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History professor does a 360, comes home to teach

April 27, 2023

Former Dartmouth academic is now a Sun Devil sidewalk surfer

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.

Taking a class from Maurice Crandall sounds like it could come with some serious twists and turns.

The Arizona State University professor is a respected historian, author, Indigenous expert — and a self-professed “skate rat.”

Crandall is a recent hire from Dartmouth College but considers himself a local. He’s also a new face on campus this year.

He joined ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies as an associate professor of history in August 2022 and is a historian of the Indigenous peoples (he’s a citizen of the Yavapai-Apache Nation of Camp Verde) of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. That sounds serious, which is why Crandall has a serious outlet — skateboarding.

He’s been doing it for decades and, at 44 years of age, still dedicates a fair amount of time to his hobby when he’s not teaching or researching.

ASU News spoke to Crandall about his life, work and research.

Man posing for portrait holding skateboard

Maurice Crandell is a new face on campus this year, joining the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies as an associate professor of history. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

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

Answer: I was raised in New Mexico and Arizona. I graduated from Mingus Union High School in Cottonwood, Arizona, so I’m a “local.” I’m a citizen of the Yavapai-Apache Nation of Camp Verde, Arizona, and I grew up hearing a lot of stories from elders and relatives, which I credit for my interest in history. All the stories I heard growing up informed my sense of what history is, and I have always loved both listening to and telling stories.

I went to grad school a little older after working various jobs — at Walmart, at my tribe’s casino, as a special education assistant in public schools — and never planned to be an academic. I thought I would be a public school history teacher. But my grandfather, who was like a second father to me, encouraged me to get a PhD since a higher education scholarship from our tribe would pay for it.

I completed a PhD in 2015 and worked as a public historian at the Indian Pueblo Cultural CenterA museum/archives/cultural center owned and operated by New Mexico’s 19 Pueblo Nations. in Albuquerque, New Mexico, followed by a one-year postdoctoral at the Clements Center for Southwest Studies at Southern Methodist University, and then got a tenure-track job at Dartmouth College, where I taught for five years. So, my path to being an “academic” was a long one that had lots of twists and turns.

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

A: I’m a historian of the Indigenous peoples of the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. This includes numerous groups, but I’ve researched and written about Yavapais, Western Apaches, O’odhams, Hopis, Yaquis and the Pueblos. Generally speaking, the homelands of all of these groups are located within what are today the states of Arizona, New Mexico and Sonora, Mexico. My research covers a broad chronology, from the late 16th century through the first half of the 20th.

I’m most excited about the project I’m currently working on, which is a book under contract with Liveright/W.W. Norton, about the lives and experiences of Yavapais and Dilzhe’e — commonly referred to as “Tonto” — Apaches who served as U.S. Army Indian Scouts during the so-called Indian Wars of the late 19th century. In particular, I’m interested in uncovering the experiences of these men, their families and communities after the wars were over and they returned to civilian life. Plenty of work has focused on their contributions to the military campaigns, but far less has addressed what they did later in life.

I’ve found that many of them became community leaders at a very difficult time, when the federal government was trying to eradicate Apaches and Yavapais through policies of dispossession and cultural genocide — Indian boarding schools, for example. These men were experienced border crossers — they had crossed state, international and ideological borders during their military service — and they used that knowledge to navigate a complex political/cultural landscape and advocate for our communities during the early 1900s.

Q: When did you realize you wanted to study this field? (What was your “aha” moment?)

A: I knew from a very young age that I had a passion for history. I loved listening to stories of the “old times” from my grandparents and other relatives and reading history books on a variety of subjects. I read lots of Native American history, obviously, but I also read about Roman history, the American Civil War, World War II and many other historical subjects. I liked visiting historic sites, museums and watching documentaries. In other words, I’ve always been a history nerd. I don’t think there was a single, identifiable “aha” moment. I declared history as my major during my first semester in college, and it stayed my focus through graduate school.

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

A: In the United States, more and more scholars, teachers and others are taking up the mantra that you can’t teach U.S. history without including Native American history. I would like to see that expanded to all history: You can’t teach any type of history without including Indigenous history. Whether its economic history, social history or even a narrow field such as maritime history, Indigenous peoples play a part in that history in some way. I want more scholars and teachers to include Indigenous voices in their work, and recognize the part that Indigenous peoples have played in the history of the world. Indigenous history runs as a prominent thread through all types of history, and I would like more people to recognize that. I see part of my work as demonstrating that to people.

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

A: I wish people would see Native American history as a history of people finding creative solutions to issues they confront and moving forward in ways that worked for themselves, their families and their communities. I push back against triumphalist narratives, especially as it pertains to the “rights” of ethnic and historically disadvantaged communities in the U.S. For example, my first book is about Indigenous enfranchisement in the U.S.-Mexico Borderlands. A common idea is that there was this long struggle for voting rights, culminating in midcentury activism and court cases that finally extended the franchise to Native Americans, African Americans and others.

The reality is that Indigenous peoples in this region were enfranchised in a variety of ways during the Spanish, Mexican and U.S. periods. And at various times they adapted and incorporated so-called Western democratic ideals and practices, while at other times they rejected them and citizenship within the nation-state, instead focusing on community autonomy and sovereignty. I want people to recognize agency and sovereignty in Indigenous communities and their history, not just conquest and control by colonizers, with eventual rights bestowed by a benevolent nation-state.

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

A: I taught at Dartmouth College for five years. In essentially every way — climate, geography, culture — it is the opposite of Arizona. I was often homesick and had a strong desire to return to Arizona so that I could be closer to my family, community and homelands. I also got tired of only being able to do research during trips back to the West a few times per year. I wanted to live where my work is and be able to directly engage with the history. I wanted to be around tribal elders and archives and landscapes that are essential to my work. The opportunity to return to Arizona and work at ASU came about, and I jumped at it.

Also, working at an Ivy League institution was great in many ways, but I wanted to be at an institution that serves a more diverse student body. I wanted to engage with more students who come from backgrounds like my own. I also wanted to be at an institution that provided more opportunities for public-facing scholarship and engagement. ASU has provided all of this, and I really appreciate ASU’s mission to make education more accessible.

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

A: On a personal level, when I came to ASU I received tenure, which felt amazing. Indigenous scholars and scholars of color face a lot of challenges in academia, and I am the first citizen of my tribal nation to become a tenured associate professor. I would like to become a full professor within a reasonable time frame, after I’ve finished my second book and other projects I’m working on. I’d also like to help my school, the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, continue to be a hub for Indigenous history. History at ASU has a long tradition of producing exceptional scholars of and scholarship on Indigenous history going back many decades. I hope to carry on that tradition.

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

A: Since I was a teenager — I’m 44 now — I have been a skateboarder. The amount of time I have dedicated to skateboarding has fluctuated over the years due to school, work, family and community commitments, but I try to skateboard every chance I get. I’m what many would refer to as a “skate rat.”

I’m also really happy that I’ve been able connect with the Native American skate community since I’ve been back in Arizona. There’s a thriving community of Native skaters and skate companies, with Doug Miles of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, who founded Apache Skateboards, and Doug Miles Jr. and the rest of the crew, leading the way.

Top photo: Associate Professor Maurice Crandall, who joined the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at ASU in August 2022, pictured at the Mitchell Park skate park in Tempe. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Reporter , ASU News


Asian Pacific American Studies program at ASU celebrates 25th anniversary

April 26, 2023

For the last 25 years, the Asian Pacific American Studies program at Arizona State University has educated students on the experiences and history of the Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander (AANHPI) communities.

The diverse experiences of AANHPI communities in Arizona and the United States provide vital insights that inform communities on current issues and provide a sense of identity. Group of people posing for a photo. “It was a celebration of the collaboration between the community and the campus. We welcomed people back, all of those that made the past 25 years successful in addressing these issues," said Asian Pacific American Studies lead faculty and Associate Professor Karen Leong. Photo courtesy of Karen Leong Download Full Image

“Few community members understand historically how much Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders have contributed to U.S. history, the understanding of civil rights, belonging and immigration,” said Asian Pacific American Studies lead faculty and Associate Professor Karen Leong. “There is a lack of knowledge that we need (to teach).”

Through courses developed by nationally recognized scholars, the program now educates students about AANHPI justice and ethnic movements, immigration, globalization and race relations.

History of Asian Pacific American Studies at ASU

The program, housed within the School of Social Transformation in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, took quite a journey to get to where it is now.

In the 1970s, AANHPI faculty, students and staff at ASU and community members started envisioning a program that represented their diverse ethnic groups and educated Arizonans on their histories, cultures and related societal issues.

It took almost two decades until official planning started, and in 1998, the program was established under founding Director Thomas Nakayama and offered an undergraduate certificate. Eventually, the program expanded to provide a minor and major, which includes an accelerated degree path to master’s degrees in American studies and social and cultural pedagogies.

“What distinguishes the program at Arizona State University is that it was driven by community demand. By that, we mean the faculty and staff at ASU recognized the need for a program that reached out to all students and educated them about Asian American experiences. That later expanded to include Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders,” said Leong.

The program’s coursework has prepared students to study issues that have shaped AANHPI communities through community-engaged research and collaboration.

"For over two decades, faculty and staff of the Asian Pacific American Studies program have worked to provide insightful information on AANHPI experiences and engage learners of all backgrounds," said Patrick Kenney, dean of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. "We look forward to the growth and development of the program as they continue to reach more communities."

25th anniversary celebration

The program recently celebrated 25 years of success. 

“It was a celebration of the collaboration between the community and the campus,” said Leong. “We welcomed people back — all of those that made the past 25 years successful in addressing these issues.”

During the festivities, leadership and the community recognized the program's impact on the AANHPI communities, honored faculty and community members instrumental in getting the program off the ground and addressed the program’s future development.

Honored guests included Nakayama; Richard Nagasawa, who taught Asian Americans for Sociology in 1977; and Melinda de Jesus, the program’s first tenure-track faculty hire in 1999. 

What’s next for the program?

In considering future plans, the program is taking inspiration from the early days when faculty and community members first advocated for degree offerings. Just as the original founders saw the need for education and representation of Asian Americans, Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians, current program leaders know there are still other communities whose history in the U.S. mostly goes unnoticed. One of those communities is Arab Americans.

“There’s a lack of a place to learn about Arab Americans and their experiences, a lack of studies to learn about their own culture and history in the United States,” said Leong.

Expanding online courses is another future step for the program, making educational opportunities widely accessible to provide a greater understanding of these issues.

“We would love to offer more courses online,” said Leong. “Because we don’t just focus on a particular interest — we think there is a need to learn more about this history and ways of thinking.”

The program also hopes to provide internships for students to serve and work with local organizations.

“We are putting our resources directly into student programming through internships, redesigning courses for online and on-campus students and scholarships,” Associate Professor Karen Kuo said.

The APAS 25 for 25 Campaign is helping the Asian Pacific American Studies program reach these new goals and continue its research and engagement throughout Arizona and beyond.

“We love to see people involved, whether partnering with us or taking our courses to understand the Asian American Pacific Islander community better,” Kuo said.

Stephen Perez

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

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Project Humanities director wins ASU award celebrating spirit of difference making

April 26, 2023

The annual Gary Krahenbuhl Difference Maker Award was established through the generous contributions of faculty, staff and friends of Arizona State University, to honor a faculty member who personifies the spirit of difference making as demonstrated by Krahenbuhl, a former dean of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

This year, the college recognized Neal A. Lester for his active involvement in community engagement and advocacy for social justice, along with his work in the award-winning Project Humanities university initiative.

Portrait of

Neal A. Lester

Lester is a Foundation Professor of English and founding director of Project Humanities at ASU. He came to ASU in 1997 after having taught previously at the University of Alabama and the University of Montevallo.

Lester is a prolific scholar, publishing numerous articles, chapters and books. His research and teaching interests include African-American literature and culture, race and representation, and diversity and inclusion. He is also a sought-after speaker and consultant on issues related to diversity, equity and inclusion, both within and outside of academia.

Lester brought a new way of thinking to ASU with the Project Humanities university initiative he founded 12 years ago. It aims to promote humanities study, research and humanistic thought by facilitating conversations across diverse communities.

Under the leadership of Lester, the program has gained recognition and become a leader in local, national and international conversations about shared humanity. The initiative has created Humanity 101, which is a toolbox of diverse programs and activities focused on proving that humanity is bound by shared experiences. This movement promotes local synergy, empowerment and awareness through seven principles: kindness, compassion, integrity, respect, empathy, forgiveness and self-reflection.

The Project Humanities programs highlight cross-communal outreach as multiprofessional, intergenerational and pedagogical through two signature programs. A 10-year-long homeless outreach effort engages diverse ASU undergraduate individuals and communities in collecting, sorting and distributing clothing, shoes and toiletries to 150–200 unsheltered adults in downtown Phoenix. Undergraduates, both credit- and noncredit bearing interns and volunteers, make this outreach a subject of class projects and fraternity/sorority service projects. Lester's Introduction to Literature course inspired one undergraduate student to volunteer in this program, who eventually created his own outreach initiative.

The other program is the annual Hacks for Humanity: Hackathon for the Social Good, which is now in its 10th year. This program introduces ASU undergraduates to humanities and humanistic thinking, as well as Humanity 101 principles through intergenerational and multidisciplinary technology innovation and collaboration. The competition engages ASU undergraduates in various roles, including mentors, volunteers, participants, workshop leaders and panelists. This event has gone global, attracting participants from four states and 14 countries and collaborating with the University of Texas at Dallas on a synchronized event.

Lester's faculty teaching, research and service profile demonstrates how the three can work together symbiotically, both inside and outside the classroom. His leadership in Project Humanities has helped create meaningful cross-communal outreach and multidisciplinary collaboration opportunities for ASU undergraduates. Under his guidance, students have been able to contribute to their own personal and academic growth, as well as to the betterment of society as a whole.

Lester said he is most proud of the convergence of his research, teaching and service in his campus office. Hundreds of figurines, dolls, games, posters and other objects reinforce and introduce what is taught in his courses as well as act as a staged teaching tool, inviting critical conversations about race, whether privately in visitors’ heads or publicly with the person.

“For 30 years, my office has been a living book, a ‘colored museum,’ for students, colleagues and other visitors who enter it,” he said.

When asked about what this award meant to him, he said, “While I have personally/professionally received accolades and acknowledgments from entities outside of ASU for various reasons … it is gratifying to know that those inside ASU broadly and within The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences more specifically both acknowledge and value my work and its impact across ASU and beyond.”

Alek Bustamante Valdez

Marketing assistant , The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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Peterson Zah's life, impact remembered at celebration of life on ASU campus

April 25, 2023

Event draws family, friends, prominent leaders and Zah's former students

Peterson Zah was remembered Tuesday as a visionary leader who not only helped to shape Arizona State University to be more inclusive but also laid the groundwork for the future of the Navajo Nation.

Zah was the first president of the Navajo Nation and a graduate of Arizona State University. The celebration of life held for him at the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus drew family, friends, state leaders, Zah’s former co-workers and students from ASU.

Zah, who led the Navajo Nation from 1990 to 1994 and was a special advisor to the ASU president, earned a bachelor’s degree in education from ASU in 1963 and was awarded an Honorary Doctoral Degree of Humane Letters from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College in 2005.

Zah’s experiences as a student in the 1960s, when there was only a handful of Indigenous students, helped inform his role as ASU’s first special advisor to the president on American Indian initiatives, a post he was recruited to by then-ASU President Lattie Coor in 1995 to help improve the retention of Native students. He served until 2011 and saw the Native student population double.

Bryan Brayboy, the current senior advisor to the ASU president on American Indian affairs, said that Zah was focused on student success while he was at ASU.

“It was his first concern, always,” Brayboy said.

“We have 72 Indigenous faculty and 4,000 Indigenous students. That starts with Pete. It is a continuation of his vision for what this place can be and should be.

“It is a start for us and not an end for us. We are constantly thinking about him and ensuring those faculty and students are healthy and whole.”

ASU President Michael Crow said Zah helped to set ASU on the path toward being a New American University, inclusive of everybody and accepting of Indigenous knowledge and culture.

Man speaking at memorial

ASU President Michael Crow speaks at the celebration of life for Peterson Zah, held Tuesday at the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus. Photo by Alwaleed Alrasbi/ASU

“Pete brought all of that to ASU and all of that to me 21 years ago as a newbie university president dropped in by parachute in a place where one would say, ‘What kind of new America lies ahead of us?’” Crow said.

“Not the old America, which was a brilliant idea and a brilliant conceptualization imperfectly implemented. Not the old America where bias and racial hatred and injustice on the highest order imaginable was the everyday work of the government.

“Pete presented himself in the context of, ‘Let me help you to conceptualize what a great new American university could be.’ But without one word of recrimination for the past.”

Zah was influential in the design of ASU’s charter, Crow said. Now ASU is home to students from more than 200 tribal nations.

“We changed ourselves,” he said. “We listened to Pete. We listened to the way that he taught. He taught not by rebuke.

“He taught by helping those of us at the university who did not have broader experiences in the Native American community how to listen, how to connect, how to build a welcoming institution and how to change some of our own views about what going to a university might mean.”

Crow said that Zah’s legacy at ASU will endure.

“Pete has influenced who we are now, what we’re doing now, how we’re working now, how we’re designing now, how we’re moving forward now, and the courage with which we undertake that,” Crow said.

“This institution will be the kind of institution this country was supposed to build, and we’re on the path do that because of Pete Zah.”

Other speakers at the event included Diane Humetewa, who succeeded Zah as special advisor to the president of ASU and is now a judge for the U.S. District Court of Arizona, and Manley Begay Jr., a professor in the Department of Applied Indigenous Studies at NAU and a good friend of Zah. Both recalled how Zah was part of several legal victories that ensured the survival and success of the Navajo Nation.

Zah helped to establish the Permanent Navajo Trust Fund, created after the tribal nation won a Supreme Court case against a coal-mining company.

“He was constantly thinking about and planning for the future of the Navajo Nation. He wanted the Navajo Nation to be strong and independent and not dependent on others, especially the federal government and the state government,” Begay said.

Zah worked to renegotiate leases to increase revenue from extraction industries, Humetewa said.

“Pete Zah was not a lawyer, but he could have been. His lack of a law degree did not stop him from changing the legal landscape for tribal nations and peoples,” she said.

“He was instrumental in including tribal nations in the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act.”

Zah was born in 1937 in Low Mountain, Arizona, and attended the Phoenix Indian School. He met his wife, Rosalind, when both were students at ASU, and after graduating, they returned to the Navajo Nation where he taught carpentry to adults and then became a field coordinator for the VISTA Indian Training Center. He later co-founded and became executive director of DNA-People’s Legal Services, a nonprofit legal services program for Navajo, Hopi and Apache people.

At the memorial event, Rosalind Zah told the crowd that she and her husband would have celebrated their 60th anniversary this year. They were a partnership of equals. Through everything Peterson did, Rosalind was with him.

She remembered taking a shovel and outlining the foundation of the house they built together in Window Rock in the 1960s.

“I live there today,” she said. “I have never moved.”

She recalled that for all his fierce leadership, he was so tender that he wouldn’t wake up a sleeping cat to put it outside for the night. When Rosalind expressed how much she hated mopping the floors, he would do it.

“He loved to cook, and he always cooked the same thing — Spam and potatoes,” she said. “We called it the ‘Zah special.’”

The couple loved going to the Sun Devils women’s basketball games and enjoying football games in the president’s suite at Sun Devil Stadium.

Rosalind Zah was moved by the words of the people who spoke at the celebration of life.

“He always said, ‘I’m an ordinary man who had extraordinary experiences.’ And for the first time, I disagreed with him. I said he was an extraordinary man,” she said.

“It’s a joy to me to realize the scope and breadth of his work.”

She recalled that when she was a first-year student at ASU, she lived in North Hall.

“The library was right there, and that’s where I did my homework,” she said.

“And there was a map of Arizona on the bulletin board and as I was walking by, I saw somebody had written on the map. They put a dot on it, and it said, ‘Low Mountain.’”

Crowd seated for a memorial

The celebration of life drew family, friends, state leaders, Peterson Zah’s former co-workers and students from ASU. Photo by Alwaleed Alrasbi/ASU

Top photo: Bryan Brayboy, senior advisor to the president on American Indian affairs at ASU, speaks about Peterson Zah during the April 25 celebration of life at the Memorial Union in Tempe. The event honored the first president of the Navajo Nation and a graduate of ASU who died March 7 at age 85. Photo by Alwaleed Alrasbi/ASU

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


W. P. Carey School celebrates research fostering inclusive excellence

April 25, 2023

The W. P. Carey School of Business recently hosted an inaugural summit designed to elevate cross-disciplinary research and dedicated service, primarily featuring historically underserved communities within the classroom, workplace and across industries.

“This summit brought together scholars and practitioners from different schools, disciplines and units across the university. It embodies W. P. Carey’s commitment to thought leadership in diversity, equity and inclusion,” said Ohad Kadan, the Charles J. Robel Dean, professor of finance and W. P. Carey Distinguished Chair. “I am very excited and proud of this event.” Alyssa Robillard standing, smiling and holding a microphone. Alyssa Robillard, associate professor in the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, presenting her research on health equity and the need to overcome economic and social obstacles in obtaining care and eliminating disparities. Photo courtesy Shelley Marie Valdez/W. P. Carey School of Business Download Full Image

Last summer, Kadan was named dean of the business school and has since outlined a five-year strategic plan that describes diversity, equity and inclusion as a core tenant in the school’s commitment to access, success and cutting-edge research. 

Arizona State University at large is also repositioning diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives using an inclusive excellence framework, integrating these efforts into the core organizational functions of the university, and inspiring practices and philosophies that generate greater outcomes.

“I have a sincere admiration for your undertaking of this endeavor today. It is key to the success of the school and the advancement of inclusive excellence at the university,“ said Lara Ferry, associate vice president of research within the Knowledge Enterprise. “We admire and support the work you are sharing in this space and are here to assist in any way and at any time.”

The presentations included faculty research at every career stage, staff and students who respectively represented the W. P. Carey School of Business, College of Health Solutions, School of Social Transformation, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and the Center for Broadening Participation in STEM.

Among those featured at the summit include Professor Ashok Mishra, the Kemper and Ethel Marley Foundation Chair in Food Management at the W. P. Carey Morrison School of Agribusiness, who explained how credit could affect the productivity and profitability of farming households. Mishra’s research identified systemic discrimination, including the deprivation of federal services that led to a decline in Black farmers. He noted that improved access to credit is paramount to the return of diverse representation among farmers.

Alyssa Robillard, associate professor at the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, said that a search for the definition of health equity would return over a million results but, in essence, refers to a condition where everyone has a fair and just opportunity to attain their greatest level of physical condition, acknowledging the need to overcome economic and social obstacles in obtaining care and eliminating disparities. Her presentation emphasized that people with the lived experience of a disease or social reality should drive decisions related to policies and programs that affect them.

Mara Lopez, senior research program manager at the Center for Broadening Participation in STEM, outlined the diligent work of the center to foster environments that positively impact the experiences of learners from historically marginalized backgrounds both directly and through the provision of culturally responsive and student-centered professional development opportunities.

The summit also included the following perspectives:

  • Diversity and inclusion in agricultural and applied economics presented by Ekaterina Stoliarova, PhD student, and Carola Grebitus, associate professor and Dean's Council Distinguished Scholar at the W. P. Carey Morrison School of Agribusiness.

  • Responses to gender-based price variation presented by Adriana Samper, associate professor at the W. P. Carey Department of Marketing.

  • Fostering inclusive communities through data-informed strategies for effective systems change presented by Mako Ward, assistant professor of women and gender studies and African and African American studies at the School of Social Transformation.

  • SNAP participation and medication adherence among older Black Medicaid-insured individuals with hypertension presented by Chinedum Ojinnaka, assistant professor at the College of Health Solutions.

  • Increasing the representation of Black CPAs in the accounting profession presented by Eldar Maksymov, associate professor at the W. P. Carey School of Accountancy.

Rocque Perez

Communications Manager, Office of Inclusive Excellence

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ASU honored for service to Hispanic students and families

April 25, 2023

HSF 'Education Partner of the Year' presented at awards dinner in LA

Helping more Hispanic students attend and graduate from college has long been a commitment of Arizona State University. On April 13, that commitment was recognized by the Hispanic Scholarship Fund, which presented ASU with its prestigious Education Partner of the Year award for 2023.

The Hispanic Scholarship Fund, an organization that assists Hispanic students with information, resources and scholarships to navigate and complete college, has been a crucial means of support for Hispanic families for nearly 50 years. The nonprofit has awarded more than $675 million in scholarships and held countless college preparation events.

As a partner of the Hispanic Scholarhip Fund since 2015, ASU has hosted several HSF programs, most notably College Camp, a free, bilingual event for sixth through 12th graders and their families to help them prepare, plan and pay for a college education.

“We always want to work with partners who share in our belief that supporting student success is paramount,” says Vanessa Ruiz, deputy vice president of ASU’s Educational Outreach and Student Services. “That’s why partnering with HSF makes complete sense for us.” 

Undergraduate Hispanic student enrollment has grown substantially at ASU over the past six years, increasing 29% from 11,895 students in fall 2016 to 15,385 students in fall 2022. Hispanic students now make up 25.7% of full-time undergraduates on campus. Meanwhile, Hispanic faculty at ASU grew by 70.2% from 2007 to 2021 and doubled for Hispanic female faculty members during that time period. 

Each year the Hispanic Scholarship Fund selects 10,000 students nationwide as HSF Scholars. Students receive services including mentorship, career support and leadership development. These students are also eligible to receive a scholarship ranging from $500 to $5,000. ASU is home to 225 HSF Scholars. 

ASU Executive Vice President and University Provost Nancy Gonzales says family support and encouragement is a top factor in whether a Hispanic student will earn a college degree. And those families, while supporting their students, also need to be supported.

“Many families — especially those for whom college-going is new — can find it challenging to understand and navigate the admission process and college experience,” Gonzales said.

“Without significant guidance from universities and community organizations, many students and families assume college is not for them. The Hispanic Scholarship Fund provides critical support for such families, and we are proud to partner with them. It’s an honor to be named the 'Education Partner of the Year' and a reflection of the commitment of many faculty and staff who lead ASU programs that support Hispanic students and families.” 

ASU was also recognized for serving Hispanic students and families last year when it was designated a Hispanic-Serving Institution by the U.S. Department of Education. The achievement noted the university’s efforts to serve Hispanic students through financial and academic support programs, strengthening the academic pipeline for Hispanic students and providing resources for the community. Additionally in 2022, ASU earned its second Seal of Excelencia certification from the Washington, D.C.-based organization Excelencia in Education for its continuing support of Latino students.

“Two Seals of Excelencia, being named a Hispanic-Serving Institution and now the HSF Education Partner of the Year are all significant honors. But nothing compares to helping a family realize that college is attainable for their student when they never thought it possible,” says Melissa Pizzo, associate vice president for ASU Financial Aid and Scholarship Services. 

For more information about this award, watch ASU’s “Education Partner of the Year” award acceptance video from the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s “Leaders in Education” awards dinner on April 13.

Top photo: Vanessa Ruiz, deputy vice president of ASU’s Educational Outreach and Student Services, holds the “Education Partner of the Year” award from the Hispanic Scholarship Fund with the organization's president and CEO, Fidel A. Vargas, on April 13 in Los Angeles. Photo courtesy of the Hispanic Scholarship Fund

3rd-generation veteran to lead ASU Office for Veteran and Military Academic Engagement

April 18, 2023

Retired Col. Wanda A. Wright, former director of the Arizona Department of Veterans’ Services and a 21-year veteran of the Arizona National Guard, has been named director of Arizona State University’s Office for Veteran and Military Academic Engagement.

She will start June 1 in the office, which is part of the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. Retire Col. Wanda A. Wright portrait in front of partial view of U.S. and Arizona flags Retired Col. Wanda A. Wright, ASU alumna and 21-year veteran of the Arizona National Guard, will join ASU's Office for Veteran and Military Academic Engagement as director and assistant teaching professor. Download Full Image

The director position is focused on promoting dialogue, teaching and research to increase understanding, knowledge and relationships among military, civilian and academic cultures. In addition to her administrative duties, Wright will be one of the lead educators for the college’s growing number of academic programs in veteran and military studies, which include a certificate in veterans, society and service; an associate degree in military studies; and — expected to launch in fall 2023 — a bachelor’s degree in applied military and veterans studies.

“Wright has an impressive track record as a transformational leader, with extensive experience working with stakeholders locally, regionally and nationally to achieve positive outcomes for veterans and their families,” noted Joanna Grabski, dean of the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. “Along the way, she has built and sustained an incredible network of collaborators and contacts in state and national government, veteran service organizations and nonprofits across the U.S., and in media. She’s secured grant funding for important research. She’s also taught at the collegiate level. There’s already tremendous excitement to see how she’ll take the (office) as a national model for second-career success for veterans to new levels of impact."

In January, Wright completed eight years of service as director of the Arizona Department of Veterans' Services. Under her leadership, the department's veteran disability claim approval rates increased from 65% to more than 95% in five years. In that same period, the department increased federal funding from $26 million a month to more than $70 million a month to support veterans with disabilities. 

During her tenure, Wright was elected to serve as president of the National Association of State Directors of Veterans Affairs from 2022 to 2023, working with other state directors and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) on issues affecting veterans. 

In 2017, she was appointed to serve on the VA’s Advisory Committee on Women Veterans, and she is still actively serving a third three-year term.

“The committee’s work supported the newly adopted, more inclusive mission statement for the VA that was announced last month,” Wright said. “It reflects the VA’s commitment to serve all veterans, their families, caregivers and survivors. Women are the fastest-growing segment of the veteran population, but so many women don’t feel included in our nation’s veteran narrative.”   

Wright is a Sun Devil alumna, having earned a master's degree in educational leadership in 2016. Wright also holds a master's degree in business administration from Webster University and a master's degree in public administration from the University of Arizona.

A 1985 graduate of the U.S. Air Force Academy, Wright began her military career as deputy budget officer with the Tactical Air Command in South Carolina. Wright served with the Arizona National Guard in various positions between 2000 and 2011, finishing out her military service as the director of staff. She is the first African-American woman to attain the rank of colonel in the Arizona National Guard.

‘Transition is something I understand'

Wright joins the college at a time of exciting change, as the college — focused on applied-emphasis degrees and career-connected learning — is transitioning to an organizational structure centered around three new schools.

Change and transition are something Wright, a third-generation veteran, said she understands well.

“My life is a story of transition,” Wright said. “Growing up in a military family, we moved every two years to a new Army post until I graduated from high school. After graduating from the United States Air Force Academy and my commission as an officer, I relocated twice to military assignments at Myrtle Beach Air Force Base, South Carolina, in 1985, and Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona, in 1987. Three years later, I transitioned out of active duty into the Arizona National Guard.”

Wright changed positions, on average, every three years while in the Guard. After retiring from military service in 2011, she transitioned to education, teaching math and serving as vice principal at Montessori Academy in Paradise Valley for four years, until duty called once more when she was tapped by Arizona Gov. Douglas Ducey to lead the Department of Veterans' Services.

“As the College for Integrative Sciences and Arts and the Office for Veteran and Military Academic Engagement move forward, the opportunities to create a new organizational structure and curriculum are limitless,” said Wright, who participated in and supported the early iteration of the office's current Treks for Vets program. “I want to be a part of this transition. To be part of growing the field of veteran studies. To be a national model for second-career success for veterans is an especially exciting opportunity.”

Outgoing office Director Manuel Avilés-Santiago, who also is the college's associate dean for academic programs and curricular innovation, is thrilled about Wright’s new position.

"Col. Wright's comprehensive understanding of the assets, needs, areas of opportunities and stories of Arizona's veterans will be critical to the success of the Office for Veteran and Military Academic Engagement and the impact it will have, not only at ASU and in the community but nationwide. We want to bridge the military-civilian gap through teaching, research and programming, and CISA found in Wanda Wright the ideal engineer to help us design and build that bridge,” he said.

Wright said it feels like she’s found just the right position at just the right time.

“I had been looking for a position in education where I could continue to serve veterans,” she said. “This position is the perfect fit for me as I continue my work with veterans, in an academic environment, utilizing my master’s in educational leadership degree from ASU. There are so many opportunities to continue to expand courses available, to ensure students understand the wide and deep extent to which they can impact the lives of veterans and their families, and gain an understanding of veteran and military history, structure, systems and policies,” she said. “I am so excited to work in such an innovative educational space with fantastic ASU staff and faculty.”   

Maureen Roen

Director of Communications, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


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Ibram X. Kendi shares anti-racist insights at ASU event

April 15, 2023

Author and scholar the keynote speaker of annual A. Wade Smith and Elsie Moore Memorial Lecture on Race Relations

At an event that drew such a large crowd it prompted a last-minute venue change, notable author and historian Ibram X. Kendi spoke at Arizona State University on Thursday evening on a range of topics relating to race in America, including institutionalized racism, politics and what it will take to make meaningful change.

“In order to create a society whereby we have policies and practices that are equitable and just and fair — and provide equal opportunity for all, and institutions that are  built on those policies — we don't necessarily need to create a critical mass of Americans who are anti-racist,” said Kendi, a MacArthur “genius grant” winner and author of five No. 1 New York Times bestselling books including “How to Be Antiracist.”

“We just need enough people who can get into positions of power, who will then institute those policies and practices.”

Kendi — the Andrew W. Mellon Professor in the Humanities at Boston University and the founding director of that university’s Center for Antiracist Research — was the keynote speaker at the annual A. Wade Smith and Elsie Moore Memorial Lecture on Race Relations, which was moved to the Student Pavilion on the Tempe campus after about 1,200 people registered for the event. The event was organized by The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Three people sitting and talking on stage in front of a large crowd

ASU faculty members David Hinds (left) and Lisa Anderson provided questions for anti-racist scholar Ibram X. Kendi on Thursday evening at the Student Pavilion on ASU's Tempe campus. Kendi was delivering The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' A. Wade Smith and Elsie Moore Memorial Lecture on Race Relations. Photo by Meghan Finnerty/ASU

Kendi shared the stage with two ASU faculty as moderators: David Hinds, associate professor in the School of Social Transformation, and Lisa Anderson, associate professor in the same school and associate dean in the Graduate College.

Anderson began by asking Kendi to clarify his distinction between racist and racism. He explained that racism is an institution and is systemic while a racist is an individual policy, idea or person. 

“A more specific definition of racism,” he said, “is a powerful collection of policies leading to injustice and are substantiated by ideas of racial hierarchy.”

Kendi, who was named one of Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in 2020, illustrated the point more locally. He pointed to voter policies in Arizona that he said have made it “harder for Black, Brown and Indigenous people to vote.”

Kendi discussed the sense of inferiority that many Black people have internalized as a result of systemic racism and controversial issues such as reparations for slavery. He shared several examples of how former enslavers were compensated after slaves were liberated. He pointed out that it shouldn’t be surprising that descendants of enslaved people should feel entitled to similar compensation. Generational wealth — or the prevention thereof — is a powerful force, he said.

He also addressed the difficulty of teaching Black history in today’s political climate.

“I would encourage teachers to recognize that these policies and this rhetoric is meant to scare them, to compel them to self-censor themselves and to compel them to think that lies are truth and truth are lies,” said Kendi, urging teachers to find a like-minded support system.

Black man behind lectern gesturing to portrait of Black woman to honor her memory

Chris Howard, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the ASU public enterprise, speaks at Thursday's event. He presented his year’s A. Wade Smith and Elsie Moore Community Award to Richard Richardson, professor emeritus of educational leadership and policy studies at ASU. Photo by Meghan Finnerty/ASU

His brief talk, which included a few audience questions at the end, was preceded by a land acknowledgement and the presentation of this year’s A. Wade Smith and Elsie Moore Community Award to Richard Richardson, professor emeritus of educational leadership and policy studies at ASU. The award was created in 2005 to recognize individuals whose passion for equality has helped advance race relations in Arizona. 

Richardson retired from ASU in 1999 after 22 years on the faculty. During that time he collaborated with Smith on research, assessing the institution’s progress toward equity and diversity. He co-authored eight books that focus on community colleges, literacy, and achieving quality and diversity in postsecondary education.

“Dick Richardson is a man who exemplifies the values to which Wade Smith and Elsie Moore dedicated their respective lives,” said Chris Howard, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the ASU public enterprise, in presenting the award.

Kenja Hassan, assistant vice president for the Office of Government and Community Engagement at ASU, kicked off the evening with a tribute to Moore’s life and career. Several family members were in attendance.

The lecture series was established in 1995 to honor Smith, a former ASU professor, for his tireless efforts to improve race relations. In 2022, with the death of Moore, Smith’s wife and beloved ASU faculty member, the name of the lecture was changed to honor her as a pioneer in diversity as well. Moore was with ASU for 40 years.

Kendi was the 25th speaker in the lecture series, following such other notables as actor and humanitarian Danny Glover and American philosopher and social critic Cornel West.

Top photo: American author, professor and anti-racist activist Ibram X. Kendi was the featured speaker at the A. Wade Smith and Elsie Moore Memorial Lecture on Race Relations held at ASU's Tempe campus on April 13. Photo by Meghan Finnerty/ASU

Dolores Tropiano

Reporter , ASU News

ASU Thunderbird alum credits Global Challenge Lab experience for career opportunity

April 14, 2023

Kelly Molera, a graduate of the Master of Global Management program at Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, has landed a full-time position at Aalto Capital, an investment banking and private equity firm. Molera, a Phoenix native, had her sights set on this industry even before completing her studies at Thunderbird. 

Molera's Thunderbird Global Challenge Lab project played a crucial role in leading her to Aalto Capital. During the consulting project, she worked at the company's London office for three weeks, gaining valuable exposure to the analysts' day-to-day activities. Upon completing her project, she was thrilled to receive a full-time job offer.  A woman with long dark hair wearing a yellow dress poses for a portrait in front of grey-brown background. Kelly Molera Download Full Image

"Seeing the dynamic nature of Aalto's work and positive company culture, as well as exploring London as a whole, made the decision to work for Aalto easy," Molera said.

The London office of Aalto Capital was co-founded in 2019 by John McRoberts, another Thunderbird alum (class of ’87), who is originally from Harare, Zimbabwe. With his extensive experience in investing capital and managing the growth process of several companies, McRoberts embodies the school's spirit of global innovation and entrepreneurship. 

"Kelly has demonstrated exceptional leadership qualities, despite being the youngest member of our team. Her adeptness in managing teams and expertly overseeing the delivery of work streams is a testament to her remarkable skills. Following her internship, we were compelled to offer her a full-time position, and she has since been an invaluable asset to our organization," McRoberts said.

Molera also had high praise for McRoberts, describing him as a “people person” who fosters a fun yet hardworking workplace. 

“The relatively flat hierarchy at Aalto Capital entrusts analysts with several responsibilities, affording them a high level of autonomy, not often afforded at bigger banks. I am grateful to experience such varied, client-facing exposure at every stage of transactions, from client acquisition to deal closing. John offers employees high levels of autonomy, but he is as hands-on as managing partners get,” Molera said. 

Molera feels well prepared for her current role, building on the broad-based training and cross-cultural approach of Thunderbird's curriculum in her career. Molera, who has a background in economics and math, credits Thunderbird's case study teaching method with developing her critical and creative thinking skills, enabling her to consider the impacts of all stakeholders in business decisions. She believes that Thunderbird's teaching in cross-cultural communication, negotiation, leadership and management, corporate social responsibility and geopolitics have prepared her well.

McRoberts, who has always been impressed with Thunderbird students, offers the following advice to those interested in investment banking: "The most important attributes for success are to be hardworking, a good listener, thorough in all that you do, have exceptional attention to details, humility while being confident and to always go the extra mile."

Molera and McRoberts share more below about their experiences at the school.

Question: What advice would you give to someone who has just graduated from Thunderbird and is looking to start their career?

Molera: Before finding a job, leverage the alumni network as much as possible. T-birds are always willing to help. Informational interviews are beneficial for making connections that help you land a job and learn about various industries and job functions. Equipping yourself with as much knowledge as possible about what you want from a career will narrow your scope and help you tailor your resume and job search.

Question: How did the training you received at Thunderbird help you in your career? 

McRoberts: I was fortunate to be offered a job out of school in finance at an international merchant bank in London. The courses I took at Thunderbird prepared me well for the job’s analytical work, and as I traveled extensively, they helped me integrate into different cultures. Most importantly, when I traveled, I often met up with fellow Thunderbirds in each city I visited. Having these contacts made it easier to navigate the business world and helped when meeting clients and colleagues in different geographies.

Question: Which of your personal traits and professional skills help you the most?

Molera: Investment banking, like any industry, requires technical and people skills. I like to demonstrate both, but my top strength is my detail-oriented nature. I have fallen into the “office editor” role and appreciate my attention to detail and pride in each piece of work I put out. I may have Professor (Kannan) Ramaswamy’s or Professor (Michael) Moffett’s case briefs to partly thank for this.

Question: What’s your favorite memory from your time at Thunderbird?

McRoberts: The camaraderie among the students, group projects, rugby games, international dinners/parties most weekends, and of course, pub nights. I was proud to have been the first Zimbabwean to attend Thunderbird and was responsible for providing the first Zimbabwean flag to be flown from the school’s flagpole.

Question: What’s your favorite story from your time at Thunderbird?

Molera: It is hard to choose just one, but Thunderbird's Grand Opening and 75th Anniversary Global Reunion was a week I will never forget. My father was born in Nogales, Arizona, near the border with Mexico. He identifies with his Latin roots, but I hadn't much until coming to Thunderbird. I brought him to Latin America Regional Night during anniversary week. It was extremely special to share Thunderbird with him while experiencing some of his culture.

Question: What’s something you learned while at Thunderbird — in the classroom or otherwise — that has helped you excel in your career?

McRoberts: Thunderbird was a wonderful experience for me. The most outstanding thing about the school was the students. I applied to the school due to its international focus and was impressed with the curriculum and the level of education offered. The diversity of the student body made Thunderbird a unique environment and provided me with a perspective I would not have received from other institutions. It made me feel that anything was possible in any geography in the world and fostered my entrepreneurial qualities.

Dasi Styles

Senior Media Relations Officer, Thunderbird School of Global Management


ASU Pride Prom celebrates community, inclusion on campus

April 14, 2023

Acceptance, inclusion, community and fashion were the highlights of the night for the second annual Pride Prom held recently at Arizona State University's Polytechnic campus. 

Students dressed their best and danced the night away at the event, hosted on March 31 by Barrett, The Honors College, Residence Hall Association, Access Coalition, Barrett Leadership and Service Team, Prism, Rainbow Coalition and the Programming and Activities Board. Photo of students dancing at ASU Pride Prom More than 300 students — several shown here dancing — attended the 2023 Pride Prom held recently at the ASU Polytechnic campus. Photo courtesy Barrett, The Honors College Download Full Image

Pride Prom was open to all Sun Devils to come together and celebrate LGBTQ+ pride at ASU. The event themes of bright, bold and glow-in-the-dark were carried throughout Cooley Ballrooms with decorations that included multi-colored balloons and lights. High-energy, positivity and music added to the party atmosphere throughout the evening.

Students enjoyed refreshments from food trucks, took pictures at photo booths, got henna tattoos courtesy of the Multicultural Communities of Excellence, had caricatures drawn by artists and more.

“Pride Prom is an event for ASU students to express themselves in a safe space and have fun,” said Joshua Albin, senior program coordinator of student engagement and recruitment in Barrett at the Polytechnic campus. “Students are able to dress, engage and dance however they identify.”

“Many students did not get a prom in high school or did not feel comfortable to attend or to attend as their true self,” Albin said. “This is a night of redemption for these students to celebrate themselves and their community.”

This year’s Pride Prom saw more than 300 students from all four ASU campuses. “My favorite part was having so many students and seeing them dress up,” Albin said. “It was very empowering to see everyone having a good time.”

Kaelyn Kueneman, a junior animation major in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, went to Pride Prom with their girlfriend.

“When I was in high school, I would not even think of going to prom with a girlfriend,” they said. “Pride Prom is nice for people who didn’t or couldn’t go to prom in high school,” they said, adding that they enjoyed dancing with their girlfriend.

Kueneman’s partner, Rachel Beard Peterson, said “events like these are few and far between. They are so people can feel comfortable and feel seen.”

Peterson said she appreciated “seeing all the people wearing whatever they want — to be visibly queer and visibly disabled.”

Tyler Knotts, a senior business technology major in the W. P. Carey School of Business, said she believes this is an important event for ASU to host.  

“It’s nice to be recognized by the ASU community. It’s good to see people who are part of the queer community as well as allies come together,” she said.

Aubrey Tuttle, a senior psychology major in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, said Pride Prom gave students the opportunity to meet and connect with people who are like them.

“It’s important to develop a community within such a big university like ASU,” Tuttle said. “Sometimes you can feel like the only one, and it makes it hard to connect with other students. At Pride Prom, people have something in common with everyone here.”

Next year's event is already in the works and is planned to be bigger and better than previous years. “We hope to partner with more campus and ASU departments and organizations to make it more engaging and fun,” Albin said. “We are looking to create more ways to engage during and before the event.”

Story by Barrett, The Honors College student Alex Marie Solomon.