ASU unveils master's degree in social justice

May 27, 2008

People who aspire to apply social justice and human rights approaches to such issues as health, education, labor, international development, family welfare, and the environment will gain a strong theoretical background and hands-on management skills through Arizona State University’s new master’s degree program in social justice and human rights.

The program welcomes its first group of students to ASU’s West campus in August when the Fall 2008 semester begins. Inquiries from potential students have come from Arizona and across the United States as well as countries including Ethiopia, Pakistan, Nepal, the Dominican Republic, and Kenya.

“This program is unique in course design and content,” says William Simmons, assistant professor of social and behavioral sciences in ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and director of the new master’s degree program.

Students will choose from two tracks. Those pursuing the social justice and human rights research track will be prepared for careers requiring research skills in governmental and non-governmental agencies. Graduates from this track also are prepared for doctoral programs in the social sciences and law.

The non-governmental organization (NGO) management track combines coursework in social justice and human rights with practical training in non-profit management. Graduates are prepared for leadership positions in the rapidly growing NGO sector.

“The need in this area is huge – 2006 statistics show more than 12,000 charitable non-profit organizations in Arizona, with the majority in Maricopa County,” Simmons says. “Social justice and human rights issues are major components of the mission of many of these organizations.”

C. T. Wright lent his expertise to ASU professors who designed the new master’s program. Wright is founder of the Light of Hope Institute, which promotes human rights around the world. He is the former president and CEO of the International Foundation for Education and Self-Help and the former president of Cheyney University in Pennsylvania.

“This program will provide students with the ability to conceptualize and analyze issues confronting civil society,” Wright says. “Graduates will be equipped to plan, implement, manage and evaluate programs at local through international levels. They also will be prepared to conceptualize and write proposals, develop budgets, and communicate with people from diverse backgrounds.”

Simmons says much of the international interest in the new master’s program comes from people already working for NGOs who want to improve their leadership and management skills. Working professionals will be able to come to metropolitan Phoenix for nine months (August to May) to complete most of the program. They can finish their degree requirements at their place of work, regardless of location.

While most courses in the program will be taught on ASU’s West campus, students also may take advantage of courses and resources offered by programs at other ASU campuses such as the Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Non-Profit Innovation, headquartered on the Downtown Phoenix campus, and the School of Justice & Social Inquiry on the Tempe campus.

“This is truly an interdisciplinary effort, with faculty involvement from all four colleges on the West campus and a tremendous spirit of cooperation among campuses,” Simmons says.

Many courses will be solution-based, with students and faculty working together to address real-world issues that can change from semester to semester. For example, New College associate professor Julie Murphy Erfani has become familiar with an indigenous village in Mexico that is facing environmental impacts from a nearby mining operation. This fall, Murphy Erfani and students in her class will research the situation from political, historical, and legal perspectives, with assistance from faculty members in a range of disciplines. The end result will be reports that students will present to the residents of the village, addressing actions they may wish to take.

“This will provide a rich learning experience, as student see how human rights and social justice issues cut across disciplines and also evoke numerous ethical, political and legal questions,” Simmons says.

Other courses will place students with local agencies, providing a benefit to those agencies while broadening students’ knowledge base. Additionally, students will complete a course in grant writing, a skill Simmons considers indispensable both for researchers and those employed in NGOs.

Students will work with faculty members to design and complete a capstone project that draws on the knowledge and experiences they gain in the program. Capstone projects may include traditional theses, legal briefs, drafting of legislation or policy statements, developing strategic plans for community organizations, or public art projects.

“Adding this dynamic degree program is an exciting development for ASU,” says Elizabeth Langland, New College dean. “People who choose to devote their lives to social justice and human rights are passionate, active individuals who will be a great asset to the university as they pursue the master’s degree. We hope they will maintain strong connections to ASU after they graduate.”

Social justice and human rights is the second graduate degree offered by New College. It joins the master of arts in interdisciplinary studies (MAIS) degree, which enables students to design their own unique programs of study. After introductory graduate courses in interdisciplinary studies, models of inquiry for the 21st century, and critical thinking, MAIS students move on to concentrations in Applied Arts, English Language Studies, Digital Media/Visual Cultures, Non-Profit and Civic Leadership, Women’s Studies, and/or electives from the wide spectrum of disciplines in New College. A capstone experience concludes the MAIS program, which may be pursued on a full-time or part-time basis.

Details about these master’s degree programs are available by visiting">"> or emailing NewCollegeGrad">"> Download Full Image

Liberal Arts and Sciences recognizes faculty, staff

May 28, 2008

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences honored eight individuals for quality teaching, excellence in advising, and making a difference. Recipients of the college honors were recognized May 8 at a college awards program. They were nominated by students, alumni, faculty members and staff.

Neal Woodbury received the Gary Krahenbuhl Difference Maker Endowment award, which is selected by the dean of the college. Woodbury is a professor in the department of chemistry and biochemistry and the director of the Center for Biooptical Nanotechnology in the Biodesign Institute at ASU.

“Professor Woodbury is a dedicated teacher, an innovative and creative researcher, dependable colleague, and is energetic in his service to the college,” says Quentin Wheeler, ASU vice president and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “He has been a leading pioneer in research on the structure-function relationships in photosynthesis and is currently developing molecular devices and nanoscale hybrid electronics for use in biomedicine, threat detection and agriculture.”

The recipient of this award personifies the spirit of difference-making demonstrated by Gary Krahenbuhl, former dean of the college. The endowment was established through generous contributions from faculty, staff and friends at ASU to annually recognize and celebrate faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

The Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Quality Teaching Award was established in memory of Zebulon Pearce who graduated from Territorial Normal School at Tempe (now ASU) with teacher's credentials in 1899. This award recognizes quality teaching in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

This year, three faculty members received the award. They are Kyle Longley, a professor of history and a dean’s faculty Fellow; Mike Treacy, a professor of physics and director of undergraduate programs in the physics department; and Randall Cerveny, a President’s Professor in the School of Geographical Sciences.

Longley teaches in a variety of formats, including large lectures, online, and small seminars. He has served on doctoral and master’s thesis committees, and for several semesters he was involved in the undergraduate learning community “War, Culture and Memory.”

A student wrote to Longley: “I’m nearing the end of my four years at ASU, and I can count on one hand the number of classes that have truly challenged me and yours are both included.”

Treacy teaches undergraduate thermodynamics, optics and modern physics, and graduate level mechanics. He has earned a reputation for clear presentations and the ability to relate complex concepts in laymen’s terms to his students.

“I have learned that most students are serious, motivated, young people who have a strong desire to learn. It is a privilege to help them achieve their goals,” he says.

Cerveny teaches climate and meteorology to first-year students as well as upper division. He believes in giving students extra training and experience through avenues such as the “Arizona Thunderstorm Chase Project,” a summer project that has students act as mobile eyes for the National Weather Service during the monsoon. He has also introduced geography to broader audiences in his book “Freaks of the Storm” and by teaching a TV class titled “13 Ways Nature Can Kill You.”

“He engages students, most of whom have no idea what the field of geography is about, to the point of convincing them to become majors,” says Luc Anselin, director of the School of Geographical Sciences says.

There were three other teaching awards presented at the award program: Distinguished Teaching Award for Lecturers; Distinguished Teaching Award for Faculty Associates; and Distinguished Award for Teaching Associates.

Delon Washo-Krupps, recipient of the Distinguished Teaching Award for Lecturers, is a lecturer in the School of Life Sciences. She teaches three courses every semester with class sizes ranging from 150 to more than 400 students.

“Delon loves to teach – this has been clear in every interaction I have had with her. And students think she is terrific, in spite of the large classes she teaches,” says Andrew Smith, associate director for undergraduate programs in the School of Life Sciences.

Charles “Chas” Barfoot received the Distinguished Teaching Award for Faculty Associates. Barfoot is a faculty associate in the department of religious studies, teaching in the classroom and online. Among his classes are: “Religion in the Americas” and “Myth, Symbol and Ritual.”

“I don’t lecture as much as I ‘academically entertain.’ I feel somewhat like George Lucas in that I am forever looking for new ways to tell an old story,” he says.

Chad Awtrey received the Distinguished Teaching Award for Teaching Associates. Awtrey is a doctoral student and teaching associate in the department of mathematics and statistics. He teaches algebra, finite mathematics and second semester calculus. Awtrey learns the name and area of study of each of his students. A former student said: “He does not view his job as teaching math. Instead he teaches his students math.”

Another student wrote: “Chad has an extraordinary ability to relate rather difficult concepts to students at different ranges of understanding.”

The college also recognized the role of academic advisors in the success of ASU students.

Debra Daly, an academic success specialist and coordinator of advising in the department of psychology, was this year’s recipient of the Excellence in Advising Award. Among her accomplishments, Daly initiated “Declaration of Graduation Workshops,” which have resulted in a substantial increase in the number of students who graduate on time.

“There is no single advisor more dedicated or involved with students than Debbie, and I’ve lost count of how many students come to me to rave about her as an advisor and as a person,” says Keith Crnic, chair of psychology. Download Full Image