April 2017 Newsletter: Spartans Support Neighboring Community During Flood

Alumnus Ralph Murrieta Jr, '11 MPA, right, and other Spartans volunteered to help with cleanup efforts following flooding along the Coyote Creek and in San Jose neighborhoods on March 11. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Alumnus Ralph Murrieta Jr, ’11 MPA, right, and other Spartans volunteered to help with cleanup efforts following flooding along the Coyote Creek and in San Jose neighborhoods on March 11. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

By Barry Zepel

The San Jose State University community has a long tradition of helping during times of crisis. That was the case on Feb. 21 after the recent record rainfall led to Anderson Dam spilling over its banks in Morgan Hill and into the Coyote Creek, which then overflowed onto various streets and neighborhoods in San Jose, causing flood damage and displacing residents.

While university administrators offered support to students, staff and faculty in the affected neighborhoods, CommUniverCity Director Dayana Salazar coordinated with The Health Trust to start a fundraiser to support local residents. As of the end of March, the groups had raised $9,430.

In addition to financial support, Spartan volunteers also helped with cleanup work near the creek and around the city. Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful (KCCB), the South Bay Clean Creeks Coalition and the city of San Jose initiated clean-up work starting on Feb. 24, with follow-up efforts into March. Alumnus Ralph Murrieta Jr. and students Shannen Osborne and Maribel Muratalla were among a contingent of volunteers ready to help on March 11. Murrieta and Muratalla have been KCCB team leaders for two years.

On an early Saturday morning, volunteers, including Murrieta, found mud, downed fences, Ethernet cables and copper wires, as well as fallen debris from trees that had been drenched by the rains and accompanying high-velocity winds of the previous days. Murrieta, ’11 MPA, is no rookie when it comes to community service and volunteerism.

“I’ve been volunteering with Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful, (a community group) dedicated to restoring the local watershed, for roughly a year-and-a-half,” he explained.

Murrieta said he first became involved in community volunteering in 2015 through SJSU’s CommUniverCity program. CommUniverCity is a unique partnership between the university and the city of San Jose that engages SJSU students and faculty members with residents and city staff members for learning projects that accomplish neighborhood-defined goals. The program creates and supports 50 community action projects annually in a multitude of disciplines. They range from after-school tutoring and nutrition education to adult financial literacy classes.

With cleanup being a vital community need in March, Murrieta served as team leader for a group of 15 to 20 other volunteers along the banks of the creek.

“Among the things we found (and picked up) were traces of homeless encampments, including clothing, bedding, various metal and wood debris items, and food wrappers,” he said. “While our operation wrapped up after a few hours – around 11 a.m. – I know that some of the volunteers went on to assist other clean-up operations that were taking place in the city.”

Deb Kramer, program manager for KCCB, said their efforts were scheduled for two hours on March 11, but many volunteers stayed longer to help clean up the Olinder play area, including removing tan bark and sand, and cleaning play structures and picnic benches that had been contaminated by the flood.

SJSU student and alumni volunteers participated in clean ups along the Coyote Creek, near William Street Park and the Selma Olinder Play Area, east of campus.

SJSU student and alumni volunteers participated in cleanups along the Coyote Creek, near William Street Park and the Selma Olinder Play Area, east of campus.

Osborne, a senior majoring in communications, has been involved with KCCB since taking a couple of environmental courses at the university. She is currently serving as an intern with the community agency. The university’s partnership with KCCB is coordinated through the Center for Community Learning and Leadership, a program that supports service-learning opportunities for students.

“I was helping check in other volunteers at the beginning, so initially I saw many eager people who wanted to help,” she said. “This was not something that residents of San Jose or other surrounding cities ever would have expected to happen, especially since we were just in a drought for so long.”

Among the items she and other volunteers picked up were old tires, shopping carts, old clothing and blankets, and a quarter ton of trash.

“For me, this hits very close to home since I live right along the creek,” Osborne said. “Luckily, I was not harmed by the flooding, but it was definitely too close for comfort and opened my eyes that my family and I could have been evacuated. I definitely wanted to do all that I could to make sure the areas that were affected had some help.”

Likewise, Murrieta’s home was spared any personal loss, but he witnessed firsthand the destructive forces of the recent flooding in the city.

“I did see some of the flooded streets near my (place of) work,” he said.
Both Osborne and Murrieta encouraged others to get involved as community volunteers.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is to give back to your community,” Osborne said. “And you get to meet great people who are excited to be involved in something that helps the local environment. Each (volunteer) helps make such a significant difference.”

Murrieta noted what can be learned from the experience.

“History is happening every day, and you can’t shape it and society by reading a book. You have to get involved,” he said. “It can add to what you are learning in the classroom by providing depth to the issue.”

SJSU Alumna Premieres Feature Film at Cinequest on March 3

As in previous years, students and faculty from San Jose State University will be well represented at the 2017 Cinequest Film and VR Festival staged at various venues throughout San Jose and Redwood City starting this week.

A 2008 alumna of the TRFT program, Los Altos resident Saila Kariat, will be represented at Cinequest with her dramatic, one-hour, 38-minute film titled “The Valley” that she wrote, directed and co-produced. The movie will premiere at 7 p.m. March 5 at the California Theatre, 345 S. First St., San Jose. The feature-length film centers on an Indian-American entrepreneur who has an existential crisis following the suicide of his young-adult daughter.

Kariat — who grew up in India, Canada and the United States — said the film project took three years to complete. Professor Scott Sublett, chair of the SJSU’s TRFT department, said Kariat studied film and screenwriting and distinguished herself in student screenwriting competitions before becoming the department’s Valedictorian.

Kariat partially self-funded the production, which cost $500,000, but also attracted several investors. It had a cast of 30 and crew of 35. She said its international cast includes actors from Pakistan, Alyy Khan; India, Suchitra Pillai; and American Jake T. Austin.

For those who miss the premier, “The Valley” will also be shown on March 6, at 4:15 p.m.; March 9, at 9:15 p.m., and March 11, at 4:15 p.m., at the Cinemark Century 20 theater complex in Redwood City.

“Disaffected Youth,” billed as a “punk rock coming-of-age” film directed by Patrick Mattes and co-written and produced by Jacob Ohlhausen, is a short film produced by Spartan Film Studios.

Patrick Mattes, left, and Jacob Ohlhausen pose for a photograph at their home in Milpitas, Calif. on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2016. The two have a short film, produced by Spartan Studio Films, playing at Cinequest this year called “Disaffected Youth”.(Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

Patrick Mattes, left, and Jacob Ohlhausen pose for a photograph at their home in Milpitas, Calif. on Saturday, Jan. 28, 2016. The two have a short film, produced by Spartan Studio Films, playing at Cinequest this year called “Disaffected Youth”.(Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

“I’m very excited,” said Mattes, a December graduate of the university’s Television, Radio, Film and Theatre (TRFT) department, about his film’s inclusion at Cinequest. “We’re both excited. I texted Jake the moment I heard.”

It will be shown as part of the College Shorts program on March 7, at 8:45 p.m.; March 10, at 7:15 p.m.; and March 11, at 12:45 p.m. at the Cinemark Century 20 theater complex, 825 Middlefield Road, Redwood City.

Also selected for Cinequest was “swiPed”, a four-minute, 38-second animated film both humorous and poignant about the detrimental impacts of smartphones on society. It’s the creation of David Chai, associate professor of Design and Animation/Illustration in the Department of Design, whose tagline for the film is: “Texters texting, tweeters tweeting, likers liking, posters posting, Googlers Googling, Amazonians Amazoning, webheads surfing, snappers chatting, pinnters pinning, tubers tubing, tenders tindering, Netflixers chilling — are we binging too much? More connected than ever, but more distant by the day. Is humanity being swiped away?”

Chai was a Silicon Valley smartphone holdout until recently.

“I had a flip phone until last year,” he said. “I don’t want to be emailing when I can be out enjoying life. People have become so disconnected from one another through technology. Even when you are with them, you’re often not.”

Chai’s film debuts on March 3, at 9:30 p.m. It will subsequently be screened March 5, at 1:05 p.m.; March 7, at 4:30 p.m.; and March 11, at 6:45 p.m. All presentations will be at the Cinemark Century 20 in Redwood City.

 

The annual festival, which has grown dramatically in size and prestige in recent years, provides matchless industry exposure for SJSU film students.

“We want our students to have a professional experience and Cinequest provides a great opportunity for them,” said Barnaby Dallas, coordinator of production for Film and Theatre, and the director of Film Production for Spartan Film Studios, which produced “Disaffected Youth” last summer. “Every year, the film industry comes to San Jose for 10 or 12 days.”

Tickets for events and more information about the Cinequest Film and VR Festival are available online.

MTI Reports on the State of Bus Manufacturing in the US

Bus Manufacturing (Photo: David Schmitz)

Bus Manufacturing (Photo: David Schmitz)

The United States transit bus manufacturing industry has changed considerably over the past two decades. Bus quality has improved and new technologies have resulted in increased reliability and a wider range of alternative fuel strategies, including battery-electric transit buses. Yet, this is a fragile industry due to low volume, changing regulations, and unstable federal funding. David Czerwinski and Jing Zhang, associate professors in San Jose State University’s Department of Marketing and Decision Sciences and  researchers at the Mineta Transportation Institute, conducted a comprehensive state of the industry analysis to better understand the challenges and opportunities facing bus manufacturers and to provide policymakers with recommendations to help move the industry forward while best serving the transit-riding public.

As noted in the report, The US Transit Bus Manufacturing Industry, manufacturing buses for the US transit market is a small market with volatile demand. Over the past two decades, annual spending on buses by US transit agencies has fluctuated between extremes of $1.4 billion and $3.1 billion (in 2014 dollars). According to Dr. David Czerwinski, principal investigator for this research, “Many manufacturers have gone bankrupt, left the market, or been acquired by competitors.”

Interviews conducted with industry stakeholders identified a number of challenges facing the industry. Notably, and despite increases in annual public transit funding under the new FAST Act, interviewees still felt that there was not enough funding to allow transit agencies to retire and upgrade their bus fleet in a timely fashion.

To ensure a thriving transit bus manufacturing industry that continues to improve the quality of buses, invests in R&D, and best serves the riding public, the authors have four recommendations for policymakers:

  • Work to ensure long-term, stable funding that builds on the FAST Act to allow transit agencies to make long-term purchasing plans for buses.
  • Continue to support research & development related to alternative fuels.
  • Facilitate an industry-wide conversation around standardization of battery-electric charging infrastructure and implement policies so that transit agencies aren’t penalized financially for adopting battery-electric technology.
  • Think carefully about whether this industry, due to its small size, is well positioned to take the lead on clean-air regulations that advance the nation’s environmental quality.

The report is available for free download from http://transweb.sjsu.edu/project/1234.html

ABOUT THE RESEARCH TEAM
David Czerwinski, Ph.D.
and Jing Zhang, Ph.D. are both Associate Professors in the Department of Marketing and Decision Sciences at San José State University. Xu (Cissy) Hartling, Ph.D. is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Marketing and Decision Sciences at Salem State University.

ABOUT THE MINETA TRANSPORTATION INSTITUTE
The Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) conducts research, education, and information transfer programs regarding surface transportation policy and management issues, especially related to transit. Congress established MTI in 1991 as part of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act. MTI won national re-designation competitions in 2002, 2006 and 2012. The Institute is funded through the US Department of Transportation, the US Department of Homeland Security, the California Department of Transportation, and public and private grants. The internationally respected members of the MTI Board of Trustees represent all major surface transportation modes. MTI, the lead institute for the nine-university Mineta National Transit Research Consortium, is affiliated with San Jose (CA) State University’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business. Visit transweb.sjsu.edu.

Rachael French and Miranda Worthen Receive Early Career Investigator Award

The San Jose State University Research Foundation has selected the recipients of the 2016 Early Career Investigator Award: Associate Professor Rachael French, from the Department of Biological Sciences, College of Science, and Assistant Professor Miranda Worthen, from the Department of Health Sciences and Recreation, College of Applied Sciences and Arts. The Early Career Investigator subcommittee, which includes Research Foundation board members and faculty, recommended their selection for this year’s honor.

French has received more than $1.2 million in external research funding, either as a principal investigator or co-principal investigator. Using the common fruit fly (Drosophila) as a research model, her lab seeks to identify the neurodevelopmental pathways that are altered by exposure to alcohol during development, and the genes underlying those pathways. Understanding these pathways may lead to future therapeutic measures to treat fetal alcohol syndrome. She mentors both undergraduate and graduate students in her lab. The students who have worked in her lab have achieved exceptional levels of success, winning awards for outstanding presentations and going on to promising academic careers of their own.

Worthen’s research examines the psychosocial experiences of vulnerable populations that have undergone high levels of trauma, with an emphasis on those who have participated in armed forces or have been impacted by exposure to war. Her publication track record is lengthy and impressive, with many of her articles published in high impact factor journals. She has been awarded external funding for her work with the Native American Health Center on suicide prevention, youth empowerment and tobacco use reduction among urban Native youth. She frequently presents at conferences throughout the United States and in Europe.

Save the Date

French and Worth will be honored at SJSU’s annual Celebration of Research, to be held on Thursday, Feb. 16, 2017, from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom.

The SJSU Research Foundation Early Career Investigator Awards recognizes tenure-track faculty who have excelled in areas of research, scholarship or creative activity as evidenced by their success in securing funds for research, publishing in peer-reviewed journals, and carrying out other important scholarly and creative activities at an early or beginning point in their careers at SJSU. Our two recipients are examples of individuals who have achieved this level of success.

The SJSU Research Foundation established two Early Career Investigator Awards to encourage participation in research, scholarship and creative activity beyond those colleges where large numbers of faculty have traditionally participated. One award goes to a faculty member in the Colleges of Science or Engineering, and another is made to a faculty member from all other colleges. Each winner receives a cash award of $1,000 to be used at their discretion.

Latest Edition of Washington Square Highlights Spartan Stories

Harry Edwards, '64 Sociology, '16 Honorary Doctorate, donated historical items to SJSU and was the guest speaker at the 2016 Commencement.

Harry Edwards, ’64 Sociology, ’16 Honorary Doctorate, donated historical items to SJSU and was the guest speaker at the 2016 Commencement.

The latest edition of Washington Square, SJSU’s Alumni magazine, features stories of Spartan alumni, students, staff and faculty, including a profile of 2016 Commencement Speaker Harry Edwards, ’64 Sociology, ’16 Honorary Doctorate. See photos of Spartans in action, read stories and review web extras online. Visit the Fifth Floor of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library to see an exhibit of items Edwards donated to SJSU.