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ASU welcomes more than 4K Earned Admission students

November 16, 2022

Editor’s note: This story is featured in the 2022 year in review.

For Shannon Lauritsen, a 33-year-old hair stylist in Nashville, Tennessee, going to college was a lifelong dream. But for her, like others, the traditional high-school-to-college path was challenging. 

“I struggled to focus and succeed in high school,” Lauritsen says. “I even had a guidance counselor laugh at my desire to apply to college. After high school, I attempted a few semesters in community college, which proved even more challenging for me at the time. It significantly impacted my GPA.”

woman's portrait in kitchen

Shannon Lauritsen

Determined to move forward, Lauritsen went on to learn a trade and opened her own business. But she never gave up on her goal of going to college. In 2020, she applied to Arizona State University but didn’t get admitted due to her academic transcript. However, the university provided her with another path forward. She was directed to ASU’s innovative college pathway Earned Admissions

“Earned Admissions was such a gift,” she says. “It allowed me to prove to myself that I was ready for this challenge, without the pressure that comes with loans and a full-time course load. Now I’m part of the Barrett Honors College, and I am so proud of what ASU has helped me achieve.” 

Lauritsen blazed a new path into an ASU degree program — and she’s now joined by more than 4,000 other Sun Devils on the Earned Admissions pathway.

Creating new pathways into college

For many learners, the traditional pathway to college is broken. 84% of U.S. high school students want to go on to higher education, but only 66% of them go to college. Of those who enroll in college, 40% never finish — leaving many learners with student loans and no degree. A 2022 National Student Clearinghouse Research Center report found that more than 39 million Americans have some college experience but no credentials, leaving them at risk of being left out of the 21st century economy. 

“Traditional higher education in the U.S. creates force fields that keep people out," said Maria Anguiano, executive vice president of ASU Learning Enterprise. "Too many learners fall off the traditional path, with no way to get back onto a college pathway.

"At ASU, we are challenging the status quo and lowering the force fields that keep people from pursuing their learning goals. The 4,000 people that have been admitted into ASU through our Earned Admissions pathway proves that people need more flexibility and options in gaining admission into a research university"

The Earned Admissions pathway is powered by ASU’s Universal Learner Courses (ULCs). These courses are first-year ASU college courses offered online and open to everyone. ULCs enable learners to test the college waters by earning college credit for a fraction of the cost: $25 to register and $400 only if they are satisfied with their grade. Once learners complete their required ULC courses with a 2.75 GPA or higher, Earned Admission gives them the opportunity to gain admission into ASU or transfer their credits to any institution that accepts ASU credits. 

After serving more than 15 years as a high school leader, Kimberly Merritt, vice president of ASU’s Learning Enterprise, knows the shortcomings of the traditional college path firsthand.

“I saw the system fail learners time and time again,” Merritt says. “ASU is creating new pathways to higher education that meet learners where they are in life. With 4,000 success stories and counting, our Earned Admissions program is proving to be a new model with the potential to create enormous opportunities for economic and social mobility.” 

Earning admission, finding success

The Earned Admissions college pathway has provided more than 4,000 students — and growing — with access to the nation’s most innovative degree programs. The early data demonstrates that they are thriving at ASU.

“Our academic community believes that our world-class undergraduate degrees should be available to learners who demonstrate the ability to succeed in university-level coursework,” says Nancy Gonzales, executive vice president and university provost at ASU. “Each person’s educational journey is unique. It depends on personal circumstances and goals that often make it challenging to fit within one prescribed path to a degree.

"Universal Learner Courses are one example of an ASU approach that honors that reality and empowers more learners to make progress toward their goals. We proudly welcome the new students who earned their spot at ASU by succeeding in these ASU courses.”

“Earned Admissions has been a game changer for me,” Lauritsen says. "It’s given me so much confidence and opened up new possibilities for the future. Regardless of the path you take at the end of a Universal Learner Course, you will learn something new and grow in interesting ways.

"My Earned Admission journey was a wonderful experience — I hope more students join me.”

Written by James Knutila, ASU Learning Enterprise.

Top photo from Pexels.

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Stacy Leeds named as new dean of ASU Law

November 10, 2022

Leeds will become the 2nd woman to serve as dean at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

Editor’s note: This story is featured in the 2022 year in review.

The search for the next dean of Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law was extensive. It started more than a year ago and took search committee members all around the country. 

In the end, the candidate they chose was already part of ASU’s academic community — Stacy Leeds. The experienced leader and renowned legal scholar joined ASU in 2021, as Foundation Professor of Law and Leadership at ASU, where she teaches in the Indian Legal Program. Her new post starts Feb. 1, 2023.

“The advisory committee conducted a national search and considered multiple applications from impressive, well-qualified candidates,” said Ruth McGregor, retired chief justice for the Arizona Supreme Court and an ASU Law graduate, who chaired the committee. 

“Professor Leeds stood out for the combination of skills, vision and experience she brings, and for her excitement about meeting the challenges faced by and the opportunities available to the dean of ASU’s law school,” McGregor said. 

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law is one of the nation’s preeminent law schools, focused on offering students a personalized legal education. It is ranked No. 1 in Arizona since 2010 and No. 30 nationally by U.S. News & World Report

Nancy Gonzales, executive vice president and university provost at ASU, said that Leeds had an illustrious career and very unique experience. 

“Her depth of experience in corporate engagement and public service to the nation, tribal nations and communities, as well as higher education leadership, is uncommon,” Gonzales said. “And this will be her second law school deanship — a rare accomplishment.”

Leeds and leadership 

Prior to coming to ASU, Leeds was the first Indigenous woman in the U.S. to become a law school dean. She led the University of Arkansas School of Law serving as dean and vice chancellor for economic development. She holds law degrees from the University of Wisconsin and the University of Tulsa, a business degree from the University of Tennessee and an undergraduate degree in history from Washington University in St. Louis.

Leeds is an elected member of the American Law Institute and recipient of the American Bar Association's Spirit of Excellence Award. 

She replaces Dean Douglas Sylvester, who transformed ASU Law and brought its rankings to historic heights. 

Wellness plans for today and beyond

Leeds hopes to build on the successful work of her predecessors.

“My vision is to amplify our current strengths of excellence, access and innovation,” said Leeds, “but also prioritize wellness in all respects.” 

“This necessarily means creating an environment where all voices are heard and each law student is supported in their needs as a whole person,” she said.

Leeds understands the high stress levels often associated with the law school experience and the legal profession as a whole.

“Focusing on the whole person means making sure students have access to all the tools they need to succeed in life. This means a commitment not just to excellence in legal education, but also fostering paths to financial, physical, mental and spiritual wellness,” Leeds said.

Accessible legal education

Leeds also wants to make ASU Law accessible and more flexible for students. Law schools have maintained a traditional method of classroom teaching, but the American Bar Association has recently amended accreditation standards to law schools to deliver one-third of their degrees online. 

“Online platforms are still a relatively new phenomenon in the J.D. curriculum at law schools nationally,” Leeds said. “In order to offer students’ maximum flexibility to tailor their law school experience to their needs, online opportunities must rapidly evolve. As we continue to innovate, we’ll pledge to maintain the level of excellence everyone has come to expect from ASU.”

Inclusive excellence

Leeds is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and has lived much of her life within the Muscogee (Creek) and Cherokee reservations in Oklahoma, where she served as a Cherokee Nation Supreme Court justice.

One of the draws to ASU was the university’s widespread commitment to inclusive excellence.

“ASU has long embraced meaningful access to education as a threshold to individual and community empowerment.” Leeds said. “It goes beyond an expectation that students from all backgrounds and life experiences should have a sense of belonging here. Imagine an institution that takes primary responsibility for student growth and success – that’s ASU.”

Leeds attributes her success to the impact of several mentors as she began her own path in the legal profession and takes seriously her responsibility to open doors for all law students, regardless of their background or dreams for their future. 

She sees her role in expanding those educational opportunities as paramount to continuing to honor the legacy of the college’s namesake, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the groundbreaking jurist who dedicated her life to public service and the rule of law. 

Leeds will carry this spirit of justice and inclusiveness to her new role, where she will have the honor of serving as the first Willard H. Pedrick Dean’s Chair. 

According to Kellye Testy, president and CEO of the Law School Admission Council, “Stacy brings an impressive set of leadership competencies that will help advance legal education’s role in justice and democracy. Congrats to ASU. I cannot wait to see the accomplishments she will lead.”

Dolores Tropiano

Reporter , ASU News

ASU professor receives federal funding for technology to grow domestic critical minerals supply chain

Funding is part of Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program seeking to develop sustainable supply of minerals

November 8, 2022

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has just announced $39 million in funding for 16 projects across 12 states to develop market-ready technologies that will increase domestic supplies of critical elements required for the clean energy transition. The selected projects, led by universities, national laboratories and the private sector, aim to develop commercially scalable technologies that will enable greater domestic supplies of copper, nickel, lithium, cobalt, rare earth and other critical elements.

One of these projects is “Mining Red Mud Waste for Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage and Critical Element Recovery," or RMCCS-CER. It is led by Xin Zhang, chemical engineer of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington, and has ASU Professor Alexandra Navrotsky and Washington State University Assistant Professor Xiaofeng Guo, a PhD from Navrotsky’s group, as co-PIs. Portrait of ASU Regents Professor Alexandra Navrotsky. Alexandra Navrotsky is the director and mastermind of the Navrotsky Eyring Center for Materials of the Universe, professor in the School of Molecular Sciences and School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, and affiliated faculty member at the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Photo by Mary Zhu Download Full Image

The funding is part of the ARPA-E Mining Innovations for Negative Emissions Resource Recovery (MINER) program, which aims to develop market-ready technologies that will increase domestic supplies of critical elements required for the clean energy transition.

Red mud is a common industrial waste rich in useful elements, including rare earth elements. Fundamental knowledge is essential to optimize the extraction and separation of rare earths from this potentially valuable resource.

The objective of this project is to use supercritical carbon dioxide to recover critical elements (CEs), especially rare earth elements, from aluminum production wastes (red mud) while also capturing some of the carbon dioxide in stable carbonates. Project success will help lower the carbon footprint of the future economy and will displace the highly toxic acid-leaching process that is currently state of the art.

“We will develop a database and measure thermodynamic properties of rare earth compounds and solutions needed to understand rare earth extraction from red mud,” explained Navrotsky.

The critical role of rare earth elements (REEs) in high-tech industries has created a surge in demand that is quickly outstripping known global supply and has triggered a worldwide scramble to discover new sources. The Biden-Harris administration has remained focused on strengthening the critical materials supply chain as rare earth elements are necessary to manufacture several clean energy technologies — from electric vehicle batteries to wind turbines and solar panels.

President Biden has underscored the importance of deploying energy sources that reduce carbon pollution, lower costs for families and businesses, and ultimately mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Professor Tijana Rajh, director of the School of Molecular Sciences, said, “This is an important project that will directly impact development of scalable technologies for enhancing domestic supplies of critical elements required for the clean energy and future decarbonization of the U.S. economy. These kinds of investment are precisely what we need to try to minimize impacts of climate change.”

Navrotsky is the director and mastermind of the Navrotsky Eyring Center for Materials of the Universe and professor in the School of Molecular Sciences and School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy at Arizona State University. 

The Navrotsky Eyring Center for Materials of the Universe unites cosmology, astrophysics, astronomy, planetary science and exploration, and mineralogy and petrology with materials science and engineering, chemistry, physics and biology to address grand questions of the complex chemistries and evolution of planets. The center strives to attract and inspire scientists across all science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields to explore alien and extreme conditions and environments with the expectation of discovering new, useful materials and understanding the formation and evolution of planets.

The center also aims to contribute to materials solutions for decarbonization, sustainable and clean energy, and critical materials needed for technologically important applications.

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 "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.  

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 cross-disciplinary efforts she has made to bring together the approaches, tools and philosophy of research in geochemistry, mineralogy, materials sciences and chemistry. She is also known for her devotion to her students and coworkers, the positive research environment she nurtures and her generous spirit. Lastly, Navrotsky has made extremely significant contributions to the education and training of the next generations of scientists, with a special emphasis on underrepresented groups. Scholars that do this effectively are few and far between.

Jenny Green

Clinical associate professor, School of Molecular Sciences


ASU mourns loss of Nobel-winning economist Edward Prescott

November 7, 2022

Edward C. Prescott, Regents Professor in the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, died on Nov. 6, at age 81.

Prescott was one of the most influential economists in the world. He was a Guggenheim Fellow, a fellow of the Econometric Society and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2002, he received the Nemmers Prize in Economics, and in 2004, he was awarded a Nobel Prize. Headshot of Edward Prescott Edward C. Prescott, Regents' Professor and W. P. Carey Chair in Economics. Download Full Image

As a professor and the W. P. Carey Chair in Economics, he was a beloved and respected member of the W. P. Carey School community for 20 years.

Prescott was born on Dec. 26, 1940, in Glens Falls, New York. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, advanced to Case Western Reserve University in Ohio for his master’s degree and completed his PhD in economics at Carnegie Mellon University in 1967.

Prescott joined ASU in 2003 after previously serving on the faculties of the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon, University of Chicago and University of Minnesota. He also held appointments as a visiting professor at Northwestern University, New York University, University of California – Santa Barbara, La Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo in Mexico, Australian National University and the Norwegian School of Economics. Since 2009, he also served as the director of the Center for the Advanced Study in Economic Efficiency at the W. P. Carey School. Beyond academia, Prescott served as a senior advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis since 1981.

His research is foundational to the field — and our modern understanding — of macroeconomics. He and frequent co-author Finn Kydland were honored with the 2004 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences “for their contributions to dynamic macroeconomics: the time consistency of economic policy and the driving forces behind business cycles.” The two are considered the architects of real business-cycle (RBC) theory, which argues that a substantial part of business-cycle fluctuations is the result of an optimal response of the economy to policy changes that affect its productivity.

The theory has had remarkable successes when confronted with empirical data. It broadly replicates the essential features of the business cycle and plays a central role in modern dynamic macroeconomics. The impact of Prescott’s work is clear from the five honorary professorships and doctorates he was awarded during his life, as well as multiple fellowships and his election to the National Academy of Sciences.

"Professor Edward Prescott's passing is a huge loss for the W. P. Carey School of Business community,” said Ohad Kadan, dean of the W. P. Carey School. “His contributions to economics research were foundational, and his work transformed macroeconomic policy. His passion for economics has made a lasting impact on the field, and his tremendous presence and incisive insights will be greatly missed."

Prescott was known for sharing his tremendous knowledge with the W. P. Carey School community.

“Whether it was a grad student honored to meet a Nobel laureate or another distinguished professor wanting to dissect a new theory, Ed was always generous with his time and brilliant mind. We will miss him greatly,” said Alejandro Manelli, chair of the Department of Economics.

Emily Beach

Communications Manager, W. P. Carey School of Business

(602) 543-3296

New ASU program offers high school students who join military a seamless entry into university at end of service

Veteran's Commitment Plan eliminates post-military obstacles in advance

November 7, 2022

Arizona State University’s Enrollment Solutions Lab has announced a new program that enables Arizona high school seniors who plan to join the military after graduation the option of attending ASU immediately upon completion of their military service contract.

The Veteran’s Commitment Plan is intended to ease the friction of going to college after military service. Typically, veterans who are released from duty and want to go to college have to reconnect with their high school to get transcripts, test scores and other items in order to apply for college admission. The Veteran’s Commitment Plan would eliminate those steps by helping students prepare for their post-military college education while still in high school. A man in a graduation gown with a Navy military stole smiles and gives a thumbs up to the crowd Download Full Image

“ASU takes pride in being a military-friendly school and meeting our learners where they are throughout their academic journey,” said Matt Lopez, associate vice president for Academic Enterprise Enrollment and executive director of Admission Services. “Graduating high school students with a drive to serve our nation shouldn’t feel they need to choose between earning a college degree or joining the armed forces.”

Here is how the plan works: An Arizona high school student who plans to join the military immediately after graduating high school would apply to ASU. If they meet admission requirements, they are automatically admitted. Then they would defer their enrollment for as long as their service contract was in effect — and if a student voluntarily extends their service contract with the military, they are still eligible for the program. As they near the end of their service, ASU will be in communication to help prepare them for their next steps, and they will be put in touch with ASU’s Pat Tillman Veterans Center — the university’s unit that supports student veterans with benefits, paperwork and veteran fellowship. Once they are honorably or medically discharged from the military, they can join ASU at the start of the following semester.

Participants in the Veteran’s Commitment Plan are also eligible for ASU’s New American University merit scholarship. This award is offered in varying amounts based on GPA, test scores and other academic criteria. Additionally, students can begin taking ASU courses through ASU Online while still on active duty. Students graduating from high school in spring 2023 will be the first cohort eligible for the Veteran’s Commitment Plan. 

“Through ASU’s Veteran’s Commitment, we make it easy for Arizona’s admitted high school graduates who choose to become service members to pursue and fulfill their educational goals,” Lopez said. “Veterans are a vital part of Arizona and the ASU community, and the Veteran’s Commitment will hold a spot for students when they complete their service.”

For more information and details, visit

Still serving: Army Ranger to anthropologist, veteran PhD student aims to help others

November 3, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of our Salute to Service coverage, Nov. 1–11. Learn about the schedule of events.

On Sept. 11, 2001, a group of new Army recruits were at basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia, on the rifle range when the drill sergeants started to huddle around. It was obvious they were agitated, and then came the rumors, stories, truths and lockdowns, Michael Baumgarten recalled.   Michael Baumgarten Michael Baumgarten (pictured here in Iraq in 2007) served eight and a half years in the 1st Ranger Battalion of the United States Army. Photo courtesy Michael Baumgarten Download Full Image

He was a new recruit when terrorists crashed two airplanes into the World Trade Center, a plane into the Pentagon and another plane into a field in western Pennsylvania. 

Baumgarten had enlisted in the delayed-entry program for the U.S. Army while still in high school. After basic training, he went to airborne school, then qualified and became a U.S. Army Ranger.  

He served eight and half years in the 1st Ranger Battalion. He was deployed to combat 10 times — five to Iraq and five to Afghanistan.  

“You learn a lot about human behavior — about your own, about the changes you have as a war ages, and you do too,” said Baumgarten, now a second-year PhD student of cultural anthropology at Arizona State University's School of Human Evolution and Social Change. “You learn about loss, you learn about grief and a really wide range of human emotion from triumph to tragedy. But you do this in a really compressed amount of time.” 

He spent his last couple of years in the Army as part of an instructor team for the Navy Seals in San Diego. In 2013, Baumgarten felt a calling outside of the Army and wanted to have other experiences in life. He enrolled in junior college in San Diego. 

Baumgarten’s focus from school shifted when he received a call from a friend and Navy SEAL, Ray Mendoza. Mendoza had an idea for a new docuseries and wanted Baumgarten to work with him. The show,  “The War Fighters,” aired on the History Channel. Baumgarten shared his personal experiences in the episode “Objective Brenton.” 

“I’m really proud of this work,” Baumgarten said. “We interviewed veterans who talked about their experiences with combat and even suicide. We wanted to cover all of these fights and guys losing their friends in places that no one would otherwise read or talk about.” 

After a few years of television work, Baumgarten returned to school and finished his bachelor's degree at California State University, Northridge. During his senior year, Baumgarten participated in The Warrior-Scholar Project

The Warrior-Scholar Project runs boot camps throughout the summer across 25 college campuses in the United States, including Harvard, Cornell and Princeton. The one- and two-week camps are a type of college-preparatory course and offer introductions in humanities, STEM, business and entrepreneurship. This summer, Baumgarten volunteered his time as a fellow in the program. He wants veterans and active-service members to know that everyone belongs in college.

“If there are veterans that are reading this, know that there are programs out there like the Warrior-Scholar Project,” Baumgarten said. “Even if you are currently an undergraduate student at ASU, it's never too late to participate.” 

Researching PTSD and suicides in veterans 

Michael Baumgarten with his family

Michael Baumgarten at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia, with his parents. Photo courtesy Michael Baumgarten

During his undergraduate years, Baumgarten happened to read about the work Sarah Mathew, associate professor at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, was doing regarding warfare

“Sarah’s work is the reason why I am here,” Baumgarten said. “What I study is very similar to Mathew’s and a postdoc of her’s, Matt Zefferman, who is also a veteran. They may have done some of the first cross-cultural post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) research at her field site in Kenya.”  

Mathew is Baumgarten’s advisor. Baumgarten is focusing his research on PTSD and military veteran suicide across all branches of the military. 

“Michael is ideally positioned to conduct this study, with his deep personal and professional connections with and commitment to his fellow service members and the wider veteran community,” Mathew said.

“Before coming to grad school, he co-produced a docuseries for the History Channel, 'The Warfighters,' which featured intimate first-person narratives of U.S. Special Forces missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Getting service members to open up about difficult experiences is not something everyone can do — which is a hurdle for research just as it is for filmmaking.”

Baumgarten wants to build larger data sets about how different groups of people experience and deal with war. And he wants to get additional data behind why Marines are the smallest unit in the military but suffer the most losses from suicide, according to reseach published in 2020.  

“I try to look at the military the same way anthropology has looked at pretty much every other group of humans on the planet,” Baumgarten said. “I try to use evolutionary anthropology methods to ask some of these bigger questions about our own evolution within the behavior of war. What role does culture play in this?” 

Baumgarten said it’s important to continue to research why the United States' experience of fighting in wars is different compared with other cultures around the world. 

“Based on Sarah’s work, there seems to be cultural variability in some PTSD symptoms and suicides,” Baumgarten said. “Turkana are a bit less depressed overall, and they are in this constant state of warfare. So, the U.S. experience is different, right? We’re more depressed, and our wars are fought somewhere else, right? We’re not sitting in Phoenix and worrying about, say, Denver coming to raid us. So now you have this diversity in experience and context.” 

Baumgarten welcomes any veterans who would like to talk about his research, experiences or the Warrior-Scholar Project to reach out to him through email

“I have been quite struck by Michael's humility,” Mathew said. “That level of humility is not cultivated much in the academy. ... The ethos of not drawing attention to oneself, but rather drawing attention to one's team or mission — it seems burned into Michael.”  

Nicole Pomerantz

Communications specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change


The edge of habitability: Tracking water in the world’s driest desert

ASU researchers investigate habitability of extreme environments to better understand Earth and Mars

November 2, 2022

Located high in the Andes Mountains in South America, the Atacama Desert is the driest non-polar desert in the world, averaging about 2 millimeters (0.08 inches) of rainfall per year. However, using an innovative method and instrumentation, Arizona State University School of Molecular Sciences (SMS) Graduate Research Associate Donald Glaser found that water-vapor adsorption, the adhesion of water molecules to soil grains, adds as much or more water into the Atacama’s hyper-arid soils as annual rainfall — and is likely a key contributor to the desert’s ability to support life.

This finding, detailed in the October issue of the journal Astrobiology and featured on its cover, provides insight not only into the presence and movement of water on Earth, but also on Mars, the surface of which is extremely dry, similar to the Atacama Desert. If the water-vapor adsorption process observed by Glaser also occurs on Mars, it could help to identify regions of interest in the search for evidence of life on the red planet. The rugged, flat, dirt of a desert terrain below with a bright blue sky above. View of the Atacama Desert. Photo courtesy of Donald Glaser Download Full Image

Glaser’s research was conducted in collaboration with SMS Professor Hilairy Hartnett and a highly interdisciplinary team of researchers with expertise ranging from astrophysics to chemistry and biology as part of ASU’s NASA-funded NExSS (Nexus for Exoplanet Systems Science) project, utilizing ASU’s Eyring Materials Center and the METAL (Metals, Environmental and Terrestrial Analytical Laboratory) facility.

“Astrobiology as a field sits at the boundaries of biology, chemistry, physics and geology,” Hartnett said, “and there is a tremendous need for chemists to understand environments on other planets. So these sorts of chemical and physical analyses are very important for understanding what makes extreme environments habitable.”

Making the discovery

While the Atacama Desert is the driest non-polar desert in the world, it is also the world’s largest fog desert, meaning that some moisture supplied to the Atacama Desert comes from fog. Atmospheric water vapor, also minimal in the Atacama Desert, works its way into the soil. This soil moisture is an important source of water for microorganisms that live in the Atacama.

Using a new method and instrumentation he created, Glaser measured soil moisture and soil temperature levels in the Atacama Desert every 20 minutes for two weeks.

“It hadn’t rained in over a year when I was there doing research,” Glaser said. “So this has to be an active process; otherwise, water would have diffused out of the soil.”

Combined with computer modeling and laboratory research, this work provides field evidence for a small but daily input of water into the soils of one of Earth’s driest environments.

“The Atacama Desert is roughly 100 times drier than Phoenix, Arizona,” Glaser said. “So this input of water, although small, is likely crucial. It appears there may be more water than we thought in this extremely dry desert.”

Glaser, who will soon graduate with his PhD, was recently awarded a NASA Postdoctoral Program Fellowship to work on exoplanet habitability modeling at NASA’s Goddard Institute of Space Sciences in New York.

James Klemaszewski

Science writer, School of Molecular Sciences


New ASU Leadership Institute alumni hail from range of industries

9-month program helps participants develop and understand critical leadership skills

November 2, 2022

The Arizona State University Alumni Association is proud to introduce the 26 Sun Devil alumni participating in the ASU Leadership Institute. 

Class 5 participants are a diverse group of alumni with a range of graduation dates, from 1983 to 2019, and from a wide array of industries, including construction, business management, banking, education, government, urban development and nonprofit fundraising.  ASU Leadership Institute Class 5 The nine-month immersive program enhances leadership development and prepares participants to serve on ASU boards and councils, mentor students and serve as community ambassadors. Download Full Image

Every year, the ASU Alumni Association selects a cohort of outstanding alumni for the nine-month immersive leadership program. The program aims to inspire participants as well as enhance their leadership development. They are prepared to serve on ASU boards and councils, mentor students and serve as community ambassadors.

“Within five years, the ASU Leadership Institute has grown into a thriving program that offers participants the opportunity for continued growth in leadership skills, both personal and professional, while engaging with other Sun Devils who want to make a difference in their communities,” said Christine K. Wilkinson, ASU Alumni Association president and CEO. “It is a delight to see alums who want to devote their time to learning how ASU continues to transform as the contemporary New American University.” 

For information about the ASU Leadership Instute and how to apply for Class 6, click here. 

Meet the members of the 2022–2023 ASU Leadership Institute Class 5:

Megan Cesiel, Salt River Project 

Kristina Chumpol, Fiesta Bowl 

Jana Crum, Welby Health

Wesley Despins, Sundt Construction 

Shannen Falkenrath, LinkedIn

Chrystine Geele, Sundt Construction 

Angela Gonzales, Bell Bank 

Philip Hensley, JE Dunn Construction 

Christina Hudson, Find 180, LLC 

Danita Jackson, Arizona Birth Network 

Amy Johnson, Khan World School at ASU Prep Digital 

Ryan Johnson, Salt River Project

Maureen Jorden, Southwest Autism Research & Resource Center 

Abhay Khaire, Dibble 

Anne Landers, Junior Achievement of Arizona 

Thomas Maynard, Greater Phoenix Economic Council 

Adam Mims, Oak View Group 

Thomas Myzia, Kitchell 

William Nolde, DraftKings

Andrew Ostrander, Ostrander Real Estate Group 

Jared Phelps, Alliance Bank of Arizona

Jennifer Rearich, Maricopa County Assessor’s Office

Debbie Smith, Big Brothers Big Sisters of Arizona 

Kelly Tucker, Baker Bros. Flooring 

Kaitlyn Wittig, Lauren’s Institute for Education 

Marge Zylla, City of Tempe

Laurie Merrill

Marketing Copy Writer , ASU Alumni Association

Survey of Earned Doctorates ranks ASU No. 20 in nationwide census

Visual and performing arts degrees chart at the top of the list

November 2, 2022

Arizona State University ranked No. 20 in the nation for the number of recipients of research doctorates — up from 21 last year as reported by the Survey of Earned Doctorates (SED).

This annual census, conducted by the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics, collects data on individuals who have received doctoral degrees from accredited institutions throughout the United States. Visual Communication Design graduation exhibition at the Heard Building in Phoenix The Visual Communication Design graduation exhibition at the Heard Building in Phoenix. Download Full Image

The survey questions focused on demographics, previous educational experiences and career trajectories post-graduation. Since the late 1950s, this data collection has provided a comprehensive assessment of degree trends and characteristics of the doctoral population.

ASU has risen in the past several years from No. 42 in 2019 to the current ranking of No. 20, ahead of Yale, Johns Hopkins and Duke universities.

The Chronicle of Higher Education in Washington, D.C., analyzed the survey results to find that the number of earned doctorates nationwide has been declining. Since the pandemic, there were 3,000 fewer PhDs awarded overall compared with the previous academic year. Despite those results, the outlook is not entirely negative.

When looking at the numbers across disciplines, ASU stands out among the ranks, coming in at No. 1 of 20 in visual and performing arts, ahead of UCLA, Harvard, and Yale, and No. 4 of 20 in interdisciplinary PhDs. ASU also was high-performing in non-sciences and business, ranking at Nos. 11 and 16, respectively.

“Last academic year, ASU awarded 614 doctoral degrees,'' said Elizabeth Wentz, vice provost and dean of the Graduate College. “Our improved ranking reflects what our students and faculty are doing to advance groundbreaking research and discovery. This is important because these data are often relied upon by universities and government agencies when developing new programs and allocating resources to current programs.”

Review the full rankings and the executive summary on the SED website

Marketing Content Specialist, Graduate College

ASU professor’s public health outreach to underserved borderlands communities earns APHA award for social justice

Flavio Marsiglia to be honored Nov. 8 for creation of a substance abuse prevention initiative aimed at helping Hispanic and other youth

October 31, 2022

An Arizona State University social work professor, whose research in cultural diversity and youth substance use has earned him high regard in the prevention field, will be honored next month with the American Public Health Association’s 2022 Helen Rodriguez-Trias Social Justice Award.

Regents Professor Flavio Marsiglia, director of ASU’s Global Center for Applied Health Research, will receive the award Nov. 8 for his public health prevention work with underserved communities near the U.S.-Mexico border, according to an Oct. 6 statement by the association. Flavio Marsiglia, Regents Professor, School of Social Work Regents Professor Flavio Marsiglia of the ASU School of Social Work. Photo by ASU Download Full Image

“Marsiglia’s work includes the founding of (ASU’s) Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center to address health disparities in underserved communities and the creation of a substance-use prevention initiative targeted at Hispanic youth,” the statement said. The school-based model prevention program, called Keepin’it REAL, was later adapted for urban American Indian children in the Southwest.

Marsiglia is the principal investigator of a Mexico-based National Institute on Drug Abuse/National Institutes of Health-funded study to culturally adapt and test the efficacy of Keepin’it REAL in Mexico. He and his team are also implementing and evaluating culturally grounded interventions to prevent substance abuse in other Latin American countries and in sub-Saharan Africa.

The Helen Rodriguez-Trias Award is presented to a person who has worked toward social justice for underserved and disadvantaged populations — an individual whose work focuses on improving the health and well-being of these populations — and includes the activities of leading, advocating and mentoring (any or all three of these activities), according to the association.

The honor is named for the late Dr. Helen Rodriguez-Trias, a pediatrician and a past president of the American Public Health Association. Rodriguez-Trias was an inspiration and role model who strove to meet the needs of underserved and disadvantaged populations, especially women and children, according to the association. Through her work and activism, she used social justice strategies that affected change for the better.

Marsiglia noted that the award being named for Rodriguez-Trias has particular meaning for him.

“The award is named after an inspirational and transformational advocate for social justice in the public health arena. Her work promoting the rights of all women and children to live healthy lives has inspired our own work,” Marsiglia said. “This is a recognition of the community-engaged health equity research we are conducting with our community partners, faculty, staff and students in Arizona, nationally and globally. Much of this work is made possible by the steady support we receive from ASU, the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities and the National Institute on Drug Abuse of the National Institutes of Health.”

Foundation Professor Elizabeth Lightfoot, director of the School of Social Work, said, “The accolades just keep coming for Dr. Flavio Marsiglia, each of them as well-deserved as the others, but this one is particularly significant as it focuses on his dedication to social justice.

“His efforts with Keepin’it REAL and many other culturally grounded interventions to stem the tide of youth substance abuse among underserved communities is highly regarded as a model program. I join my colleagues in the School of Social Work in congratulating him as he receives this great honor.”

The school is based at ASU’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. Watts College Dean Cynthia Lietz, a President’s Professor of social work, also praised Marsiglia for his accomplishments leading to the award.

“Dr. Flavio Marsiglia’s recognition by the APHA with an award focused in social justice is not just an incredible honor, but it is without a doubt deserved,” Lietz said. “Dr. Marsiglia has spent his entire career working to build a more equitable society. This prestigious award speaks to that commitment and his ability to demonstrate real-world impact.”

Mark J. Scarp

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