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Study: Black farmers face bank bias regarding loans; impacts are generational, far reaching

July 11, 2023

ASU business professor explains findings from research on racial disparities in farm loans

Black farmers have historically and systemically been at a disadvantage when competing with their counterparts.

They have had less land, inferior crops, have been shorted on generational wealth and have a harder time accessing business loans than white farmers, according to an Arizona State University professor’s new study on the subject.

Ashok Mishra, the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation Chair in Food Management in the Morrison School of Agribusiness, part of the W. P. Carey School of Business, along with two other principal investigatorsGianna Short and Charles B. Dodson, took a deep dive into this issue through a new study titled “Racial disparities in farm loan application processing: Are Black farmers disadvantaged?” which was recently published in Applied Economic Perspectives and Policy.

ASU News spoke to Mishra about how Black farmers have historically been discriminated against in services from the federal government, including access to credit.

Note: Answers have been edited lightly for length and clarity.

Man in black jacket and tie smiling

Ashok Mishra

Question: What made you undertake this particular study or why did you see a need to conduct this study?

Answer: The genesis of this study is rooted in my employment history. After getting my PhD in 1996, I worked for the United States Department of Agriculture from 1997–2007. During that time, the USDA was grappling with Pigford vs. Glickman ... (a) class-action lawsuit alleging racial discrimination against African American farmers in the allocation of farm loans. Credit access can affect farm productivity, profitability and the income of farming households through liquidity constraints, requiring farmers to use lower levels and lower-quality inputs. As a student of labor economics, I was taught that discrimination is very hard to assess because of all the intricacies involved in economic modeling. The lawsuit intrigued my curiosity and economic thinking.

Even though I left (the) USDA in 2007 to take a professorship at Louisiana State University, I have been contemplating the issue of discrimination and how to test discrimination empirically. Fast forward, I joined ASU in 2015. The current focus (here) on diversity, equity and inclusion provided the impetus for the study. Diversity in farm businesses remains scant and elusive. I found that researchers at the USDA agency were also interested in this issue and had the data to test the discrimination hypothesis.

Q: What are the forms of discrimination that you found in this study?

A: Access to credit allows farmers to satisfy cash needs induced by the agricultural production cycle, purchase farmland and other real estate, and invest in fixed improvements. In loan programs, discrimination can take several forms — for example, reduced loan amounts, higher interest rates or increased loan processing time. In this study, we investigated delays in loan application completion and processing time (in days) as forms of discrimination. Minority farmers usually lack the documents — income statement, assets, balance sheet — to submit loan applications. The Farm Service Agency (FSA) of (the) USDA is a lender of last resort and makes direct farm ownership and operating loans to family-sized farms that cannot obtain loans from elsewhere. Many farmers get loans from the FSA program.

Delays in access to credit, such as increased loan processing time, can affect the timely planting and harvesting of crops and feed for livestock. In this study, we considered loan processing time for two types of loans — farm ownership loans and operating loans — by Black farmers compared to white farmers.

We find significant differences in loan application completion and processing times for operating loans. The most striking finding from this study is that it takes significantly longer for loan application completion and loan processing time for Black borrowers compared to all other farmers.

Longer loan application completion for Black borrowers could be due to a lack of communication between the loan officer and applicant, failure to provide a clear and accurate description of the information and documents required, and attempts to discourage applicants.

Q: What are the long-term negative impacts of this type of discrimination towards Black farmers?

A: Historically, Black farmers faced adversities in agricultural business mainly due to access to land and participation in government farm program payment — primarily geared for grain producers and base acreage. Consequently, Black farmers faced barriers to their ability to engage in production agriculture and the affordability of land rental rates. They missed the opportunity to take advantage of farm program payments and lost capitalizing government payments on farmland markets, resulting in a lost opportunity to build generational wealth.

In the long term, discrimination could result in slower growth in generational wealth accumulation, fewer farms owned by Black farmers, decreased supply of food and fiber, loss of livelihood, increased poverty and food insecurity.

Q: Does your study include recommendations to improve Black farmers' situation? 

A: After reading this research publication, readers can easily glean several recommendations. First, investment in education is paramount. Education plays a significant role in producers' ability to process information and seek a solution that maximizes their welfare, particularly for Black farmers. Additionally, they are more likely to participate in business recordkeeping and financial management. 

Secondly, increasing financial literacy in rural communities, especially among Black farmers, can reduce distrust among farmers, decision-makers, loan officers and program officers.

Thirdly, investment in public infrastructure like information technology can bring transparency in rules, document requirements, market information, government programs and timely information for borrowers, lenders and decision-makers.

Q: Your next study is actually an expansion on this one. Tell us what you'll be doing.

A: The current study paved the way for the next study. ... The study proposes to investigate the impact of soil quality and climate change on the debt repayment capacity and access to farm loans by minority farmers in the U.S.  

Farm performance and revenues are inherently linked with production, affected by — among other things — soil quality, irrigation, climatic conditions and income capacity of loans. Minority or socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers generate less revenue on average, have greater difficulty qualifying for agricultural loans or may be dissuaded from applying for credit. The above situation is exacerbated by low soil quality and increased climatic risks. In the next three years, we will be exploring the above issues using firm and state-level data.

Top photo courtesy of iStock/Getty Images

Reporter , ASU News


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Program helps veterans reckon with reintegration

July 6, 2023

Veterans Imagination Project helps vets craft future narratives, find success

Leaving the military can be one of the most anxious and stressful moments of a service member’s life.

Whether their enlistment is four years or 20, their time in the U.S. Armed Forces is regimented, highly organized and spelled out in black and white. The expectations are very clear.

But once they are discharged, everything changes. And that can be challenging.

Arizona State University’s Bob Beard knows this all too well. When he left the Marines in 1999, he was given less than three days to make that transition.

“Too often, separating from the military is treated as a simple job change or a relocation, but the truth is it’s far more complex than that,” said Beard, a senior program manager for ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination. “We’re asking these folks to find a new community, learn new cultural competencies and develop a post-service identity in a world that is radically different than the one they just left. Navigating this broad possibility space is more than simply checking boxes — it requires thinking out of the box entirely.”

Beard and his colleagues often give guiding advice to large organizations, asking them to think about how the future of their work might change over the next few decades. After a while, he thought people transitioning out of the military could similarly benefit from these skills.

And that’s how the Veterans Imagination Project was born.

The Veterans Imagination Project was created in spring 2022 to empower veterans in transition by providing them with future thinking and collaborative imagination skills. Participants learn over the course of eight weeks how to research a desired career and examine the influences and impacts that define that field through foresight activities, scenario planning and speculative storytelling.

Students in the class — veterans and service members from all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces — interview mentors in their chosen field and work together to identify trends and potential opportunities in those industries. Collaborating with other cohort members, instructors and guest speakers, they begin to craft a narrative about their future careers and their places in them.

Military transition and post-service employment are timely topics, studied by scholars and taken up by veterans service organizations around the nation. Last fall, the U.S. Government Accountability Office published its recommendations to improve the military’s formal transition assistance program, which prepares service members for civilian careers.

Beard sees this project, with its emphasis on forecasting and long-term planning, as "another tool in a veteran’s toolbox."

What a toolbox it is, though.

After working for weeks to create plausible future-oriented scenarios, participants meet with a concept artist who helps bring these visions to life.

“If you can give someone a photo or rendering of them in a job 10-to-20 years from now, they can see the possibility of a future for themselves in that field,” said Raymond Lopez, a California-based concept artist who has worked with the Veterans Imagination Project since its inception.

“They can look at that picture and say, ‘This is my goal and I’m going to get there.’”

Lopez said he gathers information from participants regarding their profession, where they see themselves in the future and how they look in that job by creating a 3D rendering using a combination of software programs, including Photoshop, Blender and Lightroom.

“It can take days or weeks depending on the difficulty of the concept,” Lopez said, “but the end result is that it’s extremely helpful to people in the program. I’ve had several (students) reach out to me later and tell me how it inspired them.”

Lopez had the chance to meet a few of these participants in person at the Future Visions showcase held June 29 at the Coachs’ Club inside Sun Devil Stadium — and he wasn’t alone.

Attendees and partnersPartners of the Veterans Imagination Project include the Office of Veteran and Military Academic Engagement, The Pat Tillman Veterans Center, CommLab, the ASU Foundation, the Mesa Veterans Resource Center, the Arizona Coalition for Military Families and the Phoenix Veterans Center. from around ASU and across the community gathered to see Lopez’s art and learn from the students who collaborated with him, as a part of a culminating event sharing the methods and results of the Veterans Imagination Project.

It was there that Marine veteran and former project intern Scott Breshears admitted he didn’t find the program very helpful — at first.

He simply didn’t buy into the concept when he was discharged in 2020 after a five-year stint. He said he thought he “had his stuff together” and being in the program required imagination and vulnerability, which was “a side I didn’t flex very often.”

“Once I let that wall down and allowed myself to be vulnerable, the program offered a concrete vision of a future,” said Breshears, who received a degree in microbiology from ASU in 2022 and currently works for HonorHealth Scottsdale Shea Medical Center. He is also applying for medical school.

“When you have something concrete, then you can build on it.”

In the spring, Breshears returned to the Veterans Imagination Project as a volunteer peer mentor assisting others in the class.

Creating a meaningful path

The pilot program initially launched with three ASU student veterans.

Last spring, Beard and his team received a $50,000 grant from the ASU Foundation’s Women and Philanthropy and have expanded this work into the community with great success.

"The Veterans Imagination Project is an exciting opportunity for ASU Women and Philanthropy donors to support veterans in their transition from the armed services to civilian life," said Rebecca Baker, an ASU Women and Philanthropy donor and grant review committee member. "Offering more than educational opportunities, the program’s mission — to guide veterans toward creating a life path that is fulfilling — meets multiple needs of individuals departing military service. It is this totally unique approach to helping veterans, who give so much to our society, that appealed to Women and Philanthropy supporters."

Beard said the grant money enabled more service members to take part in workshops this past fall at the Mesa Veterans Resource Center and the CommLab at the ASU West campus. The workshops included ASU student veterans and former and active service members from the community.

Marissa Sanchez and Derek Wilson were beneficiaries of those workshops.

Sanchez, a Navy veteran who was in security forces, went in an entirely different direction when she was discharged in 2022. She enrolled in ASU’s College of Health Solutions to get a degree in food and nutrition entrepreneurship, and said the Veterans Imagination Project was the perfect complement to her degree.

“The program made me think more about the future of my profession,” said Sanchez, who has created a food preparation company. “There’s a very good possibility the food chain could be impacted in 10 years with over-resourcing, over-farming, overfishing and pollution. It made me really think about how this might impact my business and world nutrition.”

She’s already developed some signature dishes like huevo rancheros, squash blossoms and four different types of ceviche.

“I want people to get excited about food and get them to think of new ways to prepare and cook locally sourced food and vegetables. Basically, cook what’s around us each day,” she said. 

For Derek Wilson, the tastiest dish is redemption.

He served in the Air Force from 2003 to 2014 and worked in security forces as a canine handler detecting explosives. After five deployments in the Middle East, he was forced to medically retire after “physical and mental injuries” sustained on the battlefield. Afterward, substance abuse issues caused him to lose his house, and his wife and three children were homeless for several months.

“I went down a pretty dark path with the criminal justice system and ended up in jail one time; almost ended up in prison another time,” said Wilson, who is a student success advocate for ASU’s Pat Tillman Veterans Center. “I was at a point in my life where I had to make some pretty big decisions."

Wilson eventually got sober, found employment in social work and transferred from Glendale Community College to ASU in fall 2022. He participated in the ASU West campus cohort of the Veterans Imagination Project and graduated a few weeks ago. Like Breshears, he too was skeptical of the program.

“I’ve been working on my transition for years and I thought there’s no way Bob or anyone could teach me how to successfully transition in eight weeks,” Wilson said. “Bob said, ‘Transition is personal. I simply want you to be able to forecast what the future’s going to look like for you.’”

Wilson said that bit of wisdom was the turnaround for him. He began focusing on how artificial intelligence could enhance social work. He took courses on Google DeepMind, reached out to a renowned professor in the field and thought about how to advance his career — by creating an AI system that could help co-pilot social services.

“The system would basically listen and pick out key words and help fill in background information while the social worker can focus entirely on the client,” said Wilson, who has a 3.96 GPA and is three semesters away from collecting his diploma. “AI would be doing all the homework while the social worker can offer sympathy, support and build trust with the clients and have more meaningful conversations.”

Perhaps even more meaningful is the example Wilson is setting for his family.

“Now I go home, and my kids see my success and it makes them want to do well at school,” Wilson said. “Since I started ASU, my wife has also gone back to school. It seems the more I put into it, the more I’m getting out of it.”

Top photo: Marissa Sanchez, a third-year food and nutrition entrepreneurship student and a member of the current Veterans Imagination Project cohort, takes a picture of her imagined future during the Future Visions showcase on Thursday, June 29, in the Coachs' Club at Sun Devil Stadium. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Stella Rouse named new director of Hispanic Research Center at ASU

July 3, 2023

This month, Stella Rouse joined Arizona State University as the new director of the Hispanic Research Center and professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies.

Rouse comes to ASU from the University of Maryland, where she began as an assistant professor in 2008 after finishing her PhD, and has served in various leadership positions over the years while continuing to teach. Headshot of Stella Rouse Stella Rouse Download Full Image

Her most recent position was as the director of the Center for Democracy and Civic Engagement from 2019 to 2022, helping lead the center through several initiatives.

Rouse said her 15 years at the University of Maryland allowed her to become a better educator, researcher and leader. Now Rouse feels it is time to advance her career and focus on specific interests.

“It was sort of right place, right time. I hit a point where I felt I needed to move on to a new, exciting chapter of my life,” she said. “I have accomplished a lot at Maryland, but moving forward will allow me to focus more on my passions.”

Rouse’s background has prepared her to lead the center, housed in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, into the future.

“The Hispanic Research Center is an integral part of our ASU history. Given our new designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, I am excited about the center’s future,” said Magda Hinojosa, dean of social sciences in The College. “I am thrilled to welcome Stella and see the impactful work that she brings to ASU and the broader community.”

Rouse received her bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in political science from Louisiana State University. As she progressed in her education, she focused on youth identity, youth politics and Latino politics.

She is the author of “Latinos in the Legislative Process,” which explores the rapid growth of the Latino population in the U.S. and how well this group’s presence translates into legislative influence, according to the book’s description.

She has also contributed to peer-reviewed journals on American and identity politics and written articles for The Washington Post, The Hill, Reuters and The Conversation.

“I want this center to be one with ASU and the community. A place where not only local history gets preserved and displayed, but also a place of belonging. The College and ASU are multidisciplinary, and I want to spread that knowledge and work in the Hispanic Research Center universitywide.”

Her vision and ideas align with the university's hopes for the center, which include assuming “fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities (ASU) serves,” as stated in ASU’s charter.

“As I worked through my vision and goals with the provost's office, the deans and other leadership at ASU and in The College, I felt their support,” Rouse said.

“The support, opportunities and vision all lined up with what I believe in, and it felt like the move to make after hearing everyone’s thoughts and opinions of what the center could be.” 

Stephen Perez

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

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ASU professor testifies before UN on Puerto Rican self-determination

June 30, 2023

Colonization has caused mental health issues for Puerto Ricans, professor says

Cristalís Capielo Rosario’s family migrated from Puerto Rico to the United States in 1998.

At Arizona State University, Capielo Rosario, an associate professor of counseling and counseling psychology in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, has done quantitative and qualitative studies on the impact of coloniality on Puerto Rican migration and mental health.

So, when Rosario testified on June 22 before the United Nations C-24 Special Committee on Decolonization, her words came from a personal and professional perspective.

Following the testimony of Capielo Rosario and others, the committee voted in favor of Resolution 1514, which asserts Puerto Rico’s right to self-determination and independence.

ASU News talked to Capielo Rosario about her testimony and work at ASU.

Note: The interview has been edited lightly for brevity and clarity.

Question: Let’s start with this: What kind of work are you doing at ASU with regard to Puerto Rico?

Answer: Primarily what I research is Puerto Rican migration. What are the factors that influence why we come to the U.S.? Since 2005, we have been experiencing the largest migratory event of Puerto Ricans, and one of the dynamics that’s particularly interesting to me is that even though we are U.S. citizens — since 1917 — that doesn’t seem to translate into benefits for us or equal treatment or protections in Puerto Rico.

As you may know, Puerto Ricans in the archipelago can’t vote for president. They don’t have equal access to social safety nets, even though they have all the requirements and responsibilities of U.S. citizens. They don’t get the same protections and benefits. So, there’s this narrative that once we migrate, we will be fully integrated into the policy of the United States. But when you look at educational outcomes, when you look at economic outcomes, when you look at health outcomes, and then my area of expertise, which would be mental health outcomes, we consistently for generations have performed much worse than all the LatinxA gender-neutral term for Latino/a. groups.

So, my work at ASU has been to dissect that. What is it about our condition that helps explain those disparities, even though we’re a territory and even though we have U.S. citizenship?

Q: In what areas are Puerto Ricans performing worse?

A: For example, when you look at educational attainment, Puerto Ricans — compared with Cubans, compared with Mexican Americans and some groups in Central America — were less likely to complete high school and less likely to have a graduate or post-graduate degree. We persistently have higher levels of unemployment and less likelihood of owning our own home, even though a majority of us are bilingual. 

Q: Why is that?

A: Going back to migration, the reception of Puerto Ricans in areas like the Northeast or in New York, Chicago and, before that, places like Hawaii, there’s documented history about what sociologists may call radicalized segregation — where we were forced to live in what people refer to as the ghetto projects, where they didn’t have access to the same educational and employment opportunities. You also see, particularly in the 1930s through the 1950s, that even though Puerto Ricans who were migrating had agricultural or managerial skills, because we were culturally different and linguistically different we were not afforded the same opportunities to go up the ladder. So, we were kept at a lower level, with less benefits and less salary. All of that translated into downward social mobility.

Q: How did your work studying these disparities influence your testimony and what was the gist of your testimony?

A: I went as a psychologist. There were a lot of attorneys who were talking more about the sort of legal ramifications of colonialism in Puerto Rico. I had a different take, which is this disparity in mental health. What we know from other populations who also have experienced colonization is that, beyond the political and beyond the economic ramifications, there’s also a toll that happens at the health and psychological level. It’s not only about the economy and politics, but the narratives and what we end up internalizing about ourselves as a people who have been colonized. You create a narrative and logic where the colonized community is inherently racially, culturally and linguistically inferior. That then sets up why we cannot govern ourselves or we can’t be self-determined. That ends up affecting our self-esteem, which in turn affects depression, anxiety and intergroup dynamics.

Then, going back to the piece on colonial migration, even though we’re citizens and even though Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, it’s not tantamount to the migration that may happen with someone going from Florida to New York or Texas to California. The economic and political conditions in Puerto Rico are such that we are forced to come here, and then when we are here, we still experience disparities. So, that was sort of the psychological take for the argument that we were trying to make, which is we have a right to self-determination.

Q: How do you think self-determination would change the mental health aspect for Puerto Ricans?

A: One of the narratives that my community often talks about is this inability for self-governance. I recently conducted a study in which I asked participants to imagine what would happen if the association between the U.S. and Puerto Rico ceased. The primary response was chaos. "We won’t be able to survive." "We’re going to die of hunger." It’s this internalization that we can’t do it. But when asked in that same study how they would describe themselves and other Puerto Ricans, they said we’re hardworking, we’re creative and we have a lot of assets. But it does not translate into the idea of self-determination. That’s a psychological phenomenon. We certainly have the economic and social resources to make it happen.

Scott Bordow

Reporter , ASU News

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Gathering data on a geneticist

June 29, 2023

ASU alum and new faculty member Krystal Tsosie says continuing the work of her ancestors gives her strength

 Editor's note: New Faces on Campus is a new monthly feature by ASU News showcasing faculty members who have been hired in the 2022–23 academic year.

Krystal Tsosie is a historical figure of sorts.

She is Arizona State University’s first Indigenous geneticist in human biology and is one of the top quoted professors by the media at the university, receiving coverage by outlets as The New York Times, PBS NOVA, Washington Post, NPR, The Atlantic, Forbes and The Boston Globe, among others. 

Tsosie even has a server at the University of California Santa Barbara Bren School named after her.

Her current research at ASU centers on ethical engagement with Indigenous communities to ensure Indigenous peoples equitably benefit from precision health and genomic medicine. 

In addition to being a scientist, Tsosie is community advocate, a mentor, a first-generation scholar and first in her family to receive a PhD in science. That’s a lot to brag about, but that’s never been her style. Continuing the work of her ancestors is where Tsosie gets her inner strength.

“The humility and acknowledgement that I am building on the expertise of previous generations is incredibly important to keep grounded in my work as an Indigenous scientist,” said Tsosie, who is an assistant professor in ASU’s School of Life Sciences. “These are not things that I take lightly as a scientist-advocate for my community. In truth, I do not think I 'ended up' in academia but rather that academia landed on us Indigenous peoples.”

Tsosie landed back at ASU on Jan. 1, 2023, after graduating from the university with two degrees.

She spoke with ASU News about her background, academic journey and her two pets — Pavlov and Schrödinger.

Question: Can you tell us a bit about your background — where you’re from and how you ended up in academia?

Answer: Yá’át’ééh. Shí éí Kinłichii’nii nishłį́ dóó Naakai diné’e bashishchiin. Tódichii’nii dashicheii dóó Tłizi’łaní dashinalí. Shí éí Dr. Krystal Tsosie yinishyé. (Translation: I am Red House clan, born for the Mexican Peoples clan. My maternal grandfather’s clan is Bitterwater and my paternal grandfather’s clan is Many Goats. My name is Dr. Krystal Tsosie.)

I am Diné, an Indigenous citizen of the Navajo Nation. The maternal side of my family comes from Shonto, Arizona, and the paternal side of my family comes from Leupp, Arizona. My father, who recently retired after working for the Phoenix Indian Medical Center after 42 years of service as a power plant operator, made the decision to move our family to the west side of Phoenix, where I spent about 70% of my childhood. I am grateful to my parents, who are among the smartest people I know, and for my ancestors, who were among the first scientists along with many of the world’s Indigenous peoples.

Q: What is your area of research or academic focus? What are you most excited about regarding your research?

A: I have training in population genetics and biostatistics with intersections in ethics and public health. I also have other expertise in community-engaged research and qualitative methods, which are important and essential for co-producing research with Indigenous peoples. Too often in data science and genetics, we see people as lines or rows in a de-identified dataset. In truth, there are a lot of factors as it relates to the study of health disparities that impact Indigenous peoples, such as colonial changes to our ways of living as imbedded in structural racism and inequities in our health, that are missing from analyses when scientists only focus on DNA and what can be found in electronic medical records.

Part of what excites me is that I can work directly with communities and ask tribal community members how — or if — they want to see research in their communities conducted because they — and not outsiders — know firsthand what kinds of research questions are most useful to them.

Indigenous peoples are often presented with dilemma: How can they participate in genetics research in a way that is truly responsive and respectful of their concerns and interests in research without giving up completely their rights to data collected from their members? I am extremely excited to also explore, from the policy and advocacy side, technology solutions rooted in machine learning and artificial intelligence to build data systems that center Indigenous peoples as the decision-making authority as it relates to their own data. To me, this is a great synergy of health equity and justice-centered approaches to science and genetics that is truly groundbreaking.

Q: How do you want to see this field advance to the betterment of society?

A: I entered the field of human genetics to ensure that, if genetics is going to be pursued with Indigenous people, that it benefits Indigenous peoples first and foremost. The history of "Western" science is typified by a trend of using Indigenous peoples’ data and DNA for the benefit of other people, e.g., for academics to pursue publications and research grants to industry using Indigenous peoples’ medicinal knowledges to claim drug patents.

If we are going to talk about truly building sustainable and equitable science-driven solutions, then we also need to make apparent the power dynamics that exist in science and make moves towards justice. Indigenous peoples’ concerns have often been ignored and erased in academia, and I want to make sure that we build technologies that center Indigenous communities and their benefit. If other dimensions of society benefit, in a way that in non-extractive and non-exploitative of Indigenous peoples’ experiences and data, then I would consider that to be an excellent byproduct of my work.

Q: What is something you wish more people realized about what your research?­­

A: Science, as much as we like to idealize, does not occur in a vacuum. Humans impart a lot of decision-making authority and agency in deciding what types of studies to fund, who gets included or excluded in research, and which researchers and institutions obtain that funding or not. A lot of funding decisions are made at the congressional level, too, and are subject to political forces that we may not even see. Hence, at least in the disciplines I work in, there is subjectivity in science and how it is conducted.

Raising awareness to these power dynamics and asking for change is not “anti-science” nor acting against the perceived “objectivity” of science. I, and scientists of color, should be able to act as advocates for our communities while also advancing science — the two acts are not antithetical. I really hope that upcoming Indigenous and scholars of color can see themselves as both advocates and scientists in STEM and data science fields without feeling forced to choose one or the other. I hope to be that mentor for the next generations after me, and that is a great positive driving force forward.

Q: What brought you to ASU, and what do you like about the university?

A: I am gratefully coming back to ASU. I completed my undergraduate (BS, microbiology) and first master’s degree (MA, applied ethics) here in the School of Life Sciences. I love the fact that ASU is the largest public institution with the highest percentage of Indigenous students and the largest Indigenous faculty size. I also appreciate the American Indian Student Support Services, which offers an unparalleled sense of community, especially for an institution this size.

While I appreciate my PhD-granting institution and mentors, returning to ASU is like returning home. My current lab — I love saying “my lab” — is around the corner from my old graduate TA office. My career journey feels full circle. I am back home with my family in Arizona, and I am back in my academic home.

Q: What specifically would you like to accomplish while at your college/school/department?

A: ASU and all state public universities have a significant responsibility to act in service to the Tribal Nations of Arizona, especially as it relates to the ethical and equitable pursuit of any data science, health or STEM research, or education goal. I am truly excited to be a part of a cohort of Indigenous scholars in the tradition of the Indigenous research-educators before me and ahead of me. I think we are entering into an exciting and much-anticipated stage of Indigenous science and Indigenous data science in academia, and I am so glad to be a part of a movement that is so incredibly meaningful. In addition to being the Indigenous mentor that I hope my current and future students deserve, I want to re-Indigenize genomics and data science commensurate with the wisdom and expertise of my predecessors and ancestors. Exciting news is upcoming from the Tsosie Lab for Indigenous Genomic Data Equity and Justice.

Q: What’s something you do for fun or something only your closest friends know about you?

A: As members of our beloved family, we have Pavlov (dog, black Labrador) and Schrödinger (cat, grey shorthair). Pavlov responds incredibly well to food, treats and doorbells while Schrödinger loves hiding in boxes.

Top photo: Krystal Tsosie, an assistant professor and Arizona State University alumna, is an Indigenous geneticist and bioethicist in the School of Life Sciences. She is a member of the Navajo Nation. Tsosie is photographed in her office at the Tsosie Lab for Indigenous Genomic Equity and Justice in the Life Sciences B Wing on the Tempe campus on Wednesday, June 21, 2023. When Tsosie was young, she asked her grandmother to weave a rug to hang in her future office to honor her pursuit of a doctorate, which she did. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News.

Reporter , ASU News


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The unintentional executive

June 27, 2023

Jacob Moore named ASU's new vice president, special advisor to the president on American Indian affairs

Fourteen years ago, Jacob Moore held a part-time management intern position with Arizona State University while he was studying for his MBA, with no long-term plans to work at the university.

He had a career in banking before returning to college to earn his bachelor’s degree in finance at the age of 40 with the goal of working for tribes. Moore went on to earn his MBA from the W. P. Carey School of Business almost a decade later.

He has evolved from a management intern to executive leadership and today is the new vice president and special advisor to the president on American Indian affairs. But suggesting Moore was simply an intern doesn’t properly account for his years of experience in banking, health policy, economic development, tribal government, gaming, entrepreneurship and eight years on the Arizona State Board of Education.

Now in his 60s, Moore readily admits he’s a late bloomer.

“I only wish it happened 20 years earlier,” Moore said with laugh. “But I’m not bothered by it. My path has brought me to where I am today, and that’s how it’s supposed to be."

"I am grateful for the opportunity to be of service to ASU and to Indigenous students and communities,” said Moore, who is Lakota, Dakota, Akimel O’odham and Tohono O’odham.

His new post starts July 1.

“Arizona State University is working harder than ever to support the success of Native American students, and Jacob Moore has contributed meaningfully to our progress,” ASU President Michael M. Crow said. "Jacob is knowledgeable and passionate about developing better ways to serve tribal communities, and we are excited to see where his leadership will guide us.”

Moore is the former associate vice president of tribal relations in the Office of Government and Community Affairs. He was responsible for the intergovernmental affairs between ASU and tribal nations and communities.

His new job duties will focus on expanding the efforts of those who came before him in his new role as special advisor to the president.

Moore said ASU has a legacy of prolific leaders who proceeded him in the role of special advisor on tribal affairs. The first was Peterson Zah, former president of the Navajo Nation; followed by Diane Humetewa, former U.S. attorney and a current federal District Court judge; and, most recently, Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, a well-established Native scholar and researcher.

Brayboy said Moore is the perfect choice for this role.

“Vice President Moore brings an unbelievable skill set that is rooted in being a remarkable ambassador and emissary for ASU,” said Brayboy, who became dean of Northwestern University’s School of Education and Social Policy on June 1. “He is a brilliant thinker. He is also beloved among the faculty, students and staff at ASU and among tribal peoples across the nation. His deep knowledge of ASU, coupled with his lived experiences, situate him to take on this role in wonderful ways. I’m thrilled for Jacob. And for ASU.”

Moore’s goal is to build upon the university’s previous work to make higher education more accessible for American Indian/Indigenous students and strengthen the university’s engagement with tribal nations and communities.

His new responsibilities will cover a broad spectrum of duties and transformational initiatives, including aligning research projects with tribal priorities, sustainability practices that incorporate traditional knowledge in a respectful way, collaborations with a wide variety of stakeholders, and social advancements in equity and global health.

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU News

One of the larger objectives before Moore is to enact strategies that emphasize student success by aligning programs and services — from recruitment to retention to career services, on to graduation and, ultimately, alumni and donor relations — into one coherent system.

“Dr. Brayboy’s research identifies four key elements for Native American student success in higher education: academic preparation, cultural congruity, financial need, and role models and mentors,” Moore said. “As we continue to do a thorough analysis of student data, we see wellness and well-being as a fifth key element to student success. It’s an opportunity to build upon the solid foundation that already exists at ASU and ramp up our commitment to the next level.”

Moore said each of the 22 federally recognized tribal governments in the state of Arizona have a significant role to play in determining the future of this state when it comes to economic vitality, tourism and critical natural-resource management, such as water, land, timber, wildlife and mining. Preparing the next generation of leaders, engineers, educators, artisans, healers, wisdom keepers and caretakers of these precious limited resources is a role that ASU has a duty to support, Moore believes.

"Assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves is straight out the university’s charter,” Moore said.

Moore put that into practice in his former role, said Terry Rambler, chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe. Rambler said a few years ago he approached President Crow to start their own tribal college and obtain accreditation. He put Moore on it, and it got done, according to Rambler.

“Our tribe partnered with the Tohono O’odham Nation’s tribal college to use their accreditation. San Carlos Apache College is now in its fifth year of existence and has recently applied for accreditation,” Rambler said. “Every step of the way, from meeting with Tohono O’odham Community College to helping educate our college board members to today, Jacob has been there with us. He is helping us create our own tribal college, which will become a game changer for our people. Our college will help us strengthen our self-determination and sovereignty. I thank Jacob and President Crow for believing in us and education.”

Moore also believes in strengthening the Indigenous community through his volunteer efforts. He serves on the Phoenix Indian Center fundraising executive leadership committee and last year co-chaired the 75th annual Silver and Turquoise Gala Ball, the center’s annual fundraiser. Because of Moore’s participation, the center raised $500,000, according to Jolyana Begay-Kroupa, the center’s chief excutive officer.

“It was important for me to ask a local leader to help co-chair the event,” said Begay-Kroupa, who also teaches Navajo language courses as ASU. “I asked Jacob, thinking he was probably going to say no because he’s so busy, but he was happy to do it. It was my first year as CEO and he helped guide me through the process, suggesting we invite Valley leaders and corporate sponsor executives to our event. As a result, we had a record-breaking year.”

Begay-Kroupa said Moore is a “quiet mentor” who sees the need for more Indigenous leaders and supports their needs.

“Jacob helps pave the way for these leaders and their initiatives to fulfill these important roles in the community and our urban Native people here locally,” Begay-Kroupa said.

Maria Dadgar, who has known Moore since 2000, sees him as a master weaver and troubleshooter who has one goal in mind: to help everyone reach their goals.

“Jacob seamlessly works through political, cultural, business and academic circles to create innovative ways for us all to work together to achieve overarching goals,” said Dadgar, executive director of the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona. “He is very effective at building community and tireless in his service to others. Every community needs a leader like Jacob Moore.”

Moore’s troubleshooting skills comes from a variety of work and scholarly experiences. He currently serves on the board of directors for Arizona Community Foundation, ASU Morrison Institute, WestEd, Arizona Minority Education Policy Analysis Center, Xico and Tohono O’odham Gaming Enterprise.

He is also a senior global futures scholar with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory and a health solutions ambassador with ASU’s College of Health Solutions.  

Moore first started at ASU in 2007 assisting Ivan Makil, former president of the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, in launching a two-day training program called American Indian Newly Elected Orientation. The program evolved into the Tribal Government Leadership Forum and continued for seven years.  

In 2014, Moore was tasked with developing “The State of Indian Country in Arizona” report, produced for the ASU Office of Public Affairs. The report profiled the role of faculty across the university that were engaged in research and policy in Indian Country and identified opportunities for focused programs in the coming years.

The university responded to the call for greater engagement in the report, according to Moore. In May 2020, ASU reached a major milestone when it enrolled approximately 3,500 American Indian students. That same year, it graduated 679 Indigenous students, another breakthrough achievement. 

A year later the university reached another milestone: ASU now employs approximately 60 Indigenous scholars — one of the largest cohorts assembled at any major university in the United States.

These world-class scholars have won Pulitzers, fellowships, MacArthur “genius” awards and National Institutes of Health grants, and have either been inducted into major academies or had other significant awards bestowed upon them. They teach subjects that cover a wide spectrum of academia, including sustainability, education, engineering, dramatic arts, architecture, liberal arts, social work, science, law and health care.

Recruiting, guiding and inspiring these academic leaders takes a special person with people skills and know-how, said Amanda R. Tachine, an author and assistant professor with ASU's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

“Jacob is a wise leader and exudes wisdom,” Tachine said. “Being alongside him and seeing the way he includes everyone in conversation is a phenomenal gift. We’re lucky to have him.”

Moore said his new job recognizes tribal nations and communities as a key stakeholder in the university and comes with the responsibility of ensuring that current and future Indigenous students are provided every opportunity for success in higher education.

“I’m honored to be appointed to the role of vice president and special advisor to the president on tribal relations,” Moore said. “I remember well the many Native leaders, alumni, scholars, mentors and peers that continuously pushed this institution to respond to the needs of tribal nations, communities, faculty and students. Having the opportunity to carry out just a small portion of their collective hopes, dreams and expectations is humbling.”

Top photo: Jacob Moore poses at the Hayden Library’s Indigenous Labriola Center table on June 1. He was recently promoted to vice president and special advisor to the president on American Indian affairs. His tribal heritage is Lakota, Dakota, Tohono O’odham and Akimel O’odham. The Labriola Center's table was designed to evoke the ancient canal system built by the HuhugamHuhugam is the O'odham word for all O'odham ancestors, including those known to archaeologists as the Hohokam. Source: that first sustained people in the Valley. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Reporter , ASU News


ASU among leaders in service to Latino student success

Sun Devils have been selected for national roles in service to Latinos

June 20, 2023

In recognition of Arizona State University’s longstanding commitment to an inclusive educational environment, Excelencia in Education, an organization based in Washington, D.C., announced that ASU President Michael Crow has joined the network of Presidents for Latino Student Success.

This national network is composed of presidents and chancellors that are committed to learning environments where Latino students can thrive. Through the network, Crow will collaborate with Excelencia to leverage collective expertise and resources, foster partnerships, and amplify efforts to improve student success on a national scale.  Charter sign on ASU's Tempe campus In recognition of Arizona State University’s longstanding commitment to an inclusive educational environment, Excelencia in Education has announced that ASU President Michael Crow has joined the network of Presidents for Latino Student Success. Download Full Image

Colleges and universities within the network represent only 4% of all institutions across the nation but enroll one in four of all Latino students in higher education and account for one in three of all Latino graduates. In comparison with all institutions, members of the network retain a faculty composed of Latinos that is twice as high while having a higher rate of retention for students that are more likely to receive Pell Grants and less likely to accept federal student loans.

Among those in Arizona, ASU currently enrolls the largest number of full-time Hispanic undergraduate students.

A subset of the network includes 30 institutions that have been recognized with the Seal of Excelencia, a prestigious, voluntary and comprehensive certification that ASU has received twice since the inception of the recognition. The seal recognized the university for its high level of commitment and efforts to serve Latino students, and is in addition to its designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education.

According to Sarita Brown, co-founder and president of Excelencia, the organization is honored to work with the presidents and chancellors who have accepted this challenge.

“Higher education leaders with trendsetting skills and vision are fundamental to our country’s strong recovery,” Brown said. “Those prepared to engage and intentionally serve Latino students, while serving all students, will lead the way.” 

Excelencia has expanded its suite of programs and initiatives with the addition of its Policy Fellows for Equity Innovation — distinguished scholars and academic leaders that share the organization’s commitment to Latino student success. In doing so, these leaders join an immersive experience where they may reassess and influence federal policy in four areas: college affordability, institutional capacity, retention and transfer, and workforce preparation.

Vanessa Ruiz, deputy vice president of outreach and a member of the Hispanic-Serving Institution Advisory Council at ASU, was welcomed among the inaugural cohort of nine with a self-selected emphasis on workforce preparation. 

Group photo

Vanessa Ruiz (back row, fourth from the right) at California State University, Northridge, alongside Excelencia co-founder Deborah Santiago and colleagues in the inaugural cohort of Policy Fellows for Equity Innovation. Photo courtesy Vanessa Ruiz

“ASU’s participation in this space speaks to our multilevel approach to Latino student success. As the country faces a changing workforce, we have to both ensure that Latinos have access to postsecondary education and are along the way prepared to enter the workforce and succeed as competitive candidates,” Ruiz said. “I am humbled to be among leaders in academia from both public and private institutions as we advocate for solutions to these core issues.”

In her role as deputy vice president, Ruiz leads several teams that develop and implement partnerships with public, private and nonprofit organizations to advance the educational attainment and economic opportunity for historically underserved communities.

In April, Ruiz accepted the prestigious Education Partner of the Year award from the Hispanic Scholarship Fund on behalf of ASU. The Hispanic Scholarship Fund, an organization that assists Hispanic students with information, resources and scholarships to navigate and complete college, has been a crucial partner to the university since 2015, when ASU began hosting several of the organization's programs, most notably College Camp, a free, bilingual event for sixth to 12th graders and their families to help them prepare, plan and pay for a college education.

In addition to the appointment of Ruiz, Mara Lopez, senior research program manager for the Center for Broadening Participation in STEM, has been selected to serve among the board of directors for the Alliance of Hispanic Serving Institution Educators, a nonprofit supporting educators and practitioners across the nation as they seek to provide quality, relevant educational opportunities for historically underserved students. 

Group photo

Mara Lopez (front row, second from right) at the annual Best Practices Conference in San Francisco alongside fellow board directors for the Alliance of Hispanic-Serving Institutions. Photo courtesy Mara Lopez

This role positions Lopez among 13 leaders from other Hispanic-Serving Institutions across the nation. Through regular programming, members share professional development opportunities, assist in the implementation of Title V funding and other capacity-building projects, and host an annual conference as a forum to disseminate best practices for improving educational outcomes. In addition, they act as a liaison between member institutions to produce more competitive grant applications to federal funding agencies. 

“I am deeply honored to be in this position as the alliance works to democratize best practices of service in higher education,” Lopez said. “To learn and contribute to greater outcomes for historically underserved students is an enriching experience.”

In her role at the university, Lopez develops and implements educational opportunities and experiential training in areas of science, technology, engineering and math. Her strategies aim to increase the Latino representation in these fields. Through her focus on equity in and beyond the classroom, Lopez hopes to create greater educational experiences for students at all levels and backgrounds.

Rocque Perez

Communications Manager, Office of Inclusive Excellence

ASU Thunderbird’s Project DreamCatcher empowers Native American entrepreneurs to thrive

June 13, 2023

Charmayne Dawahoya grew up on the White Mountain Apache Reservation, where she and her husband co-own Bear Beans Coffee. Seeking to expand her entrepreneurial knowledge and advance her business with a sustainable mindset, Dawahoya enrolled in Project DreamCatcher — a weeklong business training program specifically designed for female Native American entrepreneurs. 

Project DreamCatcher was created through support and funding by the Freeport-McMoRan Foundation in partnership with the Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University.  A group of people gathered in a room, sitting in chairs, with a digital sign above that says "Congratulations DreamCatcher Graduates Class of 2023" The Class of 2023 DreamCatcher graduates celebrated their accomplishments during the graduation ceremony held June 9 on ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus. Download Full Image

For Dawahoya, this opportunity provided her with a one-of-a-kind experience to learn how to create and manage a business while making connections with fellow Native American women who have similar aspirations. Since completing the program, Dawahoya has secured a partnership to establish an additional business location in a Walmart store, achieving a significant career milestone. Now, she is devoting her attention to developing this new venture, actively pursuing her entrepreneurial dreams and turning them into reality.

"DreamCatcher was an incredible journey that allowed me to meet and connect with other aspiring Native American women entrepreneurs trying to make their way in the business world," Dawahoya said.

The program's curriculum is designed by Thunderbird faculty, who also provide instruction. Throughout the program, cohort participants have access to graduate-level classes, coaching and advising sessions with business professionals, and networking activities designed to impart new skills and foster the confidence to start or expand a business. Participants acquire skills in marketing, leadership, bookkeeping, creating a business plan and obtaining access to capital.

"Project DreamCatcher provides a supportive community where Native American women can gain not only strategic business skills but also nurture professional relationships that can assist them as they embark on or expand their entrepreneurial journeys," said Dinora Gonzalez, senior project manager for global development at Thunderbird.

Dawahoya's journey in the DreamCatcher program mirrors the experiences of fellow participant Denella Belin, who shares a similar drive to pursue owning her own business. Belin, a sous chef, aims to establish a culinary program that would highlight Native American cuisine and its authentic origins. She is Navajo and originally from Tuba City.

Belin's vision for the program extends beyond culinary delights. She envisions it as a platform to educate Native American students about their ancestral foods while introducing a previously untold historical narrative. Recognizing the shortcomings of the current food system and its adverse effects on Native American communities, Belin emphasizes the importance of acknowledging the culinary traditions of past, present and future generations. Through this, she hopes to cultivate a new culinary landscape that caters to the palates of food enthusiasts from all walks of life.

"The DreamCatcher program has enabled me to nurture my passion for my idea. I have had the opportunity to connect with the right individuals and organizations who provided me with a platform to showcase my unique approach to indigenous cuisine,” Belin said. “DreamCatcher has simplified the process of building a business by sharing fundamental business concepts, offering professors who share our common vision and facilitating direct contact with accomplished DreamCatcher alumni. Hearing their stories of starting from where we are now and achieving success as business owners has been truly inspiring."

Following her graduation from the DreamCatcher program, Belin's visionary concept quickly materialized into reality. She launched her business, Nella’s Innovative Kreations, in March.

As a culinary entrepreneur, Belin combines her expertise in French classical cuisine with her profound understanding of Native American cuisine, resulting in a diverse and innovative range. Her entrepreneurial prowess and dedication have propelled her passions forward, enabling her to not only run a successful business but also fulfill her role as a culinary educator with a specific emphasis on empowering the Native American youth community.

On June 9, 38 women from the Hualapai, San Carlos Apache, White Mountain Apache, Tohono O'odham, Hopi, Pascua Yaqui and Navajo tribes graduated from Project DreamCatcher during a ceremony on the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus.

The next Project DreamCatcher cohort will run September 11–15. Priority is given to enrolled members of the Hualapai, San Carlos Apache, White Mountain Apache, Tohono O'odham and Navajo Nation. Enrolled members of nine additional tribal nations are also eligible, including Ak-Chin Indian Community, Gila River Indian Community, Hopi Tribe, Pascua Yaqui Tribe, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Tonto Apache Tribe, Yavapai-Apache Nation, Yavapai Prescott Indian Tribe and ZuniPueblo.

Notable DreamCatcher graduates

Natasha Gonzales, owner of Kokopelli House at Bitahnii Acres.

"I've owned a bed and breakfast, (Kokopelli House at Bitahnii Acres), for the past seven years. DreamCatcher has given me the tools to grow and get better at business. I am so appreciative of that week of meeting all of these intelligent, beautiful women with all these ideas. It was uplifting," she said. 

Sheryl Benally is the owner of Lynn Designs.

“My business is called Lynn Designs; I am a third-generation silversmith. Carrying on my family’s tradition is very sacred to me, and I am very honored and proud that I can keep this tradition going,” she said. 

Shi-Fawn Chee is the owner of Blended Girl Cosmetics.

“We learned condensed versions of bookkeeping, marketing and social networking. I hope to apply the knowledge that I learned to grow my brand, and hopefully one day I'll be a brand that you’ll see and know,” she said.

Dasi Styles

Senior Media Relations Officer, Thunderbird School of Global Management


ASU study focuses on precarious lives of Kenyan acrobats

June 12, 2023

Acrobatics are a form of human expression that unites people across the planet, with studies showing that it enhances empathy among both performers and audiences alike. Audiences join in the acrobatic experience through viewing, raising the emotional potential, known as kinesthetic empathy, and desire for connection.

In Kenya, acrobatics offers a pathway for marginalized young men to find employment in hotels and other venues. Six acrobats in a diamond-like formation. The Diani Mambo acrobats draw on centuries-old performance traditions of the Giriama people. Photo courtesy Swakeh Salim Abdallah Download Full Image

Professors Nina Berman, with Arizona State University's School of International Letters and Cultures, and Micha Espinosa, with ASU's School of Music, Dance and Theatre, are studying Kenyan acrobatics and have been conducting fieldwork with the professional troupe Diani Mambo Acrobats Group in Kenya over the 2022–23 academic year. Mary Otieno, from the Education Management department at Kenyatta University, is consulting on the project.

Diani Mambo acrobats are members of the Giriama ethnic group in Kenya. Like many other acrobats of the global south, Giriama acrobats are marginalized. They often work under exploitative conditions, whether performing locally or internationally, and struggle to earn enough to care for their families. In Kenya, performing artists are paid meager wages and rarely have opportunities to receive government or private-sector support.

The Diani Mambo acrobats draw on centuries-old performance traditions of the Giriama people. The group is innovating its cultural heritage by combining acrobatic acts with dancing, comedy, drumming and singing in hopes of finding new audiences and economic stability. However, as acrobats in Kenya usually perform in hotels catering to tourists, these traditions are rarely shared with Kenyan audiences.

"The circus arts are community-based, and the dream would be to have a training center where performing artists of any age can train in tumbling, balancing, juggling, floor and ring acrobatics," Espinosa said. "Beyond physical education, the circus arts contribute to mental well-being, mind-body integration and social transformation by engaging with at-risk communities." 

Berman, Espinosa and Otieno aim to address the precarious situation of performing artists in Kenya by investigating the factors that constitute the impediments to success, developing a paradigm to create better lives through economic stability and improved access to resources, and further realizing the artists' role in the relationship between cultural investment, economic development and social impact.

Berman, who has been conducting research in Kenya since 1998, said, "We are excited to work with these talented artists and hope to bring attention to their unique performance traditions."

Espinosa and Berman received funding from the Institute for Humanities Research in support of this project.

Pride Month summer reading, watching, listening

ASU faculty give their media recommendations on stories that honor the LGBTQ+ community

June 9, 2023

This Pride Month, professors in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University provide their recommendations for books, movies, podcasts and more that include stories and characters that have helped catalyze change in the LGBTQ+ community.

RELATED: Faculty at The College discuss LGBTQ+ barriers, opportunities in education Download Full Image


"Gender Queer: A Memoir"

The award-winning book by Maia Kobabe, who uses e/em/eir pronouns, documents eir journey of self-identity, the mortification and confusion of adolescent crushes, how to come out to family and society, and other parts of Kobabe’s journey.

“Gender Queer: A Memoir” is “more than a personal story: It is a useful and touching guide on gender identity — what it means and how to think about it — for advocates, friends and humans everywhere,” according to the book’s abstract.

"Into the Light"

The New York Times bestselling LatinxA gender-neutral version of Latino/a. queer author Mark Oshiro wrote “Into the Light,” a young adult fiction and thriller book that Publishers Weekly described as a “breathtaking indictment of corrupted religion’s consequences” that “presents a standout, deeply felt portrait of a teenager’s longing for connection.”

"The Mother of a Movement: Jeanne Manford — Ally, Activist, and Founder of PFLAG"

This true story written by Rob Sanders and illustrated by Sam Kalda shares the story of Jeanne Manford, the founder of Parents, Family, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

“When her son Morty was beaten by New York City officials for handing out pro-gay leaflets, Manford wrote a powerful letter to the New York Post to complain about how Morty was treated. In the letter, she came out as the mother of a gay son,” reads the book’s abstract.


"One Year: 1977 podcast" — Episode 1

Episode one of One Year: 1977 — titled "Anita Bryant’s War on Gay Rights," hosted by Slate’s national editor Josh Levin, tells a story about a local fight over gay rights in Miami, Florida. “And at the center of it all was a pop singer and orange juice spokesperson named Anita Bryant,” reads the episode description.

This story launches the history podcast’s first season, covering a year when “gay rights hung in the balance.”

"TransLash Podcast"

TransLash Podcast, hosted by award-winning journalist Imara Jones, tells stories of transgender lives. In this biweekly series launched in 2020, Jones has discussions with members and allies of the trans community.

Together they discuss “how to create a fairer world for all,” according to the podcast description.


"Little Richard: I Am Everything"

How to watch: AppleTV, Vudu, YouTube

The documentary explores the life of rock n’ roll “King and Queen” Richard Penniman, famously known as Little Richard.

According to Rotten Tomatoes, the movie “tells the story of the Black queer origins of rock n’ roll, exploding the whitewashed canon of American pop music to reveal the innovator the originator Richard Penniman. Through a wealth of archive and performance that brings us into Richard’s complicated inner world, the film unspools the icon’s life story with all its switchbacks and contradictions.”

"Two Spirits: Sexuality, Gender, and the Murder of Fred Martinez"

How to watch: AppleTV, Vudu, YouTube

This documentary tells the tragic story of Fred Martinez. He was "a nádleehí," a male-bodied person with a feminine nature, a special gift according to his ancient Navajo culture.

“He was one of the youngest hate-crime victims in modern history when he was brutally murdered at 16. 'Two Spirits' explores the life and death of this boy who was also a girl, and the essentially spiritual nature of gender,” according to PBS.


"Abbott Elementary"

How to watch: ABC

“Abbott Elementary” is a mockumentary that follows a group of elementary school teachers in an underfunded school. One of the characters in the ABC sitcom, history teacher Jacob (played by Chris Perfetti), is an openly queer character.

According to PinkNews, fans have praised the show’s “casual and refreshing” reveal of the character’s sexuality and avoiding big, stereotypical plot lines.

"A League of Their Own"

How to watch: Amazon Prime

The television version of the 1993 baseball film is based on the real-life story of the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League during World War II. The new series, created by Will Graham and Abbi Jacobson, focuses on the voices of queer characters that the film did not.

The Guardian said, “The women’s baseball drama smashes it out of the park when it comes to representation.”


How to watch: Netflix

A coming-of-age romantic comedy series adapted from the book of the same name, “Heartstopper” tells the story of Charlie Spring, a boy who falls in love with classmate Nick Nelson. 

Alice Oseman, the book’s author, told Vox, “I want ‘Heartstopper’ to inspire young people especially LGBTQ+ young people  to be whoever they want to be, and to believe that they can find happiness and find love and find friendship because it is a joyful story. … Everyone can get something out of it.”


How to watch: AppleTV+

This workplace drama stars Adam Scott, John Turturro and Christopher Walken. 

“In the series, Mark (Scott) leads a team of office workers whose memories have been surgically divided between their work and personal lives. When a mysterious colleague appears outside of work, it begins a journey to discover the truth about their jobs,” according to the show’s summary.

A subplot includes Burt (Walken) and Irving (Turturro) finding their way to each other despite the rules of interoffice romances.

Video series

Southern Arizona Gender Alliance video library

The Southern Arizona Gender Alliance is a nonprofit organization that supports, advocates and promotes justice for Southern Arizona’s transgender, nonbinary and gender-creative people. Their collection of videos shares several stories of real-life experiences, insights and journeys.

The StoryBank Project — GLSEN Arizona

This digital depository tells stories from people directly involved with the chapter’s work — educators, students, organizers and volunteers. Their story bank documents the chapter’s history, expands visibility and celebrates the strength of their community members.


"UP" by David Archuleta

David Archuleta’s latest single, released June 2, captures his journey coming out and learning to love himself. 

“I hit rock bottom. I thought I wouldn’t get through it, but here I am. … You need to hold on to that glimmer of hope and say, I am going to turn any type of hate and negativity into positivity and love,” he shared in a recent Instagram post about the song.

"You and Me on the Rock" by Brandi Carlile ft. Catherine Carlile

The 2021 song by country artist Brandi Carlile is about her wife, Catherine, who is also a featured artist.

Stephen Perez

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