ASU graduate ready to pursue investigative journalism career

December 8, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.

Albert Serna Jr. wanted to be a journalist for as long as he can remember. His passion for journalism developed when he was a child.  Albert Serna Jr. Albert Serna Jr. graduated with his Master of Arts in investigative journalism from ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Download Full Image

“I remember my grandfather used to read the newspaper, and it was special being there with him as he read it. He would show me the comics, and sometimes he would read the paper aloud for me. We also watched the news together,” Serna said. 

The time spent with his grandfather instilled a love of journalism in Serna, one that would deepen as he learned about the field.

“Investigative journalism as a focus grew out of my experience with reporting. I wanted to tell deeper stories that facilitated change,” he said. 

Years later, he has completed his Master of Arts in investigative journalism from Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. 

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: ASU's status as a Hispanic-Serving Institution aligned with my background in journalism and queer ethnic studies, providing the ideal environment at the intersection of race, identity and journalism. My time at ASU proved transformative, exceeding my expectations.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective? 

A: In terms of my academic journey, a pivotal moment occurred during (Cronkite Professor and Knight Chair in Journalism) Sarah Cohen’s data journalism class. Prior experiences with data had intimidated me, and I struggled to grasp its complexities. However, Sarah Cohen provided a supportive environment that allowed me to explore and embrace the intricacies of data journalism. Her guidance not only built my confidence but also made me realize the importance of stepping out of my comfort zone.

I learned the importance of embracing my imperfections and appreciating growth in unfamiliar situations. The graduate program was a valuable learning stage, teaching me that perfection isn't a prerequisite for success. Now, I approach challenges with confidence, understanding that being authentically “me” is more than enough.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: In my ASU graduate program, professors aren't just educators. They are also mentors and leaders. While every professor contributed significantly to my growth, Maud Beelman stood out during my final semester at the Howard Center (for Investigative Journalism). Her dedication to excellence, pushing me beyond my perceived limits, instilled a desire for continuous improvement. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: First and foremost, school can be rough in so many ways, and it can get overwhelming to say the very least. Find people who will support, uplift and hold you accountable. When you do, lock arms and grit your teeth; they’re going to be the ones who help you get through the tough times and the good times.

Every journey is different, and success isn’t measured by how many people you beat or how you compare to the next person. It’s measured in the joy you get from your work and the bonds you build with your peers. Take however long you need to get to where you’re going; just remember that kindness is magic.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: During the spring and summer, I spent considerable time at the Howard Center, particularly since I was part of the investigative cohort, and that served as our dedicated space. If I wasn't in the Howard Center, you'd likely find me on the fourth floor, sharing the common area with fellow members of the MAIJMaster of Arts in investigative journalism group. So, while the Howard Center was a central hub, my presence was also spread out across other spaces.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Having completed my program in August, I transitioned to a fellowship with MuckRock, coinciding with the period between the end of school and the commencement of my fellowship. A word of advice: Avoid this overlap. Take a solid two weeks to decompress post-graduation. Currently at MuckRock, my fellowship concludes in January. I aspire to persist in my passion for reporting and contributing to impactful journalism, particularly in the realm of investigative journalism.

Q: What would you tackle if someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet?

A: I would focus on addressing the issue of queer youth homelessness with the allocated funds. It's disheartening to think about the number of queer kids facing homelessness or hunger, and the goal would be to create solutions that provide shelter and support their basic needs. The aim is to establish environments that are protective, nurturing, loving and accepting. Reflecting on my own experience of coming out at age 16, I recognize the ongoing challenges and fears associated with that journey. Having close relationships with chosen family members, like my husband, is invaluable, creating a supportive network that fosters genuine understanding and acceptance.

Written by Carly Boots

Women and gender studies student finds community at ASU

December 8, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.

A Phoenix native and daughter of ASU Associate Professor Kathryn Nakagawa, Thea Eigo decided that they wanted to go out of state for college to experience a new area. Soon after their first semester began, they realized that Phoenix and ASU were calling them back. Thea Eigo, the Dean’s Medalist for the School of Social Transformation, is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in women and gender studies, as well as a minor in Asian Pacific American studies. Download Full Image

Their second semester of freshman year, they transferred to ASU and quickly created a new community. Eigo is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in women and gender studies, as well as a minor in Asian Pacific American studies. Eigo served on the executive board for the Asian/Asian Pacific American Student Coalition, was involved in the sexual health club Devils in the Bedroom, and worked in the Sexual and Relationship Violence Program as a student educator and employee.

Their involvement in and out of the classroom greatly impacted the experiences that they were able to have at ASU.

“My professors provided a lot of support for me throughout my time at ASU! I am very grateful for my women and gender studies professors and the School of Social Transformation as a whole,” Eigo stated.

As Dean’s Medalist for the School of Social Transformation, Eigo said they are very grateful for the opportunities and those they were able to meet at ASU.

Question: What’s the best piece of advice you would give to students?

Answer: The best piece of advice I would give to students would be to try not to rush your college experience! It is OK to take time to figure out what major or field you are interested in. I encourage you to take interesting classes and make your education enjoyable. It is very easy to get burned out, so take your time and have fun.

Q: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

A: When I started college, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to study, so I started out by taking a few general courses, women and gender studies being one of them. It was a higher-level course, and I had the best time. I soon realized this was the right major for me because I felt really accepted and heard by everyone.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU that surprised you?

A: Something I love about ASU is how diverse it is and the number of communities and opportunities you can find here. At a smaller school, it can be really easy to get your foot in the door, but that doesn’t always bring a lot of opportunities. At a big school, it can be harder to get started and find your community, but once you do, there is so much more to offer — and no matter what your background is or where you come from, there is a place for everyone at ASU.

Hailey Torborg

Communications and Marketing Coordinator, School of Social Transformation

Entrepreneur, 15-year-old graduate paving the way for young STEM students

December 7, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.

When Alena McQuarter enrolled at Arizona State University, it didn’t take long for her to discover her true passion. This December she graduates with her undergraduate degree in biological sciences (biomedical sciences) and is one of the fall 2023 recipients of the Dean’s Medal, awarded by the School of Life Sciences in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.  Alena McQuarter Dean's Medalist Alena McQuarter is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences with a concentration in biomedical sciences. The 15-year-old plans to begin graduate school to earn a PhD in fall 2024, studying virology and infectious disease. Download Full Image

The 15-year-old graduate started her educational journey through ASU Online at 12 years old, and her time at ASU has been nothing short of ambitious and aspirational.

McQuarter’s ASU experience was shaped by her involvement with Barrett, The Honors College. 

The Barrett Online program launched in fall 2002, welcoming ASU Online students with varying interests from all backgrounds and majors whose goal is to challenge themselves academically. 

Barrett provides online students with unique opportunities and resources, including honors-only research, internship opportunities and lectures.

“Barrett Online provides a strong community of support for motivated learners, whatever their unique goals and aspirations may be,” said Alexandra Aragon, Barrett Honors College director of academic partnerships and online programs. “Dedicated staff and excellent faculty guide each student through their personalized honors journey.” 

Additional hallmarks of the Barrett Online experience include honors seminar courses, virtual events, travel and global engagement programs, and honors-only online student organizations.

McQuarter embraced and maximized her time at Barrett by joining The Forge at Barrett and the Barrett Mentoring Program.

“Barrett, The Honors College played a significant role in my college experience,” she said. “Before joining Barrett I was feeling a little lost and unsure. After joining Barrett I found my tribe — other students like me. I found a community. I found support. It was the best decision of my college career.”

Beyond Barrett, McQuarter participated in various ASU clubs, including the IDEAS Student Society and the American Medical Student Association (AMSA).

As a mental health advocate, McQuarter is dedicated to making mental health resources more accessible to college students.

As an online student, there was no lack of opportunities for McQuarter during her time at ASU. 

In 2021, McQuarter was selected as a Phoenix Mercury Believe in Women honoree,  a distinction for individuals making a difference in the community.  She was awarded a scholarship to continue her educational pursuits — a path that catalyzed meaningful relationships, mentorship and unique experiences.

As part of the Student Outbreak Response Team, led by Megan Jehn, McQuarter received hands-on training in public health while simultaneously serving her community by providing surge capacity for state, local and tribal public health partners.

“The most meaningful opportunity was being able to be mentored by so many amazing professors that truly looked out for my well-being mentally, emotionally and academically,” McQuarter said. “I am thankful for each of them that were always saying my name in rooms full of possibility.”

We spoke with McQuarter about her time at ASU Online and what the future holds after graduation.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? 

Answer: My “aha” moment was my first semester at ASU. I came in as an engineering student. I attempted one class, and it was at that moment I knew what I was called to do. I immediately changed my major to biological sciences and never looked back. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU Online? 

A: I chose ASU Online because of the flexibility it afforded me to be able to take classes online, work, run my business and travel the world. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU Online? 

A: This is a hard question to answer as I have had several professors whom I have learned so much from — Dr. Christopher Rojas, Dr. Ara Austin, Dr. Megan Jehn and Gary Cabirac, to name a few.

Q: What was your favorite or most meaningful course and why? 

A: My favorite course was HPS 340 Biology and Society with Dr. Kate MacCord. I learned so much from this course regarding ethics and biology. It was an extremely enlightening and refreshing course. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Keep going. School or life isn’t a race to the finish line. Never compare yourself with the next person. Focus on you and your end goal, and let that be a reminder whenever you get tired to keep going. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My plans after graduation are to travel and then begin graduate school to earn my PhD in fall 2024, studying virology and infectious disease.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Before I state this, I am not stating a political fact or argument. I will always stand on the side of right and root for the underdog regardless of who you are. We are all humans first. If someone gave me $40 million to solve one problem, I would solve several. I would rescue all the children in Gaza, I would give voice to all the Mahsa Aminis, and I would help find a solution to homelessness in the United States and lack of health care. I would make mental health resources more accessible. I know they are such broad topics, but these are things I am passionate about.

Meenah Rincon

Public Relations Manager, ASU Online

ASU center leading project to develop materials for Burmese language instruction

December 7, 2023

The Asia Center at Arizona State University is leading the development of a new online textbook to help teach the Burmese language.

Chan Lwin, the center’s program manager, was awarded a three-year grant from the U.S. Department of Education’s International Research and Studies Program to develop an open education resource textbook for Burmese language instruction. Three people sit at a conference table while looking toward the camera and smiling. The instructors leading the development of the Burmese language learning textbook (from left): Ye Tun, Maw Htun and Chan Lwin. Photo courtesy Choua Lee Download Full Image

Lwin has taught Burmese at the University of Wisconsin and ASU, and her contributions will add to a lustrous history of textbook authors for this understudied and under-resourced language.

Lwin, who joined ASU in 2017, is enthusiastic about the project and emphasized its critical role in addressing the absence of online resources for intermediate-level Burmese language learners, particularly in the wake of the recent military coup in Myanmar amid the global pandemic. 

She will collaborate with fellow Burmese language instructors across the United States, including Maw Maw Htun of Northern Illinois University, Ye Min Tun of Johns Hopkins University and Kenneth Wong of the University of California-Berkeley.

The team aims to fill the educational gap in minority-serving institutions. The goal is to promote equitable access to educational resources, especially for students seeking to learn rare languages like Burmese.

This collaboration builds on a long history of working together on various projects, including a reading proficiency assessment workshop and a reading material development workshop by The Southeast Asian Language Council, with funding from the Henry Luce Foundation.

Lwin said that this latest grant results from many years of teamwork. 

“It is extremely rare for these less commonly taught languages to receive opportunities like this. We were completely inspired and motivated to create something we are proud of. It was Sayarespectful term for teacher Ye’s idea to see if we could get support,” Lwin said. “After discovering that ASU is one of few universities where staff can receive grants, we went for it.”

Set to conclude in 2025, the envisioned digital textbook will be a unique resource explicitly tailored to the needs of Burmese language studies. This endeavor is especially significant given that only three universities in the U.S. regularly offer Burmese language courses.

Lwin emphasized the geopolitical importance of Myanmar’s strategic location between India and China, underscoring the need for language studies in the current political landscape. 

“Myanmar language studies play a critical role in area studies, now more than ever. We are extremely grateful for this opportunity for those who wish to learn the language,” Lwin said.

This groundbreaking initiative addresses the educational gap in Burmese language instruction and contributes to the broader understanding of the region’s significance in global affairs. 

Story written by Chan Lwin

Team receives NSF grant to advance Grand Canyon geoscience education, partnerships with Native tribes

December 7, 2023

Researchers from Arizona State University, University of New Mexico and University of Arizona have been awarded almost $148,000 from the National Science Foundation (NSF) for a program titled Developing Partnerships Among Tribes, Geoscientists, and the National Park Service to Advance Informal Geoscience Learning at Grand Canyon.

The planning grant is from the Research on Learning in Formal and Informal Settings division (DRL) at NSF, whose mission includes promoting innovative research, development and evaluation of learning and teaching across all STEM disciplines by advancing cutting-edge knowledge and practices in both formal and informal learning settings. ASU is the lead institution on the 18-month, $147,758 grant, with the University of Arizona and University of New Mexico as collaborating institutions. Portrait of ASU Professor Steve Semken. Steve Semken, professor at ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration. Courtesy photo Download Full Image

"It is long overdue for the geoscience and other natural-science interpretation programs at Grand Canyon to make all visitors better aware of the rich and diverse Indigenous knowledges of the Grand Canyon region, of their connections to this land since time immemorial, and of regional issues of significance to tribes with a geoscience connection, such as uranium mining and water resources,” said Steve Semken, project principal investigator and professor at ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. “With this project, we intend to help foster Indigenization of interpretation at this park and many others.”

Semken will lead the collaboration with professors Laura Crossey and Karl Karlstrom from the University of New Mexico (UNM) and professors Karletta Chief and Cherie DeVore at the University of Arizona (UArizona). 

The goal of the planning grant is to build partnerships to help shape a more equitable and inclusive place-based, informal geoscience learning plan for Grand Canyon National Park, which is visited by over six million people each year. 

The Grand Canyon region is the homeland of 11 Indigenous nations, the traditionally associated tribes of the Grand Canyon, who hold sovereignty over the land and who possess rich, land-based expert knowledge of Earth processes and features there. However, that sovereignty and knowledge have historically been marginalized and largely excluded from geoscience education at the park. The ASU-UNM-UArizona team intends to foster a respectful, reciprocal and lasting partnership at the Grand Canyon among members of the traditionally associated tribes, the Grand Canyon Trust, Interpretive Park Rangers and Grand Canyon geoscientists. 

The partnership will support ongoing efforts by Grand Canyon National Park administrators to involve tribal nations more directly in stewardship and governance at the park. It will form and carry out its work through in-person meetings in the park and at culturally and scientifically important places in and around the Grand Canyon, in tribal communities, if requested, and at times virtually.

The partnership will also produce written documents, including a summary of common goals, specific recommendations to the park and detailed action plans for Indigenizing future informal geoscience education at the park, upon which tribes will have greater input and oversight.

The model will be adaptable to other parks, and the project's products will be presented to park managers, shared widely with Indigenous communities and informal educators, and distributed in scientific publications and media. The project has received letters of support from Grand Canyon National Park and from leaders from several tribes, and expressions of interest from most tribal representatives to the park.

Karlstrom and Crossey led an earlier NSF project to create the award-winning "Trail of Time" geoscience exhibition on the South Rim of Grand Canyon, on which ASU was a collaborating institution and Semken was the ASU principal investigator.

This grant is in collaboration with University of Arizona and University of New Mexico. Supporting organizations include Grand Canyon National Park, the Grand Canyon Trust, Navajo community organizations and the Hualapai Tribal Council. Representatives of 13 tribal nations have also expressed interest in the project.

This press release was written by Dani Rae Wasche at the University of New Mexico with contributions from Kim Baptista at ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Media Relations and Marketing Manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration


NIH awards $9M for Indigenous-led tribal data repository to improve community health

ASU Assistant Professor Krystal Tsosie, Native BioData Consortium co-founder, to lead ethical, data-sharing and implementation issues of project

December 6, 2023

In an effort to improve the health of tribal communities and Indigenous people, the National Institutes of Health has awarded $9 million in funding for Native scientists at Arizona State University and elsewhere to create the first Indigenous-led tribal data repository.

Since the SARS-CoV-2 worldwide pandemic began, global Indigenous communities have been particularly hard hit, with health disparities including lack of access to health care and undue burden of infections leading to increased hospitalizations and higher death rates. Portrait of ASU Assistant Professor Krystal Tsosie. ASU School of Life Sciences Assistant Professor Krystal Tsosie (a member of the Diné/Navajo Nation) will lead a $1.2 million sub-award of the tribal data repository project to research and design the ethical approaches to data sharing, analysis and implementation. ASU photo Download Full Image

In response, Indigenous researchers and scientists have been working to secure and fund efforts to better understand the impact of COVID-19 and provide data to allow for informed decisions and policy development in addressing the COVID-19 pandemic and potential future pandemics.

The new RADx Tribal Data Repository: Data for Indigenous Implementations, Interventions and Innvovations (RADx TDR D4I) involves six collaborative research awards, including prime awardee Stanford University, along with Arizona State University, the Native BioData Consortium, Ohio State University, University of California-Santa Cruz, University of Washington, Seattle and University of Wisconsin-Madison.

One of the six awards is to ASU School of Life Sciences Assistant Professor Krystal Tsosie (a member of the Diné/Navajo Nation), who will lead a $1.2 million sub-award of the tribal data repository project to research and design the ethical approaches to data sharing, analysis and implementation. In particular, Tsosie focuses on bioethical engagement of Indigenous communities in genomics and data science to build trust. As a whole, her interest is in integrating genomic and data approaches to assess Indigenous variation contributing to health inequities.

As an advocate for Indigenous genomic data sovereignty, she also co-founded the first U.S. Indigenous-led biobank, a 501c3 nonprofit research institution called the Native BioData Consortium, or NativeBio.

“We started NativeBio with a very simple premise: that research on Indigenous peoples’ samples should be led by Indigenous community members and Indigenous scientists,” Tsosie said. “‘For us, by us’ has been our motto to drive researcher questions and to better understand the data. Sometimes outsiders fail to understand factors that contribute to disparaties and health inequities outside the research samples.”

The Native BioData Consortium will be the overall project leader, working with five scholars at premier research universities and at 10 health sites using American Indian and Alaskan Native public health data to help design ethical approaches to data sharing, data analysis, implementation, policy and legal frameworks. The goal is to more immediately serve tribal populations following the disproportional impact of COVID-19 in Indigenous communities.

“The award is a landmark decision in support of Indigenous peoples," said Joseph Yracheta (Purepecha), executive director of NativeBio. “Though apparent, the true extent of COVID-19 disparities among Indigenous people is likely underestimated. This is mostly because of underreporting in the absence of a unified, Indigenous-led data resource to facilitate data collection, interagency cooperation, guide COVID-19 research and subsequent implementations.”

The project adds to an NIH effort begun three years ago to increase the overall understanding of COVID-19 and its effects on American Indian and Alaska Native communities across the nation, called the Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics Underserved Populations (or RADx-UP) inititiave.

“The RADx initiative points to the need for tribal sovereign protection of Indigenous data that has been missing since the inception of federal scientific programs,“ said Matt Anderson, associate professor of medical genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (and Eastern Band of Cherokee descent). “Scientists are accountable to Indigenous people in the use of tribal data, and NativeBio is accountable to Indian Country as being good stewards of their data. This approach models systems and understandings that more closely align with Indigenous mechanisms of community responsibility.”

Specific activities will include education and training programs on best practices for responsible data sharing and access, and constructing a secure repository to support data storage, access, monitoring and sharing of data related to COVID-19 testing and vaccination.

For Tsosie, the new NIH award marks another full circle moment in her early academic career. Tsosie is also an ASU alumna (BS in microbiology and MA in applied ethics) and began an appointment in January to make a difference as the first Indigenous geneticist-bioethicist at Arizona State University.

“I was excited to come back to ASU and serve as an advocate for Indigenous communities," Tsosie said. “I want to bring all of these skill sets related to health inequities and genetic epidemiology back to the communities that I grew up with.

“Who better to protect our data and improve research about us than Indigenous people themselves?”

Joe Caspermeyer

Manager (natural sciences), Media Relations & Strategic Communications


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Students bridge past, present in Chandler history exhibit

December 5, 2023

'Querencia,' on display at the ASU Chandler Innovation Center, tells the stories of Latino residents

Poster board with woman's photo and story on it

Jenny Vidal Salzman is one of the dozen profiles on display as part of the "Querencia" exhibition. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

As Jenny Vidal Salzman looked at the 12 sign boards featuring portraits and short bios of Chandler residents, past and present, she found herself in an uncommon situation — staring back at herself.

Salzman is one of 12 subjects that are part of an oral project by Arizona State University's History of the American Southwest class, where students creatively interpreted the life stories of the people featured.

Each interviewee has their own storyboard along with a QR code that allows viewers to download the accompanying student’s rendition of that oral history. 

It's part of the "Querencia: Place and Belonging in Chandler" exhibit, now on display at the ASU Chandler Innovation Center after spending a month in the Chandler Museum. 

“You normally don’t get to hear your life story being told by someone else and shared like this,” Salzman said. “The students did a really good job.”

"Querencia" is a community-based project aimed at collecting the oral histories of long-term Latino residents in Chandler's historic neighborhoods and recent Latino migrant communities. The goal: to provide historical context to current and future generations in an effort to effect positive change through insight. 

Salzman, 77, who identifies as Mexican American, entrusted her story to ASU fourth-year student Scott Harvey. Salzman’s story included anecdotes about growing up in a home with an outhouse and no hot water, her father’s strong work ethic and the El Mambo Club on Frye Road, a venue where Mexican Americans gathered for celebrations. 

“When you’re telling someone’s life story and they’re right here, you want to get it right,” said Harvey, who is pursuing a degree in applied psychological science. 

Woman in audience listening to presentation

Jenny Vidal Salzman listens as fourth-year ASU student Scott Harvey gives a presentation about her life at the opening of the "Querencia" exhibit at the ASU Chandler Innovation Center. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Stories worth listening to

The students presented their projects during an opening reception held at the center on Nov. 30.

ASU student Ebony Koger created a comic strip to tell the story of Alberto Esparza, founder of the Si Se Puede Foundation, a nonprofit organization that facilitates programs that provide resources and support to low-income, predominantly minority communities in Chandler and Phoenix.

Koger enlisted the help of friend and professional illustrator Jonathan McEwen and provided narration that covered the span of Esparza’s childhood in West Phoenix, where he grew up as the only Latino in a predominantly African American school, to college, where he received a criminal justice degree from ASU and a master’s degree in education from Northern Arizona University. 

“You know how you hear those ‘I started from nothing’ type of stories? I thought, let's put a little spin to it,” said Koger, a third-year transfer student from Mesa Community College who is pursuing a degree in history with a certificate in African and African American studies.

Ryan Brady, a junior pursuing a degree in operations management, wrote an original song for his project on Alex Ramos, which he sang while playing the acoustic guitar.

Brady, who was born and raised in Chandler and — like his subject, Ramos — is the child of an immigrant, said he could relate to many of the situations and oral histories shared in the “Querencia” exhibit.

“That’s the main point of this project — to see the development and history. So being from (Chandler) gives me that lens into the past,” Brady said.

Man holding acoustic guitar

Third-year ASU student Ryan Brady presents the song he composed about one of the Chandler residents who are part of the "Querencia" exhibit. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Filling a niche

The story subjects include men and women ranging in age from 19 to 77 — representing time periods spanning from early settlers' experiences in 1912 through the Civil Rights Movement to the current era of development and growth.

The goal was to have a range of generations, said Assistant Professor Rafael Martinez from ASU’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts.

The narratives include a range of personal stories that touch on racism, segregation and poverty, and how sometimes these issues could strengthen family ties, inspire people to pursue their dreams and create a special bond among neighbors.

As a historian, Martinez believes in the power of public history projects and wanted to connect ASU research and the community.

“Not much had been written about LatinxThe gender-neutral term for Latinos/as. populations in the historical record in the southeast Valley. I thought that was an important niche to fill,” Martinez said. 

Man speaking in front of projection screen to audience

ASU Assistant Professor Rafael Martínez speaks to attendees during the opening reception of "Querencia: Place and Belonging in Chandler" on Nov. 30 at the ASU Chandler Innovation Center. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Engaging with the past for a better future 

The project is the culmination of three years of work and collaboration between Martinez and Kristine Clark, a community engagement specialist at the Chandler Museum.

“(Martinez) collected stories, but where do those live from there? That’s where the museum came in,” Clark said. “He was of the mentality, ‘I want my students to learn hands-on history.’” 

The Chandler Museum’s capacity to store physical documents like newspaper clippings and photographs, as well as digital records, allowed the museum to archive the materials collected from the project. A city of Chandler Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Division grant provided funding for the project.

From the start, Clark and Martinez envisioned “Querencia” being a traveling exhibit throughout various venues in Chandler. Clark said she sees the exhibit’s potential to grow and expects it to get bigger each year.

“I think it’s very exciting. Seeing these two institutions trying to give more voice to this community, I think is immeasurable,” Clark said. “It’s one thing for grandma to tell me a story about the ‘50s. But when grandma’s story is on the wall, it takes it to another level of importance.” 

The “Querencia” exhibit will be on display at the ASU Chandler Innovation Center through the spring 2024 semester.

“By building public history projects, we can get people from diverse backgrounds and walks of life to be able to engage and learn about this history through this particular exhibit,” Martinez said. “One of my aspirations was to preserve that history for the generations of Lantix people and other ethnic communities as this place continues to transform and grow. My hope is we can make better informed decisions if we are engaged with this history.”  

Written by Georgann Yara

Top photo: Operations manager Brett Kennedy positions posters for hanging as he installs "Querencia: Place and Belonging in Chandler" on Monday, Nov. 27, in the ASU Chandler Innovation Center. This community-focused exhibition, created partly by ASU Assistant Professor Rafael Martínez, presents the oral histories of long-term Hispanic and Latino residents in Chandler’s historic barrios, alongside recent migrant communities. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

BET exec to deliver keynote at Cronkite fall convocation

December 4, 2023

Louis Carr, president of media sales at Black Entertainment Television (BET), will serve as the keynote fall 2023 convocation speaker at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The ceremony will take place at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 13, at the Desert Financial Arena in Tempe.  Portrait of BET President of Media Sales Louis Carr. BET President of Media Sales Louis Carr. Courtesy photo Download Full Image

Carr, who was recently inducted into the American Adversiting Federation (AAF) Advertising Hall of Fame, is an award-winning media executive who is credited with propelling BET Media Group to the No. 1 brand and choice for Black consumers. Under Carr’s leadership, the company has generated more than $10 billion in advertising sales while establishing strategic partnerships with global corporations such as Procter & Gamble, Unilever, McDonald’s, General Motors, Facebook and Apple.

The media company has cultivated the largest repository of information on Black consumers worldwide, which has enabled Carr to take a data-driven approach to creating content and messages that resonate with diverse audiences, enabling marketers to sell products and services while fostering corporate citizenship.

“Louis Carr is one of the most accomplished media executives and thought leaders in the industry. His leadership has allowed BET to become one of the most profitable networks in the country, and his service to the community has left an indelible mark on numerous professionals,” said Cronkite School Dean Battinto L. Batts Jr. “We’re excited to have Louis share his knowledge and experience with our students.”

Carr is also the founder of the Louis Carr Foundation (LCF), which promotes diversity in corporate America by providing paid internships to undergraduate students of color. The foundation has provided 270 paid internships, with 62 alumni securing full-time positions within the industry.

“I’m so excited to address the graduates at ASU on the day they receive the key to the stadium of life,” Carr said.

Carr works to inspire individuals striving for personal growth. He launched WayMaker, an initiative that aims to provide direction, wisdom and inspiration to individuals striving for personal growth and positive change. 

The initiative includes the quarterly WayMaker Journal, WayMaker Men’s Summit and The Blueprint Connect Podcast, which aims to bring together high-profile thought leaders to educate and empower Black men in finance, health, careers, relationships and entrepreneurship.

Carr has written two books: “Dirty Little Secrets” and “Little Black Book: Daily Motivations for Business and Personal Growth.” His writings cover essential topics such as leadership, culture, strategy, vision, success and diversity.

In addition to being inducted into the Advertising Hall of Fame earlier this year, Carr was awarded the Chicago Advertising Federation Silver Medal Award. He was recognized by theboardiQ, an organization that promotes the creation of inclusive boards and executive teams for businesses, as a Top 100 Hall of Fame African American. Savoy Magazine named him one of the Most Influential Black Corporate Directors.

Carr has served on the boards of the International Radio and Television Society (IRTS), the Video Advertising Bureau (VAB), the Advertising Council and the American Advertising Federation.

Carr attended Drake University on a full athletic scholarship and earned a Bachelor of Arts in broadcast journalism. He also serves on Cedar Fair’s Board of Directors, Drake University’s Board of Trustees and The United States Track and Field Foundation (USATF) Board.

Written by Carly Boots

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ASU ranks 2nd in undergraduate students committing to Teach for America

November 30, 2023

Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College contributed 43 students, second-most among large universities across US

Arizona State University contributed 43 graduates to Teach For America in 2023, the second-highest number among universities with at least 10,000 undergraduate students.

Teach For America's leaders — called corps members — sign up for at least two years of teaching in an underresourced public school. The organization works in partnership with communities across the country to expand educational opportunities for children.

Among large universities, only UCLA had more graduates (47) commit to Teach For America. ASU ranked ahead of universities such as the University of Texas, Austin (29); the University of Virginia (27); and the University of California, Berkeley (19). See the full list on the Teach For America website.

“At ASU, we believe there should be multiple pathways for committed people to become teachers and educators,” said Carole Basile, dean of ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. “We’ve long shared that commitment with Teach For America, as well as a belief that people who spend time as educators can go on to leadership roles in a variety of organizations and in society as a whole.”

Krishnaa Pradhan, director of recruitment at ASU for Teach For America, said ASU is a model university when it comes to promoting her organization to students.

She said ASU President Michael Crow sends a letter to top-performing seniors every year encouraging them to consider Teach For America, and that Teach For America has productive partnerships with university organizations like Changemaker Central.

"So, we've been able to have a lot of buy-in from these strong influencers at ASU," Pradhan said. "That really strong partnership sets ASU apart from other universities in reaching students."

Pradhan said ASU is a natural fit for Teach For America because the university's charter, which includes these words — "assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves" — aligns with Teach For America's goal of educational equity.

She said 60% of the recruits from ASU in 2022 identified as being from low-income communities, and many of the students who joined Teach For America are serving in schools in those communities.

"I think that's a really big part of it," Pradhan said. "We also have a lot of students at ASU who understand the value of networking and building leadership, and Teach For America provides them an opportunity to do that with like-minded individuals who also care very deeply about equity. So, there's a balance there with leadership development and personal growth as well as being able to give back to your community."

According to a Teach For America press release, the newest corps grows the organization's network to 70,000 leaders committed to working in rural and urban communities across the country.

“We’re inspired by the leaders who are stepping up to address the challenges in our public education system. They're diverse in their backgrounds and experiences, but united in their commitment to educational equity,” Darin Lim Yankowitz, senior vice president for recruitment at Teach For America, said in the release.

“For over 30 years, Teach For America has been finding, developing and supporting some of our nation's most talented early-career leaders to expand opportunities for kids in education and every other sector of society. It's exciting to welcome these new teachers from these incredible colleges and universities across the country to the Teach For America community."

Scott Bordow

Reporter , ASU News

Shaping the future of Indigenous excellence

Adrian Lerma shares about her role as senior director of development for tribal nations at ASU Foundation

November 28, 2023

When Adrian Lerma’s grandmother passed away in 2011, she reflected on her life and legacy as she grieved. Lerma, senior director of development for tribal nations at the ASU Foundation, was suddenly struck with a sense of responsibility. Who would guide and shape her to become the leader her community needed?

Lerma, born and raised in the Navajo Nation, knew she wanted to positively influence and impact Indigenous women the way her grandmother had. An undergraduate at Northern Arizona University studying women and gender studies, she applied for an internship with the Institute for Tribal Environmental Professionals in renewable energy solutions. Portrait of Adrian Lerma, senior director of development for Tribal Nations at the ASU Foundation Adrian Lerma, senior director of development for tribal nations at the ASU Foundation. Photo by Joel Farias Godinez/ASU Enterprise Partners Download Full Image

She interviewed for the role with Beth Osnes, a theater and environmental studies professor at the University of Colorado. During the interview, Lerma and Osnes formed an instant connection and began brainstorming projects and solutions that would serve the Navajo Nation. Lerma got the internship, and together with Osnes, co-founded the Navajo Women's Energy Project in 2012, incorporating interactive aspects of theater, improv and poetry to envision a clean energy future. The project brought together women of all backgrounds from ages 5 to 90.

Lerma's path and passion led her to work with Eagle Energy, which provides small-scale solar technology to off-grid communities in the Navajo Nation.

Later, she co-founded the Native American Business Incubator Network, which focuses on diversifying local economies and reducing dependence on resource extraction.

In 2019, she took on a role with Diné College and continued her community development and empowerment journey.

Throughout her career, she has combined her deep roots within her community with a passion for education, environmental sustainability and economic development.

ASU News spoke with Lerma during Native American Heritage Month to learn more about her commitment to shaping the future of Indigenous excellence.

Editor's note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Question: You said your initial goal when you began college was empowering Indigenous women. What sparked that goal?

Answer: I am Diné, born and raised on the Navajo Nation in the small community of Tuba City, Arizona. My clans are Naakai Dine’é — Naash't'éezhí Tábaahá  Tł'izhíłání  Táchiinii. This identity is my guide in everything I do. The tribe I’m from is matrilineal, meaning that women carry the bloodline. This uniquely positions women as pillars of their clan, their home and their community. When I was an undergrad, I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to do, but I understood that I had a responsibility as a young lady to do something meaningful. 

A professor of mine, Tom Holm, once said, “Every breath you take is a political statement!” He expressed that the system is not set up for Native American people to thrive, so we have a responsibility to use our breath and the life we’ve been given to change the system so it benefits us. I remember feeling the enormity of the responsibility he was setting on our shoulders to think, strategize and act intentionally. But his words inspired me. So I set a simple goal: Do work that was going to empower Indigenous women. And that is what led me to do the work I’ve done over the past 11 years. And it’s expanded beyond just women to include all Indigenous people from all nations. 

Q: What brought you to the ASU Foundation?

A: This role at the ASU Foundation is new. Nobody has ever been seated in this position before. I was attracted to it because it was an opportunity to advocate for and bring much-needed support to Native American-serving and Native American-led initiatives. 

Arizona State University has a long history of collaborations with Native American people. For example, the Center of Indian Education is celebrating their 65th anniversary in 2024. The Indian Legal Program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law has been generating scholarship in the area of Indian law and has undertaken public service to tribal governments since 1988. They are celebrating their 35th anniversary this month.

There are other initiatives that I am aware of that are making a great impact in Native communities, such as American Indian Policy Institute’s Indigenous Leadership Academy and the Labriola National American Indian Data Center. These are just a handful of incredible programs that ASU has committed to. I made the choice to join the ASU Foundation because I want to see these programs flourish. I believe in their collective mission to strengthen Indigenous communities through higher education and research.

Q: What have you been up to in this role?

A: When I joined, I was tasked with four goals:

  1. Develop a comprehensive strategy to increase engagement with tribal communities nationwide.
  2. Build a case for support to identify funding priorities.
  3. Identify and engage with tribes that have a history of philanthropic giving.
  4. Build out a portfolio.

I began by evaluating the value systems of tribes. If you're looking at wealth through an Indigenous lens, the value system is distinct. It comes down to the health of the people, the family, the community and the nation. The gauge of wealth is not how much you can acquire, but how much you can distribute back to your people. By linking philanthropy back to the cultural ideology of generosity and resource distribution, it can then be discussed not only as a privilege but also as a responsibility.

Being cognizant that Indigenous value systems are historic and sacred in nature while acknowledging that philanthropy is not anything new to tribal nations is the approach I am encouraging at the foundation. Over the summer and into the autumn season, I’ve engaged in hundreds of conversations about this with my colleagues. And I’ve worked with various teams to craft messaging for Native American Heritage Month that will help guide internal and external communication about how tribal nations are contributing to the strength of ASU. 

To meet the goals that have been set out for me, I plan to expand the visibility of Indigenous excellence at ASU; increase program stability by securing multiyear programmatic and operational funding for Native American serving programs and initiatives; and build out a support network that will strengthen relationships and expand partnerships with Native American tribes, leaders and enterprises. It’s a big task, but it’s a task that I’m excited to take on. I am assured knowing that I am not alone because I have the support of the foundation behind me, as well as the backing of the Native American staff and faculty on the university side who’ve been amazing to work with over the past few months. 

Q: Is there anything else you would like to share?

A: If anything I said resonates with the readers of this interview, I’d like to encourage them to reach out to me. I am here at the Tempe main campus. I am motivated to make a meaningful impact here at Arizona State University and I am committed to bringing in philanthropic support for the Native community here at the university. There are many ways to give, to donate, to collaborate, to partner. So let’s talk over coffee about how we can fund the important work being done at ASU!

Nicole Rossi

Student writer and editor, ASU Enterprise Partners