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Campus growth helps ASU community


January 31, 2008

Editor’s Note: As Arizona State University continues to grow, its wide-ranging programs are making a difference in the lives of its community. Here, ASU faculty, staff and students illustrate how the university’s evolution over the years has brought about positive change.


Chell Roberts, faculty chair
Department of Engineering
Polytechnic campus

Several years ago, as the vision of a Polytechnic campus grounded in constructivist learning and in pedagogies of engagement began to evolve, the need for unique facilities and programs also became apparent. In constructivist learning, the learners construct meaning through experience and active participation. A pedagogy of engagement implies that student learn by doing, by engaging in realistic problems, projects and through practice; and then by reflecting on the learning process. In the fall we will open more than 240,000 square feet of new buildings that will house state of the art learning studios, spaces for realistic problem solving.

Growth has enabled the development of many new programs at Polytechnic. There is a new school of Teacher Innovation that will have a focus on math and science education. There is also a new engineering program that incorporates many aspects of a private school program.

Four years ago there were practically no lower division general studies courses offered by ASU on the campus. I am not sure of the number today, but it is large. We also now have an honors college presence.

Growth brings new students, new facilities, and is an opportunity to build a new faculty and embark on new projects. The engineering program curriculum offers a project course every semester for each academic level. The project courses are the primary avenue for engaging in realistic problems and have allowed us to do such things as develop portable water purification systems for Ghana villages, assess wind power for the Hopi Nation, and we are currently developing long-range land use planning for the city of Mesa.

Growth has been a critical enabler.


Lana Idriss, senior
Architectural studies
Tempe campus

Since beginning her ASU career in 2003, senior Lana Idriss has witnessed the Tempe campus grow and blossom – literally. As an Edible Garden intern, Idriss has helped plant an on-campus herb garden as well as maintain the countless fruit trees that decorate the campus.

Idriss, an architectural studies major and avid environmentalist, was delighted when a new degree program that conjoined architecture with landscape architecture was offered on campus during her junior year.

“It’s something I’ve always felt should be linked together: the natural environment with the built environment,” says Idriss, who also enjoys the smaller class sizes and student-faculty interaction that her upper-level architecture classes offer her. “Not only is the new program flexible, providing a broad range of classes and allowing me to pick and choose which subjects interest me, but it ultimately got me involved in environmental design which is now an emphasis of my degree.”

The new B.A. program also exposed her to various opportunities to get involved with sustainability on campus and in the community. Idriss began working on a handful of environmental projects with campus sustainability leaders such as Bonny Bentzin, and the School of Sustainability and the Sustainability Coalition – a student-led organization committed to reducing ASU’s ecological footprint.

As an ASU tutor for America Reads, a program which sends university students to underserved schools throughout Phoenix to teach kids about ‘green’ living, Idriss visited her designated classrooms weekly armed with creative projects, such as paper-making, that challenged the students to think about how to efficiently reuse and recycle different resources.

“It’s a really positive program because it allows for us to engage with the community while also instilling environmentally-conscious messages in kids,” says Idriss.

Her current project is wide-ranging and long-term, and one that has consumed much of her time.

“I am working with a large cohort of professionals and local officials to get a farmers market established on the Tempe campus. The market is a great way to strengthen ASU’s link to the community, as students, faculty, and staff, along with the general public, will have a venue to interact with local farmers and learn all about the agriculture that surrounds us.

“It is a major effort and has led me to many people of all backgrounds and skills, and I have found the experience invaluable. It has taught me about networking and project management,” says Idriss, who plans to graduate in the spring and start applying to graduate schools. She is interested in the master’s in architecture program at ASU.

In the meantime Idriss can be found tending to the citrus, date and pecan trees, making sure that the fruit is not thrown away and wasted, but instead used for composting or donated as food to a diverse set of locales from local soup kitchens to the Phoenix Zoo.

In its inaugural year, the ASU Edible Garden Internship is led by grounds services coordinators Randall Hanson and Deborah Thirkhill, and emphasizes organic gardening.

“There is a noticeable upward trend with sustainability on the Tempe campus these days, and I feel lucky to be a part of it, and grateful that my university is as forward-thinking as I am.”


Natalie Gomez, senior
Social work
Downtown Phoenix campus

It was like coming home when Natalie Gomez began taking classes at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus that was established in 2006. With family and friends nearby and employment at the Post Office downtown, Gomez felt fortunate to be earning her degree in social work in the same area where she spent her childhood.

“I’ve been raised here,” she says. “I grew up down the street from the campus.”

Taking classes in the comfortable environment of the Downtown Phoenix campus has been a definite plus for Gomez. She is also looking forward to expanding her educational opportunities by starting an internship with the Arizona Center for the Blind and Visually Impaired in Phoenix as she explores different employment options in her major.

ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus offers a plethora of opportunities for students to gain practical experience in their majors through field placements and internships, many of which are in the downtown area. The College of Public Programs alone places more than 600 students each year. The College of Nursing & Healthcare Innovation contracts with approximately 400 agencies and facilities to provide clinical experience to undergraduate and graduate nursing students.

Gomez also loves exploring and experiencing all of her favorite “nooks and crannies” offered in the area - places such as La Canasta Mexican Restaurant on Seventh Avenue, Muse Chicano on Adams Street and her friends’ homes nearby.

And she’ll soon have an opportunity to experience working with the blind through her internship while taking classes and enjoying downtown amenities in the place she’s grateful to call home – the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus.


Mari Koerner, dean
College of Teacher Education and Leadership
West campus

For Mari Koerner, dean of ASU’s College of Teacher Education and Leadership at ASU’s West campus, growth was the only answer to responding to the critical shortage of school teachers in high-need, urban and rural communities in Arizona.

“This longstanding and continuously worsening shortage was the motivation for initiating district-based teacher education programs in high-need communities across northern and southern Arizona,” says Koerner, who is a leader of the award-winning Professional Development School (PDS), a program designed to increase teacher retention rates and student achievement scores in underserved school districts throughout the state.

The PDS program has garnered local and national acclaim for its dramatic results in Chinle Unified School District, the largest school district in the Navajo Nation. It currently serves schools in Avondale, Phoenix, Sells, San Luis and Douglas, an Arizona border town, consisting of primarily Hispanic students.

West’s PDS program embraces the diversity of the districts it serves, pointing to PDS student demographics that include 34 percent Hispanic, 33 percent Native American, 32 percent Anglo and 1 percent “other.”

“All of the communities served by the PDS district-based programs struggle to get and keep high-quality teachers,” says Koerner. “Because of this, the school districts have struggled with historically low standardized student achievement. The district-based teacher education programs in these communities are providing high-quality new teachers. Research is showing that quality teachers are the primary factor in predicting future student performance.”