African-American Studies Department Receives Commendation for its 50th Anniversary

Members of SJSU's Department of African-American Studies pose with San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo at San Jose City Hall.

Members of SJSU’s Department of African-American Studies pose with San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo at San Jose City Hall.

The SJSU Department of African-American Studies received a commendation for its 50th anniversary from San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo at the November 19 city council meeting held in the San Jose City Hall.

Speaking at the event, council member and SJSU alumnus Raul Peralez, said how the department is serving African-American populations and the community by engaging in intellectual traditions that take into account historical, cultural, philosophical, political, social and theoretical perspectives.

The Department of African American Studies launched its first set of classes in the fall of 1969 after a long series of campus protests heralded a new beginning for the university and its relationship to ethnic studies. San Jose State was the second university in the country to offer an African American studies program.

The department has seen a substantial increase in the number of courses and faculty members since its humble beginnings, when the department offered only 17 courses with 10 faculty members.

By December 1973, the number of courses spiked to 35 with and 1,500 students enrolled.

In February 2002, the department implemented a new program called “San Jose State University’s Model for Black Studies.” SJSU was the first of five universities in the nation to adopt such a program.

More recently, in August 2019, the department launched a new minor in black women’s studies at the urging of students who wanted to know more about the contributions of black women in American society and various fields.

Half-a-century later, the department continues to be a place rooted in intellectual endeavors, one that dives into knowledge and experiences in the African diaspora. In October, the department celebrated its 50th anniversary under the theme “The Significance of African American Studies at SJSU.” The event brought together students, faculty and alumni from the community.

Tyler Gordon poses with Steven Millner after gifting him his live painting.

Tyler Gordon poses with Steven Millner after gifting him his live painting.

Supervisor Cindy Chavez, State Senator Jim Beall, Assemblyman Ash Kalra were among a number of public officials that attended the event and awarded commendation to the department. The department also chose the occasion to celebrate Steven Millner, ’70 Sociology, for his 40 years of relentless academic service and vast contributions to the community. Millner is the department’s longest-serving faculty member who now serves as professor emeritus at SJSU.

Millner was a sociology student and also part of the SJSU protest movement that brought African American Studies to the university.

“I was humbled to receive a tribute on the occasion of the department’s 50th anniversary, and I was especially glad to be the subject of young Mister Tyler Gordon’s creativity. In a wonderful manner, his youthful energy and attention to accurate detail capture what the department has tried to stand for over the years,” said Millner.

12-year-old Tyler Gordon came under the spotlight when he made a live painting of Millner and presented it to him at the end of the event.

At the celebrations, several alumni with deep ties to the SJSU community spoke about the significance of African-American studies as well as how Steven Millner changed their lives.

Assistant Professor Wendy Thompson Taiwo talked about the history of African-American studies and that it’s important to remember and include the history of black struggle in California. While faculty members talked about the history, purpose and goals of the department, students presented original works, such as poems.

2019 William Randolph Hearst Foundation Award

Photo: Robert Bain

SJSU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications faculty presented the distinguished 2019 William Randolph Hearst Foundation Award for Outstanding Professional Service to journalists Alexander Shebanow and Dan Rather on Thursday, November 14, 2019 in Yoshihiro Uchida Hall.

Professors Bob Rucker, a former CNN news correspondent and Hearst Award coordinator, and Dona Nichols, a veteran television news producer and assignment editor for NBC Bay Area, presented the award to the duo amidst a campus community and Bay Area media leaders.

This was the first time the School of Journalism and Mass Communications decided to honor journalists from across generations. The two honorees represent the bridging of several generations of journalistic instincts and critical thinking to produce a necessary and powerful public service in mass communications.

The 88-year-old Emmy Award-winning journalist Dan Rather first entered the national scene with his live, on‐site coverage of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas in November 1963. He went on to make extraordinary strides in the field of journalism.

More recently, Rather heads News and Guts, a company he founded that specializes in high‐quality nonfiction content across a range of traditional and digital distribution channels.

Shebanow, a 29-year-old award-winning filmmaker, who has been working on his directorial debut documentary feature for six years, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He attended Foothill Community College before finishing his studies at the University of Southern California.

Shebanow teamed up with investigative journalist Dan Rather for his expansive documentary exposé Fail State, which targets “predatory for‐profit colleges and worsening inequality in American higher education.” Rather served as its executive producer.

“News is something that the public needs to know that somebody, particularly some powerful person or force, doesn’t want the public to know. That is why I find this film and work not only so important, but so timely,” said Rather.

The film narrates the stories of low-income and minority students who talk about the emotional and financial stress they endured for failing to see through the scam recruiting trap and eventually enrolling in sham institutions. Shebanow skillfully chronicles the decades of policy decisions in Washington, D.C., to create a powerful political story filled with outrage toward stymied government reforms and inaction.

“We are so honored and humbled by this immense recognition and want to deeply thank the journalism school faculty at San Jose State for this award. As investigative journalists, we hope that our work can inspire other journalists to take on powerful forces and uncover the stories that need to be exposed,” said Shebanow.

Besides successful screening at several educational institutions, this hard-hitting exposé also premiered to packed houses at film festivals nationwide, garnering major press attention, awards and critical acclaim. Leading media outlets like The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal, among others, ran rave reviews and the film has since debuted to 30 million subscribers on STARZ cable and satellite TV network.

In 2019, Alexander Shebanow became a policy fellow and resident filmmaker at the National Student Legal Defense Network (Student Defense), where he investigates for‐profit college issues with a focus on amplifying student voices and strengthening student protections.

Student Affairs Faculty Fellows Support the Diverse Spartan Community

Faculty Fellow Julia Curry Rodríguez, associate professor of Mexican American Studies, speaking with a student at the Chicanx/Latinx Spring Welcome. Photo by David Schmitz.

A partnership between SJSU Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, San Jose State University’s Student Affairs Faculty Fellows program is designed to support students’ academic success and connections with faculty members outside of the classroom. Faculty members are embedded as fellows across the university’s student success centers during the academic year.

“This is the fourth year of the program. Faculty fellows work eight hours a week in the centers or on programs supporting students. The projects help them connect, mentor and support students from varied disciplines and cultural backgrounds,” said Sonja Daniels, associate vice president for campus life.

The goal of the program is to create an inclusive community through shared experiences. The program works toward meeting well-defined learning outcomes by organizing events that foster skills such as critical thinking, effective communication and leadership, while also addressing issues of diversity, social justice and healthy living.

Professor and Chair of Chicano and Chicana Studies Magdalena Barrera is one of the faculty members working with the Chicanx/Latinx Student Success Center. A lot of the programming in the center is based on existing research on the strengths and challenges of historically underserved students.

“We directly help SJSU meet its goals of working on historically underrepresented students’ retention and graduation rates,” said Barrera. “Students find themselves empowered by engaging in the work at the center.”

She facilitates Centro’s Academic Resilience Series, which focuses on different aspects of student success, particularly geared toward Chicanx/Latinx students and first-generation student populations.

Along with Associate Professor and Faculty Fellow Rebeca Burciaga and CAPS counselor Celinda Miranda, Barrera co-facilitates a support group for students called CASA (Colectivo de Apoyo, Sabiduría y Acción, translated as Collective of Support, Knowledge and Action), an open forum for students to share personal challenges and also take part in structured conversations around issues they encounter daily.

Faculty fellows also engage in annual leadership retreats. Recently, Barrera was part of a team of staff and faculty members who took students to a retreat center in Santa Cruz, where students learned about being active members of the community.

“Everything we do in the center is founded on a model called community cultural wealth, where students don’t need to think of their ethnic identities as separate from their academic student identity,” said Barrera.

MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center is another vibrant space for the thriving Spartan community. This fall, the center held talks on multi-ethnic identity, including hosting events for Native American History month, a Fast Fashion Awareness art show and a variety of open mic activities. Since MOSAIC structures most of its cultural programming on ethnic events, the center is a space to support Spartan talent and local performers.

The programs offered by MOSAIC focus on social justice issues so students can learn about the rich cultural and social heritages of historically underrepresented groups, while celebrating differences.

Associate Professor of Justice Studies Edith Kinney is in her second year as a faculty fellow with MOSAIC. She feels that the center is a great space on campus for students of diverse backgrounds and interests to come together. “As a white faculty member, I think it’s really important to engage our students of color and to work actively against racism,” Kinney said.

“The faculty fellows program is a critical way to connect the expertise, scholarship and passion of the faculty with the interests and needs of our students,” added Kinney.

Student Affairs Faculty Fellows for the current academic year include:

MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center

Edith Kinney
Lance M. Fung
Jonathan Fung

Student Conduct and Ethical Development

Sarika Pruthi

Pride Center

Lark Buckingham

Gender Equity Center

Nico Peck

Chicanx/Latinx Student Success Center

Magdalena Barrera
Rebeca Burciaga

Military and Veteran Student Resource Center

Leonard Lira

UndocuSpartan Student Resource Center

Julia Curry

African-American/Black Student Success Center

Nikki Yeboah

Nobel Laureate Salutes San Jose State Alumnus Sidney Siegel

Vernon Smith speaking at the SEEL event. Photo by David Schmitz.

When San Jose State University held a grand inauguration event in October celebrating the launch of the newly renovated Spartan Experimental Economics Lab (SEEL), Vernon Smith, the 2002 Nobel Laureate in Economics, one of the key dignitaries present on the occasion, talked about a certain Sidney Siegel, who was a pioneer in the early days of experimental economic research.

A social psychologist and San Jose State alumnus, Siegel is considered to be one of the founding fathers of experimental economics. Experimental economics is a branch of economics that studies human behavior in a controlled laboratory setting or out in the field, with appropriate controls to remove effects of external influences, rather than just using mathematical models.

According to Smith, Siegel was a master experimentalist, but much more. He also used theory and statistics with great skill in the design and analysis of experiments. “Few behavioral or experimental economists realize how much of their methodological tradition came from Sid Siegel.”

Smith’s reference to Siegel is important in many ways. Siegel and San Jose State go back a long way. In 1951, the master experimentalist graduated with a bachelor’s degree in vocational arts from San Jose State College, the precursor to SJSU.

Arguably, graduating from college was a defining moment in Siegel’s educational pursuits. The degree opened the path for many opportunities, one of which led him to Stanford where he completed his doctoral studies in psychology. It was there that Smith first met him.

“During the 1961-1962 academic year, I was a visiting associate professor at Stanford. At the beginning of the autumn quarter, I had the truly significant experience of meeting Sidney Siegel and discovering that we had both been doing experimental economics,” Smith recalled. 

That moment has stayed with the 92-year-old Nobel Laureate. Little did he know then that it would be a brief association. Siegel passed away at age 45 in 1961.

In his “Tribute to Sidney Siegel (1916-1961): A founder of Experimental Economics,” Smith writes about how Siegel survived the rigors of impoverished and diabolical teenage years in the dark alleys of New York. He did not finish high school until later. His only saving grace was when he signed up for the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Smith published his first experimental article in 1962, two years after Siegel collaborated with Lawrence Fouraker, a professor of economics and later a dean of the Harvard Business School, to publish their first bargaining experiments, which they did in the 1950s.

In Smith’s tribute to Siegel, at a panel where others were speaking in his honor, Smith said that if Siegel had lived he would not only have been a deserving Nobel Laureate, but also that the timetable for the recognition of experimental economics would have been expedited, perhaps by several years.

As experimental methods become more prominent among firms in Silicon Valley, SEEL is focused on joint academic-industry projects, as well as collaborations among departments and researchers, that would help establish SJSU’s position at the forefront of experimental work.

“The use of experiments in industry, particularly within tech companies such as Uber and Facebook, is a growing trend, and the SEEL lab provides us with the ability to not only make SJSU students familiar with the use of experimental techniques, but also to have them run their own experiments,” said Justin Rietz, assistant professor of economics. 

“Research experimentalists in SJSU’s economics department did not have a lab, and as a result, they were either traveling to UC Santa Cruz or Chapman University to partner with faculty members and students as a standard protocol, and that has meant lost opportunities for SJSU students. But all that has changed now,” said Colleen Haight, interim associate dean, undergraduate education.

University Library Hosts Diverse Exhibits For Fall Semester

Treasures from the Vault 

Sheet Music

Medieval musical notation

Writing quills, missal leaves, rabbit skin glue, agate burnisher, medieval music and notation, illuminated manuscripts—are by all means a rare glimpse of a fascinating moment in history. 

SJSU Special Collections & Archives celebrates the rich and beautiful legacy of medieval history with a new exhibit, Treasures from the Vault: Medieval Manuscripts and Beyond, that is on display on the fifth-floor exhibit gallery of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library from Aug. 15 through Dec. 9.

The exhibit showcases illuminated manuscripts and incunabula made in the late middle ages that draw from a fascinating array of subjects like medieval music, personal devotional books and religious scholarship.

Two SJSU students from the MLIS program Jacob Rabinowitz and Fiona Du Brock, came upon these illuminated manuscripts while working on a cataloging project, and decided they should be shared with others. 

“These beautiful handmade documents were sitting in the vault without having any indication that they exist,” said Rabinowitz. “I like the idea of getting them available to the public. The archives and special collections exist for people so they can use our materials for research.”

The exhibit is a unique opportunity for people to witness handwritten documents that go back hundreds of years. 

“These are the oldest materials we have in our archives,” Du Brock added. “It should be noted that all of the manuscripts on display are fragments, we don’t have any complete manuscripts.”

Both Rabinowitz and Du Brock thought a cool display of this kind would pique general interest as well as make people engage more with the archives. 

The special collection library figures prominently in the university map as it supports diverse teaching and research needs of students, faculty and the larger community. 

The Art of Remembrance

The University Library hosted an opening reception for the Art of Remembrance exhibit. Photo by Lesley Seacrist.

The University Library hosted an opening reception for the Art of Remembrance exhibit. Photo by Lesley Seacrist.

The Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library often displays exhibits curated from its special collections, from other departments on campus or from arts organizations that enrich the community and appeal to a diverse audience.  

This month the library is holding its 13th Annual Art of Remembrance Altar Exhibit in collaboration with the San José Multicultural Artists Guild. The exhibit features traditional and contemporary visual arts and altars by local and Bay Area artists, in the tradition of Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead). 

This visually vibrant Mexican tradition offers a space for the community to pause, reflect and remember the spirit of their loved ones by celebrating their legacy. Altars are elaborately decorated with flowers, photos, mementos and food for their departed loved ones.

The exhibit, which opened for the public on Oct. 10 with a reception featuring tamales, pan de muerto and hot chocolate, is curated by SJSU Librarian Kathryn Blackmer Reyes and BFA student Nanzi Muro. The reception also marked the official launch of $50k & Beyond, a campaign for the Africana, Asian American, Chicano and Native American (AAACNA) Studies Center Endowment to support the Center’s important work. The exhibit is open through Nov. 8.

Bay Area Pride

In addition, the Bay Area Pride: 50 Years of LGBTQ History, Politics, and Culture Exhibit will be on display through Dec. 20 in the Special Collections Exhibit Hall on the Fifth Floor. The exhibit includes original photos from the Ted Sahl Archives, Billy DeFrank LGBT Silicon Valley Community Center Papers and much more. A reception will be held in the Schiro Room on Oct. 17, from 4 to 6 p.m.

 

SJSU to Host Virtual Adobe Creative Jam Oct. 11-12

Donna Caldwell, a senior solutions consultant, leads the Adobe XD bootcamp for students who competed in the Adobe Creative Jam April 18, 2019. Photo by Robert C. Bain

Donna Caldwell, a senior solutions consultant, leads the Adobe XD bootcamp for students who competed in the Adobe Creative Jam April 18, 2019. Photo by Robert C. Bain

San Jose State University will host a unique virtual Adobe Creative Jam this month with participants from seven additional California State Universities. The event will kick off on Oct. 11 at 1 p.m. in Dwight Bentel Hall 117, and will end on Oct. 12. 

This two-day event builds on the success of a spring Digital Detox event in which SJSU students learned how to use Adobe XD, received portfolio and resume reviews, and created their own prototype app.

Spartans have many reasons to join the jam. John Delacruz, Associate Professor, Advertising and an Adobe Education Leader, sees this as a valuable learning opportunity for SJSU students who will eventually step into fast-paced industries. 

“The Adobe association adds value and weight to the student experience,” he said. “The digital badge they carry on their LinkedIn profiles and resumes that the company may provide them as participatory evidence is something that they don’t just get from the most progressive classroom. The value from collaborations like these give students a step up once they are looking for jobs.”

The jam is designed to be a fun event for students coming from diverse backgrounds and disciplines as they connect virtually. In true Spartan spirit, the goal is to rise above challenges, learning to work in a team, and developing creative skills and their applications in a time-sensitive environment. And the icing on the cake is that students can win cash prizes, will receive free food, and revel in the camaraderie on the team. 

How the Adobe Creative Jam will work: 

Students who sign up will be grouped into teams of three to five to work on a creative brief that’s topical and relevant. Speakers from Adobe and other design professionals will join the students via Crowdcast to share tips and advice on the field. There will also be a tutorial, a deep dive into Adobe XD—a design software required to accomplish the project.

Teams will then have two hours to brainstorm ideas, think of solutions, and come up with a prototype design, following which each team will get two to three minutes to present their ideas. 

A set of finalists from each campus will improve their ideas overnight and present them again to the judges virtually on Saturday. A fresh set of judges will select overall winners. The winning teams will receive $250 each, giveaways from Adobe along with plenty of other goodies. 

Delacruz is an advocate of engaging students in experiential learning and pedagogy, peer mentoring, and other exciting activities that happen in the creative field. He stresses that industries work on quick turnaround of projects, and students need to be aware of certain tools to get the work done effectively, and

“This is where Adobe chips in with the tools that creative industries are built on,” he said.