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Opinion: ASU's No. 1 in innovation title needs to be taken more seriously

Despite being made into a running joke, ASU has accomplished many things that other universities haven't

"ASU has kept its place at No. 1 in innovation by creating new technology to help improve the educational experience for students and teachers, as well as keeping students safe during the COVID-19 pandemic."

Higher education today can't be discussed without mentioning innovation. Colleges have to stay relevant, sustainable and ahead of the game. ASU is doing a great job in contributing to the welfare of its community and to Arizona. This is why ASU still remains No. 1 in innovation.

ASU has kept its top spot in innovation by creating new technology to help improve the educational experience for students and teachers, as well as keeping students safe during the COVID-19 pandemic. For this reason, we need to take ASU's title more seriously. 

When COVID-19 hit, students faced social change and unanswered questions. It wasn't a matter of attending classes and getting good grades. Professors had to keep students engaged and motivated to take online courses. Innovation played a crucial role in this. 

According to Dan Munnerley, co-executive director and lead design architect of Next Generation Learning, "The last two months of ASU were when ASU really started taking those innovation steps and going places. Thinking beyond in-person and in-class learning, and starting with virtual spaces." 

Dreamscape is ASU's way to bring virtual reality to all members of the community. The project starts with a virtual and interactive experience of introduction to biology and then expands across other disciplines. Enabling students to be creative with their learning and engage with it. ASU partnered with Dreamscape Immersive for this project. 

The innovation ranking comes from college provosts, presidents and deans around the country. The Dreamscape project is a perfect example of why ASU keeps its innovation title. ASU is constantly coming up with new ideas and innovative projects that help the ASU community stand out. 

ASU is also one of the few universities that has achieved a platinum sustainability rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. The University developed a program to lower carbon emissions and increase energy efficiency by using renewable energy.

In the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, ASU took matters into its own hands and decided to move beyond the nasal swab test by creating a saliva test. In times of unprecedented change, ASU has done a good job handling the pandemic. 

According to an article from ABC15, ASU implemented free COVID-19 saliva test vending machines across its different campuses last year.

Since October 2021, ASU has collected 1,093 gallons of saliva, has 34 devils drop-off sites across all four campuses. ASU also has 71 public testing sites through the Arizona Department of Health Services. ASU is one of the few universities that has been able to test students safely and effectively, giving parents, students and staff members peace of mind regarding their health. 

ASU's classes prepare students for a rapidly changing job market by giving them the tools to become leaders. According to ASU's website, it has obtained an institutional membership to the National Center for Faculty Development & Diversity, an independent professional development, training and mentoring community for faculty members

Innovation in education matches challenges with solutions. It brings out creativity and new ways of thinking for the community. Innovation is crucial for students in an ever-changing world. It encourages students and teachers to break boxes and uncover new truths. 

Sustainability graduate student and assistant Matthew Nock said ASU has helped him bring an innovative and creative approach to his studies. He likes that ASU isn't only focused on one thing but branches out to different areas and provides students and teachers with interdisciplinary learning. 

"We are doing something similar in a different way," Nock said. "So for instance, doing lab work involves sequence. There's an order in which you want to do things and that has to do with the internal validity or rigorousness of the study. Scientists are engaging in sequence. Choreographers are also engaging in sequence. Artists are also engaging in sequence. Teachers are engaging in sequence."

Innovation enables the ASU community to come together and learn from each other. For students and teachers to step out of their comfort zone and explore new ideas and interests breaking out of boxes when it comes to education. 

"There's a 'yes, and sort of mentality at ASU. Where if you say, I've got this crazy idea, and I'd like to do it, you're actually usually told yes, wherein other institutions that at least I've worked in the answer hasn't been as positive to doing something really outside the box," said Heather Haseley, co-executive director and lead design architect of Next Generation Learning.

Reach the columnist at and follow @fgalanma on Twitter. 

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Editor's note: The opinions presented in this column are the author's and do not imply any endorsement from The State Press or its editors.

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