Past Events

Creating Fertile Ground: Establishing a Collective of Care for Community Grieving
March 3-4, 2022

Over the past few years, the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication community has been through many significant and painful losses, including the death of our beloved colleague, Dan Brouwer, and the multitude of losses brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Experiencing the grief associated with such loss, especially over a prolonged period of time, can make learning, teaching, and even everyday tasks extremely challenging.

The Transformation Project felt called to make space for these losses in hopes of nurturing our grief and our community. In order to do so, we welcomed Dr. Erin Willer, whose art/research/teaching answers the question: how can we engage storytelling, art, and embodied practices to cultivate communication, creativity, compassion, and community in the face of illness, death, and loss? Dr. Willer carefully designed a whimsical, fun, and meaningful experience.

Opening Reception
3, 2022 
The Westin Tempe Skysill Rooftop Lounge

Participants had the opportunity to meet and connect with one another and decorated star-themed luminary bags in order to welcome and recognize personal and collective losses they wished to make space for during the retreat. 

At the Opening Reception on March 3, participants had the opportunity to meet and connect with one another in The Westin Tempe Skysill Rooftop Lounge. Participants also decorated star-themed luminary bags in order to welcome and recognize personal and collective losses they wished to make space for during the retreat. 

Grief Retreat
Day Two
March 4, 2022
The Empty Space

Session 1: Creating Fertile Ground: Establish a Collective of Care for Community Grieving

During this session, participants laid the foundation for the day’s creative project by establishing collective agreements for grieving that contribute to an ethic of community care. Participants engaged in this process as they take the first step involved in making a fairy garden, including laying the soil.

Session 2: Composting Loss: The Stink, Rot, and Rich Fertilization of (Re)Storying Grief

During this session, participants selected and place plants, figurines, landscapes, and ornaments in their fairy gardens to (re)story their experiences of loss. Through this creative narrative process, participants had the opportunity to engage in sense-making about their losses, establish continuing bonds with those they have lost, memorialize loved ones, collectively grieve, and build community.

Session 3: Tending the Garden: Compassionately Witnessing Grief and Loss

Participants had the opportunity to share the meanings behind their fairy gardens during this session, as well as learn means of compassionately witnessing one another’s stories of loss.

Session 4: Making Way for the Stars: Closing Ritual

During this closing ritual, participants brought their fairy gardens together in a collective “neighborhood” to critically reflect on the meanings, understandings, and challenges that were cultivated during the retreat. As participants learned strategies to care for their fairy gardens, they also reflected on the need for the ongoing care of their grief and one another.

A Virtual Workshop Series by:

The Transformation Project
Hugh Downs School of Human Communication
The National Communication Association


Are you or your doctoral students interested in cultivating opportunities in pursuing careers outside of traditional academic jobs? If so, this workshop series is for you. 

These workshops aim to highlight the career paths and stories of communication PhDs who hold positions in corporate, nonprofit, administrative, health, and consulting work.  Join us at this conversation on #AltAC focused on exploring different career options for Communication PhDs led by top communication professionals and researchers.  

Whether you are a recent PhD graduate, are currently working on your PhD, or have been working in either academia or the professional world--this workshop series will be useful to you as it offers hands-on conversations on alternative academic careers.

Organized by Sarah J. TracyProfessor and Director of The Transformation Project, and Marco Dehnert, Doctoral Student, Arizona State University.

Workshops Included:

Tuesday, April 6 | #AltAC: From Academy to Industry


Christine E. Kiesinger  

Workshop Title: Leaving Home: Finding Place, Purpose and Possibilities Outside the Walls of Academia

Watch the Video 


Eric D. Waters

Workshop Title: Making Meaning Matter for Business: Pracademic Preparation for the Uncertainties and Realities of the New Academic Economy 

Watch the  Video


Friday, April 9 | #AltAC: On Being a Professional Researcher


Nancy Baym

Workshop Title: So you’d like your research to shape technology rather than respond to it?

Watch the Video



Melinda Rea-Holloway

Workshop Title: Notes from a professional people watcher: Turning nosiness into a career 

Watch the Video


Tuesday, April 13 | #AltAC: “Pracademics” and Administrators: At the Intersections of Academy and Industry

Nicole L. Martin

Workshop Title: “I Made It Up:” (Re)Imagining What’s Possible with a PhD in the Academy

Watch the Video


Rahul Mitra

Workshop Title: Cultivating a Skill Set that Sets up Success in an #AltAC Career

Watch the Video