Arizona State University: Faculty Members Recognized By The College For Teaching Excellence –


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The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University offers courses that nearly every ASU student takes at some point in their college journey.

These courses explore a wide variety of topics in the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities and are led by outstanding faculty who strive to go above and beyond for their students. 

Armstrong Hall on ASU's Tempe campus is home to The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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Annually, one faculty member from each division of The College is selected as a recipient of the Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award, the highest recognition of teaching excellence in The College.

In addition, for the 2020–21 cycle, one instructor was recognized with the Outstanding Instructor Award.

"Our faculty members are at the heart of what makes The College truly special," said Patrick Kenney, dean of The College.

"I am grateful to have these phenomenal faculty members on our team. Their dedication to the success of our students, as well as their success in their respective fields brings us great pride."

Meet this year's awardees:

Donald Critchlow

Critchlow is a professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies who teaches courses on American political history, political conspiracy and contemporary American history. He serves as co-director of the school's undergraduate certificate program in political history and leadership, and he has been with ASU since 2010.

He is the author and editor of 23 books including most recently "Revolutionary Monsters: Five Men Who Turned Liberation into Tyranny," "In Defense of Populism" and "Republican Character: From Nixon to Reagan."

Critchlow has lectured extensively in Europe as a distinguished State Department lecturer, and in China and Brazil. He has appeared on C-SPAN, NPR's "Talk of the Nation," BBC World News and other news outlets.

"My strength as a teacher is that my concern for students is not rhetorically, but active involvement in securing internships and actively working with them for postgraduation jobs and advanced education. I respect students and do not condescend to them, while maintaining high standards in the classroom," Critchlow said.

Sharon Hall

Hall is a professor in the School of Life Sciences, a senior sustainability scientist and a special adviser to the director for justice, equity, diversity and inclusion. She is an ecosystem scientist who explores the ecology of native and managed ecosystems that sustain people and other organisms within the community of life. She has been with ASU since 2005.

Her research team focuses on understanding the ecological feedbacks between humans and the environment. Currently, her team is exploring the biodiversity of cities, as well as people's relationship to plants and wildlife in their home environment. They also explore how urban air pollution affects ecosystem health and functioning, and how villages in the developing world cope with rapid environmental change, such as biological species invasions.

She takes a personalized, inclusive approach in her teaching to help students know they belong, and that their perspectives are valued.

"Teaching students in ecology and conservation is the most rewarding aspect of my professional life at ASU," she said. "Students bring terrific, new ideas to complicated scientific puzzles — and to solve our most pressing social and environmental challenges, we need all the help we can get! It's a joy to help students see how they can make the world a better place through their actions," Hall said. 

Lisa Magaña

Magaña is a professor in the School of Transborder Studies and affiliate faculty in the School of Politics and Global Studies and the Center for Latina/os and American Politics Research. She has been with ASU since 1998.

Magaña was a first-generation college graduate and did not come from an academic family. She has published books in the area of immigration and Latino public policy issues and is the author of "Straddling the Border: Immigration Policy and the INS" and "Arizona, Immigration, Latinos and Politics" and the co-author of "¡Empoderados!/Empowered! How Latinos Transformed Politics in Arizona." She is also co-editor of the book "Latino Politics and Arizona's Immigration Law SB 1070." 

Magaña is a member of the University Promotion and Tenure Committee, chair of the Latinos in the Profession for the American Political Science Association and the president of the Faculty Women Association. She provides commentary to news, radio and media outlets, and she was recently host of a PBS show that discussed the election and other issues.

"As a professor, I am inspired by my students, many of whom are immigrant, nontraditional and the first-generation to attend college. … I will never forget how meaningful it was to have professors that supported me and thought that I belonged at a university. To this day, I try to be that kind of mentor to my students at ASU," Magaña said.

Steven Flanagan

Flanagan is an instructor of Spanish in the School of International Letters and Cultures who has studied and worked at ASU since 2013. He began teaching full time in 2016 after earning two master's degrees in teaching English as a foreign language and Spanish applied linguistics (Second Language Acquisition). He is currently working toward earning his doctorate in education with a focus in higher education systems change at ASU. 

He has spent time in Mexico as well as several years living and working abroad in Spain where he attended the University of Alicante. His research interests include second language acquisition, postsecondary teacher education and online learning. He was awarded the 2019–20 SILC Team Collaboration Award for his role in the Spanish Program Coordination, and the 2020–21 SILC Team Collaboration Award for his role in instructional support in learning support services.

He approaches teaching as a way of pushing students in healthy ways to make mistakes and move through the challenging but rewarding process of language acquisition, while finding what connects with each student in an effort to maximize their experience. He said he most enjoys connecting with the students and trying to find ways for them to realize their own potential.

"For me language learning is beautiful, and with each new language we learn, we open doors to places, peoples and cultures that would have forever been inaccessible. Those experiences enrich our lives and change our world views and sharing those experiences with the students is amazing. Doing it at a place like ASU where we have access to so many resources, opportunities and a diverse student population makes it the reason I love teaching Spanish and I love teaching at ASU," Flanagan said. 

In spite of decades of research, cancer remains an enigma. Conventional wisdom holds that cancer is driven by random mutations that create aberrant cells that run amok in the body.  

In a new paper published this week in the journal BioEssays, researchers in Arizona and Australia challenge this model by proposing that cancer is a type of genetic throwback that progresses via a series of reversions to ancestral forms of life. In contrast with the conventional model, the distinctive capabilities of cancer cells are not primarily generated by mutations, the researchers claim, but are preexistent and latent in normal cells. 

Paul Davies pictured in his office.

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Regents Professor Paul Davies, director of Arizona State University's Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science, and Kimberly Bussey, cancer geneticist and bioinformatician from the Precision Medicine Program at Midwestern University in Glendale, Arizona, teamed up with Charles Lineweaver and Anneke Blackburn at the Australian National University (ANU) in Canberra, Australia, to refine what they call the serial atavism model (SAM) of cancer. This model suggests that cancer occurs through multiple steps that resurrect ancient cellular functions. 

Such functions are retained by evolution for specific purposes such as embryo development and wound healing and are usually turned off in the adult form of complex organisms. But they can be turned back on if something compromises the organism's regulatory controls. It is the resulting resurrection steps, or atavistic reversions, that are mostly responsible for the ability of cancer cells to survive, proliferate, resist therapy and metastasize, the researchers said. 

Davies and Bussey are also members of ASU's Arizona Cancer Evolution Center, which seeks to understand cancer not just in humans, but across all complex species, in the light of evolutionary processes. 

"Cancer research has been transformed in recent years by comparing genetic sequences across thousands of species to determine gene ages," Davies said.

Just as geologists can date rock strata, so geneticists can date genes, a technique known as phylostratigraphy. 

"The atavistic model predicts that the genes needed for cancer's abilities are mostly ancient — in some cases little changed over billions of years," Davies said. 

Lineweaver explained, "In biology, nothing makes sense except in the light of evolution, and in the case of cancer nothing makes sense except in the light of the deep evolutionary changes that occurred as we became multicellular organisms." 

"The atavistic model of cancer has gained increasing traction around the world," Bussey said. "In part, this is because it makes many predictions that can be tested by phylostratigraphy, unlike the conventional somatic mutation theory." 

Blackburn, a cancer biologist in ANU's John Curtin School of Medical Research, agreed. 

"Appreciation of the importance of gene ages is growing among oncologists and cancer biologists," she said. "Now we need to use this insight to develop novel therapeutic strategies. A better understanding of cancer can lead to better therapeutic outcomes."

This press release was produced by Arizona State University. The views expressed here are the author's own.

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