Faculty Notes for May 2017: Publications, Quotes and More

Associate Professor Andrea Bechert, Department of Television, Radio, Film & Theatre, designed the sets for the Center Repertory Theatre’s April production of Sisters Matsumoto, a play by Philip Kan Gotanda exploring the return of three sisters to their Stockton farm post-World War II. Bechert’s scenic design talents are currently on display at The Mountain Play’s production of Beauty and the Beast. Performances run until June 18 at Cushing Memorial Amphitheatre in Marin.

Associate Professor Christine Hagie, chair of the Department of Special Education, joined the board of Second Start Learning Disabilities Programs. Founded in San Jose in 1974, the organization provides individualized learning programs for students diagnosed on the autism spectrum and those with similar learning disorders.

Lecturer Michael Hernandez, School of Music and Dance, soprano saxophonist and founder of the Mana Quartet, performed at Jamestown Community College’s Scharmann Theatre on April 12. The concert featured works by Quantz, Singelée, Brahms and Piazzolla. Hernandez, who as been featured on NPR’s “Performance Today,” is also a D’Addario Performing Artist.

Released this month: “Chapter Five” (OA2 Records) by the Bicoastal Collective, one half of which is School of Music and Dance Professor Aaron Lington, a baritone saxophonist. Lington shares writing and arranging credits with trumpeter and long-time collaborator Paul Tynan, who is based in Nova Scotia, hence the name of their duo. The two met in the master’s program at the University of North Texas. This, their fifth album together, was recorded with an 18-piece big band. “It’s always been our dream to do a big-band record, and we were finally able to make this happen,” Lington said. Read more online.

Center for Literary Arts Director and Department of English Associate Professor Cathleen Miller received a 2017 Silicon Valley Artist Laureate award in recognition of her creative accomplishments and community arts involvement. She is the author of The Birdhouse Chronicles: Survivng the Joys of Country Life and Champion of Choice, a biography of UN leader Nafis Sadik, named by Booklist as one of the top ten biographies of 2013. Miller also serves as editor-in-chief of SJSU’s Reed Magazine. Read more online.

“A landmark day for San Jose State University and Armenian people,” reported The Armenian Mirror-Spectator on the occasion of President Mary Papazian’s inauguration this month as the university’s 30th president. Papazian is the first Armenian woman president of a California State University campus and only the third woman president of SJSU. Read more online.


Faculty Notes for April 2017: Publications, Quotes and More

On April 13, Assistant Professor Margareta Ackerman, Department of Computer Science, lectured at Stanford’s Center for Computer Research in Music and Acoustics on her algorithmic songwriting systems, a way for musicians to utilize artificial intelligence systems to aid creativity. Ackerman’s ALYSIA (Automated LYrical SongwrIting Application) generates and suggests melodies based on human-provided lyrics. A second system, MABLE, will develop lyrics in collaboration with humans.

Department of TV, Radio, Film and Theatre Professor Buddy Butler received a Black Legend Award, an award that celebrates the contributions and achievements of African Americans in the Bay Area, at a red-carpet gala held at the Hammer Theatre Center. The February event also served as a fundraiser to build the San José Black History Museum, Silicon Valley. The recipient of numerous honors during his career, Butler has also been recognized with an Obie, the NAACP Trailblazer Award and the Black Theatre Networks Winona Fletcher Award for Outstanding Achievement and Excellence in Black Theatre.

Photographs of women in cocktail dresses from the 1950s, taken by Barbara Christiansen, former Department of Home Economics professor, are part of the current exhibition at History Park’s McKay Gallery titled “Fashion to Die for: A Shopper’s Dilemma.” The exhibit was designed to showcase some of the perils of fashion for both animals and humans.

High Country News profiled Department of Meteorology Associate Professor Craig Clements and Assistant Professor Neil Lareau in an extensive article on the dangers of erratic wildfires, the history of some of the worst U.S. wildfires and the new technologies that are helping fire meteorologists like Clements and Lareau better predict their behavior. Read more online.

Professor Emeritus Gary Greene, Moss Landing Marine Labs, current marine geologist at the SeaDoc Tombolo Mapping Lab on Orcas Island, was this month’s featured speaker at a lecture series hosted by Friends of Skagit Beaches. His topic, “Exploring the Salish Sea Floor,” covered the impact of tsunamis and earthquakes on marine habitats and the feeding patterns of marine birds, fish and mammals.

In March, John Lipp, former faculty member in the Continuing Education Program, assumed the post of acting director of the Friends of the Alameda Animal Shelter. He also serves as executive director of Court Appointed Special Advocates, an organization that advocates for abused and neglected children. Past positions include board president of the Humane Society of Silicon Valley and president/CEO of San Francisco’s Pets Are Wonderful Support (PAWS).

Douglas Metz, instructor in the Department of Health Science and Recreation for nine years, joined CenCal Health’s Board of Directors. He is also current deputy director of primary care/family health at the Santa Barbara County Public Health Department. For 16 years, he was a practicing podiatric physician and surgeon in San José.

As part of the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design lecture series at the University of Arkansas – Fayetteville, Associate Professor Virginia San Fratello, Department of Design, gave a talk titled “Data + Dust” on the development of materials for three-dimensional printing and the design and fabrication of 3D printed architecture. San Fratello is a partner at Rael San Fratello and co-founder of Emerging Objects, both firms headquartered in Oakland. In 2016, she was named Educator of the Year by the International Interior Design Association (IIDA).

Lecturer Jason Wozniak, American Studies Program, co-organized “You Are Not a Loan,” a two-day campus event to address the impact of financial debt on students’ lives and possible solutions to the problem through a series of lectures, panel discussions and workshops. “We are living in a time where it’s increasingly normal for students to take on tens of thousands of dollars in debt just to get an education. There is nothing normal or ethical about that, and yet, being an indebted student has been normalized,” Wozniak said. As part of the program, student debt experts from Stanford, Iowa State and San Diego State addressed indebtedness from the perspectives of philosophy, comparative literature, economics, art, politics and education studies.

Faculty Notes for February and March 2017: Publications, Quotes and More

Published in February: School Librarianship: Past, Present, and Future (Rowman and Littlefield), a collection of essays edited by iSchool Instructor Sue Alman in honor of former iSchool Director Blanche Woolls. Each of the contributing scholars was directly influenced by Woolls, considered by her colleagues to be the “Grand Dame of School Librarianship.” “I first met Dr. Woolls when I was a doctoral student, and she has been instrumental in providing networking, research, publishing and teaching opportunities throughout my career. She has supported countless others in the same way,” Alman said.

On February 28, Professor Ruma Chopra, Department of History, will lecture on “Maroons in the Age of Slavery” in observance of Black History Month at the David Library of the American Revolution in Upper Makefield, Pa. Chopra’s talk will center on societies of fugitive slaves living in wilderness areas in North and South America.

Professor Emerita Estella Habal, Asian American Studies Program, and former organizer for the International Hotel Tenants Association, participated in a panel discussion about the Asian American Movement at last month’s Listen to the Silence conference, an annual conference held at Stanford and organized by the Asian American Students Association.

Professor Robin Lasser, Department of Art and Art History, was a featured artist in STEAM 2017, a University of West Florida program offering art exhibitions and artist-led workshops for K-12 students to promote conversations about environmental stewardship. Lasser’s photographs, video, and site-specific installations focus on social justice and environmental issues. She is the recipient of a 2019 Eureka Fellowship from the Fleishhacker Foundation in support of Bay Area visual artists.

MFA Creative Writing Director Alan Soldofsky, interviewed last month by Puerto del Sol about his work and writing practice, is a contributor to Only Light Can Do That: 100 Post-Election Poems, Stories & Essays, an anthology published by PEN Center USA after the November 2016 election. “It’s very important in the present moment to be proactive as artists, to use our words, images, music, etc. to wake up the nation to what it’s done to itself,” Soldofsky said. “I’m writing my poems now as much for a public audience as I am for myself.” Read more online.

In January, Department of Environmental Studies Chair Lynne Trulio, a member of the San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory Board of Directors, gave a talk on “The State of Burrowing Owls in Our Region” at the Sobrato Conference Center in Milpitas. The ecology and recovery of the western burrowing owl in California is one of Trulio’s research specialties.

Department of Anthropology Assistant Professor A.J. Faas, cycling enthusiast and member of San Jose Bike Party, was one of 150+ bike riders who took part in the first-ever Community Mural Bike Ride in San Jose this month. Faas is putting together a newsletter for an anthropology conference to be held in April that will highlight San Jose’s murals, including Mural de la Raza, painted in the 1980s, one of the oldest surviving wall art pieces in the city.

iSchool Lecturer Meredith Farkas, also faculty librarian at Portland (Ore.) Community College, wrote an op-ed for American Libraries Magazine urging librarians, regardless of the “direction the political winds blow,” to maintain their professional values in regard to access and serving the needs of the most “vulnerable community members.” Read more online.

On February 25, Professor Jennifer Rycenga, Department of Humanities and coordinator of the Comparative Religious Studies Program, lectured at the First Congregational Church in Norwich, Conn., on the legacy of Prudence Crandall, a Quaker and white abolitionist educator. Crandall’s first black student, Sarah Harris, was a member of the First Congregational Church 175 years ago. Rycenga is currently working on a cultural biography of Crandall, who opened one of the first schools for African American girls in Canterbury, Conn., in the 1830s.



Faculty Notes for January 2017: Publications, Quotes and More

Department of Computer Science Assistant Professor Margareta Ackerman, who co-developed ALYSIA, a machine learning system that creates melodies for lyrics, was profiled by New Scientist about the current iteration of her brainchild and plans for further development. Originally conceived as a system for the electronic music community, Ackerman has since expanded the target audience to include professional songwriters as well. Ultimately “we want to design a program able to generate the music, the lyrics and, ideally, even the production and singing by itself,” she said. Read more online.

Professor Emeritus Mike Adams, Department of TV, Radio, Film and Theatre, writes about the evolution of radio in Columbus, Ohio, in Columbus Radio (Arcadia Publishing, 2016), crediting “two professors and a preacher” for pioneering radio in that city. The author of seven books and recipient of the AWA Houck Award, the RCA Ralph Batcher Award and the TCA Stokes Award for his broadcast history research, Adams developed a passion for radio as a kid when his parents bought him a “rounded-top cathedral radio.” After that, he began “taking radios apart and became a nerd,” he told the Columbus Dispatch.

Professor Charlie Bullock, Department of Health Science and Recreation, chair of the Santa Clara County’s Health Trust since 2014, is serving as interim CEO of the nonprofit while the agency searches for a permanent replacement for former CEO Fred Ferrer, who stepped down in December. Founded in 1996, the Health Trust serves as a catalyst for community partnerships in Silicon Valley to work on initiatives that support healthy eating, healthy aging and an end to chronic homelessness in Silicon Valley.

School of Music and Dance Professor Ed Harris served as guest band conductor at the 2017 High School Honors Concert, an event that also included choir and string orchestra performances by students from 22 schools within San Joaquin County. The free concert took place at Atherton Auditorium at San Joaquin Delta College on January 14.

In an article for the Desert Sun, Associate Professor Dustin Mulvaney, Department of Environmental Studies, called for further study of the Eagle Crest Hydroelectric Pumped Storage Project by the Bureau of Land Management, specifically addressing the project’s environmental impact on groundwater resources, desert tortoises, bighorn sheep and the preservation and management of Joshua Tree National Park.

Scott Myers-Lipton

Scott Myers-Lipton

The San Jose Mercury News profiled Professor Scott Myers-Lipton, Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, about his career and activism in December. In the wake of the November elections and President-elect Trump’s stated intentions to create a national registry for Muslims, repeal the Affordable Care Act and build a border wall, Myers-Lipton co-organized and spoke at a San Jose unity rally held at City Hall on November 20. Myers-Lipton’s new book, CHANGE! A Student Guide to Social Action, will be published by Routledge in 2018.

iSchool Lecturer Penny Peck was reelected to the governing board of the San Lorenzo Unified School District and currently serves as its president. An alumna of SJSU, she holds a master’s degree in library science and worked as children’s librarian in the San Leandro Public Library system from 1986 to 2010. Her publications include Crash Course in Storytime Fundamentals (2015, second edition) and Crash Course in Children’s Services (2014, second edition), both published by Libraries Unlimited.

Department of English Professor Susan Shillinglaw signed copies of her book Carol and John Steinbeck: Portrait of a Marriage (University of Nevada Press, 2013) at the California Welcome Center in Salinas in December and was profiled by the Salinas Californian. Asked to name her favorite Steinbeck story, she replied: “It’s like asking who is your favorite child.” As director of the National Steinbeck Center, she also oversaw the center’s Salinas Valley Comic Con, held at Hartnell College in December.

Faculty Notes for November 2016: Publications, Quotes and More

The Kite Runner Poster

The Kite Runner Poster

Department of Journalism Lecturer Lisa Fernandez was recognized and applauded by NBC Bay Area news for the “small act of kindness” that helped student Brandon Beebe get back into the classroom after a series of financial setbacks left him homeless. Fernandez reached out to her Facebook community who “within minutes jumped in and asked what they could do to help,” Fernandez reported—help that ranged from direct financial assistance to connections to other sources of financial aid and housing assistance. For more of the story, including information about Beebe’s GoFundMe page.

Mother Nature Network interviewed Department of Physics and Astronomy Lecturer Friedemann Freund about the “earthquake lights” that appeared over New Zealand during the peak of the recent 7.8 magnitude earthquake. Freund, who co-authored a paper on the topic, theorizes that earthquake lights result when certain types of rock, under stress, produce electrical charges. Read more online.

Published this month through Cornell University’s East Asia Series: Department of History Assistant Professor Xiaojia Hou’s Negotiating Socialism in Rural China: Mao, Peasants and Local Cadres in Shanxi 1949-1953, the first monograph in English about the beginnings of China’s agricultural collectivization. Hou specializes in research about China’s socialist transformation in the 1950s and joined SJSU’s history faculty in the fall of 2015.

Dean Walter Jacobs, College of Social Sciences, was elected to the executive board of the Council of Colleges of Arts and Sciences, a national association based at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. The council provides professional development programming to its member deans and works to sustain the arts and sciences as a leading influence in American higher education.

With help from her public relations class, Department of Journalism Lecturer Halima Kazem is spearheading a fundraiser for Syrian refugees living in a refugee camp in Lesvos, Greece, selling the brightly colored bags those refugees fashioned from life vests worn while fleeing their country by boat. The bags sell between $14 and $40 and Kazem hopes to sell all 130 bags by Christmas, raising approximately $3,000 for the refugees. For more information, contact Kazem at halima.kazem@sjsu.edu.

Department of Biomedical, Chemical and Materials Engineering Professor Claire Komives’s antivenom research made the news again in a Pensacola News Journal report extolling the role of the possum in developing snakebite antivenom. (Possums are immune to the poison inflicted by snakebites.) Komives has previously presented her research findings at the American Chemical Society’s national conference.

Both Popular Science and inverse.com noted iSchool Lecturer Susan Maret’s Freedom of Information Act request regarding the role of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) in “the development and application of Hybrid Insect Microelectromechanical Systems.” The 88-page document Maret received in response details the feasibility of using flying insects for purposes of espionage. Read more online and at Maret’s blog.

Department of Communication Studies Associate Professor Matthew Spangler’s adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s bestselling novel The Kite Runner will open at Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End on December 21 and run through March 11, 2017. Spangler’s adaptation was staged at San José Repertory Theatre in 2009 for its U.S. premiere and at the Nottingham Playhouse in 2013 for its European premiere.

Professor Emeritus Karl Eric Toepfer, Department of Television, Radio, Film and Theatre, is a contributing writer to the Routledge Encyclopedia of Modernism, an online research resource. Toepfer’s articles focus on two important figures in modern dance in Germany, Dore Hoyer and Harald Kreutzberg.

The San Jose Mercury News interviewed Dean Lisa Vollendorf, College of Humanities and the Arts, about the inspiration behind the Hammer Theatre Center and the city/university collaboration that resulted in an approximately $1 million refurbishment of the San José Repertory Theatre, turning that facility into a first-class performing arts venue for SJSU students and the larger South Bay community.

NPR affiliate KTEP in El Paso, Texas, interviewed Department of Physics and Astronomy Professor Ken Wharton for a Science Studio: Quantum Theory segment that aired on November 20. Listen online.

Professor Fritz Yambrach, Department of Nutrition, Food Science and Packaging, is concept designer and team organizer of the Fritz Water Vest, a flexible device designed to help populations in disaster or impoverished areas more easily transport water. The vest is currently being beta tested in Ethiopia, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Burundi.