Spartans at Work: The Tech Museum of Innovation

(This summer, SJSU Today hit the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job at summer destinations throughout the Bay Area. Our 2013 Spartans at Work series continues with psychology alumna Maryanne Mwangi.)

In the heart of downtown San Jose is an impressive building with orange walls and a dome roof, home of The Hackworth IMAX Dome Theater and part of The Tech Museum of Innovation. The Tech is a distinctive part of the downtown San Jose skyline and a fitting museum for a city whose motto is “the capital of Silicon Valley.”

“Being that we’re in Silicon Valley, we are surrounded by innovators who create or want to create technology that can change the world, so The Tech is moving towards becoming a resource for those innovators and others around the world, ” said Maryanne Mwangi, ’11 Psychology.

As assistant project manager for the exhibits team, Mwangi provides support during the development and creation of the museum’s experiences. She is there every step of the way from brainstorming and initiation to maintaining a schedule, managing a budget and communicating with other teams during the set-up.

Mwangi assisted with the brand-new experience Social Robots, which opened July 1. Visitors have the opportunity to design and build their own working robots. She describes the “a-ha moment” when people connect the different pieces together, and their robots come alive.

“You come into the Social Robots exhibit and you’re provided with the tools and resources to build something amazing,” she said. “While you’re building you are also learning  how data is transferred between inputs and outputs to create an action. The Tech is providing the opportunity to bring out the innovator that’s in all of us and I think that’s amazing!”

User experience is an important priority in both technology and museums, especially for a technology and science museum that is creating more interactive, hands-on experiences like Social Robots. Mwangi’s psychology education gave her a foundation for brainstorming and collaborating with her team on exhibits.

“It’s an understanding of how people will interact with different things and trying to anticipate how someone will utilize  something that is put out on the floor,” she said. “Psychology plays a role in helping to understand people’s emotions and trying to figure out what would make them happy and  motivated to try something.”

Spartans at Work: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

(This summer, SJSU Today hit the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job at summer destinations throughout the Bay Area. Our 2013 Spartans at Work series continues with hospitality, tourism and event management alumna Gladys Rodriguez.)

Gladys Rodriguez, ’13 Hospitality, Tourism and Event Management, remembers childhood trips from her hometown of Watsonville to the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. Little did she know that she would grow up to help run the same Friday Night Bands on the Beach concert series she enjoyed when she was younger.

“I have pictures of me on rides when I was two years old, and looking back now, I never thought I would have the opportunity to work at the Boardwalk, and I never thought I would be helping manage such big events,” she said.

A recent SJSU graduate, Rodriguez is a promotions assistant, working closely with the director of promotions and entertainment. Her schedule varies depending on the festivities happening that week.

On Mondays, she focuses on office tasks, such as contacting vendors for an upcoming extreme sports expo. Wednesdays consist of monitoring activity and attendance during Movies on the Beach

The focus of Fridays is supporting the weekly evening concert, from the beginning of the day when she’s picking up the band until the end of the show.

“My favorite thing is that every day is different,” she said. “It’s not only office work. I’m not always sitting. I love that I get to work on something, and at the end, there’s a big event where you see how your hard work pays off.”

Rodriguez was working at the Student Union’s information center when lecturer Rich Larson stopped by to tell her about an open position at the Boardwalk. Larson is program director of the SJSU Special Event Management Team.

Rodriguez was a student manager at the 2013 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, participating in Larson’s program. Working at the golf tournament in addition to other internships and her event management education prepared her well for her current position.

“This job has really shown me that you are ready,” she said. “School did prepare you. School helped you out, and the hospitality program is amazing.”

Spartans at Work: Oakland A’s

(This summer, SJSU Today hit the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job at summer destinations throughout the Bay Area. Our 2013 Spartans at Work series continues with radio-television-film alumnus Marcus Gonzalez and hospitality, tourism and event management alumnus Ellison DeCastro.)

On a breezy summer evening, fans decked out in green, gold and white head into O.Co Coliseum to root, root, root for the home team. As streams of people make their way through Gate D, they pass by the Oakland A’s Kids Club booth.

There, Ellison DeCastro, ’11 Hospitality, Tourism and Event Management, talks with the youngsters, who stop by to receive the latest stamp in their passport books. They’re working their way up to earn bigger prizes. In the meantime, with a spin of the wheel, will they win a pencil, key chain or temporary tattoo?

As attendees settle into their seats less than 15 minutes before the first pitch, Stomper the elephant mascot and the Oakland A’s promotions crew make their way around the warning track. The entourage includes Marcus Gonzalez, ’10 Radio-Television-Film, who throws beaded necklaces to the excited crowd along the way.

As members of the A’s promotions crew, DeCastro and Gonzalez push the A’s brand and team at Bay Area community events as well as within the concrete walls of the coliseum.

“If it’s a close game, we come out here to cheer, interact with the fans, throw beads or kind of get them riled up a bit, get them excited, pumped up, especially if they’re quiet,” Gonzalez said.

Before the game begins and while it is in session, DeCastro and Gonzalez search for people to participate in promotions and contests between innings. This involves a lot of chatting with fans to find the right candidates.

“The most fun part is interaction with fans,” DeCastro said. Watching a little bit of baseball now and then is a job perk, but he said he lives to “show great hospitality, making fans want to come back out.”

It may be hard to believe now, but Gonzalez was shy when he started attending SJSU. Then he began to break out of his shell when he became involved with the campus radio station KSJS. Being a deejay and representing the station at events turned out to be great practice for his current job.

Both Gonzalez and DeCastro earned spots on the SJSU/Pebble Beach Special Event Management Team, which gives students the opportunity to manage hospitality workers during the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. 

Gonzalez said that experience helped him to begin “seeing myself as a manager, a working professional,” and that “bringing what I learned at Pebble Beach here to the A’s has helped me.”

One of the perks of living in the Bay Area is the many professional sports teams, each with promotions crews and other opportunities for people interested in sports-related careers.  For a lifelong A’s fan like DeCastro, he is exactly where he wants to be.

“It’s pretty much a kid’s dream to work for his favorite baseball team,” he said.


Spartans at Work: Monterey Bay Aquarium

(This summer, SJSU Today hit the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job at summer destinations throughout the Bay Area. Our 2013 Spartans at Work series continues with marine science alumna Sonya Sankaran.)

Sitting atop a yellow grassy hill, Pajaro Valley High School overlooks the Watsonville State Wildlife Area and a series of sloughs that make up the area’s wetlands. Watsonville, located about a half hour northeast of Monterey, is a community known for agriculture. Farms rely on the Pajaro River, which flows into Monterey Bay.

To teach high school students about their natural surroundings, Sonya Sankaran, ’12 M.S. Marine Science, works as a senior bilingual education specialist for the Monterey Bay Aquarium. While attending graduate school at Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML), she began volunteering with the aquarium and later found out about this opportunity.

SJSU is the administrator of Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, the home of the master’s of marine science program for seven California State Universities. Thanks to her education, Sankaran is able to connect her students with the right experts for their research projects.

“Working at Moss Landing opened innumerable doors for me, which has allowed me to open doors for our students,” she said.

Her specific teen program with the aquarium, Watsonville Area Teens Conserving Habitats (W.A.T.C.H.), is a year-round elective science course offered by Pajaro Valley High School and Watsonville High School. For two weeks over the summer, students learn more about the Pajaro River Watershed from a combination of high school teachers, scientists and W.A.T.C.H. staff as preparation for their year-long school projects. Students have investigated the effects of non-native species on native species, ocean acidification and phytotoxins at a local lake.

Sankaran and her W.A.T.C.H. colleague Enrique Melgoza started their jobs together in April 2012. They are both fluent in Spanish, a useful skill since most of the students in the program come from Spanish-speaking households. Melgoza, ’08 Aviation Management, was raised in Watsonville and said he can relate to their students.

“Some of them don’t have a role model,” Melgoza said, “and for me, I don’t see myself as a role model for them. But they see me as a role model because I’ve been through what they’re going through right now. Then, going to San Jose State and having all of the knowledge—and being successful in my educational career and bringing it back—has helped me out.”

They teach their students to do field work, such as gathering samples and using a water quality testing kit that wirelessly connects with an iPad app. Sankaran’s favorite part of her job is giving her students the opportunity to study and connect with the outdoor environment, especially the ocean.

“A lot of young people don’t have time or opportunities to explore anymore,” she said, adding she enjoys “being able to give them experiences that demonstrate their relationship with the ocean and inspire conservation of their natural resources—experiences that they can share with their community, and eventually, take into their careers.”

Business Convocation

Congrats, Grads!

Business Convocation

Hundreds of names were announced across all of the different business concentrations, as graduates each had their moment on stage (Stan Olszewski photo).

(In May, SJSU Today’s small but mighty band of writers and photographers took a peek at graduation receptions and convocations campuswide so we could share with you the excitement of the more than 8,000 members of the Class of 2013. We’ve posted more photos on Facebook. In this story, we visit the College of Business convocation.)

The Event Center lights dimmed to almost complete darkness Friday morning. With a guiding spotlight, the College of Business and the Lucas Graduate School of Business faculty and convocation speaker Wanda Ginner, ’68 Business Administration, proceeded down the center aisle to the stage.

Then with much applause and excitement, the class of 2013 made their entrance, filling up rows of chairs.

Dean David Steele passed on three beliefs that he hoped this group of graduates would share: “the power of networking,” “giving back” and “having a passion for success.”

Convocation speaker Ginner, a semi-retired certified public accountant and consultant, later spoke of the fulfillment that she received in giving back to her university and this college, including influencing her husband and friends to get involved, too.

This is Sparta

Student Address speaker Jasmine Rezai, a Gary J. Sbona Honors Program participant, spoke of her transformation from an 18-year-old girl to the 23-year-old woman standing before them and all of the knowledge, experiences and friendships she has gained over the years.

“As life throws you curve balls, I hope you remember your times at San Jose State,” she said.

Rezai recited a poem by Persian poet Hafez that she dedicated to her loved ones: 

All this time
The Sun never says to the Earth
“You owe me.”
What happens
With a love like that.
It lights the

Blowing a kiss their way and with her voice cracking, she said, “Thanks for lighting the whole sky for me. This is for you.”

To end her speech, she quoted a line from her favorite film, “Gladiator,” starring Russell Crowe: “What we do in this life echoes into eternity.”

She added, “This is Sparta. Let us show the world what a Spartan is made of. ”

The Wave

Hundreds of names were announced across all of the different business concentrations, as graduates each had their moment on stage.

In the meantime, with a bit of prompting, half of the seated graduates attempted to perform the wave, the famous audience cheer perfected by No. 1 Spartan Athletics fan Krazy George Henderson. From the front row to the back, they sprang onto their feet and raised their arms freely, stretching toward the sky. They delighted the audience when they succeeded.

Then when the last name was read aloud, there were shouts of joy and celebration among the graduates, culminating in an even larger wave.


In a recent survey, SJSU asked new grads if they would like to send a shout-out to family and friends. Here are some of the responses we received from business majors of various concentrations. More will be shared at Commencement.

Rohini Venkatesh: “The counselors at College of Business are the best. They provide great support to students in selecting their classes and their majors. I appreciate their patience for last minute walk-ins.”

Victor Mantilla: “I would like to acknowledge the EOP program for allowing me to meet similar individuals. And personal shout-outs to my current and previous roommates, for you all know me at my best and at my worst.”

Quacy Superville: “I would like to thank my family for helping make this day a reality. I leave this institution armed with the ability to make change, the desire to be different and the passion to persevere. #T&T #SLB”

Humanities Convocation

Humanities Department Convocation: “Well-Rounded”

Humanities Department Convocation: "A Well-Rounded Education"

“San Jose State gives us the tools to go out into the world and make it a better place if we use everything that San Jose State has to give to make a change,” Valedictorian Jessica Apple told her fellow humanities graduates. (Stan Olszewski photo)

(This week, SJSU Today’s small but mighty band of writers and photographers will take a peek at graduation receptions and convocations campuswide so we can share with you the excitement of the more than 8,000 members of the Class of 2013. We’ll post more photos on Facebook.)

Representing degrees in humanities, liberal studies or religious studies, the Humanities Convocation on May 23 at Morris Daily Auditorium celebrated individuals who will influence and change the lives of others, many by becoming teachers.

When asked by Associate Professor and Liberal Studies Coordinator Susan Verducci how many of them were first-generation college graduates, roughly half of the group raised their hands.

All of the graduates overall were the lucky ones, according to Humanities Department salutatorian Maimona Afzal. A SJSU 2013 Outstanding Graduating Senior, Afzal wrote an impassioned speech presented in spoken word style.

Her booming voice was full of anger as she passionately spoke about societal challenges and injustices in education — dropout rates and economic disadvantages among others — and how despite all this, this group made it through and can change a child’s life.

This is a path she herself will follow. Afzal has accepted a position at Teach for America, where she will be working with special needs children in East San Jose.

Valedictorian Jessica Apple, who also plans to become a teacher, shared a game that she played with incoming freshmen at orientation, when she would ask, “If I had a magic wand I would _______.”

Magic Wand

The freshmen would fill in the blank with their dreams of making the world a better place. Afterwards, she would tell them SJSU will prepare them well to make their dreams come true.

“San Jose State gives us the tools to go out into the world and make it a better place if we use everything that San Jose State has to give to make a change,” she said.

The components of everyone’s own figurative magic wand, she said, are optimism, self-confidence and skills and knowledge.

In the role of Honored Speaker, Lecturer Judith Georges addressed the graduates about being liberal arts scholars in the center of Silicon Valley in the diverse but expensive Bay Area.

“We don’t know how to use a wafer to build a chip. We think it better to serve wafers and chips to elementary school kids,” she quipped, drawing laughter from the graduates and audience.

In spite of this, she said these humanities graduates are also nerds in their fields by tackling the challenge of being well-rounded people academically.

She imparted on them what she described as a sacred trust: “Be defenders of a well-rounded education.”


In a recent survey, SJSU asked new grads if they would like to send a shout-out to family and friends. Here are some of the responses we received from humanities and liberal studies majors. More will be shared at Commencement.

Michael Reinken: “Dr. Ormsbee, thank you for pushing me academically like no one else and being a mentor and friend.”

Megan Mohacsi: “Thank you to my friends and family who have always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself, especially my fiance, Ian who has always been right by my side.”

Sarah Limongelli: “Thank you Professor McCraw for always putting his students first, a little something every teacher and future teacher could learn.”

woman and daughter in graduation outfit hugging

Educational Opportunity Program Convocation: “Inspire”

EOP Commencement

Vanessa Gordon addresses the audience after earning the Outstanding Service Award at the 2013 EOP Graduation Ceremony (Stanley Olszewski photo).

(This week, SJSU Today’s small but mighty band of writers and photographers will take a peek at graduation receptions and convocations campuswide so we can share with you the excitement of the more than 8,000 members of the Class of 2013. We’ll post more photos on Facebook.)

The Tommie Smith and John Carlos Statue towered over attendees of the Educational Opportunity Program graduation ceremony, as participants, staff and guests enjoyed an array of foods and drinks prior to the event.

On this breezy May evening, the voices of individuals who have come so far echoed back toward nearby Clark Hall. Keynote speaker Shaun Tai, ’07 Interdisciplinary Studies, shared his voice as a Spartan who founded Oakland Digital, a nonprofit organization “that provides digital literacy education to small businesses and professional development training to students” in Oakland and the rest of the East Bay.

“Find your inspiration,” Tai said. “Inspire your community and inspire the world, starting today and starting right now.”

Coleetta McElroy, ’97 Public Administration, introduced these newly minted alumni to the benefits of the SJSU Alumni Association, announcing that EOP had taken care of a one-year membership for all.

McElroy, SJSU director of financial aid and scholarship, also called up each individual one by one. Many of the 54 graduates listed on the back of the program were in attendance with their loved ones.

Each person received one to two minutes behind the podium to share his or her appreciation. Some comments elicited chuckles such as thanking EOP for providing free food over the years, while more than one student’s gratitude for their mothers encouraged tears.

Inspiring words and inspirational people walked hand in hand among the group. Graduate Van Nguyen, a sharply dressed bespectacled man who identified himself as being in his 80s, shared a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. quote: “Not everybody can be famous, but everybody can be great, because greatness is determined by service.”

Graduates Vanessa Gordon and Long Kieu earned the Outstanding Community Service Award and the Maria D.L.C. Romo Award, respectively.

Gordon thanked her parents, saying, “I want to make them proud and show that I could do it.”

Kieu gave a shout-out to his younger sister in the audience, who found out she was attending his ceremony at the last minute. “I want to show her, ‘You’re an inspiration to me,'” he said. “… Because of you, I want to be a role model for you.”

Man holds a prosthetic limb. Photo by Randy Leu

Prosthetic Limbs for Less Than $30?

Man holds a prosthetic limb. Photo by Randy Leu

Students showcase Simple Limb Initiative prosthetic limbs that they created and interact with guests at an open house event (Randy Leu photo).

What can you do with $30? How about creating a life-altering device for a child who lost a limb in a landmine explosion? This was both the mission and the challenge for a group of industrial design students, who introduced their completed projects at a May 13 open house.

Poster boards lined the walls of an Art Building room with different prosthetic limbs for above and below the elbow amputations and above and below the knee amputations. Three countries, among the most affected by landmines, were represented: Afghanistan, Cambodia and Colombia.

Corey Higham, a junior industrial design major, showed a prosthetic leg that he designed and built out of materials including PVC pipes, bike tires and rubber washers.

“I’m proud of the work that we’ve done,” he said. “It was a lot of work. I think we’ve come up with a lot of creative solutions that can be useful.”

Introducing Simple Limb Initiative

Computer monitors throughout the room displayed a website created by senior graphic design students, recognizing the launch of Simple Limb Initiative. This is a collaboration between SJSU Associate Professor Leslie Speer and Professor Gerhard Reichert of HfG Schwäbisch Gmünd, a university in Germany. Reichert had applied to be a visiting scholar to SJSU from December 2012 to February 2013. One of his proposed workshops focused on affordable prosthetic limbs, catching Speer’s eye.

“The area of research that I focus on is ‘design for the majority,’ problems of the world that affect great numbers of people,” she said.

According to a project brief that the two professors presented on the first day of class, children are among the most affected victims of landmines worldwide. The loss of a limb can be devastating for people in developing countries. A typical prosthetic limb costs thousands of dollars, whereas Speer said, “A lot of people in impoverished parts of the world earn less than a dollar a day.”

For this semester-long project, industrial design students kept in mind using raw materials that were cost effective and readily available or attainable in their assigned countries. The prostheses had to be functional in the countries’ natural terrains and for the cultural lifestyles, whether it’s working in the fields or praying five times per day. The countries’ residents have to be able to make simple fixes and adjustments to the prosthetic limbs when necessary, and the aesthetically and ergonomically sound prostheses have to be adaptable to a child’s growing body.

“It was a really big learning curve, but it was a really beneficial learning curve,” said Irene Rose, a senior industrial design major. “You step outside of your comfort zone and walk in other people’s shoes.”

Making Connections

The entire process involved several stages of research, evaluating and testing. Industrial design students reached out to relevant organizations and groups in their assigned countries. They also received support closer to home, including testing out their work on people who have undergone amputations. Occupational therapy students, led by Professor Heidi Pendleton, provided insights into the technical and medical aspects of these patients.

This cross-disciplinary interaction is what Speer would like to continue encouraging in the future. The Simple Limb Initiative could eventually become a continuous university-based research initiative involving departments all across campus, such as occupational therapy, engineering, business and graphic design, as well as Reichert’s classes in Germany.

A spirit of generosity presents itself on the initiative’s website, which features manuals and diagrams for each of the prosthetic limbs. The intention is to make the information open source to encourage others to build and build upon these ideas.

One Spartan alumnus whose work already focuses on prosthetic limbs invited the students to visit his workplace. Scott Summit, ’94, Industrial Design is co-founder of Bespoke Innovations, which uses 3D printing to create customized coverings for prosthetic limbs. Summit and his colleague Chad Crittendon attended the open house.

Complex Balance

I was impressed by the range and thoughtfulness that went into the projects,” Summit said. “Many of them managed to achieve a complex balance of cost, human need and design. I appreciate the devotion that went into their work, and I especially applaud Leslie for taking on such a challenging topic and handling it so superbly.”


Driver in racecar prepares to drive away as man waves green flag

Spartan Racing Charges Toward 2013 Races

For the dedicated members of Spartan Racing, the SJSU student chapter of  Society of Automotive Engineers International, what drives them is a strong passion as they set their sights on the finish line.

During a 10-month cycle each year, specific teams focus on designing, building, testing and preparing one of three types of vehicles for competitions. New this year is an all-electric vehicle, in addition to a formula race car with a combustion engine and an off-road baja vehicle. Upcoming competitions against other universities will take place within the next few months.

The opportunity to become part of Spartan Racing is what attracted some students to their chosen major or, in the case of senior mechanical engineering major Tom Stroud, the university itself.

“I think the formula team is the biggest reason why I decided to go to San Jose State,” said Stroud, who is team manager of the inaugural electric team. “I got into a few engineering programs, and I chose this one to be on the team, so that was one of the deciding factors for going to this school.”

Formula SAE Unveils 2013 Car 

Formula SAE is hosting a party on April 26 in San Jose where the students will showcase their latest open-wheel car. Interested attendees can register here for the free event. The group will also raise funds at the party for its upcoming races by selling food, drinks and T-shirts.

Vince Donatini, a sophomore mechanical engineering major, heard about Spartan Racing through a welcome barbeque during his first week as a SJSU student. He worked his way up to become the current Formula SAE team manager and has helped organized this event.

“Besides the sponsors, we’re also thanking our friends, family and parents especially for giving us the option to go to college,” Donatini said, “where without San Jose State, without our parents, without anyone else we have in our lives, we wouldn’t have the opportunity to do a project that impacts our lives so heavily.”

Gaining Hands-On Experience

In addition to engineering, students from any major can become part of Spartan Racing, bringing their specialized skills and knowledge to these projects. For instance, the non-racing portions of the competitions, known as static events, include creating and pitching a business proposal to market the vehicle, defending design decisions on paper and in front of judges and writing a report about the vehicle’s costs.

“I think it’s important to note that you don’t have to be an engineer to be on the team,” Stroud said. “Everybody is welcome.”

Donatini said they sometimes describe this extracurricular activity to prospective members as “a job or internship that you can’t get fired from.”

“You’ll make your mistakes here, so once you graduate, we’ll hopefully give you the skills that you need in industry,” he said.

Young man looking down, while a little boy sits on his shoulders. A woman looks off to the side smiling.

Cinequest Completes 23rd Year

By Sarah Kyo and Amanda Holst, SJSU Marketing and Communications

A Korean family wearing traditional clothing and a dog standing in front of a Korean house

“A Knock on My Door”

Spartans left their mark on the recent Cinequest 23 film festival, whether through short films or features, live action or animation.

The downtown San Jose event wrapped up March 10 with Encore Day, re-airing award winners and fan favorites.

Among the showings was Shorts Program: Animated Worlds, a collection of animated short films including “A Knock on My Door,” which depicts the life of SJSU Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering Hi-Dong Chai. His son David, an SJSU animation/illustration professor, directed the piece.

Chai said he and his wife had an opportunity to watch his life on the big screen during Cinequest. He is grateful that his son turned his life into a movie and remembered the first time he saw “A Knock on My Door.” 

“My first reaction was, ‘When did he learn all about what was shown on the film?’ because I did not remember telling my life stories to him,” he said. “Secondly, I was really impressed. Somehow he put my 50 years of life experience in a 10-minute animation movie in such a way that the story is complete in itself. My coauthor and I e-published Blossom and Bayonets, a historical novel based on the life of my family under Japan last October, and it is 400+ pages long and only covers half of my story.  But Dave did it in 10 minutes in a very meaningful way.”

Since retiring from teaching in 2002, Chai has dedicated himself to writing about his life and the hardships that his family faced during World War II and the Korean War. He has worked with coauthor Jana McBurney-Lin on e-publishing a book and short stories.

Spotlight on Spartan Films

Mom and son talking to a man at a desk

“Always Learning”

The San Jose Repertory Theatre was packed March 5 as anxious onlookers, many who watched the rough cut about this time last year, waited to see the final cut of “Always Learning,” a coming-of age film through the eyes of a home-schooler.

Before the showing, Cinequest spotlighted San Jose State’s Spartan Film Studios in a panel discussion, highlighting the hands-on opportunities given to students in making highly expert films.

The forum opened with an interview with executive producers Barnaby Dallas and Nick Martinez, alongside the directors of “All About Dad” and “Cheap Fun. ”

When asked what Spartan Films adds to the Cinequest culture, Dallas articulated that it was about the teamwork of theatre and radio working together to provide folks that “Napoleon Dynamite” aspect.

“We use all resources at SJSU to harness ideas that evolve,” Dallas said. “When our films get in [Cinequest], it’s a great opportunity for our students.”

On the topic of creating opportunity for students to work with professional mentors, production management instructor Martinez emphasized the significance of the hands-on component of filmmaking.

“We give every student an opportunity to see what it’s like in real life,” Martinez said. “The ones who know they want to gain experience know what they need to do and get a safety net in college.”

“Always Learning” gave 60 students the opportunity to produce a full-length feature. The actual filming took 26 days with students working up to 90 hours weekly to wrap up shooting on time and within budget. The film won a Rising Star award at the 2013 Canadian Film Festival.

SJSU TW Cinequest Slideshow

Cinequest Showcases Spartan Films

San Jose State is playing a leading role in Cinequest 23, the film festival underway now through March 10 in downtown San Jose.

The films from SJSU’s radio, television and film and animation/illustration programs are definitely worth seeing, not just because they are professional quality, but also because they offer real insight into the lives of people who may be sitting right next to you in class.

Cinequest student tickets for regular movie screenings are $5 with a valid student ID, while general admission is $10. Prices vary for special events, and festival passes are also available for purchase. Want to check out films and events with ties to SJSU? Here’s more:


Backside view of cowboy grabbing gun

“Kill No Evil”

Students created this brief cowboy showdown for an intermediate film/TV production course taught by RTVF Professor Harry Mathias. A one-minute version is being shown before a feature-length Chinese Western movie, “An Inaccurate Memoir.”

  1. Mathias said this is the first SJSU student short film that will be shown outside of Cinequest’s Student Shorts collection.
  2. “It really is a testament to the fact that with hard work, a clear concept and a dedicated crew, you can achieve anything in the film business,” said cinematographer Shehbaz Aslam. “The fact that the short is being shown as a companion piece to ‘An Inaccurate Memoir’ is an honor in that not only will it give the short exposure, but that it will be shown before a film shot by a cinematographer I really admire, Yu Cao, whose work was part of the visual inspiration of the short.”
  3. Director Ricky Dellinger said the original filming location was supposed to be Bodie, a Californian ghost town located six hours away from the Bay Area. “We scouted the area and thought it was perfect, but of course due to our college student budget, we didn’t have enough money to pay the fee to film there,” he said. Instead, Montgomery Hill Park in San Jose was a stand-in for the Wild West.


Mom and son talking to a man at a desk

“Always Learning”

Spartan Film Studios provides students with real-life filmmaking experience, according to production coordinator Barnaby Dallas and studio coordinator Nick Martinez. Some of the on-campus production company’s feature-length films have been featured at Cinequest in the past, including “All About Dad” and “Super Hero Party Clown.” The directors of these two films, in addition to Dallas and Martinez, will be part of this forum.

  1. A preview of Spartan Film Studios’ latest feature, “Always Learning,” will be shown at this event. This coming-of-age story is relatable to director Robert Krakower, ’11 radio-television-film, since he was homeschooled just like the main character.
  2. Spartan Film Studios was recently featured in the Metro’s Cinequest preview and on the front page of the San Jose Mercury News.
  3. In addition to cinema, Spartan Film Studios has worked on a variety of projects, including filming the 2012 Spartan football team intro, creating a SJSU commercial that aired on ESPN and participating in the Green Ninja project.


Old man and younger man riding in a car

“A Knock on My Door”

In this collection of diverse animated films is a personal piece directed  by Animation/Illustration Professor David Chai. “A Knock on My Door” is the biographical story of Chai’s father, SJSU Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering Hi-Dong Chai, who escapes war-torn Korea to make a new life in the United States.
  1. Just like in the film, Chai went on a cross-country road trip with his father, who was in the process of writing about his life. The trip was a reminder of how none of us know what our parents went through before we were born. In Hi Dong Chai’s case, the losses were gut-wrenching, but Chai said the story is ultimately about perseverance.
  2. About 70 students and alumni helped with the short film last summer, including alumni who work at Dreamworks, Zynga and “American Dad.”
  3. This film won the gold medal in the Moving Image Category at the New York Society of Illustrators 55th Annual Exhibition, marking the first time that SJSU has earned this distinction.
Cinequest showcases up-and-coming filmmakers, including Michelle Ikemoto, ’12 animation/illustration. Ikemoto directed the short animated film “Tule Lake” about her grandmother’s World War II experience at the Tule Lake internment camp located south of the California-Oregon border.
  1. With her health worsening, Ikemoto’s grandmother began opening up about her time at Tule Lake. This inspired Ikemoto, who was looking for a short story for one of her animation classes.
  2. Ikemoto and student artists visited Tule Lake, but the camp had been deconstructed. Instead, the best resource came from the Japanese American Museum of San Jose where they studied replica barracks at an exhibit. They also met a museum docent who was construction director at Tule Lake and  gave them access to a personal collection of photos.
  3. “Tule Lake” has earned multiple awards, including top prizes at the 2012 CSU Media Arts Festival and 2012 CreaTiVe Awards. It was also nominated in the student film category at the 40th Annual Annie Awards, “the highest honor given for excellence in animation,” according to its website.

Director Shohei Shiozaki, ’04 radio-television-film, makes his feature debut with this tale of a Brazilian immigrant boy Ricardo, his friend Hanako and a magical, blue goldfish. The children try to protect the fish, the reincarnated spirit of a Chinese princess, from opposing forces including the mayor and Japanese gangs.

  1.  This Japanese film is set in Shiozaki’s hometown of Yamato Koriyama in Nara Prefecture, an area known for raising ornamental goldfish. This tradition, coupled with a desire to make a movie in his hometown with local resources, inspired the director. “I thought it might be a good idea to start writing a story about it and I tried to speak to the local people, ‘Let’s make a movie in our hometown,’” he said. “And after three years of financing and finding the support, the film finally got made.”
  2. Just like the character Ricardo, the young actor Takeshi Nagata is actually Japanese-Brazilian. There were more than 200 auditions among the Japanese-Brazilian community for this lead role, and Nagata, who makes his screen debut, stood out for being the funniest, Shiozaki said.
  3. Shiozaki took an SJSU class taught by Cinequest director and co-founder Halfdan Hussey and was a 2002 film festival intern. Because of that internship, he became acquainted with John Williams, a Welsh filmmaker based in Japan. “When I went back to Japan for summer break, I called him and eventually I was able to enter the Japanese film industry,” Shiozaki said. “He is the producer of ‘Goldfish Go Home,’ so we both came back to Cinequest after eight years of time. So … it is true that SJSU gave me all the chances and opportunity to become a filmmaker.”

Afghan Journalism Professors in San Jose

What better way to gain media skills and knowledge than hands-on learning? What better way to find out about another culture than immersing yourself in it?

Three professors from Afghanistan completed such an opportunity during Fall 2012: an 11-week stay in San Jose while studying at one of the top journalism schools in the United States. Their classrooms went beyond four walls, including media tours of NBC Bay Area, San Jose Mercury News and KLIV 1590 with Vanita Cillo, a senior account manager with LAMAR Transit Advertising.

The whole Bay Area experience was something that Professors Yahya Alazin, Hamid Safwat and Ahmad Zia Ferozpur can literally take home with them – and pass on to their own students.

With two $1 million U.S. State Department grants, SJSU is leading efforts to enhance college-level journalism education in the Afghan provinces of Balkh and Herat. Diane Guerrazzi, an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, organizes journalism academies in the Middle East.

During the 2012-2013 academic year, Afghan journalism professors, including a new group arriving this spring semester, learn closely from SJSU professors, who prepared detailed lesson plans focused in areas such as beginning reporting, information gathering and media law. SJSU professors meet with the Afghan professors regularly to go over the lessons in hour-long sessions. Using Cisco’s WebEx video conferencing program, these sessions are recorded and the videos are made available for other professors in Afghanistan.

Beyond academics, visiting professors have a social life with their assigned Bay Area ambassadors consisting of local professors, university students and members of the Rotary Club. This initial trio also met and interacted with President Qayoumi and his wife Najia Karim, both Afghan natives.

“The community has really rolled out the red carpet,” Guerrazzi said. “President Qayoumi has been supportive.”

Reflecting upon the past 11 weeks, Ferozpur wrote in a personal essay, “Education is the most important key to change! I believe in learning, hope, compassion and forgiveness. My last word is that education is one of the most important elements that can bring peace, security, development and stability in a country like Afghanistan.”

Twitter bird with text "#SJSU Tweets of the Week"

#SJSU Tweets of the Week, November 5

London Eye ferris wheel at night with red lights and blue beacons of light

“In love with #london,” tweets @JorgeR690, who took this photo of the London Eye while currently studying abroad.

We’ve put together the tweets of the week for Spartans to see a sample of the exciting, funny, interesting and spontaneous conversations on Twitter about SJSU. Take a look at what’s happening on campus by exploring the tweets below!

You can follow SJSU on Twitter for more updates at or search for @SJSU.

@peterkabai: #downtown #city #sanjose #sjsu #california #instagood #tweegram #photooftheday #instamood #tbt #iphonesia #i

@sarahhhvictoria: Good morning #sjsu

@MicrosoftSV: Go @SJSU! RT @theanilsson: Fun Fact: The majority of Silicon Valley engineers are San Jose State grads. — @RepZoeLofgren

@TheAimerson: A little Halloween whimsy is brought to SJSU… Passed by a zombie, penguin, pirate, TMNT, hippy, and foxy fox just to get to my next class!

@rizalinoantonio: cloudy day at downtown san jose #sjsu #timelapse

@drew_thoughts: #rockthevote #sjsu #prop30 #prop31#prop32 #prop33 #prop34 #prop35#prop36 #prop37 #prop38 #prop39#prop40 #

@harishvc: Walking thru the Science Bldg @sjsu stumbled on an interesting quote that is right on!

@SamuelYLam: If you were watching the @Warriors game last night, did you guys see@SJSU during the opening video montage? Yeah. Represent!

@SpearsNBAYahoo: Congrats to @SJSU football for improving to 7-2 with win today! Go@SJSUAthletics! Where is the love @YahooForde @YahooDrSaturday?

@Sarynrorie: If the bowl game happens & where ever the #SJSU Bowl Game is…….. I AM GOING!!!! #Spartans #WeAreONE

Note: The opinions and views in these posts are those of the independent Twitter users and not of San Jose State University.

Twitter bird with text "#SJSU Tweets of the Week"

#SJSU Tweets of the Week, October 29

Silhouette of Tower Hall and palm trees with cloudy, blue sky

@sjsu_kinglib shared this cool photo of Tower Hall taken from King Library by one of our librarians, @jausel.

We’ve put together the tweets of the week for Spartans to see a sample of the exciting, funny, interesting and spontaneous conversations on Twitter about SJSU. Take a look at what’s happening on campus by exploring the tweets below!

You can follow SJSU on Twitter for more updates at or search for @SJSU.

@Benwik_CHOSEN1: Practice @ 7am but still up finishing this school work. Student comes before athlete in Student-Athlete #SJSU

@sjsulift: Currently my view from the library. How could you not want to be an @SJSU #Spartan?? #sjsu #YES

@no_tacos: Nailing a biopsychology presentation and professor says that I should consider teaching as a career. #SJSU

@DandyDior: #sjsu #officebirthdays taking the office from #drabtofab EXCITED to surprise My coworker tomorrow #cubical #decor

@platinumtim: Just arrived at my Alma Mater, @SJSU. It feels good to be home! #sjsualum

@CollegeInvent: Congratulations to the @SJSU team of Henry Li, Andrew Parmar, and Max Ratner being named finalists in the Competition. #CIC #USPTO

@JTFdocumentary: RT @sjsu: RT @camillediem: I spoke to the @SJSU alumni behind the film #JourneyThroughFire. Read about it here:

@conorgrennan: Can’t wait for this Thurs, speaking at San Jose State U at 4 p.m.- #LittlePrinces is the Common Read. Come Join! @sjsu

@atqueamemus07: Meeting Little Princes author @conorgrennan yesterday made my day (: Not only is he an amazing writer, but he’s do

@rtgleeson: Helluva weekend. Mercury News debut Sat. morning, #SJSU football story on @CSNAuthentic Sat. evening — topped by a #SFGiants WS Championship

Note: The opinions and views in these posts are those of the independent Twitter users and not of San Jose State University.

Twitter bird with text "#SJSU Tweets of the Week"

#SJSU Tweets of the Week, October 22

Rainbow across grey sky above 7th Street Fountain, framed with palm trees

One week, it’s warm and sunny in San Jose, and the next week, it’s cold and rainy! @pdparticle captured this bright spot, though — a rainbow visible from the Event Center!

We’ve put together the tweets of the week for Spartans to see a sample of the exciting, funny, interesting and spontaneous conversations on Twitter about SJSU. Take a look at what’s happening on campus by exploring the tweets below!

You can follow SJSU on Twitter for more updates at or search for @SJSU.

@idogcow: THANK YOU to the unknown @SJSU student who gave our daughter her pompom at Homecoming. She is still quite thrilled with your gift!#WeAreOne

@ms_doty: At work decorating pumpkins for the contest! #bestjob #halloween#garfield @ SJSU Aquatics Center

@ASsjsu: Dr. John Carlos giving great advice to @SJSU right now! What an honor! #SJSU #LegacyWeek2012

@jaguarsinsider: Practice complete. Thanks San Jose State. #Jaguars

@SamuelYLam: You best be tuning into ESPN3. Watching the @SJSU Spartans getting TDs left and right

@donlyn1: @SJSU OMG!! I am at the hairdresser & I just yelled #GoSpartans every1 look at me & I said #SpartanPride!!!

@camillediem: Cine: Performers at the Bouquet of Indian Classical Dances at SJSU #culture #SJSU #dance #SpartanDaily

@aspiresjsu: ASPIRE students giving @SJSU tour for College of the Sequoias UB and SSS #TRiOWorks

@gingeraleli: Found out @psy_oppa is coming to SJSU for the Triple Ho show! I’m so excited! Hope the student tickets won’t be sold out before I get one!

@ashbashh1227: & even when it rains, things will turn out beautifully #nofilter #sjsu

Note: The opinions and views in these posts are those of the independent Twitter users and not of San Jose State University.

Twitter bird with text "#SJSU Tweets of the Week"

#SJSU Tweets of the Week, October 15

panoramic photo of Spartan Stadium on a sunny day during the Homecoming Game

@SoniaTyding captured this panoramic photo from the sidelines of Spartan Stadium during the Homecoming Game. Click on the photo for a closer look!

We’ve put together the tweets of the week for Spartans to see a sample of the exciting, funny, interesting and spontaneous conversations on Twitter about SJSU. Take a look at what’s happening on campus by exploring the tweets below!

You can follow SJSU on Twitter for more updates at or search for @SJSU.

@LParada11: Happy Homecoming Week @SJSU #freecookie #freepin #sjsu @ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library

@BarnabyDallas: Free tic all over @sjsu campus

@misotina: Dia de los Muertos display @ MLKlibrary. #SJSU #ProudSpartan #culture

@KevinFrandsen: @SJSU @sjsubaseball always out to support my school wherever, whenever

@ReekstheGeeekz: Loving everything about San Jose, the culture, the people, the hiphop scene, and the university. #SanJose #SJSU #SpartanPride #Homecoming

@Martidamus: Honored at the SJSU halftime!

@TsquaredC: #SJSU spartan for life. Win or Lose


@jayycole_: Reping San Jose all day! #SJSU #LittleBrother #Birthday

@lkimura789: Honored that an #sjsu alumni @coastw won the PRSA professional of the year award. Congrats!

Note: The opinions and views in these posts are those of the independent Twitter users and not of San Jose State University.

Twitter bird with text "#SJSU Tweets of the Week"

#SJSU Tweets of the Week, October 8

View of the Aquatic Center's pool and Campus Village

“Hello October,” tweets @summmahhh, who took this poolside photo at our Aquatic Center. October got off to a warm start in San Jose, so enjoy the pool while the weather is still sunny. The Aquatic Center is free for current SJSU students with valid Tower Cards, plus it’s affordable for faculty, staff and community members.

We’ve put together the tweets of the week for Spartans to see a sample of the exciting, funny, interesting and spontaneous conversations on Twitter about SJSU. Take a look at what’s happening on campus by exploring the tweets below!

You can follow SJSU on Twitter for more updates at or search for @SJSU.

@PolskiPilkarz: Bass nectar’s mom is my English professor #SJSU #ilovecollege

@kimschenkl: You know you are a nerd when you leave class after your professor #heretolearn #sjsu

@spizarro: San Jose State pep band and cheerleaders make a surprise appearance at San Jose Rotary Club. Go Spartans!

@KylecanTweet: Santa’s coming tonight tonight, Santa’s coming tonight! #santa#bestdayever #santaslittlehelpera #sjsu

@TechEdSat: @LittleLujy I just graduated from @SJSU with a degree in #aerospace #engineering. #TechEdSat was my first flight project

@flora_moreno: I’m teaching on Saturday @SJSU! Crash Course in #sanjose’s Creative & Innovative Culture, w/ @contentmag. It’s free:

@SJSUCASA: @Sjsu President welcomes Afghan journalism professors at JMC School reception.

@Stephng26: Watching some #sjsu #hockey! @ Sharks Ice at San Jose

@ReneSiegel: @BirdJosephine Glad you enjoyed my speech! I love speaking to students, especially Spartans! Go get ‘em, girl! #sjsu

@SJSUAthletics: @COACHMIKEMAC – Filling the stadium is important. Any time our student section is full is exciting for us. We are trying to build pride.

Note: The opinions and views in these posts are those of the independent Twitter users and not of San Jose State University.

Spartans at Work: NASA Ames

Where will an SJSU degree take you? We hit the road to find out, visiting summer interns and recent grads on the job in the Bay Area and beyond. Our video series continues with Ali Guarneros Luna, ’10 ’12 Aerospace Engineering. She is a systems engineer at NASA Ames Research Center. Read more about her experience!