Natalie Diaz appointed Marshall endowed chair in poetry at ASU

October 29, 2018

Arizona State University Associate Professor Natalie Diaz has been named the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry at Arizona State University.

The endowed chair provides funds for an ASU professor in the Department of English who is “a major poet and rising star in the field of American poetry” to use for research, travel, and other scholarly activities. The money also supports graduate research assistantships to strengthen student recruitment and the teaching and learning of poetry. ASU associate professor Natalie Diaz / Photo courtesy John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Natalie Diaz is the new holder of the Marshall endowed chair in poetry at ASU, which provides funds for a professor in the Department of English who is “a major poet and rising star in the field of American poetry” to use for research, travel and other scholarly activities. Diaz was also recently named a MacArthur Foundation Fellow. Photo courtesy of the John D. & Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation Download Full Image

“Natalie Diaz was, even before I came to ASU, one of my favorite poets,” said Jeffrey Cohen, dean of humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, of which the Department of English is an academic unit. “Her works ‘Abecedarian Requiring Further Examination of Anglikan Seraphym Subjugation of a Wild Indian Rezervation’ and ‘It Was the Animals’ have frequently visited my classroom (and one is in my book project in progress).

“The Marshall family wanted to honor through the endowment the best in contemporary poetry,” Cohen continued, “so I cannot imagine a better choice than Professor Diaz.”

The Marshall Chair is named in honor of Maxine Besser Marshall (Sociology '76) and Jonathan Marshall, former newspaper publishers and prominent Valley philanthropists.

“It is exciting to imagine how we might continue the good work and energy of Maxine and John Marshall here at ASU and within the smaller and larger poetry communities of Arizona,” Diaz said. “Poetry, like any good story, like any generous and well-intentioned language, has the power to change a single moment as well as lift and sustain a movement. Arizona has a long history of language and poetry, from our indigenous languages, to Spanish, to the many different languages our guests and neighbors and families bring into our lexicons.

“It is an honor and a joy to help envision and enact the next moments we all might come together — across a page, a room, our campus or our state — to share our stories and our poetries and how we all might be better for it.”

The Marshalls created the fund in 2001, and the first Marshall Chair — poet and translator Cynthia Hogue — assumed the role in 2003. Professor Hogue held the position until her retirement from ASU in December 2017.

“That inspiring and timely notion of giving forward — Emily Dickinson called it ‘dowering,’ the gift without conditions — surely characterizes Maxine and her beloved husband, Jonathan, in all they did and gave,” wrote Hogue in a 2013 newsletter article about the philanthropically minded couple. Maxine and Jonathan also funded the Marshall Distinguished Lecture Series, an annual College of Liberal Arts and Sciences event that “brings to ASU nationally known scholars concerned with promoting culture through the humanities and a better understanding of the problems of democracy.”

Diaz teaches in English’s creative writing program. Earlier this month, she was awarded a MacArthur Foundation fellowship, known informally as a “genius grant.” The fellowship is a prestigious honor, a recognition of exceptional creativity, and it is not, the foundation emphasizes, a lifetime achievement award but instead a search for people on the verge of a great discovery or a game-changing idea.

Born and raised in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California, Diaz is Mojave and an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe. Her first poetry collection, "When My Brother Was an Aztec," was published to critical acclaim by Copper Canyon Press in 2012. Her next collection, “Postcolonial Love Poem,” is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2020. She is a Lannan Literary Fellow and a Native Arts Council Foundation Artist Fellow. She was awarded a Bread Loaf Fellowship, the Holmes National Poetry Prize, a Hodder Fellowship and a PEN/Civitella Ranieri Foundation Residency, as well as being awarded a U.S. Artists Ford Fellowship.

In addition to being renowned on the page, Diaz is known for her Mohave language activism. She is also a frequent collaborator with other artists and poets. She wrote, curated and led an exhibit at the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York City titled “Words for Water: Stories and Songs of Strength by Native Women” that featured a collective of indigenous female poets, writers and musicians exploring the power of language, story and song in the fight for environmental and cultural justice.

Diaz is also the founder of archiTEXTS, a program that facilitates conversations and collaborations between people who value poetry, literature and story. In November 2017, archiTEXTS held an event at ASU called “Legacies: A Conversation With Sandra Cisneros, Rita Dove and Joy Harjo,” in which the authors discussed their personal journeys through the American literary landscape.

The chair appointment is for a period of five years, with a possibility of renewal.

A celebration of Diaz’s accomplishments and naming as Marshall Chair will take place Feb. 21, 2019. More details are forthcoming.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

senior marking & communications specialist, Department of English


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A champion for the past and future of Teotihuacan

October 23, 2018

Posthumous $1 million donation by family of the late George L. Cowgill continues ASU archaeologist's commitment to ancient site

Imagine a renaissance city where revolutionary ideas in urban planning, politics, economy, ecology and the arts all arose at the same time, creating a high standard of living that was largely equitable for nearly all residents.

It’s hard to imagine even by today’s standards, yet one ancient Mesoamerican city seemed to have achieved that status, for a time, and the archaeological remnants from that period and location are available for research and discovery today. 

Teotihuacan is a famed UNESCO World Heritage site located in central Mexico that receives 2 million visitors each year. Yet few of these countless visitors throughout the decades have given back as much as one — a man by the name of George L. Cowgill.

The late archaeologist and professor emeritus at Arizona State University’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change died this summer after spending much of his lifetime studying and preserving the majesty of Teotihuacan.

“George’s dry humor often enlivened his professional and personal interactions,” remembered ASU Professor Emeritus Barbara Stark, “as did his wide knowledge of research on ancient civilizations.”  

Over decades, Cowgill proved himself an invaluable ally and friend of Teotihuacan with regards to the global scientific community, the Mexican government and peoples — who allowed him and other researchers access to their history, resources and communities — and countless students, supporters and members of the public, whose interest only grew with each new discovery.

In 2018, this legacy continued with a posthumous $1 million donation to ASU made by his family to help honor this lifelong commitment and create further opportunities for worldwide scientific and cultural access and appreciation of the site.

Falling under Teo's spell

Cowgill began the Teotihuacan portion of his career in 1964 under the invitation of famed researcher René Millon, who was looking for help with an ambitious project to map the scope of the city in its entirety.  

Anthropologists George Cowgill and Rene Millon

Famed anthropologists and Teotihuacan Mapping Project colleagues René Millon (left) and George Cowgill.

Other major efforts by Cowgill spanned decades, including an excavation alongside ASU Research Professor Saburo Sugiyama at the site’s Feathered Serpent pyramid, and the development of a database — one of the field’s largest at the time — of Teotihuacan surface artifacts. Along the way, he pioneered several novel enhancements to quantitative methods in the industry’s scientific tool kit, in areas such as chronological seriation, artifact classification and spatial analysis.

In addition, he was a co-founder of the first externally owned research lab onsite, the Teotihuacan Research Laboratory, and strategically grew its resources, infrastructure and influence over nearly three decades as its director.

Today, as an ASU-owned facility managed by the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, the lab continues to serve as a main base camp for scientific discovery, including use by researchers and visiting anthropology students from the United States, Mexico and the rest of the world. It also houses thousands of boxes containing the roughly 1 million artifacts and samples recovered from the site to date.

“George ran the lab as an incubator of ideas to be tested in field projects by scholars of different perspectives and nationalities, and thought that all artifacts, whether common or rare, mundane or exquisite, deserved careful study and fierce protection,” ASU Professor Ben Nelson said.

Over the course of his career, Cowgill authored more than 130 professional publications, and his 2015 book “Ancient Teotihuacan” is considered the definitive general work on the city.

In 2004, he and Millon were also jointly awarded the Alfred Vincent Kidder Award for Eminence in the Field of American Archaeology by the American Anthropological Association.

Despite Cowgill’s and others’ exhaustive efforts, current estimates are that only a paltry 5 percent of the total area that is Teotihuacan has been excavated and analyzed. The other 95 percent still remains buried.

Lessons from the past and a future that endures

The Aztecs did not build Teotihuacan, but it was they who named it a “city of the gods.” And Cowgill’s findings over the decades consistently reveal a culture that was — at its peak — certainly worthy of such a grand title.

For example, it boasted extensive trade networks and marketplaces, and also influenced far more regions through its culture — including ritual programs, specialized crafts and a political prestige; things that other societies envied and emulated — than it absorbed through force.

“George’s willingness to seek answers to the future from lessons of our past has since proved prescient,” explained Michael E. Smith, the current director of the Teotihuacan Research Laboratory and a student of Cowgill’s at Brandeis University in the 1970s. “In a world where our ability to simply ‘spread out’ as a solution for population growth is rapidly diminishing, these lessons from the past may be key in creating safer, fairer and more effective cityscapes of tomorrow.”

As Cowgill himself explained in a 2013 interview, “We shouldn’t think of past cultures as disappeared. They have a continued life in another form. They remain relevant.”

That’s not to say life at Teotihuacan was always idyllic — in fact, Cowgill was involved with the discovery of the first pyramid at Teotihuacan associated with ritual human sacrifice. And despite hundreds of years of evident prosperity, the city also met a comparatively swift decline and abandonment in its final years, culminating in the burning of its civic center in A.D. 650.

However, one of Cowgill’s greatest insights was never to let sensational or surface-level assumptions take away from the big idea of Teotihuacan — that even in a place of this magnitude, everyone matters and deserves to have their story told.

“The great pyramids, the haunts of rulers and high priests, are important, but the dwellings of ordinary folk are also vital for understanding a complex urban society,” he said in 2011.

A democratic and egalitarian idea, as manifest in the man as in the city he studied.

Throughout his life, “George brought people together, whether through the scientific conferences hosted in his name and or by lending his extraordinary knowledge to museum displays and public learning opportunities,” said President’s Professor Kaye Reed, director of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

Now, this gift in honor of his memory will enable Cowgill’s major physical legacy — the ASU Teotihuacan Research Laboratory — to continue and enhance its core missions.

Local and international students, scientists and others will continue to learn about and preserve the past of Teotihuacan through research and curation, and new approaches to in-person and online outreach, education and scholarship will be developed, Smith said.

“This donation is an incredible legacy and will be invaluable to keep the discoveries coming at Teotihuacan for generations to come.”

Top photo of Teotihuacan by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

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Gift establishes Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

October 1, 2018

Couple’s philanthropy will support student success and launch an initiative to revitalize Maryvale community

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. Read more top stories from 2018 here.

Mike and Cindy Watts took over a tiny lawnmower-rental company in 1977 and worked day and night for 40 years to grow it into the thriving enterprise that Sunstate Equipment Co. is now. Though their business was about backhoes and forklifts, they knew that their company’s real assets were the people.

“We focused on the culture of the company, and it’s all about people,” said Mike Watts, who, as CEO of Sunstate, learned to invest in his employees. “We would provide opportunities and encourage their growth and development.”

Today, the Watts family is continuing to invest in people with a gift that will further Arizona State University’s mission to increase access to higher education and to partner with the community. And on Monday, ASU announced the historic renaming of its public service college to the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

In announcing the gift, ASU President Michael M.Crow said that while the university is dedicated to helping the community, the gift from the Watts is an example of how the citizens can step up to improve the university.

“How do you make a democracy more successful? How can you design a university that can be of the community and committed to the community’s success?” he said. “For all that we bring, we cannot do that by ourselves. The community and its leaders, its citizens, must also engage and help advance the institution.”

The $30 million investment is one of the largest gifts in ASU history and demonstrates a continuation of the Watts’ commitment to advancing the prosperity of Arizona by harnessing the power of the university and its broad array of programs to transform neighborhoods, cities and the state.

Crow said through their legacy of giving and partnering with ASU, the Watts are role models.

“They have stepped up in a way that through their investment, this college can expand its intellectual footprint and its impact in the community itself,” he said.

Mike Watts said on Monday that seeing the family name on the college is meaningful if it encourages other donors to support the university.

“It’s more meaningful if, as the students see the name up there, they know that we’re supporting them,” he said.

Jonathan Koppell, dean of the college, noted at the beginning of the ceremony that the Downtown Phoenix campus is built on lands that were long populated by indigenous people, whose innovative canals still exist today.

“They offer a lesson applicable to today’s gathering: Through their commitment to collective action, they took a hostile environment and built a place where we can live,” he said. “That's what public service and community solutions means.”

Cindy Watts said that collaboration is key.

“Ignorance is a great source of suffering, and our intention is to alleviate that suffering through all of these programs,” she said. “From our hearts, we are so honored to do this.”

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

The announcement was part of the Community Solutions Festival, with dozens of tables showcasing the many academic units and student projects in the public service college.

The Watts' gift will fund scholarships and professorships — including one devoted to Native American issues — support student programs and launch a unique initiative to revitalize the community where the Watts grew up, called the “Maryvale Revitalization Project and One Square Mile Initiative.”

“These are two individuals who care deeply about their community, and they decided that the best way to make a difference was through ASU,” Koppell said.

“That’s really powerful because it speaks to the role that we have assigned ourselves — to be an active agent for change by working in partnership with organizations in the community.”

Finding their start in Maryvale

Mike and Cindy Watts have warm memories of Maryvale, a thriving, working-class community where they lived in the 1960s.

They met at a Maryvale High School graduation party and then went for a drive with friends, stopping to jump out of the car and dance along to the radio on Central Avenue.

They’ve been partners ever since.

“If everybody who entered business could have a spouse that would support them like she did for me, there would be a lot more people going into business,” said Mike Watts.

He described those early years, when they couldn’t get a bank loan so they sold the family car and lived off the money while negotiating to take over a shop that rented lawnmowers.

“I had several job offers and we would talk about it — ‘Are you still in the belief we can buy this business and do it?’ And she never once said, ‘I think you should take this job.’ That made me feel supported,” he said.

“It was a good bet on my part,” said Cindy Watts, who was the bookkeeper for the business when they finally were able to buy it. “I was in full support. It was exciting.”

In the 1980s, the Phoenix area began sprawling and their business, dependent on construction, started thriving.

“I knew what it took to build a business and find value in other people,” said Mike Watts, who retired as CEO a year and half ago. “It wasn’t motivation for money. It was motivation for growth. I found that through the proper channeling of people, it would build the business.”

Cindy Watts agreed.

“To me, it’s important to offer the opportunity to every human being to meet their potential,” she said. “We’re all human, we all want the same thing, we want to be happy and be free of suffering. We need one another.”

Over the past several decades, Maryvale has struggled with crime and poverty, and its residents have lower levels of education than other areas of Phoenix and in Maricopa County. Compared with all Maricopa County residents, Maryvale has triple the number of residents without a high school diploma, 39 percent vs. 13 percent for the county.    

Koppell said the One Square Mile initiative will concentrate ASU programs in one area and help connect existing initiatives.

“Let’s try doing it all in concert so that the same families that are getting the benefit of a nutrition program are also getting the benefit of a tutoring program and are also getting help starting their small business and are also shown how to be better financial managers,” he said.

“We’ve already discovered lots of cool things going on that are disconnected, so one of the roles we can play is to be a facilitator, a coordinator.”

Carina Ledesma is grateful that the Watts family sees hope in Maryvale, where she grew up.

“There are no words to explain how much this means to me, how much this means to the students who will be receiving this financial assistance, and how much it means to the community,” said Ledesma, who has found her passion in social work, helping domestic violence survivors and children in the foster-care system.

“Just like there’s some bad, there’s so much good there. There are so many teens who want to go to school.”

Ledesma, who earned a bachelor’s of social work and is now pursuing a master’s of social work at ASU, said she faced low expectations when she was in high school, and that young people there need people like Mike and Cindy Watts to believe in them.

“They need someone who says, ‘You live in Maryvale, but you’re going to make it. Here is all this help, and there are all these resources. One day you’re going to graduate, and you’re going to do what you love to do.’ ”

Opening up opportunities

Graduates of public-service colleges become social workers, law-enforcement officers and government workers. So gifts like this are unusual, Koppell said.

“When you think about multimillion-dollar gifts, you think of a business school or a law school, partially because the alumni of a school of social work or a school of public affairs aren’t generally in a position to give those kinds of gifts to their alma mater,” he said.

The Watts’ investment will help fund the college’s hands-on learning programs for students, like the Community Solutions Co-op, a service-learning initiative in which students work to resolve local issues, and the Spirit of Service Scholars, the flagship program that provides in-depth policy and leadership training to students from all majors. Scholars will provide mentorship at Maryvale schools.

It will also help fund the Student Social Entrepreneurship Fund, which offers seed money to students with promising entrepreneurial solutions to social challenges, and the Undergraduate Research Program, where students team up with professors on research that examines societal challenges, gaining valuable research, presentation and publication experience.

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

One important objective of the gift is to provide experiences to students who otherwise may not be able to afford them. A pool of money will be available to help fund internships, study-abroad trips and undergraduate research.

Koppell said the timing of the gift is significant.

“It couldn’t happen at a more important time in our history, when the belief in public service and the confidence in public institutions is at a low point,” he said.

Mike Watts said that he and Cindy are confident in ASU’s ability to make an impact.

“We’ve seen proof that things can be taken across to the finish line,” he said.

The couple hopes their gift provides hope.

“I have always felt that giving people a reason to be optimistic, to believe in dreams is important,” Mike Watts said about helping the Maryvale community.

“Part of the initiative that we hope to work with the college on is the development of that, a belief system, not just in themselves but in the opportunities that exist in the U.S. and in Maryvale.”

A point of pride for the college is that it is home to ASU’s most diverse student body, with the highest percentages of minority, college transfer, employed students, veterans and first-generation students. The college also boasts the Public Service Academy, the nation’s first leadership program where students receive leadership training and experience to work across the public, private, nonprofit and military sectors.  

“Mike and Cindy Watts embody the guiding principles of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions,” said ASU Foundation CEO Gretchen Buhlig. “They are deeply engaged in the community and dedicated to addressing social problems, serving as agents of change for the solutions we want to see in the world. Their transformational investment and leadership will shape the future of public service education.”

Video by Jordan Currier/ASU

Top photo of Cindy and Mike Watts by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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McCain Institute carries on senator's work in human rights and national security

August 26, 2018

Sen. John McCain’s support for Arizona State University is attested to by the Washington, D.C.-based institution bearing his name: The McCain Institute for International Leadership was established in 2012 with a $9 million grant to ASU from the McCain Institute Foundation.

McCain died Saturday at age 81.

READ: McCain’s legacy at ASU one of philanthropy and service

“An American icon passed away — a leader whose life was one of national service and who exemplified courage, honor and sacrifice,” said ASU Enterprise Partners CEO R. F. “Rick” Shangraw Jr. “Sen. McCain has long been one of my heroes, and my thoughts and prayers are with his family now. He served faithfully and fearlessly. A truly great American.”

The McCain Institute promotes character-driven leadership, research and decision-making in the areas of humanitarian work, human rights and national security.

McCain and his wife, Cindy McCain, a leader in global efforts to end human trafficking and co-chair of the institute’s human trafficking advisory council, envisioned a unique think tank distinguished by its partnership with ASU’s world-class faculty, students and programming.

The senator's “character, values and example impacted the world over, with much of his immense positive influence on leaders, emerged and emerging, still to come,” said Ambassador Kurt Volker, executive director of the McCain Institute. 

A core principle of the institute is its promotion of rigorous debate, an American tradition McCain proudly maintained in the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate throughout nearly four decades of service to Arizona. When the institute was established, Steve Clemons wrote in The Atlantic that McCain “... believes in the kind of rough-and-tumble politics where political actors and branches of government responsibly and vigorously compete and knock into each other … an approach to politics that is often misunderstood and should be more greatly valued.”

Since its earliest days, the institute has reflected McCain’s energetic approach to informed decision making with:

• Recommendations for leaders arrived at through open debate and rigorous analysis by experts, policy-relevant research, and decision-making training events using cutting-edge technology, including ASU’s Decision Theater Network.

• Programs that identify and train new national security leaders, both American and international, from the public service, private enterprise and military spheres.

• The McCain Debates, a speaking series in Washington that provides an arena for experts and policy makers to debate key issues.

In establishing the institute as part of Arizona State University, McCain, a member of the ASU Leadership Society, envisioned more than a traditional think tank. He insisted that it offer an internship program for undergraduate and graduate students, a McCain Leadership Fellows Program, and a class of Next Generation McCain Fellows composed of rising national security professionals.

In September, the McCain Institute welcomed Next Generation Leaders from Albania, Belarus, Germany, Haiti, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia and Mongolia. In 2017 it hosted 20 events on human trafficking, international security and leadership, and partnered with 31 organizations in the U.S. and around the world.

Top photo: The Barrett & O'Connor Washington Center, launched in March, is the new home for the McCain Institute for International Leadership and a number of other ASU programs in Washington, D.C. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Director of Media and Public Relations , ASU Enterprise Partners


ASU Foundation sets fundraising record for fourth consecutive year

Donors contributed over $253 million for university initiatives

July 20, 2018

For the fourth year in a row, the ASU Foundation has announced the completion of a record year in fundraising for academic programs, research and initiatives at the university.

At the close of the 2018 fiscal year, numbers show donors throughout Arizona and the world contributed over $253 million for ASU to advance access and excellence. The previous record of $222 million was set in fiscal year 2017.  On Giving Day, members of the ASU community who make a donation select the area of the university they want their funds to support. Download Full Image

“There is an outstanding future for our university, with rising numbers of graduates, levels of research, and economic impact,” ASU President Michael M. Crow said. “Our philanthropic supporters and partners play an integral role in our success, helping us advance our pursuits to make a lasting impact on the students and communities we serve.”

More than 105,000 individual, corporate and foundation supporters gave to ASU this year.

RELATED: On Giving Day, ASU staff, faculty donate to the areas of the university they care most about

“Without our donors, the ASU Foundation's success would not be possible,” said ASU Foundation CEO Gretchen Buhlig. "Each and every gift helps change the lives of students in extraordinary ways.  Our supporters give students the opportunity to succeed, and we are grateful to witness that every day."  

Campaign ASU 2020, a comprehensive effort to permanently raise the long-term fundraising capacity of the university, has raised nearly half a billion dollars for student access, excellence and success, ensuring that every qualified student can come to ASU — and thrive.

Frank Smith, who graduated in May, never thought college was an option. Throughout his youth, he lived in 27 different foster homes. Despite instability at home, Smith was determined to get a college degree and entered ASU as an Armstrong Scholar, an Obama Scholar, a Spirit of Service Scholar and a Nina Mason Pulliam Scholar. He was elected the youngest student body president ever at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus.

“I always knew the numbers were against me, but I also knew it could be different. I definitely don’t think I would be here without the teachers and mentors who believed in me, and I’m grateful,” he said. “I want to be a role model for foster children and show them they can hope for something better and achieve it.”

Smith is one of nearly 10,000 students each year who receive scholarships through private support.

Private support also funded a wide range of impactful gifts this year, including a new research fund for the Department of Psychology; support for blockchain curriculum in engineering, business, and law; and funding for students to design, build and fly space vehicles.

One gift made headlines in the sustainability world: Kelly and Brian Swette, founders of Sweet Earth Natural Foods, made a major gift to establish the Kelly and Brian Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at Arizona State University, and to create the Swette Family Scholarship Program, to provide financial support to students from agricultural farm-working and food-working families.

“Private support is critical to the success of ASU, and we are grateful to the community of supporters whose contributions are advancing the New American University,” said R.F. “Rick” Shangraw Jr., chief executive officer of ASU Enterprise Partners, the parent organization to the ASU Foundation. “Their support of students, faculty, research, and bold ideas help ensure a very bright future.”

The ASU Foundation is a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the mission of ASU as the New American University. For the seventh year in a row, it has received the highest ranking for efficiency and transparency from Charity Navigator, the largest independent nonprofit evaluator.

Learn more about supporting ASU.

Director of Media and Public Relations, ASU Enterprise Partners


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New veterans program gets $100,000 kick start

May 2, 2018

Initiative to provide post-graduation grant with aim to improve veterans academically, prepare them for workforce

A new collaboration between Arizona State University’s Pat Tillman Veterans Center and the Public Service Academy will now move forward after receiving a $100,000 grant from Women & Philanthropy — an ASU Foundation engagement program.

During the Women & Philanthropy yearly appreciation luncheon Tuesday at the Camelback Golf Club in Scottsdale, the Veterans Scholar Program was one of four recipients of a sizeable grant that aims to improve veteran graduation rates and prepare them for the workforce.

“The focus is to leverage our student veterans to improve academically,” said Michelle Loposky, Pat Tillman Veterans Center assistant director for outreach and engagement. “But also to get them engaged with the ASU community and discover their potential.” 

Veterans going into their senior year could be eligible for up to a $1,000 grant after graduation if they satisfy the program’s three components: an improved GPA, community service and professional development.

“The amount of money awarded to the students will be determined by their ending GPA,” Loposky said.

Students earning a 3.8 GPA or better will get $1,000, Loposky said. A 3.5 or above gets $750, and anyone with 3.1 or higher gets $500.  

“We would like to see those veterans with lower GPAs reach 3.0 and above,” Loposky said.

Students should receive the funding after they apply for graduation, Loposky said. The grant will be approved once the Pat Tillman Veterans Center confirms that students have met the GPA requirements and satisfied the other two program components.

“The earned funding is supposed to go to something that adds to their professional brand,” Loposky said. “For example, buying a suit, paying for a professional certification, covering the cost of a conference, etc.”

A key part the program is the partnership with ASU’s Public Service Academy, as it unites the academy’s Next Generation Service Corps with student veterans to work jointly on community service projects.   

“This is an incredible opportunity to both directly train veteran leaders and my civilian student leaders side-by-side,” said Brett Hunt, Public Service Academy executive director, “thereby transmitting the leadership experience that veterans have beyond their years in the military to my civilian students who are emerging potential leaders in the future.”

Student veterans will have the opportunity to work with the Public Service Academy in community projects through ASU’s Changemaker Central; Devils in Disguise; Red, White and Serve; and other “direct service opportunities.”

“What we’re doing at the end of the day is building leadership infrastructure,” Hunt said. “The Veterans Scholar Program gives us the ability to transform our student veterans into that leadership infrastructure for the nation.”

Behind the new program is a bigger notion that speaks to the heart of many veterans and that they often miss after they leave the military.

“It’s about instilling a higher purpose other than going out and getting a job,” said Hunt, a former Army captain and State Department Foreign Service officer. “That is what has drawn many of us veterans here to ASU, doing something purpose-driven that when you leave the military you don’t have to leave service behind. This is a way to translate that into purpose in the civilian sector.”

Women & Philanthropy celebrated its 15th anniversary in 2017. In total over the years, the group has donated $3.7 million to 87 different ASU programs.

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

Eminent scholar gives $2 million to support industrial engineering at ASU

May 2, 2018

The world has no shortage of worthwhile causes to support. Diseases need cures. Environments need preservation. People need a higher quality of life.  

For Douglas C. Montgomery, an eminent scholar and statistician, supporting graduate student education in industrial engineering is his top priority. That’s why he’s making a personal contribution of $2 million to Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Portrait of Doug Montgomery in his office. Arizona State University Regents’ Professor Douglas Montgomery has established a charitable remainder trust to help fund graduate education and a new professorship in industrial engineering in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Photo by Jessica Hochreiter/ASU Download Full Image

“Graduate student education is really important,” said Montgomery, a Regents’ Professor of Industrial Engineering in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering. “Industrial engineers play a vital role in a huge range of industrial and business settings, from manufacturing to health care. So, we should do whatever we can to improve graduate education and make it a good experience.”

Montgomery’s passion to help graduate students develop their research interests has motivated him to become an investor and partner in their quest for knowledge, skill and wisdom. He has made several contributions over the years to ASU and his alma mater, Virginia Tech.

This year, Montgomery’s gift in the form of a charitable remainder trust will provide additional funding for his prior investments, which include the Bert Keats Fellowship, the Douglas C. Montgomery Endowment Fund and the Dr. Connie Borror Achievement Scholarship. It will also establish the Douglas C. Montgomery Professorship in Industrial Engineering to recruit a senior scholar in industrial statistics to continue Montgomery’s legacy.

“Doug is fueled by a sincere commitment to scholarship at the highest levels in his teaching, service and research,” said Kyle Squires, dean of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “He embodies the core tenets of the New American University and his impact on the next generation of thought leaders in industrial engineering has been, simply put, top of class. His investment is instrumental in elevating the profile, potential and contributions of our learning community in the Fulton Schools.”  

As a renowned expert in quality engineering, Montgomery has contributed significantly to the design of experiments and statistical process control. He has published 16 books, more than 180 technical papers and over 270 journal papers. He has received nearly $4 million in research funding from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense and NASA. He has also served as a consultant to more than 100 companies. 

Montgomery’s professional accolades are numerous. He was elected an honorary member of the American Society for Quality, the highest grade of membership, given to only 25 members. He’s a fellow of the American Statistical Association, the Royal Statistical Society and the Institute of Industrial Engineers. He also received the Shewhart Medal, the Brumbaugh Award and the Hunter Award, among others for outstanding contributions to his field.

Among his long list of accomplishments, Montgomery is most proud of his doctoral students who have found success. Throughout his career, Montgomery has mentored 68 doctoral students, with four students under his wing currently.

“I’ve been quite fortunate to work with excellent research students,” said Montgomery, who teaches mostly graduate-level courses in industrial engineering. “I’m really proud of every single one of them because they’ve all gone on to do really great things.”

Montgomery’s doctoral graduates are on the faculties of many leading universities in the U.S. and around the world. A fairly sizable number of graduates he mentored are in influential positions at major companies and national labs, such as the RAND Corporation and the Battelle Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

“The benefits of Doug’s teaching and research are widespread,” said Rong Pan, associate professor and program chair of industrial engineering and engineering management. “He has inspired and defined the research agenda of numerous researchers, not only his own extensive set of doctoral students, but also the many authors who have studied and cited his research publications.”

Montgomery’s first doctoral student at the Georgia Institute of Technology was Professor Ronald G. Askin. Montgomery continued to mentor Askin as his career progressed through various professorship roles at the University of Iowa and the University of Arizona.

“Doug is the kind of adviser and faculty mentor you want to emulate. He’s been my role model for how to be a successful classroom instructor, a high-impact researcher who combines technical depth with real-world relevance and impact, and a graduate adviser,” said Askin. “He has an amazing ability to see difficult topics clearly and convey intuition as well as technical detail to students. He is a storehouse of knowledge and insight that makes for a valuable resource for the budding researcher.” 

In 2006, Askin joined Montgomery on the Fulton Schools faculty as the chair of the industrial engineering program. Askin went on to serve as director of the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering from 2009 to 2016. 

“I always tell people you should be very good to your doctoral students because you might end up working for one of them,” joked Montgomery of his former student. “If you didn’t treat them well, it could be a bad experience.” 

Montgomery is very active in recruiting students and faculty into the industrial engineering program. During his sabbatical this academic year, he has traveled to multiple universities throughout the country to recruit students to the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering's graduate program. 

Among the enticements for prospective faculty and students are the textbooks Montgomery has authored, “Design and Analysis of Experiments” and “Introduction to Statistical Quality Control,” both of which are leading textbooks in his field.  

“We’re honored to have Doug serving the industrial engineering program for nearly 30 years,” said Pan. “He’s made so many contributions to the growth and quality of our program. And a certain portion of our graduate program’s excellent ranking, 17th by the U.S. News & World Report, is due to him.”

Montgomery lauds the faculty in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering and the industrial engineering program for their broad range of specialties and research interests. He said interacting with his colleagues has been extremely beneficial for his own research ventures by enabling him to gain diverse perspectives on how to approach various problems. 

“I think we’re trying to do some really outstanding things here at ASU,” said Montgomery. “As faculty, we all benefit from our careers and time at this place. I think it’s only reasonable that if we can find some way to give back to the university, we should do it.”

Amanda Stoneman

Senior Marketing Content Specialist, EdPlus


Les Schiefelbein endows Global Dispute Resolution Program and scholarship at ASU Law

April 26, 2018

Les Schiefelbein, CEO and founder of Schiefelbein Global Dispute Resolution, has announced a gift to the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University to establish the Les Schiefelbein Global Dispute Resolution Program and Endowed Scholarship.

A goal of the global dispute resolution program is to provide students at ASU Law an innovative and interactive environment to gain knowledge, experience and develop professional connections that will help prepare them for practice in international arbitration and mediation with global law firms, multinational corporations, governments and nongovernment organizations. Les and Linda Schiefelbein Linda and Les Schiefelbein. Download Full Image

The program will feature an annual International Arbitration Forum where top lawyers, counsel for global corporations, internationally recognized arbitrators and mediators, and leaders at arbitration institutions will engage in discussions on timely issues in international dispute resolution.

The Les Schiefelbein Endowed Scholarship Fund will provide scholarship support for law students pursuing careers in global dispute resolution.

"The generous gift from Les and Linda Schiefelbein to create the Global Dispute Resolution Program, at the law school's Lodestar Dispute Resolution Center, will improve our ability to offer a world-class legal education to our students and prepare them for careers in the field of global dispute resolution," said Douglas Sylvester, dean of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. "Through this collaborative program, our students will have opportunities to interact with and learn from leading lawyers, arbitrators and mediators across multiple disciplines."

"International dispute resolution is complex, constantly evolving due to the breadth of a global economy and the fast pace of technology innovation and the need for new practitioners, both men and women, is paramount," said Les Schiefelbein. "The Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law has an impressive commitment to dispute resolution education, being ranked number seven in U.S. law schools for dispute resolution by U.S. News & World Report.

"It is the right place and this is the right time to provide a focused program to nurture the learning, talents, passion, and leadership skills for the next generation to be successful practitioners in global dispute resolution, especially where it is growing at a rapid pace in Asia, Europe and the United States."

Schiefelbein is a leading domestic and international arbitrator serving in complex commercial, government and technology disputes. Les has an extensive business and law background that includes 30 years as vice president and deputy general counsel at Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company. At Lockheed Martin, Schiefelbein advised senior leaders on a wide range of international aerospace, technology and national security matters and acted as counsel in many international arbitrations. He also is a retired colonel, Air Force judge advocate lawyer.

Schiefelbein currently serves as CEO and vice chairman of the executive committee of the Silicon Valley Arbitration & Mediation Center, a nonprofit that serves the global technology sector by promoting business practical resolution of disputes. He made the Silicon Valley Arbitration and Mediation Center's "Tech List," a catalog of the world's leading technology arbitrators and mediators, in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.

Schiefelbein received his JD from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law.

Executive Director, Marketing and Communications, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law


RIESTER advertising and public relations agency makes major gift to support Cronkite School

March 22, 2018

The owners of RIESTER, one of the region’s leading advertising and digital marketing firms, today made a six-figure gift to support students and programs at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Tim and Mirja Riester, principals of the Phoenix-based firm, have pledged their multi-year gift to establish an endowed scholarship for students as well as support the school’s Public Relations Lab, a full-service strategic communications agency in which students develop campaigns and strategies for clients that range from Fortune 500 companies to startups and nonprofits. Cronkite School The owners of RIESTER, one of the region’s leading advertising and digital marketing firms, today made a six-figure gift to support students and programs at ASU's Cronkite School. Download Full Image

“The integrity of journalism and journalists is being questioned today in the United States from leaders at the highest levels of government and business,” said Tim Riester, who also serves as CEO of RIESTER. “Having ASU’s Cronkite School, with its superior reputation and history of high teaching standards to train our nation’s future reporters and communicators, is arguably more important than ever before in modern history.”

The RIESTER Public Relations Endowed Scholarship will annually support students enrolled in the PR Lab at the Cronkite School. The gift comes on Sun Devil Giving Day, ASU’s annual celebration of philanthropy.

The gift also will name PR Lab’s conference room, where students and faculty meet with clients and develop their campaigns.

Additionally, the gift will provide support for Native American students interested in attending the Summer Journalism Institute, which brings top-performing high school students from underrepresented communities to the Cronkite School to receive hands-on experiences in broadcast and digital journalism.

“Motivating and supporting young adults from underrepresented populations to pursue careers in journalism is vital to ensure culturally sensitive and relevant news coverage in the future,” said Mirja Riester, who also serves as chief strategic officer of RIESTER.

Cronkite School Dean Christopher Callahan said the support comes at a critical time as the field of strategic communications continues to grow. He said RIESTER’s generous gift will help students launch their careers at the Cronkite School.

“This generous gift from Tim and Mirja will help us continue to grow and advance our efforts in providing a world-class education to our students,” Callahan said. “We sincerely appreciate their support and commitment to the future of our profession. We are looking forward to the dedication of the RIESTER PR Lab Conference Room.”

Founded in 1989, RIESTER has been successfully creating and revitalizing brands, launching products, changing consumer behaviors, and motivating people to care about issues that matter. 

Tim Riester leads the firm as CEO. Under his leadership, RIESTER was listed on the Inc. 500 list of fastest growing companies in America for four consecutive years. Advertising Age listed the firm among the “20 Agencies to Watch in America.” And Forbes named RIESTER among the “Top 100 Global Ad Agencies That Know Social Media and Google.” He is a member of the Cronkite Endowment Board of Trustees, composed of top media leaders who advise the school on a wide array of issues.

Mirja Riester supervises research, strategic planning and manages the integration of all services within RIESTER. She established the European method of brand planning and strategy at RIESTER when she joined the firm in 1997 and has successfully launched new products, built brands and provided strategic marketing consulting for clients, including the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Gilead Sciences and MidFirst Bank.

Sharing the rewards of a culture of innovation

ASU Thunderbird Investor Network connects ASU investors with the university’s entrepreneurs

March 21, 2018

Magical things can happen when innovative minds connect with forward-thinking investors.

So Arizona State University is combining the strength of its research commitment and entrepreneurial spirit with the Thunderbird School of Global Management's Angel Network of investors to create unique opportunities for the ASU family. As part of ASU’s Founders Day observance for 2018, President Michael Crow announced the creation of the ASU Thunderbird Investor Network (ATIN). ATIN will give ASU supporters unique access to investment opportunities that arise from ASU’s status as the most innovative university in the nation. student speaking in microphone Pat Pataranutaporn presents the pitch for his group, Humanity X, as part of the ASU Spark Tank startup pitch event for the Pakis Social Entrepreneurship Challenge, Feb. 4, 2016, at the Galvin Playhouse. The group developed software to scan social media for key words that flags people who may be planning suicide. All Walks won the $20,000 prize and mentorship, with 33 Buckets and Humanity X earning $10,000 seed money as runners up. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now Download Full Image

The ASU charter recognizes the university's importance as a comprehensive public research university, calling upon it to advance research and discovery of value to the community. Simultaneously, the university undertakes a fundamental responsibility for the overall health of the communities it serves. That health includes economic welfare, and those communities encompass not only the geography of metropolitan Phoenix and the state of Arizona, but also the communities of ASU-affiliated citizens wherever they live, and of startup businesses that begin as part of ASU’s culture of innovation.

Since 2000, Arizona State University’s investment in research has grown from just over $100 million to $550 million, making ASU one of the fastest-growing research enterprises in the U.S. During that same period, more than 120 startup companies based on ASU discoveries have attracted more than $700 million in private investment capital. And many hundreds of startups have been launched by ASU alumni.

Thunderbird School of Global Management, a unit of the ASU Knowledge Enterprise since 2015, also has a long history of engaging in innovation and entrepreneurship. For more than 70 years, it has been a training ground for leaders in international business. And its Thunderbird Angel Network of accredited investors has become an ever-more valuable resource for early-stage companies with the potential to grow rapidly.

“As a top-tier research university, ASU provides a tremendous amount of support for our students to gain the experience in entrepreneurship and innovation they need to become leaders in industry," said Jeff Mindlin, vice president of investments for the ASU Foundation. "Similarly, Skysong Innovations provides ASU faculty with intellectual property management and technology transfer, allowing ASU’s ecosystem of discovery to have broad societal impact. However, we’ve never had an organized pathway to support ventures by alumni after they’ve left the university.”

Mindlin said the ASU Thunderbird Investor Network will invite ASU-affiliated investors (alumni, faculty, staff, students, parents) to become part of that ecosystem of discovery, connecting them with the university’s most promising entrepreneurs and visionary ideas as they enter the marketplace.

“Our foundation operates on a model of finding out what our alumni and advocates are passionate about, and connecting them with an ASU college, center, or initiative that can help them explore that passion,” Mindlin said. “But we recognize that these members of the ASU community, and many other people affiliated with the university in some way, have personal financial goals in addition to philanthropy. The ASU Thunderbird Investor Network is a nexus where these potential investors can interface with investment opportunities born out of university research and innovation, to the benefit of both.”

Building the network

To maintain credibility and trust within the network, investors must be accredited and have an affiliation with ASU or Thunderbird. They may be donors, alumni or their parents and grandparents, and faculty or staff. Similarly, a startup applying to be considered for funding must have a direct ASU connection: a founder, board member or C-level executive who is an ASU or Thunderbird alumnus or alumna. Based on this shared connection, the ATIN provides a mechanism for introducing these ASU-affiliated ventures to network members.

Establishing trust

The ASU Thunderbird Investor Network relies on a robust infrastructure of qualified individuals to support its mission of fostering innovation in the ASU community.

• Operating Team — Dedicated, expert personnel and resources are in place to manage the network. The team assists with company research as well as with coordination between investors and companies.

• Advisory Board — Board members are representatives of the Thunderbird School of Global Management and Thunderbird Angel Network, the ASU Alumni Association, ASU Entrepreneurship + Innovation, SkySong Innovations, and ASU Enterprise Partners. The board provides high-level expert strategy, governance, and mentorship.

• Student Teams — Using the latest in academic research and techniques, graduate students from ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business and Thunderbird assist the Operating Team in evaluating companies. The students benefit from real-world experience in the venture capital market, while providing potential investors with state-of-the-art vetting services and unique, fresh insights.

Confidence through connection

The strength of the network is the connections it creates between the best-qualified advisors and managers and the most up-to-date investment research, amplified by the national and international footprint of ASU and Thunderbird.

• The process begins when a prospective company submits a proposal for consideration.

• The ATIN Operating Team will review the proposal to ensure it meets applicable investment criteria and weigh its viability against the appetite for investment.

• A student team, supervised by university faculty and working under the direction of the Operating Team, carries out intensive research on the prospective company.

• The Operating Team uses this analysis to assemble an investment report which is then distributed to the ATIN.

• The company is invited to present to the ATIN. Network members may attend in person or live via webex, or may watch a recording of the presentation at their convenience.

• Members will have the ability to ask for additional information before deciding for themselves whether to invest directly in the prospective company.

• If a prescribed number of members invest and/or capital is raised, a sidecar fund from the ASU Foundation will co-invest with members to provide additional funding to the company. 

ASU’s mission statement lays the foundation for the ATIN.

“Our university has a mandate to advance research and discovery of public value,” said Rick Shangraw, CEO of ASU Enterprise Partners. “ASU would not be where it is, at the forefront of America’s research universities, without the support of our community of alumni, donors, and friends.

“The most exciting aspect of the ASU Thunderbird Investor Network is its ability to bring multiple stakeholders together — researchers, alumni, investors, the foundation and Enterprise Partners — to advance ideas that were incubated by the university’s energy and encouragement,” Shangraw said. “We see those ideas taking shape every day at ASU, and we watch as their creators prepare to become leaders in their fields. As these inventors and innovators will tell you, their time in ASU’s ecosystem of discovery thoroughly prepared them for success outside the university. And our own experience with the Startup Mill offered by our division of Entrepreneurship and Innovation demonstrates how ASU matches accomplished entrepreneurs with promising discoveries to help them advance in the marketplace. We’re delighted to now be able to make the benefits of their entrepreneurship available to the ASU community through the ASU Thunderbird Investor Network.”

Recommendations of candidate firms and the sharing of their information via the ATIN Investment Platform, and investment in them via the sidecar fund, do not imply a fiduciary responsibility or relationship for the ASU Foundation, the ATIN Operating Team, or Advisory Board.

For information on the ASU Thunderbird Investor Network, now called InvestU, visit