ASU Downtown Phoenix campus
The disability education field continues to evolve as faculty and staff help students with disabilities. For ASU’s downtown Disability Resource Director Deborah Taska, helping these students is her passion.
Deborah Taska is celebrating her five-year tenure as director of ASU’s Disability Resource Center in downtown Phoenix. Taska organizes events and makes sure students get the right accommodations for their classes. Accommodations include extended time on tests and assigned note takers for classes, but Taska goes further. She focuses on the future state of students with disabilities.
“It’s my job to think outside the box,” Taska said. “Students become the strongest advocates with faculty, creating a great partnership.”
When the downtown campus opened in 2006, Taska became the director of their disability center. When the center opened, 99 students registered with accommodations. Today, 467 students are currently registered with the downtown campus’s center. As excited Taska is about the development, she’s even more pleased when these students can succeed without accommodations.
“There are a number of students that don’t always need accommodations,” Taska said. “They can select faculty and classes that can appeal to their style. It comes down to each semester.”
Taska’s journey did not begin with working in disability education. She graduated from Pennsylvania’s Shippensburg University with a degree in elementary education. But her path didn’t start off quite the way she hoped.
“My first assignment was a boarding school for students with parents serving in Vietnam, and that planted the seed for me,” Taska said. “I then took a job at a high school for students with learning disabilities, and I met creative, diverse, confident kids.”
That job inspired her to go back to college. Taska got her master’s degree in higher learning and specific learning disabilities from Southern Illinois University. Her degree brought her to ASU in 1985, where she was the Program Coordinator for the Tempe Campus.
She developed and provided programs to help faculty with students. Taska’s performance led her to taking charge at the downtown Phoenix campus in 2006.
Lance Harrop, the assistant director of the DRC, mostly works with students on a day-to-day basis, but he credits Taska for making his job easier. Their partnership makes the working environment better for both co-workers and students.
Taska greets her students with a warm smile and takes the time to get to know each registered student. She asks each one how they are doing personally and academically.
Taska wants more students to take charge, create events, and to join the fledgling Ability Counts Downtown group. Their established groups in the Tempe and West campuses promote disability awareness to their campuses and communities, and the downtown branch is trying accomplish the same goal. Their president, Elizabeth Vaughn, believes the DRC has done everything it can to help. But Vaughn, a junior studying social work, knows it isn’t easy.
“Ability Counts Downtown is going slowly, not much further than last year,” Vaughn said. “They want to get it further, but students don’t seem to want to do anything with it.”
Taska understands it’s difficult to form a group when students are focused on other interests, but she continues supporting the group as is grows.
“Deb is amazing not only personally, but she exemplifies what all collegiate staff should be,” Harrop said. “She makes it easier because she’s so good at what she does, ensuring students success, access and accommodations.”
Students registered with the downtown campus agree with Harrop. Vaughn believes Taska does a great job helping her at ASU.
“Awareness is a constant thing that needs to improve,” Vaughn said. “She does it well and helps me with networking in different disability areas.”
Taska created a strong partnership between students with disabilities and their professors. Under her guidance, downtown students with disabilities have the means to succeed. Thanks to her leadership, the DRC is showing no signs of slowing down.
Last week’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo wasn’t all about trade show booths and discussions. On Friday afternoon, conference attendees got out and explored some of the Valley’s green buildings and innovative sites. Of particular interest to DPJ readers was a tour of five urban infill sites in Downtown Phoenix.
The first stop on the tour was Arizona Biomedical Collaborative Building 1 at 5th and Van Buren streets. This building is the result of a unique partnership between University of Arizona and Arizona State University. It was built to support the two universities’ research in biology, chemistry and biomedical informatics. The ABC is the first building in Downtown Phoenix to achieve a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification. Along with receiving LEED points for being an urban infill project and proximity to public transit, the building was also lauded for its shower and cycling facilities, flexible laboratory and office planning, use of recycled and locally sourced materials and a series of energy and water conservation features.
The tour then progressed up 5th Street to Bioscience High School. Not only is the high school home to a unique curriculum of study, but the building itself is also a learning tool. It is designed as a facility that is both environmentally sensitive to its urban desert context and well suited to its academic purpose. The Bioscience High School campus employs solar hot water heaters (and is “wired” to accommodate photovoltaic panels in the future) and maximizes the use of natural light throughout the campus. It also employs flexible learning spaces. While time and budget constraints prevented the building from achieving LEED accreditation when it was first built, a student group is planning to seek accreditation as a school project. They hope to obtain a LEED Silver rating.
The next stop was the recently opened ASU Nursing and Health Innovation Building on the corner of 3rd and Fillmore streets. While there have been some concerns about the cost and sustainability of the building’s copper exterior, the tour learned that the 80% of the copper used was sourced from recycled materials and was much cheaper than the glass curtain wall prevalent on many buildings. In addition, the copper siding is almost maintenance-free, and will naturally patina as it weathers. Some other environmental features incorporated in the building include structural shade incorporated into the design of the building, the salvaging and replanting of the trees that were originally on the site, solar water heating and a 60% reduction of water consumption through xeriscaping and low-flow fixtures. The project is expected to earn Downtown’s second LEED Gold certification.
Next up was another ASU building: the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication/KAET Channel 8. This was a great day for the Greenbuild tour to take place, as the building was gearing up for the presentation of its LEED Silver certification by U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) President Rick Fedrizzi later in the afternoon. Sustainability was an integral part of the design and construction of the building. Green features include the building’s orientation, which allows for maximizing daylight; its to mixed use of retail, classrooms, offices and television studios; and the use of condensation from the air handler in irrigating the building’s native and adaptive landscaping.
The last stop of the day was the city of Phoenix’s Civic Space Park. While not seeking LEED certification, the park is an example that going green does not mean sacrificing aesthetics. The focus of this stop was the park’s solar panels. These panels are integrated into the park’s unique shade canopies. Combined, the solar system generates 75,000 kWh annually (enough to power eight to nine residential homes), providing most of the park’s energy needs. The system is designed for expandability and future energy needs. Other sustainable features of the park include its brownfield site, the shade structures and its porous concrete walkways.
The participants in the tour were not only impressed by the sites we visited, but also by the fact that after three days of meetings inside the Convention Center, they were able to stretch their legs and witness firsthand how Downtown Phoenix is reemerging as a vibrant urban hub.
Christoph Kaiser is helping to rebuild Garfield one house at a time. Once an epicenter of gang activity and urban blight in Downtown Phoenix, Kaiser’s houses are now at the heart of Garfield’s resurgence, and among the coolest in Downtown Phoenix.
Kaiser is part owner of the architectural firm Plus Minus Studio, founded by him and his business partner Hayes McNeil in the fall of 2005. Since its founding, they have added Anson Chen to their team as Project Manager. The studio has been responsible for some of the most striking projects in and around Phoenix, including transforming Katz’s Deli into Postino Central and the complete remodel of Kitchen Sink Studios in Downtown Phoenix. In addition, Christoph has recently joined Hayes as partner in the new Royal at the Market coffee shop at the soon-to-be-opened Phoenix Public Market Urban Grocery and Wine Bar.
While this portfolio is indeed impressive for a young architect, it is his personal projects in the Garfield neighborhood that captured the attention of DPJ. Garfield is the oldest historical district in Phoenix. First established in 1883, it became part of the city of Phoenix in 1899. Houses in the neighborhood date from the 1890s to the 1940s, with a large percentage built in the early 1900s. Unlike the grand dames of Phoenix’s historic districts, Willo and Encanto-Palmcroft, which have mostly remained intact and have dramatically appreciated in value, the historical homes in Garfield fell on hard times over the past three decades.
Kaiser purchased and remodeled his first house in Tempe while still a student at ASU. After graduating, he set his sights on Downtown Phoenix because of the dynamic changes occurring Downtown and the availability of affordable historic homes. “Historic homes put me at peace,” Kaiser says. He also notes that older homes encourage commitment, something that is lacking in many of the interchangeable stucco boxes that popped up in the suburbs during the real estate boom.
The Garfield neighborhood has changed a lot since 2005, when he first moved in — there was still gang activity on his street back then. At that time, Kaiser felt like he was the only one trying. Rather than be deterred, however, he saw this as an opportunity. Not only were the prices right for an architect with shallow pockets but deep vision, but also the dire shape of the area provided opportunities for creativity that would not have been available in other neighborhoods. He has seen a dramatic change over the past four years, brought about, in part, by a shift from renters to owners who are renovating their homes as well. In addition, the remaining landlords are paying more attention to the upkeep of their properties in hopes of attracting new tenants from ASU and the Biomedical campus.
Kaiser’s desire is to create interesting living spaces for the working class and students. They are a unique alternative to the condo towers and apartment blocks that we normally think of as “urban living.” His approach to design and architecture is akin to an unfolding progression. When you first approach his homes, they look largely like they did when they were first built, as he has done his best to respect the exterior’s authenticity. One of the only differences is the desert-friendly landscaping. Once you step inside — or around back — however, you enter a realm of the unexpected.
Kaiser takes the concept of place-making to a micro level. While the term traditionally refers to creating neighborhoods, he creates places as small as a garden patio. To create such a place, Kaiser pays particular attention to creating a sense of arrival, where it feels like you are entering your own world, despite being just steps away from the bustle of Downtown. As a result, he is as interested in the outside of his houses as he is with the interiors. He has spent a lot of time researching indigenous desert plants and has planted many varieties of mesquite. He is now experimenting with interspersing fruit trees between the desert trees, because, he states with a wink, “After all the work I put into planting, watering and otherwise maintaining my yard, it would be nice to get something back.”
On the inside, Kaiser tries to fit as many unique living spaces as possible. He has created units in once-empty attics and created communal living spaces on the main level for people renting out bedrooms. Christoph fills each place with whimsical touches, including an intriguing mix of vintage finds and high-tech conveniences. While there are plenty of IKEA products throughout his unit, due to their affordable-yet-stylish forms, he also has several higher-end pieces that were custom made to maximize the use of space. In addition, he is in the process of building unique living spaces in his back yards, including a renovated 1967 Airstream trailer and a corrugated metal silo that he is constructing as a self-contained living space. He notes that the four to five people living in each of his houses, while dense by today’s standards, was the norm when the houses were first built. The only difference is that they were families living together back then, while there are friends living together today. This added density allows for more affordable rents, attracting a mix of students, artists and creative young professionals.
A good way to describe this combination that Kaiser has developed is to use a phrase coined by Alison King of Modern Phoenix: “Mullet Modern — conservative in the front, party in the back.” According to Kaiser, “Neighborhoods need some interest, with some more aggressive or edgy touches to attract diverse types of people, yet still being respectful of the neighborhood’s authenticity.” He admits that many of his ideas wouldn’t fly in a more established historic neighborhood, but in a recovering neighborhood like Garfield, they are a perfect fit.
Kaiser’s Garfield homes are located at 732/734, 910 and 915 E. Pierce St. Please contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (602) 697.1205 for more information.
All photos courtesy of Christoph Kaiser
Everyone’s favorite Melrose record store, Revolver Records, has packed up and headed south to Roosevelt Row. When you’re done reading this, head over to Roosevelt and 2nd Street to check out the roomy new confines. That’s right — more space for vinyl, CDs, movies and live performance. Perhaps you saw several men in skinny jeans working tirelessly over the past few weeks at the site. Maybe you even noticed their crafty spraypainted sheet announcing the July 1 opening.
Think they had a nice little First Friday scene going on up there before? There’s going to be tons more live music and exciting events in this new location. This week come check out the inaugural First Friday performance, featuring some serious Phoenician talent — Matthew Reveles, Michelle Blades, Boys and Frogs and Marlene O’Connor — from 7 to 9:30 p.m.
Could this become ASU Downtown Campus’ answer to the former Hoodlums Music in the Tempe campus’ MU?
Photos by Evan Wyloge
Source: Life as Edward Jensen
A quick look over to the ASU College of Public Programs website’s live webcam of the Downtown Phoenix Civic Space park shows that the long-awaited sculpture, “Her Secret is Patience”, is being reinstalled after a couple of delays. The park opens up this Thursday, as this blog has reported, so this makes sense.
Check out the live webcam from the Dean’s Office of the ASU College of Public Programs: http://copp.asu.edu/do/from-the-dean/civic-space
Let’s hope that the rain and weather is a good omen for this. It’s looking interesting.
Full article here.
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