Students produce organic food from campus soil

March 24, 2008

The close observer will notice that ASU’s Tempe campus is dotted with fruit and nut trees.

The most obvious, of course, are the more than 260 Seville, or sour oranges, that are most numerous. These trees were planted many years ago, when sour oranges were in fashion in the Phoenix area. Download Full Image

But there also are sweet and blood oranges, grapefruit, lemon, kumquat, lemonquat, limequat, pecan, date, white sapote and olive trees, as well as herbs such as rosemary, garlic, chives and cilantro, and vegetables in season.

What does all this mean on a university campus?

While ASU is far from being a producing farm, it does generate a lot of food that has the potential to be sold, used by the chefs at the Memorial Union and University Club, or donated to worthy causes.

The growing food production on the Tempe campus also is the focus of a plant biology internship, “The Edible Campus,” instructed by Randel Hanson, an assistant professor who teaches courses in environmental studies and climate change in the Department of Social Behavioral Sciences on the Polytechnic campus.

The class focuses on several areas, Hanson says.

“It helps students understand the organic machine that is ASU and gives them an insight into the culture shift taking place at the grounds level – composting our green waste and keeping all of the edibles out of the waste stream as well as trying to help connect the students to their campus landscape-showing some of the possibilities in eating locally grown food,” Hanson says.

“The students also have their own organic garden spots on the campus, and will assist with the harvesting of the plants, such as the oranges and nuts. They also will assisting in marketing the products that come from the harvest, such as marmalade and the dates, and they will visit the farm where ASU’s green waste goes for composting.”

Hanson, who is a long-term organic gardener himself, says the internship was student-driven, not a course put together by faculty.

“It came out of a group of students who have been trying to push ways the university can be more responsible in its ecological footprint,” he says.

“I was advising a group of students around energy and food issues, and they asked that I become a faculty sponsor for that group, and we put together this course.”

The inaugural internship attracted five students, mostly from plant biology and landscape architecture, but Hanson expects the numbers to grow.

Lana Idriss, a fourth-year student in architecture and landscape architecture, says she had “no idea of the number of edible trees on campus, and how they were being used.”

“I learned about the internship when I was volunteering with the School of Sustainability, trying to get a farmers market in Tempe. Then I started volunteering for the ASU Grounds Department, and I planted an herb garden near the Student Services Building.”

Idriss and the other class members spent many hours last month picking Seville oranges, which were donated to a primate center and zoo in the Valley.

“Students were very curious about what we were doing,” she says. “It’s making them more aware of what plants there are on the campus.”

Hanson said the internship is providing “hands-on experience in integrating ideas about sustainability that the students read about,” and opening their eyes to the possibilities of growing and consuming food on campus.

“They’re getting a sense of the inflow and outflow,” Hanson says.

ASU professor is finalist for PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction

March 24, 2008

ASU Professor T.M. McNally has been named a finalist for the 2008 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

McNally, a professor of English and creative writing in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, was cited for his collection of short stories titled “The Gateway: Stories.” He will be honored during the 28th annual PEN/Faulkner Award Ceremony May 10 at Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. Download Full Image

McNally earned his master of fine arts degree at ASU in 1987 and worked in Europe and other parts of the United States before joining the ASU faculty in 1999.

“Professor McNally’s achievement in being named a finalist for the prestigious PEN/Faulkner Award is both a recognition of his national reputation in the field of creative writing as well as an indication of the quality of ASU’s creative writing program, a program that works in concert with the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing to bring graduate students in creative writing together with award winning writers,” said Deborah Losse, dean of humanities.

“Professor McNally is known for his natural gift of storytelling and for the conviction of his writing. He and his colleagues continue to be recognized through national and international awards for their achievements,” she said.

McNally is also “a dedicated teacher,” according to Neal Lester, chair of the English department. “Our students benefit immensely from his candor, his eloquence, and his steadfast commitment to training and mentoring the next generation of talented fiction writers,” Lester said.

McNally was one of four finalists cited by the PEN/Faulkner Foundation for work published during the 2007 calendar year. Nearly 350 novels and short story collections by American authors were considered. Submissions came from more than 70 publishing houses, including small and academic presses. The winner was Kate Christensen, for her novel “The Great Man.”

McNally said he did not know “The Gateway: Stories” was being nominated, and was surprised and pleased to learn of the award.

He wrote the stories in “The Gateway” over a 10-year period, beginning in the spring of 1993. The final story, from which the book gets its name, took six to seven months to write.

“I wrote it as a way of saying everything I might possibly say about the nature of the short-story form,” McNally said.

Writer David Shields described the work as “vaultingly ambitious narratives” and “uncommonly dense, complex, and well-made.”

“The Gateway” is the sixth work of fiction written by McNally. He also has written two other books of short fiction and three novels: “Until Your Heart Stops,” a New York Times Notable Book; “Almost Home,” a St. Louis Post-Dispatch Best Book of the Year; and “The Goat Bridge,” a Booklist Editors’ Choice.

The PEN/Faulkner Foundation was founded by writers in 1980, and named for William Faulkner, who used his Nobel Prize funds to create an award for young writers, and PEN, the international writers’ organization. The PEN/Faulkner Award is the largest peer-juried prize for fiction in the United States.

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Media Relations

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College of Liberal Arts and Sciences