Math professor selected as 'emerging scholar'

January 13, 2010

She expected to become a store cashier until she took algebra with legendary high-school teacher Jaime Escalante (of "Stand and Deliver" fame) in East Los Angeles. Now Arizona State University mathematician Erika Tatiana Camacho is one of 12 faculty members under age 40 from across the United States selected as 2010 Emerging Scholars by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.

Camacho is an assistant professor in the" target="_blank">New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences on ASU’s West campus. She joins faculty members from institutions including Dartmouth College, the University of Pittsburgh and the University of Texas at Austin in being selected for this year’s Emerging Scholar recognition by the editorial staff of Diverse, based on criteria including significance of research, uniqueness and competitiveness of field of study, publishing record and teaching record. Download Full Image

“I’m humbled by this recognition,” Camacho said. “I have seen this annual issue of Diverse for several years and have been awed by the stellar scholarship records of the recognized scholars, especially given the early stage of their careers. It is truly an honor to be in the company of these amazing individuals.”

“Dr. Camacho is a superb scholar-teacher who embodies the best of New College,” said Elizabeth Langland, New College’s dean. “She is highly attuned to the needs of our students and models for them the ability to achieve their highest aspirations with hard work and dedication.”

Camacho brings real-world problems and projects into the classroom. She encouraged a student in her differential equations class to use data from his job with a golf equipment company to develop equations to model how far a golf ball will travel when struck by different clubs. Her calculus students read and analyze journal articles focusing on topics such as gender gaps in education and specifically in math achievement.

With work published in journals including Mathematical Biosciences and Engineering and The Mathematical Scientist, Camacho has displayed an ability to cross disciplines in her research. She collaborates with life sciences professors in New College’s Division of Mathematical and Natural Sciences on projects that apply mathematical modeling to gene functions in cells. For the last two years, Camacho has collaborated with a George Mason University sociologist to model the dynamics of workforce migration of highly skilled scientists. They are studying various aspects of this problem including the factors that affect this migration from the perspective of both the individual and the country. This spring, Camacho and an undergraduate student will work on mathematically incorporating a multitude of political aspects into this project.

Camacho said she has been fortunate to have mentors helping to guide her. First there was Escalante, who was portrayed by Edward James Olmos in the 1988 film "Stand and Deliver." It was in 1990 that Camacho entered Escalante’s algebra classroom at Garfield High School. Then in 1996, when she was an undergraduate student at Wellesley College, Camacho was the first student admitted to the Mathematical and Theoretical Biology Institute (MTBI), a summer program established by Carlos Castillo-Chavez at Cornell University. Its goal is to increase the number of Ph.D.s from underrepresented U.S. populations in fields where mathematical, computational and modeling skills play a critical role.

In 2004 the MTBI program, and Castillo-Chavez, relocated to ASU. Castillo-Chavez is a Regents’ Professor and the Joaquin Bustoz Jr. Professor of Mathematical Biology in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change on ASU’s Tempe campus. He also is director of the Mathematical, Computational and Modeling Sciences Center in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

In 2003, Camacho became the first former MTBI participant to earn a Ph.D. when she completed her doctorate in applied mathematics at Cornell. She then spent a year as a postdoctoral research associate at Los Alamos National Laboratory. Camacho next held a tenure-track faculty position at Loyola Marymount University, while also co-founding and co-directing the Applied Mathematical Sciences Summer Institute, with a mission similar to the MTBI program at ASU. She joined ASU’s New College in 2007.

Castillo-Chavez, who has continued to serve as a mentor to Camacho, told Diverse that “she is playing a critical role in building applied mathematics at our West campus, where they are building a top-notch computational program with emphasis on applications to biology.”

“From fostering interdisciplinary collaborations to helping build our new program in applied mathematics, Erika has made significant contributions to the" target="_blank">Division of Mathematical and Natural Sciences in a relatively short period of time,” said Roger Berger, the division’s director. Mathematical and Natural Sciences students pursue bachelor’s degrees in applied computing, applied mathematics and life sciences (with or without a pre-med option). The division also offers minors in chemistry, life sciences and mathematics, as well as a mathematics concentration for secondary education majors.

“Erika’s inspirational life story serves as a source of motivation for many of our students,” Berger said.

More information about Camacho’s life story and professional accomplishments can be found in the article about her that was published in the Jan. 7 issue of Diverse. The article is at">">

ASU campuses to host Martin Luther King Jr. celebrations

January 11, 2010

ASU will celebrate the ideals of Martin Luther King Jr. with several scheduled events in January on all four campuses.

Students at the Tempe campus will kick off the celebration with a Day of Service on Jan. 18, followed by a rally of performances at 11:30 a.m. on Jan. 19. The Polytechnic campus will host an MLK celebration breakfast from 7-9 a.m., Jan. 19, in the Cooley Ballroom of the Student Union. Middle-school students will re-enact King’s march on Washington, D.C., on Jan 20 at the West campus. The Downtown Phoenix campus will hold a spoken word event at 7 p.m., Jan. 21 in the Nursing Phase II Building, Room 110. Eugene Grigsby Jr. Download Full Image

The Jan. 19 breakfast will honor two community leaders who embody King’s ideal of leadership through service. The event also will recognize 24 schoolchildren from around the state who won ASU’s annual MLK poster-essay contest. The winning posters are on display in the first floor of Fletcher Library at the West campus.

Eugene Grigsby Jr. – artist, educator, author and community leader – will receive ASU’s 2010 MLK Servant-Leadership Award for his work to inspire and uplift African Americans and others with his art and his service to the community. As a high school teacher and later a professor of art at ASU, Grigsby developed a national reputation for his contributions to education, organizing exhibitions and also working with children’s organizations and human resource centers. Two years ago he received an award from the Congressional Black Caucus in Washington, D.C., for his distinguished contributions. Now 91, he still is active in the community.

Dominick Hernandez, a senior in business at the Polytechnic campus, was chosen to receive the MLK Student Servant-Leadership Award. After six years in the U.S. Army and five years in the business world, he enrolled at the Polytechnic campus almost two years ago and quickly became a leader. He organized an Artist Mic Night, helped found a student group for sustainability, co-founded a leadership and success society, and became director of Polytechnic’s Arizona Students at ASU.

Offices and classrooms on the four ASU campuses will be closed on Jan. 18 to observe the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.

To request an invitation to the breakfast, contact the ASU Office of Special Events at eventrsvp">">

For more information on the events, go to">">

ASU alum helps serve rural Mexico

December 15, 2009

Laura Libman’s pedigree is part analytical thinking, part business model-building, part upbringing. Mix them together and the result is ownership of a successful nonprofit foundation that is making a difference in health care services in rural Mexico.

A graduate of ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, she earned her bachelor’s degree in English in 2003, then went on to graduate from the Thunderbird School of Global Management with an MBA in international development just two years later. These two educational forays, plus an upbringing that included countless trips and extended stays in Mexico, have shaped her professional career, putting her in a position to reach out and help those less fortunate. Download Full Image

Today, she is president and CEO of the Tia Foundation, a small Arizona-based nongovernmental organization (NGO) dedicated to driving sustainable health solutions in rural Mexico. The foundation boasts 501(c)(3) status in the U.S. and Mexico.

“This all fell together in an odd way,” said Libman, who arrived in the Valley a decade ago with a handful of college credits from the University of Wisconsin-Madison before attending Glendale Community College and eventually New College at ASU’s West campus.

“After I graduated from Thunderbird, I spent the summer in rural villages throughout the state of Guanajuato," she said, referring to a trip to central Mexico. “I went around asking the people what they needed, and I started looking at where the downward spiral of poverty starts. In the majority of cases, it was related to health issues.” 

As an example, she points to a pregnant woman who doesn’t realize her baby is positioned incorrectly for safe delivery.

“Without medical services, there is no one there to tell her this," she said. "She dies in childbirth, her husband is left alone to care for six children.  With some education, this is completely preventable.”

Libman grew up in a multicultural family that included four adopted African American siblings. She followed her father as he travelled to Guadalajara and Mexico City working on his import-export business. She spent summers on her Mexican family’s ranch. It was during these trips that she developed a deep-rooted love for the rural setting and a keen respect for the people who worked the land and raised families, most often under harsh conditions that lacked basic health care.

Her educational mix – the analytical and critical thinking she learned through her New College coursework, and the business model-building skills she acquired in Thunderbird classrooms – rounded out her professional pursuits and helped her design a charitable foundation that provides health services to the needy. In fact, her vision for Tia is to create a sustainable model that will take lessons learned in providing health services and apply them to similar outreach and assistance in education, government and social services.

But getting to this point wasn’t as traditional as graduating from high school and immediately moving on to higher education, earning an advanced degree and entering the professional world. Libman married early, had children and eventually divorced. She became a single mom with the ability to take one, maybe two college courses per semester. She was certain she’d be “cut loose” at the West campus, where her kindergarten-age son, now 22, often attended her American literature classes taught by then-assistant professor of English Darryl Hattenhauer. To this day, a picture drawn by son Nathaniel for Hattenhauer hangs in the professor’s office.

“After that experience – Dr. Hattenhauer’s encouragement, his attention and his mentorship – I was sold on ASU and this campus,” she said. “He was one of the first of many who bent over backward to help me and to push me. I had so many at the West campus who encouraged me and insisted I go to graduate school; I thought I wasn’t smart enough or was too old.”

One of those who helped Libman get back on her educational feet was Kathy Grant, program coordinator for the Learning Enhancement Center, who today is the program manager for the Student Success Center at the West campus.

“Laura faced typical challenges as a re-entry student, which is balancing work and home” said Grant, who came to ASU in 1993 as an undergraduate student in the College of Teacher Education and Leadership. “She has special qualities that were developed growing up in a loving environment of inclusiveness. Doing service motivates Laura.

“It’s amazing what she has accomplished and the speed of her accomplishments is astounding.”

Libman says the lessons she learned in her New College studies have helped her look at the bigger picture and how things fit together, work together and affect one another.

“The New College coursework was so fascinating,” she said. “It was about critical and analytical thinking. I learned to think. It was learning to take something, take it apart and put it back together. Diversity was a focus, and the professors put the lessons into context and brought you the whole world. You learned art and politics and everything that was going on when authors were writing their great works.

“A multidimensional perspective was a natural part of teaching the subjects.”

At Thunderbird, Libman’s circle of education was completed.

“You learned how to put together a good, sustainable model of business development,” she said. “Thunderbird taught us to build models that engender self-development, like what we’re now attempting to do with Tia – taking lessons learned in one area and applying them in other areas.

In presiding over Tia and providing health services to Mexico’s rural populations, Libman’s philosophy is borrowed from the Chinese proverb, “Give a person a fish, and you feed them for a day. Teach a person to fish and you feed them for a lifetime.”

“We do want to teach them to fish,” she said. “At New College, I learned how to fish, too. I learned how to have the skills and confidence to shoot for something beyond myself.”

Steve Des Georges

Teachers of the Future undertake 'Cinderella' effort

December 9, 2009

In the classic folktale, “Cinderella,” the Fairy Godmother magically appears in the nick of time to help Cinderella attend the prince’s ball, turning the lady’s rags into a beautiful gown. At Arizona State University, the West campus Teachers of the Future club is attempting the same magic, relying on the generosity of others.

The club, some 25 strong, has partnered with the Phoenix branch of Fairy Godmothers, an organization dedicated to providing a special prom experience to qualified high school girls, to collect new or gently used clean gowns, jewelry, shoes, shawls and evening bags between now and Jan. 31. Donations can be dropped at the Teaching Resource Library at the West campus, located in CLCC L-1-20, Mon.-Thurs., 8 a.m.-5 p.m., and Fri., 8 a.m.-2 p.m. The donations will be offered for as little as $5 at the Tolleson High School Prom Fair on Feb. 20. Download Full Image

“We have access to thousands of students who can donate their gently used formal wear, and we wanted to take part in a community service project that will have a significant impact,” says Irene Arguello, club president and a junior secondary education history major in the College of Teacher Education and Leadership (CTEL) and also a political science major in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. “We all have fond memories of prom and we understand that without aid, a lot of young women won’t be able to experience it on their own.”

For Fairy Godmothers founder and CEO Joyce Jesko, the chance to team with ASU and Teachers of the Future is a golden opportunity.

“The Tolleson High event will be the third fair we have done in the Phoenix area, and the help we are receiving from the university and the club is very important. There is strength in numbers, and we need to build our inventory so we can send more young ladies to the prom.  The prom season is nearing and we are grateful for the support we are receiving from Teachers of the Future; they’re a very dedicated group.”

The West campus club is no stranger to stepping in to help out. Annually, the club conducts its “Christmas Angels” event, collecting toys, clothing, canned food and more to donate to the Salvation Army and St. Mary’s Food Bank. This year’s drive starts Dec. 1 with a community rollout event scheduled Dec. 3 in the Delph Courtyard on the West campus.  Last year, the club conducted a successful school supply drive for Peoria Elementary School. More events are in the making.

“We’d like to do an event a month,” says Jennifer Gilbert, a CTEL secondary education and New College political science major who is also a Barrett, the Honors College student. She serves as promotions officer for Teachers of the Future. “This is the community we will teach in,” she says. “We should be taking care of those within the community, and there are lots of ways we can do it.

“As students, it can be difficult to fully comprehend what we will be faced with in the classroom, where many of the students may live with financial challenges that don’t allow them to participate in extracurricular activities or milestone events such as a prom. This is such a great opportunity for our club to be a part of an effort to give something back to the community and contribute to young girls’ lives and be a part of their special evening.”

Meanwhile, the Tolleson prom fair is seeking volunteers to assist with the event, serving as personal shoppers to help prom hopefuls select the perfect gown and accessories. Sponsorship opportunities are also available by contacting Stephanie Mercomes at the Tolleson Union High School District via email at stephanie.mercomes">">

Prom clothes pickup arrangements can be made via email to teachersofthefuture">">

Steve Des Georges

ASU prof to co-host PBS series 'History Detectives'

November 30, 2009

Eduardo Obregón Pagán, an associate professor of history and American studies in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University’s West campus, has been signed as a permanent co-host for the popular PBS series "History Detectives." The Bob Stump Endowed Professor of History at ASU, Pagán made his debut as a guest host last summer, serving as the investigator on three stories.

Now, his name is permanently in lights. Download Full Image

“Professor Pagán is a great complement to our on-camera team," said series co-executive producer David Davis. “He brings a wealth of knowledge about the history of the American West, and the Southwest in particular.”

Pagán joins a field of veteran fact-finders who have hosted "History Detectives" for seven seasons: Wes Cowan, independent appraiser and auctioneer; Elyse Luray, independent appraiser and expert in art history; Gwendolyn Wright, professor of history and architecture at Columbia University; and Tukufu Zuberi, professor of sociology and director of the Center for Africana Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. The show is produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting and LION Television.

Pagán is looking forward to bringing his "History Detectives" experience to the classroom at ASU.

“Much of historical research is done in isolation, or one-on-one,” said Pagán, who recently won a coveted Glyph Award from the Arizona Book Publishing Association for his book, “Historic Photos of Phoenix.” “There have been many times when I have worked with a specialist that I wished I had a camera present so I could capture the experience and share that experience with my classes. Working with 'History Detectives' allows me to do that.

“I regularly teach the history methods class that is required of all history majors, and being able to show stories gives my students a good sense of what it is like to do historical research.”

Pagán said he also can take classroom lesson to the PBS set.

“One of the things I love about working with the show is that the producers and staff have a very keen eye for everyday stories that connect with larger historical events, and that is a lot of what I do in teaching history – showing how ordinary people often in day-to-day events have a profound influence on history.

“So, working with PBS, to me, is much the same as working with a classroom, but on a larger scale.”

The associate professor grew up, as he puts it, “in the shadows of Sun Devil Stadium,” the ASU football team’s Tempe home field. He received his bachelor’s degree from ASU and a master’s from the University of Arizona before earning his M.A and Ph.D. from Princeton University in U.S. history. Before returning to ASU, Pagán served as an assistant dean of students at Princeton, a faculty member at Williams College and as a senior program officer at the National Endowment for the Humanities in Washington, D.C.

As he considers the history he teaches and investigates, he has his favorite events – history he would like to have witnessed firsthand.

“If I had to pick an event, it would probably be the fall of Tenochtitlán, the capital of the Mexica (Aztec) empire,” he said. “Bernal Díaz del Castillo chronicled what it was like as a foot soldier in Cortez’s army in the conquest of New Spain, and I’ve often wondered what it was like to stand at the mountain pass gazing down on the Valley of Mexico at this previously undiscovered empire.

“At the same time, I’ve wondered what it was like for the citizens of the capital city to see these strange, bearded people from another land, wearing metal on their bodies and carrying strange weapons, riding in on strange animals.”

Locally, he also has a favorite.

“I also think about what it was like at the collapse of the ancient Pueblo (Aansazi) societies around the 1400s as changing weather patterns brought about decades of drought, political cohesion began to strain, new nomadic tribes began to compete for scarce resources, and the Southwest became a much more violent and harsh place to live in.”

At ASU’s West campus, Pagan teaches coursework in Chicano cultures of the Southwest, historical methods, the Hispanic Southwest, American politics and law, and Constitutional history of the United States.

Steve Des Georges

ASU students seek meaningful change in Africa

November 18, 2009

The wind of change is blowing through this continent. Whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact.
- British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan, Feb. 3, 1960, in remarks to Parliament of South Africa 

The wind of change British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan spoke of nearly 50 years ago in an address to the Parliament of South Africa is still in the air, and half-way around the world, three Arizona State University students are feeling it, thanks to a recent weeklong trip to Washington, D.C., and the Ron H. Brown African Affairs Series. Download Full Image

The series is focused on the role and responsibility of today’s youth in Africa’s future. The students, all enrolled in African and African American Studies program in ASU’s School of Social Transformation, have returned with a greater focus on the roles they might play in effecting meaningful change across Africa and an enthusiasm to match. 

Senior Lafayette Newsome, junior Tabitha Sarabo, and sophomore Briana Tyson participated in a wide range of leadership forums, roundtables, panel discussions and one-on-one meetings with members of the Congressional Black Caucus; African political, NGO and civic leaders; and other series participants. 

The students were joined on the trip by Lisa Aubrey, a political scientist and associate professor who teaches courses on politics, foreign policy, democracy and development, Africa and its Diaspora, race, and gender in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Aubrey, a former Fulbright Scholar doing work at the University of Ghana, has led students to the Brown Series the past two years.

“This was again a wonderful opportunity for a select group of students to see on-the-ground manifestations of the theoretical debates they read about, while also helping them realize they are empowered to learn and act,” she says.

“By being able to participate in the discussions and deliberations allows them to not only utilize their knowledge and skills, but also realize that someday they can be local, national and global leaders in their own right.”

Upon their return from the nation’s capital, Newsome, Sarabo and Tyson presented a forum on their experience to faculty, students and community members at the Tempe campus. Newsome, a first-generation student from Elizabeth, N.J., who also majors in political science, says the trip was both re-energizing and important.

“The trip, for me, was life-changing and has continued to add gasoline to a fire already lit,” he says. “I have a strong desire to see humanity live up to its potential, as well as a strong desire to improve the current conditions in Africa and the conditions here in America and beyond. The RHB Series was a way for me to build bridges with people committed to improving conditions.”

At the forum, Newsome presented an argument against the corporate and private intervention in Africa he believes is self-serving and destructive rather than beneficial.  He notes that oppressive conditions half a globe away should be of interest to people in the Valley community and that, without the proper commitment and the right strategy, the wind of change is little more than a 50-year-old promise.

“Challenges in Africa impact me because I have a conscience. I care about people not only in my community, my state and my country, but everywhere. It is important that we are informed about issues in Africa because it is up to us to put pressure on officials and decision makers to improve the conditions. Without that pressure on officials and corporations, it is ridiculous to think they are going to change their behavior.”

Sarabo left her native Guyana, South America, in 2007 to attend ASU where her father, David Hinds, is an assistant professor in the School of Social Transformation. 

A member of the Golden Key International Honour Society and a mentor to freshman recipients of financial aid through the university’s President Barack Obama Scholars Program, attended last year’s conference, which she was an “appetizer” to this year’s meeting.

“Last year’s conference encouraged me to pursue my current goals, which are study, study, study, and go to graduate school,” she says. “I am passionate about Africa and the African Diaspora political and economic progress. This conference opened my eyes to past and current issues faced by both Africans on the continent and in the Diaspora, and the various strategies being used to combat those challenges.”

The two conferences have helped her identify the continent’s challenges and how they might be resolved.

“I think the greatest challenge of most African countries is holding onto and asserting their rights as sovereign nations. Countries need to ensure that their leaders are not self serving, but are there to help progress the development of their countries. Also, these leaders must assert their rights and ensure that the profits gained from their countries’ natural resources are predominantly going to further develop their countries, and not leaving the country.

“Endogenous and exogenous forces have to be set in place to effectively address the challenges. On the continent, civil society has to demand that its leaders end the corruption, and govern in the best interests of the people. Everyone has to challenge the U.S. president and Congress, the international financial institutions and the corporations to ensure that their engagement with African countries is one that would lead to sustainable development in Africa.”

For Goodyear, Ariz., resident Briana Tyson, the series represented a chance to learn more about Africa and the African Diaspora, as well as meet people intimately involved in the discussion. A National Honors Society graduate of Agua Fria High School in 2008, Fria High School in 2008, and a member of the of the National Society for Collegiate Scholars, Tyson liked the learning experience of the week in Washington, D.C.

“The trip has helped me grow by informing me of the issues in Africa, as well as hearing different perspectives on how to solve the different problems.  It has helped me to refocus my career aspirations by making me want to be more active on issues in Africa and possibly join some NGOs (non-governmental organization) to help make a difference.

“I believe I have grown a lot for the series; I am more informed.”

She sees the challenges in Africa as a matter of control.

“The continent’s biggest challenge moving forward is other countries trying to control Africa, as well as the huge amount of debt Africa carries.  This is a problem because African countries cannot support their citizens properly because of the influence of other countries and the massive amount of debt they are faced with.”

While Aubrey’s students consider Africa’s past, present and future, and the role they and Africa’s Diaspora may someday play in finding solutions, the former research associate at the Institute of Development Studies at the University of Nairobi in Kenya, says the Ronald H. Brown African Affairs Series moves students from classroom experiences to real-world applications.

“This series represents a unique and educational experience for our students,” says Aubrey, who received her doctoral degree from Ohio State University. “The fact that students are learning more about a place, a people, and its progeny helps them to better understand African peoples in a historical context, as well as in contemporary world systems.

“It sharpens their perspectives and inspires them to bridge what they are learning in the classroom to the real world.  It feeds into their scholarly experience here.”

Aubrey and students Newsome, Sarabo and Tyson are currently working on an African Diaspora summit through which they will stay connected to colleagues and cohorts they met while in Washington, D.C.

Steve Des Georges

ASU undergrads display research work at symposium

November 16, 2009

Arizona State University undergraduate students will again showcase their research in biotechnology, alternative energy sources, robotics, and a wide range of engineering and science fields at the 10th semi-annual Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative (FURI) Symposium from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Nov. 20.

More than 80 students will exhibit posters detailing their FURI program research projects on the west patio of the Engineering Center, G-Wing, at ASU's Tempe campus. FURI is one of the few university programs in the country that enables undergraduates to get valuable hands-on experience in significant research.

A program of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, FURI has grown since its inception in 2005 to become one of the largest of such programs.  To participate, students must go through an extensive application process during which their qualifications are reviewed by a school-wide committee.

 “Our goal is for each student to walk away from the program having had a great research experience that will help with their transition into graduate school, into the work force, or to any other career path they may choose,” says Christine MacLeod, the program’s director.

FURI Symposiums, presented once each Fall and Spring semester, is open to the public. More than 200 people, including Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Dean Deirdre Meldrum and other ASU engineering research leaders, are expected to attend.

The Spring semester symposium is scheduled for April 23, 2010.

For more on the FURI program, visit">"> A video on FURI can be viewed at">"> or Download Full Image

class="Apple-style-span" style="font-style: italic">Writer: Chelsea Brown Media contact: 

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


ASU leads country in AIEF scholarship students

November 13, 2009

Arizona State University is the country’s higher education destination of choice for undergraduate Native Americans attending college on an American Indian Education Foundation (AIEF) scholarship, according to numbers recently released by the foundation.

Of 176 undergraduate scholarships awarded this year by AIEF, 41 of the recipients are attending Arizona colleges and universities. Eighteen of those students are enrolled at ASU for the 2009-10 academic year. Northern Arizona University and the University of Alaska-Anchorage are second, with eight students each. Download Full Image

“We are just elated to see so many American Indian students seek and apply for scholarships at ASU, and particularly these from AIEF,” says Michael Begaye, executive director of ASU’s American Indian Student Support Services. 

“We work very closely with 25 different reservations in Arizona and New Mexico alone, two states that AIEF and the NRC (National Relief Charities) recognize as the most impoverished or to have the least access to outside resources. This is an issue of access, and we are proud of making the programs and resources of this university available to so many students who might not otherwise have the opportunity to pursue higher education.”

Helen Oliff, NRC public relations manager, echoes Begaye’s emphasis on providing greater opportunities to Native American students. 

“Many Americans believe that college is free for Native Americans. U.S.-Tribal treaties mention schools and teachers, but do not mention college," she says. “Today, when more Native American students hope to go to college, the competition for available scholarships is fierce. Native American students are half as likely as non-Natives to have a college degree in this country. AIEF and NRC want them to have more of an opportunity.”

For Angela Matus, her AIEF scholarship is the realization of an unreachable dream. A member of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Matus graduated early from Tempe Marcos de Niza High School in 2008 as a member of the dean’s list. The 20-year-old biological sciences major in ASU’s School of Life Sciences is following in the footsteps of her mother, who graduated from the Tempe campus with a B.A. in education and is currently working on her master’s in American Indian education. The younger Matus says the scholarship to ASU not only provides her with a university education, but also will allow her to pursue a dream.

“In this economic crisis, I needed to help myself – education was important to me,” she says.

“My mom brings me strength and courage to do what she did, to surpass the limits and come back home to help our people, and to receive this scholarship brings me great joy. Now, AIEF has given me the empowerment and passion to live proudly and work harder.”

She says she has found her calling at ASU.

“This year, as a college student, I have been able to do what I want to do, which is to help educate the Native American students in the ASU community the value of fitness.”

Matus has pursued her interest in fitness through her leadership of the Native American Wellness Society (NAWS) at ASU, where she serves the club as president.

“While at ASU, I am gaining knowledge, leadership and friends," she says. "Being president of NAWS is one thing that was not in my plans while attending ASU, but I am very proud to have the opportunity.

“If I didn’t have the friends I have met at ASU, native or not, I wouldn’t have been able to be where I am now – at the top of the world with an aspiration to change it.”

Laine Evans Nelson, whose tribal heritage is Navajo, Mojave and Papago, graduated with honors from River Valley High School in Mohave Valley, Ariz. The AIEF scholarship will allow the junior theater major to pursue his acting aspirations.

“Simply put, the AIEF scholarship removed my financial worry," he says. "This year in particular, my career and my life almost hinges around being able to afford the things my craft requires. From a computer to communicate, design and research; to papers, books, workshops and seminars; to acquire new skills in acting.

“I have a concentration in acting for the theater program here, but I will either stay here for a while doing theater or move directly on to graduate school.I am honing my skills as an actor to be a voice for those who want to speak but oftentimes are never heard,” says Laine, 20, who notes the large Native American student population at ASU played a part in his selection of the university.

AIEF is one of the country’s largest grantors of scholarships to Native Americans, funding about $450,000 for more than 200 undergraduate and graduate students annually. Of these recipients, nearly half are first-generation students. AIEF awards look beyond grade point averages and standardized test scores for students who exhibit passion, resiliency and leadership skills.

AIEF scholarships are awarded by a selection committee that includes enrolled tribal members from around the country. “Many American Indian students are in need of financial assistance, but do not meet the criteria that other scholarships require,” says Lyn Tysdal, program manager of AIEF’s six educational services. “ASU has a strong commitment to American Indian students, as evidenced by its American Indian Support Services office and the great support it provides.”

Steve Des Georges

Professors receive awards for Hispanic cultural contribution

November 10, 2009

Carlos Vélez-Ibáñez and Paul Espinosa, professors in ASU's Department">">Department of Transborder Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies in the College">">College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, are recipients of awards from the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education. The awards recognize energy, expertise and remarkable contributions to the Hispanic community.

Vélez-Ibáñez is the recipient of the Outstanding Support of Hispanic Issues in Higher Education Award. The award distinguishes someone who demonstrates exceptional accomplishment in the academic community and support of Hispanic issues. Download Full Image

Vélez-Ibáñez, who chairs the Department of Transborder Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies, conducts transnational field research in two rural valleys in California and New Mexico and their sending communities in Mexico. His area of study focuses on applied anthropology, complex social organizations, culture and education, ethno-class relations in complex social systems, migration and adaptation of human populations, political ecology, qualitative methodology and urban anthropology. Vélez-Ibáñez has written five books, three of which are based in original field research.

Espinosa is the recipient of the Outstanding Latino/a Cultural Award in Fine or Performing Arts Award. The award recognizes Latinos/as who have contributed significantly to understanding of the Hispanic community and culture through a medium in the arts.

Espinosa is the winner of seven Emmy awards. He has written, directed and produced numerous dramatic and documentary films focused on the U.S.-Mexico border region. His work includes "Taco Shop Poets" (2002), "The Border" (1999), "... And the Earth Did Not Swallow Him" (1996) and "The Hunt for Pancho Villa" (1993).

Vélez-Ibáñez and Espinosa will be honored in March at the American Association of Hispanics in Higher Education National Conference, "Raíces y Alas/Roots and Wings: A Mal Tiempo/Buena Cara."

The association each year honors people in six categories concerning the improvement of the conditions of Latinos/as pursuing a degree in higher education. The recipients are selected from open nominations by a subcommittee of the association.


Written by Danielle Kuffler (" target="_blank">

Carol Hughes," target="_blank">
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Camp Darfur exhibit to focus on humanitarian crisis

November 5, 2009

An interactive exhibit that brings attention to the ongoing genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan will make an appearance at Arizona State University’s West campus, Wednesday, Nov. 18, and Thursday, Nov. 19. The Camp Darfur exhibit is free and open to the public. Hours are 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. each day on the Fletcher Library Lawn at the West campus, 4701 W. Thunderbird Road in Phoenix.

Camp Darfur is designed to educate attendees about the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and give individuals the opportunity to discover their own power to make a difference. The mock refugee camp puts the Darfur situation into context with other historical examples of genocide including the Holocaust, Armenia, Cambodia and Rwanda. Download Full Image

The West campus is hosting Camp Darfur as part of ASU’s Four Realms of Discovery initiative, which presents events on all four ASU campuses to provoke intellectual discourse and empower citizens to make a difference. “Camp Darfur will help to educate the ASU and Valley communities about the critical situation in Darfur and give them opportunities to take action,” says Katie Fischer, coordinator in the Office of Student Engagement on the West campus.

The traveling Camp Darfur exhibit is a project of Stop Genocide Now and i-ACT (interactive-activism), a grassroots team that seeks to change the way the world responds to genocide. Stop Genocide Now also sends teams to the refugee camps on the Chad-Sudan border. Visit">"> or">"> for more information.

For details about Camp Darfur’s upcoming visit to ASU’s West campus, contact Student Engagement on the West campus at (602) 543-8200 or campdarfur">">