ASU Downtown Phoenix campus opens its doors

August 15, 2006

Phoenix 's urban college campus offers service-oriented degrees, attracts students who desire city life

Maroon and gold are the two newest and brightest colors seen in Phoenix, as ASU has opened the doors to its Downtown Phoenix campus. Download Full Image

City leaders and university officials have been working around the clock to complete the first phase of the campus on time. The two groups celebrated their feat Aug. 15 in the University Center lobby with employees, friends, businesses and the public. The crowd listened to special remarks from Gov. Janet Napolitano, Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon and ASU President Michael Crow before taking a tour of the various campus facilities.

“ASU's mission can be summarized in three words – quality, access and impact,” Crow says. “Our downtown campus provides high-quality education and greater access to students who are either just graduating from high school or working adults achieving their educational goals. Additionally, the new campus helps ASU accommodate the state's burgeoning college-age population and demand for higher education.”

Nearly 4,000 students are preregistered to take at least one course at the downtown campus this month, and 600 staff and faculty relocated downtown to their new offices and classrooms throughout the summer.

The campus, situated in the heart of downtown Phoenix, provides an academically rigorous university experience in a vibrant, urban campus that is integral to the success of the community.

“As mayor, I am proud to be a partner in the future academic success of our residents, to improve the workforce and strengthen our economy,” Gordon says. “The City Council and I are focused on fostering a knowledge economy, with high-paying jobs with a high quality of life. The ASU Downtown Phoenix campus plays a major role in meeting that goal.”

The Downtown Phoenix campus is geared toward city-minded students attracted to service-oriented careers. It offers degree programs that focus on serving the city, whether it is improving its citizens' health, addressing the community's social and economic needs, teaching the youth or informing residents on key issues.

“We're creating something that has not existed in Arizona , which is a truly urban university environment that lets students and faculty experience the educational process in the midst of an active city,” says Mernoy Harrison, vice president and provost of the Downtown Phoenix campus.

To open the first phase, ASU relocated several colleges downtown, including:

• The College of Nursing & Healthcare Innovation.

• The College of Public Programs (comprising the schools of Public Affairs, Social Work and Community Resources and Development).

• University College, which serves the university's exploratory majors and working adults.

ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Eight/KAET-TV, Phoenix 's PBS affiliate, will move downtown in 2008.

“I have a motto for the Downtown Phoenix campus, and that is, ‘Knowledge serves the city,' ” says Cordelia Candelaria, vice provost of academic affairs for the campus. “When you look at the programs moving downtown, you see that each has a strong connection to the community.”

The new campus will enhance higher education opportunities in Arizona . It also will revitalize Phoenix 's urban core into a booming 24-7 city where people live, work and entertain.

“You will see physical and intellectual improvements to downtown Phoenix during the next five years, as our students, staff and faculty help re-energize downtown – enhancing its cultural life and providing significant opportunities for economic development,” Crow says.

Most of the Downtown Phoenix campus is located within the boundaries of Fillmore Street on the north, Van Buren on the south, First Avenue on the west and Third Street on the east. As part of Phoenix 's Copper Square , the campus is located within minutes from shopping, entertainment, professional arts and music venues, in addition to professional sports stadiums.

The location of the campus enhances a student's life and college experiences. Unique to the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus is its geographic proximity to a full range of government, media, nonprofit, legal, medical and business venues, where students can gain internships, receive mentoring, network with professionals or obtain a full-time or part-time job while going to school.

“An urban campus is one in which a student's classes and living experiences are all done in a city environment, where all kinds of people reside and interact in a compact, vertical environment,” Harrison says.

By 2020, the campus will have 15,000 students across 20 acres in downtown Phoenix . Once the campus is fully built, it will integrate academic, public, private and residential development in a diverse – and modern – living and learning environment. Many of the parking lots and one-story buildings that exist today around the campus will be replaced with more vertical buildings and community areas, Harrison says.

“One of the hallmarks of an urban campus is that the campus itself is more vertical in nature, rather than horizontal,” he says.

Harrison compares the Downtown Phoenix campus to several other urban campuses spread across the nation, including Portland State University in Portland , Ore. ; the University of Washington in Tacoma , Wash. ; the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee ; New York University in New York ; and Northeastern University in Boston .

“We incorporated certain elements from each of these campuses to create a unique environment at ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus,” Harrison says. “While these schools are much larger, the concept is the same, because we'll be deeply involved in the city from an academic, economic and community service standpoint.”

ASU and Phoenix have begun planning for the second phase of the Downtown Phoenix campus, which includes:

• A new, mixed-use building called Central Park East, located at the northeast corner of Central Avenue and Van Buren.

• A civic space and public hall located between the post office and central bus station along Central Avenue .

• A student housing development where the Residential Commons currently resides.

• A full-service student union at the post office.

“We wish to thank Mayor Phil Gordon and the City Council for their continued support, and we thank the citizens for passing the bond and helping this campus become a reality,” Crow says. “We look forward to strengthening our partnerships with the residents, businesses and governing leadership of Phoenix as we expand the campus and embrace the cultural, socioeconomic and physical setting of downtown in the 21st century.”

Gas jets spawn dark ‘spiders' and spots on Mars icecap

August 15, 2006

Unlike anything that occurs on Earth,' says ASU scientist

Every spring, as the sun peeks above the horizon at the Martian south polar icecap, powerful jets of carbon dioxide gas erupt through the icecap's topmost layer. The jets climb high into the thin, cold air, carrying fine, dark sand and spraying it for hundreds of feet around each jet.

This dramatic scene emerges from new research by a team of Mars scientists that includes ASU's Phil Christensen. The research report, co-authored with Hugh Kieffer (U.S. Geological Survey, retired) and Timothy Titus (USGS), appeared in the Aug. 17 issue of the scientific journal Nature. The new work solves a longstanding Martian polar riddle. Download Full Image

“If you were there, you'd be standing on a slab of carbon dioxide ice,” Christensen says.

Looking down, the observer would see dark ground below the 3-foot-thick ice layer.

“All around you, roaring jets of carbon dioxide gas are throwing sand and dust a couple hundred feet into the air,” he says.

Visitors also would feel the vibration through their spacesuit boots, he says.

“The ice slab you're standing on is levitated above the ground by the pressure of gas at the base of the ice,” Christensen says.

Mystery markings

The team began its research in an attempt to explain what caused mysterious dark spots, fan-like markings and spider-shaped features on the icecap at the Martian south pole. The dark spots – typically 50 to 150 feet wide and spaced several hundred feet apart – appear every southern spring as the sun rises over the icecap. They last for three or four months and then vanish, only to reappear the next year, after winter's cold has deposited a fresh layer of ice on the cap. Most spots even seem to recur at the same locations.

“Originally, scientists thought the spots were patches of warm, bare ground exposed as the ice disappeared,” Christensen says. “But observations made with THEMIS on NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter told us the spots were nearly as cold as the carbon dioxide ice, which is at minus 198 degrees Fahrenheit.”

That finding suggested the spots were just a thin layer of dark material lying on top of the ice and kept chilled by it.

THEMIS is the Thermal Emission Imaging System, a multiple-wavelength camera. Christensen, who is a Regents' Professor of Geological Sciences at ASU's new School of Earth and Space Exploration in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, designed THEMIS and is the instrument's principal investigator. The new school houses ASU's renowned Mars Space Flight Facility.

Using more than 200 THEMIS visible and infrared images, the team studied one area on the icecap, at 99 degrees east longitude and 86.3 degrees south latitude, from the end of southern winter through mid-summer. The spots began to appear when the sun was only half a degree high, then quickly became more numerous over several days.

“A few places remained spot-free for more than 100 days,” Christensen says. “Then they developed a large number in a week.”

The scientists saw that fan-shaped dark markings didn't form until days or weeks after the spots first appeared, yet some fans grew to half a mile in length. Even more puzzling was the origin of the “spiders,” grooves eroded into the surface under the ice. The grooves converge at points directly beneath a spot.

An icy greenhouse

“The key to figuring out the ‘spiders' and the spots was thinking through a physical model for what was happening,” Christensen says.

The whole process, he explains, begins during Mars' frigid Antarctic winter, when temperatures drop to minus 200 degrees Fahrenheit. That's so cold that the Martian air – 95 percent carbon dioxide – freezes out directly onto the surface of the permanent polar cap, which is made of water ice covered with layers of dust and sand.

This seasonal deposit begins as a layer of dusty carbon dioxide frost. Over the winter, the frost recrystallizes and becomes denser – a process called annealing. The dust and sand particles caught in the frost slowly sink. By spring, with the sun about to rise, the frost layer has become a slab of semitransparent ice about 3 feet thick, lying on a substrate of dark sand and dust.

Sunlight passing through the slab reaches the dark material and warms it enough that the ice touching the ground sublimates (turns directly into gas). As days pass and the sun rises higher, sublimation continues. Before long, the warmed substrate generates a reservoir of pressurized gas under the slab, lifting it off the ground.

Big blowouts

Soon after, weak spots in the slab break through, forming narrow vents, and high-pressure gas roars out at speeds of 100 mph or more. Under the slab, the gas erodes the ground as it rushes toward the vents, snatching up loose particles of sand and carving networks of grooves that converge on the vents.

“Once a ‘spider' becomes established, it affects the surface so that a vent will form in the same place the following year,” Christensen says.

As they erupt, the jets carry loose sand and particles high in the air. The largest and heaviest particles fall closest to the vent, piling up around it to make the spots. As lighter sand grains tossed out by the jet blow downwind, they create the fans, which can extend tens to hundreds of yards. The lightest particles, meanwhile, drift away on the wind to form a thin layer of dust.

“It's like separating wheat and chaff,” Christensen says. “The finest-grained materials are carried off by the wind, while coarser grains are sifted again and again, year after year.”

The vents and jets continue to erupt until the ice slab completely sublimates and vanishes. This mechanism “is unlike anything that occurs on Earth,” he says.

Robert Burnham

Science writer, School of Earth and Space Exploration