Through the eyes of animals

October 28, 2011

To some people in Phoenix, the coyote is an image of wilderness. To others, it is simply a nuisance. No matter your perspective, humans have a limited understanding of what it’s like to live in the coyote’s world. In fact, we can never truly know what it is to be another animal. 

Ron Broglio, an assistant professor in ASU’s Department of English, in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, studies the limits of human perception and the impossibility of understanding the experience of animals. His upcoming book, "Surface Encounters: Thinking With Animals and Art," explores the work of artists who focus on the human-animal relationship. Cover of "Surface Encounters" Download Full Image

Animals are the fur that jams the gears of the well-oiled social machine,” Broglio says. He is interested in the friction that sometimes occurs living in a world where humans and animals are forced to coexist. 

"We have our world – it’s nicely planned – and then the very physicality of the animal, or its being an animal and not being human and cultured, sometimes disrupts what we want from the animal or what we want from our civil world,” Broglio says.

Broglio first became interested in understanding the experience of animals during a teaching stint at Oxford, where he met two artists who worked with taxidermy-stuffed polar bears. He realized that many animals only enter human history at the time of their death.

"In order to know something, we often destroy it. How can we get to know a world in its vitality and flourishing without causing violence?” Broglio asks.

To answer this question, Broglio studied artists, who he says are able to provoke a sense of wonder that goes beyond our scientific understanding of animals. One such example is the work of artistic duo Olly and Suzi, who specialize in drawing predator species in their natural habitats. 

“Let’s say they’re working with great white sharks," Broglio says. "They go into a dive tank in the water where the shark is, and as the shark is coming towards them, they draw the shark under water – the two of them hand over hand. Then they give the canvas to the shark. The shark might bite it or rub against it, and the bite marks then become its marking of the canvas. The canvas becomes a space that shares the animal’s world and the human world."

Broglio explains that the canvas, once placed in a gallery, forces viewers to examine the negotiation of space between animal and human. 

"Surface Encounters" also describes the work of artists Bryndís Snæbjörnsdóttir and Mark Wilson in one of their exhibitions titled "Uncertainty in the City."

“They interviewed people about what kind of animal constitutes a pest," Broglio says. "In each case, it’s this question of encounter and what people take away from that encounter, whether they take away something of wonder and awe or of concern or anxiety."

Like coyotes in Phoenix, people all over the world view animals differently. In England, for example, Broglio says some people perceive the fox as a welcomed glimpse of wilderness. Others see a pest, and would prefer that wildlife stay hidden from city life.

Why is it important to try and understand the life of an animal, or to be aware of how we perceive them? One reason, Broglio explains, is that studying the animal “decenters the human,” and forces us to think beyond our intellectual comfort zone.

“In the context of the college of arts and sciences, literature and art is usually humans talking about humans. No matter what academic discipline we’re in, looking at the animal takes us outside ourselves.” 

In a broader sense, Broglio says studying animals reminds us that we share the Earth with others. With the effects of climate change already taking place, such as melting glaciers and rising sea levels, both the human and animal world is changing. But humans can’t experience these changes through the eyes of animals.

“I think it’s important to recognize that while humans and animals are on the same Earth, we’re in different worlds," Broglio says. “Ideally, looking at the animal world creates a sense of respect for something that it alien to us.”  

Surface Encounters is currently available for preorder from

Written by Allie Nicodemo, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development

Director, Knowledge Enterprise Development


Lindor named executive vice provost of Health Solutions

October 28, 2011

Keith D. Lindor is leaving his position as dean of Mayo Medical School Rochester, Minn., and professor of medicine at the College of Medicine, Mayo Clinic, to become executive vice provost of Health Solutions, effective Jan. 3, 2012. 

In his new position at Arizona State University, Lindor will lead all of ASU’s health related activities and will have responsibility for developing the new School of the Science of Health Care Delivery and working with others to develop the ASU’s master’s degree in the Science of Health Care Delivery that will be embedded in the curriculum of the Mayo Medical School in Arizona. Download Full Image

The School of Nutrition and Health Promotion will report to him, as will the Department of Biomedical Informatics. The College of Nursing and Health Innovation is part of Health Solutions, and other related units include the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering and numerous research centers and programs including the Center for Health Innovation & Clinical Trials, the Center for Health Information and Research, the Center for World Health Promotion and Disease Prevention, The Health Care Delivery and Policy Program and the Healthcare Transformation Institute.  

“At ASU we are focused on challenges, and improving health care is at the top of our challenge list,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “Better health care will require new models for education and research and new kinds of collaborations. That is why ASU has reconfigured all of the university’s health related schools and centers, and entered into a variety of collaborations with our partner, Mayo Clinic.

“Keith Lindor has already undertaken an innovative approach to improving health care in helping to conceptualize the Mayo Medical School – Arizona Campus, which includes a key collaboration with ASU. He will be responsible for bringing together all relevant academic personnel at ASU to coordinate with Mayo in our desire to transform health care and produce health care professionals who are prepared to lead in the medical profession of the future.”

“Dr. Lindor is exceptionally creative and innovative and an ideal person to lead our programs that will produce the health care professionals who will transform health care in the future,” said Elizabeth D. Capaldi, executive vice president and provost of ASU.

“I took this position because of the opportunity to link the resources of two great institutions, Mayo and ASU, to improve health care outcomes,” Lindor said. “I can’t imagine that there is a better place to pursue that challenge.”

Mayo Clinic recently announced the expansion of Mayo Medical School in Rochester to Arizona, and a major differentiating feature at this new branch of Mayo Medical School is that all students will complete a specialized master’s degree in the Science of Health Care Delivery granted by ASU, concurrently with their medical degree from Mayo Medical School. Mayo is believed to be the first medical school to offer such a program.

Over the past nine years, ASU has worked strategically to establish a comprehensive educational and research relationship with the Mayo Clinic aimed at improving health outcomes for the people of Arizona and the nation. The resulting multi-faceted Mayo-ASU collaboration is based at Mayo Clinic Arizona, but also extends across the Mayo Clinic system to its medical practice and research groups in Rochester, Minn., and Jacksonville, Fla.

The Mayo Clinic/ASU partnership has produced innovative degree programs, such as dual degrees in medicine and law, medicine and business administration, and medicine and biomedical engineering. It also has produced exceptional research initiatives that are addressing some of today’s most important health care issues, such as in metabolic and vascular biology, cancer, personalized medicine, bioengineering, intestinal microecology and health care innovation.

Lindor received a bachelor's degree in chemistry from the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities (1975) and a medical degree from the Mayo Medical School (1979), and did a residency in internal medicine at Bowman Gray School of Medicine (1979-82). He is board certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM).

His honors include being named a MacMillan Management Scholar, Internal Named Professor in the Division of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, Department of Internal Medicine, and Caro M. Gatton Professor of Digestive Disease Research, all at Mayo Clinic.

He began his career at Mayo in 1983 after serving a year as general medical officer, Indian Health Services, Sells, Ariz.

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library