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Comics, family dynamics & scholarships for all: Fun Home explores familiar topics across campus

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On September 5, ASU Gammage, Arizona State University’s self-sustaining home for the arts, will play host to opening night for the five-time Tony Award-winning Fun Home. The Broadway show, based on Alison Bechdel’s best-selling graphic memoir, follows its main character at three different ages, revealing memories of what the musical calls her “uniquely dysfunctional family” alongside discoveries about her own sexuality.

“Heart-gripping and cathartic, Fun Home occupies the place where we all grew up,” wrote Ben Brantley in his New York Times review.

In the way ASU Gammage is transformed by the support of its patrons, donors across the university enable ASU to reinvent higher education and pursue study in every field.

In celebration of their generosity, for the first time during the tenure of ASU President Michael M. Crow, ASU is pursuing a comprehensive, campus-wide resource-raising effort to sustain and grow its momentum as a new prototype for American higher education.

Below, we invite our friends to learn about and engage with research and programs related to topics explored in performances of Fun Home. These examples represent a few of the 5,000 designated areas that benefit from philanthropic contributions to Campaign ASU 2020.


Comic Arts at ASU

When Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts drawing student Marieke Davis ‘17 was presented an Audience Choice Award at the Institute’s IDEA Showcase, she used the prize money to advance her graphic series “Ember Black.”

As a child, Davis was diagnosed with hemianopsia, which causes decreased vision or blindness.

She, literally, drew on the experience to create a comic for non-traditional readers by developing into it an audio component for the visually impaired.

The main character of “Ember Black” is a bit of a tomboy, Davis says. She rides a motorcycle, wears a leather jacket and explores feminist issues – tying in Davis’ minor in English literature and certificate in gender studies.

“I’ve noticed that a lot of comic books are written by men, and you see them draw women who are buxom with these ridiculously slender waists,” Davis said in an article that appeared in ASU Now. “This experience has taught me a lot. Mostly, that art should be inclusive, not exclusive.”

“Marieke’s art is impressive and definitely a lot more emotional than a lot of the stuff being published today,” said Jessica Fishell, a development officer at the ASU Foundation for a New American University and former owner of Critical Threat, a comic book store in Tempe. “That’s a trend I’m starting to see more of in comic books. There’s a growing space for artists to create characters that are more meaningful and less mainstream.”

To learn more about supporting the comic arts at ASU, please contact Jessica Fishell, Jessica.fishell@asu.edu.


College of Integrative Sciences and Arts

ASU’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts offers a certificate in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Studies, which focuses on “the experiences, history, culture and contemporary issues related to LGBT people.” Related research includes Counseling and Counseling Psychology Assistant Professor Ashley Randall’s privately-funded investigation into how women in same-sex relationships care for one another.

To support CISA, please contact Cynthia Mero at cmero@asu.edu.


T.Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics

ASU’s privately-supported T.Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers courses in family and human development and sociology.

Current graduate students are researching a variety of topics, including how young people transition to adulthood, human sexuality across the course of one’s life, masculine and feminine role norms, gender stereotyping and the effects on children’s peer interactions and academic interests.

Earlier this year, Camellia Bellis, a program manager at the School and advocate for transgender students and their families, developed an education program to train teachers, administrators, nurses and counselors in how to create a welcoming atmosphere that helps transgender students learn. Revenue from the course, offered through Project Connect, sustains related research projects.

“Years ago, we started talking about, ‘OK, what if you have a gay student?’” she told ASU Now. “Well, now we know there are transgender students out there. What we’re seeing is that in a school of about 500 students, you’ll have at least five trans students.”

“We know that youths are coming out now and transitioning at younger ages,” Bellis added. “It’s not that they weren’t always there, they just weren’t living authentically.”

To support research in the T.Denny Sanford School, please contact Clay Tenquist at clayton.tenquist@asu.edu.


Student Scholarships

ASU Educational Outreach and Student Service’s Out@ASU promotes a campus that is open, safe and supportive. In alignment with ASU’s mission to provide equal educational access for all students, it encourages members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex and asexual/ally community to apply for scholarships and resources designated for them.

This includes the privately-supported Phoenix Pride Scholarships and Point Foundation Scholarships.

One recipient of the Point Foundation’s Leadership Scholarship, recent ASU graduate and former student body president Andrew Moe, earned his doctorate of education degree at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education this spring, where he researched how disclosure of sexual orientation to one’s parents affects a student’s access to college and need-based financial aid. 

To learn more about supporting student scholarships, please contact Arlene Chin: a.chin@asu.edu.


ASU Libraries

The ASU Library maintains a database of conferences, journals and databases related to comics and graphic novels. It can be accessed at here.

To support the libraries, please contact Josh Friedman, josh.friedman@asu.edu.


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