Remembering Regents Professor John Alcock

Alcock remembered for lasting contributions to natural science, animal behavior and enduring impact on lives of students, colleagues


February 3, 2023

John Alcock, a beloved Arizona State University Regents Professor and pioneer in ecology and animal behavior, died on Jan. 15 at the age of 80. 

“John Alcock was a scholar of evolutionary biology who devoted his career to studying how animals adapted to living in the natural world and then teaching others the wonders he discovered,” said James Collins, Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Natural History and the Environment. ASU Regents Professor John Alcock smiling at the camera holding a specimen net. “Through his prolific writings for scientific and popular audiences and his teaching, John drew his readers and students into the field through infectious enthusiasm and passion for animal behavior, natural history, natural selection, the adaptationist hypothesis and fieldwork that were the hallmarks of his career,” said Ronald Rutowski, Emeritus Professor of the School of Life Sciences. Photo courtesy the School of Life Sciences Download Full Image

Alcock first came to ASU in 1972, joining what was then the zoology department. The department was later renamed the Department of Biology, which was then combined with plant biology and microbiology in 2003 to form the School of Life Sciences

He was fully committed to both teaching and research, as well as a diligent application of scientific analysis of animal behavior, and over his 36 years at ASU he instilled in his students a respect and awe for the natural world.

“John was one of the most dynamic and engaging lecturers I have seen. I am forever grateful that I had the honor to teach with him and see how to do it well. He taught boldly, and his gravitas was backed up by his deep understanding of animal behavior as a research field and as a conceptual force,” said Jennifer Fewell, President’s Professor in the School of Life Sciences and associate dean of faculty for The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

Early in his ASU career, Alcock wrote his widely used and engaging textbook "Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach." This book featured an approach that was a hallmark of virtually every book he wrote — that is, an enthusiastic use of testing hypotheses for the adaptive function of traits to unravel the complexity and hidden secrets of the natural world, especially the behavior of animals. His textbook and lectures walked students through scientific analyses of behavior in a way that was understandable, empowering and exciting. 

“John arrived at ASU just as evolutionary biology was in the midst of a major conceptual transformation in terms of understanding Darwin’s vision of natural selection and its relationship to the process of adaptation,” said Collins, who serves as the faculty group leader of Global Change Biology for the School of Life Sciences, as well as a professor for the Center for Evolution and Medicine. 

“It is fair to say that his textbook, 'Animal Behavior,' along with his other publications, were major contributors to that transformation," he said.

Alcock regularly revised his textbook, ultimately producing an astounding 10 editions, the last printed in 2013 before he enlisted Dustin Rubenstein as a co-author for the 11th, the last edition that John co-authored, in 2018. Thus, his writing drew students into the field and shaped their thinking about the process of science and animal behavior for over 40 years.

“John Alcock was first of all a superb naturalist in the sense as Ed Wilson has called himself a naturalist. He asked the right questions and ingeniously found the right answers without much monetary expenditure. He loved his study objects (bees, wasps, birds and all creatures big and small), and he celebrated nature with his beautifully written books,” said Bert Hoelldobler, University Professor, Regents Professor and Robert A Johnson Chair in Social Insect Research for the School of Life Sciences. 

“His textbook on animal behavior was a tremendous success; it has been adopted by many academic teachers who taught a course on this subject. It was one of the required readings for my course — ethology — I taught for many years at Harvard University,” he said.

Alcock’s love of nature started at an early age in Pennsylvania as a deep love of bird-watching, a love that persisted throughout his life, although his interests later expanded to include the natural history of all things. He received his undergraduate degree at Amherst College, and went on to graduate school at Harvard University, where he did his doctoral dissertation on learning in birds. 

Upon graduating from Harvard in 1969, Alcock initially took a faculty position in the Department of Psychology at the University of Washington, but a research trip to the Chiricahua Mountains in Arizona changed the entire trajectory of his life. It was here that he fell in love with the Sonoran Desert. He joined the faculty at Arizona State University and shifted the focus of his research program from birds to insects. 

In the ASU community, Alcock was known for his passionate outlook and views and his dedication to teaching and research. He was a prolific writer, an active educator of natural history and a staunch defender of the application of an adaptationist approach to understanding the behavior of humans as well as other animals. 

“John had a lively and infectious personality. When he cared about something, he made sure it got done right: teaching, gardening, research, his popular books with their lovely illustrations,” said Jane Maienschein, University Professor of History of Science; Regents, Presidents and Parents Association Professor for the School of Life Sciences; and director of the Center for Biology and Society.

“I co-taught a course on evolution with him and two other colleagues when evolution was being attacked by the state legislature. John wanted the students to learn what evolution really means — and that it wasn’t whatever misrepresentation they might have heard around their dinner table. He cared,” she said. 

His skills and excellence in teaching and research were widely recognized, both at ASU and across the world. The Animal Behavior Society elected him as a fellow in 1990, and he received their Exemplar Award in 1996, and a teaching excellence award in 2007. In Britain, the Association for the Study of Animal Behavior presented him with their ASAB Medal recognizing his contributions to the science of animal behavior.

At ASU, he received an award for teaching excellence from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 1974, and was honored with a Regents Professorship in 1988 — the very first group of faculty to receive this distinction in ASU’s history. 

“He was a true master in the classroom — funny, thoughtful, provocative. He had a big influence on me,” said Ryan Sponseller, who graduated with his PhD in biology in 2006.

Alcock's work focused on the study of insects with particular emphasis on their mating systems. He recurrently worked on several taxa, especially burrowing bees, both in the U.S. and Australia, tarantula hawks and damselflies, producing detailed and insightful studies of the strategies, such as hilltopping, used by males to maximize their chance of encounters with receptive females. All told, his efforts yielded over 200 peer-reviewed publications and his widely cited book with co-author Randy Thornhill, "The Evolution of Insect Mating Systems."

Alcock was also very active in presenting natural history to a broader audience. In addition to 57 articles in the popular press, he wrote eight books on topics ranging from gardening and insects in the desert to orchids. One of those books, "In a Desert Garden: Love and Death among the Insects," received the John Burroughs Medal as the best natural history book of 1998.

“He dedicated the first edition of his textbook: ‘To my students, who cheerfully remind me each year how much I have yet to learn.’ An award-winning teacher, he inspired generations of biologists who would forever see the natural world through fresh eyes as a result of encountering John in person or through his publications,” said Collins.

“ASU was fortunate to have John Alcock as part of our community for as long as we did,” he said.

The family asks that remembrances be in the form of donations made in John’s name to the Center for Biological Diversity or the Nature Conservancy of Arizona. Memorial service information may be found at JohnAlcock.com

Ronald L. Rutowski, ASU School of Life Sciences Emeritus Professor, contributed significantly to this article and penned an additional obituary distributed directly to colleagues and family.

Dominique Perkins

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Life Sciences

480-965-2131

 
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Navrotsky named Regents Professor for groundbreaking work in materials science

February 3, 2023

Alexandra Navrotsky returned to ASU in 2019 to continue her stellar tradition of solid-state science

Alexandra Navrotsky has been fascinated with science since an early age, when she lived with her mother and immigrant maternal grandparents in New York City.

“My grandfather was a civil engineer — he designed highways and also loved trains,” Navrotsky says. “In fact, I learned to read the subway maps at age 3, before I ever learned to read.”

Navrotsky, who has earned many prestigious accolades, including membership in the National Academy of Sciences, will be inaugurated as an ASU Regents Professor on Feb. 9. The honor is bestowed to no more than 3% of all ASU faculty.

“I'm honored to become a Regents Professor and especially honored to have gotten it after being at ASU for only a short time, namely three years, although I was previously at ASU for 16 years in the 1970s and 80s,” Navrotsky says.

Navrotsky is a professor in the School of Molecular Sciences, within The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Navrotsky is also an affiliated professor with the School of Earth and Space Exploration and director of the Navrotsky Eyring Center for Materials of the Universe.

Kenro Kusumi, dean of natural sciences in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, congratulates Navrotsky on this achievement.

"Her pioneering work and expertise in the fields of thermochemistry of minerals and solid-state matter push the boundaries of knowledge in materials while training the next generation of scientists in this field,” he says.

“With her remarkable career at ASU and the world’s most renowned institutions, Professor Navrotsky is a driving force for the inception of many cross-disciplinary programs, making her one of our most productive faculty,” says Tijana Rajh, director of the School of Molecular Sciences. “Her engagement never stops, even after all her success.”

Navrotsky acquired her college education at a breakneck pace, earning enough AP credits at the Bronx High School of Science to finish a Bachelor of Science at the University of Chicago in just three years.

“The Bronx High School of Science was probably the strictest, the hardest and the fastest-paced school I ever attended,” Navrotsky says.

“I knew I wanted to be a chemist before I went to Chicago,” she says. “Chemistry was midway between being observational and being theoretical — I like the balance of lab work and the good fundamental base that chemistry presents.”

As the first student invited to complete both undergraduate and graduate degrees in the department, she leapt at the chance to stay at Chicago through her PhD.

“I was the experiment,” she says. “I guess it turned out OK.”

Alexandra Navrotsky

Professor Alexandra Navrotsky working in her lab at ASU in 1969.

Navrotsky started her independent career in 1969, in what was then ASU’s Department of Chemistry, left for Princeton in 1985, moved  to UC Davis in 1997 and rejoined ASU in 2019.

She has been described as the world’s leading scientist in the field of thermochemistry of minerals and solid-state materials. Her discoveries have been of fundamental importance in solid-state chemistry, geochemistry, materials science and engineering, exoplanetary chemistry and materials for space exploration.

When Navrotsky was young, her family had a country house where they used to collect rocks, minerals and crystals, but it wasn’t until graduate school that she realized there was good science to be done in geochemistry.

As a graduate student, Navrotsky worked with Professor Ole Kleppa developing calorimetry.

“I still work very much in that area,” she says. “We started focusing on geochemical problems in my last years of graduate school. We did some of the pioneering work looking at the thermodynamics of materials made at high pressure with Professor Robert C. Newton in geophysical sciences.”

In addition, Navrotsky works on solid-state ceramic materials, materials for energy applications, porous materials and metal-organic frameworks.

The questions she asks apply broadly.

“What structures are available to those materials, and why do they form these structures, in terms of chemical bonding? For that, thermodynamics is an excellent tool,” she said.

After graduating from Chicago, Navrotsky held postdoctoral fellowships in Germany at the Technical University Clausthal and at Penn State, before landing a job at ASU in 1969, where a burgeoning solid-state science program emerged as ASU completed its transition from a teachers college to a full-fledged research university.

Her 16 years on the faculty allowed her to develop her own program, build her own calorimeters and collaborate with geologists and solid-state chemists.

In 1985, the Geological and Geophysical Sciences Department at Princeton recruited her.

“When I was seeking a faculty position in ’69, Princeton was like Chicago — they wouldn’t hire women — and unlike Chicago, they weren’t even coed!” she said.

After 12 years at Princeton, including three years as department chair, “I saw what it was possible to do there and what was not: I explored all that phase space,” she says. In 1997, a plum offer from UC Davis drew her to the West Coast.

Navrotsky, who will turn 80 this year, is showing no signs of slowing down.

Her career has been remarkable, not only for its scholarship, but most significantly for the influence she has had on the earth sciences, and the efforts she has made to bring together the approaches, tools and philosophy of research in geochemistry, mineralogy, materials sciences and chemistry.

Navrotsky is also devoted to her students and coworkers and has made extremely significant contributions to the education and training of the next generation of scientists, with a special emphasis on underrepresented groups. 

Navrotsky’s many accolades include the Urey Medal from the European Association of Geochemistry, the Roebling Medal from the Mineralogical Society of America, the Harry H. Hess Medal from the American Geophysical Union and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Earth Science. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow. She has served as vice president and president of the Mineralogical Society of America.

In 2020, Navrotsky was ranked No. 25 globally in materials science in the "Updated science-wide author database of standardized citation indicators," published in PLOS BIOLOGY. She was also made a Distinguished Life Member of the American Ceramic Society and won the European Materials Research Society Jan Czochralski Award in 2021.

Top photo: Professor Alexandra Navrotsky addresses her doctoral and graduate students in the Bateman Physical Sciences Center on the Tempe campus. Photo by Enrique Lopez

Jenny Green

Clinical associate professor , School of Molecular Sciences

480-965-1430

 
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Serendipity leads Michael Lynch to being named Regents Professor

February 2, 2023

Lynch lauded for visionary approach in quantitative genetics

As one of the world’s leading quantitative geneticists, Michael Lynch knows everything there is to know about natural evolution.

Including the fact his life hardly evolved naturally.

“I’ve thought about that quite a bit,” said Lynch, a professor in Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences and director of the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution. “I think there was a lot of serendipity in my life.”

That serendipity led Lynch to being named one of four new Regents Professors. He will be officially inducted on Feb. 9.

Lynch was honored not just for his research on population genetics, his 1998 book “Genetics and Analysis of Quantitative Traits” — which is considered the foundational work in quantitative genetics — or his induction into the National Academy of Sciences in 2009, but also for the leadership he has provided to 51 postdoctoral fellows, 34 PhD students and 17 master’s degree students.

“Lynch has advanced a visionary approach to uncover the fundamental mechanisms of evolution through studies of single-celled organisms, including bacteria, archaea, protozoa and fungi,” said Kenro Kusumi, dean of natural sciences in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. ASU and The College are thrilled to recognize the achievements by this internationally recognized scientist.”

And to think, Lynch once assumed he would work at a factory every day of his life, “waiting for retirement.”

Lynch was introduced to science at a young age growing up in Auburn, New York, just outside Syracuse. His father worked as a tool-and-dye maker, spent the last years of his career making transistors for General Electric and gave Lynch calculus books he borrowed from his engineer friends.

And like a lot of young kids with an interest in science, Lynch often performed science experiments at home.

“I had one of those little chemistry sets and sort of blew things up, mixing chemicals that shouldn’t have been mixed together,” Lynch said with a smile. “Nobody got hurt, though.

“I spent a lot of time looking in a microscope. I was able to look at all kinds of bugs that I never would’ve known existed and spent a lot of time in the woods collecting salamanders, things like that.”

Lynch never thought college was an option, though. No one in his family had ever gone to college, and his parents didn’t have the money to send him to a four-year university.

But it was the late 1960s, and America was involved in the Vietnam War. Every one of Lynch’s male predecessors had gone to war, and he thought he would be next.

But his parents had other ideas. They didn’t want him to go to Vietnam. Lynch didn’t want to go, either.

“And if you weren’t going to college, then that’s where you were headed,” Lynch said.

So, his parents started looking at colleges. Lynch wound up at St. Bonaventure (more on that in a moment), and even now, more than 50 years later, he believes that if it hadn’t been for the war, he might have gone to work in a factory and never stepped foot on a college campus.

As to why he went to St. Bonaventure, a private Franciscan university, well, that’s where a second bit of serendipity played a part. His parents didn’t really know what good colleges were around New York, but St. Bonaventure was in the news because its basketball team was ranked among the top five teams in the country, so they had a passing knowledge of the school.

Plus, Lynch’s mother was a devout Catholic and didn’t want her son to attend the state schools because, Lynch said, “they were burning buildings down during the Vietnam years, and she thought that was too radical.”

Lynch said his mom thought he would go to St. Bonaventure and become a priest.

“I don’t think she ever quite got over that, but she felt OK that I was going to be a doctor,” said Lynch, who had interest in going to medical school at the time. “And that’s prestige for the family.”

As it turned out, St. Bonaventure’s small size was ideal for Lynch. He didn’t have a lot of self-confidence growing up — “I spent a lot of time on sports teams when I was in high school and was pretty terrible at it all” — and the close-knit nature of the student body developed Lynch’s interpersonal skills.

“I had zero social skills when I went there,” he said. “One of the main things I learned there was to, I don’t know, be at least semi-competent in interacting with people.”

Lynch paid for school by working the night security shift — 1 to 6 a.m. — at local factories that made everything from typewriters to TVs to ski masks and heavy picture tubes.

During the day, he took practically every science course St. Bonaventure offered.

“I thought I would be a doctor,” he said. “I didn’t really know what research or graduate school was, so I assumed that’s what you could with a medical degree.”

In his final two years at St. Bonaventure, however, Lynch began doing field research with Professor Stephen Eaton.

“He was an amazing natural historian,” Lynch said. “He had me doing research on plankton communities in a local reservoir called the Allegheny Reservoir. I was counting different species of algae and plankton and plants. For me, that was really sort of eye-opening. That was my first real experience with research.”

As Lynch was applying for graduate programs, Eaton gave him a Science (magazine) paper on limnology, the study of the biological, chemical and physical features of lakes and other bodies of fresh water. The paper was written by Joseph Shapiro, a professor at the University of Minnesota.

“I always liked water, and I knew there were a ton of lakes up there in Minnesota so I figured it would be worth a try,” Lynch said.

Lynch’s path then became more traditional. After receiving his PhD at Minnesota, he took a job at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, and eventually moved beyond limnology to population genetics, thanks in part to a class on the subject he had audited at Minnesota.

Now, he’s one of the leaders in his field and a Regents Professor, joining a select group that makes up less than 3% of ASU’s faculty.

Evolution.

Not just in the way he ever could have imagined.

Top photo: Newly named Regents Professor Michael Lynch from the School of Life Sciences and director of the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution. Photo by Enrique Lopez

Scott Bordow

Reporter , ASU News

School of Molecular Sciences welcomes eclectic new faculty


February 2, 2023

The establishment of Arizona State University’s School of Molecular Sciences in 2015 was an important step in that it was the first public declaration by any department of chemistry or biochemistry in the U.S. that a focus purely on the academic disciplines of those subjects was no longer consistent with societal demands for scientific enterprise in the 21st century.

The school is not discipline-focused but has a mission of addressing societal problems from an atomic and molecular perspective, and advancing research and discovery of public value in accord with the ASU Charter.  Professor Xu on a research field trip with two others studying a piece of earth. Associate Professor Jie Xu on a research field trip with colleagues. Photo credit Jie Xu Download Full Image

In support of this mission, School of Molecular Sciences recently welcomed two new faculty who exemplify this approach and use atomic- and molecular-level thinking to work on important problems that historically would not be considered mainstream chemistry or biochemistry.

Associate Professor Jie (Gail) Xu, who arrived last semester, is busy building a laboratory specialized in microbiology and nanoscience. Xu has developed a unique research program that focuses on understanding the origins, properties and transformation of naturally occurring inorganic nanoparticles and their roles in relaying nutrients and energy among associated microorganisms. The philosophy behind Xu’s research program is well aligned with that of the School of Molecular Sciences in that the ultimate control of environmental or engineered processes converges on the mechanistic understanding at the molecular, atomistic or electronic levels.

Headshot of  in an outdoor setting.

Liza Roger

Assistant Professor Liza Roger, who is affiliated with ASU's new School of Ocean Futures, joined the School of Molecular Sciences this semester and is excited to set up a one-of-a-kind lab growing corals, in vitro and in vivo, and other marine organisms. Roger’s research takes a biochemistry perspective to study the impacts of environmental change on marine organisms involved in symbiotic relationship with microscopic endosymbiotic algae such as corals, giant clams, anemones and upside-down jellyfish from a variety marine ecosystems. Her recent efforts have been concentrated on developing coral via in vitro methodologies to better understand cellular physiology and symbiosis, and unlock the next level of coral research.

Roger’s research interests also focus on understanding the pathways of physiological stress in reef-building corals and other symbiotic marine invertebrates. She is especially interested in developing approaches to make these organisms more resilient in the face of climate change-induced perturbations such as thermal stress. Her background in geochemistry and marine biomineralization also means she is interested in characterizing coral calcification at the cellular level in relation to known seawater properties and coral carbonate records (coral skeleton).

Headshot of Professor Jie Xu in an outdoor setting.

Jie (Gail) Xu

Xu’s research group is named “NanoGeoBio,” and she envisions recruiting a team with diverse backgrounds, including microbiology, geochemistry, nanoscience, biochemistry, biophysics and inorganic chemistry at ASU. Currently, there are three major themes in Xu’s research: metal-sulfur system geochemistry, mineral nanoparticle-enabled microbial metabolisms and habitability of sulfate-rich environments.

The major goal of the NanoGeoBio Laboratory is to leverage the understanding of the smallest components (nanoparticles and microbes) and their connections in nature to obtain a bigger picture of geochemical cycles and to develop new strategies for energy harvesting and resource recovery. 

The research areas being pioneered by professors Xu and Roger are more than just interdisciplinary. In many ways they represent a post-disciplinary approach to research, one that is based on the mission of solving societal problems rather than being connected to any specific discipline.

Ian Gould contributed to this story.

Jenny Green

Clinical associate professor, School of Molecular Sciences

480-965-1430

Catherine O'Donnell named new associate director of the Institute of Humanities Research


February 1, 2023

Catherine O’Donnell, a professor of history in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, has been appointed as the new associate director of Arizona State University's Institute for Humanities Research. With 21 years of teaching experience at ASU, O’Donnell will be working collaboratively alongside Ron Broglio, director of the Institute for Humanities Research, to develop and execute strategies, programs and projects aligned with the institute's vision and goals.

“We are delighted to have Catherine O’Donnell join our team in the associate director role,” Broglio said. “Catherine will be an excellent asset for the institute with a track record that will tremendously benefit the organization.” Headshot of Catherine O'Donnell Catherine O'Donnell, professor of history in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and new associate director of ASU’s Institute for Humanities Research. Download Full Image

O’Donnell is the author of “Elizabeth Seton: American Saint” (Cornell University Press, 2018), which was awarded the Distinguished Book Award by the Conference on the History of Women Religious, as well as the Biography Prize from the Catholic Press Association. She is also the author of “Men of Letters in the Early Republic” (Chapel Hill, 2008) and “Jesuits in the British North American Colonies” (Brill, 2020). Her articles have appeared in venues including the William and Mary Quarterly, the Journal of the Early Republic, Early American Literature and the U.S. Catholic Historian.

O’Donnell has worked in a variety of roles at ASU, most recently as Dean’s Fellow in collaboration with the College Digital Innovations team. She also co-founded the digital archive “Journal of the Plague Year: A Covid-19 Archive” with Mark Tebeau, associate professor at the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

O’Donnell has also served on the board of the Arizona Council of History Education for grades K–12 and is on the Executive Council of the American Catholic Historical Association. Before joining ASU, O’Donnell was a National Endowment for the Humanities postdoctoral fellow at the Omohundro Institute of Early American History and Culture in Williamsburg, Virginia. She currently teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on early American History and the Atlantic World at ASU. 

Mina Lajevardi

Marketing and Communications Specialist, Sr., Institute for Humanities Research

602-543-6492

ASU PhD student examines the trans experience in Spain through photos, research work


February 1, 2023

An anthropology PhD student is working to honor and highlight the experiences and life stories of transgender and other LGBTQ community members in Valencia, Spain, using their own photos and words.

“Spain ended their Franco dictatorship not too long ago,” says Mirtha Garcia Reyes. “So for people going from a dictatorship to a democracy in such a quick time with so many changes in place, I wanted to see what were the effects on the day-to-day lives of individuals of the trans community and see if things were actually changing for them.” Mirtha Garcia Reyes taking a selfie in Spain, with the sky and buildings in the background. Mirtha Garcia Reyes conducting fieldwork in Valencia, Spain. Photo courtesy Mirtha Garcia Reyes Download Full Image

Garcia Reyes is a sociocultural and visual anthropology PhD student at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at Arizona State University. She is researching the experience of migrant and nonmigrant trans individuals living in Valencia with a goal of helping create policies and academic work that will help the trans community globally.  

She becomes emotional talking about the people she met, the people who welcomed her into their lives, shared their stories, their triumphs and also the stereotypes and violence they still face daily. 

“The reason I love what I do is because I get to interact with people in a way where I can give people the time and space to make them feel heard," Garcia Reyes says. 

Unlike traditional anthropological interviews, Garcia Reyes takes a more collaborative approach and is using something called photovoice to do her research. She asks participants questions and they provide images that help answer those questions.  

“For example, on the first day, I said, 'Please take an image of something in the public setting that shows social or emotional support of your gender identity,'” Garcia Reyes says. “So they take a picture and they write what that means for them. For me, this is a way of getting a more individualized personal understanding of their experience without me invading their space whilst still asking questions.”

Her hope is to return to Valencia in the spring 2023 semester to hold a public and educational gallery exhibit integrating the images that volunteers submitted for the photovoice component. With these images, the participants will be able to visually share their personal experiences with the public.

Garcia Reyes' master’s degree research, which she completed in the field of visual anthropology at the University of Southern California, focused on understanding the experience of trans Latina-immigrant women’s femininity and their perspectives while living in the southwest region of the United States. When she started her PhD research, she refocused her work on Spain to include more experiences and participants from the LGBTQ community that included trans women, trans men and nonbinary individuals.  

Garcia Reyes is also working to tell the stories and bring awareness to migrant trans individuals' experiences in Spain, answering questions like “Are they getting the same treatment, the same access to resources and is it different for migrants?"

During her three months in Spain, Garcia Reyes was able to work in the offices of Lambda Valencia to conduct her pilot interviews and was allowed to access historical LGBTQ archives. 

So far in her research she sees that there has been some positive changes for the trans community in Spain since the end of the dictatorship. However, access to certain services can take years and there are still microaggressions and violence towards the LGBTQ community.  

“I feel that in order for you to understand others you need to understand more about their day-to-day lives. And if you don’t understand that and you don’t hear those stories, or their phrases or their voice, you can’t really understand what’s going on sometimes. 

“I have the privilege of being in a field where I can go in and spend time talking to individuals and get their perspective and try to share it in the best way that I can in a respectable, ethical way that is going to show them, but also educate others on what it’s like to be a human being in this world in very different shoes. We all come from very different backgrounds and I think it’s important to understand what that entails,” Garcia Reyes saus. 

Garcia Reyes has bachelor degrees in anthropology and Spanish. She was also the recipient of the ASU Tripke Travel Grant, where she received $2,000 to assist with her archival work.

Nicole Pomerantz

Communications specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change

480-965-0610

 
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New Regents Professor has a passion for public service

January 31, 2023

The new year is getting off to a great start for Stacy Leeds

On Feb. 1, she becomes the first Native American female dean of Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

And on Feb. 9, the renowned legal scholar will be sworn in as ASU Regents Professor of Law — one of the most prestigious honors a faculty member can receive. The distinction goes to tenured professors who have made unique contributions to the quality of the university. 

According to Leeds, being named Regents Professor was unexpected. 

“Well, it took me completely by surprise because I had no idea that I was in the mix or that I was under consideration,” said Leeds, with a humble smile. “So the powers-that-be across our campus keep good secrets on occasion.” 

Leeds is among a select group that makes up less than 3% of ASU’s faculty, and is one of four professors selected this year. Members of this elite circle are recognized for their research by both local and national colleagues. 

“This is great news,” said Brian Gallini, who was associate dean while Leeds was dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law. 

“Stacy is hard-working, compassionate and has a great sense of humor, all of which comes together to form a superior leadership style and corresponding positive culture. (She) approached each task with an admirable mix of calm, evenness and a refreshing amount of common sense that truly built up everyone around her," said Gallini, who is now dean of Willamette University College of Law.

Career and contributions

Leeds’ extensive experience and contributions certainly qualify her for the position of Regents Professor. She is a scholar of Indigenous law and policy, and an experienced leader in economic development and conflict resolution. She is a trailblazer with a passion for both scholarship and public service. 

Her legal expertise has had a powerful impact on Native American communities throughout the nation. Leeds was the first woman to serve as a justice for the Cherokee Nation Supreme Court and was recently appointed founding board member on the Foundation for America’s Public Lands, a congressionally chartered nonprofit.

Leeds is also the Foundation Professor of Law and Leadership at ASU and a leading educator in Native American law with a commitment to helping the next generation of lawyers. 

“It is threading the needle between scholarly work and on-the-ground work in the communities. For me, I would never envision doing one or the other," Leeds said. "So the thing that has probably been the single most important thing is that I have been given the space to really be in both of those universes. They inform one another.”

Leeds says all of this has enriched both her teaching and research “in ways that I can’t imagine.”

Professor helps student review work on laptop

Regents Professor Stacy Leeds (right) helps review work done by Natalia Sells, who is studying for her Juris Doctor of law. Photo by Enrique Lopez

The Indigenous influence

Leeds is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and the seeds of her success were planted while on the Muscogee (Creek) and Cherokee reservations in Oklahoma, where she lived most of her life.

It was this culture, along with support from many mentors, that led to a career in law and eventually to where she is today.

“I come from a Native American community and that’s the reason that I went to law school in the first place,” she said. “There were still so few Native American attorneys able to represent tribes. I knew I wanted to help empower communities.”

In the 1970s, modern day tribal governments started to reform and get their strength. Leeds watched the wholesale redevelopment of sovereignty and nations all around her. 

“I grew up alongside these emerging tribal governments,” Leeds said. “So advocacy was a very natural space. I can't remember a time when I had a consciousness that didn't involve that.” 

Leeds recalls the time when Wilma Mankiller, the chief of the Cherokee Nation, visited her elementary school. She stored away her observations of Mankiller’s approach to leadership. 

“She impacted me,” Leeds said. “Not just seeing a woman in this position, but seeing a person in a position that was uniquely herself in that role. She didn't take on the identity of what she was doing. She was doing work, but it wasn't like that role took her identity away from her.” 

At some point Leeds came to understand two things — what she wanted to do and what it would take to do it. 

“It was very easy to connect the dots that, if I became educated and went back to work for the tribes, I was going to make a big difference.” 

The combination of the political environment of her youth and her pursuit of law was a perfect pairing. Her understanding of discrimination and social injustice led her to advocate for Native American nations, as well as other underrepresented cultures.

“It was something that resonated with me all along,” Leeds said. “I realized I did not have to limit my work to the Native American community, but I could help all marginalized communities — particularly in the legal profession.”

Top photo: Stacy Leeds, newly named Regents Professor and Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law Dean. Photo by Armand Saavedra

Reporter , ASU News

AAAS honors 2 ASU anthropologists as lifetime fellows


January 31, 2023

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS), the world’s largest general scientific society and publisher of the Science family of journals, has elected Arizona State University anthropologists Katie Hinde and Amber Wutich to the newest class of AAAS Fellows, among the most distinguished honors within the scientific community. 

Katie Hinde

Hinde is an associate professor at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, a core faculty member at the Center for Evolution and Medicine, an associate professor with the Global Biosocial Complexity Initiative, School of Life Sciences interdisciplinary graduate faculty and a senior global futures scientist with the Global Futures Scientists and Scholars Network Side-by-side portraits of ASU professors Katie Hinde and Amber Wutich. Katie Hinde (left), associate professor at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, and Amber Wutich, President’s Professor and director of the Center for Global Health, were recently named fellows of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. Download Full Image

She is being honored for “distinguished contributions to the study of evolution of mothers’ milk, gendered experiences in science and public outreach of science,'' according to a release from the AAAS. 

“I cannot overstate how much this fellowship means to me," Hinde said. “As a biological anthropologist working at the intersection of the life and social sciences, the ‘big tent’ of the AAAS has been exceptional at inspiring me to think about the connections we can make and the impacts we can have as scientists. Not only does the AAAS bring scientists together, but the organization is dedicated to engagement with policymakers, collaboration with public communities and development of transformative programs like the Dialogue on Science, Ethics, and Religion.”  

Throughout her career, Hinde has received numerous awards and honors. She has developed original content reaching both academic and general audiences regarding her studies on mothers’ milk and celebrating science through storytelling. Her TED Talk has been translated into 31 languages and is used by ministries of health in other countries. 

Hinde has studied the food, medicine and hormones of mother's milk in multiple species of mammals, including differences in milk for sons and daughters and how mother's milk influences infant behavior in monkeys. By organizing large collaborations among anthropologists and biologists, Hinde has explored how global variation in human cultural practices show up in the composition of human breast milk. Combining an evolutionary lens with a social science sensibility, Hinde has worked in her publications and public engagement to translate findings from the bench to the bedside. Her interest in the topic started as an undergraduate student.

ASU Associate Professor Katie Hinde seated in front of book shelves.

ASU Associate Professor Katie Hinde is being honored for “distinguished contributions to the study of evolution of mothers’ milk, gendered experiences in science and public outreach of science,'' according to a release from the AAAS. Photo courtesy Katie Hinde

“At the time, there had only been two studies ever on individual differences in milk composition among primates from an evolutionary perspective, and I just kept having questions,” Hinde said. “Pretty soon it became clear that if I wanted answers to my questions, I would have to tackle the research myself. And those spark questions I had as an undergraduate, writing notes in the margins of my class-assigned readings, were the foundation for my PhD research and have framed my career for two decades.”

Hinde is also frequently recognized for her public outreach, including activities such as March Mammal Madness. As the founding director of the collective effort, Hinde and her collaborators work together to merge science with storytelling, working to make science attainable through weaving it into the narrative of the game. 

“I think the mandate of 21st century science is that we not only pursue our scholarly curiosities, but that we engage communities too long excluded from celebrating science and that we forge a better academy to welcome the young scientists we inspire,” Hinde said. “To be recognized for achievement in all three of these is meaningful to me personally, but even more, this speaks of a broader promise within our scientific community.

Amber Wutich

Wutich is a President’s Professor at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and director of the Center for Global Health at ASU. She is also associate director of the Institute for Social Science Research and a senior global futures scientist with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory. 

Wutich is being honored by AAAS for “distinguished contributions to the field of environmental ecology, water resource use and global mental health issues, particularly using advanced cross-cultural research methods,” they announced in a release.

She is an expert on water insecurity and knew at the start of her career that she wanted to focus on water scarcity. What surprised her over the decades is the connection between mental health and water scarcity.

Professor posing with community workers in a rural setting.

President's Professor Amber Wutich in the field with Bolivia Community Partners. Photo courtesy Amber Wutich

“The pivotal moment came when I was working in Bolivia on informal water systems, like water sharing or bartering, after the Cochabamba Water War,” Wutich said. “I thought I’d help solve water delivery problems, but people told me I really ought to be asking them about their feelings: how distressing, angering and worrying water scarcity was for them. That’s when my career in global mental health took off, and it wasn’t something I planned or trained for at all.”

Wutich’s career includes numerous awards and honors. She has done extensive fieldwork, raised millions of dollars in research funding and has published numerous articles and books on her work looking at health through a nuanced, anthropological and cross-cultural lens.

Wutich and co-author Alexandra Brewis, President’s Professor with the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, released their award winning book “Lazy, Crazy, and Disgusting: Stigma and the Undoing of Global Health” in 2019. In the book, Wutich draws on her experiences working with people living with inadequate sanitation in places like South America and the U.S.-Mexico border to uncover the stigmas associated with these living conditions and the harmful cycle those stigmas create.  

“For all anthropologists, a big question is which parts of being human are universal, and which ones are just situational? Are humans inherently greedy? Do gender inequities exist in every society? Does environmental collapse always lead to human chaos?” Wutich said. “Studying concepts like greed or gender globally means we have to modify our questions to fit with local culture, language, behaviors and context. That’s what we do in cross-cultural methods; we make it possible to ask and answer the big questions about humanity.”

The School of Human Evolution and Social Change is well represented within the AAAS Fellows. Hinde and Wutich are joining the ranks of over 10 other current and emeriti faculty from the school as AAAS Fellows. 

“We are fortunate to have Katie Hinde and Amber Wutich as part of our faculty teaching the next generation of students innovative research in anthropology,” said Chris Stowjanowski, director of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. “Congratulations to these two scientists who are being recognized for their outstanding work and social contributions."

Nicole Pomerantz

Communications specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change

480-965-0610

Teach for America CEO to visit ASU


January 30, 2023

On the heels of Arizona State University's naming as a top two producer of Teach For America corps members, the organization's CEO, Elisa Villanueva Beard, will visit the university Tuesday, Jan. 31, to meet with the Sun Devil community and reflect on the work that makes that ranking possible.

Teach For America is a nonprofit organization that enlists recent college graduates of all academic majors to teach for two years in urban and rural public schools. In 2006, ASU and Teach for America created a partnership that advances Teach For America recruitment, alumni leadership and corps member support and development. For the past seven years, ASU has been a top contributor of Teach for America corp members among large schools in the U.S.  Teacher standing at the front of a classroom full of students. A teacher goes over an English writing assignment with fourth-grade students at the ASU Prep Poly STEM Academy. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News Download Full Image

Beard’s journey with Teach For America started in Phoenix, where she taught first and second grade bilingual education. 

“Elisa’s visit to ASU showcases the continued partnership Teach For America has with the university,” said Veronica Aguilar, vice president of recruitment with Teach for America. “She is looking forward to connecting with Sun Devil students who are interested in learning more about Teach For America as the senior application deadline approaches on Feb. 10."

Beard’s schedule will consist of small group meetings with Undergraduate Student Government, Changemaker Central and Barrett, The Honors College. She will also attend partner meetings with ASU Provost Nancy Gonzales, James Rund, senior vice president for Educational Outreach and Student Services, Tara Williams, dean of the Honors College, and Carole Basile, dean of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

Aguilar said the leaders will discuss strategies to expand Teach For America’s impact and further its mission to end educational inequity. 

Beard will conclude her visit at a networking mixer with high-profile Teach For America alumni, future Sun Devil corps members, and campus staff and faculty at the University Club on the Tempe campus.

“We are honored to have Ms. Beard visit our campus and meet with the students, staff and faculty who share a commitment to educational excellence, both here at ASU and throughout the communities that Teach for America serves,” said Safali Patel, associate vice president for Educational Outreach and Student Services. “We are proud that our partnership continues to grow and strengthen each year.”

Copy writer and editor, Educational Outreach and Student Services

480-965-6837

Faculty member to chair Sports Law and Business program advisory board

Glenn Wong will become the 1st chairman of the board in June


January 30, 2023

One of the most prestigious faculty members at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is set to mark the start of a new chapter in his long and storied career.

Glenn Wong, Distinguished Professor of Practice and executive director of the Allan “Bud” Selig Sports Law and Business program, will soon move into a new role as chairman of the program’s 48-member advisory board. The move will become official on June 1. Portrait of ASU Distinguished Professor of Practice Glenn Wong. Glenn Wong will step into a new role as chairman of the Sports Law and Business Program at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law on June 1. Download Full Image

"In his time leading (Sports Law and Business), Glenn elevated the program and the whole college by extension," said Zachary Kramer, interim dean of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. "He brought his experience, passion and enthusiasm for sports and was integral in crafting a vision for the program that we will continue to execute.”

In this new position, Wong will assist with overseeing the program he helped to launch. 

“We are honored that Glenn will continue his important work at ASU Law in this new advisory role,” said Stacy Leeds, dean designate and Regents Professor of law. “His students, fellow faculty members and the entire sports law community are lucky to have continued access to his extensive knowledge and connections in the field.”

Wong, an attorney who has worked with organizations such as the National Football League, Major League Baseball and the PGA of America, joined ASU in 2015. Under his leadership, the Sports Law and Business program has strengthened its reputation and developed an innovative curriculum surrounding the legal and business aspects of the sports industry. A unique concurrent Juris Doctor/Master of Sports Law and Business degree program was launched under Wong’s leadership in 2019.

“As a professor, mentor and friend, no one has had a greater influence on my career than Glenn,” noted Jeff Price, chief commercial officer with the PGA of America. “As he transitions into a new role, it is important we recognize how he has helped to elevate the ASU Sports Law and Business program to national prominence.”

Prior to his time at ASU, Wong served as a distinguished professor at the University of Massachusetts and led the Mark H. McCormack Department of Sport Management within the university’s Isenberg School of Management, in addition to a number of other roles during his long tenure there. He received the John Francis Kennedy Maroon Leadership Award from the university in 2021. Wong was also a visiting professor at Stanford Law School in 2015 and 2016. 

Additionally, Wong is a past president of the Sports Lawyers Association and has been a board member of the organization since 1998.

“I, as well as many professionals, have excelled and advanced in our careers because of Glenn and continue to be inspired by his strategic educational program development,” said Bernadette McGlade, commissioner of the Atlantic 10 Conference. “As the architect of one of the first prestigious sports administration degree programs at the University of Massachusetts, to NACDA professional development graduate seminars, to the ASU Sports Law and Business degree program, Glenn Wong is an icon in sports, law, business and the educational industry. I have no doubt the next chapter as chairman of the advisory board will elevate all.”

Wong will take over his new position on June 1, and also continue as professor of practice. Aaron Hernandez will become assistant dean and executive director of the Sports Law and Business program.

Lindsay Walker

Communications Manager, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

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