Graduate merges design with social responsibility

December 13, 2011

A business venture by Christen Forrester (DeGroot), a design student at ASU, has a win-win-win bottom line: social responsibility, environmental sustainability and economic benefit.

Forrester receives the multidisciplinary Master of Science in Design degree, with a concentration in interaction design from the Herberger Insitute for Design and the Arts on Dec. 14. Download Full Image

In her master’s research project titled “Fair Game: Capturing the market for ethical shopping,” Forrester outlines the goals of FAVE Bags™ – a business she co-developed with graduate students Aaron Redman and Erin Frisk from ASU’s School of Sustainability.

FAVE Bags™ are reusable fruit and vegetable bags produced by women in rural El Salvador. “Empower women – protect the planet” is the company’s tagline.

Although many consumers carry reusable canvas bags for shopping, they still fill them with clear plastic bags for produce, says Forrester.

“In the U.S alone, approximately 600 plastic bags are thrown out by each resident yearly.” In addition to the environmental impact, use of plastic bags result in hidden costs to consumers through higher retail prices. “Our bags are the solution to eliminating all that wasteful plastic.”

“By purchasing these bags, the consumer not only helps preserve the environment but also contributes to uplifting people in rural, developing communities,” she says. The women in rural Central America who produce the bags can earn an income in a flexible work environment, close to their homes and with fair wage compensation.  

“The goal is to empower the women themselves to eventually take ownership of this venture,” says Forrester.

FAVE has won recognition and funding through a Crown Innovator Scholarship, the ASU Innovation Challenge and a GPSA Jumpstart Research Grant, among others.

Forrester has received numerous awards and recognition for her design work and research, including the Arizona Golden Rule Citizen Award 2009, ASU Masters in Design Graduate Scholarship 2009, the Helios Foundation Scholarship 2009, Earl and Ellen Davis scholarship for highest GPA in MSD Program, and Outstanding Graphic Design Graduate for 2005.

Teaching undergraduate design students is Forrester’s proudest accomplishment, she says. “It makes my heart smile to see them, now upperclassmen, growing and developing as designers, knowing that I may have helped them in some small way to succeed.”

Forrester admits there were “many times when I felt utterly overwhelmed by the workload of full- time graduate studies, developing a small business, teaching two undergraduate design classes and completing my applied project.”
Graduation, however, brings a realization of goals accomplished and anticipation of the future.

“My hope is that FAVE Bags™ will continue to impact the lives of women in developing communities – giving them a sense of worth and a means to earn an income without having to leave their homes and families – with positive repercussions throughout the society.

“If we can help, even in a small way, to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the world, then we will have done our part to preserve the environment for future generations.”

FAVE Bags™ are available in retail outlets and online at

Michele St George

Publications, Graduate College


Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library

Doctoral graduate explores southwestern archaeology

December 13, 2011

Can a study of our past provide insights into present-day social changes? That is the goal of Matthew Peeples, who graduates this December with a doctorate in anthropology and a concentration in archaeology.

“Archaeology can provide long-term perspectives on how people in the past have navigated periods of dramatic social, environmental and demographic change,” says Peeples. Download Full Image

Archaeological evidence from the vast Cibola region of Arizona and New Mexico points to a major period of demographic and social upheaval from A.D. 1150 to 1325, says Peeples.  As population shifted from dispersed hamlets, to clustered villages, and eventually to a few large towns, rapid social and demographic change produced fundamental shifts in family and community relationships.

“My research suggests that these massive social changes in the Cibola region involved similar dynamics to well-documented contemporary social movements.”

A postdoctoral fellowship with the School of Anthropology at the University of Arizona and the Center for Desert Archaeology will allow Peeples to continue his research. He will be working on the interdisciplinary Southwest Social Networks (SWSN) project, funded by the National Science Foundation Human and Social Dynamics program.
After graduating with a bachelor’s degree in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin, Peeples began his graduate studies at ASU in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, part of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

His research attracted a number of fellowships and grants that helped him concentrate on his studies while completing his master’s, and now a doctorate.

Peeples has been named a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow and an ASU Graduate College Dissertation Fellow. He has also received other fellowships and grants from the Society for American Archaeology, National Science Foundation and the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research.

“To me, graduation is a time for me to celebrate with all the people who have helped me get here,” says Peeples.  “I never would have made it this far in my academic career without the endless support of my wonderful family, close friends and colleagues.”

Peeples’ wife, Melissa Kruse-Peeples, is an ASU doctoral candidate in anthropology, and will be cheering him on at commencement, along with his parents.

“I am so thankful for the wonderful advisors I’ve had here at ASU,” says Peeples, “and would especially like to thank Keith Kintigh, Michelle Hegmon, Kate Spielmann and Peggy Nelson. They have been and will continue to be amazing role models as I move on to the next step in my career.”

Michele St George

Publications, Graduate College

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library