assistant professor in the Department of English.

Ruben Espinosa, associate professor and associate director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Espinosa specializes in Shakespeare and early modern literature. He is currently working on two monographs, “Shakespeare on the Border: Language, Legitimacy and La Frontera” and “Shakespeare on the Shades of Racism.”

He is the author of “Masculinity and Marian Efficacy in Shakespeare’s England” and the co-editor of “Shakespeare and Immigration.”

In addition to the books he has written, he has also published numerous essays and articles, and he serves on the editorial boards of Shakespeare Quarterly, Exemplaria: Medieval Early Modern Theory and Palgrave’s Early Modern Cultural Studies series. In 2018, he was elected to the Shakespeare Association of America’s board of trustees.

Prior to ASU he was at the University of Texas at El Paso, where he was an associate professor of English. He received a PhD in English literature and Shakespeare studies from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He joins ASU as an associate professor in the Department of English and associate director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

Mariam Galarrita, postdoctoral fellow

Mariam Galarrita

Galarrita’s research focuses on early modern English drama and travel writing, premodern critical race studies, language and science fiction. 

She is currently a graduate student at the University of California, Riverside and will defend her dissertation, “Early Modern England and Race-making,” this spring.

She is the founder and director of Race and the Premodern Period Speaker Series at UC Riverside.

This fall she will teach a class on Shakespeare alongside Jonathan Hope, director of literature and professor in the Department of English.

She joins ASU as a two-year postdoctoral fellow in the Department of English. 

Madeline Sayet, clinical assistant professor

Sayet is a member of the Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut, where she was raised on a combination of traditional Mohegan stories and Shakespeare — both of which have influenced her work as a stage director of new plays, classics and opera.

For her work as a director, writer and performer she has been honored as a Forbes 30 Under 30, TED Fellow, MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow, National Directing Fellow, Native American 40 Under 40 and a recipient of The White House Champion of Change Award from President Barack Obama.

Prior to ASU she served as the executive director of the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program. Sayet received a bachelor’s degree in drama from the New York University Tisch School of the Arts, a master’s degree in arts politics and postcolonial theory from New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study and a master’s degree in Shakespeare and creativity from The Shakespeare Institute. She joins ASU as a clinical assistant professor in the Department of English.

Emily Balli

Communications Specialist and Lead Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Dealing with 'COVID-somnia': ASU clinic launches new sleep group

Psychology graduate students train community to improve sleep habits

March 8, 2021

Sleep has only gotten worse for many people as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, and sleep neurologists have dubbed this reduction in quality sleep “COVID-somnia.”

Arizona State University's Clinical Psychology Center is launching a new Sleep Therapy Group designed to help people improve their sleep habits and understand why they may be having poor sleep. This group will be facilitated by ASU clinical psychology doctoral students and therapists Emma Lecarie and Mickie Gusman starting March 24.  Mickie Gusman and Emma Lecarie Mickie Gusman and Emma Lecarie from the ASU Clinical Psychology Center are launching a new Sleep Therapy Group designed to help people improve their sleep habits and understand why they may be having poor sleep. Download Full Image

Over 35% of the adults in the United States get less than the amount of sleep recommended by the Centers for Disease Control's guidelines. Additionally, approximately 70 million people in the United States deal with some level of sleep disorder every year, including sleep apnea, insomnia and narcolepsy. On top of that, 70% of college students report getting insufficient sleep. 

“The good news is that sleep is a fairly malleable process and by learning skills and practicing better sleep hygiene, many people can improve their sleep quickly,” said Lecarie, a third-year clinical psychology graduate student and resident therapist in the ASU Clinical Psychology Center. 

“We are launching this new six-week sleep group to help teach our community — both inside and outside of ASU — how to improve their sleep habits, manage issues they may be having surrounding sleep and ultimately help reduce anxiety or stress related to sleep.”

Poor sleep or insufficient sleep is linked very closely with increased stress, irritability, reduced attention, poorer grades, worse memory, increases in weight gain, along with an increased risk of getting sick from a weakened immune system. 

“While having poor sleep once in a while isn’t an issue, consistently having issues with sleep can be detrimental to a number of important long-term problems, such as depression, emotion regulation, hypertension or even obesity,” Gusman said. 

The new group is a teletherapy group delivered through Zoom and is designed to teach skills that are specific to issues that clients are experiencing such as health behaviors like drinking coffee too close to bedtime, not designating a space for rest or even using devices too close to sleep. 

The group uses the cognitive behavioral therapy model for insomnia strategies and teaches “experiments” that group members can practice on their own and document in a sleep journal. These practice sessions are backed by research studies demonstrated to have been effective in reducing sleep problems. 

“This is a once-per-week group where we talk about the importance of sleep, the mechanisms of sleep, the physiology of sleep and ways to improve someone’s sleep,” said Gusman, a second-year clinical psychology graduate student.

While sleep guidelines generally recommend eight hours of sleep for adults, Gusman and Lecarie want to reinforce that sleep requirements vary per person.

“Sleep issues are super common, and there are a lot of misconceptions about sleep — it really is dependent on the person and how much sleep they need in order to feel refreshed for the next day. A big part of our group is to help people to understand exactly what they personally need,” Lecarie said. 

To sign up for the new sleep therapy group, students and community members need to call the Clinical Psychology Center at 480-965-7296. The six week program is available on a weekly basis or clients can sign up for the entire program at a discounted rate. Sessions will take place from 4:30—5:30 p.m. every Thursday, starting March 25 until April 29.


Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology


Meet the 2021 ASU Founders' Day honorees

March 4, 2021

The ASU Alumni Association Founders’ Day awards program honors the pioneering spirit of the institution’s founders and celebrates the innovations of alumni, faculty members and supporters of one of the nation’s fastest-growing knowledge enterprises.

This year’s event will take place virtually at 5 p.m. MST/PST, Wednesday, March 24. There is no cost to attend the virtual celebration. Dramatic angle of a clear trophy for ASU Founders Day Download Full Image

Covering a wide range of areas, the awards acknowledge excellence in teaching, research, leadership, philanthropy and service. These honors include the Faculty Research Achievement Award, the Faculty Service Achievement Award, the Faculty Teaching Achievement Award, the Philanthropist of the Year Award and the Alumni Achievement Award.

The 2021 awards program will honor an alumna who has disrupted the beverage industry; a professor whose knowledge and contributions have had a global impact on mental health and diversity research; an economics professor selected to advise on enhancing opportunities for Black students, staff and faculty at ASU; a professor who wouldn’t let a pandemic hinder students’ ability to play music; and more than 350,600 donors who together made a tremendous impact on ASU.

Here are the honorees of the 2021 Founders’ Day event.

man's portrait in downtown Phoenix

Faculty Research Achievement Award

Flavio F. Marsiglia is a Regents Professor at the School of Social Work in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. He is the founder and director of the Global Center for Applied Health Research, which conducts intervention health research in partnership with universities and communities in Burundi, China, Guatemala, Israel, Kenya, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, Taiwan and Uruguay.

In the wake of the pandemic, Marsiglia played an integral role as principal investigator on a multiagency project funded by the National Institutes of Health, selecting 22 communities in vulnerable populations to receive free COVID-19 testing and setting the stage for these underserved communities to receive the vaccine.

Marsiglia’s research on cultural diversity and youth substance use is widely recognized, highly influential in the prevention field and credited with a measurable reduction in drug use and other high-risk behaviors among youth in Arizona, across the U.S. and in other countries.

He has developed and tested culturally grounded interventions to prevent substance abuse, especially among Latino and other minority populations of the Southwest, including the school-based Keepin' it REAL — an adolescent drug prevention program designated among the Top 100 in the MacArthur Foundation’s 100 & Change competition.

man's portrait on campus

Faculty Service Achievement Award

Jeffrey R. Wilson, who has a PhD in statistics, most recently was appointed as co-chair of ASU’s new Advisory Council on African American Affairs. Wilson works alongside ASU faculty, staff and students, assisting President Michael M. Crow in finding ways to overcome the systemic issues of racism and injustice at the university, local and national levels.

Wilson is an ASU professor of statistics and biostatistics with extensive experience in the biomedical, statistics and law, business management and public opinion research industries. He has served as an expert witness in legal cases concerning construction defects, sampling, insurance, patient billing, job discrimination, shoplifting and cheating allegations on law school exams — in addition to working with attorney general offices in Minneapolis, Flagstaff and Phoenix on racial profiling.

As service to the profession, Wilson recently co-authored a book with Katherine E. Irimata and Brittany N. Dugger titled “Fundamental Statistical Methods for Analysis of Alzheimer’s and Other Neurodegenerative Diseases.”

In addition to Wilson’s academic contributions, he provides national representation and support to Sun Devil Athletics. He is the ASU faculty representative to the Pac-12 and also a longtime member and past chair of the Sun Devil Athletics board.

man's portrait on ASU campus

Faculty Teaching Achievement Award

Equally at home in opera and musical theater, and involved with the development of more than two dozen new works, Brian DeMaris has established a national reputation as a renowned performer and highly impactful educator.

Currently an associate professor and artistic director of music theater and opera at ASU, DeMaris has most recently innovated new ways of practicing and performing — working with faculty and students to incorporate technology to enable live performances, addressing issues of systemic racism and inherent bias in musical theater and opera, and collaborating with the greater university and musical theater and opera staff and faculty to produce new “outdoor rooms” for students with shaded seating, power, lighting and Wi-Fi.

DeMaris has produced developmental workshops of six new works at ASU with professional collaborators including American Lyric Theatre, Beth Morrison Projects and the Phoenix Theatre Company.

woman's portrait

Alumni Achievement Award

For Kara Goldin, developing a drink that helped her to stop drinking diet soda was a personal quest. She was looking for a flavored water that used fruit for taste without having any sugar or diet sweeteners in it. She couldn’t find a drink like this and realized that it didn’t exist, so she developed it. What was born in her kitchen developed into a company and an entirely new category within the beverage industry. Hint started in San Francisco in 2005, and is now the largest nonalcoholic, privately held flavored water company in the U.S. today that doesn’t have a relationship with the large soda companies.

Goldin has received numerous accolades, including being named EY Entrepreneur of the Year 2017 Northern California, one of InStyle’s 2019 Badass 50, Fast Company’s Most Creative People in Business, WWD Beauty Inc.’s Feel Good Force and Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs. The Huffington Post listed her as one of six disruptors in business, alongside Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg.

She is an active speaker and writer and in 2017, she launched her podcast, “The Kara Goldin Show,” where she interviews founders, entrepreneurs and disruptors across various industries. Goldin’s first book, “Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters,” published by Harper Leadership, was released in October 2020 and is now a Wall Street Journal and Amazon Bestseller. 

Philanthropists of the Year Award

Because of their unsurpassed generosity, donors to Campaign ASU 2020 are the 2021 Arizona State University Founders’ Day Philanthropists of the Year. A decade ago, ASU launched the universitywide fundraising campaign to unite our growing body of supporters around the idea that, together, we can improve lives and influence society for the better.

More than 350,600 supporters raised $2.3 billion to fuel ASU's innovative, world-changing educational model that serves students, local and global communities, existing businesses and rising entrepreneurs. Their gifts powered many breakthroughs and successes and laid the groundwork for a future full of possibilities.

Find additional information about Founders’ Day or register for the event.

Morgan Harrison

Director of strategic communications , ASU Alumni Association


22 patents, 2 researchers, 1 university

National Academy of Inventors names ASU faculty as senior members

March 4, 2021

Inventing critical devices that monitor health, unraveling the secrets of potentially game-changing proteins, building connections with clinical partners and nurturing the future STEM workforce — that’s all in a day’s work for Arizona State University researchers Erica Forzani and Pamela Marshall.

To recognize their contributions to science and society, the National Academy of Inventors has named these researchers as senior members — two out of a class of 63 for spring 2021. time-lapse photo of car lights going beneath ASU bridge at night Download Full Image

According to the NAI, this honor is given to acknowledge those who produce technologies with real societal impact, foster a spirit of innovation within their communities and educate the next generation of inventors.

“These researchers not only contribute to the community of innovation at ASU, they also embody an inventive and entrepreneurial drive to bring solutions out of the lab and into the world,” said Sally C. Morton, executive vice president of the ASU Knowledge Enterprise. “With their focus on developing technologies that make a difference in people’s lives, they reflect the goal in our university’s charter of assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities we serve.”

A monarch of metabolic monitoring

Erica Forzani

Associate Professor Erica Forzani has contributed to the development of many important medical devices and technological advances during her career.

Chemical engineer Erica Forzani has contributed to the development of many important medical devices and technological advances during her career, particularly in the area of monitoring patients’ metabolisms.

Among the achievements that have earned her NAI senior member status are the first mobile device capable of detecting inflammatory biomarkers for asthma, the first point-of-care mobile sensor for real-time detection of carbon dioxide, the first mobile metabolic rate tracker, and a device that detects ammonia in biological fluids to diagnose signs of urea metabolism problems, liver disease and other diseases.

In total, Forzani holds 10 patents, 11 patent applications and three transferred intellectual properties and has written more than 90 peer-reviewed publications in science, engineering and medical research journals.

An associate professor of chemical engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Forzani is also director of the Medical Devices and Methods Laboratory in the ASU Health Futures Center and a mentor for the MedTech Accelerator, a flagship program of the Mayo Clinic and ASU Alliance for Health Care. In addition, she works with the Center for Bioelectronics and Biosensors in ASU’s Biodesign Institute.

Forzani leads the company Breezing, which arose from sensor technology she helped to create. The company’s device enables health care professionals to obtain metabolic data used to design personalized nutritional, weight and obesity management strategies.

Co-founding the company is one of the ways she is fulfilling a goal to take her career beyond the classroom and the lab.

“I’ve always wanted to work in a hospital and to help implement what I am teaching and what my research is producing,” said Forzani, who has been given the prestigious title of Fulton Entrepreneurial Professor. She teaches in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, one of the six Fulton Schools.

Forzani has also co-founded Sequitur Health Corporation with fellow Fulton Schools associate professor of chemical engineering Marylaura Lind Thomas and Mayo Clinic physician Dr. Leslie Thomas. The ASU spinoff venture focuses on medical devices for disease diagnosis with biomarker detection in body fluids. The technology is based on two ideas for which Forzani has been granted intellectual property rights.

One of her inventions has played an especially critical role over the last year. Developed in collaboration with Dr. Bhavesh Patel, a Mayo Clinic physician, it prevents dispersion of aerosols and moisture droplets in the air. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, hospitals have used the device to help stop the spread of the disease and provide a safer overall environment for health care workers and patients.

Colleagues who recommended Forzani for NAI senior membership noted that her collaborations with Mayo Clinic physicians have spanned from pulmonary care, exercise physiology, intensive care and nephrology to gastroenterology, cancer therapy and genetics. She has also worked with Barrow Neurological Institute on improving care for people with dementia.

Proteins and STEM dreams

Pamela Marshall

Professor Pamela Marshall’s work focuses on the discovery and design of new drugs for complex diseases.

Pamela Marshall is an expert in cell biology and pharmaceuticals whose work focuses on the discovery and design of new drugs for complex diseases. She holds 12 U.S. patents and is a professor in the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, part of the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences on ASU’s West campus.

Marshall is part of a multidisciplinary team that includes Carl Wagner and Peter Jurutka, both faculty in the same school. The team focuses on modulating a protein inside cells called the rexinoid X receptor (RXR). This critical protein is a promising target for anti-cancer drugs and therapies for Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease. In fact, the team’s work suggests that RXR may have a key role to perform in many different diseases.

“Together we have developed, synthesized, and tested almost 100 rexinoid compounds that we are studying for use to potentially treat cancer and neurodegenerative diseases,” Marshall said.

In addition to her game-changing research, Marshall is also paving the way for future generations of STEM researchers. In her lab, she has individually mentored over 100 undergraduate students, including many underrepresented students.

Supporting underrepresented populations in STEM and helping stimulate institutional change are a central part of Marshall’s role at ASU. She has worked with various programs, including the STEM-focused TRIO Student Support Services Program on the West campus, which supports first-generation students, low-income students and students with disabilities by providing mentoring and networking opportunities.

More recently, she became the director of an NSF-funded S-STEM Scholarship Program for low-income STEM majors, which partners with community colleges to offer professional development and award scholarships that support students throughout their higher education journeys. She is also a co-director of an NIH-funded summer program in environmental health science for underrepresented students in STEM who wish to explore careers in research. Termed the New College Environmental Health Science Scholars, this program helps connect interested students with research experiences and professional development.

Additionally, Marshall makes an effort to bring innovation into her classroom. In her upper-level course, “Fundamentals of Pharmacology,” she goes beyond teaching about drugs to focus on how the most effective drug discovery and design process is interdisciplinary and creative, helping to train the next generation of inventors.

Written by Joe Kullman and Mikala Kass

Jeffrey Kordower to lead ASU's fight against neurodegenerative diseases

March 4, 2021

Arizona State University has announced the appointment of Jeffrey Kordower as the founding director of the ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center and endowed chair as The Charlene and J. Orin Edson Distinguished Director at the Biodesign Institute.

For more than 30 years, Kordower has been a faculty member at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, where he was the Alla V. and Solomon Jesmer Professor of Neurological Sciences. His pathbreaking investigations into the underpinnings of neurodegenerative disease have made him a leader in the field and his ambitious plans for the NDRC promise to make the facility an internationally recognized center of excellence in this highly diverse research space. Jeffrey Kordower is the founding director of the ASU-Banner Neurodegenerative Disease Research Center and endowed chair as The Charlene and J. Orin Edson Distinguished Director at the Biodesign Institute. Download Full Image

Kordower’s interests include the study of gene and stem cell therapies, disease pathogenesis including the morphological and molecular changes during the course of neurodegeneration, learning and memory, and aging. He has also been a pioneer in the field of neural transplantation techniques.

He has conducted innovative studies on Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s disease and has a particular passion for Parkinson’s research and related disorders. He has explored these illnesses in great depth, describing his findings in over 400 research papers, edited books and book chapters.

“It’s with immense excitement that we welcome Jeff to our Institute,” said Joshua LaBaer, executive director of the Biodesign Institute. “We anticipate his efforts will complement the existing research strengths of the NDRC, ultimately transforming this center into a global powerhouse of new ideas and bold solutions for these devastating ailments.”

A stealthy and relentless foe

A suite of human diseases, known to progressively degrade the brain, have been among the most devastating in all of medical science. Such neurodegenerative disorders include Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, the two most prevalent afflictions, as well as many other neurological ailments.

These diseases have exacted a pitiless toll on patients and caregivers and threaten to overwhelm health care systems without improved methods of early detection, better therapeutics and preventive measures. The establishment of the NDRC therefore answers one of the most urgent needs facing society.

Many factors, from genetics to environment, contribute to these still mysterious diseases, but the greatest risk factor for all of them is age. The issue of neurodegenerative disease is particularly acute in Arizona, where over 1 million people over the age of 65 currently live. This population expected expand to 2.4 million by 2050.

Nerve center

Kordower describes the new appointment as a dream job: “The only job I want is to build an internationally recognized neurodegenerative disease research center from the ground up and I’m confident that with the resources ASU has provided, is providing and will likely provide in the future, that's a very attainable goal,” Kordower said.

To further these ambitions, Kordower draws on his extensive experience in pioneering basic research, clinical trials and clinical care and far-flung industry partnerships. (Research from Kordower’s lab has already resulted in seven clinical trials.)

In the immediate future, Kordower plans on five new faculty hires, though he expects that over time, the NDRC will grow well beyond this.

“You need to have representation for all the major neurodegenerative diseases, so you need someone who's an expert in Alzheimer’s, in Parkinson’s, in ALS, maybe in multiple sclerosis. But then you also need people who will bridge all of these disease-related silos, including experts in inflammation and immune responses and expertise in misfolded proteins which are common for many degenerative diseases.” 

Quest for answers

Finding safe and effective treatments for neurodegenerative diseases has been a daunting challenge for medical science, with many promising efforts and billions of dollars in research investments and drug development yielding few successes. It is clear that radically new thinking will be required to overcome this stalemate.

Kordower’s research is on the forefront of one such innovation, the introduction of dopamine-producing cells into regions of the brain damaged by Parkinson’s disease. Indeed, he and his colleagues were the first to demonstrate that grafts of dopaminergic cells can survive, innervate and form synapses in patients with Parkinson’s disease. This was a major milestone, overturning long-held assumptions that the brain could only lose, but never gain, functioning neurons over time.

He has also been among the first to intensively study misfolded proteins capable of seeding the brain and spreading from cell to cell. The findings come from studies showing the development of inclusions of the protein α-synuclein, known as Lewy bodies, appearing in grafted tissue. These intriguing new discoveries imply that the whole range of neurodegenerative disorders may be thought of as “prion-like” diseases.

Another area of active research for Kordower addresses an ongoing hurdle in the treatment of neurodegenerative disease, the inability to reach targets in the brain with therapeutic drugs due to the blood-brain barrier. Recent studies have shown that this boundary between the circulating blood and the extracellular space of the brain can be temporarily and selectively opened, providing an entryway for drugs to reach the brain, through the use of low frequency, focused ultrasound.

A new era begins

Recognized as an outstanding scholar and teacher, Kordower is the recipient of many prestigious awards and appointments. He has been recognized as a Director’s Scholar and Professor of Neurodegeneration at the Van Andel Institute. He received the Huntington’s Disease Society of America’s Award of Excellence in Medicine, was a John Douglas French Fellow for the Study of Alzheimer's Disease and won the Bernard Sandberg Memorial Award for Brain Repair.

Kordower has served as a consultant to both the FDA and numerous pharmaceutical companies, including Takeda, Biogen, A.P. and others, and has served on numerous editorial boards including as an associate editor for Neurobiology of Aging. He completed his undergraduate and graduate education at Queens College, the City University of New York and was a postdoc at the University of Rochester School of Medicine. He has also received an honorary Doctor of Science from the City University of New York.

“There are people out there suffering with neurodegenerative diseases and we will do everything to try to help them,” Kordower said. “If you want an overarching goal of my center, it’s this: Every decision will be laser-focused on how we can help patients.”

Richard Harth

Science writer, Biodesign Institute at ASU


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Koppell to amplify ASU's socially embedded initiatives in new role

In new role, Koppell wants to give students broader, deeper paths to service.
March 2, 2021

Watts dean wants to create more public-service opportunities for students

Arizona State University’s commitment to the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves is embedded in its charter.

As part of that commitment, ASU President Michael Crow has named Jonathan Koppell to the newly created position of vice provost for public service and social impact. Koppell will remain dean of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

The Watts College has multiple socially embedded initiatives and Koppell will coordinate universitywide efforts in every ASU unit that addresses pressing social issues.

Several programs will be overseen from the Office of the Executive Vice President and University Provost and Koppell, including the Public Service Academy, Changemaker Central, Devils in Disguise and service-learning and community-engagement programs.

Koppell answered some questions from ASU News on his new role:

Question: Why is it important to have a vice provost devoted to public service and social impact?

Answer: The charter, which is so important to us at ASU, has this critical element that says we take responsibility for the condition of the community we serve. That’s a crucial part of our mission, alongside our commitment to accessibility.

There are extraordinary things happening all over the university that live out that mission. But there’s an opportunity for the whole to be more than the sum of its parts, and we haven’t yet fully realized that potential.

This role represents an expression, on the social impact side, of our mission to advance the well-being of the communities we serve both in geographic and population terms, really in every possible way you can conceive of community.

The public service part is also an extension of our mission. We encourage our students to adopt the same ethos — to embrace the idea that they, too, have a responsibility to serve and advance the well-being of the community of which they are a part.

That’s why we created the Public Service Academy, which was created and run through Watts, but is not exclusive to Watts students. In fact, the majority of Public Service Academy students are not public service majors. They’re engineering, business, nursing, Herberger (Institute) – over 160 different majors!

And of course, there are thousands of ASU students who are doing public service every single day.

So there’s an opportunity to support, coordinate and amplify the service activities at ASU to increase the positive impact and to increase the opportunities for every ASU student, staff member and faculty member to engage in meaningful service.

Q: How will you support, coordinate and amplify those service opportunities?

A: One example is university service-learning. We’d like to see that reach many more students. I envision university service-learning offerings in every college and we already have terrific things going. Consider the Engineering Projects in Community Service program, where students in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering connect their training with public service. Students in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication are engaged in service in the community. And students in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts are doing creative engagement activities in every discipline.

And of course, most of our students in the Watts College are engaged in service or service-learning. It’s who we are.

I think we can not only increase the number of students doing service, but we can raise the level of the experience so it’s not just the labor of cleaning a park or serving a meal. It would be a way to use the opportunity to better understand the nature of the challenge being addressed.

That higher level of service engagement is something I would like to see us model for all universities.

When we created the Public Service Academy, our goal was not to own this space exclusively. It was to be a model that attracted attention and to encourage other universities to do the same. We’re well on our way to that objective with the creation of the Next Gen Service Partnership. It’s demonstrating to all institutions what a university can and should be.

Jonathan Koppell

Jonathan Koppell is the new vice provost for public service and social impact. He will remain dean of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Q: Explain what ASU means by “social embeddedness.”

A: What social embeddedness does not mean is that we put on our ASU sweatshirts and go into a community and say, “We’re from ASU and we’re here to help.”

Social embeddedness means you enter a community with humility and an eagerness to be partners. I learned from my colleagues in the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center about an approach called “community-based participatory research.”

One of the things SIRC researchers emphasize in designing their work is that the community members are co-principal investigators. In academia, the principal investigator is the professor who is running the research program, and it’s a big statement to say that the community members are the co-PIs. We’ve tried to adopt this mindset across Watts College.

The normal way you’d think of it is that the community members are the subjects and we’re running an intervention and will test the results. Under that way of thinking, the community members would be “human subjects.”

It turns out that people don’t appreciate being experimental subjects. They like being co-investigators. That’s the way social embeddedness thrives, when it’s viewed as a partnership of equals. And that’s what we’re trying to achieve with this initiative. ASU will not only do work in the community, we will do work with the community in the service of the community.

There is, for good reasons, often a nervousness and hesitation to work with academic institutions: because generally this is not the attitude. It’s a barrier to a lot of potentially beneficial projects.

This isn’t just about figuring out a way to weasel your way in. It’s about building a foundation for constructive collaboration that’s going to yield really positive insight into the way challenges can be met.

Q: Does that take a long time?

A: I’ve had to learn that you can’t earn trust and build confidence and also move at light speed. Those things don’t go together.

The key is that you build a foundation of trust and relationships and a track record, and if you do that, then you’re ready to move quickly when the moment strikes.

Watts College is effective in part because we’ve had years of faculty members and centers establishing good working relationships with nonprofits, civic associations and also with government agencies, so that when a grant opportunity comes about or a solicitation is made available, we can pick up the phone and call our friends and say, “Want to do this together?” And they know they can trust us. It’s not like we have to start from scratch each time.

Q: What happens when that effort falls short?

A: The time and effort and listening are not just about “How are you?” It’s saying, “How can we do better? Where have we messed up?”

We asked those questions and we got answers.

We asked people, “In your experience working with us or other academic institutions, what have you disliked?”

People said, “You know, this professor came in and did research for two years and asked a lot of questions and got a bunch of data and then never told us what they found. They didn’t share the results.”

That’s incredibly disrespectful. That should never happen.

So, part of what we hope to do is to build a set of principles or expectations so that an ASU researcher doing work in the community has a field manual on how we expect them to do socially embedded work at ASU.

One example is that you always build into your plan a report back to the community on what you learned.

Another thing we heard was, “You came, and you started something, and then when the money ran out, you disappeared.”

The reality is that a lot of the stuff we do is time limited because of external funding. That implies two things: We have to be really clear on expectations so that people don’t think we’re starting something that will go on forever if you know it won’t outlive a grant. And second, if you’re going to start something, a critical element of your design will be how to make it last. That’s been a big part of our question in Maryvale: “How do we make this exist in perpetuity without us?” This isn’t supposed to be an ASU initiative. It’s a Maryvale initiative.

We need to build into each project a design for sustainability.

Q: Can you describe how ASU’s work in the Maryvale community in Phoenix is an example of social embeddedness?

A: In Maryvale we’ve launched the One Square Mile Initiative. The premise is derived in part from an observation that there many ASU things going on in the community. We have things in Watts College, but also the College of Health Solutions, the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, W. P. Carey School of Business, the J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship and Innovation Institute, and things in engineering and teaching and the arts.

There are so many different things that are designed to take on really tough challenges and make the world a better place. But we haven’t knit those things together.

And that creates lost opportunities.

First of all, it doesn’t give people a sense of everything the university does. It’s like the old anecdote about touching the elephant — you don’t know everything that’s going on if you only touch one piece.

But more importantly, we won’t reach our potential if we only address one part of a multidimensional challenge.

The goal in the Maryvale project is to capture the full capacity of the university and channel it.

We’ve moved at a deliberate pace. As Erik Cole, the director of the Design Studio for Community Solutions for the One Square Mile project, puts it, “We move at the speed of trust.” So, the members of the community feel like it’s their project and we support them. That’s our goal from the outset. We’re engaged deeply and spend a lot of time listening.

One of the things we discovered, not surprisingly, is the phenomenon of well-intentioned but disconnected pieces applies to government programs and even community initiatives. You have nonprofits working three doors away from each other but they don’t know what each other is doing.

We can focus on giving the community the opportunity to articulate its needs and then they can tap into the capital of ASU to meet those needs.

Q: What is an example of that?

A: One thing we heard from the community partners in Maryvale is a deep hunger for English classes.

This is a community of strivers, of people who are ambitious for themselves and their children and that was a need they had to continue their progress.

And so we went to our friends at Global Launch of ASU and said, “I know this isn’t what you do but can you teach English classes in Maryvale?”

And their answer, which we fully expected, was, “Yes, we’d be excited to.”

What is so great about this university is that the answer is usually, “Yes. When can we start?”

Here you have an example of a program coming to a community that’s hungry for it, which wouldn’t have happened if we hadn’t created a bridge to connect the university and the community.

Similarly, we’re helping to bring the incredible COVID testing capacity that’s been built in the Biodesign Institute to Maryvale, and translating all the materials into Spanish so it’s more accessible.

So, these are just few examples that show what happens when you flip the script and say, “What is missing and how can ASU fill in the gaps?”

We see One Square Mile in Maryvale as an opportunity to build a protype that can be replicated.

Ultimately what it shows is how seemingly intractable problems — things that policy nerds call wicked problems — are not so wicked after all, and they can be solved.

As President Crow says, “We don’t think we’re going to solve the problems of the world, but we will show that the problems of the world can be solved.”

Q: How will this new service initiative affect students?

A: We hope to take things like Changemaker Central and Devils in Disguise and ratchet them up substantially.

The generation of students in school now are highly service motivated. There was this idea floating around when we created the Public Service Academy that we needed to light the fire of public service in the current generation of students. I think actually, many young people today are more service motivated than other generations.

But they don’t necessarily know the best way to make a difference. They have a burning desire but don’t have a tool set, and that’s what the Public Service Academy was created to do.

Not everyone needs to major in public policy or social work to do public service. We wanted to give everyone some sense of their own efficacy in addressing this.

By making different avenues of that education available, whether it’s Changemaker Central or university service learning, we’ll be empowering all ASU students to realize the vision they have to make the world a better place. That’s what this initiative is all about.

Success looks like a broad set of pathways that reveal themselves to ASU students who are interested in serving the greater good.

Top photo courtesy ASU

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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Brayboy named ASU's new vice president for social advancement

February 26, 2021

New duties will include overseeing and implementing a variety of academic and social initiatives in Arizona, Hawaii

Arizona State University’s Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy has a bevy of job titles and picked up a new one in February.

Brayboy was named the university’s vice president of social advancement. The new title carries with it a lot of national and global responsibilities and duties, and it’s something that Brayboy is eager to get in motion.

“I’m very excited about this portfolio because it allows me to take on new challenges that are near and dear to my heart,” said Brayboy, President’s Professor, director of the Center for Indian Education and ASU’s senior adviser to the president on American Indian affairs. “This work is an opportunity for ASU to continue living our charter. The social advancement aspect is crucial. Part of my role is to convene people and to bring our vast intellectual and research power to assist in helping create the conditions for a better society.”

Brayboy said the new focus area of his job will be to build and strengthen capacity on many levels. He said this starts with individuals, who should develop their personal and academic skills so they can create futures of their own making. He also wants other institutions to utilize ASU’s resources to make themselves stronger in order to better serve their constituents, and for the wider society to create opportunities of racial and economic equity.

ASU President Michael Crow chose Brayboy for the role, saying his reputation as a convenor for facilitating conversation and bringing people together made him the ideal candidate for the job.

"As a New American University committed to being of service, we take seriously our responsibility to support the success of communities, both near and far," Crow said. "ASU's bank of expertise, resources and learning opportunities can help communities to craft well-designed, effective solutions. We want to convene and help empower individuals to achieve their goals and live their best lives."

Brayboy’s new responsibilities will cover a broad spectrum of transformational initiatives, including research projects, sustainability practices, academic and nonprofit collaborations, and social advancements with national and global impacts.

These are items that fall under ASU’s charter and leverage almost all eight of the university’s design aspirations, Brayboy said, which essentially ask the university to assume fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves.

Large marble sign

The ASU Charter on Cady Mall on the ASU Tempe campus explains the university's mission to every student, faculty and staff member, and guest. Photo courtesy of ASU News. 

One of the larger objectives before Brayboy is to enact ASU’s vision for work in Hawaii, where a number of partnerships and research projects regarding food systems, oceans and education are already taking place.

“We get asked: Why is ASU in Hawaii? There are several reasons. Hawaii is a clear indicator and harbinger for what will happen in the future regarding our planet. Hawaii is a vibrant state that is, in many ways, an incredible place to explore the planet,” Brayboy said. “The geography includes everything from the top of a mountain to the bottom of the ocean floor and everything in between. It contains vibrant reefs, interesting food systems, unbelievable cultural knowledges and fantastic opportunities for us to learn. And contribute. If we’re really going to engage in — and be guided by — research with local people and explore planetary health and its intersections with rich cultural knowledges, this is the setting for us to be able to do that. The partnerships and relationships we have in Hawaii are so enriching. It goes both ways.”

One place where this is happening is ASU’s Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science, which launched in Hawaii in 2019 and is led by professors Greg Asner and Robin Martin in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. They have been working to document and save Hawaiian coral reefs, particularly during the 2019 Pacific Ocean warming event, to help hundreds of students and researchers with data from the largest constellation of satellites currently in orbit.

Asner and Martin aren’t the only professors working in Hawaii. ASU last month hired Haunani Kane, a Native Hawaiian scholar who will bring her extensive knowledge in climate science to the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and the Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science as an assistant professor.

Woman on the beach

Haunani Kane was hired in 2020 and will bring her extensive knowledge in climate science to ASU as an assistant professor. Photo courtesy Haunani Kane.

Kane’s research combines coastal geomorphology, paleo-environmental reconstructions, spatial analysis and the perspectives of a Native islander to investigate how islands, reefs and island people are impacted by changes in climate. As a National Science Foundation postdoctoral research fellow, she has spent nearly 200 days at sea aboard both traditional sailing and modern research vessels. She is working on a project in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, a cultural and natural UNESCO World Heritage site in Hawaii.

ASU Prep Digital, an accredited online school serving students in grades K–12 and school partners around the world, recently helped Kamehameha Schools and Hawaii’s Department of Education build a personalized learning model to allow approximately 6,000 students to continue their education through the pandemic. The coursework emphasizes STEM exercises, language and culture.

According to Lisa Edgar, chief partnership officer for ASU Prep Digital, her division was charged with building this model within a hundred days. Not only did they make their goal, but she said students are thriving under this format.

“When the pandemic hit, we partnered with these schools to help ensure their students could continue their learning in a flexible and personalized approach,” Edgar said. “Not only are we helping to provide learning continuity for these students, but we are also giving students an opportunity to be exposed to university-level courseware early on in their high school career.”

Brayboy said this is the perfect example of social advancement.

“ASU Prep Digital built a school for the immediate needs borne of a global health pandemic. But they did so in a way that addresses the mid-term impacts of providing students with opportunities to also earn college credits and an even longer-term benefit of being prepped to complete a college degree in an increasingly complex society,” Brayboy said. “That’s part of the work of social advancement. It’s great for the individual students, it dramatically improved the institution’s ability to meet the educational needs of its students, and it created a small sense of equilibrium in communities and a society facing massive health disparities.”

The university is also building and investing in longer-term initiatives in Hawaii, including tagging along on the Polynesian Voyaging Society’s worldwide canoe trip that will visit approximately 45 countries, including 100 Indigenous territories and archipelagos. The 41,000-nautical mile circumnavigation of the Pacific Ocean is expected to take 42 months.

ASU is partnering with other organizations to support the creation of a “Third Canoe” — an online platform that will allow educators and students across the globe to virtually participate and learn. The idea is to draw attention to the voyage and inspire people to make good sustainability choices for a healthier planet.

Generally, there are only 12 to15 individuals on any leg of a sail. The Third Canoe will create virtual reality experiences that will allow millions of people to experience part of a voyage, with the possibilities of virtual labs and educational experiences, linking learners across the globe around the common theme of planetary health and the future of the planet.

“The opportunity to leverage our online learning assets with our creativity and innovation with the courage and vision of PVS and its navigators advances our understanding of the Pacific Ocean, a 10 million-square-mile body of water, and it allows us to connect people from Arizona to Tahiti to Chile on this sail,” Brayboy said. “In that effort, we advance our collective understanding of what decisions we can make as individuals and organizations — as a broad global community — to be better stewards of the home we all share: Mother Earth.”

Jody Kaulukukui, senior advancement officer for the ASU Foundation who is based in Hawaii, said, “Bryan Brayboy is the ideal choice for this position. He understands that relationships are important for an island community, and he works hard to be a trusted and valuable partner.” And of Kaulukukui, Brayboy said, “She’s the secret sauce to our efforts. None of this happens without her wisdom and guidance.”

Group of people in a room

ASU's Bryan Brayboy (far right) meeting with a contingent of representatives with the Polynesian Voyaging Society in Hawaii during a three-day meeting at ASU in February 2020. Photo courtesy of Bryan Brayboy.

 Closer to home, Brayboy will work on:

  • Advancing the overall mission of “To Be Welcoming,” an online curriculum developed by EdPlus at ASU — now residing in Learning Enterprise — for all Starbucks employees that is intended to drive reflection and conversation on the topic of bias. The curriculum has been adapted for use by ASU students and the community at large. It helps individuals work through challenges from perspectives of curiosity and understanding, Brayboy said: “Employers and society want individuals who seek to understand the experiences of those different than they are. It’s good for everyone.” He is working closely with the School of Social Transformation (Jessica Solyom and Mako Fitts Ward) on this effort. Brian Nethero (EdPlus at ASU), Kim Merritt (ASU Learning Enterprise), and Lisa Young (Office of University Affairs) have also been crucial to this effort, Brayboy said.

  • Coordinating with Sukhwant Jhaj, vice provost of academic innovation and student advancement, and dean of University College; Cassandra Aska, dean of students; Melissa Pizzo, associate vice president of Enrollment Services; and Jacob Moore, assistant vice president for tribal relations, to build a data-driven model of success that will help the university to make better decisions in serving Indigenous students. If successful, they will use the model to serve other populations at the university. 

These new duties sound like a lot of responsibility, but Brayboy said his job is really simple.

“I’m a facilitator of other peoples’ success — I’m not the reason for their success,” he said. “My job is to make sure they have what they need, get out of their way and let them do their good work. How great is that?” 

Top photo: President's Professor and new Vice President of Social Advancement at Arizona State University Bryan Brayboy poses for a portrait outside his home in Phoenix on Feb. 16, 2021. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU News 

AAAS award marks ASU advances in STEM diversity, equity and inclusion

February 25, 2021

It’s no secret that STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) fields need more diversity and would greatly benefit from the new perspectives and ideas that come with it. Now increasing diversity has moved from a topic of discussion to one of action.

Arizona State University is leading the way, and the American Association for the Advancement of Science has taken notice through its SEA Change initiative, an effort focused on STEM equity and inclusion for underrepresented students, faculty and staff.   Scientist working in a lab SEA Change recently gave ASU a bronze-level award for its efforts in STEM equity and inclusion. ASU was one of only five universities given this distinction, the highest level of recognition ever awarded. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU News Download Full Image

SEA Change recently gave ASU a bronze-level award for its efforts in STEM equity and inclusion. ASU was one of only five universities given this distinction, the highest level of recognition ever awarded. 

While much remains to be done and the focus needs to remain in perpetuity, ASU has made significant progress in STEM equity and inclusion. SEA (for STEM Equity Achievement) Change is a comprehensive initiative from the AAAS that implements a proven self-assessment process to effect sustainable change with regard to diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM at U.S. institutions of higher education. 

ASU’s action plan already is delivering. In the past six months alone, ASU has announced a series of high-level hires to its executive leadership, bringing in Sally C. Morton as the first woman to head the Knowledge Enterprise, ASU’s $640 million research organization, and appointing Nancy Gonzales as provost pro tempore and executive vice president to lead ASU’s Academic Enterprise. 

The College at ASU recently announced three new hires in its natural science departments and schools, naming Donatella Danielli the director of the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, Patricia Rankin as chair of the Department of Physics, and Tijana Rajh as director of the School of Molecular Sciences.  

“Our world faces multiple challenges, many of which need new advances in science and technology to help solve,” said Gonzales, who will become ASU’s executive vice president and university provost on July 1. “What helps most in tackling these grand challenges are new perspectives that will only be possible if women and underrepresented groups are included in STEM.

“This is what makes breaking down barriers and being more inclusive so important. It is about equity and inclusion and belongingness, but it’s also about achievement and moving forward as a society.”

The SEA Change award recognizes institutions for their past efforts and proposed commitments to create diverse, inclusive and equitable campus environments where students, faculty and staff thrive. For ASU, the award review process drew upon the expertise of a large and diverse faculty committee and included an institutional self-assessment and resulting five-year action plan (2021–26) to address barriers and challenges to advance equity, diversity and inclusion at ASU.  

The award requires institutions to conduct a data-based self-assessment to appraise their institutional makeup, policies and culture to identify knowledge gaps and barriers. Each institution then develops detailed plans to become more diverse, more equitable and more inclusive in its educational functions and in its operations.  

“As a leading university, we have to look into the future to see what society will need and it needs the new thinking that women and people who come from many diverse segments of our culture can bring to STEM fields,” ASU President Michael Crow said. “Earning a SEA Change bronze award shows ASU is on the right course to make this happen and that we don’t just say it, we act upon it and open access and continue to remove barriers to science and technology education.” 

The SEA Change awards require participating institutions to improve. Institutions must reapply at least every five years to maintain their award level or earn a higher award level. Gold and silver awards also are attainable depending on how far the institution has advanced and how far the culture change has emanated throughout the organization.

ASU was cited for an action plan that prioritizes institutional transformation to actualize the ASU Charter. Specific actions include:

  • Fostering and reinforcing a culture of valuing the synergies between access, excellence, diversity, equity, inclusion and belongingness. 
  • Dismantling cultural and structural barriers that hinder more inclusive models of excellence. 
  • Aligning and reinforcing the ASU Charter in the hiring, promotion, evaluation, retention and university culture in adopting both structural changes at the university, college and department level and individual faculty initiatives, like mentoring.
  • Integrating networked responses to institutional changes and linking structures and initiatives with organizations and faculty groups to achieve widespread university collaboration, dissemination and adoption of innovations and initiatives to align the ASU Charter and culture with diversity, equity, inclusion and belongingness values. 

ASU’s 28-page action plan includes specific actions for various campus groups to advance equity, inclusion, diversity and belonging at ASU.

The wider representation in the STEM fields will benefit all those who come into contact with ASU.  

“The key to inclusion and diversity is a supportive culture that values people for their contributions and their actions,” said Lindy Elkins-Tanton, who recently was appointed vice president of the Interplanetary Initiative, which is building the future of humans in space to create a bolder and better society. “All the hiring metrics in the world won't work without a good culture; without the culture people who feel more like outliers will lack the support to persist and become leaders. Here at ASU, I'm proud to say, we are working on that culture. We want every voice to be heard.”  

ASU Interplanetary Initiative welcomes deputy director

New thought leader will serve the growing needs of the initiative’s programs and organizational development

February 24, 2021

The ASU Interplanetary Initiative has announced the addition of Jessica Rousset as the organization’s first deputy director. Rousset is a deeply skilled and experienced senior leader who will partner with Vice President Lindy Elkins-Tanton and the staff to advance the initiative’s work in human space futures. Her key areas of focus will be engaging with government, private sector and academic partners to raise Interplanetary Initiative's research and education efforts to new levels.  

“What resonates most for me about ASU’s Interplanetary Initiative, is its goal of creating a better future for humanity here on Earth, through the lens of life beyond our precious planet,” said Rousset. “The Interplanetary Initiative is expansive and has profound transformational potential at scale. As a renowned leader in academic innovation, I cannot think of a better place than ASU to lead such an ambitious project.” portrait of ASU Interplanetary Initiative new Deputy Director Jessica Rousset Jessica Rousset, deputy director at ASU's Interplanetary Initiative Download Full Image

Rousset is an operational business development and commercialization leader with more than 20 years' experience growing early-stage technology companies as well as creating innovation engines in large organizations. She is an expert in bridging academic, government and corporate interests toward the common goal of improving people’s lives. 

Above all, she believes in a mindful approach to leadership, focused on creating an honest and safe culture that values divergent thinking and embraces meaningful conflict. 

Before launching her own consulting practice, she was the chief operations officer at CURE Pharmaceutical, a publicly traded drug delivery company where she oversaw operations, defined strategy and drove growth. Prior to that, she served as the head of innovation at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, where over a 10-year period, she founded its Center for Innovation, helped launch medtech and biotech companies improving children’s lives and launched an FDA-funded national pediatric technology accelerator. She has also held positions at the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, California, and GlaxoSmithkline Biologicals, in Brussels, Belgium.

She trained as a biochemical engineer at the Institut National des Sciences Appliquées in Lyon, France, and is a graduate of University of Southern California’s Healthcare Leadership Academy. 

Jessica joins ASU from Los Angeles, accompanied by her husband, Gabriel, two children, Mateo and Siana, and their feline friend, Felix.

Taryn Struck

Manager of Marketing and Publicity, Interplanetary Initiative