Arizona State University: Magda Hinojosa Named Director Of ASU’s School Of Politics And Global Studies –

Magda Hinojosa, professor at Arizona State University, has been named the new director for the School of Politics and Global Studies, an academic unit of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Hinojosa’s approach to leadership is motivated by her background. As a Mexican American woman who grew up on the U.S.-Mexico border, Hinojosa was drawn to researching marginalized groups and the processes and procedures that can bring people into positions of power. Hinojosa credits her research with igniting her passion for administration and points out that studying why it matters who sits at the decision-making table has motivated her to step into leadership roles.


Magda Hinojosa, professor at Arizona State University, has been named the new director for the School of Politics and Global Studies, an academic unit of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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Her research focuses on women’s political representation in Latin America, with her most recent book (co-authored with ASU Professor Miki Caul Kittilson), “Seeing Women, Strengthening Democracy: How Women in Politics Foster Connected Citizens,” showing that having women in political office affects citizens’ political engagement. She is also the author of “Selecting Women, Electing Women: Political Representation and Candidate Selection in Latin America” and numerous journal articles and popular press pieces.

Hinojosa, who received her PhD in political science from Harvard University in 2005, joined ASU as a faculty member in 2007. Prior to being named director, Hinojosa served as interim director of the School of Politics and Global Studies, a position she started in July 2020. She also previously held a number of administrative appointments at ASU, including associate director of undergraduate studies and director of graduate studies with the School of Politics and Global Studies and dean’s fellow in The College.

“Dr. Hinojosa brings with her a wealth of administrative experience and insight into the School of Politics and Global Studies,” said Pardis Mahdavi, dean of social sciences in The College. “She is also the ideal scholar and visionary to lead the school as they level up and take on some of the world’s most pressing problems.”

As director, she will continue the work she’s already started while tackling new initiatives. Partnering with a diverse group of alumni, donors and stakeholders, she created the School of Politics and Global Studies Advisory Board as part of a broader focus on community engagement. The board held their first official meeting in February and will continue to meet quarterly. The group provides linkages to the broader community, gives the school insight into how to better prepare students for a changing world and brings new ideas to the school’s leadership.

Beyond building the school’s relationship with community members, Hinojosa plans to continue expanding the school’s academic offerings and programs, and making these more broadly accessible to students. She recently developed the School of Politics and Global Studies Director’s Graduate Scholarship, which supports the school’s growing population of online master’s degree students. The school also has expanded its lecture series over the past two semesters — hosting its 10th public talk over the past year on March 30 — and created opportunities for intellectual engagement for students, alumni and community members.   

“The work that we do here in the School of Politics and Global Studies prepares students to tackle the most significant challenges of our day — from systemic racism against our communities of color to flagrant violations of democratic norms and ongoing crises fueled by climate change. I’m committed to finding new ways to share the exciting work that we do in the school with the broader community,” Hinojosa said.

She is excited for the hard work that is to come in her new role as director because she knows she can help make a difference. 

“It’s an incredible honor to serve as director of the School of Politics and Global Studies, and I am excited to lead us toward even greater things,” she said.

Amid the many challenges of the pandemic, student workers at ASU’s Knowledge Exchange for Resilience (KER) collaborated to drive use-inspired research and develop innovative solutions to make our community more resilient. 

Alexandria DrakeGlobal health, PhD, School of Human Evolution and Social Change


This year graduate research assistant Alexandria Drake carried out interviews for a national study of housing loss led by New America. Drake was a contributing writer on the group’s final report, and she presented the study’s findings to housing stakeholders across the county to spark solutions.

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One of the things that first drew Drake to KER was the opportunity to work on an interdisciplinary team. Before beginning her PhD program, she worked as an epidemiologist and felt that not enough was being done to break down silos and engage with the community more effectively.  

“I really appreciate that KER has embedded in the platform the understanding that resilience and community engagement is inextricably linked with health and well-being of communities,” she said. “Having the opportunity while I’m still in my academic training to figure out ways that we can collaboratively work together and utilize people’s expertise and knowledge to tackle some of these really difficult problems is very unique, and I feel very fortunate.”

As a graduate research assistant, Drake focuses on qualitative research methods. In her first year, she collected data on utility bill burden, which KER used to engage utility companies in discussions about how to better help users, particularly during the summer months.

This year she carried out interviews for a national study of housing loss led by New America. Drake was a contributing writer on the group’s final report, and she presented the study’s findings to housing stakeholders across the county to spark solutions. 

“We develop our projects at KER with an end deliverable in mind, which I think is really important, especially in an academic setting,” said Drake. “The goal is community engagement and doing research that can positively impact the community.”

Read AZCentral’s coverage of Drake’s research here.

Kevin VoraRobotics and autonomous systems, MS, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

Kevin Vora

As a master’s degree student in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Vora joined KER to gain more experience in data analytics. He found that and more.

“I actually feel myself putting the skills to the right use and bringing some impact here,” he said. “I am able to publish my results, and our researchers put them to the right use.”

In his position as data analytics research aide, Vora analyzed COVID-19 cases by geographic region and found they resembled a patchwork of outbreaks rather than a single uniform pandemic. He shared these results with decision-makers, helping them develop more informed policies and interventions.

Vora is also helping KER build a knowledge alliance tool, a search engine to help ASU faculty and community experts find one another and collaborate. This involves scraping websites for massive amounts of text data.

“It’s really cool that that chunk of data can actually be so meaningful and would bring two communities closer to each other,” he said.

“We are not doing analytics or building predictive models to just get conclusions out of the data. What we are doing is getting the meaning in such a way that it helps the community.”

Katsiaryna VarfalameyevaHuman and social dimensions of science and technology, PhD, School for the Future of Innovation in Society

Katsiaryna Varfalameyeva 

Varfalameyeva began working for KER in 2019, hoping for an opportunity to make use of her urban planning degree and geographic information system (GIS) skills. That first summer she spent three months mapping 2,000 mobile homes in Mesa.

KER researchers had found that a high concentration of heat-related deaths occurred among mobile home residents, yet these communities appeared as empty space on digital maps. Varfalameyeva’s mapping on OpenStreetMap helped fill this void and put vulnerable populations back on the map. 

“I was so interested and deep into this issue that I decided to use it for my master’s thesis,” she said.

Varfalameyeva graduated from ASU in 2020, but she has continued to work with KER to develop solutions for heat resilience in mobile home communities. 

After working with students in the EPICS program to collect a body of proposed solutions, she created a 3D model with a co-worker to explore the costs and benefits of each solution. Varfalameyeva used this knowledge to co-create an architectural proposal for St. Vincent de Paul for a short-term housing community.

“We had meetings with city councils and other people from different organizations who actually can make change, and it was interesting to see how they didn’t know about this problem,” she said. “I feel that my research produced some meaningful solutions and proposals for people who really need it.”

Now she’s distilling all of this knowledge into a heat resilience toolkit: “It’s kind of a guide that will collect all the solutions that we research at KER to build heat-resilient communities, and it will explain what solutions we have, how you can use them and how you can optimize them.”

Varfalameyeva recently presented on this work at the American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting

Gracie ValdezPublic administration, MPA, School of Public Affairs

Gracie Valdez

“I saw the opportunity to work with a diverse team that was inclusive, and you don’t find that in many places,” said Valdez of her decision to work for KER. “I think that’s imperative for anything if you want to be innovative; you have to bring different fields of study to it.”

Valdez, who graduated this May from the School of Public Affairs with a Master of Public Administration, has worked with KER fellows and scholars to study COVID-19 data visualizations to gain insights about communicating data visually during a crisis.

“I did a 20-media-outlet survey seeing what narratives and visualizations they were using, and then I also went through each one of the 50 states’ health department dashboards to see what they were presenting, what was missing and what could have been improved,” she said.

Valdez found that vulnerable populations often weren’t properly represented on these visualizations, hindering the ability of decision-makers to allocate funding to the places that needed it most.

In addition to studying COVID-19 vidualizations, she also analyzed data from the Homeless Management Information System (HMIS) to help develop a risk-model app. The technology helps service providers prioritize those most vulnerable to experiencing recurring or long-term homelessness.

“It’s inspiring to come together to be able to shine a light on these issues and to be able to start developing plans of action for things that have been there for the longest time but no actual resolution has been set in motion because people were in their own corners,” said Valdez.

Abdulrahman ‘Al’ AlsanadAdvanced study in geographic information systems, MS, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning

Abdulrahman ‘Al’ Alsanad

Alsanad began working with KER in 2019 as a bachelor’s degree student. Having served as a YouthMappers intern, he enjoyed using mapping to help people around the world and was excited to put these skills to use locally.

Working alongside Varfalameyeva and other KER researchers, Alsanad mapped Mesa’s mobile home communities to help decision-makers better serve those most vulnerable to heat. He also mapped electricity consumption data between 2019 and 2020 to show how the pandemic affected Maricopa County residents.

Now Alsanad splits his time between the Laboratory for Energy And Power Solutions (LEAPS) and KER, working to electrify rural areas in Nigeria, Sierra Leone and Niger. 

“I’m responsible for mapping the mini power grids, so they can be processed through a software called Zindi,” he said. “After that’s done, the data gets back to me, and I map it again to create a heat map.” 

Alsanad says that he knows his work is helping people:  “We’re definitely making a change in the world, so that’s why I love working with KER.”

Lily VillaSociocultural anthropology, PhD, School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Lily Villa

In 2019, Villa joined KER as a research assistant. She started off assisting with literature review, drafting publications and training youth in mapping to do citizen science. She now provides research and publication support for KER’s current and former Resilience Fellows.

“I’m currently supporting Augie Gastellum and Rafael Martinez, and we’ve been doing community organizing over in Mesa to counteract gentrification in the area,” she said.

Villa has worked with Phoenix Rescue Mission’s Nate Smith to analyze data collected at food pantries and draft research articles discussing how COVID-19 affected food insecurity in Phoenix.

“The community-driven research and collaborative opportunities are out of this world. I had no idea I’d be able to make an impact directly in my community while I was working on my graduate degree,” said Villa.

To her surprise, she has gained a newfound appreciation for the geographic research methods she has learned through this work. 

“I’ve been volunteering with Mass Liberation AZ and White People Against White Supremacy, and I’ve taken the knowledge I’ve gained and applied it to mapping heat, green space, gentrification and redlining,” said Villa. “I just don’t think I’ll do research again without mapping included.”

Without a doubt, the students at the Knowledge Exchange for Resilience are strengthening community resilience and developing valuable skill sets while contributing to real-world solutions. 

The Knowledge Exchange for Resilience is grateful for the diverse perspectives and passionate dedication of its student workers past and present:

 Learn more about the Knowledge Exchange for Resilience.

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