Innovative Inquiry News


As communicators, we’re in an exceptional space for preparing our graduate students, sharing with folks in other disciplines, and creating experiences for ASU’s undergrads to have an innovative college education that prepares them to face contemporary challenges creatively by rooting themselves in good communication. That’s what Innovative Inquiry aims to support with the four branches of its public programming series launched this spring. As part of the “Positive Scholarship” branch, students, faculty, staff and community members got to participate in two inaugural events that focused on “Sparking Compassion.”

Inspired by her dissertation research on compassionate communication, doctoral candidate Leslie Ramos Salazar worked with Dr. Amira de la Garza, to invite scholars and practitioners who study and work with compassion every day, as part of a panel held April 11. Dr. Heidi Wayment, Professor of Psychology and project coordinator of the SBS Compassion Project at Northern Arizona University, discussed the basics of psychological research, while Dr. Bruce Oberstein, Course Manager of Sciences and Mathematics at ASU’s Polytechnic campus shared what he’s learned about compassion from advising students. Donna Helm-Yost, Ph.D., a local school psychologist and yoga teacher, discussed the non-profit, Karma Yoga Project, she founded, and which raises money to help Ethiopian orphans to get an education, health care, and social services. Dr. Carlos Santo, a local naturopathic physician and martial arts and yoga instructor, discussed the significance to living healthy lives of practicing compassion and maintaining a connection with others. Drs. Helm-Yost and Santo each led the participants in brief meditation exercises before the discussion during which our students shared their sincere desires to integrate healthy practices and compassion into their lives and studies.

The second program, “Pragmatic Fieldwork,” was a workshop led by Timothy Huffman, another of our doctoral candidates, whose service work with homeless youth led to his organizational communication study of volunteers and staff who work with the homeless. As part of the work, he developed a methodology for integrating social action, community involvement, and good qualitative research, and this, he calls, “Pragmatic Fieldwork.” The participants who attended the workshop were able to arrive at powerful insights into social issues and situations confronting them in their everyday lives by using the method that Tim taught them. They left excited by the work and eager to apply it in their future classes, theses research, and personal lives.

Both Leslie and Tim successfully defended their dissertations this spring and will receive their Ph.D. degrees at the graduate convocation on May 8. Their doctoral dissertations are available for reading through Hayden Library, and summaries of their work can be found on the Innovative Inquiry website under “Innovative Dissertations.” Dr. Ramos-Salazar will be Assistant Professor at California State University, Fresno, this fall, and Dr. Timothy Huffman will join the faculty of Loyola-Marymount University, as Assistant Professor, both in Communication Studies.

The program series will continue next fall with programs in the four areas encouraged by the Innovative Inquiry initiative: Positive Scholarship, Innovative Methods, Creativity Beyond Borders, and Embodied Knowledge. Visit the website,, or write to if you’re interested in getting involved and receiving updates.


Professor Lee Gutkind, together with Associate Professor Amira de la Garza, coordinated two public programs for ASU graduate students in COM598: Creative Nonfiction to publicly tell the stories they’ve been writing this spring. Changing Hands Bookstore, in Tempe, hosted Professor Gutkind and four students, including HDSHC doctoral students Tricia ______ and Lou Clark, in a public story-telling event entitled, “You Can’t Make This Stuff Up,” on April 25, and Innovative Inquiry sponsored an event for the ASU community to hear four additional students, including HDSHC doctoral student, Roberta Chevrette, on campus on April 26. Audiences got to hear Lee Gutkind share how the writing process to develop creative nonfiction essays challenged the writers as they worked to develop gripping scenes based on real facts, personal reflection, and research. Professor Jeff McMahon from the School of Theatre & Film in the Herberger Institute of Design and the Arts also worked with the students, coaching them as they developed their story-telling performances.


June 1-4, 15 scholars will come together at Camp Tontozona, outside of Payson, to share research, methods, and their ongoing project ideas with each other in the first “Out of the Box” retreat sponsored by Innovative Inquiry. Guest scholars Jeanine Ming√© of California State University, Northridge, and Amy Kilgard of San Francisco State University, will perform original works based on their ethnographic and performance studies research. Civil Dialogue (R) creator, and HDSHC graduate alumnus, John Genette, will share the method with participants as they broach questions connected to the statement, “Creative Scholars in Today’s American Universities are Changing the World One Student at a Time.” Amira de la Garza, HDSHC Associate Professor and Southwest Borderlands Scholar in Intercultural Communication and Performance Ethnography, will lead a workshop in the “PEQuA” methodology that uses an adaptation of ‘playback’ performance to increase understanding of blind spots and triggers in one’s ethnographic research. Additionally, participants at the retreat will have the opportunity to practice yoga with Phoenix yoga instructor, Daniel Medina, to hike in the Tonto National Forest, enjoy a cup of coffee on a cool morning while sitting on a lodge porch, and share the joys of cooking and eating together as scholars. “Out of the Box” is open to the public, and all scholars, public and private, are encouraged to stay in touch and consider attending the 2014 retreat. Locations will vary.

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