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ASU-developed team-teaching model a hit at Valley schools

December 6, 2022

Next Education Workforce initiative creates collaborative teaching effort

Kirtland Kack stands at the front of the room, microphone in hand.

The Mesa Westwood High School ninth grade world history teacher is asking his class to be quiet and pay attention.

It’s not an easy task, given there are 135 kids in the room.

But he has help.

A science teacher sees that six kids at one table have strategically placed a backpack on the table in order to prop up — and hide — a cellphone showing a World Cup soccer game. He tells them to put the phone away.

Math and English teachers — stationed at opposite sides of the room — ask for quiet and get it.

“Do I have everyone’s attention?” Kack asks.

He does.

At the back of the room, watching, is Thad Gates, Title IX coordinator at Florence Unified School District. Gates, along with educators from Fountain Hills, Arizona, Washington D.C., Kansas City and even as far as South Africa, are observing the team-teaching model employed by Westwood for its 900 freshmen students to see if it will be a good fit for their school systems.

“I can see why this would be good for teachers,” Gates says. “The burnout, the feeling of being alone in a class, isn’t there. We’re intrigued by it, and we’ll probably have some deeper conversations after our visits to see if we can start the planning for our district.”

Westwood is one of 50 schools across 10 school systems that have put into practice the team-teaching approach, which was born out of conversations school officials had five years ago with leaders from Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

Dean Carole Basile and a team of faculty and staff at the Teachers College developed the design principles of the approach, which acknowledges — and addresses — realities in the teaching profession.

A 2019 study by the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy revealed that 13.8% of high school teachers are either leaving their school or leaving teaching altogether. While enrollment in ASU’s teacher-preparation programs has increased since 2016, the national trend is one of decreasing enrollment. According to a Learning Policy Institute Report, teacher education enrollment has dropped 35% in recent years. Additionally in Arizona, 35,000 people who are certified to teach have opted not to do so.

“We have manufactured a system that creates crisis on a daily basis,” said Brent Maddin, executive director of the Next Education Workforce initiative at the Teachers College, which works with schools to redesign staffing and instruction. “Preparing a teacher is really hard work. And if they’re peeling out of the profession after a year or two, this is bad for kids, this is bad for educators, this is bad for our democracy. What we’re doing is totally a retention play.”

Man in crowd listening to presentation

Brent Maddin joins around 35 other tour administrators and educators in listening to Mesa's Westwood High School assistant principals and student ambassadors during a Nov. 29 presentation of the team-teaching model the school has implemented. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

How does the team-teaching model work?

Teachers are no longer on an island, in a single classroom, solely responsible for preparing curriculum, teaching, grading, discipline, planning, etc.

At Westwood, for example, a team teaching more than 130 ninth graders includes an English teacher, agriculture teacher, career exploration teacher, instructional specialist and math teacher. The school, part of Mesa Public Schools, also employs student teachers from the Teachers College.

Kyrene de las Manitas Elementary School in Tempe employs four “learning studios” for students from kindergarten through sixth grade. Each studio includes a lead teacher known as the Teacher Executive Designer, two team teachers and two to three paid student teachers.

“The more eyes we have on these kiddos, the more successful they’re going to be,” said Vatricia Harris, assistant principal at Westwood.

Early data bears that assumption out.

Westwood Assistant Principal Katie Gardner said that prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, 70% of freshmen were earning the credits needed to stay on course for graduation. In fall 2021, the first semester Westwood used the team-teaching model, 84% were on course. In addition, 93% of the freshmen passed Algebra 1.

Sarah Collins, principal at Kyrene de las Manitas, said that in a survey taken last year, 91% of students felt they had someone they could go to with a problem, 96% of staff expressed satisfaction with their jobs and 90% of families were happy with the school’s teaching approach.

“We know the success of these scores has a lot to do with our model,” Collins said.

Two women speak to crowd during presentation

Assistant principals Katie Gardener (left) and Vatricia Harris speak to a tour group of 35 educators and administrators at Westwood High School in Mesa on Nov. 29. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Earlier this year, the Institute for Education Policy surveyed more than 3,000 teachers in Mesa Public Schools, which is the Next Education Workforce initiative’s largest district partner. Seventy-five percent of the teachers in the team-teaching model said they were somewhat or extremely satisfied with their teaching job, compared to 66% of traditional classroom teachers in the district.

But numbers don’t tell the true story of, as Maddin put it, the “retention play.”

Voices do.

Team teachers at Westwood and Kyrene de las Manitas said one of the main benefits of the model is its collaborative nature. At Westwood, for example, the teaching teams meet for two hours each morning to discuss the day’s assignments and create a personalized program for every student.

“We just have more of an opportunity to discuss what students need and then provide that to them,” said Westwood ninth grade teacher Adam Tellez-Difusco.

Just as important is the give-and-take between teachers. They can exchange ideas about how to present the day’s material and, when needed, suggest a different approach when a teacher is struggling to implement a concept or is having trouble connecting with an individual student.

Those discussions are supposed to exist in the traditional model, Maddin said, but teachers rarely have time to engage their peers because they’re too busy taking care of everything they need to do for their own class.

“It can be very challenging when you’re struggling with a student and you’re not sure if you’re doing something wrong,” Tellez-Difusco said. “You can send an email to another teacher, but you’re so disconnected there’s no opportunity to dig in.

“But with the four of us sharing a class, one of us can say, ‘I’ve been doing this with this student, and it’s been working pretty well. Maybe you can implement that.’ Working together makes it way easier to give students what they need.”

Added Kack: “There’s still going to be stress in the job, for sure, but there’s less stress because I have someone to bounce ideas off of, to ask, ‘Is this really the right direction? Do you think maybe I’m wasting the kids’ time with this?’ It’s not all on me.”

Kack said the team-teaching model also benefits students when it comes to teacher-student interactions.

“We have 130 students right now and I’d say there’s probably about 30 I have difficulty connecting with,” he said. “That’s going to be expected. But those 30 have other team members they can connect with, and that allows me to communicate through them instead of always running into that brick wall with a student. I can go through the other teachers and figure out what they need. That’s been amazing.”

During class time, the teachers rotate between one-on-one interactions, group instruction and whatever was discussed in the planning meeting in the morning.

Students sitting around a group desk

Westwood High School students work on their website projects on Nov. 29 in Mesa, Arizona. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

The varied expertise of the teachers allows for cross-curriculum training, which aids students as they progress through their academic career because it parallels the interdisciplinary nature of a college education.

“It’s de-siloed that it’s not just biology content, but it’s biology, math and English language arts applied in the context of an authentic problem that the kids find interesting,” Maddin said. “They can use all three subjects to solve a problem.”

Said Harris: “There’s more research and diving in instead of kids just Googling an answer.”

Kyrene de las Manitas fifth grade teacher Kevin Anway taught by himself for more than 20 years and was skeptical when the school asked him to lead one of its learning studios. But he’s bought into the concept.

“I loved having my own classroom and felt really in control. This is out of my comfort zone,” Anway said. “But having six people in a learning studio, saying, ‘We need to change it up,’ or ‘We should be doing this,’ is the coolest part for me as an educator. We get a revamp of what’s working or what’s not working. That’s something I never had before in 29 years.”

One offshoot of the program is that it reduces the need for substitute teachers. Porter said a teacher in Kyrene’s fifth and sixth grade studio recently missed two weeks with ankle surgery but the school didn’t need to hire a substitute because the other teachers in her grouping took care of the class.

“Children aren’t coming into a class with a person who doesn’t know them or doesn’t know where they are in a lesson,” Porter said. “We didn’t skip a beat with our instruction. It’s really worked out.”

Think of team teaching, Maddin said, as having dual benefits: What helps teachers become better at their jobs in turn helps kids.

“A lot of educational reform often focuses on one or maybe the other, but rarely does it actually attend to both simultaneously,” he said. “I think that’s one of the reasons for its success.”

Top photo: World history teacher Kirtland Kack checks his computer after giving instructions to around 135 ninth graders at Westwood High School in Mesa, Arizona, on Tuesday, Nov. 29. Westwood is taking part in the Next Education Workforce program, which allows teams of teachers to collaborate in working with large groups of students. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Scott Bordow

Reporter , ASU News

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ASU offers innovative college pathway to students in Yuma community

ASU Local – Yuma lets students pursue bachelor's degree in their own community.
December 2, 2022

ASU Local – Yuma provides in-person support for online learners who want to earn a bachelor's degree

Navigating higher education can be difficult, and sometimes lonely, for students who are the first in their family to go to college.

Now, students who want to earn a bachelor’s degree while staying rooted in their community have another option — ASU Local, an innovative hybrid college program that pairs in-person coaching and mentorship as part of a tightly knit community with the flexibility of accessing all coursework online, 24/7, through ASU Online.

The hybrid undergraduate program from ASU is available in Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., and Yuma.

Launched earlier this year, ASU Local’s Yuma site has a cohort of 35 transfer students, most of whom are first-generation collegegoers

As a group, these students can lean on one another while they take classes remotely, while benefiting from in-person, one-on-one coaching, tutoring and programming. 

“These students are deeply rooted in their communities,” said Elizabeth Vasquez, site director for ASU Local – Yuma and an Arizona State University alumna.

“It’s a big deal for us to support them locally. Being a first-generation here means it’s a family journey for our students.”

ASU Local – Yuma is housed on the campus of Arizona Western College, a two-year institution surrounded by agricultural fields. All of the ASU Local students in the Yuma location are transfers from Arizona Western. They attend academic and career-guidance programming once a week at the site, which also serves as a study lounge and community gathering spot.

“The ASU Local program is one of the many examples of how ASU supports learners from all backgrounds and stages in life,” said Maria Anguiano, executive vice president of ASU Learning Enterprise, which administers ASU Local. “Through ASU Local – Yuma, we acknowledge that students want to stay close to their family and friends for support, and their desire to contribute to and grow their own community while pursuing a degree from a major public research university.”

ASU Local – Yuma started in spring 2022 with 10 students, has 35 this semesterASU Local – Los Angeles has 90 students, while the program in Washington, D.C., has 10. and expects about 55 in spring 2023. The students, most of whom also have part- or full-time jobs, are required to take a minimum of 12 credits per semester and to meet with an academic success advisor four to six times per semester.

The breadth of the guidance they receive ranges from the detailed, such as how to manage their coursework and obtain tutoring, to the existential, like the value of a degree to their lives.

ASU Local’s collaboration with Arizona Western College aims to double baccalaureate rates in the Yuma and La Paz counties to boost regional economic growth. About 22% of people in Yuma County have a bachelor’s degree, compared with 37% in all of Arizona, according to U.S. census data. Vasquez said that the students’ perseverance in college is notable in a city where many occupations don’t require a degree. 

“Around here … you don’t necessarily need a degree (to find a job). Sometimes that’s the question our learners will ask. ‘Do I really need the bachelor’s?’ When things get challenging, that’s when they start wondering if the college experience is worth it,” Vasquez said.

“That’s when we come back to the question of ‘What is your North Star? What is your why?’”

'They belong here’

The drive toward a bachelor’s degree starts at Arizona Western, where red-and-white signs reading “I’m going to college!” dot the sprawling campus.

Several of the ASU Local – Yuma students were in the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) at Arizona Western, an academic and cultural support initiative with on-campus housing for young people who have a background in farmwork. Agriculture is the main industry in the Yuma area, which produces more than 90% of the country’s leafy greens in the winter.

“These students come from a background where maybe they had to wake up very early to cross the border,” said Rafael Encinas, academic advisor and transition coordinator for CAMP at Arizona Western. “Their parents maybe were not able to spend a lot of time with them because of always moving or working in the fields.

“So our students are hungry for acknowledgement and wanting to be a part of something. We try to develop a rapport to let them know they belong here.”

Portrait of man at Arizona Western College in Yuma, Arizona

Rafael Encinas, academic advisor and transition coordinator for the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP) at Arizona Western, said that CAMP helps students feel that they belong and supports them in transferring to a university. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Miguel Mejia, a psychology major in the ASU Local – Yuma cohort, was in the College Assistance Migrant Program at Arizona Western, which gave him the sense of community he needed to pursue higher education.

“My dad didn’t finish high school. In his last year, he joined the Army in Mexico, and he did that for close to 11 years. After that, he’s been working in the fields and having different jobs, and growing up, he always told me the most important thing you have in your life is education, and he really wanted me to continue.

“So that’s always been my motivation — my family,” said Mejia, who wants to stay in the Yuma area after graduation and help other young people go to college.

The ASU partnership with Arizona Western ensures a smooth transfer of credits, a critical component so the students won’t have wasted time or money. When they transfer, they can choose from more than 140 undergraduate degrees available through the hybrid program.

The Yuma cohort has a range of majors. Vasquez said that criminal justice is common for students who want to work with the U.S. Customs and Border Protection or as correctional officers. Business is popular, too.

“Our students are entrepreneurs because being so close to the border, it’s a very entrepreneurial feel,” she said.

“Some of them have already launched small businesses in Mexico or online.”

Phil Regier is university dean for educational initiatives and CEO of EdPlus — the unit that houses ASU Online.

"Our goal with ASU Local, and in providing the opportunity for students to earn their degree through ASU Online, is to continue making accessible, quality education available to all learners, regardless of their physical location,” Regier said. “In working together with the ASU Learning Enterprise, ASU Local students not only have access to all of the support and engagement resources made available to our ASU Online students, but also have the unique opportunity to come together with and work alongside other ASU students in their community.”

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU News

Battling ‘imposter syndrome’

A few weeks ago, Laura Juarez, the academic success advisor at ASU Local – Yuma, led a discussion about first-generation collegegoers.

Several of the students didn’t realize they were first-gen, never having heard the term before. 

Typically, the concept isn’t taught until grad school, which is when Juarez and Vasquez first learned about it. That’s why the two women are making a conscious effort to explain first-generation challenges and strengths to the Yuma group.

Vasquez shared a personal story with the students about her time in grad school at ASU, when, late one night, she was reading a paper by researcher Laura RendónRendón, who formerly served as a professor at ASU, is now based at the University of Texas. describing the experiences of first-generation students.

Vasquez was so moved by what she was reading that she started crying and made a video of herself to send to a friend.

“And I remember just crying and just telling her, ‘This is us. There’s a story about us.’ We didn’t know it existed, and it wasn’t normalized. It was easy to feel like you’re the only one.

“Fast forward five years later, I actually met the researcher in person. I showed her the video and said, ‘Thank you for writing this and for impacting my path.’ And now she is one of my mentors.

“Laura (Juarez) and I aim to expose you to this research early on because you’re going through it now,” Vasquez told the group.

The students discussed how, even though their families were enormously supportive, they can’t fully grasp the university experience.

“They don’t know what you’re going through, and they don’t understand how difficult your classes are,” said Lizabeth Hernandez, a business administration major.

“Doubts still come to the surface, and it’s scary.”

They talked about “imposter syndrome” — persistent feelings of self-doubt no matter how much they accomplish.

Juarez described how, as a first-generation student herself, she left her community of San Luis to attend college and graduate school before returning to work at ASU Local – Yuma.

“It’s that feeling of, ‘Should I leave? Can I make it through?’” she said.

“You never stop being first-gen. I’m a first-gen professional, and I still feel that way sometimes,” she said.

“But there’s a beauty in it. We are navigating systems that are not meant for us.”

The point of the presentation was to explain that although they face challenges, such as financial difficulties or a sense of isolation, the students’ very presence in college shows strength and resilience.

The students studied the “community cultural wealth” model of researcher Tara YossoYosso is a professor at the University of California, Riverside., who delineated how first-generation students come with assets like “familial capital,” the values instilled by their families, or the “linguistic capital” of being bilingual.

Lorena Martinez, a business management major, said she wished she had known about the “cultural wealth” model when she was finishing her applications for scholarships.

“I was only in one club at (Arizona Western College). What else could I put (in the application)?” Martinez said.

“But looking at this, I realize I have so much more I could have talked about but I didn’t. We know more Spanish sometimes than English, and we might feel like that doesn’t make us enough to move forward or to move out of San Luis or Yuma, when in reality, it should push us to move forward.

“We already crossed one border, and we can cross another.”

‘You can’t do it on your own’

When Gloria Gomez was in high school in Mexico, she wanted to go to college but didn’t see a path for her. Her family was low-income, and she didn’t think she would meet the requirements for attending a university in Mexico.

“I was upset because I dreamed my whole life of going to college,” she said.

“But my life changed when this person at church explained to me about community college, about FAFSA and how you can get your classes paid for.

“The scary part was that I had to do things on my own. It was completely new. I hadn’t been to the United States since I was in fourth grade. I was born here, but it felt like a foreign country to me.”

So Gomez attended Arizona Western before transferring to ASU Local – Yuma, where she is majoring in biological sciences with a concentration in biomedical sciences, and wants to be a family doctor. Her coursework is getting harder, making it even more critical to have resources such as year-round academic and career support through success coaches and in-person activities.

Two students walking on Yuma community college campus

ASU Local — Yuma students Gloria Gomez and Pedro Garcia walk through the Arizona Western College campus in Yuma on their way to lunch. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Student-centric programming covers a range of topics, from setting up a professional LinkedIn page to developing an elevator pitch for networking events. 

“Being a first-generation student, learning how to assimilate into the country, learning the financial system, learning the school system — it all was an experience. But I’ve made it this far,” she said.

“I’m a very introverted person and it’s hard for me to ask for help, but I’ve learned throughout the years that you can’t do it on your own. There’s somebody who has to help you at some moment of your life.”

Gomez shares an apartment with her sister and works part time in retail while taking classes. She has worked hard at learning how to balance her responsibilities.

“You will shed a lot of tears, but overall, it will be worth it because you’ll have job satisfaction and more doors open to you in the future, and you’ll be able to say, ‘I made it through college, and I can make it through anything else.’“

She had advice for future STEM leaders in her community:

“I would say to Latina women, we need more of you in STEM. It’s not that scary.”

Top photo: Academic success advisor Laura Juarez (left) helps Monica Galvez, a third-year mass communications and media student, at the ASU Local Yuma classroom on the Arizona Western College campus in Yuma on Nov. 7. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


’20 presidential candidate Andrew Yang talks third parties, ranked-choice voting during ASU appearance

Two School of Public Affairs students interview Yang at event

November 30, 2022

The two-party system is in serious need of overhaul if the United States has any chance of solving issues important to new generations of voters, most of whom are not party members, former presidential candidate Andrew Yang told Arizona State University students Nov. 17.

Yang, 47, is a business executive who joined — and departed early from — the crowded 2020 field of Democratic presidential candidates. Andrew Yang speaking into a microphone at ASU event Andrew Yang, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate who today co-chairs the national Forward Party, spoke to students on Nov. 17 at the Westward Ho hotel in downtown Phoenix. Photo by Mark J. Scarp/ASU Download Full Image

Today, he and former New Jersey Gov. Christine Todd Whitman co-chair the new Forward Party. In his appearance on the Downtown Phoenix campus, Yang advocated for active third parties — he said there should be “five, six or seven” of them — and for ranked-choice voting as two important fixes to the American political system.

Yang’s appearance was sponsored by ASU’s Center for an Independent and Sustainable Democracy.

Yang spoke for several minutes before being interviewed on stage at the former Westward Ho hotel by two seniors in the School of Public Affairs: Jordyn Walhof, pursuing three bachelor’s degrees in public service and public policy (law and policy), political science and anthropology; and Katie Fite, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in public service and public policy (emergency management).

Yang said that during the years before his presidential run, he observed automation and artificial intelligence eliminating many of the jobs in five areas held by about half of working Americans today. Jobs in clerical or administration, food preparation, retail, transportation and manufacturing are overwhelmingly filled by people without college degrees, he said.

In 2016, Republican Donald Trump won the White House with victories in industrial Midwestern states that had often been in the Democratic column, Yang said. Major cities in those states lost population as they hemorrhaged manufacturing jobs.

“There is a direct correlation from loss of manufacturing jobs to support for Trump for formerly blue areas,” he said.

Yang said that since his presidential campaign, he remains concerned about the future of American politics. He said young people care about such issues as climate change, public indebtedness and the general effectiveness of our political system.

“We left you with a colossal bill of goods,” he said. “The political system is set up not to work. And it’s getting worse.”

The center’s co-director and School of Public Affairs Professor Thom Reilly said after the event that younger Arizona voters are not being drawn to the two major parties. Today, 52% of both millennials and Generation Z members in Arizona are not affiliated with a party, he said.

“That’s astoundingly large, particularly when you think of where these young people get their information,” Reilly said, referring to social media and other nontraditional sources.

K–12 schools need to spend more time on civic education, Reilly said, because many young people become adults without knowing how to register and vote, and how to evaluate the candidates and questions on ballots.

“At least in Arizona we have (the Citizens) Clean Elections (Commission), a nonpartisan organization not present in other states,” Reilly said.

Arizona is ‘ground zero’ for potential change

Yang said Arizona, as a purple state with relatively even numbers of voters choosing Republicans and Democrats, is “ground zero” for potential change.

“You are going to be a hotbed of an effort to modernize and safeguard American democracy,” he said.

Ranked-choice voting opens primaries to all voters regardless of party membership or none at all. Voters may make multiple choices of candidates for an office ranked in order of preference. This will help eliminate the polarized kind of campaigning and candidates emerging from today’s primary system, Yang said.

Primaries attract small numbers of voters, typically around 15% or 16%, meaning candidates are beholden to the wishes of a small minority of their constituencies, Yang said. Social media also can fan the flames of opinion, which frequently leads to more extremist candidates, he said.

Yang said a handful of states, such as Arizona, Georgia, Nevada and Pennsylvania, are just purple enough for third parties to form there and grow.

“Arizona is fortunate to be purple,” he said. “When change occurs, you’ll see leaders come out of the woodwork that you don’t see now.”

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


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20 years in: A look at President Crow's vision for accessibility and excellence in the New American University

Over 20 years, Crow has shaped ASU to address higher-education inequities.
November 23, 2022

After taking helm in 2002, president tackled inequities in higher education

As a child in the late 1960s, Michael Crow grasped the deep divide between the TV images of men bouncing on the moon and the struggles of the working-class families in his community.

“And my brain, even as a middle school and early high school student at that time, clicked and it basically said, ‘There’s something wrong,’” he said.

The realization at a young age that everyone needed to benefit from the new and dazzling technology was a driver for Crow.

“I was watching ‘Star Trek’ all the time and that was from 1966 to 1969, and the ‘Star Trek’ stuff was very utopian. I realized that everyone in ‘Star Trek’ was highly educated,” he said.

“But I didn’t see where we would get the results we could get unless we had a different kind of way to learn something. I didn’t even know anything about college at the time. I just began wondering, ‘How will this happen?’ Even then.”

Now in his 20th year as president, Crow has guided the evolution of Arizona State University into a different kind of university, making its knowledge available to everyone and rejecting the claim that exclusion begets excellence.

“When I entered undergraduate school, I was overwhelmingly shocked at the rules. You can’t study this, you can’t take that many majors. You can’t take subjects that are that different from each other. And I wondered why. Why can’t I study everything?

“And after a while, I began hearing that all the really good schools were the ones that didn’t let anybody in, and I literally said to myself, ‘How can those be the good schools? Wouldn’t the good schools be the ones producing all the people who are going out and doing all the things that we need?’”

Crow worked in higher education for years, always considering how to tear down the ivory towers and redesign college to better meet the community’s needs.

After he declined a few opportunities to lead universities, his wife insisted he make a short list of institutions he would be willing to take on. So he did — Arizona State University, the University of Colorado at Boulder and the University of Washington.

“ASU was No. 1 on my list because Arizona was a place that was very open to outsiders, very open to new ideas, not rigid, not overly bureaucratized,” he said.

The job of ASU president wasn’t open at the time. But after Lattie Coor retired as president in 2002, Crow became ASU’s leader.

“To me it was like I’d died and gone to heaven in the sense that it was this open-minded, unbelievably adaptable place, highly willing to accept an entrepreneurial model,” Crow said.

He got to work shaping ASU to address the deficiencies he saw in higher education. He outlined a vision for a “new American university,” which launched a process that led to the ASU Charter. People in the university community were both excited and wary.

“People bought the idea, but it was, ‘OK, how do you make it work? Give me manifest mechanisms,’” he said.

“We got to a point where most people were thinking this was the direction the university should go — the idea of a charter that was inclusion versus exclusion, research benefiting the public and taking responsibility for the communities we serve is a fine institution to try to build, and a fantastic thing to build your life around.

“Most people got around that. Some people left because they weren’t really interested in that.”

Breaking the system

Crow saw the new mission embraced. But over the years, shedding the traditional culture of academia has been tricky, with some faculty seeing ASU as an “outlier as opposed to an innovator,” he said.

Professors can sometimes  be conservative about change, said Bryan Brayboy, vice president of social advancement at ASU and a senior advisor to Crow.

“We’ve been inculcated into a system where we come in, prep as grad students and become faculty, and the systems are generational,” he said.

“We’re taught to be skeptical and to look for evidence and data and to see where the flaws are. It’s in our nature to be critical.

“What President Crow has done in the last 20 years is take something that’s been unbreakable and break it.”

The mission to create a more inclusive institution has been a draw for faculty, said Brayboy, who is also a President’s Professor in the School of Social Transformation and director of the Center for Indian Education.

“My colleagues at other places say, ‘What are you up to over there?’ and half say, ‘Is there anything open? I’d like to be part of it.’

“It’s because of President Crow’s vision and persistence and the people he surrounds himself with who say, ‘I want to be part of this new thing.’”

Brayboy believes that ASU’s scalable model is influencing the field of higher education.

“The external view that people are starting to put together is that you can be diverse and excellent simultaneously.”

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU News

Expanding education access

Some of the biggest changes during Crow’s tenure have been to the skyline — launching the Downtown Phoenix campus, creating Skysong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, renovating the historic Herald Examiner Building in downtown Los Angeles to become an ASU location, putting the Mirabella senior living complex on the Tempe campus, building the high-tech Media and Immersive eXperience Center in downtown Mesa in partnership with the city, and developing the mixed-use Novus Innovation Corridor, a 350-acre public-private collaboration of office space, apartments, retail and an athletics village on the Tempe campus.

Drew Brown, a founding partner of DMB and the chairman of DMB Development, a real estate development firm, has seen how the evolution of ASU’s footprint has changed the Valley.

“His force of personality all by itself has created so much that goes well beyond ASU,” Brown said.

“Downtown Phoenix is an ASU deal but is so much bigger and more powerful than ASU, and I think there will be a big impact along Central Avenue.

“I believe that what he did with SkySong and his vision for that campus and the way that’s connected the Tempe community to Scottsdale will continue to build,” said Brown, who recalled sneaking into the back door of Scottsdale City Hall with Crow during negotiations for the SkySong site.

“He’s indefatigable.”

Diversifying the student body

Earlier this year, ASU was designated a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. In 2021, ASU’s Hispanic students made up 26% of the on-campus undergraduate population, up from about 19% in fall 2011.

“I think earning the HSI designation for ASU shows how much work has been put into making the student population diverse,” said Cecilia Alcántar-Chávez, president of the Undergraduate Student Government at the Polytechnic campus.

“Seeing such a big university with more than 25% Hispanic students shows how much follow-through there is in the charter goals and mission. It’s a conscious effort,” said Alcántar-Chávez, who is majoring in mechanical engineering systems with a minor in project management.

“Being a first-generation Hispanic college student, and seeing the amount of support I’ve gotten, I’m so proud of ASU for that.”

In addition, ASU has earned the Seal of Excelencia, a prestigious certification granted in recognition of ASU’s many initiatives to recruit and support Latino students and faculty. Among them is ASU Local – Yuma, created earlier this year to serve online students in Arizona’s border communities with culturally relevant in-person coaching and programming.

ASU’s mission to increase access means supporting first-generation students, who are the first in their family to attend college. Crow, as well as Executive Vice President and University Provost Nancy Gonzales and Maria Anguiano, executive vice president of Learning Enterprise, are all first-generation graduates.

ASU has about 25,000 first-generation students, a number that has quadrupled since 2002. Many of them find a community of peers in the Student Success Center, which offers help in navigating the often opaque world of higher education.

As a student leader, Alcántar-Chávez hears directly from students about their challenges. Often, she’s able to connect them to university resources to help.

“I would say the hardest part is that there are so many resources, it can be hard to navigate them,” she said.

“Some students think the circumstances they’re in are hopeless or they don’t expect anything to happen, but often they’re wrong. There is support available to them at ASU.”

Last year, Alcántar-Chávez worked on a project to update and simplify the “basic needs” webpage, which lists resources for finances, food, health, mental health, housing and help for international students.

“I think that awareness piece is something that always has to be worked on, and you always have to shift how you market to students.”

Creating lifelong learners

Crow is optimistic about the future of higher education, despite some recent debate over the value of a degree.

“Most of the conversations about the value of higher education are not made by people who have the facts in front of them, because the return on an individual’s investment to attend ASU over their lifetime is 14% per year on the financial investment they make,” he said.

“It is also the case that if you have a college degree, your options accelerate.”

Not everyone needs to attend college at age 18, he said. But they do need to embrace lifelong learning.

“A college degree is not a vocational skill set you’ve been given. It’s a learning methodology. The hope for college is it helps you to become a master learner.”

Crow sees technology not only as the way to deliver lifelong learning, but as a driver of human potential.

ASU is part of the New Economy Initiative, a massive collaboration among the state’s three public universities, private companies and state government to create high-wage jobs and increase economic output. As part of that, ASU has developed five science and technology centers where industry, entrepreneurs, faculty experts and students will collaborate.

Another part of the New Economy Initiative is training the new workforce. CareerCatalyst, part of ASU’s Learning Enterprise, offers non-degree professional and career education courses that are delivered in person or online, either self-paced or live.

“What’s really exciting now is our accelerated innovation in enhancing learning outcomes through our Dreamscape Learn project and our adaptive curriculum project,” he said.

ASU students are learning biology in a Hollywood-style virtual reality experience called Dreamscape Learn, and initial results show that they had higher grades and better engagement than their peers in conventional biology section.

ASU has embraced adaptive learning in “gateway” courses such as algebra, psychology and history. In this personalized online model, students learn small chunks of content at a time and are then tested for mastery before moving on to the next lesson. The university also created BioSpine, an adaptive learning biology degree.

“Higher education in 50 years will be highly diversified, technologically enhanced and lifelong across a person’s life,” Crow said.

“It’s going to be fantastic.”

Video courtesy of ASU Archives

Top image: ASU President Michael Crow speaks during the grand opening celebration of the new Media and Immersive eXperience Center in downtown Mesa in October. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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Neighborhoods as a space for creativity, connection

November 22, 2022

ASU research examines evolving use of streets, sidewalks, driveways during the pandemic

In spring 2020, as the pandemic and resulting stay-at-home orders shuttered schools and indoor public spaces, many people found themselves holed up in their homes while still yearning to remain social creatures. 

From that desire for human connection, an unlikely communication outlet and form of creative expression emerged: chalk messages on neighborhood streets, sidewalks and driveways. Across the Valley, residents took to their asphalts and pavements to etch colorful words sharing messages of support, anguish, loss and triumph.

Deirdre Pfeiffer and her 4-year-old daughter spent many days walking hand-in-hand along the streets of Phoenix on the hunt for just such chalk messages. And they found several.

Portrait of ASU Associate Professor .

Deirdre Pfeiffer

“We will be okay.”

“Happy B-Day Audrey.” 

“Have a good rest of your day — the Austin’s.”

Pfeiffer, an associate professor of planning in Arizona State University's School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, wanted to better understand this social phenomenon – where it was happening, how neighbors were engaging with one another and how the pandemic brought residents to use their neighborhoods in novel ways. 

“Driveways, sidewalks and streets became canvasses for people, even a diary at times,” said Pfeiffer, whose research examines housing and health. “The way that this infrastructure helped people to communicate was really surprising, and they communicated in different ways.”

The results of her study, done in collaboration with Meagan Ehlenz, a fellow School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning associate professor, and Rababe Saadaoui, an ASU urban planning PhD student, were recently published in the Journal of Planning Education and Research.

Messages of coping and connection

Over the course of the first 14 months of the pandemic, from March 2020 to May 2021, the team of ASU student and faculty researchers documented the different ways people used neighborhood infrastructure to connect with one another. 

At determined intervals, the research team surveyed three chosen Phoenix neighborhoods, taking photos of chalk and street art that appeared and analyzing the messages, grouping them into a variety of coping and connective functions. The team then compared their findings to pre-pandemic uses of the same spaces by reviewing Google Street View images.

Portrait of ASU Associate Professor .

Meagan Ehlenz

They found that people used neighborhood space to communicate a variety of coping sentiments and feelings — not only positivity, excitement and solidarity, but also anxiety and sadness. 

Driveways and sidewalks became mediums for expressions of intimate emotions and support, or signs of care. Drawings of smiley faces, rainbows and hearts were often combined with advice or affirmation, while song lyrics written on a sidewalk conveyed emotional tones of what people were going through. 

“Every journey starts with one step,” one message said. 

“Con amor todo es posbile/with love anything is possible,” another said 

“Be Strong Lynda,” yet another said. 

Additionally, the research found that residents used their streets as a form of connective practice, taking events that, pre-pandemic, typically would only happen between family and friends, and making them neighborhood events. For example, since large gatherings were unsafe, people began to use driveways as birthday cards or congratulatory message boards for newly expecting parents, soliciting participation from neighbors. 

“Eric is 50 today! Leave a message!” one message said. 

“Welcome Baby Elsie,” another said. 

“Not only were people using these spaces that you would ordinarily use to just walk on or park cars in a different way, but they were also bringing neighbors into these very personal events,” Pfeiffer said. “It really shows the potential for this transportation infrastructure to do other things than to park cars.” 

Untapped potential

A better understanding of the alternative roles that can be played by streets, sidewalks and driveways provides insight into how these spaces could be used differently in the future and the value they provide beyond transportation use, Pfeiffer says. 

With the rise of self-driving car companies like Waymo and Cruise on the horizon, researchers say the demands to own cars may change, and so will the spaces designed to hold them. 

"You could sign up for a membership through one of these self-driving car companies,” Pfeiffer said. “So, what does that mean for all these garages and driveways that we all have that may become potentially useless in the future?

“I think the project shows the potential for these spaces to do these other things.” 

Researchers also analyzed the extent to which this change was fleeting. The study found that messages proliferated over about a year from the beginning of the pandemic, then began to dissipate as stay-at-home orders and other markers of the end of a period of isolation began to lift, concluding that there was a very acute period of using streets and sidewalks for creativity and connection.

“What I appreciate most about this research is how it shows the organic nature of community and socialization, even during a period where the ‘typical’ ways of socialization weren’t readily available,” said Ehlenz, a co-author of the study. “Rather than going to community events or greeting each other over coffee, this research embodies the ways creativity can memorialize a moment — even if for a short time — and allow neighborhoods to connect, reflect and process.” 

Research that brings people together

For Pfeiffer and her daughter, finding and taking photos of street messages and art was in itself a form of connection and play. 

The field research from this study was a result of the creative work of ASU students, faculty and their families. The ASU School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning employed students who lost jobs because of the pandemic to help collect the data through a school-run internship program. 

“We were able to collaborate with the student interns fully remotely, and two of us (Pfeiffer and Ehlenz) involved our kids, who were at home because of day care and school closures, in the data collection,” Pfeiffer said. “We were all participants to some extent in this research in our own communities.”

Top photo by Philip Arambula/Unsplash

David Rozul

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications


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Way to grow: Sustainable food takes root on ASU campuses

November 22, 2022

Orderly rows of lettuce, flowers and vegetables in raised planter beds flourish alongside pecan and citrus trees at the Garden Commons on Arizona State University's Polytechnic campus.

Here, students toil in the desert sun, planting bok choy, cilantro and jalapeños, as they the learn lessons from the earth on everything from organic and regenerative farming to seed selection and germination to composting and beneficial insects.   

The garden is abuzz with nature’s hard-working pollinators from one of the nation’s largest bee research facilities in the United States, tucked away in a dirt lot on the southern edge of the Polytechnic campus. Here, Cahit Ozturk, a research technologist and associate researcher at ASU’s Bee Lab Annex, dons a beekeeping suit to show visitors how up to 2,000 pounds of honey is harvested from the more than 50 honeybee colonies at the lab each year. 

Nearby is a desert oasis of more than 40 varieties of rare date palm trees with lush fronds, textured trunks and luscious fruit that was a common sweet treat 100 years ago. ASU’s date palm “germplasm” is a living genetic resource maintained for plant breeding and research. Deborah Thirkhill, program coordinator at ASU Facilities Development and Management Grounds Services, organizes a harvest each year.  

ASU’s entire Tempe campus is a designated arboretum meant to be an oasis for plants around the world, including citrus, olive, pecan, sapote, apple, peach, quince and many other harvestable trees and shrubs. Here, 260 Seville sour orange trees produce six to eight tons of fruit each year, harvested January through March. 

On both the Tempe and Downtown Phoenix campuses, Engrained Café offers a seasonal menu featuring locally grown and harvested food in a full-service, dine-in restaurant. Its assortment of sustainable food includes organic produce, fair-trade coffee, locally grass-fed beef, cage-free eggs and all-natural chicken. 

Nestled among this cornucopia of fresh fruits and vegetables grown on ASU’s campuses are innovators shaping the sustainable future of food. 

Advocating for organic farming

A headshot of  in front of book shelves.

Kathleen Merrigan

A long-time advocate for organic farming, Kathleen Merrigan literally wrote the law that established national standards for organic food. As former deputy secretary and COO of the United States Department of Agriculture, she led efforts to support local food systems from 2009 to 2013. 

Now the executive director of the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems at ASU, she has co-authored a new report with the Natural Resources Defense Council and Californians for Pesticide Reform to help guide U.S. policymakers on the benefits and value of organic agriculture practices in preparation for the next version of the Farm Bill. The most recent version of this federal legislation was enacted in 2018 and is set to expire in 2023.

“Every Farm Bill is hugely important. It controls about 70% of what the USDA does and puts out billions and billions of dollars,” Merrigan says. “One of the things I’ve been doing at the Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems is raising the flag that the government has underinvested in organic agriculture. Across the USDA’s 17 agencies and hundreds of programs, probably less than 1% of the money going out the door is spent on organic. We’d like to make the case it should be 6%. It’s such a modest ask. It represents how much food is currently purchased by Americans that is organic. What a world of difference it would make.

“As we face the grim news that we’re not doing enough to combat climate change, I think organic is a great answer to a lot of the problems that we face, not only in the U.S., but globally."

Her new report, “Grow Organic: The Climate, Health and Economic Case for Expanding Organic Agriculture,” details the potential of agriculture in addressing climate change, health crises and economic struggle. Topics discussed in the report include organic agriculture’s ability to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect human health and support economic resilience.

For example, organic farming eliminates the greenhouse gas nitrous oxide resulting from the use of synthetic fertilizers. And organic farming is a smart choice because it produces higher crop yields in the face of climate change.  

The rise of the vertical farm

A glimpse of the future of farming can be seen inside ASU’s vertical farm on a tucked-away corner of the Polytechnic campus. Yujin Park, an assistant professor in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, watches over racks of strawberries and lettuce in white shipping containers growing under exotic colorful lighting. 

The Economist listed vertical farming as one of the top 22 emerging technologies to watch in 2022. Park, whose research focuses on horticultural crop physiology and controlled environment agriculture, says the indoor farming method could be the wave of the future in today’s era of climate change. 

“Vertical farming could be a real game changer if water becomes really scarce,” she says. “In general, in comparison to field crop production, vertical farms can save 90 to 95 percent of water for growing crops.” 

Vertical farming provides reliable year-round crop production unaffected by adverse weather conditions and uses no agrochemicals or pesticides. As countries such as Britain, Denmark and the United States establish vertical farms in urban areas, they provide the ultimate local food. 

The College of Integrative Sciences and Arts began offering a certificate program in vertical farming this fall semester. Classes are taught by Park and her colleague, Zhihao Chen, an instructor teaching chemistry and controlled environment agriculture within ClSA and co-founder of Homer Farms Inc., a cleantech startup establishing a circular economy in food waste and food production. 

READ MORE: A look inside ASU's vertical farm

Two ASU researchers examine plant health inside a vertical farm, where plants grow in white plastic containers.

Yujin Park and fellow researcher Niklas McClintic examine the health of plants growing in the vertical garden research space on the Polytechnic campus. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU

Creating a buzz in bee research

ASU’s Bee Lab Annex is a place where scientists delve into many aspects of honeybee research: their social behavior, learning and memory, neurobiology, aging, ecology, evolution and more. Students and community members can even take basic hobby beekeeping through advanced beekeeping courses.

As honeybees and other pollinator populations decline worldwide, the reasons remain controversial. Although fungicides have been deemed safe for honeybees in laboratory tests, ASU researcher Adrian Fisher, a postdoc in the School of Life Sciences, has discovered that field testing paints a different picture. His research reveals how exposure to fungicide creates serious health outcomes for honeybees, such as reduced protein digestion, reduced learning and memory capabilities, and reduced life span.

“In all, these findings point to the role that fungicides may play in ongoing pollinator declines and to the inadequacy of current toxicity testing standards used to approve pesticides for application,” Fisher says.

Researcher Nicole DesJardins is a doctoral student working with Brian Smith, a behavioral neuroscientist whose research focuses on learning and memory systems in both insects and mammals. In her research, DesJardins examines the effects of agricultural pesticides on honeybee behavior.

“Specifically, I have found that fungicides have a couple of negative effects on honeybee behavior. They interfere with their ability to learn about new things, such as the scent of flowers associated with food. And they can cause bees to become lost while out foraging, so they can't find their way back to the hive,” she says. “The implication is that fungicides are sprayed on a number of bee-pollinated crops, so bees could potentially get exposed to them and experience these negative behavioral effects.”

READ MORE: The sweet side of bee research

Close-up of several bees

Social and hardworking insects, honeybees play an important role as crop pollinators. In fact, bee pollination accounts for about $15 billion in added crop value, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Photo by Samantha Chow/ASU

Fighting food insecurity

A surprising number of college students struggle to meet basic needs, such as stable housing or having enough food to eat. In fact, nearly 40% of college students at two-or-four-year schools have experienced food insecurity in the last 30 days, according to an annual survey conducted by Temple University’s Hope Center for College, Community and Justice.

Filling an important need, a weekly seasonal farm stand on the Polytechnic campus offers fresh produce to students at no cost.

“All students need to do is show their ID, and they’re allowed to pick from three to five fresh different fruits and vegetables,” says Susan Norton, ASU’s University Sustainability Practices assistant director. “During the cool season, we tend to have kale, lettuce, beets, carrots and peas. In our warm season, we have tomatoes, eggplant, cucumber, zucchini and basil.”

All additional produce is donated to the Pitchfork Pantry, a campus food pantry that receives, stores and distributes food to ASU students; House of Refuge, which provides housing and wrap-around support programs to families experiencing homelessness; and the AZCEND food bank in Chandler.

Over the last three years, nearly 2,000 pounds of fresh fruits and vegetables — nearly 5,000 servings — have been donated through the farm stand to 525 people in need, both at ASU and in the community.

The Swette Center for Sustainable Food Systems is a unit of the Global Institute of Sustainability and Innovation.

Top photo: Deborah Thirkhill (center), program coordinator at ASU Facilities Development and Management Services, organizes a date harvest on the ASU Polytechnic campus each year. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU

Lori Baker

Communications Specialist , Knowledge Enterprise

Community event highlights ASU diabetes prevention study results

November 21, 2022

At 12 years old, Jocelyne Diaz Sanchez was diagnosed with prediabetes. Being a tween, she didn’t know exactly what that meant, but that clinic visit would change the course of her life.

Diaz Sanchez’s provider referred her and her mom to a program through St. Vincent de Paul called Every Little Step Counts, which focused on equipping families with information and skills to help prevent diabetes.  Families sit in chairs inside of a gym and watch a presentation on a projector. Every Little Step Counts study participants and community organizations learn more about the results of the study at a community event. Download Full Image

According to the Centers for Disease Control, people of Hispanic or Latino descent are at higher risk for Type 2 diabetes than people of non-Hispanic, white descent.

“I have vivid memories of being in different classrooms where they were teaching me about nutrition and how to change my diet. It was me and my mom and a bunch of other families that were also trying to prevent Type 2 diabetes,” Diaz Sanchez said.

She also recalls it was the first time someone spoke to her about food without demonizing what she and her family were used to eating. 

"Every Little Step Counts was the first time I was told I could make modifications to include the foods I already loved, and that I didn’t have to change some of my culture, because food does tie into a culture," Diaz Sanchez said.

That was in 2010. A decade later, Diaz Sanchez is an undergraduate student at Arizona State University and a health educator at St. Vincent de Paul, teaching some of those same classes to other families as part of a new iteration of the program that now includes a research element.

“It’s definitely a full circle moment,” she said.

On Saturday, she was one of the program facilitators at an event at the Watts Family Maryvale YMCA that brought together past Every Little Step Counts study participants, researchers from ASU’s Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention and community partners including St. Vincent de Paul, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and Valley of the Sun YMCA to share the study's findings and celebrate the success of the project.

Portrait of , ASU undergrad and health educator at St. Vincent de Paul.

Jocelyne Diaz Sanchez

Elvia Lish, director of the Ivy Center for Family Wellness at St. Vincent de Paul, presented the results as part of a slideshow presentation. She explained that investigators found the program can help reduce the risk of diabetes in youth and that meeting with a doctor and dietitian can also reduce diabetes risk. 

They also played videos featuring past participants describing how the program impacted them and improved their health.

After the presentation, attendees were encouraged to connect with community organizations and health services. Representatives from Welsey Health Centers, Mountain Park Health Center, Chicanos Por La Causa, U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego’s office and others were on hand to share information about the services they provide and the resources available.

The event was also an opportunity to discuss the next phase of the researchwhich is well underway.

“We learned a lot from focusing on kids, and we want to expand the impact. So with our new project, we’re including prioritizing entire households of high-risk families,” said Gabriel Shaibi, a professor in ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

For Diaz Sanchez, the program's growth and transformation are inspiring. 

“The work that’s being done now, I’m so proud to be a part of it and to be able to impact and give back to my community," she said. "I see the power that an interdisciplinary team brings — especially a community-based one. I’m excited to see what’s next.”

Amanda Goodman

Senior communications specialist, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation


ASU, Wexford Science & Technology launch program to fuel life science pursuits at Phoenix Bioscience Core

Bioscience Growth Accelerator to help life science startups expand, relocate to Arizona

November 18, 2022

In a move heralding the latest development at the Phoenix Bioscience Core (PBC), a 30-acre medical education and research campus in the heart of the city’s downtown area, Arizona State University and Wexford Science & Technology LLC have announced the launch of the Bioscience Growth Accelerator, a new program for life science startups moving or expanding to Arizona to partner with Wexford and co-locate with ASU.

The Bioscience Growth Accelerator will be located inside the Connect Labs by Wexford at 850 PBC, the 225,000-square-foot building that opened in March of 2021 through a partnership between ASU, the city of Phoenix and Wexford to house space for research and entrepreneurial activity. Digital rendering of a boardroom with a long table and a screen on one wall. A view of downtown Phoenix can be seen out the window. Arizona State University and Wexford Science & Technology LLC announced the Bioscience Growth Accelerator, a new program for life science startups moving or expanding to Arizona to partner with Wexford and co-locate with ASU.

“Wexford has seen in other markets that sometimes these startups, especially in the life science sector, have a hard time making it to the next step because of the high cost of lab build-outs and lab equipment. The Bioscience Growth Accelerator is designed to be a bridge and grow the ecosystem,” said Wexford Vice President and Market Executive Kyle Jardine. “Bringing this program to Phoenix along with Connect Labs will provide more resources, connectivity and support for the city’s growing life science community.”

Companies who are accepted into the Bioscience Growth Accelerator program will receive a number of key benefits aimed at lowering the cost of starting or expanding a company and increasing access to key resources and connections. These include:

  • A free lab bench and private office for three months with a one-year commitment.
  • Access to key services such as shared equipment, ASU Core Facilities and concierge services.
  • Access to biomedical-related research, as well as academic and clinical facilities aimed at advancing human health and bioscience.

Connect Labs will fill the entire fifth floor of 850 PBC and will function as a co-working space for 15 or more life science companies. The Bioscience Growth Accelerator (BGA) program will also include opportunities to build professional networks, provide access to talent and offer workforce development training.

Sense Neuro Diagnostics is the first company to be accepted into the program. It develops non-invasive technology enabling rapid, comprehensive detection of stroke subtype and traumatic brain injury, as well as continuous brain injury monitoring. The Cincinnati-based company announced in August 2021 that it raised $2.43 million from the U.S. military to advance its technology in the field.

Connect Labs’ first group of companies will move into the space in December. When open and full, Connect Labs will be home to over 15 life science, health tech and other companies and will add to the exciting dynamics of the Phoenix Bioscience Core.

The space has core lab equipment available for all companies to use, private labs and offices, common conference spaces and amenities, and two workforce training labs for the Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation LabForce program.

This is the first Connect Labs in the country for Wexford, which specializes in developing and operating knowledge communities alongside university partners. It currently has projects with the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University in Philadelphia, Washington University and the University of Missouri St. Louis, as well as many other markets.

“We have a very unique real estate asset with lab space, office space and clinical facilities that is not found in many communities,” said Aric Bopp, executive director of economic development and Innovation Zones for ASU. “We are fortunate to have a world-class development partner like Wexford building state-of-the-art life sciences and biotech space in a dynamic city like Phoenix with a university focused on innovation, access and impact.”

In addition to 850 PBC, Wexford Science & Technology has a letter of intent to develop second and third buildings for ASU on the northern portion of the Phoenix Bioscience Core. These future developments, which are still in the design phases, could be as high as 12 to 14 stories and include university and private labs and office space. Additional parts of the plan include ample public spaces, such as a green space, conference center and ground-floor retail.

For more information about how to apply to the Bioscience Growth Accelerator or to reserve a space in the Connect Labs at 850 PBC, contact Kyle Jardine at or 480 779-7181.

Director, Communications, Phoenix Bioscience Core

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Experts discuss 2023 economic future

November 18, 2022

ASU economist predicts Arizona will continue moving in the right direction if the Fed can navigate inflation issues

An Arizona State University economist said the Grand Canyon State has managed to withstand the one-two punch of COVID-19 and record-breaking inflation, and a rebound in 2023 is possible. But it may have to gird itself for a recession if the Federal Reserve System gets too aggressive with policy.

“What would that mean if somehow, someway, the Fed were too tight? It would mean tough sledding for Arizona, a hard fall for the economy,” said Dennis L. Hoffman, professor of economics and director of the L. William Seidman Research Institute at ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business. “It will have harsh and laboring impacts.”

Hoffman presented his findings at the 59th annual Economic Forecast Luncheon on Wednesday in downtown Phoenix, sponsored by the W. P. Carey School of Business and PNC Bank.

“For almost six decades, this luncheon has attracted business and governmental leaders to hear a panel of distinguished speakers, economists, project business conditions for the coming year,” said W. P. Carey School Dean Ohad Kadan, who made his first appearance at the luncheon since joining the school in July.

Man speaking at lectern into microphone

W.P. Carey School of Business Dean Ohad Kadan speaks at the 59th annual ASU/PNC Bank Economic Forecast Luncheon on Nov. 16 at the Sheraton in downtown Phoenix. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

In addition to Hoffman, speakers included Daniel J. Brady, senior vice president and chief investment strategist for PNC Asset Management Group, and Christopher Waller, a governor at the Federal Reserve System.

Hoffman said Arizona has recovered from the pandemic downturn before most states because its economy is strong and diverse. Health care, manufacturing, transportation/warehousing and scientific/technology industries are among the strongest in the nation, and unemployment is near a 40-year low.

Pre-COVID-19, Arizona outpaced all U.S. states in job creation and is gaining some ground in getting those jobs back, according to Hoffman. However, the state’s recent employment growth has been slower than the national average and will add over 100,000 jobs in 2022, with 86,000 in the metro Phoenix area.

Hoffman said Arizona sustained the pandemic and continuing inflation because of its business-friendly attitude and remaining as open as possible during the worst of COVID-19.

“We embraced business and recovered jobs faster than most of the nation did,” Hoffman said. “I would say we are still several hundred thousand jobs below trend. And it’s going to be a long time to make that up.”

But Hoffman said aggressive Fed policy might trigger a national recession, bringing higher unemployment rates, reduced job growth and a slowdown in residential building. However, Hoffman believes in the current strength of the Arizona and Phoenix economies; the effect should be milder compared with other states.

He attributes this to the five Arizona industries that ranked among the fastest-growing in the nation:

  • Health care, which added more than 15,000 jobs in the past year, is up 3.9% and is ranked second in the nation.
  • Manufacturing added more than 10,000 positions in the state, has grown by 5.7% and is ranked fifth in the country.
  • Transportation/warehousing added more than 12,000 jobs and has shot up 9.4%. It is ranked fifth in the nation.
  • Science/technology has become a hub, adding approximately 13,000 positions and is up by 7.6%, ranking eighth in the country.
  • Retail trade added 12,100 jobs for Arizonans, ranking 10th in the U.S.

Hoffman gave special kudos to the manufacturing industry, which was a welcome surprise in the wake of the pandemic.

“Manufacturing is a fantastic story,” Hoffman said, predicting the number of jobs will quickly climb to 15,000. “Many of us thought manufacturing would be tough to bring back to Arizona. And I think that’s a testament to creating a welcoming business climate.”

man speaking at lectern in front of audience

ASU Professor Dennis Hoffman speaks at the 59th annual ASU/PNC Bank Economic Forecast Luncheon on Nov. 16. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

The Phoenix metro area was responsible for approximately 112,000 new jobs in 2022, or 3.8 % growth. These cities followed: Flagstaff (4,770, or 7.6%), Prescott (2,890, or 4.4%), Yuma (2,400, or 4.2%), Lake Havasu (2,070, or 3.9%), Tucson (12,500, or 3.3%) and Sierra Vista (450, or 1.3%).

While job growth will take a sharp dip in 2023, the state’s population will also slow down, but not by much, according to Hoffman. He said Arizona ranks as the fourth fastest-growing state and the top three location for domestic movers, behind Florida and Texas.

Income levels, affordable housing, inflation and Fed rate hikes will affect exactly how many people will come to Arizona in 2023 because the state is 50% less affordable than five years ago.

“It’s simple. When you double the mortgage rate, the cost to finance a home dramatically goes up,” Hoffman said. “Millennials are reaching the age where they want to consume housing and it’s increasingly out of reach for them, so this is a concern.”

Home sales have “fallen dramatically” according to Hoffman, costing the state about a billion dollars a month in income.

“That represents a lot of income for people in the real estate community,” Hoffman said.

Hoffman said concerns over climate change, lack of water, women’s rights, education issues and border crisis concerns could play a part in attracting innovative workers, especially those in the tech industry, who can live and work anywhere. His biggest concern is the Fed, whose policies could slow down many markets and could stagnate Arizona into 2024 or 2025, Hoffman said.

Some of those concerns were allayed by Waller, who said the Fed’s main goal was to fight inflation, not create economic problems for the states.

“Slowing down economic growth is necessary to bring inflation back down to our 2% target,” Waller said. “This slowing in activity is a sign that actions taken by the Federal Reserve this year to reduce inflation are working.”

Waller said by boosting interest rates, the Fed can curtail spending and investments by households and investments, which has created a bottleneck for supply.

“Slowing home sales will decrease demand for goods that complement the purchase of a new home and demands for goods, such as new carpet, new furniture, new lawn mowers and so on,” Waller said. “This will put some downward pressure on those prices. Our goal is to rein in demand and supply into better balance.”

Hoffman said that Arizona will prevail through the tough times because of its attitude toward business and commerce.

“Frankly, we have long-term economic advantages in this state. This is a very pro-growth economic setting,” Hoffman said. “This is a state where we’ve traditionally embraced business. We understand that business brings prosperity to the vast majority of people.”

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay

Reporter , ASU News


ASU alum honored as civic leader

Lyon serves as deputy sergeant at arms for Arizona State Senate

November 17, 2022

Jenna Lyon's job at the Arizona State Senate has allowed her access to understand the entire process of lawmaking.

Although there are days when they must work through the night in order to finish a legislative session, Lyon says she has never worked a day in her life. Perhaps this is because she is a self-described eternal optimist. More likely, it is because of her passion for public service — a passion that was recently honored by a public service award from the Center for the Future of Arizona. ASU political science alum, Jenna Lyon Jenna Lyon earned degrees in political science, history and public administration from Arizona State University. Download Full Image

Lyon grew up in Gilbert, Arizona, earned degrees in political science, history and public administration from Arizona State University and has spent her entire career working at the Arizona State Senate as the deputy sergeant at arms and constituent services liaison, where she provides support services.

As part of her duties, she also directs the Senate Page Program, which has provided her the opportunity to work with students interested in public service and remain connected to ASU where she recruits for the program.

“Jenna has been a mentor, boss and friend to several hundreds of ASU students over the years,” said Gina Woodall, a teaching professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies. “Her mentorship and professionalism has changed many of our students’ professional trajectories.”

Woodall was first introduced to Lyon as a student at ASU. Lyon said Woodall’s welcoming and genuine approach towards helping others has served as a great example to her through her career.

Recruiting and mentoring students in the Senate Page Program has also given Lyon the opportunity to work closely with Tara Lennon, a teaching associate professor with the School of Politics and Global Studies and faculty lead of the Arizona Legislative and Government Internship Program.

“When I talk with current and former student pages, Jenna is universally praised as one of the best supervisors they’ve ever had,” said Lennon. “Whether as interns or pages, I have seen students learn professional skills the hard way, in the deep end of a contentious political environment.”

In her position, Lyon is able to help students put what they learn in the classroom into practice at the Capitol, and she said the relationships she maintains with ASU help make that happen.

“And so it's great to have those relationships, so we can work together because we are all striving towards the same thing, which is to make Arizona better place to create great public policy,” she said.

When she was a first-year student at ASU, Lyon was looking for internships in government. She didn’t have enough credit hours at the time to apply to the Arizona Legislative and Government Internship Program, but in her research she came across the Senate Page Program.

The deadline to apply had passed, but luckily for Lyon, someone dropped out last minute and Lyon spent her first session at the Capitol as a page.

“I just completely fell in love with the process, the place, the people and the exciting things that are constantly happening in the state Capitol,” she said. “I just couldn't get enough.”

Lyon stayed in the program throughout her undergrad, and upon graduating ASU, she became the supervisor of the program herself. She was considering a graduate degree or law school at the time, but the opportunity to become the deputy sergeant at arms was too appealing to pass on.

“It’s really just the best job you could ever imagine,” said Lyon, “bringing all those young people into public service and doing a little part in maybe launching their careers.”

In working with pages, Lyon says she hopes to inspire a passion for public service — even one positive impression could create a chain reaction in getting more people to care about making government work.

Lyon’s work has not gone unnoticed. Thanks to the nomination of her chief page, Jesse Brainer, a senior studying political science at ASU, Lyon was recently awarded a Gabe Zimmerman Public Service Award in the category of Civic Leader from the Center for the Future of Arizona.

“Going down and being part of that award ceremony was just incredible,” said Lyon. “To be among these other public service professionals who’ve made such an impact in their careers, it was very humbling and a really big honor.”

Woodall said, “I cannot thank Jenna enough for her continued support of our students, connecting them to the Senate and staff, and most importantly serving as an excellent model of a true public servant.”

Added Lennon, “ASU should be proud and grateful for her mentorship of students and service to Arizona.”

From her experience in the state Senate, Lyon has seen firsthand how law making affects citizens’ daily lives and how the work that she and her colleagues do to support matters. It’s why she thinks people get into public service — to do the right thing and to serve others.

“I really truly believe government can work and can function well,” said Lyon. “I think a big part of it is because of the people that are in government tirelessly working behind the scenes to make it work.”

Matt Oxford

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Politics and Global Studies