ASU study: Parents’ racial attitudes predict children’s generosity

Research explores connection between parents’ racial attitudes, children’s generosity toward diverse peers

June 7, 2023

An Arizona State University study published in the Society for Research in Child Development’s flagship journal provides new evidence that children’s prosocial behavior or generosity is predicted by their parents’ implicit racial biases, which are beliefs or racial preferences that are outside of a person’s awareness.

The researchers specifically studied white children’s willingness to share chocolate candies to determine whether the children preferred to share with other children who are their own race or those who are Black. children holding apple slices “These findings indicate that young white children are clearly picking up on their socializer’s attitudes about race, even if their parents aren’t necessarily aware of these attitudes,” said Tracy Spinrad, professor in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics and director of the research project. Photo courtesy Adobe Stock

Previous research has established that children with high self-regulation, or the ability to manage their own emotions and behaviors, tend to be more generous toward peers. Prior research has not, however, considered whether racial preference matters. This study sought to partially fill this gap by exploring the role of parents’ implicit racial attitudes.

The researchers used several methods to accomplish this goal. Parents first completed an implicit associations test to measure implicit racial attitudes, then filled out a questionnaire to report on their children’s self-regulation skills. Children participated in a chocolate-sharing task that allowed them to choose whether to keep chocolates for themselves or to share their chocolates with Black children or with white children.

RELATED: ASU study: Children’s race-based caring and sharing changes with age 

The research showed that children's self-regulation was an important predictor of generosity when the target of their prosocial behavior was another white child. When it came to sharing chocolates with Black children, however, parents’ racial attitudes mattered. 

When the parents had an implicit preference for their own race, the children were less likely to share chocolates with Black peers, regardless of their children’s self-regulation skills. When parents did not have this implicit preference, the children with strong self-regulation skills were more likely to share their chocolates with Black peers. 

The study therefore accomplished two things: It confirmed prior research tying self-regulation skills to prosocial behavior, and it revealed the complex role of implicit racial bias in parents.

“These findings indicate that young white children are clearly picking up on their socializer’s attitudes about race, even if their parents aren’t necessarily aware of these attitudes,” said Tracy Spinrad, professor in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics and director of the research project. 

Although the study only considers a limited demographic, it suggests a link that researchers can further explore to establish causality. It also implies ways to improve relationships among diverse groups of children, according to Spinrad. 

“The findings suggest that it is important to reduce parents’ implicit negativity toward historically marginalized groups and improve children’s self-regulation, which can be used to promote positive intergroup relationships among children,” Spinrad said.

This study was funded by the Institute for Social Science Research at ASU, the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics’ Diversity Scholarship Grant and Lehigh University’s Faculty Innovation Grant.

Jennifer Moore

Communications Specialist Associate, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics

Arizona secretary of state will co-teach ASU class in fall 2023

June 7, 2023

Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes will co-teach an undergraduate course on Latina/o politics and leadership with Professor and Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Lisa Magaña in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University this fall. Open to all students, this course is being offered through the School of Transborder Studies and School of Politics and Global Studies and will be led by Magaña.

Fontes, who recently visited ASU to discuss his journey of service and education, also served in the United States Marine Corps, practiced law for 15 years and was the Maricopa county recorder during the 2020 election. Arizona Secretary of State Adrian Fontes visited ASU on Feb. 24 for a conversation titled "From the Border to the State Capitol." Photo by Meghan Finnerty Download Full Image

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

Fontes, an ASU alum, grew up in Nogales, Arizona, which he describes as “one of the most amazing experiences anybody could have because sometimes the only way you knew which side of the border you were on was by looking at what flag was flying over the bank that you were closest to.”

The course, listed as TCL 494 and POS 494, will focus on a vast range of topics examining historical, contemporary, traditional and nontraditional Latina/o political and leadership issues within Arizona. Students will explore strategies for successful mobilization to grow political participation.

The ASU Sync format will also provide an opportunity to hear from other elected officials as guest speakers.

“The Latino Politics and Leadership in Arizona course is an incredibly valuable opportunity for our students to learn firsthand from current political leaders. Students will critically analyze some of our more substantial societal challenges, and particularly the complex issues that we see and experience near the U.S.–Mexico border,” said The College's Dean of Social Sciences Magda Hinojosa, who also grew up on the U.S.–Mexico border.

“Leadership transcends not only politics but subject matter and profession in every single area of life,” Fontes said. “Understanding the nature of leadership in this context is critically important for the future of Arizona and her people."

Communications Program Coordinator, School of Transborder Studies

Research awards bookend spectacular year for ASU counseling professor

Em Matsuno's project won $2.2M from NIH to study resilience among transgender, gender-diverse populations

June 5, 2023

The past school year has been filled to the brim with awards for ASU Professor Em Matsuno.

Matsuno, a second-year assistant professor of counseling and counseling psychology, was recognized this spring by the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts with the Outstanding Faculty Research Award for an early-stage scholar. Four graduate students from the Empowerment Lab have fun posing with Professor Em Matsuno at a workshop they coordinated Professor Em Matsuno (far right) poses with Empowerment Lab team members Brooke Hoeferle, Alex Colson, Danny Shultz and Finneas Wong at the workshop they coordinated in April for ASU trans and nonbinary students. Hoeferle has completed the Master of Counseling degree. Colson, Shultz and Wong are in the doctoral program in counseling psychology. Photo courtesy Em Matsuno Download Full Image

This caps off a year that also saw Matsuno win a coveted $2.2 million R01 grant from the National Institutes of Health, as well as a $46,000 seed grant from the Institute for Mental Health Research, to conduct a pilot study in collaboration with the Phoenix Children’s Hospital gender support program.

School of Counseling and Counseling Psychology Director Ayşe Çiftçi and colleague Frank Dillon both shared letters of support for Matsuno’s nomination for the college honor.

“Dr. Matsuno is one of the most impressive early-career colleagues that I have witnessed with in over 15 years as a faculty member, due to their innovative, significant, and prolific research,” wrote Dillon, professor of counseling psychology, noting that Matsuno has already published 35 peer-reviewed journal articles, book chapters and reports. “Their scholarship has and will continue to make a difference in the lives of gender minorities who are greatly under-studied and who face significant health disparities, such as heightened risk for depression, anxiety, substance use and other health outcomes.”

Studying gender-based disparities

Matsuno is a principal investigator on the R01 grant project to better understand the role of resilience in addressing mental health disparities for transgender and gender-diverse individuals. It is funded under NIH’s National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities. 

Matsuno, who uses they/them pronouns, described their reaction to the news: “The feeling was definitely shock and disbelief, but also so much excitement and joy. This was followed by some jumping around and cheering with my wife, who baked me a cake the next day to celebrate!

“It’s the best thing to happen in my career so far,” Matsuno added.  

Cake decorated with confetti and the words CONGRATS ON YOUR R01!

Earning an NIH R01 grant is definitely cause for jubilation — and cake! Photo courtesy Em Matsuno

Only about 20% of R01 grant applications are funded, according to the NIH website. As a result, the average age of a first-time principal investigator is 44, noted Matsuno, who is more than a decade younger. Investigators may also apply to extend R01 grants, to scale up or expand the work, and the applicant success rate for those awards is about 40%.

“These R-series awards are often ladders to build a highly successful and impactful research portfolio,” Matsuno said.

“Achieving these kinds of funding milestones and this momentum as a second-year assistant professor is a spectacular accomplishment,” said Joanna Grabski, dean of the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. “Em’s research trajectory is very impressive. Their research has the potential to make a significant impact on public health and improve the mental health and wellbeing for transgender and gender-diverse people.

“Dr. Matsuno is also adding to our college’s recognition as the home to one of the top counseling and counseling psychology programs in the country.”

What does the community need?

ASU’s charter emphasizes inclusion and “assuming fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities it serves.” These, too, are driving forces for Matsuno.

“Centering research on what the community needs to make positive change, that’s the broad hope for my research,” Matsuno said.

That’s certainly at the heart of Matsuno’s work on the Parent Support Program at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. The project will assess the effectiveness and implementation of the online intervention for parents of transgender and nonbinary youth that Matsuno developed and pilot-tested for their doctoral dissertation.

“I never would have predicted I’d still be involved in setting up and evaluating programs for parents of trans youth,” said Matsuno, who spent several years developing training modules and running focus groups to develop and test an online intervention for parents of trans youth as a doctoral student at University of California, Santa Barbara.

“But this is where the data has led. The research pointed to how pressing the need is for parental support … and so I’ve followed where the data showed support could be most impactful.”

The intervention content focuses on helping parents process and get through their own emotions, gain knowledge about trans identities, and learn skills-based tools on using affirming language, coming out, advocating and on making medical decisions.

The community needs behind the complex NIH-funded research project on resilience are numerous and multidimensional.   

Matsuno and their co-PIs discovered, in reviewing a decade of resilience research published between 2010–20, an enormous disconnect when they compared quantitative and qualitative research on transgender and gender diverse populations.        

“There’s so much that trans people are saying in the qualitative research that has been overlooked in quantitative research on (transgender and gender diverse) people’s experiences of resilience,” Matsuno said.

For example, studies may have asked people to react to nondescript, individual-centric statements like: “I can bounce back quickly from hardships” or “It does not take me long to recover from a stressful event.” 

“But these measures of resilience don’t take into account the specific ways that trans people resist and are resilient to the types of oppression they face,” Matsuno explained, “and they don’t address the role of community in resilience.”

So the team is considering statements for their new measure of trans-specific resilience that draw on the richness of experience that has already been acknowledged in qualitative studies, like: “Having people in my life who accept my gender helps me heal more quickly” or “Rejecting societal expectations about gender, when they don’t fit for me, has been liberating.”

Another strength of project is its emphasis on integrating feedback from the community.

“Participants become co-researchers in our community participatory method,” Matsuno said, “and we’ll be using an advisory board of trans and nonbinary community members to solicit feedback throughout the study.”

Empowerment Lab doctoral student gestures while presenting from lectern with slide visible on gender minority stress theory

Counseling psychology doctoral student Danny Shultz explains the foundations of gender minority stress theory to participants in the Empowerment Lab’s spring workshop “Understanding and Coping with Gender Minority Stress.” Photo courtesy Em Matsuno

A welcoming space

Counseling psychology graduate student Alex Colson, who uses they/them pronouns and just completed the second year in their doctoral program, said they appreciate the holistic mentoring they have found in working with Matsuno.

"Dr. Em Matsuno and the Empowerment Lab have significantly contributed to my growth as a critical, socially-just counseling psychologist and scholar. Their mentorship has nourished my growth personally and professionally as I learn from their intentional and loving teaching, research, and advocacy,” Colson said. “I will forever be grateful for their presence in my life."

Matsuno acknowledges the impact their own mentors have had on their career and personal development.

“I grew up in Laramie, Wyoming; there is not a big queer population there and I dealt with a lot of internalized struggles. Going on to graduate school as a queer person and being able to do work that incorporated my lived experience was super rewarding for me,” they said about working with ASU alum Tania Israel, Matsuno’s doctoral advisor at UC Santa Barbara.

What directions does Matsuno think their future research will take?

“I see myself continuing to do work that promotes the wellbeing of (transgender and nonbinary) people, and looking at the least-researched subpopulations such as transgender and nonbinary people of color.”

Maureen Roen

Director of Communications, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


Dr. Manuel Barrera Jr. Memorial Scholarship honors professor, helps 1st-generation students

June 1, 2023

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University is offering a new scholarship for first-generation graduate students in the natural sciences division.

The Dr. Manuel Barrera Jr. Memorial Scholarship honors the ASU professor, who dedicated decades to research and educating students in the Department of Psychology at The College. Headshot of Manual Barrrera in black and white. Manuel Barrera Jr. was a professor of clinical psychology at ASU from 1977 to 2017. Photo courtesy Barrera family Download Full Image

“Dr. Manuel Barrera Jr. was a professor of clinical psychology at ASU from August 1977 to May 2017. In his 40-year career with the Department of Psychology, his areas of interest and research were community psychology and social support networks. He received various honors and awards during his career, including ASU Graduate Mentor of the Year and Psychology Department Professor of the Year,” according to a statement from the Barrera family.

“He advocated for underrepresented communities in public education and their inclusion in institutions of higher learning. To honor his legacy, his wife, Aurelia, and his daughter, Lea, established this scholarship. In partnership with the ASU Foundation, the scholarship seeks to open doors, create opportunities and celebrate the abilities of everyone.”

The scholarship will support students registered with the Student Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Services office who demonstrate an interest in service to the community.

About Barrera Jr.

Barrera, a Racine, Wisconsin, native, developed a love for writing and science at an early age. 

He learned to incorporate his passions into scientific studies and research in psychology at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Science in psychology in 1971.

Barrera then attended the University of Oregon and received his master’s degree in 1975 and his doctorate in 1977. That same year, he was offered a job as a professor of clinical psychology at ASU.

As a professor, Barrera researched prevention and behavioral treatments for Type 2 diabetes, social support and behavioral health interventions for Latino families.

He also served in various roles with the Hispanic Research Center, the Office of Hispanic Research and other university-wide initiatives.

Barrera strived to expand diversity and inclusion in public education, stressing the importance of access to higher learning.

“(Manuel) was committed to providing higher education to everyone,” Aurelia Barrera said. “Especially those in public school, since both of us grew up in the public school system and he used that education and support to achieve everything he did academically.”

During his tenure, he was recognized for his contributions, including the ASU Psi Chi Outstanding Undergraduate Instructor Award, the ASU Outstanding Mentoring Award and the Psychology Department Faculty of the Year Award.

Barrera was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1987. However, he was determined not to be defined by his medical condition but by his contributions at ASU.

He retired in June 2017 and passed away in March 2020 at 70 years old.

“Dr. Manuel Barrera Jr. was a beloved, respected and admired member of the ASU community. We are proud to have the Dr. Manuel Barrera Jr. Memorial Scholarship to honor his legacy at ASU,” said Marisol Perez, the associate dean of graduate initiatives at The College. “This award contributes to creating a strong foundation for supporting graduate students’ educational aspirations and reduces financial burden, allowing students to focus more time and energy on their research and studies. As a recipient of a first-generation student scholarship, I can attest that the impact of this award on graduate students can be life-changing and perpetuated.”

Stephen Perez

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

Thunderbird Executive Education programs earn No. 20 in world ranking by Financial Times

May 26, 2023

The Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University has been recognized by the Financial Times Executive Education rankings for 2023 for its exceptional delivery of custom and open enrollment programs.

Released on May 22, the prestigious global ranking places Thunderbird’s Executive Education custom programs at No. 20 worldwide — ahead of the University of Oxford and the University of Cambridge — and No. 4 in the United States, among the top 75 programs globally. Several people sit around a table in a conference room. Thunderbird’s Executive Education programs help sharpen performance and improve organizational capacity at global institutions that require custom-tailored executive programming. Photo courtesy of Thunderbird School of Global Management Download Full Image

The 2023 rankings also placed Thunderbird at No. 5 in the world for best “overseas custom programs” and No. 11 for “most international participants” in open enrollment programs. Schools are ranked annually and include various criteria, such as program design, teaching methods and materials, level of internationality, overseas programs, innovativeness, value for money, growth, partner schools and faculty diversity. 

“We are proud of our world-class portfolio of executive education programs and our ability to partner with vanguard companies, governments and institutions from across the globe,” said Sanjeev Khagram, director general and dean of Thunderbird. “Our top placement in this year’s Financial Times rankings indicates our ability to not only design but also deliver innovative and transdisciplinary professional learning opportunities for senior leaders and managers practically anywhere in the world.” 

Through Thunderbird’s Executive Education programs, organizations and individuals around the world have benefited from a wide range of custom learning experiences, offering multiday engagements both online and in person. These custom programs have helped sharpen performance and improve organizational capacity at global institutions that require executive programming tailored to their employees or constituent group.

“Through ASU’s Learning Enterprise and other partner schools within ASU, we are able to offer cutting-edge executive learning — from fully immersive to 100% digital — in every modality,” Khagram said.

Thunderbird’s custom programs are tailored to the specific needs of various countries and industries. These programs have been delivered to government officials in Oman, chemical companies in Saudi Arabia, global health care organizations in the United States and Germany, as well as public and commercial entities in Indonesia.

“Thunderbird is at the forefront of cutting-edge executive education programs, making it a vital unit within ASU's Learning Enterprise,” said Maria Anguiano, executive vice president of the Learning Enterprise (LE) at ASU. “As we advance universal access to learning at all life stages at LE, global leadership and management are key skills that are transferable across all industries. Through ASU and Thunderbird, those skills are within reach for everyone.”

Thunderbird’s open enrollment offerings take place at one of the school’s regional Centers of Excellence locations or at Thunderbird Global Headquarters on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus. Recent open enrollment programming has included topics such as Agile Leadership: From Strategy to Execution, offered in Dubai, United Arab Emirates; and Space Leadership, Business and Policy, offered in both Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. Upcoming open enrollment programs include Blitzscaling: Identifying and Managing New Hyper-Growth Initiatives, taking place Oct. 9–11 at Thunderbird Global Headquarters.

Thunderbird’s open enrollment programs have gained recognition for their capacity to draw a diverse array of participants, with the Space Leadership, Business and Policy program attracting executives from esteemed organizations such as the U.S. Department of State, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University and the Saudi Space Commission.

“Through these dynamic learning environments, our participants have benefited from engaging in a meaningful exchange of ideas and experiences that nurture global connections,” said Khagram. “We look forward to seeing the impact that our programs will continue to have on the global network of leaders and managers in the Fourth Industrial Revolution and beyond.”

For more information about Thunderbird School of Global Management's Executive Education programs, please visit

A detailed look at the results of the Financial Times Executive Education Rankings for 2023 can be viewed on the Financial Times website here.

Dasi Styles

Senior Media Relations Officer, Thunderbird School of Global Management


Arizona native, first-generation college student graduates from ASU with 4 degrees

May 10, 2023

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

Vanessa Aguiar knows firsthand what it means to represent family and be a catalyst for change. Vanessa Aguiar poses in an outdoor setting wearing her graduation gown, cap and stole. Vanessa Aguiar is graduating this spring with degrees in French, global studies, philosophy and political science. Photo by Andrea Chavez Download Full Image

Attending and completing college as a first-generation student poses significant challenges and is an enormous accomplishment for any student. But Aguiar went above and beyond, earning degrees in French, global studies, philosophy and political science.

Aguiar was born to immigrant farmworkers in the border town of San Luis, Arizona, south of Yuma. Learning the value of hard work through her parents’ dedication and the values they instilled in her, she wanted to be a beacon of hope for her family and many others.

When she began her first year at Arizona State University to pursue a global studies degree, she developed interests in political science and philosophy.

She turned to her academic advisor to see if it was feasible to add additional majors.

“My advisor was very supportive of adding the two majors,” she said. “Then, sophomore year, I took a French class and was strongly interested in adding that subject. That’s how I ended up with four majors.”

The learning didn’t stop there. Despite her sophomore year being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Aguiar took part in virtual internships with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to growing the next generation of Latino leaders.

Aguiar also spent most of her four years in several leadership and professional roles at the university, mainly as a financial aid representative, a policy analyst for ASU Knowledge Enterprise and a counselor in the College Assistance Migrant Program (CAMP).

But one of the most profound accomplishments on her long list of achievements was her time as a UCLA Law Fellow the summer before her junior year. Aiming to be a lawyer one day, Aguiar was one of two out-of-state fellows in the program. They welcomed her into the program and gave her an insight into law school.

Here, she speaks about her time at ASU.

Question: How did you manage a challenging course load?

Answer: It was tough. A lot was going on during the early years of college, with some personal issues and navigating the pandemic. I think I was trying to pile a lot on to forget about it and quickly figured out it wasn’t healthy. I needed to step back and focus only on what I loved to do.

Q: What does it mean for you to be a first-generation college student and represent your family in that way?

A: It might feel funny, but I’m part of ending a cycle. Knowing firsthand what it takes to accomplish and figure everything out on your own is a special thing. It is remarkable to be able to dedicate each one of my degrees to each member of my family because we are a family of four.

Q: What is something you learned while at ASU?

A: It’s not wrong to know yourself and your limits and when it is enough and that too much is too much. I learned not to be afraid to quit or pause things when life gets too crazy.

Q: Why did you decide to attend ASU?

A: It was the wisest decision financially, but when I visited the three state universities, ASU felt the most comforting, and my heart belonged there. But also the representation of diversity, sharing my stories with others like me and hearing advice from others to balance it out.

Q: What advice would you give an incoming first-year student?

A: Two things: Do not be afraid to know yourself and be your authentic self. Second, do not compare yourself to others. Whatever a person is doing is already enough.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’m moving to Washington, D.C., to work with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute this summer. I will be a fellow with them for the first few months and work on Capitol Hill. I have the option to transfer to a federal agency.

Q: How do you think all these fields of study mesh together?

A: They have been merging this whole time. In my law school classes, I learned many laws were started in France; some of the most famous philosophers are French. At least, I think these studies opened my perspective to different ways of thinking.

Q: Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

A: I want to be an intellectual property law attorney in the entertainment or fashion industry. One day I hope to merge them because I am interested in politics as well.

Stephen Perez

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

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Young students take the stage at ASU Gammage thanks to Disney grant

May 5, 2023

Disney Musicals in Schools program aims to create sustainable theater programs in elementary schools

On May 2, more than 115 elementary students from Tempe and Phoenix had the opportunity to sing and dance on the ASU Gammage stage through the Disney Musicals in Schools program.

The grant from Disney enables ASU Gammage to offer the program to four schools. Disney Musicals in Schools is designed to create sustainable theater programs in elementary schools. Through the program, participating schools produced a musical in their school community and joined in a culminating performance on the ASU Gammage stage.

This year's participating schools were Desert Spirit Elementary School, Emerson Elementary School, Eisenhower Center for Innovation and Palm Lane Elementary School.

“Exposing students to the arts, the earlier you're able to do that the more likely it will grow into a lifelong love of the arts, and every year that goes by we're planting more theater programs around the valley so the number of schools affected, and students affected, will only grow,” said Desiree Ong, the program's manager.

The selected schools participated in a 17-week musical theater residency, led by a team of teaching artists trained by ASU Gammage and Disney Theatrical Group, at no cost. Each school received performance rights, educational support materials and guidance from the teaching artists.

The program featured a professional development focus, through which participating school teachers partnered with ASU Gammage teaching artists to learn how to produce, direct, choreograph and music direct, culminating in their first 30-minute musical at their school. 

The Student Share Celebration at ASU Gammage on May 2 was the culmination of this year’s program.

ASU Gammage was filled with the elementary students, teachers and their families. The young performers presented their performances from “Jungle Book Jr.,” “Aladdin Jr.” and “The Lion King Jr.," each school presenting one number.

The evening concluded with a heartwarming finale that included all student participants on the stage together singing “It Starts with a Dream,” an original Alan Menken number that was composed for Disney Musicals in Schools.

“I've seen some students who I think were looking for an outlet like this, and this has been really positive for them," Emerson Elementary School Principal Nicholas Lodato said. "It's helped them to exercise an interest and a desire that they've had — they've just not had a music production to put on and express it. It’s like they’ve finally found their place right there."

First-generation ASU graduate aims to improve education for Hispanic women

May 5, 2023

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

Valeria Reyes, who has been an incredibly diligent and ambitious student during her journey at ASU, will graduate this May with degrees in French and justice studies, alongside certificates in disability studies, human rights and teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL).  Outstanding Graduate Valeria Reyes standing in front of Old Main at ASU Valeria Reyes Download Full Image

Reyes was born and raised in Mesa and as a child of immigrants from Mexico, she is bilingual in Spanish and English. Despite always having an interest in Hispanic culture, Reyes chose to pursue a degree in French and was later inspired to add a concurrent degree in justice studies after gaining an interest in the inequalities of education and learning about the judicial system. She ultimately wants to use her degrees to pursue a career in teaching.

“Being a first-generation Hispanic student has given me a unique perspective on the importance of education, and I think that there are many areas within education that still fail to support every student,” Reyes said. “This is why I want to help reform the education system in some way — reviewing policies, creating new curriculums, etc. — to help combat the inequalities present within the system.”

Reyes' interest in education reform is centered in her Barrett, The Honors College undergraduate thesis, "Implications of Intersectionality on the Education of Hispanic Females in Arizona." She attributes her exposure to the importance of intersectionality to her time at ASU and cites it as guiding her studies of culture and justice. She chose her area of study for her thesis, which won her a Quesada Scholarship, because she said is an under-researched topic. 

She was also awarded the High Impact Internship Award from ASU's English Department for her work with nonprofit Read Better Be Better, focused on improving literacy and fostering a love for reading in Arizona youths. She was also awarded the New American Scholar Award and Obama Scholarship.

Reyes expands more about her academic journey below.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I think for my French degree, my “aha” moment was actually in high school because I had a really great high-school French teacher, who showed us how great French was and taught us all about French culture. So, I knew from high school that I really wanted to pursue French in college. That was the first major I came in with at ASU. Then, with the justice studies major, I took an elective course about the judicial system and the courts, and from there that's where I got interested in all the justice studies topics because I realized there's a lot of issues that are going on in society. So, I wanted to learn more about different issues not just in courts, but for society as a whole. That's when I started pursuing that justice studies degree.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: Not really in the classroom, but I think just overall in my experience at ASU I learned you don't really have to have everything completely figured out. When I came in as a freshman I was like, “Oh, my God! I need to figure out everything and have all these plans and have A, B and C ready for after graduation.” Then, slowly as I started going through everything and my classes got harder I was like, “You know, it's okay if you don't have it all figured out.” A lot of people actually don’t, and even talking with professors made me realize that most of the time they don't even know what they're doing, either. We're all kind of figuring it out as we go. It's OK if you don't know exactly what you're gonna do or where you're gonna go after.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I really had to think about this one because there have been a lot of great professors that I've got to learn from, but I think one of my top favorites was Professor (Frederic) Canovas in the School of International Letters and Cultures. He's one of the French professors, and he really taught me to appreciate French literature. The whole idea of French literature and what he teaches is the importance of balance in life. So, that's one of the greatest lessons I've learned from him is that too much of one thing or too little of another thing is never gonna be the best for you. You have to find some sort of balance between doing what you love, and doing something that makes you money, for example. So, I think Professor Canovas was, and his French literature classes were some of the best ones.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you would give to students?

A: My best piece of advice is to keep trying, even when it's really, really hard. I know there were times where I was ready to give up because school seemed like it was going to last forever and like I was always going to have assignments. But it does end eventually. So, I would just say, keep trying. Even if it's just doing your best job that you can possibly do. Even if it's not the complete 100% perfect that it can be. Just as long as you're trying, and you're pushing through to the end.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: My favorite spot for studying is Armstrong Hall. I actually work there, too, but I really like the basement because it's pretty quiet. I feel like not a lot of people know about the basement because it's kind of on the outskirts of campus, so it's usually pretty empty. And then for hanging out, it's probably the MU just because you can get food and you can play downstairs. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I'm currently waiting to hear back from a French teaching program, the Teaching Assistant Program in France, to see if I got in. I’m impatiently waiting for the email to see if I got it or not because they're supposed to send it this month. So, then I would be going to the south of France and teach English there for a year. If not, I would find a job and then later on probably do grad school in either education or law. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Because of what I've studied and the justice studies courses I've taken, I would say that I would tackle the inequalities within education. I would like to see an education system that helps students not only become good students by catering to the specific skills and talents of each student, but also good human beings. I feel like in the educational system students are often categorized into boxes, and if you don't fit into those boxes then you're not going to get the resources you need in that education. So yeah, I would tackle those inequalities in education and hopefully, that would lead to other changes as well.

Editor, School of International Letters and Cultures

Scholar, author Adrienne Dixson visits ASU for residency on collaboration, systemic change

May 4, 2023

Adrienne Dixon, a professor in the Department of Educational Leadership Studies at the University of Kentucky and the executive director of the Education and Civil Rights Initiative, is passionate about research — particularly research focusing on how race, class and gender intersect and impact educational equity in urban schooling contexts.

To amplify her work, Arizona State University's School of Music, Dance and Theatre joined the School of Social Transformation and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering in welcoming Dixson to ASU for a four-day residency, titled “A Collaborative Venture in Seizing Systemic Change.” Black-and-white selfie of Adrienne Dixson. Adrienne Dixson Download Full Image

The series of lectures and one-on-one research meetings was co-sponsored by the Music Learning and Teaching area in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre, the Center for Research Advancing Racial Equity, Justice and Sociotechnical Innovation Centered in Engineering (RARE JUSTICE) in the Fulton Schools, and the School of Social Transformation.

In addition to the lectures that were open to all ASU faculty, staff and students, Dixson engaged with faculty, graduate students and administrative personnel in each of the three schools.

“Given Dixson’s expertise in examining how race and racism impact educational equity, including policy, and her knowledge about music learning and the arts coupled with her own experiences of college music programs, I thought her visit would be impactful,” said Joyce McCall, assistant professor of music learning and teaching.

McCall said she and colleagues in the School of Social Transformation, including Ersula Ore and Mako Ward, and in the Polytechnic School of the Fulton Schools, including Brooke Coley, engaged in several conversations and collaborations around their shared interests in identifying actionable ways forward to realizing systemic change at ASU.

“We thought it would be a great way to join forces and resources in securing Dr. Dixson’s visit to assist us in constructing a path forward,” McCall said. 

McCall said she had read a great amount of Dixson’s work when she was a doctoral student in music education at ASU and met Dixson when she was a first-year assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

That work includes co-editing one of the first book-length texts on critical race theory, CRT, in education, “Critical Race Theory in Education: All God’s Children Got a Song” (1st and 2nd editions), and the “Handbook of Critical Race Theory and Education” (1st and 2nd editions). Dixson is also an American Educational Research Association Fellow, and her research has been funded by the Spencer Foundation, the Kellogg Foundation and the National Science Foundation.

Dixson said when CRT was originally introduced in education in the early 1990s, there was considerable resistance. Then from the late 1990s to the early 2000s, she said there was a lot of interest. Now there is more rejection of CRT by people outside academia, Dixson said, but within academia scholars who once rejected or were extremely critical of CRT are publishing books and articles on it.

“Within our research on education and university-based teaching in education, critical race theory helps us think more carefully about how our policies and practices create barriers that prevent equitable participation and success in the educational enterprise,” Dixson said. “CRT is a theoretical framework, like feminist theory or other theories on how to make sense of the world.”

She feels teachers should continue to teach objective facts about CRT, such as the Trail of Tears dispossession of sovereign lands and the enslavement of peoples.

“I hope that folks left (our sessions) with an urgency to commit to working in coalition and organizing across constituencies to protect our freedom to talk, think, read and act on behalf of equity,” Dixson said. “I hope that folks who are committed to this work feel affirmed and rejuvenated.”

“I hope that attendees gained a deep understanding of the work that lies ahead for us, and that of critical race theory — what it is and is not,” McCall said. “I hope that attendees walked away better informed and inspired, and that folks will move with a sense of urgency to improve our spaces, wherever they may be.”

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music, Dance and Theatre


2 from Watts College among 4 presented with Faculty Women of Color Caucus Awards

May 4, 2023

The Arizona State University Faculty Women of Color Caucus, or FWOCC, recently presented two of its four annual awards to members of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions for their efforts to advance inclusive excellence.

FWOCC President Jackie Martinez presented Chandra Crudup, Watts College associate dean for inclusive design and equity access (IDEA) and an associate professor in the School of Social Work, with the organization’s inaugural Outstanding Leadership Award. Portrait photos of Chandra Crudup and Cynthia Mackey. Watts College Associate Dean Chandra Crudup (left) and social work doctoral student Cynthia Mackey received two of four awards presented by the ASU Faculty Women of Color Caucus. Download Full Image

Martinez, faculty head of languages and cultures at the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, bestowed the Outstanding Doctoral Student Award on Cynthia Mackey, who is pursuing a doctoral degree in social work and expects to graduate in May 2025.

Watts College Dean and President’s Professor Cynthia Lietz said the FWOCC’s recognition of Crudup and Mackey at the April ceremony honors their dedication to the work of fostering inclusion for all.

“Our IDEA Office, created and led by Dr. Chandra Crudup, is a model for embedding this work into all we do,” Lietz said. ”And Cynthia Mackey serves as an IDEA Scholar and is an emerging leader in this area. This recognition is well deserved!”

‘She does this work for a greater purpose’

Crudup was nominated for her award by Vanessa Fonseca-Chavez, an associate professor of English and a College of Integrative Sciences and Arts associate dean of diversity, equity and inclusion. She described Crudup as “a kind and thoughtful leader who takes a lot of pride in the work that she does, except that she does this work for a greater purpose, which is to advocate for those who do not have the same access to the institution as others.”

Chandra Crudup, associate dean, Watts College, interim director, Studio for Creativity, Place and Equitable Communitiesr

Watts College Associate Dean Chandra Crudup (far right) listens during a faculty, staff and alumni panel discussion of first-generation college students at the 2023 First Generation Student Dinner. Photo by Mark J. Scarp/ASU

Fonseca-Chavez pointed to Crudup’s leadership in creating a space for career-track faculty in FWOCC, making sure they were included in discussions within the organization, as an illustration of this trait.

“She led an effort to focus on how white supremacy affected our most vulnerable faculty in the classroom, and she ensured that their voices were included in the conversations,” Fonseca-Chavez wrote.

Fonseca-Chavez also wrote that Crudup’s post as associate dean made it “incredible to watch and hear about how she skillfully negotiated her role and ensured that there were opportunities to thrive extended to her and to the larger community at Watts.”

Crudup is also interim director of the ASU Studio for Creativity, Place and Equitable Communities.

Crudup said she accepted her award “in honor and acknowledgment of the many women of color leaders — past, present and future — who are pushing the needle every day, as they live, work and breathe within systems not designed for them.”

These leaders “are reimaging change in both formal and informal roles; collectively taking, carrying and passing the baton forward; creating inclusive spaces so that all might have the opportunity to thrive,” Crudup said. “Accepting a formal leadership role comes with great responsibility, and I take that responsibility seriously. I am grateful to work alongside a community in the Watts College and beyond that is committed to leading anti-racist and anti-oppressive practices not just in what we say, but in what we do.”

‘An enduring commitment’

Mackey was nominated for her award by Kelly Jackson, an associate professor of social work, who wrote that Mackey “demonstrates an enduring commitment and leadership efforts to reduce health disparities and improve health-care outcomes for Black and African American communities, especially Black women, here in the Valley.”

Cynthia Mackey, doctoral student, School of Social Work, 2023

Social work doctoral student Cynthia Mackey (right) stops by a table at the 2023 Celebrating Black Brilliance event. Photo by Mark J. Scarp/ASU

Jackson noted that Mackey is one of the first doctoral students in social work to receive the prestigious Council on Social Work Education Minority Fellowship.

“She also has taken on multiple leadership roles within Watts College to help support racially marginalized students through her graduate assistantship within the (IDEA) office, including creating and chairing the annual Celebrating Black Brilliance event,” Jackson wrote. The event is held on the Downtown Phoenix campus.

In addition, Mackey is also former president of the graduate student group Inclusive and Multicultural Association of Social Work Scholars, “which uniquely creates a supportive space for both PhD students and faculty of color in the School of Social Work,” Jackson wrote.

Mackey said she was grateful for the acknowledgement of her work and credited members of her support community for contributing to her success. She dedicated the award to them.

“As a doctoral student, community is with me through mentorship from my fabulous chair and committee mentors and the relationships I have established in community, as I seek to advocate for more culturally responsive and reflexive research tailored to meet the mental health needs of Black women who have experienced incarceration,” Mackey said.

“As an instructor, my students and I create community as we co-develop our classroom and assignments to meet their learning needs and practice anti-racist and anti-oppressive practice in action. Community is always with us at the (IDEA) Office, where I am supported by a team of truly remarkable peers and mentors.”

A College of Integrative Sciences and Arts professor and a master’s student in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences received the other two FWOCC awards:

  • Alisia Tran, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts associate professor of counseling and counseling psychology, received the Outstanding Faculty Peer Mentor Award.
  • Angelyn Soto of the School of Transborder Studies received the Outstanding Master’s Student Award.
Mark J. Scarp

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