image title

Supporting trans inclusivity in journalism

March 23, 2021

'Must See Monday' speaker series hosts trans journalist and podcast producer Oliver-Ash Kleine

Newsrooms would do well to embrace workplace issues surrounding LGBTQ rights, personal identity and creating more gender inclusive content because it leads to more accurate and nuanced coverage as well as a deeper understanding of the communities in which they live, according to national transgender media journalist, podcaster and audio producer Oliver-Ash Kleine.

“I think that every newsroom should hire someone to do education around trans issues because the reality is that a lot of reporters and editors just aren’t going to do it themselves and don’t have the knowledge,” said Kleine, founder of the Trans Journalists Association (TJA), an online community of 400-plus reporters, and producer of the award-winning podcast "Brave, Not Perfect" with Reshma Saujani. “When you don’t have trans people in your newsroom, your trans coverage isn’t going to be very good.”

Kleine’s talk, “Creating Gender Inclusivity in Journalism,” was part of the spring 2021 “Must See Mondays” lecture series hosted by ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The March 22 conversation was moderated by Senior Associate Dean Rebecca Blatt.

“Journalists are in a critical moment of confronting past failures to provide nuanced, empathetic coverage of many communities and to cultivate inclusive newsroom cultures,” said Blatt, who a decade ago was Kleine’s co-worker at WAMU 88.5 FM, a public radio station in Washington, D.C. “Trans communities often have been misrepresented or excluded from newsrooms and news coverage, and that has to change. Oliver-Ash Kleine has been at the forefront of efforts to make news coverage and newsroom staffs more inclusive of trans people, and I am thrilled to have them join us for this important conversation.”

Trans person wearing headphones

Oliver-Ash Kleine talks about trans and nonbinary gender identification, and respect in content and workplaces, during a Must See Mondays webcast on March 22. Kleine develops podcasts, such as TransLash Podcast with Imara Jones, for trans news and culture with the goal of empowering trans audiences and educating families and friends. Cronkite School Senior Associate Dean Rebecca Blatt moderated the conversation. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Kleine said most journalists don’t know how to cover trans communities and when they do, their stories are often harmful or disrespectful and misgender people. Kleine said when Chelsea Manning asked in 2013 to be identified with she/her pronouns, it led to a big fight with an editor.

“I remember walking into the newsroom — I had the afternoon shift — and learned that we were using the wrong pronouns for her (Manning) … and I was like, ‘What? We can’t do this,'” Kleine said. “So I went to have a conversation with our news director and we got into a fight. I had never fought with my news director like that before. And we fought for an hour … we went at it. Fortunately, I had a really good relationship with her. Ultimately, the best I could get was a compromise: We wouldn’t use pronouns at all. I didn’t like the solution.”

That was a pivotal moment for Kleine, who said they suddenly felt alienated and alone in the newsroom. Kleine pitched stories about the trans community and kept getting rejected by editors.

“When I came to better understand myself as trans, I thought, ‘Well, we gotta fix some stuff,” Kleine said. “I felt as if I actually can have a voice in this because I’m part of this community.”

When Kleine couldn’t find a physical space where trans journalists could meet, they created a Facebook page, which later became a Slack community. They eventually morphed into the TJA and soon began offering support to trans journalists in their workplaces and careers, providing guidance to newsrooms for more accurate coverage of trans communities, and providing tools to help employers make their workplaces more supportive for trans employees.

“That means having trans policies in place, updating your style guide, and making sure coverage and expectations and how you talk about the trans community is inclusive,” Kleine said. “It also means having trans health care because it’s bad if you don’t actually support them with the health care they need.”

Kleine said with the exception of Vox and NPR, which have already made great strides in this area, newsrooms are slowly coming around. However, the trans community is not waiting on them. They said trans journalists like Imara Jones and Tuck Woodstock are emerging as national figures, creating essential content and talking about important issues.

“We’re in this really unique time where for the first time people who have historically been underrepresented in our industry are starting to gain power, which is incredible,” Kleine said. “And it’s great.”

Kleine concluded the interview with several suggestions to working journalists, editors and journalism students:

  • Do the cultural competency work required to understand the trans community.
  • Refer to the TJA’s style guide for reference if you have questions regarding gender identity and pronouns.
  • Never assume anyone’s pronouns and don’t be afraid to ask a source/subject for theirs.
  • Be sensitive in your coverage and don’t spread misinformation, fearmongering or hate in your articles.
  • Advocate for your newsroom to develop trans friendly policies.
  • Write more stories about “trans joy” and happiness.

“I’ve seen so few stories about trans people thriving and living well,” Kleine said. “Being trans is the best part of my life.”

Top photo: The transgender flag was created in 1999 by Monica Helms, an American transgender woman. The light blue and light pink are the traditional colors for baby girls and baby boys, respectively, while the white represents intersex, transitioning, or a neutral or undefined gender. According to Helms, the flag is symmetrical so “no matter which way you fly it, it is always correct, signifying us finding correctness in our lives.” Photo courtesy of iStock/Getty Images.

American Indian Policy Institute executive director named to Diverse magazine’s list of 25 Top Women in Higher Education in 2021

March 17, 2021

American Indian Policy Institute (AIPI) Executive Director Traci Morris (Chickasaw Nation) is one of 25 Top Women in Higher Education in 2021, an annual honor bestowed by Diverse: Issues in Higher Education magazine.

The list is part of Diverse’s celebration of March as Women’s History Month. Coverage of the list of honored women is in the Fairfax, Virginia-based magazine’s March 4 edition, which marks its “10th anniversary of highlighting women who have made a difference in the academy by tackling some of higher education’s toughest challenges, exhibiting extraordinary leadership skills and making a positive difference in their respective communities.” portrait of Traci Morris executive director of ASU's American Indian Policy Institute Traci Morris (Chickasaw Nation) is executive director of the American Indian Policy Institute at Arizona State University. Download Full Image

The list of honorees includes educators from Brandeis, George Washington, Northwestern, Ohio State, Rutgers and Yale universities.

Morris said she is impressed by the other members of the list and is honored to join them.

"I look forward to continuing my role in mentoring up the next generation of diverse women in higher education," she said.

From the magazine’s citation of Morris: “Under her leadership, the American Indian Policy Institute has grown and diversified its service to Indian Country via a memorandum of understanding formalizing a long-standing partnership with the Native American Finance Officers Association. She also has led AIPI in forming the Tribal Economic Leadership Program offering training in areas including tribal economic governance and financial management, access to entrepreneurship training and tribal business support.”

The Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions-based AIPI conducts public policy analysis and research about issues that empower Native nations and support tribal sovereignty. The AIPI has significant expertise in broadband, telecommunications and digital inclusion, and it is the only Indigenous-led organization doing research in these areas in the nation. Working with a tribal-led advisory board, AIPI fulfills its mission of “leading the discourse for tribally driven, informed policymaking.”

AIPI joined Watts College in downtown Phoenix in September 2019 after 13 years on ASU’s Tempe campus.

Mark J. Scarp

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


Introducing the Black Women Composers Project

March 17, 2021

Last fall, the Music Library at Arizona State University began working on a new research tool for students and faculty interested in exploring an area of study largely undiscovered — important Black female composers and their compositions, dating from the 1930s to present day.

Now online and poised for growth, the Black Women Composers Project points to the ASU Library’s growing collection of over 160 newly available scores, including symphonies, operas, choral works, vocal music and chamber music, and features biographies, compositions and sound recordings belonging to 15 significant composers in the 20th and 21st centuries. Margaret Bonds portrait 1956 Library of Congress portrait of Margaret Bonds in 1956. Photo by Carl Van Vechten Download Full Image

“The Black Women Composers Project is illustrative of our strategic initiative to prioritize the preservation and digitization of resources that elevate the voices of communities that have been underrepresented in libraries and archives. Increasing access to these rare materials and diverse collections is a great way for the library to contribute to realizing ASU’s charter,” said Lorrie McAllister, associate university librarian of collections and analysis at the ASU Library. 

To discuss some of the extraordinary women represented in the Black Women Composers Project, ASU News spoke to Christopher Mehrens, associate librarian, who is overseeing the project. While many of the new scores in the collection are still being processed, Mehrens says his hope for the project is that it will shine a light on this rich music history and make it accessible for all.

Question: Among the earliest represented composers in the project is Florence B. Price (1887-1953), the first African American woman to have a symphony premiered by a major symphony orchestra. Can you tell us more about her?

Answer: Price led a remarkable life. She was born in Little Rock, Arkansas, and initially studied music with her mother. Such was her talent, she was admitted to the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston, where she studied organ with Wallace Goodrich and composition with two of the foremost American composers and teachers of the period, Frederick Shepard Converse (1871-1940) and George Whitefield Chadwick (1854-1931). Upon graduation, she returned to the south to teach, eventually becoming head of the music department at Clark College in Atlanta. 

According to Price scholar Rae Linda Brown, because of increasing racial oppression, she and her family moved to Chicago. It was in Chicago that she emerged as a significant American composer and educator. In 1932 she won the Wanamaker prize for her First Symphony, which was performed by the Chicago Symphony in 1933. It was this performance that made her the first Black woman composer to be performed by a major symphony orchestra. When the great contralto Marian Anderson performed Price’s setting of Langston Hughes’ poem “Song to the Dark Virgin,” her song was hailed by critics as being one of the greatest accomplishments by an American composer. Until her death, Price remained one of this country’s most important composers and teachers.

Q: Another early composer featured in the project is Margaret Bonds, the virtuoso concert pianist, who studied with Price and collaborated with Langston Hughes. Can you give us more of her history?

A: Margaret Bonds (1913-1972) was born in Los Angeles, California, was taught music from an early age by her mother and, as a teen, studied piano and composition with Florence B. Price. She attended Northwestern University, where she was awarded Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees before being admitted to the Juilliard School in New York City, where she studied piano and composition. In 1932, the same year that Florence B. Price won the Wanamaker prize for her symphony, Bonds won the Wanamaker for her song "Sea Ghost." As a virtuoso concert pianist, in 1933, she premiered Price’s piano concerto with the Chicago Symphony, becoming the first Black woman to solo with that renowned orchestra. 

Bonds collaborated with the great poet Langston Hughes and set many of his poems to music. She returned to Los Angeles and remained active in the music community. Her last major composition, "Credo," based on the opening of W.E.B. Du Bois’ 1921 book “Darkwater: Voices from Within the Veil" was performed a month after her death by the Los Angeles Philharmonic.  

Q: Who are some of the other important composers the project is spotlighting?

A: Valerie Capers, the first blind person to graduate from Juilliard, who was commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts to compose an “operatorio” on the life of Sojourner Truth. Rachel Eubanks, who studied at the American Conservatory of Music in France with the legendary composer and teacher Nadia Boulanger (teacher of Aaron Copland). There is also Tania León, who was born in Cuba, studied at NYU and served as a pianist, conductor and composer at the Dance Theatre of Harlem. She was also involved as a music director in such Broadway productions as “The Wiz” and “Godspell.” And there’s Jessie Montgomery, who is the recipient of the Leonard Bernstein Award from the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (ASCAP) and is a major up-and-coming composer.

To learn more about the Black Women Composers Project, visit the library guide or contact Christopher Mehrens at

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library

image title

Christine Kajikawa Wilkinson continues distinguished career at ASU

March 15, 2021

Editor's note: In recognition of Women’s History Month, ASU is highlighting inspiring women and their stories.

Christine Kajikawa Wilkinson’s career at Arizona State University has spanned many executive leadership roles, from admissions to athletics, in addition to her role as a tenured faculty member in the Division of Educational Leadership and Innovation in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. A long-standing executive leader in public higher education and a dedicated community service leader, Wilkinson currently serves in three capacities at Arizona State University: senior vice president and secretary of the university, president and CEO of the ASU Alumni Association and managing director of the trustees of ASU.

Wilkinson (pictured above in light blue) is the first female minority vice president and first person in the position of secretary of the university. She serves as a principal university senior officer for all matters related to the Arizona Board of Regents, including facilitation of the university’s agenda relating to capital projects, budget planning, athletics, program development and tuition-setting. She also manages and provides direction for the president’s advisory groups and oversees university events and ceremonies, including the largest commencement in U.S. history when President Barack Obama spoke on May 13, 2009, with more than 68,000 people in attendance.

As president and CEO of the ASU Alumni Association, she leads all alumni initiatives, programs and events for the more than 500,000 Sun Devils around the world. When she was appointed to this role in 2005, she restructured the board of directors, developed a national alumni council and greatly enhanced the Alumni Association’s chapter network, which now includes more than 170 groups across the globe. The Phoenix Business Journal has named the ASU Alumni Association the No. 1 networking association in the Valley of the Sun for seven consecutive years.

As managing director of the trustees of ASU, Wilkinson oversees and provides direction for this advisory group that includes donors and alumni who have significant involvement in all aspects of the university. In this role, she establishes the trustee meeting agendas, oversees projects and serves as the liaison with each trustee as it relates to the trustee body.

External to the university, she has dedicated herself to the higher education profession. This involved serving in volunteer leadership capacities for state, regional and national boards including: ACT corporation trustee, College Board Western region committees; CASE (Council for Advancement and Support of Education) charter member of commission on student recruitment and retention, and positions with the Association for Public and Land-Grant Universities.

Wilkinson has been a part of numerous nonprofit organizations and continues to serve with a concentrated majority of her focus on health care, human services and positive development of children and youth. Her current community engagement includes serving on the following boards: Valley of the Sun United Way, Southwest Autism Research and Resource Center, Arizona Business Leadership Association, Japanese American National Museum Governors, Pat Tillman Foundation and Charter 100. She is also on the national leadership council for Big Brothers Big Sisters of America and the Arizona Educational Foundation advisory board. She is a member of the Arizona Women’s Forum and ASU Women and Philanthropy.

Christine Wilkinson speaks at the Boys and Girls Clubs Arizona Alliance Youth of the Year awards ceremony.

Wilkinson has received numerous awards throughout her career for her leadership and community service, including the Community Impact Award in 2020 from Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona; Corporate Leader of the Year in 2019 from Asian Corporate and Entrepreneur Leaders; the Don Carlos Humanitarian Award in 2018 from Tempe Community Council; Most Influential Women in Arizona Business in 2018 from AZ Business Magazine; Arizona Women’s Hall of Fame in 2017, first living legacy inductee in education; Most Admired Leader Lifetime Achievement Award in 2017 from the Phoenix Business Journal; the Golden Saguaro Award in 2016 from the Japanese American Citizens League; Who’s Who in Business in 2015 from the Arizona Republic; Tempe Business Woman of the Year in 2014 from the Tempe Chamber of Commerce; one of Arizona’s 48 Most Intriguing Women in 2012 by the Arizona Centennial Legacy Project; and Woman of the Year Award in 2009 by Valley Leadership.

She holds a Bachelor of Arts in education with distinction (ASU); a Master of Arts in education, counseling psychology (University of California at Berkeley); and a Doctor of Philosophy in higher education administration (ASU).

Top photo: Christine Wilkinson speaks with class members of the ASU Leadership Institute and staff of the Alumni Association. 

image title

Advance Scholars opens up doors for diverse future legal leaders

March 12, 2021

First cohort member and Army veteran Brian Ridley was drawn to ASU's strengths

Throughout almost three decades in the Army, Brian Ridley had three things he came to depend on: a diverse team that felt like family, embeddedness in the community and mentorship.  

A lieutenant colonel, he had gone from conducting reconnaissance as a cavalryman in the Balkans, Iraq and Afghanistan — leading thousands of troops, advising foreign ministries and negotiating bilateral commitments between countries — to advising as a senior strategist in Washington, D.C., where he headed the group responsible for large-scale planning of complex, high-level events attended by presidents, members of Congress and judicial leaders, such as inaugurations, state funerals and State of the Union addresses.

As retirement loomed, the traditional civilian job at the Pentagon held no interest for him. He had dealt with “gray areas” in his work as a strategist (the legal issues surrounding domestic deployment of the Army to the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., which is not a state, for instance). He wanted to bolster that strategic and operational experience with a legal education.

His reconnaissance skills pointed him to Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, where he will be in the first cohort of the new Advance Scholars program.

Launching in fall 2021, the Advance Scholars Program will produce the next generation of legal leaders. In furtherance of ASU’s Charter, the goal of the Advance Scholars Program is to foster an inclusive community at ASU Law, particularly for first-generation students, students of color and students who have overcome adversity. It’s a yearlong program bringing together a cohort of 20 students who can offer different perspectives from ethnic, cultural, religious and other backgrounds.

Ridley has faced plenty of adversity in his life, and it didn’t always come from the enemy lines. Half Black and half Japanese, attending high school in Nebraska in the early '90s had its challenges. He was desperate to fit in and became overly diplomatic, ignoring racist jokes.

“I felt lost with my 19-year-old brain’s default set to ‘not good enough,’” he wrote in a statement to the law school.

At the end of his first year of college, he was suspended after academic probation.

He enlisted in the Army, where there is only one color: green. Here were people from every background, welded into a homogenous warrior culture. He served in the Army Reserve, worked 30 hours a week, and lived off campus to cut costs. Five years later, the governor of Nebraska called him to the stage and declared Ridley the University of Nebraska’s Distinguished Military Graduate of 1996. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant and set off on an amazing career.

Flash forward to 2021 and military retirement on the horizon.

“I was looking for a team,” Ridley said. “I needed a diverse place. I wanted to ensure that that team was ingrained in the community. So I didn't use that word, but community is what I'm actually looking for. I needed a microcosm of every military post that I've ever lived on, and that was ASU. And then just to boot, it was well-respected. I mean, it was an easy, easy call.”

Among the advantages the Advance Scholars Program offers are early opportunities to interact with ASU Law faculty and staff, current students, ASU Law alumni and members of the Arizona legal community, all of whom work with the scholars to grow as lawyers and future leaders. The program continues throughout the students’ first year of law school, offering events and programming open only to the Advance Scholars cohort. In their second or third year of law school, the Advance Scholars will be offered a trip to ASU’s Los Angeles or Washington, D.C., locations.

Each Advance Scholar will also be paired with an attorney and a 2L/3L student mentor. This network from within the law school community and beyond are committed to helping students realize their professional goals.

The mentorship aspect of the program appealed to Ridley.

“One of the first things I saw was this 2L/3L mentor as a student, and then someone in industry that provides mentorship,” he said. “So I am a mentor to many majors and captains and I have been a mentee and I play such high value on that. … And I don't mean mentor by, ‘Hey do this with this professor.’ That's not the mentoring I'm talking about. I take tactics, techniques and procedures and tricks and best practices. Great, fine. I'm talking about, ‘Hey, look, genuinely, this is what matters. This is what I have found that works. This is what I've found that does not work. Here are the hazards and pitfalls of every step of your career. And let's just talk about those.’ And so that is what I am really hoping to get from ASU.”

Ridley has already been paired with a judge, which shocked him.

“I'm floored and I haven't even started school yet. And I'm like, this is fantastic. It's not only an indicator of a strong program and a program that cares, it's of benefit to me.”

As a veteran, Ridley needed to feel comfortable at whatever school he went to. ASU fit that bill too.

“There are some schools that I'll just say this: Their yellow-ribbon program is about website deep. It's not that they don't have one. But there's no litmus test generally to help see how well that program is administered, executed, run. That was not the case with Arizona State. It was very clear. … And then Pat Tillman — Arizona State — No. 42 — it was a perfect fit.”

The Advance Scholars Program is part of a broader mixed inclusion strategy that includes the Diverse Student Coalition and a number of diversity and social justice programs at the law school.

Top image courtesy of Brian Ridley

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News


Female ASU faculty share challenges, triumphs and what gives them hope about the future of women in academia

March 11, 2021

Bold. Inspirational. Fearless.

These are just a few of the words that female faculty in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences use to describe women in higher education careers. In celebration of Women’s History Month, nine female faculty from The College shared challenges they have faced, triumphs they have experienced and what gives them hope about the future of women in academia. (Top, left to right): Victoria Jackson, Esther Florsheim, Nina Berman, Sara Brownell and Hue-Tam Jamme. (Bottom, left to right): Sujey Vega, Pardis Mahdavi, Mako Fitts Ward and Michelle McGibbney Vlahoulis. Download Full Image

At Arizona State University, female faculty make up almost half of the overall faculty population: As of fall 2018, 48% of faculty were women. In The College, 46% of faculty were women as of 2018–19. Year over year, these percentages have continued to increase, with similar trends seen at universities nationwide.

“As more women enter more spaces in academia, especially positions of leadership, I'm hopeful that there are more voices and more perspectives to create meaningful structural change that uplifts women to excel in whatever we choose to study and research,” said Mako Fitts Ward, assistant professor in the School of Social Transformation.

Although representation of women in higher education careers is generally on the rise, challenges toward achieving equity and inclusion remain.

“Overt sexism is less prevalent now but there are countless instances of gender bias and discrimination that affect women in academia,” said Sara Brownell, associate professor in the School of Life Sciences. “Whether it's being asked to take notes at a meeting, not having your ideas attributed to you or not even being invited to a meeting — women experience gender bias. These seemingly insignificant challenges all add up over time.”

For The College, addressing these challenges and others that women in higher education positions face begins with supporting existing projects and creating new initiatives that drive change.  

“Creating equitable environments starts with investing in existing programs and people that have already been doing the work for a long time,” Fitts Ward said. “It also requires leaders to build transformational relationships by deepening their awareness of how power operates and leaning into the power that they have to make institutional change swiftly in ways that start with the most vulnerable within a community.”

Faculty across ASU and The College are leading myriad efforts to find solutions to issues of gender bias.

The Research for Inclusive STEM Education Center is one initiative that was launched last year with the goal of making higher education more inclusive through innovative research, ongoing events and campuswide interventions. In addition, last year The College launched a committee focused on justice, equity, diversity and inclusion that works to empower the community to engage in change around systemic racism and inequity in higher education.

“When we talk about the work of equity, justice, diversity and inclusion, women, of course, are at the forefront of that conversation,” said Pardis Mahdavi, dean of social sciences in The College. “This committee is striving to change the culture, the climate, the curriculum and the structures of the institution to pave the way for more equity for people of all genders, including women.”

In celebration of Women’s History Month, female faculty from The College shared challenges they have faced, triumphs they have experienced and what gives them hope about the future of women in academia.

Emily Balli

Communications Specialist and Lead Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

5 new faculty join ASU's Department of English, Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies

March 9, 2021

This fall, Arizona State University’s Department of English and Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies will welcome five new faculty members who will work toward the center’s mission of enabling and promoting the most expansive, creative and daring scholarship in medieval and renaissance studies. 

This hiring initiative was led by Ayanna Thompson, director of the center and a Regents Professor in the Department of English, in an effort to elevate scholars of color working on issues of race in premodern studies. ACMRS new professors From left: Lisa Barksdale-Shaw, Madeline Sayet, Ruben Espinosa, Brandi Adams and Mariam Galarrita. Download Full Image

“With the five BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and people of color) scholars joining our seven other early modernists, ASU will have the strongest Shakespeare program in the country,” Thompson said.

“The university’s investment in early modern studies is groundbreaking, and it will put ASU’s Department of English and the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the forefront of Shakespeare studies.

"The scholars in the cluster hire are remarkably impressive teachers, scholars and community members. The ASU community will be enriched by their inclusion.”

Meet the new faculty members of the Department of English and the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies:

Brandi Adams, assistant professor

Adams' interests lie at the intersection of book history, history of reading, early modern English drama, premodern critical race studies and gender along with modern editorial practices of early English drama. She is also interested in the early history of artificial intelligence, early modern automata and how studying literature can have a significant and positive impact on computing.

In her work in early modern and Renaissance studies and literature, she presents a history of reading and books as told through early plays published in England during the 16th and 17th centuries.

Prior to coming to ASU she served as an undergraduate program manager at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and in several roles at the University of Maryland including as associate director of communications. Adams received a PhD in English literature from the University of Maryland. She joins ASU as an assistant professor in the Department of English.   


Lisa Barksdale-Shaw, assistant professor

Barksdale-Shaw’s work examines narratives of justice by combining several disciplines including law, literature and medicine. In her work, she foregrounds evidence and criminology, litigation practices and procedure, trial advocacy, drama, material culture, stage properties and performance, racial trauma, ethics, state actors and the history of law. She is currently working on several research projects, specifically on written evidence, conspiracy and racial trauma.

Using critical race theory, Barksdale-Shaw teaches her students how to read law, literature, culture and race as they critique narratives of justice domestically and globally.

She joins ASU from the James Madison College at Michigan State University, where she was a visiting assistant professor. She received a degree in law at the University of Michigan Law School and a PhD in English language and literature from Michigan State University. She joins ASU as an assistant professor in the Department of English.

Ruben Espinosa, associate professor and associate director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Espinosa specializes in Shakespeare and early modern literature. He is currently working on two monographs, “Shakespeare on the Border: Language, Legitimacy and La Frontera” and “Shakespeare on the Shades of Racism.”

He is the author of “Masculinity and Marian Efficacy in Shakespeare’s England” and the co-editor of “Shakespeare and Immigration.”

In addition to the books he has written, he has also published numerous essays and articles, and he serves on the editorial boards of Shakespeare Quarterly, Exemplaria: Medieval Early Modern Theory and Palgrave’s Early Modern Cultural Studies series. In 2018, he was elected to the Shakespeare Association of America’s board of trustees.

Prior to ASU he was at the University of Texas at El Paso, where he was an associate professor of English. He received a PhD in English literature and Shakespeare studies from the University of Colorado, Boulder. He joins ASU as an associate professor in the Department of English and associate director of the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

Mariam Galarrita, postdoctoral fellow

Mariam Galarrita

Galarrita’s research focuses on early modern English drama and travel writing, premodern critical race studies, language and science fiction. 

She is currently a graduate student at the University of California, Riverside and will defend her dissertation, “Early Modern England and Race-making,” this spring.

She is the founder and director of Race and the Premodern Period Speaker Series at UC Riverside.

This fall she will teach a class on Shakespeare alongside Jonathan Hope, director of literature and professor in the Department of English.

She joins ASU as a two-year postdoctoral fellow in the Department of English. 

Madeline Sayet, clinical assistant professor

Sayet is a member of the Mohegan Tribe in Connecticut, where she was raised on a combination of traditional Mohegan stories and Shakespeare — both of which have influenced her work as a stage director of new plays, classics and opera.

For her work as a director, writer and performer she has been honored as a Forbes 30 Under 30, TED Fellow, MIT Media Lab Director’s Fellow, National Directing Fellow, Native American 40 Under 40 and a recipient of The White House Champion of Change Award from President Barack Obama.

Prior to ASU she served as the executive director of the Yale Indigenous Performing Arts Program. Sayet received a bachelor’s degree in drama from the New York University Tisch School of the Arts, a master’s degree in arts politics and postcolonial theory from New York University's Gallatin School of Individualized Study and a master’s degree in Shakespeare and creativity from The Shakespeare Institute. She joins ASU as a clinical assistant professor in the Department of English.

Emily Balli

Communications Specialist and Lead Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

image title

Can women’s movements save the world?

March 5, 2021

ASU's Center on the Future of War will host forum on transnational feminist movements to commemorate International Women’s Day 2021

Women around the world are realizing there is strength in numbers when they have shared challenges.

In the last decade in particular, international feminist movements have been tackling women’s rights issues and bringing reform and systemic change to issues surrounding equity, power, privilege, health care and social justice.

And they’re winning.

Arizona State University’s Center on the Future of War will be discussing and paying tribute to these brave individuals, activists and groups in a March 8 forum titled “Can Women’s Movements Save the World? Celebrating International Women’s Day 2021.”

Co-sponsored with the ASU Global Human Rights Hub and Zócalo Public Square, the forum will feature Pardis Mahdavi, dean of social sciences in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Mi-Ai Parrish, managing director of ASU Media Enterprise, handling moderating duties.

Mahdavi, author of multiple books including “Crossing the Gulf: Love and Family in Migrant Lives,” spoke to ASU News about transnational feminist movements, where they are taking place and how they’re changing the world.

Woman in yellow dress

Pardis Mahdavi

Question: How would you define transnational feminism and what does that look like in the real world?

Answer: Transnational feminism is rooted in the idea that feminist and women's groups across borders, across generations and across spectra can come together to fight for the same core feminist values that can bring about meaningful social transformation.

We are witnessing powerful transnational feminist movements around the globe today. Recently, there have been underground feminist groups organizing throughout the Middle East, and these groups helped bring about the Iranian Green Movement in 2009. It was also transnational feminist groups that undergirded the Arab Spring in 2011. And just a little bit further south you have powerful transnational feminist groups organizing throughout the African continent. For example, they organized a campaign called #BringBackOurGirls in response to the Boko Haram kidnapping of young girls. This was a great example of transnational feminist organizing because you also had people like former first lady Michelle Obama as part of that movement. And they succeed in bringing back more than half of the kidnapped girls.

There are also other feminist movements, for example in Chile and Argentina such as Mujeres en la Marcha. They have organized to bring about major reforms such as the right to abortion in Latin America the last year. So, these are very significant changes that you see that are growing out of feminists, reaching across borders, sharing strategies to overcome obstacles and challenges to women’s rights.

Q: What’s the latest development in this movement?

A: The most recent development is that feminist organizing has given birth to a new feminism, which is a feminism that we call “justice feminism.” This is a new action-oriented approach to social change rooted in feminist values. Here in the U.S., we’ve been stuck in debates about care- or career-focused feminism. Justice feminism is about is taking feministic core values, analysis of power and analysis of privilege, analysis of postcolonialism, systemic inequalities and taking that justice lens, combining it with feminist core values to push for systemic change.

Q: What's connecting these movements? The internet? Technology?

A: The internet is absolutely connecting these movements but it's also a series of shared challenges. So, if there was anything that 2020 made really clear to us it is that there is an absolute link between health, social justice and inequality. Now if you add climate and environmental justice, these become some of the world's most wicked problems. Those problems don't know boundaries. They don't know state borders.

What's been really powerful is people have been organizing and using mediums of technology, social media and real connectivity to come together across borders to fight against these wicked problems. We're in a moment where we find the case has finally been made and these are issues that cross borders. They are really core and central to social change. So feminist groups realize that the problems are connected and we have to connect to solve them.

Q: What does it mean to have a feminist foreign policy?

A: In 2014, Sweden enacted what they call a feminist foreign policy, where they put women's rights, reproductive justice, and more funding towards women's issues. In general, this was placing the women’s rights agenda at the center of their domestic and foreign policy. Once they did that, Canada followed suit, as did Mexico and France in 2017. Now with President Biden and Vice President Harris in the White House, there's a powerful call to have feminist foreign policy, which is foreign policy that not only centers on women and gender, but the issues that are core to feminism, like intersectionality and justice.

Q: Is there a country or region in the world that is doing this exceptionally well?

A: I would say the Middle East is doing something extraordinary. There are actually women-only armies that are defeating ISIS in places like Syria and Iraq. These are underground feminist movements that are defeating an enemy that even the U.S. military is challenged by. In Iran, feminist movements have been incredibly powerful in destabilizing the regime — a regime that has befuddled other militias. They are now starting to chip away at the power and the fabric of the Islamist regime and organizing mass protests to express their disenchantment with those in power. That's not something your average reader would think about, but definitely deserves a spotlight.

Gayle Tzumach Lemmon recently wrote a book, which spotlights their heroics — I would encourage everyone to read that piece.

Q: What gives you hope about all of these movements?

A: Feminism at its core has made the case for paying attention to things like structural violence and economic violence. You now have people who are arguing that in trade agreements, there needs to be provisions on women's rights. You have people saying, “Look, let's take a page out of the labor movement. Let's take a page out of the environmental movement and incorporate gender and incorporate women's rights into all of these movements.” So how do we fuse in intersectionality? Feminism has been really great about making this case — that there is economic violence and structural violence and institutional violence and we have to address all of this in order to bring about the social transformation that is so desperately needed in our society today.

What gives me hope as an educator and as someone steeped in this conversation, is that here at ASU we are also looking at root causes and attacking epistemic violence. At ASU, we're starting to advance new ways of knowing. We're taking apart the violence that comes with certain forms of knowledge that reproduce power differentials. We're creating new epistemologies that are informed and infused with feminism, and we're educating a whole new generation to go ahead and bring about that structural and systemic change by bringing about the epistemological change rooted in feminist ways of knowing. So that gives me a lot of hope.

Register and watch the March 8 forum on Zócalo Public Square.

Top photo: Mi-Ai Parrish (left) and Pardis Mahdavi will be featured in ASU's Center on the Future of War event, "Can Women's Movements Save The World? Celebrating International Women's Day" on March 8. Photo collage courtesy of Hannah Foote.

Reporter , ASU News


Women's health is critical to population health, ASU dean says

Deborah Helitzer of the College of Health Solutions says women bear the burden of making most of the health-related decisions for their families

March 5, 2021

Deborah Helitzer got an early start thinking about health, fascinated from a very young age by why some people became ill while others stayed well. 

"This curiosity made me realize that many factors contribute to and influence health — not just the genes that we inherit, but also factors such as where we live, what we eat, our cultural background, the level and type of education we receive, access to health care and the values that our families place on each of those aspects," said Helitzer, dean of Arizona State University's College of Health Solutions. ASU College of Health Solutions Dean Deborah Helitzer speaks at a lectern at the May 2019 commencement Dean Deborah Helitzer (pictured at the May 2019 College of Health Solutions convocation) says, "That only since the early '90s has the research community recognized the importance of including women and the gender differences in health issues. Before this time, the National Institutes of Health did not track whether women were enrolled in its federally funded research." Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now Download Full Image

She also got to see firsthand how women are often the decision-makers when it comes to health choices for a family.

"My mother was very concerned about health and nutrition, so our family ate less meat and more fresh vegetables and fruits than other families we knew," Helitzer said. "This was unusual at this time — most families were eating large amounts of red meat and canned vegetables packed in oil and sugar. While we were not rich, my family prioritized fresh foods. We lived in a nice, safe middle-class neighborhood, and education was extremely important to my parents. My upbringing was definitely a major part of my curiosity for how we can address and influence the many determinants of health."

It helped launch her into a career studying population health — that is, the health outcomes of a group of individuals, including the distribution of such outcomes within the group — with her research focused on health-outcome improvements through interventions in communities and in clinical settings. Here, she spoke with ASU News about how women's health has often been overlooked and why it's important that researchers include women in their studies.

Question: Historically, has women’s health not had as much attention or funding behind it, compared with men’s issues? What would be some reasons for that?

Answer: A gender bias in research has skewed the knowledge on women’s health. Much of what we know about diseases that affect both genders is based on research on men. For decades, clinical research was done solely or largely on men, and the results were extrapolated to women. Only since the early '90s has the research community recognized the importance of including women and the gender differences in health issues. Before this time, the National Institutes of Health did not track whether women were enrolled in its federally funded research. The Food and Drug Administration prohibited all women of childbearing age from taking part in early-phase drug trials. And researchers were reluctant to include women due to concern for the possible risks to women and/or their future fetuses and the complication of having to account for women’s varying hormonal states and cycles, which was thought to make it more difficult.

Only more recently have researchers begun studying diseases in women that are traditionally seen as men’s diseases, such as heart disease. Meanwhile, heart disease is actually the leading cause of death in women, and since 1984 more women have died of heart disease than men. Women do not present the classic symptom of heart disease — pain in the left side of their chest — and instead may experience a burning sensation in their upper abdomen, along with lightheadedness, upset stomach and sweating. Many women often ignore symptoms that indicate they are having a heart attack. 

Q: Why is it so important to have an emphasis on women’s health, particularly across the life span?

A: For the most part, women are still the primary caregivers for their families. Women tend to defer taking care of their own health, or even feeding themselves, until every other family member is taken care of. We need to understand how to keep women healthy, and as noted in the example above, we need to understand why some diseases that we thought were experienced primarily by men are either increasing in proportion to other causes of mortality for women, or experienced differently by women. Much is linked to hormones, such as estrogen, the changing of hormonal balance such as the time period in between the start of menstruation and the end of menopause, and we do not understand this very well because women’s health experiences have not been well studied.

Q: What are some of the College of Health Solutions’ most promising research and initiatives focused on women’s health?

A: Women’s health is critical to population health because women bear the burden of making most of the health-related decisions for their families. 

In the College of Health Solutions, we support research on women’s health across the life span as well as through our Maternal Child Health Translational Research Team, a group of community partners, students and faculty who are working together to address the needs of underserved women, children and families in Arizona. 

Some of the many ongoing research projects at the College of Health Solutions that address women’s health include:  

  • Women's prenatal health: Associate Professor Jennifer Huberty explores interventions to improve women’s mental and physical health by encouraging physical activity throughout pregnancy. 
  • Child and maternal health:

    • Through a five-year, $1 million Maternal Child Health Bureau Nutrition Training Grant, Associate Professor Meg Bruening has created a high-quality, interprofessional training program for graduate nutrition students who specialize in maternal child health and childhood obesity prevention. Known as the TRANSCEND program, these students partner with health professionals and community groups to bring improved nutrition training throughout the Southwest. 

    • Associate Professor Corrie Whisner works with maternal and child health outcomes in relation to prenatal nutrition. Her most recent study focuses on moms and babies in relation to nutrition, sleep and the gut microbiome.

We also have community-based initiatives and research into special populations:

  • Project ECHO brings specialized training to health care providers in rural communities by connecting them online with specialists who mentor them and teach skills that allow them to better serve their rural patients who would otherwise be unable to receive specialized care.
    • One of our new Project ECHO programs helps victims of sex trafficking, who are disproportionately women. A $100,000+ grant is funding this program in partnership with Magellan Health. Project ECHO's coordinator is Adrienne Madhavpeddi (formerly Adrienne White).

  • Gender differences in adults with autism: Assistant professor Blair Braden is researching brain differences in women with autism vs. men with autism, which she mentions in this article

Q: Are there additional health challenges that women of color experience? What about the LGBTQ community?

A: I have been reading about the relationship between health and stress. Single Black women experience more stress than both married Black women and single or married white women. On average, single Black women experience more preterm births and more low-weight births, and the hypothesis is that stress during pregnancy is a major factor.

Other minority groups, for example Latinx populations, experience disease differently than majority populations. For example, breast cancer in Hispanic/Latina women often occurs at a younger age than in non-Hispanic white women and often with more aggressive tumors. Black women are more likely to develop aggressive, advanced-stage breast cancer that is diagnosed at a young age.

The same is probably true about LGBTQ community members. While we have seen a great deal of progress in acceptance of LGBTQ individuals, I have not seen much focus on their health, except perhaps for diseases that are perceived to be of higher prevalence in their population, like HIV. 

Data shows that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted populations of color. To some extent, that is because these minority populations have more risk factors. They live in homes that are often closer together with more people per residence and are less likely to seek regular preventive health care, whether it is because they cannot afford it, it is not accessible to them or, even worse, that they are not treated as well as white populations. They are more likely to be essential workers, which means that they are more widely exposed to the general population. And although COVID-19 can kill healthy individuals, in general, people who die are those with other chronic health problems like obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Q: What’s an area of women’s health that you think has not received much attention but has a great deal of promise as far as research?

A: While it is not my area of research, I believe that we need to learn more about how stress impacts health outcomes for women. During the COVID-19 pandemic, women have taken on so much stress for their families. They are managing the household, helping their children learn online, making sure their families are safe and healthy, and if they are fortunate to have kept their jobs, they are somehow juggling their work responsibilities as well. We know that stress during pregnancy impacts the weight of the baby. We know that stress in parenting leads to poor outcomes in child development, and on and on. 

Penny Walker

Director, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


image title

NEA Big Read celebrates Indigenous literary arts and culture

March 2, 2021

ASU Piper Center kicked off series of events with discussion of Louise Erdrich's 'The Round House'

It has been nearly a decade since Louise Erdrich’s novel “The Round House” first told the story of Joe Coutts, a 13-year-old boy living on an Ojibwe reservation in North Dakota who takes it upon himself to seek justice for his mother’s attack. But the themes it explores – for better or worse – are still relevant today, and the way Erdrich weaves them into her story makes it accessible to Native and non-Native communities alike.

“That’s (Erdrich’s) gift,” said Amanda Tachine, an assistant professor in ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College who identifies as DinéNavajo. “She's able to talk about all of these issues, like … blood quantumBlood quantum was initially a system that the federal government placed onto tribes in an effort to limit their citizenship based on the amount of "Indian blood" an individual had., jurisdiction, coming of age … community and sovereignty and friendship … she's able to pack so many strong issues into a narrative story form.”

Tachine’s comment came during a discussion she moderated on Feb. 27 that was hosted by the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing in order to kick off the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read: Phoenix. Using Erdrich’s novel as inspiration, the NEA Big Read: Phoenix features over 25 talks, workshops, book clubs, performances, art exhibitions and other virtual events celebrating Indigenous literary arts and culture across the Valley during spring 2021.

The next event, “Get Lit: Colonization,” takes place Thursday, March 4, and will also be led by Tachine as she guides attendees in a conversation about the history of colonization.

In an introduction to the kick-off discussion, Piper Center Director and poet Alberto Ríos cited Arizona’s large Native American population – including 22 federally recognized Tribal Nations, the third largest of any U.S. state – for making Erdrich’s “The Round House” an obvious choice for this year’s NEA Big Read.

Fellow poet Jake Skeets also spoke briefly, welcoming attendees from as near as Mesa, Arizona, and as far as Canada before introducing the evening’s featured guests, poets Luci Tapahonso and Laura Tohe, whom he explained would be exploring such topics as Diné womanhood, the power of storytelling and how Indigenous narratives can guide the way toward reconciliation, healing and Native Nation-building.

“Language is why we're gathering tonight,” Skeets said. “Language is a tool for beauty, and storytelling is the practice of language. Indigenous people have thrived for decades because of storytelling.”

Tachine began their discussion by asking the poets what they had been up to during quarantine. Though thankful for the time they’ve had to rediscover lost hobbies like gardening and weaving, Tapahonso and Tohe also expressed gratitude for having received their second doses of the COVID-19 vaccination and for their families’ safety to this point, acknowledging the detrimental impact the pandemic has had on Native populations.

“It just makes me want to cry because we've lost so many (people), and I think about the loss of language that's going to happen because the older people are taking the language and the culture and the philosophy teachings with them,” Tohe said. “I think about our health as Native people, because long ago … we could do things like we grow our own food, and that was nourishing to us, that was our food sovereignty. We exercised more. We walked, we rode horses, we herded sheep. All of that we've left behind, and I think that we have to think about how we can make our bodies strong again, how we can keep our languages and nourish our culture. … So I’m really hopeful that we will learn some lessons from this pandemic and that we can become a stronger people and a stronger nation.”

The strength of Native women in particular was a topic that dominated much of the evening’s discussion, just a day before March 1 heralded the beginning of National Women’s Month.

“We really have a strong matriarchal tradition,” Tapahonso said. Both she and Tohe recalled time spent as children with not just their mothers, but their aunts and grandmothers, who not only handled domestic chores and raised children but also cattle, and worked full time on top of that.

“They’d be cooking and they’d be planning and strategizing and being leaders (at the same time),” Tapahonso said. “I just learned so many valuable teachings from them while I was there, running around helping them.”

Book cover for "The Round House"

In “The Round House,” the attack on the main character’s mother reflects the all too real epidemic of violence against Native women, who are murdered at a rate 10 times higher than other ethnicities. Her son’s attempt to bring her attacker to justice reflects another unfortunate truth for Native people.

“In a sense, he has to sacrifice himself,” Tohe said. “And he's only 13, and as I was reading this, I was thinking how much (of) a burden (that is) on such a young boy, to have to do what he did for his mother because of the failure or the limitations of Western forms of justice. … I think the novel really brings out the juxtaposition of what is justice and how it is defined by Western society and how it is defined by tribal people. And … there's conflict there.”

One of the other overarching themes of the book is the power of community, something Tohe and Tapahonso agree plays a big role in the lives of Indigenous peoples.

“Our sense of community is foundational as Native people,” Tohe said, pointing out that at the beginning of the evening’s discussion, all of the speakers introduced themselves by their clan, or family of origin. She and Tapahonso credit their communities and their strong tradition of storytelling for inspiring them to become writers.

“A lot of my writing is based in stories that were told to me,” Tapahonso said. “We just always just fall into the storytelling. … One of the things I like about ‘The Round House’ is that it's told in a way that is both contemporary and yet traditional. That's why we recognize ourselves (in it).”

“For me, storytelling is part of that belief in what my mother said, that without stories, you don't have much inside you,” Tohe added. “She was saying that you have to know stories because they guide you through life. It's something you can pass on.”

Top photo courtesy of the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing