Record number of donors support ASU on Sun Devil Giving Day

Generosity to ASU will fuel scholarships, innovation, emerging programs and student success

March 28, 2019

More than 9,300 individuals gave a record-breaking total of $11.4 million on Sun Devil Giving Day to support the causes they care about at Arizona State University.

Sun Devil Giving Day — celebrated annually on all ASU campuses — lasted for 24 hours on March 21, giving alumni, parents, fans, students, faculty and staff the opportunity to give to causes and ASU programs. Sun Devil Giving Day is an annual celebration of generosity to ASU. Christopher Marohn, program manager for professional education in the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law (left), and Ray English, assistant dean in the college's Office of Career and Employment Services, take part in Sun Devil Giving Day, an annual celebration of generosity to ASU students, faculty, staff and programs. Download Full Image

“Sun Devil Giving Day gives me the opportunity to support the programs I’ve been a part of,” said Amanda Alibrandi, who studies public administration and nonprofit leadership and management at ASU and is the Micheal Boulden Memorial intern for ASU Enterprise Partners. “It’s important to develop and sustain those programs so more students have access and can benefit from them.”

Supporters had the option to give to a specific ASU college or unit, or to one of the many causes advanced at ASU. Students at each campus had the opportunity to vote on projects they consider important, including clean-water programs, first-generation scholarships, cancer research, environmental sustainability and arts and culture.

In addition to generating support, Sun Devil Giving Day encourages the ASU community to cultivate a culture of philanthropy and an understanding of its impact on the university. Andrew Carey, executive director of donor outreach for the ASU Foundation, said private support gives ASU the margin of excellence it needs to innovate and elevate the university experience for all students, faculty and staff.


• Donors surpassed last year’s gift total of 4,325 by 10:50 a.m.

• The number of gifts increased by 115 percent.

• Alumni led the way, with more than 955 donations.

• Donations through Aramark point-of-sale locales increased by 409 percent. These gifts support the Sun Devil Family Association’s Student Crisis Fund and help students facing financial and personal crises.

This year’s total also includes an anonymous gift of $10 million to the W. P. Carey School of Business. When joined with gifts of all sizes from 9,319 donors, Sun Devil Giving Day raised $11,462,634 on behalf of ASU students, faculty, staff and programs.

Story by Shannon Ganzer, ASU Enterprise Partners

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ASU, SparkLabs Group launch innovation accelerator for all ASU students and alumni

March 27, 2019

SparkLabs Group, a network of accelerators and venture capital funds, has launched a new accelerator program with Arizona State University named SparkLabs Frontier–ASU.

SparkLabs Frontier–ASU will provide training, mentors and investment funding for all participants across the university’s various schools and programs, including the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, W. P. Carey School of Business and Thunderbird School of Global Management. Additionally, the new program will be open to any ASU alumni.

ASU is the only university to ever be ranked the No. 1 most innovative school in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, a top spot it has held for four straight years. ASU also is ranked 17th globally for patents in 2018 by the U.S. National Academy of Inventors and the Intellectual Property Owners Association, and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering has one of the largest numbers of engineering students with more than 22,000 students enrolled.

“Entrepreneurial for ASU means partnerships and alliances, and it means driving ideas, technologies and inventions that matter, that will have real impact,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “Partnerships like this one with SparkLabs Group will move innovation and entrepreneurialism forward, which is necessary for the continuation of the success of the state, the country and the world.”

The accelerator program commences in July with applications opening on May 13. The program will be managed for ASU by ASU Entrepreneurship + Innovation, as a complement to the university’s hub for entrepreneurship services and resources provided to students, faculty, staff, alumni and the broader Phoenix community.

Different from other SparkLabs startup accelerators, SparkLabs Frontier–ASU will have a pre-accelerator component focused on developing individual students and program participants over the course of three or four months. The pre-accelerator program will help individuals develop their startup ideas and bring together co-founders and other factors to improve their chances to be accepted into the primary accelerator program run by SparkLabs Frontier–ASU. The training and seminars will cover topics such as team building, business ethics, startup fundraising and other relevant areas.

After the pre-accelerator portion, the four-month accelerator program will accept six to eight startups. A new requirement that the SparkLabs Group is implementing is the creation of 30 percent stock option vs. the standard of 10-20 percent for seed-stage startups.

“SparkLabs Frontier–ASU's mission is to identify, nurture and scale the development and growth of outstanding startup founders from ASU's world-leading blend of engineering, business and management talent and technology. This tremendously exciting partnership will bring ASU student and alumni companies into the SparkLabs family of over 200 world-class startups, helping to scale and realize their global ambitions,” said Frank Meehan, co-founder and partner at SparkLabs Group, who is best known for leading investments in DeepMind and Siri (at his prior firm).

SparkLabs Frontier–ASU will be working with select training partners such as the Global Scaling Academy. Co-founded by Jeff Abbott and Chris Yeh, the Global Scaling Academy helps organizations learn and apply the lessons of “Blitzscaling: The Lightning-Fast Path to Building Massively Valuable Companies”  (, which Yeh co-authored with Reid Hoffman. The Global Scaling Academy will be a training partner for all SparkLabs Frontier accelerators.

“The Global Scaling Academy is dedicated to helping entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs everywhere create and scale massively valuable businesses. Working with SparkLabs Frontier–ASU helps bring the ideas of 'Blitzscaling' to tens of thousands of entrepreneurs,” said Yeh.

SparkLabs Fronter–ASU is supported by a world-class advisory board. Steven Johnson is the best-selling popular science author who wrote books such as “Everything Bad Is Good For You,” “Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation” and “The Ghost Map.” He is joined by Hammer (MC Hammer), Grammy Award-winning music artist, record producer and entrepreneur; Barry Munitz, chancellor emeritus of the California State University System; and Katharina Borchert, chief innovation officer at Mozilla. The Venture Partners for SparkLabs Frontier–ASU include: Chris Yeh, serial entrepreneur and co-author of The New York Times best-seller “The Alliance”; Jimmy Lin, founder of the Rare Genomics Institute and a TED Fellow; Jen Millard, chief revenue officer at GetUpside; and Jared Carney, CEO of Lightdale and former CSO and CMO at the Milken Institute.

Image by Free-Photos from Pixabay 

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Saving the world from thin air

March 27, 2019

Envisioning a new approach to an old problem — removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere

In the 1990s, theoretical physicist Klaus Lackner had an idea. Was it possible to build a contraption that physically sucked greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere?

At the time, the idea was radical. Some people thought it was nuts.

Two decades later, many of the experts have come around to Lackner’s view. Pulling carbon from the air is now seen as crucial, and Lackner has created such a machine. ASU has supported the vision, naming Lackner director of the Center for Negative Carbon Emissions at the university’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, where he’s honing the technology. But so far, there are only a handful of other efforts to build carbon-sucking machines.

Which gave a group of ASU grads another idea. Instead of building the new technology, how about creating a marketplace that would incentivize carbon removal, whether by Lacknerian machines or some other method? Sure, it’s still pretty radical, considering no one has done this before. But nuts? Hardly.

In 2018, the grads — Paul Gambill, Jaycen Horton and Ross Kenyon, along with Christophe Jospe, who worked for Lackner at CNCE — founded Nori. The Seattle-based company is flipping some basic ideas about climate change mitigation on their head. Instead of aiming at lowering CO2 emissions, Nori focuses instead on Lackner’s notion of pulling out the carbon that’s already in the atmosphere. Instead of, say, taxing those who put CO2 into the air, they want to pay those who remove it.

“It’s a way of using markets to drive change,” Jospe explained. “We’re able to monetize what hasn’t previously been monetized.”

They like to call themselves “used-carbon salesmen” and they’re finding ways to do what seems unthinkable: making CO2 a valuable commodity.

Two men stand in a farm field

ASU alumnus Paul Gambill (left) and Christophe Jospe are part of the founders at Nori, which is working with farmers on removing CO2 from the atmosphere and putting it back into the earth. The no-till process — regenerative agriculture or "carbon farming" — requires the planting of cover crops. "The potential," said Jospe, "is vast." Photo by Inti St. Clair

Carbon farming

Carbon dioxide is a colorless, odorless gas that’s a byproduct of burning fossil fuels, among other things. Humans put more than 36 billion metric tons (MO2) of the stuff into the atmosphere each year, trapping heat and causing Earth’s temperature to rise.

“Even if we turned off all emissions worldwide tomorrow, we’d still have far too much CO2 and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and we’d still get some of the catastrophic effects,” Gambill said. “We have to take action as soon as possible.”

In fact, the deployment of carbon capture and storage technology to absorb remaining fossil fuel emissions was one recommendation last year by scientists convened by the United Nations to avoid catastrophic damage from climate change by 2050.

The way the team at Nori views it, CO2 is a waste product, and it should be treated like other waste products. We don’t throw our trash out the window, and we shouldn’t simply fling our greenhouse gas into the atmosphere, either. We need a system to pick it up, just like our system of trash collection, and a market so that those who do the removal get paid for it. That’s where Nori comes in.

“We’re building a marketplace that makes it as simple as possible,” Gambill said. He wants to create a kind of commodity market for carbon, where the price is driven by market demand. Lackner liked the concept so much, he signed on as an adviser.

“In a way, it democratizes the problem,” Lackner said, by allowing everyone to take responsibility for greenhouse gases.

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Through the Nori interface, people who are able to remove carbon from the atmosphere can easily connect with people who are willing to pay for it.

“Nori is trying to create a new model for exchange,” said Michael Dalrymple, ASU’s director of University Sustainability Practices.

In traditional carbon markets, companies and organizations indirectly purchase offsets. ASU does this with a community impact twist. For example, Dalrymple explained ASU collects an $8 carbon fee on every round trip of air travel by faculty and staff. ASU then buys “community bundle” offsets from Urban Offsets, consisting partly of carbon offsets purchased from projects listed on offset registries. Urban Offsets directs some funds to the cities of Phoenix and Tempe to help defray the costs of planting urban trees — increasing shade, reducing heat islands and cleaning the air. In return, ASU gets additional offsets over time for carbon sequestered by those trees.

The Nori team decided to take a direct approach with some unlikely allies: farmers.

The excess CO2 in the atmosphere was originally in the ground, bound up in oil, coal or natural gas. Also, plants — whether they’re grass or vegetables or trees — pull CO2 out of the air through photosynthesis. To Gambill, all this makes the problem straightforward: “We should just take (the greenhouse gases) out of the atmosphere and put them back into the earth.”

In recent years, farmers and scientists have learned that certain farming methods can help ensure that CO2 pulled in by plants goes back into the ground and stays there. It requires forgoing tilling, planting cover crops, liberal use of compost and more. The soil gets healthier through this process, which means over time, the plants get healthier, too, and that means more money for the farmer.

It’s called regenerative agriculture, or even “carbon farming,” and some farmers have already made the transition. The problem is, the soil improvements take time, and upfront costs can be significant. Which brings us back to Nori. Through its marketplace, farmers using these methods can get credit for each ton of carbon they sequester in the soil. They then place those credits for sale in the Nori marketplace.

When the marketplace opens for business later this year, they aim to have enrolled enough farmers to sequester a million metric tons of carbon per year, Gambill says. That’s equivalent to more than 112 million gallons of consumed gasoline.

“The potential,” Jospe believes, “is vast.”

A color-corrected image of artificial trees

Klaus Lackner pioneered direct air capture, using artificial trees to remove carbon dioxide from the air. Made from a plastic resin, Lackner's artificial trees are 1,000 times more efficient than natural trees in reducing carbon emissions. Photo by Jarod Opperman/ASU

Carbon gold rush

There are bound to be skeptics. They say it’s hard to measure carbon that has been isolated in the ground. True. Besides, there’s only so much farmers can put there. And there are hurdles to making it stay there.

But Gambill, Jospe, Horton and Kenyon are pulling every thread, working with the experts to ensure public acceptance of the marketplace. Also, they’re envisioning something much bigger than farmers.  It requires the kind of thinking he developed at ASU.

Gambill studied computer systems engineering. It taught him to think in terms of solving problems, to “look at large, complex systems, trying to understand the boundaries, the potential inputs and outputs.”

Climate change is an environmental problem, but it’s also an economic problem, a social problem and an engineering problem. Gambill and Horton both worked at ASU’s Decision Theater, which let them watch how societal questions play out in real life. Jospe got quite the education working for Lackner.

“It’s not a coincidence this idea came from people who consider themselves Sun Devils,” said Jospe.

The team is confident it will go beyond farming. Gambill likens it to Apple, when it opened the first app store. There wasn’t much for sale then, but Apple was certain that people would start dreaming up apps to fill the shelves. We all know how that turned out. Similarly, the Nori team believes if there’s money to be made, people will be motivated to making more carbon-sucking solutions.

“We’re creating a space where creativity can flourish,” Gambill said. “It’s going to be a gold rush to monetize carbon removal. We think people are going to do some really cool things.”

Written by Maureen O’Hagan, an award-winning journalist who has covered an array of subjects for The Washington Post and Seattle Times and has been a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service. This story originally appeared in the spring 2019 issue of ASU Thrive magazine. 

Top photo: Klaus Lackner, a pioneer in carbon capture, views a greenhouse that will be fed carbon dioxide from prototype materials at his lab in ASU's Center for Negative Carbon Emissions. Companies are building on his ideas to achieve climate goals. Photo by Jarod Opperman/ASU

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ASU’s football coach silences skeptics with his winning ways

March 27, 2019

Herm Edwards, Arizona State University’s football coach, has no auditory issues. Sounds come through loud and clear. What he does have is an aversion to noise. And the ability to mute it.

That’s a helpful trait considering the decibels cranked up when ASU hired Edwards in December 2017. He was 63, had never been a college head coach and had last been a National Football League head coach in 2008. Skeptics dismissed the hire as a "Jurassic Park" resurrection of a coaching dinosaur.

“I learned at an early age that you can never allow the perception of others to become your reality,” he said recently in an interview. “We control our destinies as individuals. You have to do your work. If I had not been an athlete, I would not have gone to college. Any voices, anything in my way of achieving what I wanted, didn’t matter.”

Besides, he proved the naysayers wrong, delivering a winning record in his first season.

“We believe we’re off to a good start,” said Ray Anderson, vice president for university athletics. “We believe that those who said we were crazy and couldn’t get it done, we believe that we have at least calmed their concerns … because we haven’t heard a lot from them recently.”

Edwards, 64, was hired because of fit — both the job and the job candidate. ASU President Michael M. Crow and Anderson, who came to the university in January 2014, decided the football program needed not only a new coach but a new philosophy.

“A lot of people are fearful of change,” Anderson said. “Especially when they don’t quite understand the reasons for it. As things progressed after I came on board, it became obvious that change was inevitable. It became clear we could not break out of mediocrity in the Pac-12. I give a lot of credit to President Crow for being willing to think outside the box.”

ASU football Coach Herm Edwards on the sideline during a game

Instead of taking a CEO approach to Sun Devil football, Herm Edwards has been actively in the mix as the head coach. The Sun Devils responded with a winning record in his first season. Photo by Peter Vander Stoep

Sun Devil football had become a way station instead of a destination. During Bruce Snyder’s nine seasons that ended in 2000, the Sun Devils were 13 games over .500 and appeared in the Rose Bowl after the 1996 season. The next three coaches lasted six, five and six seasons with records that hovered around .500. ASU, Crow and Anderson decided, was defining insanity — doing the same thing over and over in coaching hires but expecting a different result.

So, they came up with a new plan — a “New Leadership Model”  — bringing together management ideas and styles from the NFL, scaled to the college level.

“That’s one thing that really struck me is the fact that people didn’t realize, ‘Look, they don’t think they’re getting their results from what they’re doing, (so) they’re changing.’ What’s wrong with that?” said Edwards, who describes his time away from coaching and working in television as a sabbatical a professor would take.

The athletic department got to work. One savvy move was transparency. Numerous national media outlets were invited to observe Edwards and his new staff. That resulted in some positive coverage. A September upset of Michigan State, then ranked No. 15 in the nation, also helped.

“That’s the media’s job — they have to give an opinion,” Edwards said of the initial skepticism. “I would never take it personal.”

ASU’s new plan led to the perception that Edwards would be a “CEO coach,” spending practices perched in a tower overseeing his kingdom. That was disproved when Edwards, who played defensive back for 10 seasons in the NFL, did hands-on coaching with the Sun Devils’ secondary.

And, after returning home from a loss at San Diego State, Edwards went straight to his office to break down the loss. His analysis led to the Sun Devils changing their offensive emphasis to more running, a strategy that helped throughout the season.

Jean Boyd, the football team’s general manager, says Edwards disproved another false perception. He works hand-in-hand with Edwards so the football coach can make final decisions without being caught up in the minutiae of management.

“People were skeptical about his relatability to the kids we’re recruiting, but high marks for him in that area,” Boyd said. “In some of the areas we’re recruiting in California, to have an African-American man walk into an African-American home has been a multiplier. He can relate. He’s respectful and respectable.”

The day he was hired, Edwards walked through the administration offices and stopped to say hello and chat whenever he saw someone in their office. On the way to a weekly news conference, Edwards saw two custodians. He knew their names and stopped to ask one of them about a recent surgery.

ASU football Coach Herm Edwards and a player walk through the Tillman Tunnel

Coach Herm Edwards can relate to players 40 years younger than he is, says ASU football general manager Jean Boyd: "He's respectful and respectable." Here, he walks through the Tillman Tunnel at Sun Devil Stadium with wide receiver Kyle Williams. Photo by Peter Vander Stoep

“If I had never gotten another coaching job, I would have been fine, would have kept working in TV,” said Edwards, who sits in the back of the plane on team flights. “But I’ve always been competitive, and in the back of my mind I was always preparing if I got the chance to coach again. I saw this as a great fit.”

The Sun Devils finished 7-6 — the five regular-season losses were all by less than seven points — with an appearance in the Las Vegas Bowl, changing the national perception of ASU football.

“Herm made fools out of a lot of us in the national media,” said Bruce Feldman, who covers college football for The Athletic. “He made some shrewd hires, especially on the defensive staff, and empowered his leaders, and they had a solid first season. There’s plenty of good young talent on this roster now, and the Pac-12 South is certainly up for grabs with USC backsliding so much and UCLA rebuilding.”

Written by Wendell Barnhouse. An award-winning journalist at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram for 25 years, Barnhouse has covered 25 Final Fours and 15 college football national championship games. This story originally appeared in the spring 2019 issue of ASU Thrive magazine. Top photo by Peter Vander Stoep

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Forget balance

March 27, 2019

Instead, try these 5 ways to live in sync with your well-being

Editor's note: This piece was written by May Busch, senior adviser and executive in residence in ASU’s Office of the President. She is also a professor of practice in the W. P. Carey School of Business and chairs the Idea Enterprise. Find her at

I know it sounds sacrilegious, but I don’t believe in work-life balance. I agree that it’s important to have a life, and that it’s hard, because most of us have too many competing priorities and too little time.

May Busch

But I don’t believe in work-life balance because it’s an outdated and overrated concept that’s impossible to achieve for most of us. Instead, I focus on a feeling of well-being and of being “in sync” with yourself. This involves five aspects:

1. Being conscious

This is about knowing what you want, exercising your free will and making conscious decisions about how to spend your time and energy.

When we make conscious choices, we have an excellent chance for our actions to be in alignment with what truly matters to us.

For example, my family is hugely important to me, yet I used to keep my head down and work until the task was done, no matter how late I had to stay. Without realizing it, I got myself in a situation where I hadn’t had dinner with my family for months. And I only noticed when my husband got angry with me about it.

Then my boss sat me down and told me he was concerned about my working too much. He pretty much ordered me to leave the office in time to be home for dinner twice a week, and to come in late after taking the kids to school twice a month. I’m lucky to have had a great boss to help me become more conscious about my choices. If you don’t have a boss like I did, you must learn to do this for yourself.

You’ll be in alignment, which leaves no room for debilitating and draining emotions like worry and regret.

2. Oscillating through time

Recognize that you’re going to be going through different wave patterns during your day, your week, your year. In fact, that’s optimal rather than targeting a static level of balance and staying at that.

The former allows you to have the whole range of highs and lows, where the latter focuses on staying at a moderate level. And as Oscar Wilde said, “Everything in moderation, including moderation.”

For me, that meant being able to go all out on my business during a big three-week project, but then being able to take a break or a few days off to be with my family later in the month.

It’s about achieving your optimal mix of activities over a longer time horizon, rather than insisting on “balancing the books” every day or every week, which can drive you crazy.

3. Getting a dose of joy every day

When I was getting stressed out at work, my mother used to tell me to take a minivacation every day; just closing my eyes for two to five minutes and imagining myself in my favorite vacation spot. It really did make me feel better!

This is the same idea, only it’s about joy rather than peace.

Start by identifying those small simple things that make your heart sing and make sure you get some of it each day.

For me, it can be as simple as playing a favorite song at full blast, or dancing. These days, you can plug in your iPod equivalent and rock out for the length of a song pretty much anywhere. I was usually able to duck into a conference room, but if you can’t, then worst case, there’s always the facilities!

4. Reframing

This is about shifting your mindset to a more positive way of looking at whatever situation you’re in.

This is a variation on being conscious. You want to be in charge of the way you frame things so that issues become opportunities, and problems can have solutions.

This “inner game” can either drag us down or pull us up, depending on how well we can reframe things in an energizing way.

As an example, one thing that used to bother me was not being able to be at a performance or sports event for my three children, and not being home to send them to school or welcome them home after school.

Then my mother (who is a pediatrician) told me that this made our children independent. Not only was she right about that, it also made me feel more positive about my choices.

5. Stop over-optimizing

Sometimes we put unnecessary pressure on ourselves by setting up too many constraints. Then it becomes stressful to try to optimize it all, and you end up feeling drained.

I remember trying to keep everyone happy simultaneously — my boss, team, husband, three kids and even the dog. Plus, living up to standards of home decoration, housekeeping and other social pressures. My own well-being wasn’t even on the list.

Some of the things I did in the name of satisfying people didn’t even matter to them, like folding the kids’ laundry or personally sewing their Halloween costumes when I had million-dollar deals going on at work. Or feeling like I had to attend every client meeting, even if it meant taking two red-eye flights back to back.

Over the years, my husband and I have been reducing the number of constraints by getting clear on what really matters to each of us, and culling the rest.

For example, we’ve called a “truce” on celebrating Valentine’s Day since neither of us cared that much about what is essentially a fabricated holiday. And we live with a messier house than either of us was brought up in.

So stop torturing yourself about work-life balance, and start focusing on having a feeling of well-being and living your life “in sync” with who you are and what really matters to you.

If that involves a big commitment in one area and less in another for now, go with it. You will keep oscillating and adjusting, because life isn’t static. It’s progressive.

This story originally appeared in the spring 2019 issue of ASU Thrive magazine. Also visit Busch's blog at for more ideas and inspiration.

Music students receive inaugural Mykytyn Distinguished Composition Award established by ASU alumni

March 26, 2019

Three music composition students in the School of Music in Arizona State University's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts are the honored recipients of the inaugural Mykytyn Distinguished Composition Award, established by ASU alumni Kathleen Mykytyn (Bachelor of Arts in education ’58) and Peter Mykytyn (Master of Business Administration ’81, Doctor of Philosophy in computer information systems ’85).

The endowed award was created in memory of former ASU music Professor Arnold Bullock's outstanding service and legacy to the School of Music. Kathleen Mykytyn, a composer, was a student in Bullock's studio. student composing music A music composition student plays the piano. Download Full Image

The $1,000 first prize went to Mohamed-Aly “Mo” Farag, doctoral student, for his composition “Rhapsody for clarinet, piano, violin, viola and violoncello. Second prize ($300) was awarded to Jacob Smith, doctoral student, for his string quartet composition “seep, unwrought.” Karl Stefans, master's student, took third prize ($200) for “Je t'adore à l'égal for Pierrot” for ensemble after a poem by Baudelaire.

“The competition was an opportunity to have my work as a composer presented and recognized,” Smith said. “It was also important that I would be able to share recognition with my fellow composers.”

Smith said his piece was originally composed in February 2018 as a part of the School of Music’s Visiting Quartet Residency Program. Composition students used inspiration from a work at the Phoenix Art Museum to create a piece for string quartet.

Remembering the School of Music as a place that fostered innovation and creativity, Mykytyn said she was inspired to provide recognition as well as a monetary prize to assist young composers in their study of music.

The annual cash award is for an original composition for a vocal or instrumental solo or chamber group, in any genre of music. The competition is judged by ASU faculty or distinguished guest judges and is open to all current undergraduate and graduate composition majors at ASU.

This year’s competition was judged by four School of Music composition and theory faculty: James DeMars, professor; Jody Rockmaker, associate professor; Rodney Rogers, professor; and Kotoka Suzuki, associate professor. 

Students must submit a description of their piece, a written score and a recording of their composition.

“The competition is a blind review,” Suzuki said. “We review all compositions submitted and look for originality, creativity and craftsmanship.” 

Rockmaker said that, in general, judges consider how well the composer expresses their ideas through their notation, how well written the work is for soloist or ensemble, and assess whether the music presents a unique voice.

“Composition students write in many different styles,” Rockmaker said. “It’s one of the most unique aspects of our program. We encourage students to enter all types of competitions as a good way to have their work and abilities as a composer recognized.”

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music


Innovative online biochemistry degree recognized for increasing access to education

Professors receive Teaching Achievement Award at 2019 ASU Founders’ Day Awards

March 25, 2019

In 2016, the School of Molecular Sciences at Arizona State University embarked on a journey to change how biochemistry could be taught and create opportunities for students who thought that a bachelor’s degree was out of reach unless they went the traditional route of a brick-and-mortar school. That fall, pilot online general chemistry courses for biochemistry majors were offered for the first time, followed by online organic chemistry the following spring. These pilot courses were the precursor to a much larger project — to deliver a fully online biochemistry program with an in-person lab.

The following fall of 2017, the first fully online bachelor’s degree in biochemistry in the country made its debut at ASU. Rick Dircks, Christine K. Wilkinson, Anne Jones and Ian Gould and ASU President Michael Crow From left: Chair of the Founders' Day committee Rick Dircks, Christine K. Wilkinson, Anne Jones and Ian Gould of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ School of Molecular Sciences and ASU President Michael Crow. Jones and Gould were jointly awarded the Faculty Teaching Achievement award for an innovative new approach to pre-med education. Photo by Joshua Spaulding Download Full Image

What did it take to get this first-of-its-kind, innovative program off the ground? First, it required considerable organizational skills to pull the pieces together. Second, it had to deliver the same high quality education and experience as the on-ground program, and also address the problem of hands-on laboratory courses if it were to be a legitimate BS degree. Third, and perhaps most importantly, it required a committed and unified faculty and staff to believe in the idea and get behind it.

The program startup had many moving parts, each with its own unique challenges. The content for many of the courses had to be built from scratch. Faculty who had never taught in a primarily digital format had to learn how to teach online. A significant challenge was figuring out how to fund and staff the program before revenue was generated. The biggest challenge and unknown, however, was knowing how many students would actually enroll in an online biochemistry degree program that required them to come to Arizona in the summer for accelerated lab courses.

“There’s a reason the nation’s first biochem program came out of ASU,” said Ian Gould, director of ASU’s online biochemistry program. “ASU encourages us to be innovative and the environment is very supportive of trying new things. And to make this work, we knew we had to do things differently.”

Clinical professor and online program coordinator Ara Austin believes education should be flexible and provide opportunity to all students, traditional or otherwise.

"Providing access to quality education to all students was something I always believed to be important. This is why I believed the online biochemistry program was a step in the right direction for SMS and decided to take part in it," Austin said.

One of the most challenging parts of the program was supporting student needs when they came to Tempe for the lab portion of their degree. In addition to teaching in the program, Austin is responsible for organizing the on-ground lab courses, including housing, pre-health advising, meals and academic advisers for the students — even parking. The on-ground labs are the component that is primarily responsible for making the degree program unique — an online student has the same experience and support as an on-ground student: all critical pieces of the puzzle to ensure a true Sun Devil learning experience.

Another unique aspect is taking responsibility for helping the students make use of their degree. Austin is also involved in negotiations with the Association of American Medical Colleges to advocate for the students in the degree program who have aspirations in the medical field.

The philosophy behind the degree was to remain true to the ASU charter — to not only be the comprehensive public research university ASU is known for, but to make sure that the students from diverse backgrounds who sought out this program had all the tools and support they needed from the staff and faculty to be successful.

“We wanted to attract learners who otherwise couldn’t attend. Creating an authentic ASU science experience — they work in ASU labs, meet their cohorts and have that Sun Devil experience,” said Anne Jones, associate professor and associate director of academic affairs. “The result is a degree that is really very unique, it’s not about minting out new degree holders, instead it’s about educating a student and preparing them to go out into the workforce with valuable skills.”

The online biochemistry degree program has exceeded the expectations of all involved. It's gone from an enrollment of 50 students to more than 650 students just over a year later. But the courses and the program wouldn’t be here without the dedication of those faculty members who taught those first classes, many of whom stepped up to the plate and accepted extra teaching responsibilities without knowing exactly what to expect.

The faculty who initially created online general chemistry courses included Jones, Gary Cabirac, Ashli Morgan, Timo Park, Todd Windman and Pam Marks. Organic chemistry courses were the responsibility of Gould, Austin, Smitha Pillai and Marely Tejeda. Jeff Yarger, Marcia Levitus and Jim Allen created the physical chemistry courses, and Kevin Redding, Neal Woodbury and Scott Lefler built the biochemistry courses.

The degree program has attracted both local and national attention. Early this year the program was highlighted in the national periodical Chemical and Engineering News. And on March 20 at the annual Founders’ Day Awards ceremony hosted by the ASU Alumni Association, Jones and Gould were honored with the Faculty Teaching Achievement Award for being instrumental in establishing the program.

While Jones and Gould played a critical role in creating this online biochemistry degree — the Founders’ Day Teaching Achievement award is really a recognition of all the staff and faculty who played a part in making the online biochemistry degree program a success. 

Alumni and Special Events Coordinator, School of Earth & Space Exploration


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What's it like to be Sparky?

April 8 screening of "Being Sparky. Forks Up. Mask Off." is free, open to public
March 22, 2019

Barrett student-produced documentary takes viewers behind the scenes with one of the students who play the ASU mascot

Have you ever wondered what it is like to be Sparky, Arizona State University’s mascot?

What happens when you don the iconic Sparky mask and uniform to transform from an everyday student into the campus superhero? How it feels to be loved by students, parents, alumni and others in the university community?

How to handle mobs of people who want to crowd around and touch you? How to withstand the heat while performing in Sun Devil Stadium during an early fall home football game?

A Barrett, The Honors College senior who is majoring in business data analytics and sports business knows exactly what it takes to be Sparky. He has been the mascot throughout his years at ASU, appearing at events to promote school spirit and to cheer on ASU sports teams. 

ASU mascot Sparky stands on a basketball court and waves to the crowd

ASU mascot Sparky plays to the crowd at a basketball tournament game. Photo courtesy of Ellie Millon

The student, whose name must be kept confidential until his duties as Sparky come to an end next month, is the subject and one of the producers of a documentary — titled “Being Sparky. Forks Up. Mask Off.” — that shows how he came to be Sparky, his experiences as the university mascot, and how it has affected him.

The documentary is the honors creative project for him and three of his fellow Barrett students. They began the project in August of last year.

A screening of the film is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, April 8, in the Vista del Sol Theater, located in the Vista del Sol student residential complex near Apache Boulevard and McAllister Avenue. Immediately following the 15-minute film will be a question-and-answer session with students who worked on the project. The event is free and open to the public.

Ellie Millon, a marketing and finance major, helped with production and is handling marketing for the documentary and finding venues to screen it. She hopes to get it into Pollack Tempe Cinemas and the FilmBar in downtown Phoenix. Elizabeth Baxter, a computer information systems major, composed music for the film. Ben Ashby, a junior majoring in film and media production, is the film’s director and editor. Along with the documentary's star Sparky, Millon and Baxter are seniors and will graduate in May. 

Millon said that while filming the project, she and the other students learned some interesting things about Sparky:

• There are more than a half-dozen people who play Sparky, and while they are in costume, they are not allowed to appear together in the same place at the same time.

• University staffers maintain a schedule for each Sparky and accompany them on appearances.

• People sometimes behave inappropriately and do not seem to realize that a real person portrays Sparky.

Learn more about the mascot experience at the April 8 screening.

Top photo: If you're going to be Sparky, you have to be unafraid of performing in front of crowds. Photo courtesy of Ellie Millon

Nicole Greason

Public relations and publicity manager , Barrett, The Honors College


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Alumni Association honors faculty, alumni who embody the founders' spirit

March 21, 2019

The annual ASU Founders' Day ceremony highlights the efforts of game-changing faculty members, distinguished alumni and, for the 1st time, a philanthropic organization

In front of a sold-out crowd of 800 community leaders, business executives and ASU alumni on March 20, the 2019 Founders’ Day celebrated the founding of the institution by honoring ASU alumni, faculty members and a charitable trust for distinguished achievements.

The awards ceremony, hosted by the ASU Alumni Association, has been a signature event for the university for decades and recognizes individuals who exemplify the spirit of the founders of the Territorial Normal School of Arizona, ASU’s predecessor institution. 

For the first time, ASU this year honored an organization as its Founders’ Day Philanthropist of the Year. Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust embodies the core values of its founder and of the New American University. Piper Charitable Trust gifts to the university have included ASU’s Infant Child Research program, with specialized training for teachers of at-risk preschoolers; the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, a vibrant hub for writers; the Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics, which focuses on the prevention and early detection of disease; and the new Knowledge Exchange for Resilience, which will equip communities to overcome social and economic stress.

This year's award recipients:

Faculty Research and Creativity Achievement Award: Natalie Diaz

Faculty Service Achievement Award: Erika Camacho

Faculty Teaching Achievement Award: Ian Gould and Anne Jones

Young Alumni Achievement Award: Sky Kurtz

Alumni Achievement Award: Denise D. Resnik

Philanthropists of the Year Award: Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust

Read more about each of the winners.

Top photo: Christine Wilkinson addresses the assembled alumni and community members at the 2019 Founders' Day ceremony. Photo by Tim Trumble

Tracy Scott

Director, Strategic Communications , Office of Senior Vice President & Secretary of University


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Community conversation moves One Square Mile Initiative forward

March 20, 2019

ASU project to help revitalize a growing community of 230,000 residents in Phoenix

The Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions at Arizona State University is moving forward with a project to help revitalize a growing community of 230,000 residents in Phoenix.

Dean Jonathan Koppell led a community conversation in Maryvale Monday to discuss the Maryvale One Square Mile Initiative with a standing-room only crowd of stakeholders representing the neighborhood, various community groups and local police.

The initiative is a core project stemming from Sunstate Equipment founders and philanthropists Mike and Cindy Watts’ investment in the college to support Maryvale, the neighborhood where they grew up. 

“Maryvale is a great place,” Koppell said. “It’s a strong community with lots of people engaged. What we see is a community that is ambitious with aspirations to be more than it is today.”

Maryvale’s soaring population accounts for 10 percent of Maricopa County, and if it were a city, it would be the seventh largest in the state. The neighborhood is also one of the poorest in Phoenix, where 39 percent of residents lack a high school diploma or equivalency.

“There are some extraordinary things going on and there are some signs of unhealthy patterns,” Koppell said.  

Although Monday’s meeting was the first for the public at large, the college has been working on the project for months by listening to residents and soliciting feedback. That is a key piece for the long-term success of the initiative, because Koppell wants to ensure all work going forward is “of, by and for the community.”

“The idea is not that we come here, plant a flag, say we’re open for business and everything is about us,” Koppell said. “Because that’s not sustainable. What we are interested in doing is helping start things that have an organic basis and they last forever.”

To that end, the college established the Design Studio for Community Solutions. Led by Director Erik Cole, the studio will be the place to share ideas, bring in different perspectives and run possibilities up against reality.

“It’s not purely an architectural exercise,” Koppell said. “We think of it as a studio where we design concepts and we repeat, and if we fail we try again, and we design again.”

Many groups in Maryvale are already engaged in different community initiatives. Watts College is interested in helping concentrate efforts and “connect the dots” between activities that are already happening.

“There are so many assets, opportunities and organizations (engaged),” Cole said. “Maryvale Revitalization Corporation, Heart of Isaac (community center), YMCA, Grand Canyon University, school districts. None of why we are here is to say there aren’t those assets and that incredible work is not already happening.”

One other organization mentioned by Cole was Estrella Supermoms, a neighborhood block-watch program of about 20 families who help clean up Maryvale, remove graffiti and work on other service projects.

“That’s what this is about,” Cole said. “It’s really about community and coming together, and if we can be a vehicle for that, so be it.”

Monday’s community conversation also served as an opportunity to continue gathering feedback from residents. Attendees participated in three faculty-led group discussions about health and wellness; youth, families and children; and public safety. The discussions brought up areas of concern that present opportunities for improvement.

Security is an important topic often taken for granted in other neighborhoods, said Carlos Mendoza, a 16-year-old student at Phoenix Union Bioscience High School.

“Other communities have bright lights, security cameras, everything is safe and protected,” he said. “You look at the parks here; the lights are yellow, dim and so far away from each other.”

Parents don't let their children out to play after the sun goes down, because those who are not at home could find themselves in a “scary situation,” Mendoza said.

Contributing to neighborhood crime is the reality in Maryvale that many people are hesitant to report crimes to police, said Rosa Menjivar, who is the president of the Estrella Supermoms.

“We see the fear in the community that leads people to not report crime,” Menjivar said. “I need officials to help do their part in communicating more with families and get them more engaged.”

Crime is not the only safety factor challenging Maryvale residents. Simply walking down the street can be risky. The community layout and sidewalks are not pedestrian-friendly, and this can account for the high number of accidents, Mendoza said. Pedestrians have to walk a light or two down the street to get to a bus stop, which can take an extra 10 to 15 minutes. So jaywalking is common because some are willing to risk their lives to save some time.

“Sidewalks are not practical,” Mendoza said. “Things are dictated by how things are shaped, and I feel like most things here are shaped by, of course, the engineers that originally designed this community.”

Watts College has not set a specific timeline to achieve objectives of the Maryvale One Square Mile Initiative, Koppell said. The university intends to remain a resource for as long as necessary. The idea is for ASU to serve as an “empowering” force rather than an essential element needed for success.

“We can change Maryvale,” Menjivar said. “If we work as a team.”

Top photo: Dean Jonathan Koppell, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, speaks with Maryvale community members on March 18 in Maryvale. Photo by Jerry Gonzalez/ASU

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications