Award-winning musician to host 10th annual community dialogue

Wynton Marsalis will serve as the distinguished speaker at the ASU Center for the Study of Race and Democracy's 2023 Delivering Democracy event April 1

March 7, 2023

The Center for the Study of Race and Democracy (CSRD) at Arizona State University is welcoming Wynton Marsalis to host its 10th Delivering Democracy program. The legendary Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning musician, trumpeter, composer, teacher and artistic director will help CSRD celebrate the milestone of the event with a dialogue and concert on April 1.  

Delivering Democracy 2023, like the annual programs in years past, will provide opportunities for powerful engagement and spirited dialogue with communities across the nation and the world. Each year, Delivering Democracy provides a forum in which visionary speakers discuss democracy and issues of race, justice and engagement with thousands of local, national and global attendees. This year's program will feature a dialogue between Marsalis and Lois Brown, director of the CSRD and Foundation Professor of English. The program will be held in person at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Phoenix and livestreamed, starting at 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time. Viewers will be able to contribute questions in advance. Portrait of musician Wynton Marsalis holding a trumpet. Legendary Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning musician, trumpeter, composer, teacher and artistic director Wynton Marsalis will host the ASU Center for the Study of Race and Democracy's 10th Delivering Democracy program. Photo courtesy Wynton Marsalis Download Full Image

Known and deeply respected for his contributions to jazz and classical music, as well as his involvement with the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, Marsalis has paved the way for countless musicians, especially those of color. He has broken barriers in and beyond the workplace, won the highest accolades and recognition from his peers and professional community, and become a role model for many in and beyond the United States.  

The Delivering Democracy Community Resource Fair, which is free and open to all attendees, will again be held before the program begins. From 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on April 1, attendees can discover and engage directly with many organizations and learn about their missions and how their work advances democracy, inclusion, education, mentoring, community health and wellness, justice and cultural awareness. 

Visit for registration information.

The Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Arizona State University facilitates powerful and informed dialogues and transformative scholarship about issues related to race and democracy.  The center’s innovative programming and its deliberate outreach in and beyond the ASU community contributes to the university’s commitment to academic excellence and accessibility. CSRD's programs and events feature experts and changemakers, community leaders, scholars and accomplished professionals who engage with and inspire audiences. Distinctive lectures, effective workshops and productive, inspiring collaborations are signatures of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy.

Suzanne Wilson

Sr. Media Relations Officer, ASU Media Enterprise


14-year-old ASU Online student hoping to engage, empower the next generation

March 3, 2023

Ever since Alena Wicker was a young child, she’s always set the bar high for herself. At 4 years old, she was fascinated with space, dreaming of one day working with astronauts. Now, at only 14 years old, she is working toward a degree at Arizona State University.

Wicker made national headlines after graduating from high school as a 12-year-old and then becoming the youngest Black student to get accepted into medical school a year later. Alena Wicker sitting on a chair with stacks of books behind her. Alena Wicker is working toward a degree in biological sciences from Arizona State University. Photo courtesy Alena Wicker Download Full Image

“It’s been pretty cool to watch her evolve,” said Wicker’s mother, Daphne McQuarter. “I’ve shared her college life with the world and in front of cameras. Her college career has been shared in the public eye, and I think she’s done a remarkable job.”

In 2021, Wicker received a full-tuition scholarship through a partnership between ASU, the Phoenix Mercury and Desert Financial Credit Union, allowing her to pursue her education with little financial worry.

Wicker is studying biological sciences online at ASU through the School of Life Sciences in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. As she continues her undergraduate studies, Wicker embraces her schooling, building lasting friendships and helping inspire others.

When she started at ASU, she enrolled in the engineering school with dreams of one day working for NASA. But after one biology class, she decided to change her major.

“What sparked my interest was there’s so much that comes into being a biological sciences major,” she said. “You can go towards the human anatomy, the veterinary route and learn more about our environment and animals, or even go down to researching the cellular level of what makes life, life.”

The biological sciences program has allowed Wicker to develop a valuable and broad understanding of many disciplines in biology and take advantage of every opportunity that fits in with her path.

Wicker has also built her own community with Barrett, The Honors College, which she credits as being vital to her success. All the faculty, professors and classmates have helped support her along the way.

“It’s been an amazing experience,” Wicker said. “Barrett gives me that energy boost because they’re always there as a community. They’re there to help me learn more. They are like my mentors, the people I go to when I need help.”

Ara Austin, senior director of online engagement and strategic initiatives and a clinical assistant professor in the School of Molecular Sciences, first taught Wicker in an organic chemistry class. From there, it was clear to Austin that Wicker’s passion for the sciences extended beyond just getting her college degree.

“We want to make sure that we are fully supporting this young student who is very enthusiastic and clearly wants to stay in the sciences,” Austin said. “From my perspective, as her teacher, she is making sure she gets everything she needs to fully reach her potential.

“She doesn’t want to just be a scientist or a person with a science degree. She has an inherent intention, a desire to help others and mentor others as well.”

With that desire to help others and think beyond the scope, Wicker founded The Brown STEM Girl. This organization was created to “provide an outlet for girls of color in STEM” and “aims to engage, empower and educate” in hopes that girls are motivated to reach their potential.

“I started my business to show the world that there’s this community of girls that are coming together to show the world that we’re here,” Wicker said. “I’m focused on getting their stories out there, getting them engaged with STEM and helping to empower the next generation.”

Despite the untraditional path of her education, Wicker and her mother are adamant that she does not miss out on the fun of being a kid.

She is in choir, runs track, plays soccer and hangs out with friends her age.

As she looks to her future beyond ASU, the opportunities are endless. She can choose to pursue medical school or further her education with a PhD.

“That’s the big decision because that’s what will determine what I will be doing in my career,” she said. “I’m thinking of going toward the PhD route because I love getting out there, discovering new things, being in the lab, finding cures for viruses or even connecting with medicine in other parts of the world.”

Whatever Wicker does next, she has impacted many people she has interacted with at ASU.

“Alena embodies what it means to be an ASU student because of her dedication to learning, leadership within her community, and her commitment to helping solve the scientific and social challenges of our era,” said Kenro Kusumi, dean of natural sciences at The College. 

"Her curiosity and passion will take her down any path she decides to pursue in the future.”

Stephen Perez

Marketing and Communications Coordinator, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Cronkite School partners with Grambling State University to research emergency management resources at HBCUs

March 2, 2023

The Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, in partnership with the Department of Mass Communication at Grambling State University, is a recipient of a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) grant to assess emergency management resources and needs at the nation’s 103 Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs).

The research grant, awarded by FEMA’s National Training and Education Division/Higher Education Program, examines real-world challenges resulting in recommendations and solutions to complex problems. Exterior view of The Cronkite School building in downtown Phoenix. The Cronkite School, in partnership with the Department of Mass Communication at Grambling State University, is a recipient of a FEMA grant. FEMA grants support critical recovery initiatives, innovative research and many other programs, and are the principal funding mechanism FEMA uses to commit and award federal funding to eligible state, local, tribal, territorial, certain private nonprofits, individuals and institutions of higher learning. Download Full Image

“This baseline research will set the stage for creating a multidisciplinary Joint Information Center: Media & Strategy Lab. It links the assets of ASU, GSU and their partners that are dedicated to cutting-edge digital media training, execution and analysis,” said Cronkite Dean Battinto L. Batts Jr., who has a special investment in this project, given his own background as a dual HBCU graduate from Norfolk State University and Hampton University. “Building relationships with HBCUs is a strategic priority for the Cronkite School, to strengthen our enterprise of educating communicators that fully represent our communities and our society.”

At Cronkite, the project is guided by Cronkite Assistant Dean Dawn Gilpin and strategic communication faculty members Fran Matera and Juan Mundel. At Grambling, the project is directed by Ceeon Quiett Smith, chair of the Department of Mass Communication and Cronkite’s first African American PhD recipient in 2017. Matera served as Smith’s dissertation director.

“It is very exciting that the research that began seven years ago investigating JICS and emergency response communication at Cronkite has developed into an opportunity for GSU and ASU, supported by FEMA, to develop an innovative crisis communication system, with HBCUs at the center designed to provide a voice for and from rural and urban communities,” said Smith. “This is indeed a unique opportunity to create transformative educational content and build a sustainable partnership among HBCUs, ASU and FEMA.”

The JICMS Lab is projected to launch this summer.

ASU’s first chemistry PhD receives Milton K. Curry education award

Jesse W. Jones reflects on a legacy of dedication and inspiration

February 27, 2023

Intrepid, innovative and inspiring describe Jesse Jones, the first person to receive a PhD in chemistry from Arizona State University, in 1963.

Following his own successful academic career, Jones became a dedicated professor, helping to increase the number of minority students who when on to graduate school and medical school. Side-by-side portraits of ASU's first PhD recipient Jesse Jones. The portrait on the left is a young Jones in a cap and gown, while the portrait on the right is a more recent photo of an older Jones holding an award. Jesse Jones, ASU's first chemistry PhD recipient. Photos courtesy ASU's School of Molecular Sciences and Jesse Jones Download Full Image

This month, Jones was honored by a citywide group of ministers in his hometown of Dallas, Texas, who presented him with the Milton K. Curry education award.

A leap of faith

Jones came to ASU in 1958, invited by Roland K. Robbins, upon learning ASU would soon have new doctoral degrees. Married with three children at the time, Jones initially lived with his family in on-campus housing but had to move when it was torn down to make room for the construction of Gammage Auditorium.

Renting off-campus housing proved to be a challenge. After being denied housing multiple times in Tempe because of being Black, Jones and his wife took a “vacation” and went back to Texas with their children while he searched for a place to live so he could complete his education. Eventually, in faith, they packed up their car and headed back to Arizona, not knowing where they would live.

“We left east Texas without a place to stay,” Jones recalled. “At the time, we had three children. ... We were in contact with a realtor, and, as a graduate student, needed a place to stay with no money down. On the drive back, we would stop along the way and call the real estate agent, and he told us to come and there would be a place for us to stay. So on his word, we drove on and he showed us a place in Phoenix that became our home while I finished my degree at ASU.”

At ASU, Jones’ research focused on the chemistry of purines, which was an exciting area in organic chemistry at the time. After earning his PhD in 1963, Jones moved to Tyler, Texas, where he taught undergraduate chemistry at Texas College, a historically Black college.

The highlight of a career

Although he knew his research would suffer from his decision to move back to Texas, Jones felt it important to help others.

“The first hot plate we had was an old waffle iron,” Jones remembers of this time teaching at Texas College.

“Not having any graduate students was also a challenge. The work that we did was with undergraduates. In spite of that, we were funded by several grants, which allowed us to continue our research.

“We discovered that our students who went on to graduate school did much better in their research because of the scarcity of materials and the creativity they had to use out of necessity. At times, we would have to drive 100 miles from Tyler to Dallas in order to get chemicals. Things were not prepared and handed to our students, and that gave them an edge in terms of their research capability.”

Jones estimates that, at the time, they likely had more Black women majoring in chemistry than other major institutions around the country. Additionally, he helped to increase the number of minority students who when on to graduate school and medical school, which he considers to be a significant accomplishment.

“The success of my students is the highlight of my career,” Jones said, “because they would go on and transform their communities.”

Commitment to serving others

Community and family have been constant themes throughout Jones’ life.

“We had a philosophy that because our students came from disadvantaged areas, and at that time our children were getting old enough to begin thinking about college, we chose to live right in the community with similar conditions to the students we taught. If I should have expectations of my students to succeed, from whatever their backgrounds, the same conditions and expectations should be good enough for my children as well,” he said.

Jones and his wife had a total of seven children, and his devotion to chemistry and education can be seen in their lives. Six of their children majored in chemistry, and he had the privilege of teaching all six of them. Out of those six, two are physicians, two are college professors, one works for Exxon Mobil and one went into psychology. The seventh also has a successful career in real estate.

Jones continued his professional career at Bishop College from 1967 through 1988, where he was principal investigator on several projects, including the National Institutes of Health Minority Biomedical Research Program and a Department of Defense Contract involving the preparation of potential antimalarial drugs. Jones was the director of the Minority Institution Science Improvement Program and chair of the Division of Natural and Mathematical Sciences at Bishop College. In 1988, hired by Baylor University, Jones continued as a professor of chemistry until his retirement in 2021.

In addition to a fruitful academic career, Jones spent 15 years as an elected official in the Texas House of Representatives, where he provided leadership in his community, including on issues related to higher education.

“Successes in government are shared,” Jones said. “We had many successes over the years. I’m proud to have been the House sponsor for the creation of a state-supported school between Dallas and Austin, which became the University of North Texas at Dallas in 2009.”

An enduring example

Throughout his life, Jones has felt that he needed to take his share of the load by setting an example, whether with regard to civil rights, education or in his community. Jones has been an active member of Good Street Baptist Church since 1968, where he still uses his skills as a teacher. His oldest student is 107; some are in their 90s, and “a few youngsters” are in their 80s.

After receiving the Milton K. Curry education award this month, Jones reflected on the enduring importance of good teachers.

“Whatever success I’ve enjoyed is because I was given strong mentors throughout my career,” Jones said. “They set an example for me early in my career, nurtured me, and saw hope and promise. Students today need the same. They need someone they can look up to and admire.”

James Klemaszewski

Science writer, School of Molecular Sciences


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Arizona secretary of state discusses the importance of community

February 24, 2023

ASU alum Adrian Fontes spoke about his journey of service and education

Adrian Fontes, Arizona’s 21st secretary of state, joined students, faculty, staff and community members at The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Thursday evening for a conversation titled “From the Border to the State Capitol.” 

Fontes reflected on the impact of growing up in Nogales, Arizona, his journey of service and education, and what he sees for the future of the state of Arizona.

In attendance was Arizona State University Executive Vice President and University Provost Nancy Gonzales, who introduced the secretary. 

“I’m honored to join you for this special evening as we welcome Secretary Adrian Fontes back to ASU and to learn more about his life and journey,” Gonzales said. 

The Arizona native and ASU alum started the evening by sharing what it was like growing up in a border community.

“Growing up in Nogales is one of the most amazing experiences anybody could have, because sometimes the only way you knew which side of the border you were on was by looking at what flag was flying over the bank that you were closest to. It is the epitome of two worlds in one space,” Fontes said.

As a kid, Fontes said that they would speak English in the classroom and Spanish on the schoolyard. It also wasn’t unusual to go to a friend’s house and hear a grandmother speaking in Greek or Lebanese or Yiddish. He went on to share that it was a place where you were never more than a short walk away from a home where you would be welcome in. It was all about community.

Community is an important theme for Fontes, in his life and career, he said. His journey to service was built from his strong community ties and passion to give back.

Fontes's father was a yardmaster at the Southern Pacific railroad for 41 years; his grandfather also worked on the railroad in Tucson, Arizona, and served as mayor of Nogales for a period of time.

“I still think that the examples that I have from generations ago, or my grandfather or anybody else in a small town, it was about your community, your neighbors. Because the school board was a board that was interested in your neighbors’ kids, kids that we were on the same street with,” he said.

“Service is about giving, it’s about gratitude, it’s about paying back. If you’re lucky enough to be that generous, it comes back again to you.”

Adrian Fontes speaking at event while two ASU professors sit on stage next to him

Secretary of State Adrian Fontes addresses the audience during his talk “From the Border to the State Capitol.” He was joined on stage by ASU faculty members Kevin Correa and Irasema Coronado. Photo by Alwaleed Alrasbi/Arizona State University

Before attending college, Fontes served active duty in the United States Marine Corps from 1992 to 1996 and was nominated for a meritorious commission, which marks an individual’s outstanding service in the United States Armed Forces.

“One of the things that I learned in the Marine Corps that was more important than anything else was that it was this idea that we're, as a unit in our platoon, our drill instructors would tell us that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. And so the competition that we had in the platoon wasn't about necessarily being the best, although that was part of the competition, but it was also about being better than not being the worst, not being the guy that broke the chain, not being the link that broke the chain,” Fontes said.

After he left the Marine Corps, Fontes pursued several different programs at ASU but ultimately chose communication, with an emphasis on rhetoric and performance studies, with a long-term goal of becoming a trial lawyer. The ability to communicate well and tell stories connected with his future goals.

“Everything that you look at, everything that you study, all of our courses along the way are about stories. It's history, it's sociology, it's psychology, it's math, it's science, it's engineering; it's how we got to the moon, it's the cellphone in your pocket; it's all storytelling. And so that's what I discovered in the communication department. And when I did my thesis, it was about the journey. It was about a pilgrimage, which in and of itself is mixed in with so many different kinds of stories and storytelling,” he said.

Becoming a storyteller served him well. Fontes said that the exchange of ideas through storytelling is exactly what it means to be a good politician.

When asked what advice he had for students, he encouraged them to never be anything but authentic and true to themselves.

“Make your mistakes now. Have your adventures now. Reach out now. Dare now. Because if you take that straight-and-narrow path to a goal that you think you have in your mind right now, that's not where you're gonna end up,” he said.

“The single most important life lesson that I've learned, and I want all you young people — please, please, please pay attention; if you only pay attention to one thing, pay attention to this — do not compromise.

“It is so much easier to just be yourself and it's so much more fulfilling and gratifying... And if you're at that stage in your life where you just don't know, you're just not really sure who you are, take some time and figure it out. That's why you're in college; that's why you're doing your master's and your PhD. ... But no matter what, just be who you are.”

Fontes also responded to several audience questions during the evening, including what the most pressing issue facing Arizona is in the next election cycle.

“Water. That is the single most important issue. Bar none. We ain't got water (then) we don't have education, we don't have health care, we don't have child care, we don't have jobs, we don't have transportation, we don't have an economy, we don't have manufacturing, we don't have anything if we don't have water. It is literally elemental to the survival of our society, our civilization here in Phoenix. Water is number one.”

Lisa Magaña, associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion and professor in the School of Transborder Studies, led efforts to bring Fontes to campus for the conversation. Irasema Coronado, director of the School of Transborder Studies, and Kevin Correa, clinical assistant professor and president of ASU’s Chicano/Latino Faculty and Staff Association, joined Fontes for the evening’s conversation.

Secretary of State Adrian Fontes stands with ASU faculty and leadership.

From left: Kevin Correa, Irasema Coronado, Adrian Fontes, Lisa Magana and Nancy Gonzales joined students, staff, faculty and community members for a conversation titled “From the Border to the State Capitol.” Photo by Meghan Finnerty

Top photo: Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes joined students, faculty, staff and community members at The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Thursday evening for a conversation titled “From the Border to the State Capitol.” Photo by Meghan Finnerty

Allison Connell

Director, Marketing and Communications , The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

ASU’s Chamber Orchestra and DBR Lab concert celebrates Black composers

February 24, 2023

In celebration of Black History Month, the Arizona State University orchestras and DBR Lab will collaborate on a concert celebrating both contemporary and historical contributions made by Black composers.

The “Reflections of Hope” concert features spoken word, dance and music by the ASU Chamber Orchestra, Herberger Associate and Institute Professor Daniel Bernard Roumain, soprano and School of Music, Dance and Theatre MM alumna Yophi Adia Bost, MFA dance student Alecea Housworth and DMA conducting students Josef Sieber and Kara Piatt. Daniel Bernard Roumain playing a violin. The “Reflections of Hope” concert features spoken word, dance and music by ASU Herberger Associate and Institute Professor Daniel Bernard Roumain. Photo courtesy Daniel Bernard Roumain Download Full Image

The program includes Jessie Montgomery’s “I Want to Go Home,” a traditional Black spiritual set in a hybrid Gregorian chant/spiritual style, Quinn Mason’s moving “Reflections on a Memorial,” Julius Eastman’s minimalist masterpiece “Joy Boy,” Roumain’s ode to the civil rights work of Rosa Parks “Isorhythmiclationistic” and a premiere arrangement of Roumain’s powerful “They Still Want to Kill Us,” commemorating the 1921 Tulsa Massacre. There will be a post-concert discussion to conclude the evening.

“Although there is trauma referenced in the works we are performing, there is also hope, strength, solidarity and love,” said Jeffery Meyer, director of ASU Orchestras.

“‘Reflections of Hope’ is a uniquely collaborative event for our musicians,” Piatt said. “In cultivating this concert, we wanted to give the musicians opportunities to be involved in all aspects of the program. The sharing of perspectives at the heart of this concert with the musicians coordinates directly with the themes presented by the music — the desire to share experiences, to educate, to search for new possibilities in society and culture, and, most importantly, to connect with each other across all boundaries.”

Roumain’s work as a composer, performer, educator and activist spans more than three decades. Known for his signature violin sounds infused with electronic and African American music influences, he is a composer of chamber, orchestral and operatic works.  

“As a Black, Haitian American composer, I think about those liminal spaces where I feel my full, creative self,” Roumain said. “That space is ever-changing, between my body, emotions and dreams. I suspect there’s a liminal space between each of these works (performed) and the composers who wrote them, expressing power, pain, sexual identity, justice and injustice, freedom, life and death, and joy. And I can feel that the liminal space between all the contributors (students) on the program, the ASU Orchestra program and my own work as a collaborator with them is one of safety, security and trust.” 

Roumain has won an Emmy for Outstanding Musical Composition for his collaborations with ESPN; recently scored the film “Ailey” (directed by Jamila Wignot), which premiered at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival; scored “The Just and The Blind,” a collaboration with spoken word artist and writer Marc Bamuthi Joseph that was commissioned by Carnegie Hall; and is about to premiere a new work for the Lyric Opera of Chicago called “Proximity: The Walkers” in collaboration with the acclaimed actor/writer Anna Deavere Smith.

DBR Lab, founded by Roumain, is a class, collective and experience where individual ideas and group collaborations form a singular space where artists and audiences can engage and contribute. The Lab operates in close collaboration with DBR Music Productions and SOZO Artists, and is in residence at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at Arizona State University.

“Watching and listening to all of the contributors (students) engaged in the hard work of performing work by American composers who have been, and are still struggling to be seen and heard on our stages is a reminder of what makes our ASU Chamber Orchestra necessary, vibrant and vital — young people making music, message, magic and meaning together,” Roumain said.

ASU Chamber Orchestra Strings:
“Reflections of Hope and Home”
7:30 p.m., Feb. 27
Organ Hall
Free admission

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music, Dance and Theatre


ASU Thunderbird, city of Phoenix bring immersive, technology experience to Super Bowl fans

February 22, 2023

The Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, in collaboration with the city of Phoenix, presented "Phoenix: The Global City of the Future," an immersive technology-driven experience held Feb. 9–11.

The series of events featured extended reality (XR) assets, blending history and technology as participants interacted with digital content overlaid with the physical world, placing Phoenix in a new dimension. Super Bowl fans visiting the state-of-the-art Innovation Center at Thunderbird Global Headquarters. Super Bowl fans visiting the state-of-the-art Innovation Center at Thunderbird Global Headquarters. Photo courtesy Thunderbird School of Global Management Download Full Image

Thunderbird students, staff, Arizona residents and visitors from around the world explored downtown Phoenix through a cutting-edge augmented reality (AR) scavenger hunt.

Attendees were able to discover historical sites selected by a team of local historians to show the city as it was and where it is going, all powered by Thunderbird's technology.

The locations chosen for the AR scavenger hunt included the Rosson House Museum at Heritage Square, Orpheum Theatre, Hotel San Carlos, Burton Barr Library, Union Station in the Warehouse District and Thunderbird Global Headquarters.

"Thunderbird was honored to partner with the city of Phoenix to bring this augmented reality experience to our communities while highlighting Phoenix as the global city of the future," said Sanjeev Khagram, director general and dean of ASU Thunderbird. "As we welcomed guests from all over the world to Phoenix, we were able to showcase the best of what Phoenix and Thunderbird have to offer through a truly immersive and unforgettable visitor experience."

To access the extended reality content, attendees downloaded the VueXR app and scanned QR codes located throughout Thunderbird Global Headquarters and downtown Phoenix.

The Metaverse Lab at Thunderbird was also open, allowing attendees to turn themselves into digital avatars through volumetric capture technology. Over 70 participants were scanned, the most people to be volumetrically captured in a three-day period, according to Travis Cloyd, global futurist and professor of practice at Thunderbird.

"The future of user engagement with media is expanding beyond the 2D world and entering our 3D spatial environments," Cloyd said. "This shift is being driven by the continuous advancements in consumer hardware, mobile computing and augmented reality experiences that seamlessly integrate into our daily activities.”

WATCH: Thunderbird Extended Reality (XR) Fan Experience | XR Downtown Fan Experience

Thunderbird hosts special guests

During that week, Thunderbird hosted over 250 students from neighboring districts for Dream Hustle Code’s TechSlam event, as well as other local and national organizations, including the National Football League Alumni Association and ASU’s Learning Enterprise team.

"It was an honor to be a part of the festivities,” said Maria Anguiano, executive vice president of Learning Enterprise at ASU and recent recipient of the Inca Cola Community Empowerment Award. “A highlight was touring Thunderbird’s Innovation Center and Metaverse Lab, which showcased the best of our community's creativity in designing world-class learning experiences.” 

The state-of-the-art Innovation Center at Thunderbird Global Headquarters was also a major highlight, showcasing its advanced technology with guided tours in 4D immersive Positron chairs and digital games on its global collaboration tables. 

“More than 1,000 people across downtown experienced this future technology and learned more about the rich culture, history and innovation that is the fabric of Phoenix,” Mayor Kate Gallego said. “The augmented reality experience showcases where we have been and where we are going in a more immersive way. It was incredible to work with Thunderbird’s technology team to introduce residents and visitors to our city in such a unique way.”

In addition to experiencing the immersive technology, visitors were also treated to a special presentation featuring David Knower, a Thunderbird alumnus from the class of 1985 and the chairman of the advisory board of the European League of Football.

With many Thunderbird students in the audience, Knower discussed globalization in the NFL but also recalled his days as a T-bird and reflected on his own personal leadership philosophies.

“Work hard, play hard, people are your most important asset and communication — these are the three things I encourage our students to follow and try to exemplify. It will pay off in dividends,” Knower said.

“It was truly inspiring to hear (David Knower’s) story of how he has come so far from his days at Thunderbird and (developed) something that has revolutionized sport in Europe and especially football,” said Aaditya Ugale, a first-year Master of Global Management student.  

Former NFL players from around the world were also in attendance, including Sebastian Vollmer and Markus Kuhn, who were both born in Germany and went on to play in the NFL.

"David Knower epitomizes the T-bird spirit — smart, resourceful, globally aware and very successful,” said Chris Howard, executive vice president and chief operating officer of Arizona State University and an attendee at the event. “His presentation struck the perfect balance between personal reflection and gratitude coupled with a keen understanding of international business, finance and sport." 

Leading innovation

These technology-driven experiences pioneered by Thunderbird showcase the early stages of user experiences in augmented reality — and set a new standard for what’s to come.

“By displaying digital assets in their local environments, people from all over the world came together and witnessed the potential of this emerging technology," Cloyd said. 

According to Cloyd, ASU Thunderbird offered more than 100 augmented reality assets during the events, including over 35 standard AR assets, all providing an unforgettable and innovative experience for attendees via scanning markers or using GPS technology. 

This type of fan experience is one that Cloyd says will start to take off in a profound way. 

“I am proud of Thunderbird’s role in powering this experience for Phoenix and its visitors. I haven’t seen any other school do something like this. I look forward to our future events — even bigger and bolder — with the city of Phoenix and other organizations. Phoenix truly is the city of the future,” Cloyd said.


Dasi Styles

Senior Media Relations Officer, Thunderbird School of Global Management


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India ambassador visits with students, faculty to learn about ASU innovations

February 22, 2023

Taranjit Singh Sandhu got an up-close look at the university's science and classroom technologies

As the United States and India pledge to expand cooperation and technology partnerships between the two nations, an important figure in India recently received an up-close look at innovation at Arizona State University.

Taranjit Singh Sandhu, ambassador of India to the United States, met with top university leaders and toured key campus spots to learn about the latest in laser research, integrating virtual reality into classroom learning and ASU’s work to explore space.

With the largest university enrollment of degree-seeking students from India in the U.S., ASU is a critical partner in advancing knowledge and developing the workforce that will be needed as the two countries deepen their strategic collaborations. 

“In my tour of some of the cutting-edge facilities at ASU, as well as interaction with President Michael Crow and senior faculty, I could sense the confluence of access and excellence in education and innovation at the university,” Sandhu said. “It was also heartening to see the substantial presence of Indian students and faculty in key disciplines. I look forward to working with President Crow and team to strengthen the existing linkages that ASU has with India and explore new opportunities, especially those opened up by policy initiatives in India.”

The ambassador’s visit underscores the importance of the U.S.-India initiative on Critical and Emerging Technology (iCET), which was announced last year. The goal is to elevate and expand partnerships between the two governments, businesses and academic institutions.

Of particular interest are innovation, space, semiconductor supply chains, defense innovation and technology, next-generation telecommunications, and science, engineering and math talent. 

The ambassador’s interest in ASU also reflects the university’s deep commitment to global engagement. Consider:

• The influential 2022 Institute of International Education Open Doors Report listed ASU as the top public university in the U.S. for hosting international students, with more than 15,000 international students from 158 countries joining ASU in the 2021–22 academic year.

• That same year, the Times Higher Education ranked ASU No. 2 in the world for global impact.

• With more than 6,600 students from India enrolled in fall 2022, ASU is the top university home in the U.S. for students from India, ahead of the University of Texas, University of Illinois, New York University, Purdue and the Georgia Institute of Technology.

• More than 13,500 Indian students have participated in Optional Practical Training (OPT) since 2017, landing career relevant experience at leading U.S. corporations including Amazon, Intel, Microsoft, Google and Tesla, among others.

• ASU’s Indian alumni network exceeds 12,600 alumni, with more than 7,000 graduating in the past decade.

• ASU already has 11 academic partnerships with universities in India.

On his tour, Sandhu experienced highlights of ASU’s multidisciplinary excellence and student- and faculty-driven innovations.

He met with the director and students in the Luminosity Lab to learn about their city simulator project aimed at assisting policy makers in making data-driven decisions about Arizona's future. He toured the Biodesign Institute, learning about research into vaccines — including the key role of an Indian professor, Vel Murugan, at ASU that contributed to the university’s saliva-based COVID-19 test. He also received a first-hand look at a new compact X-ray light source (CXLS) instrument that will help scientists see deeper into matter and living things.

Over at the School of Earth and Space Exploration, Director Meenakshi Wadhwa discussed the interdisciplinary approach and strengths in combining science and engineering. She showed the ambassador the school’s capabilities, labs and resources for space exploration, including the mission operations area and high bay facilities for instrument and spacecraft assembly and testing. Students and faculty highlighted a six-legged rover, designed for NASA and developed to traverse the moon’s steep craters on scientific missions.

The ambassador then learned about Dreamscape Learn and how ASU’s immersive storytelling using virtual reality transforms the classroom experience.

Leaders from across the university, convened by Executive Vice President and University Provost Nancy Gonzales, joined the ambassador for an afternoon discussion on the mutual academic objectives of India and the United States. Academic leaders from colleges with large Indian student enrollments were present, including the Ira. A Fulton Schools of Engineering, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Thunderbird School of Global Management and the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Among the leaders in attendance was Minu Ipe, managing director and vice chair of ASU’s University Design Institute.

“It was inspiring to hear Ambassador Sandhu share India’s vision and initiatives in high-tech and education," Ipe said. "We are excited to explore collaborative opportunities through India's new National Education Policy."

Sandhu closed his visit with a meeting with ASU President Michael Crow to discuss philosophies on access and excellence, expanding access to higher education in India, and the growing partnership between the two countries. Commerce and education Minister Suja K. Menon and Stephen Mani, the first secretary to Ambassador Sandhu, joined the discussions.

“Arizona State University is proud to be a top choice for learners from India and an ally in innovation with Indian partners,” Crow said.  “It was an honor to share examples of our institutional commitment with Ambassador Sandhu and to delve into how we may work to build on our shared interests. We are excited to explore those prospects together.”

Some of ASU’s Indian students were able to meet the ambassador during his two-day tour, including Yashaswini Karanth, president of the Indian Student Association and a PhD candidate in material sciences.

“My interaction with Ambassador Sandhu was an insightful and impactful experience,” Karanth said. “Being in the presence of someone who was so grounded and had such a clear vision for the future was inspiring. He posed articulate questions regarding ASU’s endeavors at unifying excellency and accessibility.”

A particularly meaningful moment of the visit came when Karanth presented the ambassador with a bronze bell by Paolo Soleri, the famed Arizona artist and architect who dedicated his work to the advancement of sustainability. When presenting the gift, Karanth knelt to touch the ambassador’s feet to seek his blessing as she continues her doctoral studies. The gesture, an ancient sign of respect for elders in Indian culture, demonstrated the deep cultural roots that students from India maintain while they live and learn at ASU.

When reflecting on the visit, Karanth added, “The conversation was stimulating, and it was a tremendous honor to be in the room and get to be a small part of the conversation.” 

Gonzales said it “was an honor” to host Ambassador Sandhu, Minister Menon and First Secretary Mani.

“From our visit, it was evident that we share the goals of advancing leading-edge technology and knowledge, and expanding access to higher education for learners in India,” she said. “Our community of Indian students, alumni and scholars is robust, and ASU is committed to sharing knowledge and creating an intellectual environment that will enable them to thrive in their lives and careers.”

Top photo: Taranjit Singh Sandhu, the U.S. ambassador from India, greets Luminosity Lab students during his tour of ASU on Thursday, Feb. 16. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

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Keeping up with the Joneses: Culture, leadership and legacy at ASU

February 21, 2023

Father, son build multicultural legacy at university through student organizations, Greek life

Some leaders come by accident. Some are intentional.

Enter Alonzo Jones and Ahlias Jones.

Father and son. Brothers in fraternity. Cultivators of culture.

And it all happened here at Arizona State University, starting in the 1980s.

“I landed in a Black and nurturing space here at ASU,” says Alonzo “AJ” Jones, associate athletic director in Sun Devil Athletics, of his introduction to ASU in 1986.

“But I also grooved into the ASU experience intellectually and was well received by campus organizations, faculty and staff. ... Folks turned into mentors. I got involved in cultural organizations like S.T.A.R.S.Students Taking Action to Success (S.T.A.R.S.) was an ASU program that provided academic and social support to first-year Black students. that gave me a chance to build community, kinship and friendship among other freshmen who identified as Black. That created excitement and gave me my initial entry point to fraternity, particularly Alpha Phi AlphaAccording to its website, Alpha Phi Alpha is the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African American men. It was founded on Dec. 4, 1906, at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, by seven college men who recognized the need for a strong bond of brotherhood among African descendants in this country..” 

That’s AJ’s band of brothers. The Mu Eta chapter of the Greek letter organization came into being at ASU in 1976 — 70 years after the fraternity was first founded on the campus of Cornell University. Alpha Phi Alpha is the oldest intercollegiate Black fraternity in the United States, and, in over a century of existence, has become an incubator for leadership.

The fraternity stakes claim to a distinguished membership legacy that includes a who’s who of trailblazing Americans: abolitionist and intellectual Frederick Douglass; sociologist and historian W.E.B. Du Bois; U.S. Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall; Olympic track-and-field great Jesse Owens; and civil rights icon Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. — to name a few.

Joining the fraternity helped AJ find the emerging leader within himself, and he began doing the work. Before graduating from ASU with a degree in justice studies and moving on to Texas State for his graduate degree in developmental education, AJ was a featured speaker at the inaugural meeting for what is now the Black African Coalition at ASU — the organization his son Ahlias would take leadership of 30 years later.

“The community chooses the leader, not necessarily the other way around," says AJ, who now guides life skills programming for student-athletes and motivates as a speaker and coach. "I think there are many ways to be a leader. I’m more comfortable organically but I have much respect for intentionality.”

Intentionality is more descriptive of the leadership style of Ahlias, AJ’s fifth child and fourth to attend ASU. Since beginning his ASU journey in 2020 at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, Ahlias has dived into leadership roles that speak to his passion for culture and education.

While studying secondary education at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and working as a preschool teacher, Ahlias also serves as president of the Black African Coalition, president of ASU’s National Pan-Hellenic Council, vice president of the Mu Eta chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha Incorporated, and vice president of the newly formed Black Educators and Mentors.

“I was definitely different (than my dad). I sought out the position (as a leader),” Ahlias says. “I’m a visionary person. I have a lot of ideas and I want to see these come to fruition. For me, the best way to do that is to be in the leadership room; … ‘in the room where it happens“The Room Where it Happens” is the title of a song featured in the hit Broadway musical "Hamilton.",’ like they said in ‘Hamilton.’”  

Ahlias was on a leadership track even before he got to ASU, having received a pair of prestigious scholarships in his senior year of high school — the Leadership Scholarship and the ASU Alumni Association Medallion Scholarship.

“In my freshman year, we would meet and talk about how to be a better leader, how to be of service, how to understand what our strengths are and how to make an impact on the community,” Ahlias says. “Having these classes early in my college career kind of lit a fire under me. It pushed me to get involved in other student organizations.”

The first organization Ahlias got involved with when he arrived at ASU was Alpha Phi Alpha — just like his dad. He was a standing member in his first semester, then ascended to president his second semester. He is already making plans to pursue a master's degree in educational leadership and policy at Howard University after he graduates from ASU.

Naturally, AJ is a proud father. He says Ahlias has accomplished much more and in a shorter period of time than he did in his years at ASU.

“I’m a mad proud dad with my son,” AJ said in a recent exchange with Ahlias. “And you’re at the beginning. You’re going to be, in my mind, an innovative leader … from the way you’ve handled leadership positions from high school to now at ASU — and it was at the jump! They’ve been calling you Mr. President.”

Ahlias politely corrected him.

“It’s more like Mr. ASU now,” Ahlias said, smiling. “Mr. ASU is the new moniker.”

Hear more of what they had to say about culture, leadership and legacy in ASU's Golden Conversations video series.


ASU News reporter Marshall Terrill contributed to this story. Top photo by Chloe Merriweather and Enrique Lopez

Suzanne Wilson

Sr. Media Relations Officer , ASU Media Enterprise


Annual community activist forum and festival returns to ASU with a new location

February 21, 2023

Tempe, Arizona-based volunteer organization Local to Global Justice is excited to be returning to Arizona State University for their 22nd Annual Forum and Festival, an event that includes a weekend of workshops, spoken word performances, live music and keynote speakers, along with a community solidarity action focused on energizing justice.

This event, sponsored by ASU's School of Social Transformation, the Graduate and Professional Student Association, the Undergrad Student Government (USG) and private donations, will be held Feb. 24–25 at a new location from past years: Ross-Blakley Hall and Armstrong Hall on the Tempe campus. The event is open to the public and offers free healthy food, including a vegan Navajo feast on Friday night and catering from Green New American Vegetarian on Saturday for lunch. Aerial shot of Local to Global Justice event showing people sitting at tables inside an event hall. The Local to Global Justice "Energizing Justice" event will take place Feb. 24–25 on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo courtesy Local to Global Justice Download Full Image

“This annual free event has long provided a welcoming space to bring community activists together with students and others on campus,” says Beth Blue Swadener, a co-founder and an organizer of the event for the past two decades and professor emeritus at the School of Social Transformation. 

This year’s theme is "Energizing Justice." Students, community members and education leaders alike are encouraged to register for the free event for Friday and Saturday.

“This event focuses on both how to energize activists for the many different social justice issues facing us today, but also how energy systems are transforming our collective relationships to the natural and human-built world, from complex geopolitical issues, like the war in Ukraine, to local renewable energy efforts,” says Jennifer Richter, co-director of the event and an assistant professor in both the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and the School of Social Transformation. 

The forum and festival begins at 5:30 p.m. Friday evening, Feb. 24, at Armstrong Hall Rotunda with a free Navajo vegan feast catered by Mario Etsitty and a musical performance by the talented duo Carmen and Zarco Guerrero. There will be storytelling and poetry performances by Joy Young, a spoken word artist and current graduate student in the justice studies program. The evening will come to a close with an open mic where attendees are encouraged to share their own poems and stories with the community.

On Saturday, Feb. 25, the day begins at 9:30 a.m. with registration, snacks and a chance to visit some of the many community group tables. Panel presentations from scholar-activists and community activists get underway at 10 a.m. in the Ross Blakley Hall and Armstrong Hall.

Youth activists will also be in abundance at this year's forum and festival, with a youth-led keynote panel scheduled for 10:30 a.m. on Saturday, as well as a youth workshop and tabling for several organizations that will feature local and statewide student activists.  

The youth-led keynote panel, “Activism without the Binary,” will feature Ledge (Flagstaff), and Dawn Shim and Kanix Gallo of Support Equality AZ Schools, based in Chandler. This group has organized a protest at Chandler City Hall, school walkouts and, most recently, a demonstration at the state capitol in protest of anti-trans legislation.

Panel members describe their discussion by noting that “as community justice movements often revolve around and impact young people the most, we as young people have become a rallying cry for progression. Alongside sweeping national and local movements, young people have always emerged as a tapestry of lived experiences with a connecting thread of optimism.

"This panel, with a collaboration between the high school student-run initiative Support Equality AZ Schools and young queer visionaries, will unpack pervasive assumptions regarding the binaries that we build around ourselves and our advocacy, which reflect black-and-white thinking and generalizations. Through a collaborative and interactive discussion, we will envision a structure of people-driven advocacy that swaps the binaries for a spectrum.”

Interactive afternoon workshops include “Sacred Earth: Common Ground Storytelling,” “Community-led science: Building an open-source 'virtual nose' to detect ambient pollutants,” “Students Are Our NOW, Not Only Our Futures,” and “Becoming JustBodies: Exploring Abolition and Emancipation through Play and Creative Expression.”

“Students are our NOW, not only our futures” will be facilitated by Hayden Nguyen from Support Equality AZ Schools. When asked about the workshop, Hayden said, “Young people are at the forefront of some of the most pressing issues in America today. This is especially apparent within queer and trans justice movements, in which young LGBTQ folk are not only hit by legislative blows but also within intersectional issues of poverty, mental health and reproductive justice. Yet there is a disproportionate lack of visibility of young people at the table weighing into decisions that we are on the front lines of. As a community initiative entirely organized, run and operated by high schoolers for other young people, we will explore venues of youth-directed, people-driven change and the history of institutional powers that have made it difficult to do so.”

A free vegan lunch on Saturday will be catered by Green New American Vegetarian while Walt Richardson will offer song and storytelling stylings in the Armstrong Rotunda, with Bobby Johnson DJ’ing through lunch as well. The event includes a plenary panel at 1 p.m. in Armstrong Hall L1-30 and ends with workshops focused on skill-sharing and hands-on experiences. The keynote panel this year features:

  • Jen Richter, a scholar-activist and professor in the School of Social Transformation and School for the Future of Innovation in Society, who will give an overview of the idea of energy justice and socio-energy design.

  • Mariia Vitrukh, a doctoral candidate in education policy and evaluation at ASU, who will be discussing how Ukrainians are managing their daily lives in the midst of war.

  • Jorge Morales, a PhD student from the School of Sustainability, who will be discussing his research on energy transitions in Mexico, with a focus on Indigenous communities, as well as his volunteer work with Chispa. Morales is also a former student leader of Local to Global Justice.

  • Nora Timmerman, a teacher-scholar, parent, organizer, gardener, dancer and desert rat who works as an associate teaching professor in sustainable communities at Northern Arizona University, who will be speaking about ecological justice and scholarly activism.

Attendees are welcome to bring nonperishable food items and personal care products for donation to the mutual aid group NOURISHPhoenix on either day of the event. More detailed program information, registration and background on Local to Global Justice and its past events are available on their website at Donations are welcomed to help ensure that this program remains free and open to the public for years to come.

Julianne Culey

Communications Specialist, Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology