Internationally-Known Writer Nayomi Munaweera Joins SJSU as Author-in-Residence

Nayomi Munaweera

Nayomi Munaweera

Acclaimed Bay Area novelist and nonfiction writer Nayomi Munaweera has been appointed as the 2019 Connie and Robert Lurie Distinguished Author-in-Residence at San Jose State University. Munaweera is the award-winning author of Island of A Thousand Mirrors and What Lies Between Us, and has been named one of Bustle Magazine’s “Twelve Women of Color Writers You Need to Know.” She is teaching the Graduate Fiction Workshop for spring 2019. Munaweera will present a public reading of her fiction followed by an onstage conversation with SJSU Professor of English Revathi Krishnaswamy on Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, Room 225/229 as part of the Center for Literary Arts 2018-19 season.

Both of Munaweera’s novels have Sri Lanka as a backdrop, the place where she was born. Munaweera grew up in Nigeria before immigrating with her family at the age of 12 to Los Angeles. In Island of a Thousand Mirrors, a story that explores the Sri Lankan civil war, she had little first-hand experience of the conflict so “it took a lot of research to get the book right.”

Munaweera earned her bachelor’s in literature and a master’s in South Asian Literature from University of California, Riverside. She is an alumna of Voices of Our Nations Arts Foundation’s (VONA) Voices of Our Ancestors Writing Workshop and the Squaw Valley Community of Writers. She teaches at Mills College and at the Ashland University low-residency MFA Program. She holds writing workshops in Sri Lanka through a program called Write to Reconcile in which she co-teaches with legendary Sri Lankan writer, Shyam Selvadurai. Their aim is to use creative writing as a tool of reconciliation and healing for both Tamil and Sinhala survivors of the civil war.

Her first novel was the Commonwealth Regional Prize Winner and her work has been shortlisted for the Northern California Book Award and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. She has presented her work around the world at literary festivals in Jaipur, Mumbai, Galle and the Bay Area.

The Lurie Distinguished Visiting Author-in-Residence in Creative Writing was established in 1999, offering students the opportunity to study with nationally and internationally known authors. The most recent authors have included award-winning travel writer and editor of National Geographic Traveler Don George and author of a New York Times Notable Book Vendela Vida. See the full list ofenglish (http://www.sjsu.edu/english/faculty/Lurie.html). Read more about Munaweera (https://medium.com/anomalyblog/nayomi-munaweeras-writing-life-6367946d70f0).

University Scholars Series: Jennifer Rycenga Speaks on Abolitionist Prudence Crandall

Photo: David Schmitz Professor Jennifer Rycenga

Photo: David Schmitz
Professor Jennifer Rycenga

Professor of Comparative Religious Studies Jennifer Rycenga has been immersed in writing a comprehensive cultural biography of white Abolitionist educator Prudence Crandall (1803-1890) who has interested Rycenga since first discovering the fellow educator in the late 1990s. She first learned of Crandall when she traveled to New England to visit the historic Crandall Academy, which now houses a museum. She soon recognized that the Academy’s founder had a rich story and decades later, Rycenga is ready to share her findings as part of the spring 2019 University Scholar Series on Feb. 20, at noon in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, Room 225/229.

Rycenga, who teaches in the College of Humanities and the Arts Department of Humanities, has long had an interest in Abolitionist history, women’s religious history, feminist theories of music, and theoretical issues concerning philosophies of immanence and panentheism. Her latest work combines several of those interests.

During her University Scholars Series talk, she will share a story from Canterbury, Conn. circa 1830s, where women and men, Black and white, young and old, worked together to offer advanced formal education for Black women. Crandall became their teacher, and though the school was subjected to “constant racist vigilante and legal violence, the education and learning there were genuine,” Rycenga says.

Read a Q&A with Rycenga.

Upcoming University Scholar Series events

Tatiana Shubin, Department of Mathematics and Statistics, on “Moving in Circles: the Beauty and Joy of Mathematics for Everyone

March 27, noon to 1 p.m.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library Room 225/229

Ellen Middaugh, Department of Child and Adolescent Development, on “Coming of Age in the Era of Outrage: Digital Media and Youth Civic Development”

April 24, noon to 1 p.m.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library Room 225/229

Sandra Hirsh, School of Information, on “Blockchain: Transformative Applications for Libraries and Education”

May 8, noon to 1 p.m.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library Room 225/229

All events are free and open to the public. Lunch is provided.

Academic Spotlight January 2019: University Library Supports Scholarly Efforts with Key Positions

Librarians Yen Tran and Kate Barron offer support services for faculty and student research, scholarship and creative activities in a variety of ways.

Librarians Yen Tran and Kate Barron offer support services for faculty and student research, scholarship and creative activities in a variety of ways. Photo by Brandon Chew

By David Goll

Student and faculty researchers have a new ally in their scholarly pursuit — two new University Library positions have been filled in the past year to gauge the impact of faculty research, scholarship and creative activities and to help researchers plan for collection and storage of data.

Yen Tran, a veteran librarian who arrived at SJSU in August 2016 and has previously worked at the University of Oregon, University of California, Santa Barbara and California Lutheran University, became the university’s first research impact librarian in January 2018. Kate Barron, who earned master’s and bachelor’s degrees from the University of Michigan and Rutgers University, respectively, became SJSU’s data services librarian in October 2017.

“The university has supported faculty in their research, scholarship and creative activities (RSCA) through a variety of methods in recent years, including university and college grants,” Tran said, noting that administrators were interested in a position that would support research management practices.

Tran said academic librarians are most appropriate to fill the research impact role, having a long history of tracking faculty scholarship. She described her main job duties as supporting faculty in understanding and demonstrating their research impact and compiling faculty RSCA output to identify trends. In the future, she may also be able to help with tracking funding and funding sources and support collaboration with other institutions.

Barron’s role was created to help researchers manage the evolving needs of data collection and storage. She said she wants faculty researchers university-wide to know she can help them save time and effort by finding information pertinent to their projects already compiled by academics elsewhere. She will also seek data and statistics for researchers, faculty and students alike.

“I want to get the word out about my services to academic departments across the campus,” Barron said, adding she already serves as a liaison between the library and the math, statistics and computer science departments. “I want to make sure faculty and students know our services are not limited to the sciences and engineering. We are also here for the social sciences, health and human sciences, education and the arts and humanities.”

Emily Chan, the University Library’s interim associate dean for research and scholarship, sees both roles as important as SJSU works to create a culture and environment conducive to teacher-scholars.

“Data is the new oil,” Chan said. “Today’s researchers and scholars are generating lots of data and we have the capability of storing that data. It can be reused.”

She sees immediate benefits of Tran’s work in helping researchers quantify the impact of their projects and creative activity, including tracking social media reactions.

“She will look at both the quantitative and qualitative,” Chan said. “This is invaluable in helping researchers identify and improve the impact of their work. And raising our research profile and reputation is very helpful in gaining recognition from donors and funders.”

Barron’s work will have long-term benefits as well in preserving data for years to come.

“We want access to data to be continuous and easily accessible,” Chan said. “We need to consider how we preserve valuable information and provide access to it. That includes for future generations of students and researchers.”

Tracking the RSCA output may also help in communicating about the stellar work completed at SJSU.

Tran hopes to help departments and colleges compare their output with other institutions.

“Most importantly, I think that a database of faculty RSCA where the information could be put on university, college or departmental web pages could facilitate greater visibility of faculty RSCA, which could help them find collaborators, student researchers or additional funds for their RSCA,” Tran said.

Interested faculty members or students can reach Tran at yen.tran@sjsu.edu, and Barron at kate.barron@sjsu.edu.

Academic Spotlight January 2019: Students Gain Venture Capital Experience

(Top row left-right) San Jose State University students, senior Arjun Mathur, 20, 2018 graduate Yvonne Ng, and senior Huy Phan, 21, with Darci Arnolds, bottom left, an SJSU alumna who is an associate partner at Vonzos Partners, and SJSU Professor Tim Hendricks, an entrepreneur-in-residence, are photographed after a monthly pitch day event at TechLAB Innovation Center in Santa Clara on Monday, January 7, 2019. ( Josie Lepe/San Jose State University )

(Top row left-right) San Jose State University students, senior Arjun Mathur, alumna Yvonne Ng, and senior Huy Phan with Darci Arnolds, bottom left, an SJSU alumna who is an associate partner at Vonzos Partners, and SJSU Professor Tim Hendricks, an entrepreneur-in-residence, are photographed after a monthly pitch day event at TechLAB Innovation Center in Santa Clara on Monday, January 7, 2019. ( Josie Lepe/San Jose State University )

By David Goll

San Jose State students are gaining valuable hands-on experience with Vonzos Partners, a venture capital firm with a high-contact approach to startup funding and business acceleration. During the fall semester, Tim Hendrick, associate professor of advertising in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, and his students worked with Vonzos and portfolio companies on a variety of communication and public relations projects. Bahram Parineh, a lecturer in Accounting and Finance, and his students developed the business plan Vonzos uses to attract fund investors. Additionally, Anuradha Basu, professor in the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business and director of the Silicon Valley Center for Entrepreneurship, had students work on an accelerator program pricing analysis. Typically, nine to 14 SJSU students engage with Vonzos each semester.

“My philosophy is that students learn by doing,” said Hendrick, an advertising industry veteran until joining academia in 2001, who is serving as an entrepreneur-in-residence with Vonzos. His students earn up to six academic units working with companies like Vonzos. “This kind of experience has students dealing with real life inside real companies. My students work on all kinds of projects, including social media, video, events and press releases.”

A team of Parineh’s students from the Sbona Honors Program in the college of business—seniors in accounting and finance Arjun Mathur, Huy Phan, Jessa Parayno and recent accounting graduate Yvonne Ng spent the fall semester working to refine the firm’s business plan, including making it more attractive to millennial investors.

“The biggest advantage as a student is learning about venture capital from professionals,” Mathur said. “There is little academic information about the VC industry and even less about the finance side of it. One single class taught by a finance professor at SJSU, but many do not even know it exists…Working at Vonzos for the semester bridged this gap, which truly made my education in finance feel complete.”

Phan agreed that the experience was valuable.

“The biggest advantage I got from working on the Vonzos business plan is that it allowed me to understand what type of skill sets are required in the industry, as well as understanding how to take on a big responsibility,” Phan said.

Ng said students don’t often get the opportunity to work with VCs. This project gave her insight into how Vonzos could attract a new generation of investors. “As a job seeker, it’s a great addition to my experience to inform recruiters what we can bring to the table,” Ng said.

The venture capital firm provides bridge funding, and hands-on executive business services through V-Scale, to revenue-generating companies in health and wellness markets that are developing core technology solutions that are highly technically differentiated. Their ambitious goal is to have a zero failure rate for the companies in which it invests. Additionally, Vivify Angels, a non-profit angel group, invests and supports diverse founding teams and socially beneficial companies. Vivify hosts Pitch Days the first Monday of each month, in which SJSU faculty and students participate.

The SJSU partnership with Vonzos was fostered by Darci Arnold, an SJSU graduate school alumna and associate partner at Vonzos. Arnold is a former vice president of global marketing at Seagate Technology LLC and senior director of Worldwide OEM Sales and Marketing at Komag, Inc. After semi-retiring, she returned to academia to study Global Citizenship & Enterprise Sustainability and attended the SJSU-Salzburg Program for Faculty & Administrators, which is where the network began. After graduation, she became a core faculty member at the Salzburg Global Seminar’s International Studies Program and also lectured at San Jose State.

“We’re a very different kind of VC business model for Silicon Valley,” said Angel Orrantia, Vonzos managing director, during one of the firm’s monthly “pitch days” when companies seek financial and business support from Vonzos. “Statistics reveal eight in 10 companies receiving VC funding will fail. We have a goal of zero failures.”

Arnold said she hopes to expand partnerships between SJSU and Vonzos.

“We’d like to build a network where we could engage along with some of our startup companies that often need help,” she said. “This might include engineering, computer science, the research department. We think it would make sense to build some interdisciplinary teams and our aspiration is to deepen the network.”

For more information, visit www.vonzos.com or connect with us at info@vonzos.com.

Faculty Notes for January 2019: Publications, Quotes and more

African American Studies Chair Theodorea Regina Berry took part in a panel discussion on “Family Roots and Personal Identity” at the Los Altos History Museum in November. Her most recent book, States of Grace: Counterstories of a Black Woman in the Academy, was published by Peter Lang Publishing in 2018.

Emeritus Professor of Sociology Robert Gliner’s documentary on climate change, One Carbon Footprint at a Time, aired January 2 and January 3 on PBS station KQED. The documentary features students from SJSU’s Global Climate Change class, SJSU alumni and faculty, and students from two San Jose middle schools.

BioSpace.com interviewed College of Science Program Director Tonja Green about her role as an “influencer” in the biopharma industry and about the university’s Medical Product Development Management program. An SJSU alumna, Green was a research assistant at Stanford University School of Medicine before entering the field of biopharma. Prior to returning to her alma mater, she worked at Syntex, Abbott Diabetes Care, and Arete Therapeutics, among other companies. Read more at: https://www.biospace.com/article/biopharma-industry-influencer-san-jose-state-university-s-tonja-green/

The Mercury News interviewed Department of Political Science Associate Professor Garrick Percival on several Bay Area cities’ shift to district elections and the “quiet revolution” underway to provide minorities a larger voice in local government. Read more at: https://www.mercurynews.com/2018/11/09/where-power-is-shifting-as-cities-move-to-district-elections/

KTVU Fox News interviewed Management Professor and Lucas College of Business Interim Associate Dean Meg Virick about the gender pay gap in Santa Clara County. According to recent U.S. Census Bureau figures, women in Santa Clara County earn 62 cents for every dollar earned by a man, a decline of five cents since 2015. Read more at: http://www.ktvu.com/news/santa-clara-co-has-widest-gender-pay-gap-in-bay-area

The Mercury News interviewed Department of Justice Studies Lecturer Greg Woods about the rise in violent crime in San Jose in 2018 and about whether increasing the number of police officers in the SJPD will effectively combat that trend. Read more at: https://www.mercurynews.com/2019/01/02/san-jose-violent-crime-continues-rise-as-chief-calls-for-reinforcements