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Pursue a Degree in Public Service

Message to students from the Dean

Dear Watts College students,

Over the past 12 weeks, we have grappled with a health pandemic and despite serious challenges, emerged from this semester with a sense of accomplishment as we celebrated almost 1,400 Watts College graduates. These students persevered despite facing great odds. They inspired us and helped to build our own sense of resilience.

Yet, as I try to process all that has transpired in the last week, it occurs to me that our adaptability, our resilience, has a critical downside. By adjusting so readily to the new normal, we risk losing the urgency of response.

George Floyd was killed at the hands of the very people sworn to ensure public safety. I despair at this injustice. And, yet, I reacted similarly to the death of Walter Scott. Of Tamir Rice. Of Philando Castile, and of far too many others. This pandemic of discrimination and violence is one we have not just witnessed, it is one we have gotten used to. Continue reading...

At our convocation, I spoke about treating health as a public good, something that is shared and cannot be enjoyed by one without it being available to all. We have operated on the assumption that public safety is already such a good. But if we are not all safe, then none of us is safe. My identity, my status, make it easy for me to assume we all feel safe just because I do. This longstanding plague of hatred, bias and discrimination means that for people from Black, Brown and Indigenous communities, the public good of safety is elusive in ways they know far better than I. With hundreds of years of racism deeply embedded in the very structures we have created, and even more insidiously in our minds, this has become “normal.” Public safety — like democracy, justice and health — is a public good that must be nurtured, protected and made available to all.

Now, in what will be one of the most challenging periods our country has ever faced, we will be asked to fight for all, simultaneously. I can tell you that we will not succeed without you, our students, to help lead the way.

I cannot know the feelings and reactions across our Watts College student body. For me, this senseless death and the erosion of our shared institutions have prompted despair but also moments of reflexivity and resolve. It has become clear that we need to look outward and consider ways we can be change agents in our local communities, but we must also look inward. To be an agent of change and co-create a society that is equitable and just, we must be willing to critically interrogate ourselves.

As you know, our college contributes to the preparation of public servants. Many of you are or will be assigned to advance public safety and govern equitably. What is clear is that we must do better in preparing you for this important mission. In response, we will review curricula across the college — with diverse perspectives including our students, community members and others outside the university — to find places where content and practice need to be revised to better prepare a workforce of public safety professionals. Together, we have to figure out how all public servants are prepared and empowered to recognize implicit bias, to treat all members of this society equitably and to be willing to stand up when professional behavior falls short.

This difficult time amplifies my sense of urgency to do better, to avoid adaptation to injustice. We can do more to defeat it. We must do more. To be successful, we will need diverse voices from our faculty, staff and student body representing a broad range of perspectives and experiences. I am open to your suggestions and look forward to your participation.

For now, be assured that I am aware that many of our students are struggling. Our faculty and staff are prepared to listen, to understand and to act. Please let us know ways we can support you or other members of our student body you know who are hurting during these trying times.

Jonathan Koppell,
Dean, ASU Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

Research at Watts College

The Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions leads the university in the production of research that has system-wide and largescale impact on a myriad of social, behavioral, economic, and political challenges. Through rigorous applied research, we are developing solutions with the potential to better our response to pressing issues and positively impact our communities locally, nationally and globally.

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students working together on campus




12:00 PM

students working together on campus

About the Watts

The Watts College name reflects a generous gift made by Mike and Cindy Watts as an investment in our diverse and mission-driven student body who do not wait to graduate until they make a difference in the communities that they serve.

Read more about what this historic investment means