Faculty Academy cohort devises projects that unite art, design, culture with community

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Arizona State University faculty members are learning how to create and maintain places of diversity, equity and inclusion in their teaching, research and service as members of the ASU Faculty Academy.

The academy, based at the university’s Studio for Creativity, Place and Equitable Communities, welcomed its third cohort of faculty from multiple disciplines in 2022-23.

Participation in the academy helps members build skills, personal reflections and insights they can use to develop effective practices and curricula at the university, said interim studio director Chandra Crudup. Crudup is associate dean for inclusive design for equity and access at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions and a clinical associate professor of social work.

The studio, a joint effort of the Watts College and the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, is rooted in the principles of creative placemaking and placekeeping, defined as “the strategic integration of arts, culture and community-engaged design into comprehensive community planning and development.”

Each Faculty Academy member focuses on a project of significance to their field of study and research, in an interdisciplinary peer-to-peer environment. The goal is for faculty to include themes of equitable creative placemaking and placekeeping in their teaching, research and service, Crudup said.

Crudup said the experience walks the nine cohort members through answering important questions as they build upon their existing practices. Questions include: How do we redress historical inequities? What makes a community healthy, equitable and just? What does it mean to center the culture, experience and joy of Black, Indigenous, people of color and other historically underrepresented groups in practice and pedagogy?

As senior coordinator Anna Alvarez-Loucks explains in a recent Medium post, joy and rest can be used to change systems by allowing ourselves to imagine and create new possibilities more in line with our own values.

“Instead of a luxury at odds with social justice, prioritizing joy can be an act of resistance in itself, which challenges inequity, engages community and enacts change in the oppressive systems we have inherited,” Alvarez-Loucks wrote.

While many participants are from the Watts College and the Herberger Institute, members of this year’s cohort also hail from other parts of the university. The cohort members are:

  • Melita Belgrave, associate professor, School of Music, Dance and Theatre, and associate dean of culture and access, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.
  • Carla Bishop, assistant professor, The Sidney Poitier New American Film School.
  • Deepak Chhabra, associate professor, School of Community Resources and Development.
  • Robert Farid Karimi, assistant professor, School of Music, Dance and Theatre.
  • Felicia Mitchell, associate professor, School of Social Work.
  • Ijeoma Ogbonnaya, assistant professor, School of Social Work.
  • Alberto Olivas, executive director, Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service, Watts College.
  • Lauren Ruffin, associate professor, School of the Future of Innovation in Society; School of Arts, Media and Engineering.
  • Jessica Salow, assistant archivist, University Archives.

Members of this year’s cohort began their seven-month academy experience in November 2022 at the ASU Art Museum on the Tempe campus. In February 2023, the cohort traveled to Tucson to learn from the lived experiences of community partners on a variety of creative placemaking projects.

“The Faculty Academy is a place where the importance of individual humanity and relationships are centered instead of just production, and how art, design and culture are an intrinsic part of that,” Crudup said.

“Instead of a luxury at odds with social justice, prioritizing joy can be an act of resistance in itself, which challenges inequity, engages community and enacts change in the oppressive systems we have inherited.”

Anna Alvarez-Loucks, senior coordinator, the Studio

“Participants engage and ask questions about their own work and practices by integrating the guiding principles of creative placemaking and placekeeping,” she said. “The core of creative placemaking and placekeeping is about process. A student with a professor who went through the Faculty Academy might see more of a process of learning shift rather than just their assignments change.”

Previous cohort’s projects reflected a wide variety of interests and disciplines:


  • Meagan Ehlenz, associate professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, incorporated creative placemaking principles into two planning courses: a foundational course that contains themes of ethics, equity, social justice and community practice; and an applied community collaboration course. Ehlenz also researched the ways neighborhoods have used creativity (especially sidewalk chalk) to cope with/process the COVID pandemic.
  • Stacey Kuznetsov, assistant professor in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering; and Cody Telep, associate professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice; collaborated on “Future of Place and Belonging,” a module that explored policing and place. It was included in an interactive materials course in spring 2021. Students used design fiction methods to envision the future of place and belonging. Telep, who is also associate director of the school, expanded his approach to research for the module to consider strengths, assets and culture, as well as take a critical look at community collaborations. 
  • Benjamin Timpson, assistant professor in the School of Art, redesigned the curriculum for the Introduction to Photography I course in fall 2022 with a holistic approach that recognizes the injustices and biases of the medium.
  • Brett Petersen, lecturer in the School of Social Work, used the principles of creative placemaking to develop classroom activities that can create equitable classroom communities, dismantle dominant culture and allow students to establish collaborative spaces.
  • Chingwen Cheng, program head and associate professor in The Design School at the time, integrated creative placemaking into a technical report for educating landscape architecture professionals about climate justice and climate actions through the American Society of Landscape Architects’s Climate Action Plan and Climate Action Now: A Landscape Architect’s Guide to Climate Advocacy. The reports cover the role designers have in addressing systemic injustice in the built environment and serving as advocates for vulnerable communities. Cheng served on the DEIB Task Force at The Design School, working with students, staff and faculty to create a mission statement for the school. 
  • Kelly Faye Jackson, associate professor in the School of Social Work, initiated a collaborative research project in spring 2021 using a new methodology, called Black feminist polyethnography, to examine gendered anti-Black racism within the social-work profession. This research project has resulted in the publication of two peer-reviewed articles in the journals “Affilia” (Jackson et al., 2022) and the “Journal of Social Work Education” (currently in-press) and inspired a YouTube webinar titled “Critical Feminism and Anti-Blackness: Implications for Social Work.” Jackson and her co-authors received the prestigious “Distinguished Feminist Scholarship and Practice in Social Work Award” (January 2023) for their 2022 “Affilia” article “Taking Back the Narrative: Gendered Anti-Blackness in Predominantly White Schools of Social Work.” Jackson continues to advocate for the creation of safe counterspaces for Black and mixed Black women scholars and is currently principal investigator on a research project to develop an empirical measure of gendered anti-Black racism in higher education.
  • Cody Telep and Kate Fox, professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, developed a curriculum plan for the school to assess and improve the diversity, equity and inclusivity of its curriculum, policies and practices to include facilitation of more inclusive spaces, diverse perspectives, and creative solutions to improving diversity and equity.
  • Joanna Lucio, senior associate dean and associate professor in the School of Public Affairs, created the Student Life Cycle Project, a critical analysis of interactions between students and the university, specifically in the Watts College. The project covered prospective students through alumni experiences, with focus on student co-creation of spaces and approaches to mentorships, internships and academic integrity policies. The goal of the project was to create more equitable interactions and outcomes for students throughout their time at the Watts College and to ensure that there are mechanisms for students to feel welcomed at each stage.
Photos by Anna Alvarez-Loucks.
A version of this story originally appeared in ASU News.