ASU College of Health Solutions offers new master's degree in genetic counseling

October 6, 2022

Genetic research has captured the public’s attention in recent years as scientists have made important discoveries resulting in promising treatments for a variety of diseases and conditions.

All of that groundbreaking research has led to a need for more genetic counselors to help patients understand their risk of a variety of genetic conditions and help alleviate some of the stress in making treatment decisions. Group of people pose for a photo in front of a sign with Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University logos. MS in genetic counseling students (from left) Tessa Nelson, Cassidy Pedraza, Alyssa Rosetta and Daniel Gottlieb. Professor and Program Director Katherine Hunt Brendish is pictured in center. Photo courtesy College of Health Solutions Download Full Image

According to a 2020 National Society of Genetic Counselors Professional Status Survey, there are only 33 certified genetic counselors in Arizona. Of those, only 19 work full-time in direct patient care. With the recommendation of one genetic counselor per 75,000 people, Arizona should have 97 genetic counselors working in direct patient care.

The new Master of Science in genetic counseling degree from the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University will fill this shortfall and important need.

Developed in collaboration with Mayo Clinic and accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling, the master’s degree in genetic counseling started this August with its first cohort of students. The full-time, two-year program is based in the College of Health Solutions with classes taking place at the Health Futures Center in north Phoenix.

The need for genetic counseling is expected to increase

Those pioneering students, and the ones who follow, will be prepared to step into a growing field.

Program Director and Clinical Professor Katherine Hunt Brendish said the new degree was created in response to demand for more genetic counselors.

“Genetics is a hot topic right now in general,” Hunt Brendish said. “Everyone is interested in genetics and genomics. And for students, I think the field is attractive because it’s a two-year master’s degree, and after graduation, there are a plethora of jobs.”

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the field of genetic counselors is projected to grow by 18% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations, with about 300 openings per year.

Genetic counselors need to be well rounded

Genetic counselors need expertise in both the science of genetics and counseling. In addition to helping patients understand and interpret risks and diagnosis, they collect information about family histories, order tests, educate about genetic disorders and serve as an advocate for patients and families.

“We’d like to have people who are very well rounded,” Hunt Brendish said. “Not just a high grade point average, but people who have experience in advocacy for communities, experience talking to people about genetics or volunteering in a field where you’re talking with people who are affected with a disorder or condition. We’re looking for candidates who have researched the field, have the background in science and understand what the job entails.”

In addition to the classroom time, the students will complete a rigorous schedule of clinical experience under the supervision of professionals working in the field. That’s part of the reason why the current class, four students, is so small.

Hunt Brendish said there are only about 50 accredited programs in the country, with each accepting between four to eight students per year. She said those students rely on a pool of about 5,000 professionals for their training.

“Right now, our accrediting body requires that the training be one-one-one with a genetic counselor in a clinic,” Hunt Brendish said. “So I’m asking the community genetic counselors to use some of their clinic time to train our students, and it’s very tricky. It’s chicken and egg, because we don’t have many genetic counselors in the city to train more students.”

For the students, the small class size has helped them forge a bond with each other and the faculty.

“I’m looking forward to the clinical rotations and going to the different conferences,” student Alyssa Rosetta said. “Overall, it’s been good. Everyone has been pretty accepting. It’s like a little family.”

Weldon B. Johnson

Communications Specialist, College of Health Solutions

A human-centered design approach

ASU professor awarded $3M NSF grant to introduce students to ethical engineering, manufacturing of biomedical devices

October 6, 2022

Leila Ladani is on a mission to cultivate a human-centered mindset to guide the design and manufacturing of biomedical devices and implants.

Ladani, a professor in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, is among pioneering biomedical engineers advancing the understandings of how devices can be used more effectively in clinical settings.
ASU Professor Leila Ladani looks at a sample of a biomedical device with a student in a lab. ASU Professor Leila Ladani (left) works with student Carol Lu in her research lab to develop a biomedical device to determine the presence of cancer in tissue margins during a lumpectomy, which will streamline the cancer removal process and reduce the need for re-excision. Photo courtesy Leila Ladani Download Full Image

Ladani was recently awarded a $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation Research Traineeship Program to develop a new biomedical device manufacturing training program at ASU. Her project, Design and Manufacturing of Medical Devices and Implants: Cultivating a Human-Centered Mindset, will connect engineering students with health care professionals and patients to introduce them to the ethical principles, laws and policies associated with the development and use of biomedical technologies. 

“We want to put the users right at the forefront of innovation because the users are patients or clinicians,” Ladani says. “We want to make sure that what we are designing and manufacturing is something that they can actually use, with the mindset that human society is very complex.”

Ladani was also recently nominated by ASU Provost Nancy Gonzales to participate in the ELATES leadership development program at Drexel University. The program is designed to support senior female faculty members and allies of all genders in STEM-related fields to hone their leadership effectiveness. Ladani was one of only 30 people to be selected for this year’s nationwide cohort. Over the course of the yearlong fellowship program, she will attend multiple in-person and online meetings with peers as each attendee develops an institutional action plan to advance a mission of their choosing.

Closing the gap between knowledge and public service

During the process of developing her own biomedical device, Ladani discovered a knowledge gap between biomedical engineers and the communities they serve.

In collaboration with Mayo Clinic and one of its well-known surgical oncologists, Dr. Barbara Pockaj, Ladani is developing a device to determine the presence of cancer in tissue margins during a lumpectomy – the surgical removal of a portion, or “lump,” of breast tissue, typically as a treatment for a malignant tumor or breast cancer.

ASU Women and Philanthropy is funding the development of the device, which will streamline the cancer removal process and reduce the need for re-excision. 

With the intention of using the device in the operating room during surgery, Ladani realized the complexity of the clinical setting may not allow her current design to be used efficiently.

“We needed to make sure the device could detect the location of the cancer accurately and make it easy for the doctors to be able to read the results while they were operating. I figured out that there’s a big gap in theory and practice,” Ladani says. “We develop these innovations in the lab, but we don’t really know what makes a device effective unless we have a close connection with the medical side.”

Motivated to improve the experience of innovators who might encounter similar situations, Ladani began developing a program that would introduce STEM students to the nuances of device manufacturing. Program team members include faculty at ASU, including Katina MichaelJafar RazmiKaushal RegeKaren AndersonJean Andino and Rick Hall, as well as Dr. Steven J. Lester, a cardiologist, professor of medicine, and founder and chief medical officer of the Mayo Clinic-Arizona State University MedTech Accelerator

The team’s new biomedical device manufacturing program is built on a set of multidisciplinary and convergent research areas, which also builds on the strong relationship between ASU and Mayo Clinic and the Mayo Clinic and Arizona State University Alliance for Health Care. 

“This endeavor represents an important facet in ASU’s quest for excellence in which achieving a convergence of disciplines is a key imperative,” ASU President Michael Crow said in support of the program. 

Dr. Rafael Fonseca, chief innovation officer at Mayo Clinic, also strongly supports Ladani’s project.

“Training engineers who understand the practical limitations of their discoveries and inventions is critical in advancing solution-oriented discoveries,” Fonseca says.

Engaging students in the mission

To effectively engage students in STEM with the medical aspects of their disciplines, they will connect with Mayo Clinic providers and key collaborators who are interested in the students’ prospective biomedical technologies or devices to shadow them for a semester. 

“This process helps create a foundation for truly use-inspired technology development,” Lester says. “The program is a wonderful example of the collaboration between Mayo Clinic and ASU, which work together to create an intellectual ecosystem with expertise from every area of health care.”   

Through the program’s curricular components, including applied and experiential learning and entrepreneurial activities, students will develop their ideas for biomedical devices. Then, under the guidance of experts, students go through the processes of disclosure and filing patents, involving all the steps necessary to commercialize their innovative products. 

The goal is to help students develop a sustainable, scalable product, taking into consideration legal, regulatory, compliance and reimbursement issues. The entrepreneurial focus opens the possibility for some of the students’ ideas, leading them to establish their own medical device companies.

The program also provides support for doctoral students through stipend and tuition coverage. 

As a part of the project, Ladani is creating a new structured mentorship program for students at all levels. The Graduate-Undergraduate Mentorship program will give graduate students opportunities to spend a summer mentoring undergraduate students interested in developing their own devices. 

Ladani and her team are also developing new courses to acquaint students with the ethical and regulatory aspects associated with medical devices and implants. The program will also include components like seminars, orientations, retreats and presentations from guest speakers in industry and academia. 

Though doctoral students will spend only two years in the program, the community they build during their time as participants is intended to last a lifetime.

“These students will have a breadth of understanding in several different areas that will impact their design work,” Ladani says. “With the information they gain, they will be more equipped to start their own companies to create devices as well as jobs.”

The program will enable students to design next-generation medical technologies that enhance care delivery and patient outcomes.

Doctoral students from all engineering disciplines are encouraged to apply via an online portal set to launch in spring of 2023. Interested students can contact Ladani at

Hayley Hilborn

Communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

ASU Law to host conversation about elections and federalism

Center for Constitutional Design co-sponsoring conference Oct. 7–8 in Phoenix

October 5, 2022

How does the American federal electoral system hold up in times of controversial elections?

This question is among the topics of discussion for the interdisciplinary cast of speakers at the upcoming Conference on Elections and Federalism, co-hosted by Arizona State University's Center for Constitutional Design in partnership with the University of Wisconsin’s State Democracy Research Initiative. An African-American woman wears a "I Voted" sticker on a yellow sweater Download Full Image

Participants at the Oct. 7–8 conference will consider how federalism affects electoral institutions in the United States, how we might evaluate U.S. electoral institutions under international standards of electoral efficacy, and how varying institutional structures and conflicts within states shape electoral administration and procedures. Keynote speakers are UCLA Law Professor Richard L. Hasen and Sarah Longwell, president and CEO of Longwell Partners and publisher of “The Bulwark.”

Contentious election results are not new to the United States. There have been several times throughout American history when presidential elections were cast into doubt.

The first and perhaps most iconic example, the 1800 presidential election, resulted in an Electoral College tie between candidates Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, which was resolved — as provided for in the Constitution — by a House of Representatives vote. Other presidential elections have proved controversial when the winner of the Electoral College vote failed to muster a popular majority (1824, 1876, 1888, 2000 and 2016).

And yet, in every controversial case, ultimately the presidential candidate on the losing end of the election accepted the election results, upholding the legitimacy of the American electoral system — until 2020.

In fact, recent elections have raised questions about how we conduct elections in the American federal system. The Constitution generally grants the states the power to prescribe the “Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives” (Article I, section 4), a power that the states guard carefully. And yet the Constitution also grants Congress the power “at any time by Law” to “make or alter such Regulations.” But the document leaves it to congressional discretion when and why such an intervention might become necessary.

“National elections conducted through a federal system of state and local jurisdictions allow elections to be managed by the officials closest to the people, but controversial elections create doubt about the legitimacy of our electoral system and undermine trust in the American democratic system,” explained Stefanie Lindquist, executive director of the Center and Foundation Professor of law and political science at ASU. “It is important for us to host conversations with participants from across the ideological spectrum to discuss the challenges to our electoral institutions.”

The conference will explore the effects of federalism on American national elections through such questions as: When is the decentralized nature of the U.S. electoral system important for sustaining democracy? Are there times when state and local control of elections undermines or creates a challenge to ballot access and voting integrity? Should there be more comprehensive national standards governing U.S. election procedures? 

Miriam Seifter, associate professor and co-director of the State Democracy Research Initiative at the University of Wisconsin Law School, said the initiative was delighted to co-sponsor the event with ASU.

“This event both facilitates discussions of critical topics at an important time in our country and also fosters collaboration across states,” Seifter said.

Registration for the conference is open for in-person attendance at the Beus Center for Law and Society in downtown Phoenix.

The Center for Constitutional Design is part of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at ASU.

Executive Director, Marketing and Communications, ASU Law


ASU engineering professor wins McNulty Prize for global impact

Cody Friesen awarded for helping communities access clean drinking water

October 5, 2022

The John P. McNulty Prize, which honors bold leaders who use their talents and resources to tackle the world’s most pressing issues, is being awarded to Cody Friesen, an associate professor at Arizona State University and founder and CEO of SOURCE Global. 

The company employs innovative technology that uses water vapor in the air to produce high quality drinking water almost anywhere on the planet, even in remote areas. Aerial veiw of a building next to an array of hydropanels in a grassy area. Several people stand near the solar panels. SOURCE Global uses hydropanel technology to bring clean drinking water to people in more than 50 countries. SOURCE founder and CEO Cody Friesen, an associate professor at Arizona State University, is being awarded the McNulty Prize for his work making potable water accessible around the world. Photo courtesy SOURCE Global Download Full Image

The first ASU faculty member or alumnus to win the prize, Friesen is striving to realize his vision for ending the potable water scarcity faced by much of the world’s population.

“At least 2.4 billion people on planet Earth don’t have clean water to drink, but giving communities worldwide water ownership, access and security is possible, and SOURCE is committed to perfect water for every person, every place,” says Friesen, who teaches materials science and engineering in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, one of the seven schools in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU. Friesen is also a senior global futures scientist at ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory.

The McNulty Prize, awarded in partnership with the Aspen Insitute, is bestowed on leaders to recognize their “moral courage, vision for change, and track record of bold and lasting impact.” Each winner receives $150,000 and institutional support to advance their mission.

SOURCE Global has already used its hydropanel technology to bring clean drinking water to people in more than 50 countries, particularly in remote, Indigenous and other historically underserved communities. It innovatively uses energy from the sun to transform water vapor in the air into high quality drinking water, with no need for external electrical or liquid water inputs.

The impact of water ownership on communities is vast. According to UNICEF, women and girls around the globe spend a collective 200 million hours a day gathering water, almost exclusively from nonpotable sources.

This gathered water is expensive not only because of its troubling sociological impact, but in monetary terms as well. Friesen says that water ends up being more than 100 times more expensive than the potable water that’s flushed down the toilet in a typical U.S. city. The disparity is due to that economic loss, and to costs incurred by governments to deal with outbreaks of diarrheal disease caused by the water.

Access to water via SOURCE Global’s technology enables women and girls to spend their days going to school or work.

The company often employs local community members to install and maintain the panels. The drinking water generated from solar-powered hydropanels can make bottled water obsolete, benefiting communities economically and environmentally.

Friesen says that in 2021 alone, SOURCE water offset the use of more than 3.6 million plastic water bottles. He views the efforts to achieve such a vast impact as an extension of his academic work at ASU.

“When I think of what academia is about in the broadest sense, two primary functions come to mind: one, the creation of new knowledge, and two, the transfer of knowledge,” Friesen says. “Historically, the former meant research with the end goal of peer-reviewed publication and the latter meant teaching with the end goal of students graduating and carrying that knowledge into society.

“However, when I first arrived at ASU as junior faculty in 2004, President Michael Crow was articulating an additional framing of academia: the role of translational research, research that directly translates into the field to solve real-world problems, and how it would not only transform ASU but also the balance of academia and its relevance to society."

Hence, Friesen’s research group is highly translationally-oriented. It prioritizes the creation of new knowledge in the realm of materials science and renewable energy that targets and directly engages in global-scale challenges. The group ensures its basic and applied research is patented and moved into startup companies where it can ultimately be fielded in a way that addresses the problems on which the group focuses.

“Knowing that access to safe drinking water is perhaps humanity’s greatest challenge, we recognized that there is an immense amount of water vapor in the lower atmosphere, and that with sunlight as an energy source, it is theoretically possible to create a renewable, distributed approach to drinking water,” Friesen says.

That research has now resulted in the granting of 13 patents, more than 100 patent applications and the SOURCE Hydropanel. In 2019, the research group was also recognized with the Lemelson-MIT award, the largest monetary prize for inventors in the United States.

“We’re still just at the beginning. There are meaningful opportunities to advance the materials we use and the thermodynamic efficiency in ways that will make the technology even more productive,” Friesen says. “Ultimately, the goal of this work is to democratize access to drinking water and deliver water equity for all humans. We’re just getting started.”

Hayley Hilborn

Communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

ASU professor lands NIMH grant for innovation in educational pedagogy

Software will optimize cooperative learning in secondary education to improve adolescent relationships, mental health

October 5, 2022

Research on peer learning, led by Arizona State University Associate Professor Sabina Low, has earned the highly regarded National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) Director's Transformative Research Award.

The award is reserved for “groundbreaking, exceptionally innovative, original and/or unconventional research with the potential to create new scientific paradigms.”   Portrait of ASU Associate Professor Sabina Low. Sabina Low

Peer victimization, loneliness, mental health struggles and engagement in learning have long been enduring challenges for older adolescents, and since COVID-19, these concerns have only been amplified.

Peer learning is a set of evidence-based, small-group instructional techniques that have reliably been shown to have strong positive effects on student behavior, academic achievement, social-emotional skills and mental health. Peer learning shows stronger effects for disadvantaged and underrepresented students, helping to close the achievement gap and foster school environments that are supportive for diverse students. 

The benefits of collaborative learning are highly dependent on the quality of delivery and adherence to theoretical tenets. However, teachers struggle in day-to-day practice to deliver small-group lessons with the essential ingredients to be optimally effective.

So, Low and other study investigators developed a web-based platform — — to provide an accessible, affordable tool for teachers to consistently deliver high fidelity small-group lessons using existing academic lessons. 

Along with collaborators at the University of Oregon and the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the five-year study will involve 24 ethnically and socioeconomically diverse high schools. Low and her collaborators will then evaluate the feasibility and effectiveness of this delivery format, refine it and make it scalable. 

Low is honored and excited about the grant and what lies ahead.

“We hope to bring tools to classrooms to make it easy for adolescents to get socially connected in positive ways,” she says.

“Through, everyday instruction can be translated to empowering experiences that catalyze academic engagement and positive peer relationships. If the platform and processes are as impactful as pilot data, there is incredible potential to diversify target populations and outcomes.”

For media inquiries, contact Sabina Low at

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New team model improves learning, empowers teachers

October 4, 2022

Panel discussed P–12 education at ASU California Center event

Editor's note: This story is part of our coverage of a weeklong series of events to mark ASU's expansion in California at the ASU California Center in downtown Los Angeles.

Arizona State University has created a new kind of team-teaching model that’s intended to improve student learning but also empower teachers to leverage their expertise.

“A lot of people say there’s a teacher shortage,” said Lisa Cannon, senior program manager for the Next Education Workforce Initiatives at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

“That isn’t new. But what if we don’t look at it as a teacher shortage but as a workforce design model problem?”

Cannon spoke at a panel discussion Tuesday morning titled “The Next Normal: Galvanizing Educators, Communities and Technology Around P–12 Learners,” part of a week of events celebrating the new California Center in downtown Los Angeles.

“If you think about one teacher and one classroom, it’s all the expectations we have for that one human being. We expect them to know all the latest and greatest and have all the pedagogical skills and meet the needs of all students,” she said.

Schedules are inflexible and teachers are isolated, lack autonomy and feel disrespected.

In the team model, educators of varying levels of experience, background and expertise work with larger groups of students. A longtime, National Board Certified teacher who’s good at teaching reading might work with a new teacher whose background is in social media and a math specialist who used to be an engineer.

“So we look at a team-based model to provide deeper, personalized learning, so kids have access to multiple adults and learn off multiple kinds of expertise,” Cannon said.

“One of the tools we provide is creating a distributed expertise document,” she said.

“We would sit with teams and go over all the skills they have and document them. And then what are the needs of our students?

“Though it’s important to know who’s great at teaching reading, we also want to know who’s good at social and emotional learning and who has access to business partners that we can bring in for project-based learning.”

People talking in group at event

Carole G. Basile (center), dean of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, joins others in a brief conversation on education at the panel discussing “The Next Normal: Galvanizing Educators, Communities and Technology Around P–12 Learners” on Tuesday, Oct. 4. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

The model is now being used in 50 schools with 12,000 students, according to Brent Maddin, executive director of Next Education Workforce Initiatives at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

“We have a team of educators and it’s no longer isolating. It’s no longer lonely,” he said.

Special education teachers are integrated into the teams and no longer feel “secondary,” he said.

In addition to the inequities highlighted by the pandemic, educators in California are facing several new challenges, according to Stephanie Houston, assistant superintendent of innovation and engagement, San Bernardino County Superintendent of Schools office.

The state is adding 30 days to the school calendar, for a total of 210; three hours to the school day, for a total of nine hours; and universal pre-kindergarten.

California teachers have a strong labor union, so it’s crucial to include the unions from the very beginning of any efforts at reform, Houston said.

“We brought in the teachers’ association president from the beginning and we brought in the human resources team from the beginning,” she said.

“Everybody had questions and terminology matters.”

Maddin said that the team-teaching model aligns with many union priorities.

“Part of this is that if the educators don’t have protected time together as a team, this will 100% fail,” he said.

“And that’s something teachers’ unions are interested in — having protected time together.”

Collaborating with industry partners is another key aspect of the model — if the business leaders are on board with the mission, according to Megan Hanley, director of strategic initiatives for ASU Preparatory Academy.

“They have to care that education means something and is a gateway for students’ success. They have to really believe that,” she said.

They also have to know what their workforce is missing.

“What have they seen in the newest batch of people they’ve hired? Is it collaboration or communication or design thinking?

“We are begging for them to come into schools.”

Maddin said that teachers in the team model feel more satisfied, collaborate more, believe they have better student interactions and believe that their students received better instruction during the pandemic period.

“We fundamentally believe this is a moment to think about how can we staff our schools differently and take a bold, decisive direction,” he said.

Top photo: Dulce Vasquez, assistant vice president of strategic advancement in the Office of University Affairs at ASU, introduces the panel on “The Next Normal: Galvanizing Educators, Communities and Technology Around P–12 Learners” on Oct. 4 at the ASU California Center in downtown Los Angeles. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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ASU Pulitzer Prize winner featured on HBO series

October 4, 2022

Natalie Diaz speaks about efforts to preserve her native Mojave language

Natalie Diaz loves language.

That love is evidenced by her writing, for which she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in Poetry in 2021 for her collection “Postcolonial Love Poem.”

It’s also a part of her heritage. Diaz, an associate professor in Arizona State University’s Department of English, was born in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California, and is an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Community.

The love for her native Mojave language is the backdrop for Diaz’s appearance on "Habla Loud," the latest installment in the award-winning "Habla" series on HBO. "Habla Loud," which features celebrities and influential Latinos sharing their stories of being Latino in the United States, will premiere at 8 p.m. Arizona time on Friday, Oct. 7, on HBO Latino.

ASU News talked to Diaz about the show and the work she’s done to ensure the Mojave language is preserved.

Editor's note: The following interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Question: Tell me about your part in the show.  

Answer: Something really generous about the series is the way it’s looking at what’s considered Latina, Latino, Latinx. Because identity is always tense. And something that’s been really important for me about his (director Alberto Ferrera's) vision and viewpoint of this is that it’s really constellating a very large community that’s also very nuanced. This often happens with Indigenous people as well, and I’m included as a Mexican, Spanish person and a Native person in the United States.

The lens that he opened up for me to talk about the language work that I do with my elders at Fort Mojave … is really important because language, especially in the Spanish-speaking community, but also in our Native communities (is being lost). ... How do you recover that? And there’s some of the really tough things to talk about, like, "Who’s fluent, who’s not, how much do you know, am I saying it right?" So, it was really lucky that he invited me, and that’s where the conversation went.

Q: Ferreras is quoted as saying you’re trying to “rescue” the Mojave language. Is that the case?

A: So, I’m from Fort Mojave, which means the military base was there. In order, it was: Spanish explorers, Mormons, the Ives expedition, the railroad. And then as the railroad came in, they built the military base, once we were kind of quieted and broken down. Then the military was able to leave because we were no longer a threat. They turned the military base into a boarding school, and that boarding school (where English was taught) became one of the final and probably most powerful parts of the process of silencing the Mojave language.

They take the language away from the young people so that when they go home, they don’t have their language to speak back to their parents. Their parents quit speaking to them in Mojave because they don’t understand.

Q: Did you have a sense growing up there that your language was being lost?

A: I only heard my elders speaking it. When I was growing up as a kid, we had our own street version (of Mojave). We would call each other names, tease each other, maybe even say things we thought were curse words, which Mojave actually doesn’t have. Otherwise, I only heard my elders speak it. My great-grandmother, who I would take care of, she and my great-aunt spoke it together, so they would close the door when our elders came to visit and have their private conversation, which we’d sometimes overhear. Or I learned command phrases, like “behave” or “go outside.”

But, yeah, it was clear to me that it wasn’t a language spoken by young people. It was a language that felt like it was a part of us, but I didn’t quite understand it.

Q: When did you decide that you wanted to rediscover your language?

A: I was out of graduate school. I’d left my reservation for the first time to play basketball at Old Dominion University. I thought I needed to be as far away from home as possible. … Then I played basketball overseas, had a career-ending knee injury, went back to graduate school and it was after graduate school that I decided to come home. I originally wanted to just gather stories and oral histories, but my tribe asked if I would engage in this language project. I didn’t speak the language, but I was able to come back and just work side by side with my elders.

I spent most of my days with them and, in particular, (an elder named) Hubert almost every day. I knew I wanted to write. I knew I had a gift of writing and that I could express myself. That was what kind of made made me decide that I can go and help tell some of the stories that I heard growing up.

Q: What did your work consist of?

A: One of the things that I did was work with my elders to find pathways for them to share the language, because that’s the same way that the boarding school took away the opportunity to teach our children a language. Our current society doesn’t give elders a lot of opportunity to share. We were doing a lot of recordings — audio and video recordings. I learned small but really important things. I would ask, “How do we say, ‘Are you hungry?’” And what they would tell me is we don’t ask if you’re hungry. We simply feed you. But here’s a way that you might express that. I think we forget sometimes that language is not just about the product that comes at the end or the action, but it’s all of the values included.

Q: How long did the work take, and what was the final result?

A: We have a pretty large archive. I was working with elders individually and recording their stories and turning them over to their families. There are still some projects that we didn’t get to (because Hubert recently passed away). However, I have the previous recordings that he did, and a lot of it is still ongoing.

I think some of it was simply revitalizing people’s interest in it. We have a culture center at Fort Mojave that is carrying on some of that work, but losing (Hubert) is a big blow. It really just shifts your mind and makes you think of all that’s lost. But also everything that he gave us by opening up to us. I was working with him almost every day for five years. I have so much of the language he gave me streaming through me and in me.

The more difficult part, of course, is in all the things we gather and collect, how do you turn those into dissemination tools? How do you create things? That was what he and I had been working on the last few years, figuring out ways that we might create materials and put them into archives and places where people can access them. We think about language work as being in the past because we’re looking back toward something lost or a time when it was spoken, but I think what I learned from him is that it’s actually very much about preparing for the future in which we might speak it again. I think that was a gift I didn’t realize until just the last few days when we lost him.

Q: Is it your hope, then, that this has a generational impact in the sense that the Mojave language lives on?

A: Yes. One of the things that he (Hubert) always talked about, and I think a lot about, is things like dreaming and play. We forget the importance of those in terms of language-making, because language becomes so utilitarian that you just expect it, you assume it. You can teach a language in class to students, but if they’re not speaking it, if they’re not teasing each other in it, if they’re not making jokes… Really, for the language to be alive, we need to create opportunities for young people to engage in those ways, to be able to text each other in it, or create new stories of their own or new songs, things like that.

I also realize that it took a long time for that silencing to happen. It’s going to take a while for it to be heard, more often, more loudly, with joy. So, I think it’s about now working with people imagining what that future can look like.

Top photo courtesy Scott Baxter photography

Scott Bordow

Reporter , ASU News

Q&A: The drug-induced brain and how to support those experiencing substance abuse

Some illicit substance use can have lasting neurotoxic effects, altering what our bodies consider normal function

October 4, 2022

National Substance Abuse Prevention Month, observed in October, brings awareness to substance abuse and prevention efforts.

In the past year, more than 59.3 million people age 12 or older used illicit drugs. Moreover, the use of illicit substances interferes with brain receptors and the way they process information. Once that change happens, it’s difficult to change what was altered.  Portrait of ASU Lecturer Shannon Eaton. Shannon Eaton Download Full Image

But how do drugs affect our decision-making?

Shannon Eaton, a lecturer in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University, teaches psychology and neuroscience courses at ASU Online. ASU News spoke to Eaton to learn more about the effect of drugs on the brain and how we can provide support to those who are experiencing substance abuse.

Question: Tell us about the neurological changes a person experiences when they abuse drugs.

Answer: Different drugs of abuse have many different effects. Most drugs of abuse have some interaction with the dopaminergic system — the system that is responsible for our goal-directed activities. Changes to this system can alter the desire to use drugs and make it difficult to stop.

Additionally, some drugs can cause lasting neurotoxic effects. We may see fewer neural connections, a reduced number of neurons and changes to typical neural functioning. This can impact attention, the ability to plan and the ability to make decisions.

Using drugs frequently also can result in forming associations with various drug-related cues. This learning process changes how the brain is wired and may cause increased activation of drug-related cues and environments resulting in a craving for the substance.

Q: In your course Your Brain on Drugs, you discuss how drugs influence neuron communication and human behavior. How does drug use affect that communication and human behavior? 

A: Generally we can think of our body as wanting to maintain what is “normal” for a human body. When we get too hot, we sweat to cool down and help maintain a normal temperature. Our brain acts in a similar manner. 

If we take drugs that increase signaling, our body tends to compensate by reducing the number of receptors that detect that signal, and if we take drugs that decrease signaling, our body compensates by increasing the number of receptors that detect that signal. 

Many drugs of abuse have some interaction with the parts of our brain responsible for pleasure. If we overstimulate these areas, our body will start to compensate and turn down these signals.

Q: What happens when our bodies turn down these signals?

A: The turning down of these signals makes it very difficult to stop consuming the drug. If your body compensates and reduces the number of receptors that are responsible for feeling pleasure, then something that once brought pleasure might not bring a person as much pleasure anymore.

Q: That being said, you discuss motivation and liking. What’s the difference, and how do they play a role in drug consumption?

A: We have many more parts of our brain involved in motivation and only a couple small areas that are strictly devoted to liking.  

Liking we can think of as pleasure, or hedonic value of something; the opposite would be aversion. We tend to enjoy things that bring us pleasure and will seek them out, and we tend to avoid things that are aversive. Motivation can be thought of as wanting instead of liking. It is the driving force to seek out what brings us pleasure. 

Most people start using drugs because they make them feel good, they give the user some pleasure. However, as someone continues using, their body compensates (turns down the signals) and they no longer get the same level of pleasure from using their drug — their liking decreases — but they are still highly motivated to continue use.

Many users report a decrease in liking over time but an increase in motivation to use. Many people continue to use not for the pleasure they get from the drug but because using helps them “feel normal.”

Q: Do the biological differences between men and women change the way individuals metabolize drugs? Are the neurological changes different?

A: The biological sex differences can affect how drugs are metabolized, as well as other drug effects. 

If we look at alcohol, males have more of the enzyme that metabolizes alcohol in their stomach lining. So even when controlling for body composition differences, a male will start metabolizing alcohol sooner than a female, resulting in higher blood alcohol levels in women and different subjective effects when they consume the same amount. 

Women are also more likely to experience varied subjective effects of some drugs based on their menstrual cycle. There are increased reports of drug liking prior to ovulation in women. 

When we look at differences in neural structures in individuals with substance use disorder, both males and females had less gray matter (fewer neurons) compared to controls, but the regions where these effects are observed may differ between males and females. Men tend to have more dopamine release in areas associated with reward compared to women following the administration of drugs.

Historically, both in the U.S. and worldwide, men have had higher rates of substance use and substance use disorders.

Q: You touched upon interesting research regarding prevalence rates between men and women. What do those look like now in comparison to previous years?

A: If we take alcohol as an example, approximately 100 years ago, men were three times more likely to have problematic alcohol use than women. Recently, that gender gap has been getting smaller and smaller, and now men are only about 1.2 times more likely to have problematic alcohol use, indicating that women have been increasing their use of alcohol more recently. This increase may be due to a number of different factors such as changing gender roles and delays in childbirth and child-rearing.

We also see gender differences in the progression of substance use disorder (SUD). Even though males are more likely to use and to have an SUD, females go through “telescoping” — they progress from first use to dependence and addiction at a faster pace than males.

Q: If someone has substance use disorder, what is the best way we can help or support them? 

A: I believe that individuals that have an SUD are often not treated with empathy. It can be very hard to watch someone you care about do things that we can see are hurting them and those around them. However, many people with SUD become isolated and may not have anywhere to turn when they decide it is time to get help.

  • Be there for someone who needs it. Not enabling them, but being understanding can go a long way. 

  • Not taking it personally if you reach out to help but the person isn't ready.

It is also important to keep in mind that SUDs are often a lifetime struggle. Being there for someone as they struggle can be difficult for everyone involved, but having consistency and a person they can turn to for help can be the difference in someone seeking help when they need it. 

If you or someone you know has a substance use disorder, you can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration National Helpline. SAMHSA’s helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service available in English and Spanish.

Meenah Rincon

Public Relations Manager, ASU Online

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Attempts to diversify media, entertainment have stalled, panel says

October 3, 2022

Cronkite School dean moderates discussion at ASU California Center on the need for far more representation

Editor's note: This story is part of our coverage of a weeklong series of events to mark ASU's expansion in California at the ASU California Center in downtown Los Angeles.

When Ron Kellum graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in 1987, he was one of two African Americans in the broadcasting program.

The entire Arizona State University student body was only 1% African American.

“I remember never seeing a reflection of myself,” he said.

On Monday night, Kellum was a panelist in a program titled “Diversity, Culture and the Media,” part of a weeklong celebration of the new ASU California Center in downtown Los Angeles.

The program was moderated by Battinto Batts Jr., dean of the Cronkite School, who is a Black man.

“You’ll never know what it means for me, who graduated in 1987, to see Dr. Batts here,” Kellum said.

Batts said that the discussion on diversity in media was no accident.

“We’re here in Los Angeles, which is one of the most diverse cities on the planet. We’re in this building, the former Herald Examiner Building, owned by William Randolph Hearst, who had a questionable reputation as it relates to race and ethnicity,” he said.

Batts noted that newsrooms have not become significantly more representative since he started in the business decades ago.

“I would not be here if it was not for efforts at diversity. But since then, we’re running in place,” he said.

The lack of diversity has meant a lack of role models, according to Nonny de la Peña, the founding director of the Narrative and Emerging Media Program at ASU, a joint undertaking by The Sidney Poitier New American Film School and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is the founder and CEO of Emblematic Group, a digital media company focused on immersive virtual, mixed and augmented reality.

“In technology, it’s a monoculture,” she said. “It’s one of the reasons I’m here (at ASU). I was running my company, and I would pull in an intern here or there and I was never going to really disrupt that monoculture.”

Diversity is also about perspective, said Malcolm Venable, an entertainment journalist and currently a senior writer for, founded by Shonda Rhimes.

“Just because two people are of the same ethnicity or outward appearance doesn’t mean their values are the same or the way they move through the world is the same,” he said.

“You want a newsroom full of people who are of different ethnic backgrounds and heritages, but you also want diversity of perspective.”

Three men and a woman sit on a stage as part of a panel with a sign behind them that reads ASU California Center

Nonny de la Peña, ASU faculty member, Peabody winner and extended reality pioneer, speaks during the “Diversity, Culture and the Media” panel Monday at the Herald Examiner Building in Los Angeles. Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication Dean Battinto Batts Jr. (left) moderated the panel exploring the media's relationship with diverse communities, the evolving role of minority media organizations and the importance of an inclusive media landscape. Other panelists were Malcolm Venable (second from left), a senior staff writer at Shondaland, and Ron Kellum, a Cronkite School alum and the first African American artistic director for Cirque du Soleil. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

All three panelists noted the burden that is inherent with being the “first” or the “only” in the room.

Kellum is the first African American artistic director for Cirque du Soleil.

“There are 2,000 employees at headquarters in Montreal, and there’s not one person of color who works in the headquarters. How is that happening?” he said.

“To say I’m first at this age when there have been so many pioneers before me, I get fatigued. Until there are greater numbers, we can’t make change.”

De la Peña recalled a recent business meeting with a man in the technology industry.

“I had to take an extra hour to prove again what my credentials were. That wasn’t an hour I had,” she said.

“I have to do the work day in and day out if we’re going to make changes.”

Venable has found himself the only Black person in a room full of hundreds of people at some Hollywood events.

“Being first is framed as an achievement, but we should reframe it as a failure of the organization,” he said.

“What happened to eliminate all the other qualified people?”

Venable also lamented the erasure of Latino people in Hollywood.

“It’s disgraceful,” he said. “This town is literally Spanish. There’s no excuse for it.”

The panelists decried how demand for higher profits has led to the hollowing out of local news reporting.

“We should be concerned about the decline of local news for the same reason we’re here talking about diversity — because it means there are stories not being told that would help us to understand our neighbors and understand different perspectives,” Batts said.

“The 20th-century business model of journalism is failing, but we as a society still need journalism. It shouldn’t be about the profit margins but about how many people we impact.”

Batts said he remains optimistic.

“There are lots of different voices being covered in lots of different platforms. I’m encouraged by the democratization of media. If I want to start a website or social media feed, the barrier to entry is lower than it’s ever been.” 

Top photo: Ron Kellum (right), a Cronkite School alum and producer and director, speaks in the “Diversity, Culture and the Media” panel on Monday evening, Oct. 3, during the grand opening week for the ASU California Center. The event also featured (from left) Cronkite School Dean Battinto Batts Jr. as moderator and panelists Malcolm Venable, a senior staff writer at, and Nonny de la Peña, a Peabody winner, ASU program director and and extended reality pioneer. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


Understanding why and how people drink alcohol

Psychology grad student named Sharon Manne Scholar for work on alcohol addiction and motivations

October 3, 2022

When people drink alcohol, it can be for very different reasons, ranging from coping to social behavior. Research done in the Arizona State University Department of Psychology hopes to uncover how temporal attitudes toward drinking can shift and the context in which drinking occurs. 

“Essentially, my research aims to identify individual risk factors of alcohol or risky alcohol use and negative alcohol-related outcomes. We are trying to better understand some of the contributing factors to why substance use disorders develop and people experience negative consequences,” said Scott King, a graduate student in the psychology PhD program at Arizona State University. King is part of the clinical training area under the mentorship of William Corbin, professor of psychology and director of the Behavioral Alcohol Research for Clinical Advancement (BARCA) lab Portrait of Scott King, ASU psychology graduate student. Scott King is a graduate student in the psychology PhD program at ASU. King is part of the clinical training area under the mentorship of William Corbin, professor of psychology and director of the Behavioral Alcohol Research for Clinical Advancement (BARCA) lab. Download Full Image

King wants to know why some people have more reward-based experiences and other people have negative consequences such as addiction or depression. He recently received the Sharon Manne Graduate Student Research Award, given each semester to provide funding for personal research projects that address important and timely mental and physical health issues.

He uses ecological momentary assessments (EMAs) to study drinking in the real world. These are real-time surveys conducted on a smartphone during a drinking episode and can help researchers like King to understand the real context that people are in. 

The benefit of EMAs is that unlike in a simulated bar lab or research setting, the participants are in their normal environments and can provide accurate information about how they are consuming alcohol.

While social drinking is fairly common, issues arise when people actively choose to drink alone. According to the 2019 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), over 85% of adults have had alcohol at some point in their lives, with over 50% of adults choosing to drink alcohol in the past year. However, drinking alone as an adolescent predicts long-term alcohol use problems as an adult, including an increased risk of binge drinking and dependency. 

“There's a significant minority of people who drink alcohol alone or choose to drink alcohol alone, and those individuals expose themselves to a whole other range of consequences above and beyond the people who drink alcohol only with others,” said King, “so that's one of the questions I applied to look at, was to differentiate how reasons for drinking alcohol differ between social and solitary contexts.”

King is also interested in how drinking may change throughout time for an individual and hopes to discover indicators that would predict risky drinking behaviors. 

“One day, someone might drink to have a good time, and another day, someone might drink because they're feeling socially anxious or are in a bad mood, and I want to not only examine how the drinking measures differentiate between social or solitary contexts, but also how they fluctuate over a single drinking episode,” said King. 

The Sharon Manne funding is part of a generous philanthropic gift from Sharon Manne, a professor in the Department of Medicine at the Robert Wood Johnson School of Medicine and the associate director of cancer prevention and control at the Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey. Manne was a doctoral student in ASU’s clinical psychology program and was mentored by Research Professor Irwin Sandler and former faculty member Alex Zautra. She has committed to fund $25,000 in research proposals developed by ASU doctoral psychology students each year that allows them to conduct independent research projects, often outside the scope of what they are working on with their mentor.

"It's really impressive for a graduate student so early in their career to develop this kind of project with such independence, but that has been characteristic of Scott from the time he arrived at ASU. He has very clear ideas about the research he wants to pursue and he works incredibly hard to pursue his interests. I have no doubt that this project will yield important results and this is just the beginning for Scott in what promises to be a highly productive career as a scientist," said Corbin.

When King found out his proposal was selected, he was elated. 

“It was really, really exciting just to have the opportunity to collect my own data and to answer some ideas that are near and dear to my heart,” said King. “It means a lot to receive funding – to have alumni who have gone through similar programs and put that trust into young graduate students like myself, to say, ‘Hey, continue on this mission.’ This gift really advances our careers and hopefully continues the cycle of excellence in research. There's a lot of weight behind those gifts and we really appreciate it.”

Related: ASU study shows childhood loneliness linked to stress, problem drinking in adults

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology