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ASU's Institute for Humanities Research announces 2022–23 fellows

June 24, 2022

The Institute for Humanities Research at Arizona State University has announced 11 faculty members as new fellows for 2022–23. They were awarded a total of $104,500 in funding.

The IHR Fellows program advances the scholarly writing and research of humanities faculty, and includes course buyout, research funding, peer writing groups and development of a cross-humanities faculty community, as well as assisting faculty in grant writing and writing for a broader public. Collage of portraits of the 2022-23 fellows of ASU's Institute for Humanities Research. Download Full Image

“We are excited to award fellowships to 11 members of faculty at ASU, and to help them fund their important work,” said Nicole Anderson, director of the institute and professor of English. “Each member of faculty brings their expertise in the humanities to their projects, and we anticipate that their research will advance their practice and engage the community.”

Successful proposals for the IHR Fellows program describe a well-developed scholarly writing project rooted in the humanities that has clear and feasible outcomes for the fellowship year, with potential to be funded by outside agencies.

The program has the following strategic goals: to foster writing habits and public writing; to foster the growth of interdisciplinary cohorts of ASU humanities scholars; to ensure that fellows are incorporated into the ASU humanities pipeline; to ensure that fellows have the time and resources needed to succeed in their career and professional goals while maintaining a healthy work-life balance.

The 2022–23 IHR Fellows are:

Aviva Dove-Viebahn, assistant professor, English
Dove-Viebahn's current, in-progress book project, “There She Goes Again: Gender, Power and Knowledge in Contemporary Film and Television,” interrogates the representation of women on screens, but also in contemporary socio-political debate, in which ostensibly feminine traits — love, empathy, altruism, diplomacy — are alternately lauded and repudiated as possibilities for effecting long-lasting social change.

Britta Ager, assistant professor of classics, School of International Letters and Cultures
Ager's work “Cultivating an Image: The Self-Presentation of Roman Landowners” examines how agriculture acted as a locus of display and performance, especially for political elites, in the Roman Republic and early empire. It examines how Roman landowners, particularly those with aspirations to public careers, mobilized agricultural products, symbolism and dialogue as part of their public image.

Curtis Austin, associate professor of history, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies
The collaborative project “The Unsung Heroes of the Civil Rights Movement History” collects visual histories of lesser-known activists who stood beside their more famous counterparts, such as Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, John Lewis, Fannie Lou Hamer and many others. While their names are less familiar, these people’s stories and recollections represent the pervasive courage and strength of the thousands of people who struggled for equality during this era.

Eugene Clay, associate professor, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies
Clay's work “Regulating the Russian Religious Marketplace from Catherine the Great to Vladimir Putin” illustrates how at the end of the USSR, new laws on religious freedom briefly deregulated the spiritual marketplace. Since 1997, Russia has imposed new burdens on religious bodies to ensure their political reliability. This work will illuminate this evolution by placing it in its historical context.

Han Hsien Liew, assistant professor, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies
Liew's current book project “Preaching Pious and Learned Rulership in Medieval Islam: Ibn al-Jawzi's Political Thought” offers a new reading of the history of Islamic political thought by studying the intersection of politics, rhetoric and emotions in the writings of a 12th century Muslim preacher named Ibn al-Jawzi. It is the first monograph-length work to consider the role of emotions in Islamic political thought, and also the first to integrate the study of the history of emotions into research on medieval Islamic history.

Ilana Luna, associate professor, School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies
Luna’s project “Translation is not Solitude" translates and provides a scholarly framework for two of Rivera Garza’s poetic collections: “La imaginación pública” (2015) and “El virus del aquí,” a forthcoming anthology selected by Amaranta Caballero Prado that spans the breadth of her poetic production.

Isaac Joslin, assistant professor of French (contemporary Francophone literature and culture), School of International Letters and Cultures
Joslin's work “Transnational Intersectionality: Whiteness and Womanhood in Postcolonial Africa” focuses on the intersections of race, gender and socioeconomic class. Central to these philosophical and interdisciplinary inquiries is the deconstruction of monolithic identity categories, arguing rather for a consideration of how gender identity might be constructed differently for different racialized subjectivities.

Katherine Morrissey, assistant professor, English
Morrissey's book project “Redefining Romance: Love & Desire in Today's Digital Culture” reconceptualizes romance and genres for our contemporary digital era. In an analog era, romance genres helped stabilize a hierarchy of sexual norms for women and privileged a particular type of white, heteronormative femininity. In the 21st century, digital platforms use algorithms to manage a range of competing sexual hierarchies. Across media, romance genres have been reshaped by shifts in technology, emerging digital markets and a more participatory media culture.

Mark Hannah, director of writing, rhetorics and literacies; associate professor, English
Hannah's work “Listening for Law” is conceived through the five discrete features of legal grammar: relationality, hierarchy, temporality, simultaneity and predictivity. It cultivates in readers a critical disposition toward anticipating how law’s underlying structures enable and/or delimit the aims of their work, thus activating them as both critics and agents of law’s constitutive nature.

Matt Simonton, associate professor, School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies
Simonton's book project “Demagogues of Ancient Greece” incorporates more than half a millennium of history and the evidence of hundreds of Greek city-states. The project is an interdisciplinary exercise in historical analysis, drawing on theories of contemporary populism from the social sciences and on studies of popular culture within history and comparative literature. It will also contribute to our understanding of the threats facing democracy today and how they can be avoided.

Patricia Webb, associate professor, English
How can the inclusion of a common read focused on social justice issues affect instructors’ pedagogical practices in first-year composition courses? What impact does this have on students’ commitment to community engagement? Webb’s project “Social Justice in the Writing Class: Impacts of Common Read Programs” asks these research questions. The goal of the common read is to “encourage first-year students to write about pressing social problems that are relevant to ASU’s mission as a public enterprise. By learning to write about such problems as a community, we increase the probability of finding a solution to them,” Webb said.

To learn more about the Institute for Humanities Research and the fellows program, visit

Mina Lajevardi

Marketing and Communications Specialist, Sr., Institute for Humanities Research


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New probes gather real-time algae information in CAP canals

June 23, 2022

Immediate information valuable for agricultural farmers

Taylor Weiss lowers the probe into the bottom of the canal and waits for the conversation to begin.

“Hey, how are you feeling today?” the probe says to the algae. “Are you happy? Or are you not?”

The answer to those questions enables Weiss and his team at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation, or AzCATI, to detect algae blooms in real time in the canal system, information that is critical to homeowners and agricultural farmers throughout Arizona.

“The whole part of our sensor system is you can see the problems as they’re coming,” said Weiss, a senior global futures scientist at Arizona State University’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory and assistant professor in the Polytechnic School, part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “It’s like a weather forecast. Just by letting people know when an event is going to hit, they can adjust.”

Through a partnership with Burge Environmental, which developed the new technology, AzCATI has a half-dozen probes testing the water in the 336 miles of the Central Arizona Project canal system, as well as Lake Pleasant.

The probes, powered by solar energy and connected to a computer terminal that sends out data like a cell phone, are essential because drought conditions brought on by climate change — “everything that could make the situation worse is now happening,” Weiss said — can create “extremely problematic” algae changes, and previously there was no way to gather immediate information.

“There was no practical way without having an army of people grabbing samples physically across 300 miles of canal,” Weiss said, adding that it’s impossible to keep algae from blooming in the CAP canals. “Not just monthly, not even weekly, but daily, to even establish a pattern. And then what tests are you going to run? Now we have a real-time potential measure of biological activity in the environment.

“Fundamentally, what we can now say with much greater confidence — is the algae growing slow? That’s because it was cold yesterday. So, it’s a cloudy day, they’re growing slow and that’s fine. Or, if they’re growing slow and we think they should be growing faster, we need to find the reason because that’s an opportunity for improvement.”

The continuous, real-time testing of the algae bloom is vital for several reasons. First, if the algae Cymbella – often called “rock snot” for its sticky, yellow, clumpy form – grows too quickly, it can reduce the efficiency of water flow. While a sticky canal may not seem like a big deal, that energy loss could instead be powering thousands of homes each year, Weiss said.

“The state of Arizona spends 4% of its annual energy on this canal,” Weiss said. “So, you start doing the math and very quickly it’s a gross inefficiency.”

It’s also important to know what type of algae is growing in the canal system. Some algae create “odor and taste issues that people drinking water don’t enjoy.”

The real-time information is also helpful to agricultural farmers, who depend on a consistent water supply from the canals.

“If they know a problem is coming, like the intakes being clogged, a problem at 9 a.m. on Monday is an easy problem to solve, while a problem at 2 a.m. on Sunday is difficult,” Weiss said. “Because we don’t have the manpower in place across a very large area, you’re ill-prepared, which means the system will be running inefficiently and it’s going to disrupt users.

“So knowing the problem and understanding how to predict it, this is algae forecasting. The hard part of our job now is we’re in the stages of taking relatively simple data and trying to break it down to something as simple as a weather forecast. Like a map where you have sensor platforms, we’ll have a number from one to five saying how bad the algae is in this region based on water flows. And if we know they’re breaking loose in one place, we can say, ‘Hey guys, in 48 hours this problem could be at your doorstep.’”

Weiss hopes the new sensor system can be used beyond the CAP canals. He said he recently met with the Mesa city council; Mesa gets approximately one-third of its water from CAP, one-third of its water from Salt River Project and one-third of its water from groundwater sources.

“We’re absolutely looking to go straight to some of the municipalities,” Weiss said. “Right now, there’s no one-stop shop to bring this puzzle together. Ultimately, for the state of Arizona, that’s what we want to develop.”

Top photo: Duane Barbano, a doctoral student in biological design, attaches a battery and telecommunications equipment to a tower railing on April 11 at Lake Pleasant. The crew, led by Assistant Professor Taylor Weiss, installed both a floating and a fixed probe network from a secure pumping station at the CAP-fed reservoir. The probes, which range throughout the 160-foot lake depth, measure the biochemical activity of the environment, especially in response to nutrients as they flow. For example, the data will show when there are algae blooms, which will allow the CAP to adjust the Valley’s delivery operations system. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Scott Bordow

Reporter , ASU News

Addiction grant helps local Native American populations fight substance abuse

Training grant enables doctoral student placement in Native American communities

June 23, 2022

According to a 2021 report by the Arizona Department of Health Services, Native Americans are 20% more likely to die from drug-induced deaths than the state average, 40% more likely to die by suicide and 500% more likely to experience alcohol-induced deaths, which results in a median age at death that is almost 15 years younger than the Arizona median.

An interdisciplinary team at Arizona State University aims to change this.  Two people silhouetted against a backdrop of desert scenery. According to a 2021 report by the Arizona Department of Health Services, Native Americans are 20% more likely to die from drug-induced deaths than the state average, 40% more likely to die by suicide and 500% more likely to experience alcohol-induced deaths, which results in a median age at death that is almost 15 years younger than the Arizona median. An interdisciplinary team at ASU aims to change this. Photo by Daniel Gregoire/Unsplash Download Full Image

The ASU Department of Psychology recently received a new $1.33 million grant from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to help train doctoral psychology students in the latest addiction treatment and management techniques, beginning in July 2022.

The Graduate Psychology Training Consortium assembles experts from five ASU programs, including clinical psychology, counseling psychology, integrated behavioral health, social work and nursing.

Faculty with a vast array of experience and expertise from the five collaborating ASU programs will provide a comprehensive, state-of-the-science training program that will develop competency in integrated health, behavioral health and opioid and other substance use disorder treatment, with a focus on serving Native Americans.

These trainings will be open to faculty and graduate students from the five collaborating programs, as well as to community providers. 

In addition to the training component, this grant includes partnerships with two community providers where psychology graduate students will have hands-on training in assisting Indigenous and underserved populations in the state. 

“One of those locations that our students will be working in is located in Navajo Nation. We also have a Native American consultant for the grant who will be helping us navigate how we provide culturally competent services that improve the trust with the health care system among the Native American population,” said Matthew Meier, clinical associate professor and co-director of clinical training. Meier is also the director of the new online master’s degree in addiction psychology launching in fall 2022.

“Through the learned experiences of research and maintaining positive collaborative relationships with tribes, it is imperative that tribal understanding is developed and maintained. Most importantly, ensuring that tribal sovereignty and respect to cultural and traditional practices is adhered to,” said Valaura Imus-Nahsonhoya, the founder and executive director of Honwungsi Consulting Services.  

The Honwungsi Consulting agency provides consulting services to state, federal, nonprofit and for-profit agencies working in tribal areas. This consulting ensures that training information and delivery is culturally competent in respect to particular tribal participants. 

ASU is partnering with the Canyonlands Healthcare Agency, a community mental health agency, that has local clinics, primary care, as well as integrated behavioral health in the north and east areas of Arizona. This facility has been designated as a Federally Qualified Health Center and is supported by federal grants under the U.S. Public Health Service Act.  

Additionally, the department is partnering with Solutions of Sobriety, which has an existing contract with Indian Health Services to provide substance abuse, recovery, housing, outpatient and intensive inpatient care. 

“The goal for this grant is to train psychologists to do integrated health. We are providing behavioral health services in primary care settings, as well as opioid and other substance use disorder treatments. Additionally, the training provides experience with telehealth treatment for populations that have been traditionally unable to access treatment,” Meier said.

Related: ASU launches new master’s degree in addiction psychology with included practicum experience 

Expanding services in rural communities. 

“One major goal of this grant is to expose trainees to rural settings and provide training in culturally competent care, which will increase the likelihood that they will provide services in these rural communities in the future. This is a major challenge to encourage licensed professionals to move into isolated communities to solve that treatment gap,” Meier said.

“Telehealth now opens a whole new avenue to get services into underserved areas without having to move professionals into these small communities."

Related: ASU wins grant to establish interdisciplinary training program to fight the opioid epidemic 

“The HRSA grant will allow us to develop and disseminate a state-of-the-science training to a broad range of students, faculty and community providers, as well as increase access to culturally competent psychological services for Native Americans,” Meier said. 

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology


Keeping memory on hand

Haptics research project funded by NSF CAREER Award enables older adults to live independently through the use of intelligent wearable technology

June 23, 2022

As we age, our bodies deteriorate, making daily life more difficult. Along with physical challenges, the loss of cognitive function, such as memory loss, can also impede performance of basic tasks. From misplacing keys or a wallet to more serious memory issues like forgetting to take medication or leaving the stove on, memory loss is a prevalent issue among older adults.

Troy McDaniel, an assistant professor of engineering at The Polytechnic School, one of the seven schools in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, is using advancements in haptics, wearable technologies, machine learning and sensor fusion to alleviate memory issues in older adults through the use of intelligent, hand-centric, wrist-worn wearables. ASU Assistant Professor Troy McDaniel wearing a watch-like device on his wrist. Troy McDaniel, an assistant professor at The Polytechnic School, one of the seven Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, is pictured on ASU’s Tempe campus at the Center for Cognitive Ubiquitous Computing, or CUbiC, where he serves as the director. He explores the use of intelligent wearable technology to benefit older adults with memory challenges. McDaniel also conducts research at his lab, HAPT-X Lab, at ASU’s Polytechnic campus. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU Download Full Image

Not many researchers have leveraged a hand-centric view of the world to understand activities of daily living and the associated challenges that affect older adults — making McDaniel’s research unique.

His unique hand-centric approach is being supported by a 2022 National Science Foundation Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) Award.

“By 2050, more than 9 billion people will call Earth home, and of those 9 billion people, it’s estimated that 20% will be 65 or older,” McDaniel says. “Such changes will further exacerbate current health care worker shortages and we will be in desperate need of innovative assistive technology solutions.”

McDaniel is actively working toward contributions to gerontechnology — technology to benefit aging adults — to fill that gap and provide the support soon to be needed by a growing elderly population.

Using haptics to advance gerontechnology

So much of human activity revolves around the use of our hands; it’s how we interact with objects in our environment. Through the use of haptics, which is the study of how human senses can propel or be used in conjunction with technology, there are several opportunities to advance assistive solutions.

Much of McDaniel’s research aims to assist older adults, and this project is no exception. Taking into account humans’ heavy reliance on their hands, he began exploring “hand-centric” camera views to aid memory function in this population three years ago.

“I call it a hand-centric view because it’s a hand-centric view of the world,” McDaniel says. “It’s a camera worn on the wrist, pointed at the hand and fingers to capture visual data of our interactions with objects in the surrounding environment.”

In McDaniel’s “cognitive augmentation aid,” users load images of their belongings, like keys or a wallet, onto a device that can recognize and recall those images upon request, enabling users to locate misplaced belongings. This is just one of the technology’s many functionalities.

“Think of this device as a personal assistant,” McDaniel says. “Did the person take their medication? Did they pick the correct pill? Did they put it in their mouth? These hand movements were all captured by the camera and can offer important insight to the user so they can continue living independently and maintain their quality of life.”

Wearable assistive technology is also a significant development for older adults who move around frequently to support their health needs. Whether they are at home, in an assisted living facility or in a hospital, the technology is made to move with the user so it can be integrated into a daily routine.

Broader impacts

The application potential that can stem from this interactive system, which is made up of “sophisticated software and intelligent algorithms,” is extensive McDaniel says.

“From exercise adherence to compliance and safety, inventory tracking or manufacturing, the opportunities for this core technology are endless,” he says. “The video data collected from the hand-centric cameras specifically are also crucial for other researchers who want to explore the field of haptics, and its use extends beyond just seniors.”

Privacy issues and ethical concerns are at the forefront of the conversation. The technology is designed so data does not leave the device, ensuring data integrity. However, depending upon the application and with the user’s consent, it may be acceptable for video data to leave the device for analysis, for example, when used for rehabilitative therapies or inventory tracking.

In addition to broadening the application outlook, McDaniel has plans to design a new haptics course for the Fulton Schools to allow undergraduate students to explore this pathway. Experiential learning is important to McDaniel, so his course will offer a hands-on haptics kit for students to employ in various course projects. He also plans to develop an introductory haptics textbook for students and researchers new to the subject.

A multidisciplinary mindset

McDaniel says that none of this work would have been possible if it wasn’t for ASU’s interdisciplinary and collaborative research environment. During his undergraduate and doctoral studies in computer science at ASU, he says this was one of the qualities that set ASU apart from other universities.

For this project, he utilized his background in computer science and integrated neuroscience, psychology, human factors, costume design, ethics and more.

“I pulled from all of these areas to build the foundation for my research,” McDaniel says. “ASU presents an ecosystem where I can flourish and I firmly believe this is something I could do only here.”

Looking to the future

Along with refining this technology, McDaniel hopes to change the perception that there isn’t a space for wearable technology among older adults.

In his research endeavors, McDaniel discovered that older adults are open to technology provided it is user-friendly, doesn’t require daily updates, has an easy-to-read interface and maintains privacy and independence.

He has plans to put this technology into action with residents who are interested in participating at Mirabella, an intergenerational, lifelong learning community on the ASU Tempe campus allowing residents to test the new hardware.

With all of this in mind, McDaniel also hopes to improve the device’s accuracy and reliability and pursue licensing and commercialization to get the technology into the hands of people who most need it.

“This innovation will be a game-changer in the wearable technology industry,” he says.

Sona Patel Srinarayana

Communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


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Mars science fiction writing is a 'Red Mirror' to today's world

June 23, 2022

ASU English course subject of published paper in Science & Education

The Earthmen came by the handful, then the hundreds, then the millions. They swept aside the majestic, dying Martian civilization to build their homes, shopping malls, and cities. Mars began as a place of boundless hopes and dreams, a planet to replace an Earth sinking into waste and war. It became a canvas for mankind’s follies and darkest desires. Ultimately, the Earthmen who came to conquer the red-gold planet awoke to discover themselves conquered by Mars. Lulled by its ancient enchantments, the Earthmen learned, at terrible cost, to overcome their own humanity.

— "The Martian Chronicles" by Ray Bradbury

Science fiction works about Mars are imaginary journeys into a fantastical word.

They’re also a mirror held up to today’s world — a "Red Mirror."

That’s the name of the upper-level online course at Arizona State University alternately taught by Joe Lockard and Peter Goggin, both associate professors in ASU’s Department of English. The course — which invites students to “beam in from wherever you are” — is the subject of a recent paper published by the professors in the journal Science & Education.

“A very substantial literature has accumulated that employs Mars as a discursive center for issues that have preoccupied American culture,” the paper states. “A Mars literature course can undertake to historicize and trace the imaginative development of a trope that reflects the changing nature of the USA. … Taking as its starting point H.G. Wells’ 'War of the Worlds,' our Mars literature course demonstrates how this planetary trope crossed the Atlantic, entered and merged with the American milieu, and now both emblematizes and questions notions of progress.”

Lockard and Goggin use primarily six works — "War of the Worlds," "Princess of Mars," "The Martian Chronicles," "The Martian Time-Slip," "Moving Mars" and "Red Mars" — to discuss issues like colonialism, imperialism, anti-fascism, gender conflict, race and authoritarianism.

“We titled the course Red Mirror because it was our understanding that Mars serves as a mirror of Earth and earthly society,” Lockard said. “Mars has been a way of examining problems on Earth by constructing societies via fiction.”

The course, which has been taught since 2013, resonates with students, Goggin said, because the novels used in the class confront both historic and current world problems.

For example, Kim Stanley Robinson’s "Red Mars" trilogy, according to one review, “fundamentally questions the apparent dichotomy between the sciences and culture, the merely human body and a world of technological possibility.”

Sound familiar?

“It wasn’t a science fiction course,” Goggin said. “We (ASU) already had courses on science fiction. This is kind of like, ‘Hey, this is actually happening. This is happening in real time.’

“So it’s both an interrogation, but then also in some cases, celebration of misogyny and racism and colonialism, and things have not changed significantly in terms of some attitudes. So that really was also useful for our students’ learning in terms of critical analysis or critical thinking.”

We titled the course Red Mirror because it was our understanding that Mars serves as a mirror of Earth and earthly society.

— Associate Professor Joe Lockard

Lockard and Goggin believe using fictional pieces of work emboldens students to speak up about sensitive issues.

“When they read Ray Bradbury, there’s this great story where all the Black people decide to leave and go to Mars,” Lockard said. “The N-word is used by the racist whites, and it gives students a chance to dig into that in ways perhaps they may not have felt comfortable doing if it was an actual novel about race. In some ways, it allows for a perhaps less risky reflection.”

Said Goggin: “I think there’s a nice synchronicity there that the students begin to appreciate as they start making those kinds of connections, seeing the critical issues that the literature begins to illustrate for them as they think about actual real-world events.”

Although they’re using works of fiction to teach their class, Goggin and Lockard have discovered one thing: They better have their facts straight.

“Sometimes you get students who know more about science fiction than you do,” Goggin said. “It’s kind of like a comic-con type of thing. You gotta be on the ball.”

Scott Bordow

Reporter , ASU News

Triple major ASU alumna uses interdisciplinary skills to research causality

June 23, 2022

Rachael Kha grew up in a STEM-oriented environment. Both of her parents earned their degrees from Arizona State University, one with a degree in electrical engineering and the other in chemical engineering. They encouraged her to go to college.

She decided to enroll as a chemical engineering major at ASU, as well as an honors student in Barrett, The Honors College. She looked at it as a practical decision. Portrait of ASU alum Rachael Kha Rachael Kha graduated with her bachelor's degree in chemical engineering, economics and philosophy in 2021. Download Full Image

“I don’t think I was ever really sure about chemical engineering,” Kha said. “I liked chemistry in high school, and both my parents were engineers, so it just kind of made sense.”

Before taking The Human Event, a yearlong honors course that focuses on key social and intellectual currents in the multicultural history of human thought from the earliest written texts to the present, Kha had never considered studying philosophy. But after she finished those courses, she enrolled in a few philosophy classes and decided to add the topic as a second major.

“Looking back, I was definitely interested in philosophy before college,” Kha said. “In high school, I wrote my common application essay about philosophy and religion, and I liked reading philosophical literature. But I just never really thought about formally studying philosophy until later on.”

Kha continued on her double major track for three years, and during her junior year decided to start working on her honors thesis. She chose to write her thesis on a philosophical topic, quantifying philosopher David Lewis’ idea of causation and causal influence.

Lecturer of philosophy Jeffrey Watson was her thesis director. His mentorship helped guide her through the process.

“Rachael is brilliant and she took her ability to think abstractly and analytically about traditional questions in metaphysics about the nature of causation and then applied this to practical, present-day social problems in a way that can make a difference to how we understand and try to solve these problems together,” Watson said.

Kha already had a substantial background in math from her engineering degree, but she struggled with translating the ideas within Lewis’s conception of causality into quantitative measures and looked to economics for inspiration.

“(Economics) studies complex dynamics among individuals and social systems in a quantitative way, and it actually helped a lot more than I expected,” she said. “I ended up really enjoying my economics classes, so I decided to spend my fourth year finishing the degree.

Since Kha finished all her requirements for the chemical engineering degree, during her final year as an undergraduate, she was able to focus on only taking philosophy and economics classes. 

“Finishing three degrees was definitely difficult at times,” Kha said. “I actually never took more than 22 credits per semester; most semesters were at 18 or 21 credits. But I also took a lot of summer courses while either interning or doing research in a lab, which helped me not overwhelm myself during the fall and spring semesters.”

At some points during her last year, she thought about taking a minor in economics or philosophy instead of a bachelor’s degree, especially since she could have left at any time with a degree in chemical engineering. But Kha felt that earning a degree in chemical engineering was a necessity, while studying philosophy and economics was a choice. 

“I wasn’t sure what I was going to do with just an engineering degree, because I still wasn’t really sure if I wanted to be an engineer at all,” Kha said. “So when I’d feel overwhelmed, I’d just remind myself that I chose to be here and that I’m doing it for myself.

“In choosing to study concurrent degrees, I enjoyed the opportunity to explore and make the most of the many resources of higher education, beyond the value of a degree itself, which I didn’t really consider when I first started college.”

Despite feeling overwhelmed at times, Kha graduated in 2021 with her three bachelor’s degrees and moved into a master’s program for chemical engineering at ASU the following semester. 

She decided on completing a thesis for her master’s rather than an applied project, which has given her more time to conduct research and explore opportunities.

“In June, I presented a paper at the 2022 American Control Conference, which was my first out-of-state conference and my first, first-authored paper,” Kha said. “I’ve also gotten to work with a lot of amazing people from different fields and universities, which helped me decide that I want to continue in research after my master’s degree.”

Although her master’s program is in chemical engineering, Kha found herself pulling skills from her other two degrees to help her through the degree. 

“From philosophy, thinking about paradigms has come up quite a few times,” Kha said. “I’m studying behavioral medicine with respect to physical activity and walking. But one part of what makes this research interesting is that we take a ‘small-data’ perspective to study how we can develop models of individuals’ walking behavior to then design interventions that are tailored specifically to them. 

“So a part of our research involves engaging in the discussion of small-data versus big-data paradigms, which is related to how we understand and validate claims of causality broadly, as well as how our assumptions about what causality is, is reflected in our methods to derive knowledge about causal phenomena from data.”

Kha will be wrapping up her master’s degree this summer and will be starting her PhD in social and engineering systems at Massachusetts Institute of Technology this fall.

Rachel Bunning

Communications program coordinator, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

ASU director co-authors UN report on business and human rights in Asia

June 23, 2022

A new report released this month by the United Nations Development Programme focuses on the current state of business and human rights in Asia and lays out opportunities for action in the decade ahead.

The report, titled “Reflections and Directions – Business and Human Rights in Asia: From the First Decade to the Next,” looks at the first decade of the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (UNGPs) and assesses the progress and challenges on business and human rights in several countries. The findings and analysis are based on desk research and interviews with government, corporate and civil society actors. Map of Southeast Asia A new report by the United Nations Development Programme titled “Reflections and Directions – Business and Human Rights in Asia: From the First Decade to the Next,” looks at the current state of business and human rights in 11 Asian countries, including Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam, and lays out opportunities for action. Download Full Image

Jason Briggs, senior director of global initiatives at Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, is a co-author of the report.

Briggs said one of the main goals for this report is to help drive progress on business and human rights in the region and accelerate the full realization of the UNGPs in Asia.

According to the report, important victories were won in the first decade of UNGPs in Asia, including strengthened regional momentum on business and human rights and the adoption of Asia’s first national action plans (NAPs). But stakeholders in Asia see many gaps and hurdles and the need for Asia’s BHR movement to adjust and recalibrate for the next decade ahead.

The U.N. Working Group on Business and Human Rights launched the project, "A vision for the next decade of business and human rights," also known as UNGPs10+ and Next Decade of BHR. UNGPs10+ aims to “take stock of achievements to date, assess existing gaps and challenges, and, most importantly, develop an ambitious vision and roadmap for implementing the UNGPs more widely and more broadly between now and 2030.”

The report serves to contribute to UNGPs10+ by surveying the status of business and human rights across Asia, bringing together different visions and identifying opportunities for the decade ahead. It presents an overview of the status of business and human rights in Asia and focuses particularly, but not exclusively, on 11 countries demonstrating some progress on BHR, namely Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.

View the report here.

Nicole Greason

Director of Marketing and Public Relations , Barrett, The Honors College


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Mark Klett: Artist shows new views from the top of Tempe

June 22, 2022

A day in the life of a Tempe vantage point in 1908, 2008 and 2022

Editor’s note: This story first appeared in ASU Thrive’s special photography issue, celebrating a day in the life of inspiring people across the ASU community. 

Hohokam people have cherished the high point now known as Hayden Butte for generations. Also known as “A” Mountain, the vantage point has been a recurring spot for artist Mark Klett, a Regents Professor at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and a Distinguished Global Futures Scholar at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory. Sourcing a historical image as a reference point, he has made new photos to capture the view in progressive works. 

Klett is a founder of the Rephotographic Survey Project, and has worked on a several other rephotography projects in the past three decades, including the Third View, Yosemite in Time, After the Ruins (San Francisco) and Reconstructing the View (Grand Canyon). Before turning to photography he worked as a geologist. This past May, he retired from ASU after 40 years to pursue his art full-time.

Partial panoramic view of downtown Tempe in 1908

Photo courtesy Library of Congress

 Partial panoramic view of downtown Tempe

Partial panoramic view of downtown Tempe

A growing campus

1. Sun Devil Stadium. 2. Manzanita. 3. University Towers. 4. Veterans Way/College Avenue light rail station. 5. Design North. 6. Tempe City Hall. 7. West Sixth. 8. Tempe Mission Palms. 9. Tempe Center for the Arts. 10. Hayden Flour Mill. Photos by Mark Klett.

Partial panoramic view of downtown Tempe in 2022

Partial panoramic view of downtown Tempe in 2022

A new skyline emerges

1. University House Tempe. 2 College Avenue Commons. 3. New residential buildings. 4. The Local, Whole Foods Market. 5. The Beam on Farmer. 6. 222 S. Mill Avenue. 7. 100 S. Mill Avenue. 8. Hayden Ferry Lakeside. Photos by Mark Klett.


Honors College seeks applicants for Barrett Mentoring Program

Program helps students become engaged on campus, improve their social-emotional support through meaningful relationships with peers

June 22, 2022

Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University takes pride in the close-knit feeling fostered by its unique residential community, but also recognizes that sometimes a little more help is needed to feel at home in new and unfamiliar surroundings.

“Relationships shape the experience and outcomes of a student’s journey through higher education,” said Ashley Brand, Barrett Honors College director of student services. “Some students will find these relationships among faculty and advisers; however, many more will struggle to forge the long-lasting relationships that drive student success and open doors. Life-changing relationships should be a feature of every student’s college experience.” Exterior of Barrett Honors College dorms and courtyard on ASU's Tempe campus. Through the Barrett Mentoring Program, honors upperclassmen mentor first-year students in Barrett, The Honors College. Download Full Image

One of the many student resources offered at Barrett on the Tempe campus, the Barrett Mentoring Program helps students become engaged on campus and improve their social-emotional support through meaningful relationships with their peers, said Brand, who is not only an adviser for the program but a proud Barrett alumna herself.

The mentoring program, in which upperclassmen serve as mentors for first-year students, gives students the opportunity to serve the honors community, gain leadership experience and help their fellow students.

Applications for Barrett mentors are now being accepted. Information about the program and the application can be found on the program website. The deadline to apply is Friday, July 1.

Once selected, mentors will enroll in a one-credit HON 294 course and be assigned to a small group of incoming first-year Barrett students in fall 2022. First-year students do not have to apply for the program.

Brand said Barrett first-year students will get a lot of benefits from the mentorship program, which will help ease their transition from high school to university.

“This program benefits new students as they have an immediate network of support when they enter Barrett and ASU,” she said.

The main goals for mentors in the mentoring program include assisting first-year students in their transition to college, providing them meaningful connection and support, and helping them network with fellow students and staff at Barrett.

Mentees can get advice from their mentors for anything, ranging from questions about the honors college’s signature first-year course The Human Event to recommendations about what food to get at the dining hall.

The program also helps connect first-year students with each other so they can form friend groups with whom they can study, socialize, attend events and travel, easing the sense of isolation new students sometimes feel, Brand said.

Barrett mentees are not the only ones benefiting from this program, as mentors gain benefits as well, including building leadership skills.

“Mentors are learning about leadership, communication, mentorship, motivation and more, as well as building their own connections and relationships with other mentors and expanding their own community,” Brand said.

“It is extremely rewarding, as students mentor other students and help build this amazing honors community,” she added. “I love seeing the connections blossom and students learning more about their own leadership style.”

Students interested in applying may direct questions about the program to Brand at or Ellyse Crow, Barrett assistant director of student engagement, at

Story by Barrett Honors College student Alex Marie Solomon.

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Pride Month: Summer reading list

June 21, 2022

ASU professor selects 6 essential reads by, for and about LGBTQ youth

June is Pride month, a time to commemorate the people, places and events that have catalyzed change for the LGBTQ community.

Arched by the story of the Stonewall Uprising of 1969, the monthlong observance calls attention to LGBTQ culture — including artists, creators and authors — and that can be an affirming space for members of the LGBTQ community, especially among young people still struggling with identity and acceptance.

Jim Blasingame, an internationally known scholar of young adult literature and professor in ASU’s English Department, says highly acclaimed literature can be helpful in remediating these issues.

“Research tells us that fiction reading increases capacity for compassion and imagination,” Blasingame said. ”Educators around the world agree that students need to read about characters who reflect their own personal identity, as well as characters who are different from themselves, so that they will both embrace their own true selves and feel compassion for people who are different from them.”

To learn more about the stories and characters that have helped to build compassion and confidence among LGBTQ youth, we asked Blasingame to share a list of resonant reading recommendations. He selected the books below from the American Library Association’s Rainbow Project Book List, and offered his reasons for choosing them.

Magnus Chase - Hammer of Thor Book Cover

'Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard: The Hammer of Thor'

The second book in the “Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard” series by Rick Riordan continues the adventures of teenage Bostonian Magnus Chase and his friends, as they attempt to retrieve the magical hammer belonging to Thor, Norse god of thunder, before it falls into the wrong hands.

The story introduces a new teen character, Alex Fierro, who is gender-fluid and also the daughter of Loki who, according Norse myths, could change gender at will. Like Loki, Alex can also choose gender in the moment as well as shapeshift into animals. After meeting on the streets of Boston when they were both homeless, Magnus and Alex team up to prevent Alex’s mother, Loki, from using Thor’s hammer for the ultimate evil, bringing about Ragnarok, the end of the universe.

The American Library Association has called Riordan’s Alex character a “hero” and representative of “the expansive possibilities of gender for future generations,” according to Blasingame. And Riordan himself ranks high with Blasingame, who calls the author “the pied piper of adolescent literature,” noting Riordan’s authorship of the highly successful Percy Jackson series for Disney Hyperion and Disney’s affinity for turning Riordan’s books into movies.

Symptoms of Being Human

'Symptoms of Being Human'

One of multiple books by author Jeff Garvin on the Rainbow Project Book List, the award-winning “Symptoms of Being Human” revolves around Riley Cavanaugh, a gender-fluid teenager who describes herself/himself as sometimes male, sometimes female, sometimes both and sometimes neither one, according to Blasingame. 

Riley speaks to the reader through a blog — an activity started under the advisement of a therapist after someone threatens to out Riley, who has never shared their shifting identity and orientation with their parents, one of whom is a well-known politician.

Blasingame quotes renowned young adult literature expert Michael Cart, who described Garvin’s “Symptoms of Being Human” as "one of the first YA books to deal with the complex issue of gender-fluidity” in a review for Booklist. Carter says that Garvin avoids references to Riley’s birth-assigned gender throughout the book to “emphasize the dynamic nature of the situation.” This, he says, “means eschewing personal pronouns, a device some readers will find frustrating but nevertheless underscores readers’ instincts to put individuals into a box."

Fat Angie Book Cover

'Fat Angie'

The winding road to self-discovery and love begins with an unraveling home life for ninth grader Angie in E.E. Charlton-Trujillo’s Young Adult reader “Fat Angie,” Blasingame says.

Angie lives in a dysfunctional and highly medicated family whose unraveling seems to have begun when Angie’s athletic superstar sister, a local hero, enlisted in the military rather than taking a basketball scholarship, and winds up missing in action. Angie misses her sister desperately and suffers a mental breakdown but her life takes a turn when a new girl named K.C. Romance comes to town. Angie and K.C. become an item.

“This book took on multiple issues faced by millions of teens every day, including gender identity and sexual orientation, mental illness, teen suicide, bullying and first love,” Blasingame says. It also made author Charlton-Trujillo a multiple award winner. 

Openly Straight Book Cover

'Openly Straight'

Since first coming out in the eighth grade in his progressive hometown of Boulder, Colorado, Rafe Goldberg has been “the gay kid,” says Blasingame, describing the narrative of the book “Openly Straight” by Bill Konigsberg. The term “gay,” Blasingame says, has attached itself "like a tattoo" to the book’s central character. No matter what he does, including actions upon which his sexual orientation have no bearing, people begin by acknowledging that he is the “gay soccer player” or “gay writer.”

When Rafe leaves Boulder to attend a prestigious all-boy’s prep school in Massachusetts, he intends to no longer be openly gay, but rather to be private about his sexuality and prove to himself he is more than just “the gay kid." He will find out at Natick School if he really has the skill set to make it without favoritism.    

Flipping the script on the coming-out experience is unique and effective, says Blasingame of Konigsberg’s “Openly Straight.” The book won the Sid Fleischman Award for Humor in 2014. It also made the Young Adult Library Services Association's Best Fiction for Young Adults list for 2014.

Some Assembly Required Book Cover

'Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen'

A memoir about transgender self-discovery, Blasingame describes “Some Assembly Required: The Not-So-Secret Life of a Transgender Teen” as “often funny, brutally frank and at times heartbreaking.”

Born Emerald Andrews with the assigned gender of female, Arin Andrews knew he was not female. After Arin’s attempted suicide convinces his mother that Arin really does feel like a man trapped in a woman’s body, she gives him her full support as he starts down the road of changing his gender.

According to Blasingame, surgery, hormone injections and first love (with a transgender girl), make Arin’s true story so powerful, especially when read in combination with Arin’s transgender girlfriend's parallel story “Rethinking Normal.”

“Publisher’s Weekly” described Andrews’ book as “a brave book that handles complicated and sensitive topics honestly and, at times, with humor.”

Rethinking Normal Book Cover

'Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition'

Blasingame says memoirist Katie Rain Hill lived a life through adolescence very much like her eventual boyfriend, Arin Andrews.

In her book “Rethinking Normal: A Memoir in Transition,” Katie chronicles her life journey, which began as Luke, with the assigned male gender at birth, and almost ended with a suicide attempt brought on by struggles with gender dysphoria and cruel treatment by family, classmates and school officials.

Her only advocate, her mother, helped Katie through a legal name change, genital reconstruction and counseling.

Blasingame calls this an important book for young readers struggling with identity. He says Hill’s book includes facts that trans youth need to know and a set of tips for talking to transgender people.

James Blasingame is a past executive director, former president and former journal editor for the Assembly on Literature for Adolescence of the National Council of Teachers of English and has four decades of experience working with LGBTQ authors and books. He is also the chair of the board of directors of the Arizona Humanities Council, state chapter of the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

Top photo courtesy iStock

Sr. Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications