It’s a Dean’s Life 2014 Vol. 2

Dean Lisa Vollendorf2014 has continued to bring numerous successes and reasons for celebration to the College of Humanities and the Arts. In recognition of his distinguished artistic accomplishments, which most recently included winning a Grammy Award, Professor Aaron Lington was recognized in March by SJSU’s Tower Foundation with a Presidential Medal of Honor, an award only ever given to one other person at SJSU in its entire 150-year history. As an added point of pride, the medal was designed and cast in our very own Department of Art and Art History.

Although we are in a terrible drought in California, spring has showered us with many awards thus far. At the Broadcast Education Association, our student Robert Krakower wrote and directed the film that won Best in Show. “Always Learning” is a touching, funny story about a home-schooled teenager. Television, Radio, Film, and Theatre Department professor Babak Sarrafan won Best Educational or Instructional Video for his Green Ninja Series installment called “Styrofoam Man.” You can watch the video, but beware: you may never order take-out food again.

These student and faculty accomplishments in Television, Radio, Film, and Theatre were complemented by an uplifting and energizing visit by actor Kurtwood Smith, an alum who visited our campus in February and generously spent a full afternoon talking with students, faculty, and staff interested in television and acting. You can read a full interview with Mr. Smith and watch his new show, Resurrection, which is a co-production between ABC Studios and Plan B Entertainment.

I recently had the great pleasure of attending a literary reading by the Lurie Distinguished Author-in-Residence, Andrew Sean Greer. Through the generosity of the Lurie family, the author-in-residence program brings distinguished writers to the SJSU community and classroom every year. Greer’s reading was a tour-de-force, and I look forward to reading more of his work soon. I also attended a beautiful evening of dance by the University Dance Theatre. The program included choreography by faculty and expressive, creative dance by our dance majors. Personal favorites included “Dance for Six” by Professor Gary Masters, who also just won an Isadora Duncan Award, and the gorgeous “Penguin March” choreographed by Professor Heather Cooper, a piece which was selected Gala Concert of the American College Dance Festival on March 14, 2014.

The March 6 inaugural event in the Kazuki Fukuda-Abe Lecture Series was a rousing success and formed part of a vibrant week of Foreign Language Week programming sponsored by the Department of World Languages and Literatures and other areas of the College. I very much look forward to hosting a Donor Recognition Event on April 22 to honor those who so generously support our students and our programs.

So many events are coming up at the end of this academic year that it is hard to know where to start. While I am only highlighting a few, please be sure to visit our events calendar and make plans to take in the incredible programming we offer as a College.

We all should be excited about the upcoming collaborations in celebration of the 75th anniversary of the publication of The Grapes of Wrath. Mark your calendars for April 16, the date of a gala event that will kick off in the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies with a reception at 5:30pm to be followed by the theatre production at 7pm and a talkback with author and Steinbeck scholar Susan Shillinglaw. The event celebrates the theater and opera collaborations as well as Dr. Shillinglaw’s new book, On Reading The Grapes of Wrath. The theatre production is put on by our TV, Radio, Film, and Theatre Department, and will be followed on May 9 (7pm) and May 11 (2pm) by the School of Music and Dance’s Opera Workshop production of Ricky Ian Gordon’s opera, The Grapes of Wrath. Tickets for the gala and for the play are available.

I always look forward to the season of graduation, so May will be an especially wonderful month, as it always is. This year we will see more than 1,000 students graduate from our College in diverse majors that have prepared them to be artists, teachers, writers, designers, animators, translators, and a wide diversity of other careers. As we reflect on the arc of the academic year and the work that we play at a large public institution, we should never lose sight of the great privilege we have to be engaged in meaningful educational preparation for more than 31,000 students in Silicon Valley. Spring is indeed a season of joy for these and many other reasons. Learn more about commencement.

In closing, I thank you to all who gave feedback. Please continue to help us spread the word about our amazing accomplishments and the role that we are privileged to play as humanities and arts educators in Silicon Valley. Please forward this newsletter, Expressions, to others who would be interested in knowing more about SJSU and our College. Anyone can subscribe by hitting the subscription button.

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Lisa Vollendorf, Dean