Excellent adventure: Student sees life through Ghanaian eyes

January 6, 2011

There is a Ghanaian proverb that advises, “When you are sitting in your own house, you don’t learn anything. You must get out of your house to learn.” Vinita Quinones, a graduate student in ASU’s New">http://newcollege.asu.edu/">New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences social justice and human rights master’s program has seen the proof of this with her own eyes.

She literally has gotten out of her own house and learned. She has learned with a capital “L,” and the classroom was not limited to four walls – it was central Ghana; the lessons took place during a recent Fulbright-Hays Group Project Abroad scholarship program. Quinones was joined by fellow New College grad students Paul Bork and Ted Novak; faculty members Duku Anokye, Charles St. Clair and Les Irwin; and a group of Valley teachers who travelled to and around Ghanaian towns and villages for 28 days. Download Full Image

“When I enrolled in the social">http://newcollege.asu.edu/graduate/degrees/sjhr">social justice and human rights program (MASJHR), I simply imagined continuing my educational career,” said Quinones, who received her undergraduate degree in sociology in 2005 from ASU’s College">http://clas.asu.edu/">College of Liberal Arts and Sciences on the Tempe campus. “Well, my journey of discovery took on a new dynamic and experiential dimension in Ghana. Our travels provided us the opportunity to learn about the culture, people, language, spirituality, tradition and rich history. The access to full immersion in the culture provided invaluable insight that has opened a gamut of information to be further explored and developed.”

The group landed in Ghana’s capital city of Accra, a metropolis of nearly two million people located on the Gulf of Guinea. For the next four weeks they travelled into and through Accra, Kumasi, Cape Coast and Takoradi; from these locations they ventured into neighboring sites, towns and villages. The focus of the project – “Stories from the Other Side” – was to collect interviews that would shed light on the impact of the trans-Atlantic slave trade that marked centuries of injustice on a global scale.

“The journey allowed us to connect historical and indigenous forms of slavery in Ghana to contemporary issues of human trafficking within the region,” said Quinones, who hopes to eventually enter the workforce as an advocate of children’s rights in a setting that addresses global issues. “As a young and aspiring human rights worker, I feel this experience has contributed to my personal and professional consciousness and my commitment to serving others.”

Quinones’ consciousness has been nurtured over a short lifetime and many miles. Born in Bloomington, Ind., she was raised in St. Croix in the U.S. Virgin Islands. She returned to the States in 1996 after convincing her mother to let her join her brother and sister in Arizona where her sister had enrolled at Northern Arizona University and later transferred to ASU. She had completed her high school freshman year in St. Croix, where she was active in cultural/traditional dance, including moko jumbie – stilts walking/dancing. Once landed in the Valley of the Sun, she enrolled at Tempe McClintock High School and immediately expanded her learning opportunities, participating in a business internship in the Tempe Police Criminal Investigation Division and joining such extracurricular campus groups as the Unity Club, Close Up, Black Student Union, National Art Honor Society and Capoeira. She also earned athletic letters while competing on the Chargers basketball and track and field teams.

Following her graduation from ASU in 2005, Quinones served in Honduras as a Youth Development Volunteer from 2006 to 2008. During her time in the Central America republic, she worked with youth, community leaders and educators in a variety of settings, collaborating with community members to develop a variety of service programs and helping implement programs through the local library while facilitating activities with local youth.

In Ghana, Quinones and company pursued oral histories from families left behind during the slave trade.  They familiarized themselves with the realities of human trafficking and modern-day slavery in the region.  They recorded in writing and on film the stories provided by villagers, community leaders, activists and non-governmental organizations.

They gained, said Quinones, a better understanding of the impact of the slave system on the Ghanaian people.
“During our trip we visited several historical sites – castles, forts and museums,” she noted. “These are the physical structures that are evidence of the magnitude of the slave trade, structures associated with the trade that still hold significant relevance to the nation’s identity.

“In my personal conversations with Ghanaians, it was interesting to learn about individual historical accounts, their connections to the bigger national history and the remembrance of the slave trade. The content found in the conventional educational setting and the oral family histories and traditions was like vicariously living their incredible journey. What truly captured my imagination were the connections between familial and national remembering.”

Anokye, a New College associate professor in the Division">http://newcollege.asu.edu/harcs">Division of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies, has travelled to Ghana nearly a dozen times, collecting oral histories and studying Ghanaian culture, religion, storytelling, and dance. She said the Ghana experience was a clear reflection of the MASJHR program.

“When I think of students in the MASJHR degree program, I think of activists,” said Anokye, a sociolinguist, whose research focuses on African Diaspora orality and literacy practices, folklore, discourse analysis and oral history. “These students are not waiting to graduate to become involved in making social change occur. Vinita, if she had lived in the 60s, would have been in the streets, marching and inciting to get people involved. She has very important leadership qualities that she is discovering, and the program facilitates that kind of growth and involvement.”

The trip could have a lasting impact not only on Quinones and her travel group, but also on the greater education landscape: four teachers from Betty H. Fairfax High School and another from Starlight Park Elementary School were on board and brought their own special talents to the trip. The teachers and the Ghana participants will develop K-12 curriculum materials, a monograph and a documentary video based on their research.

“The trip provided us the opportunity to collaborate closely with these amazing teachers,” said Quinones. “Our hope is that our efforts will contribute to a promotion of a global consciousness by incorporating these themes on multiple levels in the American education system. We hope that through the creation of a curriculum that embraces a global identity, future students will be able to look beyond distance and borders to embrace humanity.”

What might that curriculum look like?  Quinones offered: “I envision it as a curriculum that to some degree illustrates cultural, social and political awareness; content that provides the opportunity for students to connect personal experiences and outlook to people of different cultures and regions.”

She added, “From an MASJHR perspective I hope that in an age of increasing global ties through technology, mass media and communication, these can be tools used to increase civic and civil participation – teaching students about the realities of the world and giving them the tools to contribute to the changes they would like to see. This allows the next generation to look beyond borders to get to the core of societal ills, rather than focusing on issues from an individualistic or nationalist sense.”

At the end of the day, Quinones is grateful for the chance to experience a different culture and learn from those living it. She appreciates the full immersion that came with the summer program and looks forward to the chance – somewhere down the line – to incorporate education as a preventative mechanism to stimulate change. And she knows now the program has changed her. She also has come to expect no less from New College and the social justice and human rights program.

“What really captured my attention in New College was the human rights and advocacy component, both domestic and trans-national,” she said. “I was drawn by the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and skills in non-profit management, and the focus on the interdisciplinary approach.

“As graduate students, we are exposed to best practices in the field from more than one discipline. It allows us to understand the issues through a broader lens. Personally, I value this approach because I need to see the bigger picture; it just illustrates the interconnectedness of what we do. It promotes a degree of flexibility and creativity in the ability to pull from a variety of resources, which helps to strengthen programs and meet the needs of the community and/or the organizations served.”

Spoken like someone who has left the house…and learned.

Steve Des Georges

'I Have a Dream' speech reenactment highlights MLK Week activities

January 5, 2011

A 20-year tradition at Arizona State University’s West campus will continue Wednesday, Jan. 19, at 11 a.m. as Charles St. Clair reenacts Martin Luther King, Jr.’s most famous speech. The public is invited to attend this and two other free events as part of the campus’s annual celebration of King’s legacy and the civil rights movement.

St. Clair, a faculty member in ASU’s http://newcollege.asu.edu/" target="_blank">New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, is the newly announced recipient of the 2011 Promoting Inclusiveness Award from the city of Glendale. The annual award is designed to recognize those who “go beyond the scope of their jobs to promote inclusiveness in their actions, and exhibit qualities that are consistent with the ideals advocated by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” He will receive recognition during the http://www.glendaleaz.com/unityday/index.cfm" target="_blank">2011 Unity Day Luncheon, Jan. 14 at the Glendale Civic Center. Download Full Image

On the 19th, St. Clair will deliver the “I Have a Dream” speech as part of the West campus’s annual March on West event. More than 1,000 students from 11 local elementary and middle schools will come to campus that morning to reenact the 1963 March on Washington, which provided the setting for King’s speech. Prior to the march, students will gather in smaller groups to learn about important civil-rights era milestones.

“It’s an honor to share this unforgettable speech with a group of young people,” said St. Clair, who arrived at ASU’s West campus in 1990 and first presented King’s famous speech in 1991. “You never know who will be inspired to do great things by hearing Dr. King’s powerful message of harmony among all people.”

Arriving school children will be greeted by the drum corps from Independence High School, whose members will lead the students in a march around campus to the Fletcher Library lawn. The event also will feature performances by the musical group Elevated Unda’Ground.

On Thursday, Jan. 20, the celebration continues with the screening of “Mountains That Take Wing: Angela Davis and Yuri Kochiyama – A Conversation on Life, Struggles and Liberation.” This film was produced and directed by ASU professors C.A. Griffith and H.L.T. Quan. The screening, at 5 p.m. in the Kiva Lecture Hall, will be preceded by a reception at 4:30 and followed by a question-and-answer session with the filmmakers. In addition to helping commemorate MLK Week, this event also is part of the New College ThinK (Thursdays in the Kiva) series on the West campus.

MLK Week activities wrap up on Friday, Jan. 21, with the Poetry Jam. Sponsored by the Black Graduate Student Association, this event features the theme “The Evolution of his Dream…in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.” Performers include Elevated Unda’Ground. The Poetry Jam, at 7 p.m. in the Kiva, is billed as “an evening of poetic, lyrical, soulful expressions and multimedia presentations of how Dr. King’s dream impacts and motivates us as artists.” The evening’s activities start with a reception at 6:30.

Attendees at these events are encouraged to bring non-perishable food items for the MLK Food Drive. Collected food items will be donated to local food banks. There will be several collection sites around campus, including Fletcher Library.

For more information, call (602) 543-5300.

24 Ariz. schoolchildren win MLK poster-essay contest

January 5, 2011

Twenty-four schoolchildren from around the state have won awards in ASU’s annual Martin Luther King Jr. poster-essay contest. They will receive savings bonds and prize ribbons from ASU President Michael Crow at a celebration breakfast Jan. 20, in the Memorial Union, on the Tempe campus.

Attorney Herb Ely, an activist for civil rights, will receive the 2011 MLK Servant-Leadership Award. Alex Wilson, a senior in kinesiology, will receive the student Servant Leadership Award. Download Full Image

All the winning posters will be displayed at the event, and four children will read their first-place essays to the group. Also invited to the awards ceremony are their parents and teachers. About 1,700 children entered the contest, each describing someone they know who leads through service to others.

The posters will be on display through January in the Tempe campus Memorial Union and the Polytechnic campus Student Union. Winning posters and essays can be viewed online soon at http://www.asu.edu/mlk.


The contest categories are primary, grades K-2; intermediate, grades 3-5; middle, grades 6-8; and secondary, grades 9-12. Following is a list of winners.

Mesa: The primary poster category, once again, was swept by second-graders from Franklin Northeast Elementary. Miriah Montoya won first place; Nathan Weldon, second; and Jonathon Jones, third. Six other students from Franklin Northeast won in the essay competition; in the primary category, second grader Miriah Montoya won first place; Brooke Shinkle, second grade, won second; and Brady MacLay, second grade, won third. In the intermediate category, Annie Ethington, fourth grade, won first; and Jenah Park and Tanner Payne, both fifth-graders, won second and third, respectively. Another Mesa student, sixth-grader Abigail Felgemaker of Franklin South Elementary, won first-place essay in the middle-school category.

Scottsdale: The secondary category essay competition was dominated by sophomores from Chaparral High School. Rachel Burbidge won first place; Allysan Breece, second; and Ema Shgalsi, third. Scottsdale students also won prizes in the middle school essay category. Sanket Bhagat, seventh-grader at Ingleside Elementary, received second place; and Rachel Jeffries, eighth-grader at Mountainside Middle School, won third place. In the poster competition, Ryann Thomas, third-grader at Sequoyah Elementary, won second in the intermediate category; and Elyse Rangel and Phillip Do, seventh-graders at Ingleside, won first and third place, respectively, for middle school.

Gilbert: Amanda Bivians, senior at Gilbert Early College in the LEAD charter schools, won first place poster in the secondary category.

Paradise Valley: Taylor Elton, third-grader at Sonoran Sky Elementary, won first place poster in the intermediate category.

Deer Valley: Hannah Leber, ninth-grader at Mountain Ridge High School, won second place poster in the secondary category.

Cartwright District: Irving Lamadrid, fourth-grader at Manuel Pena Elementary, won third place poster in the intermediate category.

Washington District: Adriana Andrade, sixth-grader at Royal Palm Middle School, won second place poster in the middle school category.

St. Johns: Amanda Valles, junior at St. Johns High School, won third place poster in the secondary category.

Helping middle schools improve science, engineering education

January 5, 2011

Networking group will provide resources and training to enhance teaching of mathematics and technological subjects

Arizona State University is launching an effort to improve science, mathematics and engineering education for Arizona’s youngsters and teens.

STEMnet – the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Network – will kick off Jan. 25 with the first of a series of events to introduce middle school and high school teachers to cutting-edge research in STEM fields and to innovative courses, classroom activities and teaching methods.

STEMnet’s goal is to establish a teacher-driven professional development community through which ASU’s researchers working in STEM fields and STEM education specialists can establish relationships and share knowledge with Arizona’s secondary educators.
“There are many middle school and high school teachers who want to become better prepared to teach science, mathematics and engineering. With STEMnet we want to provide them the resources to deepen their knowledge in the STEM disciplines,” says James Middleton, a professor of mathematics education in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.
The network will connect secondary education teachers with faculty members in many of ASU’s schools, colleges and research centers – including the engineering schools, the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, the School of Life Sciences, the School of Earth and Space Exploration, the Global Institute of Sustainability and the Center for Research on Education in Science, Mathematics, Engineering and Technology.
“We have a lot of STEM research and education talent at ASU. Teacher professional development and educational innovation are among our great strengths,” says Colleen Megowan, an assistant professor of science education in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

“This initiative is meant to improve the quality of STEM education in Arizona’s K-12 schools by helping university researchers and K-12 teachers connect,” she says. “Our aim is to embed K-12 STEM educators in the ASU community—to improve their access to ASU’s to intellectual resources and opportunities for professional growth.”
STEMnet is supported by a portion of the funding from a $1.25 million National Science Foundation grant awarded to ASU in 2009.

The Innovation through Institutional Integration grant has been used to establish the Modeling Institute, which is designed to give K-12 teachers access to STEM education and research programs.

The institute has launched a master of natural science degree program in science, technology, engineering and mathematics for elementary and middle school teachers.
The institute also is seeking to expand the Summer College-for-Kids program it began in 2010. The program brings middle school students together with ASU scientists and engineers to learn the basics in areas such as computer game design, physical computing and sustainability science.  The institute’s leaders hope to have at least 250 students participate each summer.
For more information on the upcoming STEMnet meeting or to register to attend the workshops or banquet, visit http://modelit.asu.edu or e-mail megowan@asu.edu

A second meeting is scheduled for May 17. By the fall, STEMnet leaders expect to begin organizing three networking meetings each year.
# # #

Colleen Megowan, megowan@asu.edu
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College
Division of Teacher Preparation
(480) 727-7074

James Middleton, james.middleton@asu.edu
Professor of mathematics education
School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy
(480) 965-9644; (480) 965-3291

Joe Kullman, joe.kullman@asu.edu
(480) 965-8122 direct line
(480) 773-1364 mobile

Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
Arizona State University
Tempe, Arizona  USA
Download Full Image ">http://engineering.asu.edu/

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Cross Talk Series at West shares new philosophy, new look of ASU's Office of Equity & Inclusion

January 4, 2011

The 2011 Cross Talk Series at Arizona State University’s West campus begins on Jan. 20 and features Kamala Green, senior director of the university’s http://asunews.asu.edu/20100923_kamalagreen" target="_blank">Office of Equity & Inclusion (OEI).

The series, sponsored by the http://www.west.asu.edu/cet/" target="_blank">West campus Campus Environment Team (CET), is designed to create an opportunity for faculty, staff, administration and students to hear about different organizations, departments, programs and key individuals affiliated with ASU. Download Full Image

 “We have so many people and programs working diligently to promote and implement ASU’s focus on inclusion,” said Margot Monroe, a senior human resources consultant for six years at the West campus, and current CET chair. “The Cross Talk Series allows us the unique chance to bring people together and to introduce to them the many opportunities and services provided by the university.”

The Jan. 20 kickoff will focus on the “new look and philosophy” of OEI (formerly ASU’s Office of Diversity), the ASU work environment, current hiring practices and equity and inclusion on all four ASU campuses (Tempe, West, Polytechnic and Downtown Phoenix). Green will answer questions that can be submitted at the door or from the floor or, prior to the event, via email to mailto:Jenny.Davis@asu.edu" target="_blank">Jenny.Davis@asu.edu. Attendees are encouraged to bring their lunches and enjoy refreshments on hand in the University Center Building’s (UCB) La Sala A. The Cross Talk is from 11:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m.

Green, who joined OEI in September, boasts 15 years of management experience, including 11 years on the human resources leadership team at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California. She will lead ASU’s diversity initiatives while working with university units to address and resolve issues and promote a positive work environment.

“From my perspective, this series is extremely important for faculty, staff and students to feel engaged,” said Green. “It will help them better understand concerns and issues which may arise on campus and how they are addressed, as well as the opportunity to exchange ideas on how to improve communication and processes.

“This series will open the door for networking and sharing best practices; it also presents the possibility of developing new working relationships.”

Upon her joining ASU, Kevin Salcido, ASU associate vice president and chief human resources officer, noted of Green, “Kamala brings great experience working in a challenging, dynamic research enterprise and has a strong passion for diversity. She will be invaluable in facilitating the university’s hiring, promotion, development and pay practices to ensure they are as free of bias as possible, and will lead in the creation and delivery of training in building inclusive, discrimination-free work environments at ASU.”

“The development of this office is exciting, given all the possibilities as we move into the expansion of equity and inclusion at ASU,” said Green. “Diversity is viewed or defined by most as ‘race and gender’ focused, but it’s much bigger than these two very important areas. Once you have diversified your workforce, it is imperative that the institution is inclusive of resources, professional development, employment practices and more in order to retain great talent. We need to continue to find new and meaningful ways to increase morale and maintain a safe and comfortable work environment.

“The philosophy is clear – we are here to serve our clients.”

Green said she hopes a better understanding of her office’s role at the university and in the lives of its campus communities will be the result of her visit to the West campus.

“We want the ASU community to be familiar with the various functionalities that OEI maintains,” she noted. “The audience will be able to ask questions regarding hiring practices, employment practices and how the OEI is different from the former Office of Diversity.

“This office is a neutral party for addressing, investigating and resolving workplace issues. Neutrality is an important element we want everyone to understand. Additionally, I want to share with those in the audience how much we will collaborate with all ASU colleges, departments, units, including all levels of staff. In order for this office to succeed, my team must develop and maintain excellent working relationships with the university clients we serve.”

For more information on Cross Talk, contact Jenny Davis at 602-543-8400 or via email at mailto:Jenny.Davis@asu.edu" target="_blank">Jenny.Davis@asu.edu.

After the Jan. 20 Cross Talk at the West campus, the Series will return to the Tempe campus on Feb. 23, 12-1:30 p.m., in Memorial Union, Room 240.  The topic, "Popular Culture and the Construction of Reality," will feature David Altheide, ASU Regents Professor and faculty member in the http://sst.clas.asu.edu/" target="_blank">School of Social Transformation, and Matt Newman, assistant professor in the Division of Social and Behavioral Sciences in ASU’s http://newcollege.asu.edu" target="_blank">New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.


Steve Des Georges

Bridging technological and philosophical worlds

January 4, 2011

Mastering engineering requires learning to engage in rigorous and precise thinking. Zachary Pirtle’s studies in the field took him even further – beyond a focus on the technological into deeper inquiry in a more fundamental realm.

“Engineering led me to philosophy,” says Pirtle, who earned bachelor’s degrees in mechanical engineering and philosophy at Arizona State University in 2007. He followed that with a master’s degree in civil and environmental engineering from ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering in 2009.

He’s considering pursuit of a Ph.D. in philosophy of science or public policy in the future.

While still an undergraduate, Pirtle pursued interests in technology and philosophical questions both in and outside the classroom, and he’s continuing endeavors in both areas as he begins his career.

As an undergrad, he worked with the Center for Nanotechnology and Society at ASU, which explores the societal ramifications of the emergence of nanotechnology.

In his undergraduate honors thesis he examined issues involved in aligning public policy to guide nanotechnology research in accord with the goals and principles of a democratic system of government.

While in graduate school he earned a prestigious Fulbright scholarship that enables top students to study and do research abroad. He used it to spend much of the 2008-2009 academic year in Mexico, where he contributed to public discourse on the social and cultural impacts that the rise of nanotechnology could potentially have on that country.

Diverse set of skills

Pirtle later earned a graduate fellowship to work with the National Academy of Engineering in Washington, D.C. There he supported the academy’s Center for Engineering, Ethics and Society. He researched and wrote about the potential societal implications of converting the nation’s power systems to “green” renewable-energy technologies.

He then worked as a consultant in the Washington, D.C. office of ASU’s Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes, where he authored a report that detailed the consensus among experts on the direction the country should take in developing innovative energy policies.

In July of 2010, he began working as a Presidential Management Fellow at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). As part of the Exploration Systems Mission Directorate, he’s applying his engineering and policy training to support new technology development projects NASA is undertaking to expand humanity’s reach into space.

“The only reason I’m able to bounce around among these various fields is because of the interdisciplinary education I got at ASU,” Pirtle says. “Being able to combine engineering and philosophy was very enriching. It’s given me a broader perspective, and people value that diverse set of skills. It’s going to greatly affect what I can contribute to society during my career.”

Looking at the bigger picture

His job at NASA “is more on the technical side for now, but I hope to find a way to keep contributing to science policy and philosophy,” he says.

Already he’s written an">http://books.google.com/books?id=6SI-1CdEAHcC&printsec=frontcover#v=... article published in a new book, Philosophy and Engineering: An Emerging Agenda,
and co-authored an">http://www.ryanmeyer.org/home/Pirtleetal2010.pdf">an article in the journal Environmental Science & Policy on climate modeling.

His training in the environmental area stems from research he conducted in the Center for Earth Systems Engineering and Management at ASU, directed by engineering professor Braden Allenby.

Pirtle says Allenby “is one those engineers who can think far outside of the box.”  He credits Allenby – along with mentors at the Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes and the Center for Nanotechnology and Society – for training him to look at the bigger picture, beyond the merely technical challenges of engineering and science.

Prospective and current ASU students “should know the university offers opportunities to combine education in things like engineering and social sciences or the humanities,” he says. In his case, “philosophy helped me understand engineering better,” he says.

“Zach is one of those challenging students who make you glad that you’re a professor,” Allenby says. “He was a joy to teach, because his intellectual curiosity always drove him further than he had to go.” 

Bridging two worlds

Pirtle is “among the rare people who are able to succeed in varied disciplines, and pursue those interests in both academic work and outside the classroom,” says Jameson Wetmore, an assistant professor in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

Wetmore, who studied both engineering and philosophy on his way to earning a Ph.D. in science and technology studies, often counseled Pirtle.

“Because of the example Zach set, many engineering students brought themes from the social sciences into their honors theses projects,” Wetmore says, “and he is continuing to bridge those two worlds in his career in Washington, D.C., a place where that bridge is crucially needed.”

Pirtle’s interest in the dual course of study was sparked while fulfilling a humanities requirement he had as a student in ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College.

In a philosophy of science course taught by Richard Creath, a professor in the School of Life Sciences in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Pirtle found it “really eye-opening to think about these deeper questions” about what constitutes knowledge and how we put it to use in science and engineering.

Intellectual road map

His interest in engineering has roots in the family lineage. His grandfather, Albert Pirtle, studied math at the Arizona State Teacher’s College – the precursor to ASU – before becoming an architectural detailer. His father, Randall Pirtle, an ASU grad, has been working in engineering at Honeywell Aerospace for more than 25 years. His brother, Trevor Pirtle, earned a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering from ASU and now works for Orbital Sciences in Chandler, Ariz.

Pirtle says the engineering profession would benefit from a more philosophical bent. “More engineers should think about the far-reaching impacts of what they do, and its real value to society,” he says.

He believes such an intellectual approach could provide a reliable road map for the evolution of the engineering profession, and help to establish a more sustainable and democratic foundation for successfully navigating our way in an increasingly complex and highly technological society.

“I’d like to have a role in developing a really solid philosophy of engineering,” he says. Download Full Image

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Program offers helping hand on the road to higher learning

December 15, 2010

ASU reaching out to young students in smaller Arizona communities to open doors to careers in engineering

Victor Robles recently graduated with a degree in electrical engineering from ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering – and with hopes of going to graduate school and pursuing research in communications technology for radar systems. In addition to his academic achievements, Robles has been vice president of the ASU chapter of the Society of Mexican-American Engineers and Scientists, an officer in the ASU chapter of the Society of Hispanic and Professional Engineers and a mentor to younger university students. He’d like to earn a doctorate and go on to a career engineering “the most innovative top-of-the-line high technology.” Download Full Image

Robles says that only a few years ago he never would have imagined that today he would be anywhere near this point on a professional career path. He’s been returning to his hometown in Douglas, Ariz., to speak to local high school and community college students about how they might follow in his footsteps.

Offering opportunities

Robles is one of hundreds of students benefitting each year from the Motivated Engineering Transfer Students (METS) program that provides opportunities for careers in engineering and computer science for Arizona students starting out in community colleges. The program has “completely changed my life,” Robles says. “Had it not been for the knowledge I got [through METS] and the encouragement to pursue graduate school, I would have been just another undergraduate student at the library with very little to show for it.”

For many years, hundreds of students have been transferring into ASU’s engineering programs each year. Until 2002, however, there was only a single orientation event to support transfer students. Today, through the growth of the METS program, there are opportunities for scholarships, a campus meeting place, seminars, mentoring and networking opportunities designed specifically for transfer students.

Recruitment and retention results are demonstrating the program’s effectiveness. In the 2009 fall semester, almost 230 students from community colleges and other schools had transferred to ASU engineering programs. In 2010, another 350 students transferred. More impressively, more than 95 percent of junior-year and senior-year students who earn METS program scholarships are graduating. This is a higher retention and graduation rate than those for students entering ASU engineering programs as freshmen.

Overall, junior-year and senior-year engineering transfer students’ graduation rates are 70 percent for men and 60 percent for women. More than 50 percent of the METS transfer students who earned scholarships are now going on to graduate school full time for master’s or doctorate degrees – compared to just 20 percent of engineering transfer students nationwide.

The success of these ASU engineering transfer students is all the more impressive because the scholarship recipients have a lack of financial resources, so many of them also work jobs while attending school full time.

Targeting a talent pool

Success with upper-division transfer students predominantly from the local Maricopa County Community College District helped earn a grant of $2.5 million over five years from the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 2009 to expand the METS program efforts coordinated at ASU by engineering faculty members Mary Anderson-Rowland and Armando Rodriguez.

Anderson-Rowland, associate professor in the School for Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering, is the leader of the METS expansion project funded by the NSF grant. Rodriguez, professor in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, is the co-leader.

The funding is through the NSF’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) Talent Expansion Program (STEP), which aims to increase the ranks of young engineers and computer scientists to meet the nation’s growing needs for technological advancement and economic expansion. It’s enabling Anderson-Rowland and Rodriquez to reach beyond the community colleges in the greater Phoenix area and team with five community colleges in rural areas – Central Arizona, Western Arizona, Eastern Arizona, Cochise and Mohave colleges – to intensify recruitment of transfer students.

They’re targeting “a significant pool of untapped engineering talent” among community college students, Anderson-Rowland says.

Support network

The METS-STEP project goal is to develop a supply chain of high-quality engineering students through aiding the community colleges in their outreach to local high school students and by providing classroom materials, tutoring, speakers and tuition scholarships to cover costs of community college engineering courses.

In addition, the project includes “Be an Engineer” events on community college campuses for students and their parents, providing a contingent of experienced student mentors, and hosting ASU orientation programs specifically for transfer students.

Once at ASU, transfer students are supported by the METS Center, where they can study together and get mentoring and training in academic and career planning.

“Our mentors are faculty members and METS Center staff members who are supportive and empathetic,” Anderson-Rowland says. “And new transfer students will find other students to network with who understand the challenges that new students are facing.”

National impact

The NSF and ASU recruitment and retention efforts are important to help stem the drop in the number of United States citizens earning engineering degrees, she says.

METS-STEP also is expected to have a national impact by developing effective ways for other universities and community colleges to form partnerships to encourage students to pursue engineering careers and help them make the transition into university programs. The NSF grant also provides for several types of scholarships to help dozens of transfer students each year cover some of the costs of attending ASU.

With the METS-STEP program's emphasis on encouaging students to pursue opportunities for research experience and to consider graduate school, “We expect to help produce a significant and diverse pool of engineering talent to serve the nation’s needs,” Anderson-Rowland says.

Overcoming struggles

The NSF’s support for ASU’s program has been spurred by a solid track record of recruiting and retention success, she says. Students can attest to her claim. Diana Sarmiento struggled when she first enrolled in community college several years ago. Her grades were so low that she dropped out.

She later started over at Estrella Mountain Community College, earned an associate’s degree in science and came to ASU with help from the METS program. Through METS she learned about time management that helped her cope with the challenges of university engineering studies – even while working jobs in addition to attending school full-time. METS workshops taught her how to effectively compose a resume and develop a portfolio displaying her skills.

“I got some really good advice that helped me get through,” she says.

Sarmiento went on to earn four internship positions – including experience as a research assistant – and work as a teaching assistant. She served as president of the ASU chapter of the Society of Hispanic and Professional Engineers and secretary of the ASU chapter of the Society of Automotive Engineers. Sarmiento expects to graduate in 2011 with a degree in mechanical engineering. She’ll look for a job in industry after graduation but plans to eventually earn a master’s of business administration degree.

Steps to success

Mara Ramos has a similar story. She went to ASU right after high school but found she wasn’t ready for the university environment. She dropped out.

After becoming a single mother and a few false starts at other schools, Ramos began earning good grades at Mesa Community College that would make her eligible for support to return to ASU through the METS program.

Through the program she learned study techniques, was put under the wing of a supportive faculty mentor and participated in an undergraduate research program and research projects led by a faculty member. She learned “you don’t have to be genius to go to graduate school, just a hard worker.”

Today, Ramos is pursuing a doctorate in environmental engineering and hopes to help solve the world’s sanitation and water-quality problems.

Steve Blodgett went back to college in his mid-30s after a career as a photographer. He earned an associate’s degree in general studies at Mesa Community College, then came to ASU through the METS program after deciding to study chemical engineering.

He had earning only a bachelor’s degree in mind, but with Anderson-Rowland’s prodding he set his sights higher.

“I used the METS Center a lot. I learned study skills. I got advice and encouragement to seek support to go to grad school,” he says. “It had a big impact.”

Through internships and research experiences during his time at ASU, he says, “I realized that graduate school is really where I need to be” to have a career that will make an impact. Blodgett is now in a graduate program at the University of Michigan where he will do research in sustainable hydrogen production and other renewable energy resources.

Turning lives around

“It’s gratifying to be reaching young students who don’t have a lot of resources in their small communities to learn about science and engineering career opportunities,” says professor Rodriguez.

Rodriguez has been working for a decade to get support for outreach efforts, scholarships and grants to help students transfer to the university.

“When you show them you care, when you show them how to navigate their way in a big university, and give them tutoring and mentoring,” he says, “it’s amazing to see them turn into dedicated students who are taking their career goals seriously.”

The METS-STEP project also is helping get students connected to industry, which often leads to internship opportunities.

 “Industry leaders want to cultivate a larger pool of engineers to hire, so companies have supported us,” Anderson-Rowland says.

She’s committed to keep the flow of transfer students running high.

“An engineering career was not even on the radar screen for a lot of these students when they were in high school,” she says, “and even when they’re in community college they don’t think they’re smart enough to get scholarships or go to a university. So it’s fulfilling to know you’re providing young people with options in their lives.”

For more information about the METS program, visit http://mets.engineering.asu.edu">http://mets.engineering.asu.edu">http://mets.engineering.asu.edu

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


New center to bridge distance between US, Chinese cultures

December 15, 2010

Arizona State University partners with Sichuan University in new enterprise

Mutual understanding between the United States and China, along with an exchange of ideas, language and literature, are at the core of a new educational partnership between Arizona State University (ASU) and Sichuan University (SCU). The SCU-ASU Center for American Culture, officially launched Dec. 13 at Sichuan University in Chengdu, China, is designed to be a model for Sino-American cultural engagement through university-to-university collaboration.  eight people standing with plaque at unveiling Download Full Image

“I congratulate Arizona State University and Sichuan University on the opening of the Center for American Culture,” said U.S. Ambassador to China Jon Huntsman. “I believe that the center will help build bridges of understanding between the people of the United State and China, which will ultimately allow us to work together more effectively to tackle the global issues that we face.” 

“The U.S.-China relationship is the most important bilateral relationship in the world,” said Thomas Skipper, minister counselor for public affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. Skipper spoke at the opening ceremony for the center, noting that it “is already generating a lot of interest and excitement in academic communities in both our countries.” 

The United States has about 2,000 people working in China, at the embassy in Beijing and in five consulates, including one in Chengdu, Skipper said. 

“We work with our counterparts in the Chinese Government, on the national, provincial and municipal levels on a complete range of issues, from economic and trade issues, to political, the environment, agriculture, education, regional security, science and health,” he said. “But our ability to work together on all these issues is dependent on our ability to understand each other – not just our languages, but our histories, our cultures, our traditions and values. 

“We hope that the Center for American Culture will quickly become a place that students will want to visit, to learn, to grow, and take part in programs that will increase understanding about the United States,” Skipper said. 

“I believe it will become a model for other university partnerships in China,” Skipper said. “But it’s no surprise that Arizona State University and Sichuan University are leading the way in this effort. Both schools have reputations for academic excellence and long records of promoting international exchange. My hope is that this new center will become a bridge to help create bonds of trust between our two countries.” 

Sichuan University President Xie Heping attended the ceremony and provided remarks about the newest partnership between the two institutions. Arizona State University President Michael Crow sent a video message that was played at the ceremony. 

“Sichuan University is one of our closest university allies in China,” said Crow in the  video message. “Universities are now working together on what we think are some of the greatest intellectual challenges of our time. There’s so much to learn from each other, there are so many experiences that our two countries have had that we don’t really deeply understand.” 

The new SCU-ASU Center for American Culture, the first of a kind, will take the complexities of American culture and the history of American culture and make it a part of the teaching and learning discourse at Sichuan University, he said. 

“It’s only through that deeper understanding that relationships can be advanced, that mutual understanding can be improved, that a deep appreciation can be developed,” Crow said. 

The SCU-ASU Center for American Culture will be the newest component within the larger sister university agreement between the two universities, which includes a Confucius Institute and nearly 20 joint projects on topics ranging from creative writing to sustainability and earthquake relief. 

“Chinese students will study the underpinnings of American culture and history at the Center for American Culture just as American students acquire competence in Chinese language and culture through their intensive study at the Confucius Institute,” said Crow. 

Neal Lester, a professor of English and dean of humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences represented ASU at the center’s opening ceremony. “We are very excited to participate in this moment of global collaboration,” he told a gathering of more than 200 students, faculty, deans and staff from Sichuan University, along with members of the public and business community. 

Initiatives of the new SCU-ASU Center for American Culture will include:

• Public, socially embedded English language and culture programs.

• Symposia and lectures related to U.S. history, culture and the arts.

• Professional training programs for English teachers in writing and English as a second language programs.

• Increased attention to intensive English language, American culture and history programs in China and at ASU.

• Collaborative study of works of literature, language, media, arts and history.

The dialogue between the two universities began earlier this fall when ASU scholars visited Sichuan University for an academic exchange. Among the lecture topics during that visit, dubbed “2010 ASU Week: Place and Identity,” were:

• Advertisements, cars and 20th century American women’s fiction, presented by ASU English professor Deborah Clarke.

• Reflections on ancestry, history, land and imagery of the Navajo, presented by Diné author Laura Tohe, an English professor who teaches Indigenous literature, poetry and film.

• Race, Hurricane Katrina, and hip hop and the American culture, presented by Matthew C. Whitaker, an associate professor of history.

Scheduled this week are a series of lectures and educational exchanges led by another group of ASU scholars, including Joe Cutter, a professor of Chinese and director of the School of International Letters and Cultures; Joe Lockard, an associate professor of English; Kathryn Mohrman, director of the University Design Consortium at ASU and a professor of practice at the School of Public Affairs in the College of Public Programs; and Lester. 

Among the lectures to be presented, Lester will talk about African Americans and the politics of hair, and the lives and experiences of African American women writers. Lockard will present a lecture on the history and literature of slavery in the U.S. and another lecture on literature and prisons in the U.S. Southwest. 

“As Americans teach Chinese about America, Americans learn about ourselves as Americans,” Lester said. “We hope that Chinese teaching Americans about Chinese culture will also teach Chinese peoples about themselves. Through this very interrogation of difference, we will inevitably come closer to understanding and appreciating that, as poet Maya Angelou has said, ‘we are more alike than we are unalike.’ We fully embrace this new opportunity in the spirit of global unity, cultural discovery and excellence.”

Carol Hughes, carol.hughes">mailto:carol.hughes@asu.edu">carol.hughes@asu.edu


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

ASU In the News

ASU students to help create 'sustainability park'

<p>The town of Clarkdale, Ariz., is benefitting from the work of students participating in the Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) program in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.<br /><br />The program enables students to use the basic engineering skills they’re learning in the classroom to help bring community improvement endeavors to fruition.<br /><br />EPICS teams are working with town officials to develop Clarkdale Sustainability Park. Among initial plans for the park are a wetlands recharge project and a project to convert waste to energy.</p>

Article Source: Verde Independent
Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Construction school alumnus helps build Native American communities

December 8, 2010

Jeff Begay, a member of the Navajo Nation who has worked for decades to improve business and living conditions in Native American communities, is the 2010 Del E. Webb School of Construction Outstanding Alumni of the Year.

The construction school is part of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. Download Full Image

Begay graduated with a degree in construction management in 1974 and now is manager of business development for Kitchell Contractors Native American Division. Through his division’s work, Begay has helped lead efforts to bring quality construction services to Indian lands.

Lack of quality building has long plagued Indian reservations, he says. Many reservations “are like Third World countries. They are struggling to develop a strong economy, struggling to build good infrastructure,” Begay says.

He sees his job as “a mission and a passion. We are helping to build nations, to make them prosperous and healthy. It’s fabulous that Kitchell hires people, like me, who understand this culturally unique segment of America and also strives to provide quality service, with integrity and respect.”

Begay’s work goes beyond providing construction services.

“There’s a perception that a construction management graduate with an engineering background works only with concrete, steel and wood, and isn’t really involved with much of anything else,” he says.

Among his efforts beyond construction business, Begay has been instrumental in organizing Kitchell’s Cultural Sensitivity Seminars, inviting guest speakers from a various tribal communities to make presentations about their history, culture and community.

Begay also has worked as a general contractor and been a consultant to the Gila River Indian community, assisting in the development of governmental facilities, infrastructure and community housing programs.

He is also a gourd dancer, as part of a Native American Warrior Society ceremony that honors and helps their warriors – men and women currently serving in U.S. military, as well as all military veterans.

Earlier this year, Begay helped lead an effort to rebuild and refurnish the home of a Navajo tribal member and fellow Vietnam veteran whose home had been nearly destroyed by vandals.

Begay was born and raised in Teesto, Ariz., on the Navajo Indian Reservation. He served in the U.S. Army, including a tour of duty in Vietnam in 1967 and 1968.

He later went to ASU on the GI Bill and earned a scholarship from Kitchell Corp. which helped him earn his degree at ASU.

He is a former president of American Indian Council of Architects and Engineers and former president of the American Indian Veteran’s Memorial Organization.

He’s also a founding member of the executive committee of Del E. Webb School’s Construction in Indian Country organization and the founder of the school’s Native American Construction Management Endowment.

The impact he’s had on Native American communities prompted his nomination for the alumni award by colleagues in the industry and the Native American community.

“It’s a tremendous honor because people in the construction industry voted for me,” he says. “I feel good about it personally, and for the company I work with.”

Written by Amy Lukau

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering