News 2015 Vol. 5


By Jennifer San Filippo

Since Lisa Vollendorf’s inauguration as Dean, the College of Humanities and the Arts has taken great strides to unify and strengthen the arts and letters programs, encouraging development and bringing to light the many achievements of the faculty and students. This new year perhaps marks the biggest step in that goal: The opening of the H&A Student Success Center.

Located in Clark Hall 244, the Success Center is a one-stop shop for students within our college who seek General Education advising. Dean Lisa Vollendorf explained, “Faculty, staff, and students all expressed that we need to find better mechanisms to support students as they progress to degree.”

“We see ourselves as problem solvers,” said Anthony Korsund, Director of the Success Center. “We’re here to support departments by taking some of the advising responsibilities from faculty advisors, thus allowing them to focus on major advising, graduation applications, substitution forms, and the like.”

The Center was funded by SSETF (student success, excellence, and technology fee), enacted by the college’s 2012-2013 strategic plan. And so far, the Success Center is earning its keep. “Within the first week, we have had over 240 visitors to the Center,” said Korsund. “While our academic advisors have met with 87 students seeking advising.”

The Success Center also provides an Internship Lab through the College Marketing and Communications Team, comprised of graphic designers, engineers, a photographer, and editor—all students from their respective majors who collaborate to better represent the college within the community. They hope you enjoy this newsletter!

College of Humanities and the Arts and College of Engineering teamed up to host the SJSU/ Intel Rapid Prototyping Competition (RPC). Through generous support from Intel Corporation, student teams from the art and engineering departments at SJSU designed and built innovative prototypes using the Intel Galileo microprocessor. Ten teams in competition created products for the Internet Of Things – web connected devices to solve real world problems. Students in teams worked with faculty, Intel, and each other to create working prototypes for a pitch and demo competition hosted at Intel on January 23rd, 2015, resulting in three teams being awarded $12,000 in scholarships. By combining the creativity and aesthetics of art with the science and technology of engineering, the SJSU/ Intel Rapid Prototyping Competition is creating new opportunities for collaboration and innovation across different disciplines at San José State University.

English & Comparative Literature: Jessica Keaton, a Teaching Associate and MFA Student in the English Department, was granted a six-month fellowship with the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto from January to June 2015. The fellowship is designed to provide a workspace and support for emerging writers with works-in-progress.


Art & Art History: Marion Cilker, a San José State graduate and local artist, helped to create a conference that uses the arts as a teaching tool. See the Mercury News story.

Design: Graphic Design alumna Tani Mitsch recently had her design work displayed at Times Square earlier this year. After graduating in Fall 2013, Tani was soon hired on at Ghirardelli Chocolate Company as a full-time designer. In late December 2014, she was given the Times Square advertisement project. Tani is also a former graphic designer for the College of H&A Marketing and Communications Team. View her portfolio.

Art & Art History: Art professor Anthony Raynsford published an article in Planning Perspectives entitled “Urban Contrast and Neo-Toryism: On the Social and Political Symbolism of the Architectural Review’s Townscape Campaign.” The article is the most extensive and thorough account to date of the political and theoretical sources of the British Townscape Movement, one of the principal urban design ideologies of the mid-twentieth century.

Art & Art History: Associate Professor Shannon Wright, coordinator of the Spatial Art program, exhibited a series entitled Scholastic Aptitude at Miami Art Week in December 2014. The three sculptures in the Scholastic Aptitude series are made from notebook and sketchbook paper that has been stack-cut, custom hole-punched a few pages at a time, and then painstakingly spiral-bound. Two of these pieces suggest mountainous terrain, while the third is a woven structure with spiral bindings serving as flexible hinges.

Design: Now and Then is the title of the exhibition that took place in Summer 2014 at Doong Gallery, the design showroom of a renowned Korean type foundry. Invited by his colleague Chang Sik Kim, full-time professor in SJSU’s Design department, Jean-Benoit Levy brought 101 posters to be discovered by the local design community. In this exciting new exhibition of posters created mainly in Switzerland for various clients and industries, the Swiss graphic designer who immigrated to California 10 years ago, pays tribute to the form and his country. On view were 41 of Levy’s signature posters. Known for his usage of photography combined with typography, dynamic shapes and color combinations, Levy’s work carries a unique iconographic and expressive, playful visual discourse to the eyes of viewers. Displayed alongside Levy’s work were posters by 30 other Swiss graphic designers culled from Levy’s personal collection and spanning three generations: posters designed by his predecessors and teachers that ignited his imagination as a young boy; posters created when he was a young graphic designer exchanging ideas with his peers; and finally posters from today’s generation who still find the desire to create street posters. In addition to the show, two lectures took place in Seoul, offering a view on his creative process. For the opening, the two curators mounted the 101 posters in a very dense installation that thrilled the creative senses of many Korean designer.

Design: Street Sheet is the bi-monthly newspaper of the Coalition on Homelessness in San Francisco. Street Sheet has been redesigned for it’s 25th anniversary, the result of a long process that began in 2007, when graphic designer and SJSU lecturer Jean-Benoit Levy reached out to Street Sheet to ask for help using a prospective redesign of their newspaper as a semester project for his Advanced Typography class. The project was put on hold until early 2014, when the Coalition on Homelessness revived the idea as part of their preparation for their 25th anniversary. Under the lead of Matthew Gerring, former Managing Editor of The Spartan Daily and actual Street Sheet Editor, they scheduled several meetings reviewing the existing redesign ideas, defining the Coalition’s goals for the next Street Sheet. Levy received “Ideas that Matter,” a grant oriented specifically toward design projects offered by the paper producer Sappi North America. Known for its commitment to support the social change work of designers as part of their corporate social responsibility program, Sappi funded over 500 non-profit projects since 1999, contributing more than $12.5 million to causes that use design as a positive force in society. Levy and the Coalition on Homelessness put together a plan, applied, and won the grant for their project. The designs included a new logo, a poster campaign throughout San Francisco, an apron for the vendors, and the complete newspaper redesign.

English & Comparative Literature: KQED interviewed Dr. Mary Warner about the concerns of this generation’s refusal to read. Read the full article.

English & Comparative Literature: Jonathan Lovell was honored in the San José State University Research Foundation‘s 2014 Research Report. Each year this report profiles five SJSU professors who have received grants during the prior fiscal year. Lovell was named because, as Director of the San José Area Writing Project, his program had received approximately 80K in state and federal funding. In the profile, the Writing Project was lauded as providing “dynamic opportunities for teachers to immerse themselves in new theories, strategies, and activities related to successful writing instruction…The most rigorous component of Writing Project is the Invitational Summer Institute,” the Profile goes on to explain. “Teachers focus on their own writing for part of each day, in the belief that one must practice a craft in order to teach it. Much time is also spent collaborating with fellow teachers to develop lesson plans, sharing insights regarding teaching across socio-economic levels, and brainstorming how their instructional practices apply to Common Core standards.” The cover of the Annual Report features a watercolor drawing of Lovell as a character in To Kill a Mockingbird. In the drawing, Gregory Peck/Atticus Finch is giving Lovell a thumbs-up sign, in honor of his many years of giving workshop demonstrations on this novel.

English & Comparative Literature: The Penn State College of Liberal Arts invited Cathleen Miller, an alumna of PSU, back to campus as part of their Mary E. Rolling Reading Series. Cathy discussed her work, including the biography of UN leader Nafis Sadik: Champion of Choice.

English & Comparative Literature: MFA Coordinator Alan Soldofsky read at the 38th Annual Writers Week Conference at UC Riverside. The conference is the longest-running, free literary event in California and regularly attracts authors in all stages of their career. Alan Soldofsky read from his new poetry collection, In the Buddha Factory on February 5.

English & Comparative Literature: Alan Soldofsky and David Koehn’s new prosody workbook matches each chapter of the Donald Justice textbook, Prosody: The Meters of Poetry in English, with parallel chapters that include summary lecture notes for the instructor, exercises based on excerpts from the Justice text, and exercises based on new supplementary materials. Soldofsky and Koehn classroom tested the workbook’s many prosody exercises they wrote last summer during the Fall 2014 semester in Soldofsky’s ENGL 131: Undergraduate Poetry Writing class at San José State University. The workbook will be published by Bauhan Press on April 7, with the new edition of the Donald Justice textbook, The Meters Of Poetry In English, and will be distributed by the University Press of New England (UPNE).

English & Comparative Literature: English professor Leah Griesmann received a grant of $10,000 from the Elizabeth George Foundation in support of her fiction.

English & Comparative Literature: English professor Edwin Sams will give a 30-minute presentation at the CSU Symposium on University Teaching: “GRIT: Exploring Perseverance, Mindset, and Character in the Classroom” at CSU Los Angeles on March 14.

English & Comparative Literature: On February 17th, English professor Noelle Brada-Williams will speak at Bookbuyers on the topic of Asian American Literature. She is the editor of Asian American Literature: Discourses & Pedagogies, a peer-reviewed online journal.

English & Comparative Literature: Dr. Persis Karim, whose work on literature of the Iranian diaspora has resulted in three published anthologies of Iranian-American literature, is the special guest editor of the March 2015 issue of World Literature Today–a prestigious magazine that features authors and literature by and about authors from around the globe. This issue, “Writing Beyond Iran” features interviews, poetry, and prose fiction by four writers now living in exile. This issue curated by Dr. Karim includes an interview with Moniro Ravanipour, one of the most prominent female novelists in Iran, who now lives in Nevada; an interview with Iranian cartoonist and graphic memoirist Mana Neyestani who left Iran after serving a three-month jail term for a cartoon that allegedly incited riots in Azerbaijan and who now lives in Paris; a short story by Iranian Baha’i writer Omid Fallahazad who now lives in Massachusetts; and six poems by Mohsen Emami, a poet who now lives and works in Mexico City. Karim’s introduction discusses the losses and gains of exile, sorrows and freedoms, and the ways that these writers have reinvented themselves in exile as authors who no longer are solely Iranian writers, but rather, writers of a new “world literature.”

English & Comparative Literature: Poetry professor Sally Ashton will give a poetry reading and presentation as part of Symposia: A Series, Gardens of Salonica. Her new poetry will soon be published in Poet Lore and Zyzzyva Magazine.

Linguistics & Language Development: “Kevin Moore’s admirable book [The Spatial Language of Time] explores the many dimensions involved for ‘time as space,’ with unprecedented rigor and scholarship” writes Gilles Fauconnier (University of California, San Diego). Dan Slobin (University of California, Berkeley) writes “Moore has contributed an exhaustive and carefully considered reanalysis of the conceptual domains of time and space, showing that conceptions of space also have temporal characteristics.” The book analyzes how speakers use spatial words like “front” and “back” to talk about temporal concepts like ‘before’ and ‘after’. There are striking resemblances and also stark contrasts in how diverse languages such as English, Wolof (West Africa), Japanese, and Aymara (South America) use such spatial notions. The book advances the study of linguistics by providing a coherent explanation of the commonalities and differences regarding how spatial vocabulary is used to talk about time in different languages. Kevin Moore teaches Linguistics, Academic Writing, and General Education in the Linguistics and Language Development department at San José State University. He has been a lecturer at SJSU since the year 2000.

Music & Dance: Dr. Brian Belet presented a collaborative project audio demonstration and a formal paper at the Web Audio Conference 2015, at IRCAM (in the aptly named Igor Stravinsky Room) in Paris on January 26 & 27, 2015. “Birds of a Feather (Les Oiseaux de Même Plumage): Dynamic Soundscapes using Real-time Manipulation of Locally Relevant Birdsongs,” co-authored with Dr. William Walker (Mozilla Corporation), is published in the conference proceedings. Drs. Walker and Belet also presented their paper at Mozilla’s corporate headquarters.

Music & Dance: Aaron Lington’s most recent album, released last September with co-leader Paul Tynan, was just nominated for “Jazz Record of the Year” in the East Coast Music Association Awards. The album, entitled Bicoastal Collective: Chapter Four, features Lington and Tynan backed by guitar, drums, and Hammond B3 organ.

World Languages & Literature: The fall 2014 students in Anne Fountain’s Spanish American Culture and Civilization classes got a triple treat as they engaged with three distinguished authors as a part of the course. In September, noted Afro-Cuban poet Nancy Morejón spoke to the classes. In November, detective novelist William C. Gordon and popular Cuban short story-writer Nancy Alonso discussed their work with students. Students took pictures with all three authors and had copies of their books signed.

World Languages & Literature: SJSU’s Persian Studies Program, with the generous support of the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute, is inaugurating an international collaborative that shares the photography of students from SJSU and Alzahra University in Tehran, Iran. Art from Alzahra University students will be displayed at the Martin Luther King Jr. Library from March 8 to April 4, 2015 with an opening night event on March 12. Join us at the opening night event for an engaging talk by Pantea Karimi, the Bay Area based artist and art educator, who will discuss her experience as a student of both SJSU and Alzahra University. Reception to follow. Throughout fall 2014, students of both universities were asked to complete projects intended to “show and tell” their environments and perspectives. Professors at both SJSU and Alzahra University encouraged students to use their photography skills to capture scenes of their cities, communities, and convey their experiences and self-reflection. Robin Lasser, professor in the department of Art and Art History at SJSU, and Professor Fereshteh Dianat of Alzahra University have developed and facilitated student work. “This exchange has opened me up to a part of the world I had shut myself off from learning about,” said Carmina Eliason, a graduate student. “Through these women’s photographs and the process of learning about their world, I have found something deeply beautiful, subtly profound, and soulfully inspiring.”

World Languages & Literature: Susanna Zaraysky, co-director of Saved by Language, did a presentation of the film during SJSU Language Week 2014. The 53-minute documentary explores the life story of Moris Albahari, a Sephardic Jew raised in Sarajevo, Bosnia, who used his maternal language, Ladino, to help him survive the Holocaust. View the demo.