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ASU app breaks new ground in humanities, social sciences and sciences

CLAS Magazine app
December 17, 2013

Technological innovation drives the development of research, state-of-the art learning laboratories and “green” buildings. Now breaking new ground in virtual communications, Arizona State University has launched its first interactive, multimedia magazine app – the CLAS Magazine.

The app was developed by a communications team headed by Charles Kazilek, assistant dean of technology, integration and outreach in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, in partnership with Jacob Sahertian, graphics designer and manager of the Visualization Laboratory in the School of Life Sciences. 

Capturing the energy of research and discovery in humanities, social sciences and sciences at ASU, the magazine app’s first issue takes users through a 360 virtual trek in a Panamanian rainforest. The app also highlights the dual passions of student water polo athletes, readings by Poet Laureate and Regents’ Professor Alberto Rios, photo galleries of the new Hugh Downs Collection and the Antarctic, narrated by Meenakshi Wadhwa, director of ASU’s Center for Meteorite Studies.

The virtual field trip, or VFT, was developed by graduate student and staff member Geoffrey Bruce, with the School of Earth and Space Exploration, using cutting-edge Gigapan technology. This immersive multimedia tool ushers students and the public to “visit” scientifically significant sites, something that classrooms typically can’t provide. It also shares a dynamic research approach, as it is being developed for ASU and NASA’s astrobiology programs.  

“The app takes the concept of a higher education magazine to the next level,” said Kazilek. “Offering a rich array of photo galleries, audio recordings and video that allows the public to interact and more closely connect with the university.”

“Apps and other advances in technology are redefining education, discovery, medicine and how we perceive the world,” said Provost Robert E. Page Jr., Foundation Chair of Life Sciences in ASU School of Life Sciences, “making the role of liberal arts and sciences, language and literacy in society even more pivotal as a translator of the human experience.”  

The experience that the app offers mirrors that of some of the top for-profit magazine apps in the country. “National Geographic was a model for us as we moved forward,” noted Margaret Coulombe, managing editor of the magazine and director of academic communications in the college. “It was key for us to partner engaging – not institutional – story-telling with strong visuals that both showcases and humanizes our faculty, students and staff.”

To create this digital publication, the ASU team used Adobe’s Digital Publishing Suite, which enables corporations and publishers to create robust interactive content across tablets, smartphones and PC's.  

“Building on ASU’s implementation of Adobe Creative Cloud, ASU is now continuing to lead with cutting-edge tools through its recent implementation of Adobe Digital Publishing Suite for Enterprise,” said Jim Guerard, vice president of enterprise solutions at Adobe. “Adobe is thrilled with ASU’s digital version of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Magazine, which re-imagines their traditional print publication into a rich digital experience. We look forward to seeing how ASU will continue to innovate and create interactive content that brings campus activities to life.”

Student designers and writers contributed fundamentally to the print and electronic app versions of the CLAS Magazine, according to Coulombe. Student writers and interns pitch stories, do interviews and, in some cases, develop the multimedia (photography and videography) to support their work. Intern and student worker Anthony Costello, an undergraduate with the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications, was fortunate to gain experience at every phase of the app development, mentored by Sahertian and Iris Krondorff, manager of information and communication technology in the college. 

“Working on the magazine not only gave me valuable training, but gave me an opportunity to participate in the development of cutting-edge media,” said Costello. “Although I’m not a CLAS major, I feel that CLAS’ motto ‘Come to CLAS, go anywhere,’ applies to me too; after working with such a great, close-knit staff on this project, I too feel like I can go anywhere with the experience I’ve gained.”

Besides providing expanded offerings not available in a print version of the magazine, the app will also add more interactive content, such as Instagram and games, including tools to build connections with alumni. 

“This app allows us to tell the story of the New American University using a tool that reflects its innovative and creative approaches to higher education and the challenges of the 21st century,” said Kazilek.

Explore the new app