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.

SJSU Business Grad Supports Accessible Software at Google

Jyotsna Kaki, '06 Management Information Systems, works as an accessibility software testing engineer at Google.

Jyotsna Kaki, ’06 Management Information Systems, works as an accessibility software testing engineer at Google.

When Jyotsna Kaki, ’06 Management Information Systems (MIS), was a student at San Jose State in the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business, she offered to help a classmate in need when the other student fractured a wrist and was unable to take notes. At the time, Kaki discovered the Disability Resource Center (DRC), now known as the Accessible Education Center, where staff members provided her guidance on how to best support her peer.

More than a decade later, Kaki, who became blind while she was a student at SJSU, is still helping others as a software accessibility test engineer for Google. She oversees a central accessibility team of test engineers and trains other Google employees to conduct accessibility testing. Her story was recently featured on CNN Money, with a video and article.

Kaki became blind a semester after she discovered the DRC while helping her classmate. In fall 2004, she woke one morning with blurriness in her right eye. She had been diagnosed with a benign, slow-growing brain tumor as a child. The tumor had grown into the optic nerve and she underwent surgery to regain her sight. Instead, her optic nerve was damaged during the surgery and she was left with a permanent visual impairment.

“It was unexpected,” she said. “I don’t remember much from the month after I found out.”

But her mother tells her less than 10 minutes after discovering she was blind, Kaki called her brother to ask him to help her get back on campus. Within a month, she was back at San Jose State.

When she returned to campus, she felt isolated from her peers who did not interact with her as they had before she lost her vision. Her professors tried to be accommodating, but sometimes did not know how to help her. She turned to the DRC for support. They provided training on how to use screen reading technology, helped her get accessible textbooks and she learned Braille to get through the rest of her coursework.

“Everything pretty much started there (in the DRC),” Kaki said. “Most professors were helpful, but they didn’t have the necessary information.”

Kaki completed her degree two years after she lost her vision with a 3.8 GPA, higher than her GPA before her impairment. After graduation, her brother passed her resume to a friend who worked at Google without telling her. She thought a professor might have sent her resume in, but later discovered it was her brother. When she was invited in for an interview, she did not think she would get the job. They offered her a position and she has since taken on the role of leading a team of engineers. In the last decade, she said she has seen the focus on accessibility increase at Google and she is proud to be part of the efforts.

“It’s been really great because at the end of every day, I can go to sleep satisfied that what I am doing is going to help someone,” she said. “I have been lucky to help other people get assistance and help make products successful. It’s been a great experience and I’ve learned a lot.”