Teaching the Immigrant Experience Through Theater

Teaching the Immigrant Experience Through Theater

Teaching the Immigrant Experience Through Theater

SJSU’s Matthew Spangler was the playwright for the San Jose Repertory Theatre and Arizona Theatre Company production of “The Kite Runner,” which featured, from left to right, Craig Piaget (Young Amir) and Lowell Abellon (Hassan) (photo by Kevin Berne).

San Jose State University has received a $162,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to host a summer institute for school teachers titled “The California Immigrant Experience through Literature and Theatre.”

The institute will be held July 13-27, 2014, at SJSU. Faculty members will include Maxine Hong Kingston (author of “The Woman Warrior”), Ping Chong (theater artist) and Luis Valdez, ’64 English (author of “Zoot Suit” and “La Bamba”). See below for more.

Associate Professor of Performance and Communication Studies Matthew Spangler and Professor of Radio, TV, Film and Theatre Arts David Kahn will serve as hosts and co-directors for the institute.

This institute will explore some of the ways in which the immigrant experience to the United States, and California, in particular, has been represented through literary and theatrical texts,” Spangler said.

Activities will be organized around three topics that frequently appear in such texts: (1) the construction of political borders between geographic territories and social borders between groups of people; (2) intercultural conflict between settled and immigrant communities; (3) changing family and gender dynamics within discrete immigrant communities.

Participants will explore these topics as they pertain to emigration from Mexico, China and Afghanistan.

Theater workshop

Among the highlights of the institute is a three-day theater workshop with Ping Chong, an internationally renowned theater artist known for his work in intercultural and documentary theater. In this workshop, Ping Chong will guide participants through some of the steps involved in creating a documentary theater production based on the topic of immigration.

On Friday, July 25, participants will showcase the results of this workshop in a theater performance open to the public.

Time: 7:30 p.m.
Location: Hal Todd Theatre, SJSU
Cost: Free
For Reservations: call 408-924-1373 or email CAimmigrationinstitute@gmail.com


Institute participants will include 25 school teachers competitively selected from around the country. Eligibility: Full-time or part-time teachers in American K-12 schools, whether public, charter, independent, or religiously affiliated, as well as home-schooling parents, are eligible to apply to NEH Summer Institutes. Americans teaching abroad are also eligible if a majority of the students they teach are American citizens.

Librarians, school administrators and graduate students may also apply. The deadline is March 4, 2014.

For questions or to request additional information please contact Project Coordinator Maria Judnick (CAimmigrationinstitute@gmail.com) or Matthew Spangler (matthew.spangler@sjsu.edu, 650-714-3622) or visit the institute website.


Maxine Hong Kingston (author of “The Woman Warrior,” “China Men” and other novels; Professor Emeritus, UC Berkeley)

Ping Chong (internationally acclaimed theater director, playwright, video and installation artist; author of “East West Quartet” and creator of “Undesirable Elements” performance series)

Luis Valdez (author of “Zoot Suit,” “La Bamba”; founder of El Teatro Campesino)

Kinan Valdez (actor, director, and producing artistic director of El Teatro Campesino)

Donna Gabaccia (author of “Immigration and American Diversity,” among many other authored and edited books on the immigrant experience; Professor of History, University of Minnesota)

Kelly Lytle-Hernández (author of “Migra: A History of the U.S. Border Patrol,” among other articles and books on immigration from Mexico to the United States; Associate Professor of History, UCLA)

Judy Yung (author of “Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America,” among other articles and books on immigration from China to the United States; Professor of American Studies, UC Santa Cruz)

Sharon Ott, (theatre director and former artistic director of Berkeley Repertory Theatre; Performing Arts Faculty Savannah College of Art and Design)

David Terry (a specialist on the performance of space and place; Assistant Professor of Communication and Performance Studies, San Jose State University)

Glen Gendzel (author of numerous articles on immigration; Associate Professor of History, San Jose State University)

Sara Zatz (Associate Director of Ping Chong & Company; program director of “Undesirable Elements” performance series)

Matthew Spangler (author of numerous articles and plays about transnational migration, including award-winning adaptations of Khaled Hosseini’s “The Kite Runner” and T.C. Boyle’s “The Tortilla Curtain”; Associate Professor of Performance Studies, San Jose State University)

David Kahn (a specialist in documentary theatre performance; Professor of Theatre Arts, San Jose State University)

Students talk with Ken Burns

The San Jose State Department of Television, Radio, Film and Theatre Arts sat down with award-winning documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, who was on campus to accept the 2013 Steinbeck Award.

When students asked how he chooses his subjects, Burns said, “I don’t make films about things I know about; I make films about things I want to know about. If I were given one thousand years to live, I’d never run out of topics.”

While his films range from war to baseball, some common themes present themselves in each, among them race and feminism. With each film, Burns engages in what he calls “emotional archeology,” during which he excavates larger emotional truths beyond dry dates, facts and events.

And how did he get started?

“I am very fortunate, but it is good fortune born in tragedy,” said Burns of his beginnings as a filmmaker. His mother died of cancer when he was 11-years-old. When Burns was up late watching movies with his dad and saw him shed tears, he decided to become filmmaker. “I instantly understood the power of film,” he said.

Jerich piece

Art Department Celebrates Centennial

Art Department Celebrates Centennial

A poster for the campus exhibition featured a photo of the Art Building in the 1960s (SJSU Archives and Digital Collection).

For more information, please contact Jo Farb Hernandez (408-924-4328).

It is as important to mark rites of passage for institutions as for individuals. In each case, stopping to observe a transitional moment has particular importance amid the crush of what has become the new “normal” of our busy daily lives: it motivates us to celebrate growth, honor milestones, or commemorate passings. And, by so doing, it inspires us to take stock, to note the challenges and the successes, the drawbacks and the rewards. It reminds us to take a breath and look back from where we have come, appreciate where we are now, and look forward to what lies ahead.

Foundation in Art

As we have paused to consider one hundred years of the Department of Art at San Jose State University, the view to the past is astonishing. SJSU was inaugurated as a teachers’ or normal school in 1857, and, in 1862, was absorbed by the state of California, becoming not only the first of the state’s teachers’ colleges, but California’s first state-supported institution of higher learning. In 1871, the college was moved from its original San Francisco location after administrators and the legislature decided that rural San Jose would be a safer location for its predominantly young, female and unmarried students. Classes in drawing were among the earliest courses taught and, for a long time, these classes were required for every student, no matter their major or intended career. Classes in additional media and techniques were added quickly, as the administrators at that time understood that the study of the arts were essential in the development of a well-rounded, educated individual. Soon the San Jose Normal School evolved into the San Jose State Teacher’s College, then into San Jose State College, and finally into San Jose State University.

poster for exhibit at the Triton Museum, Dec. 7 to Jan. 26

A series of events have been scheduled to celebrate this important milestone including an exhibit at the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara, Dec. 7, 2013 – Jan. 26, 2014. This poster features the work of alumna Pilar Aguero-Esparza.

A series of exhibitions, projects, and programs were scheduled to celebrate this important milestone of the art department. Sponsors include Adobe Systems, Cisco and Lathrop Construction, which gave $5,000 each. In the Thompson Art Gallery, we focused on a small number of our most illustrious alumni from the middle years of our history – including Jay DeFeo, Wayne Thiebaud, Mel Ramos, Robert Graham, Mark Tansey and Tim Hawkinson. Complementary exhibitions on campus took place in Gallery 3 (Nov. 12-22, 2013), with a very special exhibition of the work of three generations of the Amyx family: the grandfather, father, and son all received their art degrees at San Jose State; and there was also an exhibition of department-produced posters at King Library. Off-campus, the community is helping celebrate, as well: there were or will be broad displays featuring dozens of our alumni at the new gallery at San Jose City College (curated by Eve Mathias, Nov. 14 – Dec. 12, 2013), at the Triton Museum of Art in Santa Clara (curated by Jo Farb Hernandez, Dec. 7, 2013 – Jan. 26, 2014), and at San Jose City Hall (curated by Robin Treen, February – May 2014).

Commemorative Book

A hardcover book documenting the past hundred years, and including images by or narratives about more than 160 alumni, as well as faculty, staff, and programs, has been produced by the gallery and is available for purchase ($30 for students, faculty, staff and alumni; $50 for the general public). In conjunction with the opening of the exhibition, a special panel discussion was moderated by Professor of Art History Christy Junkerman and included illustrated presentations by the art history alumni who wrote the substantive narrative essays in the book—Kathleen Kenyon, who spoke on the period 1911-1945; Marianne Kennedy McGrath, who discussed 1946-1970; and Betsy Vaca, who focused on the more recent past 1971-2013—providing an overview of the project and the astonishing changes that have taken place over the past 100 years.



Power of Gratitude: Being Inspired

Photo: Thomas Sanders, ’15 MFA Photography

Gary Ortega, ’12, ’14 MA Jazz Studies

“Teaching challenges you to be a better person, for yourself and for others. Thank you to all of my teachers for keeping me inspired.”

“The music department is close-knit,” says Gary Ortega, ’12, ’14 MA Jazz Studies. “You are dependent on each other for ensembles; your music and your livelihood are reliant on it. It’s a community—a music family.”

Ortega has the opportunity to study, work and play with this family in part due to the Katherine Peterson Alumni Association Scholarship. Awarded on the basis of academic achievement, need and community service, this scholarship has allowed Ortega to say goodbye to the days of waiting tables so he can focus on more important things, like running his music lessons business, teaching instrumental music to third through eighth graders at St. Leo the Great School and staying involved with the nonprofit organization, San Jose Jazz.

“This award will be contributing to the success and completion of my master’s degree this spring with a lighter financial burden,” says Ortega, who is currently teaching jazz improvisation at SJSU. He plans to continue teaching to children and adults after he graduates. “Teaching challenges you to be a better person, for yourself and for others. And you get to help other people be better. Thank you to all of my teachers for keeping me inspired.”

The Power of Gratitude: Saved by the Music

Music major and Spartan, Jessica Nuygen

Photo: Thomas Sanders, ’15 MFA Photography

Jessica Nguyen, ’15 Music Education

Music saved my life. I could finally be myself with music; I could make my own path. It’s a special thing and I want to share it with others. I can’t be selfish and keep that gift to myself.”

Discipline, teamwork, fine motor skills, expression, a way to connect cross-culturally and without language—these are just some of the reasons why Jessica Nguyen, ’15 Music Education, believes her field is important. A recipient of this year’s Alumni Association Dean’s Scholarship in the College of Humanities and the Arts, Nguyen plans to pursue a career teaching band, choir and orchestra to elementary and middle school students. “I connect with the younger kids—plus I’m taller than them,” jokes the diminutive musician, singer and conductor.

Nguyen is a member of the Concert Choir, Marching Band, Symphonic Band, Jazz Band and the Choraliers, with whom she’s traveling to Europe in a few months for a concert tour—a dream come true. “Winning this scholarship made Europe possible,” she says with a wistful smile. “I’ll get to sing in the cathedrals where my favorite music was born! I’m so thankful.”

View The Power of Gratitude series.

Elevating Spartan Talent

How talented are Spartans? See for yourself. The 2013 College of Humanities and the Arts Student Showcase Oct. 25 at the Student Union featured work from more than 40 academic programs. Students presented songs (including original creations); dances, theatrical scenes, and musical theatre; improvisational poetry; paintings, drawings, and photography; music (jazz, opera and percussion); graphic, interior and industrial design; films, videos and animation; and readings (poetry and excerpts from novels). The event even spilled outdoors, where glass blowers demonstrated their fiery art.

Showcasing Student Talent

Showcasing Student Talent

Showcasing Student Talent

At the 2012 Humanities and the Arts showcase, a student demonstrates the technique behind the “Better Than Blue” portrait series covering one wall of the Student Union construction site (Vivi Yang photo).

When Lisa Vollendorf first visited San Jose State, she was blown away by the caliber of student work. At the time, she was interviewing for dean of the College of Humanities and the Arts. When she got the job, she challenged her new colleagues to collaboratively promote their talented students.

Now in its second year, the Humanities and Arts Day Student Showcase 1-4 p.m. Oct. 25 in the Student Union’s Barrett Ballroom has matured into a must-see program featuring musical performances, poetry readings, theatrical shorts and booths offering information on many of the college’s programs.

The event coincides with Homecoming Week. Alumni are invited to experience the showcase’s many innovative offerings. Highlights include:

View the Humanities and Arts Day Student Showcase program.

SJSU Scores in 24-Hour Animation Contest

SJSU Scores at 24-Hour Animation Contest

SJSU Scores at 24-Hour Animation Contest

Animation/Illustration students crunch during the 24 Hour Animation Contest (photo courtesy of Angela Wu).

By Angela Wu, Design Lecturer

Animation/Illustration students fired it up all night long for the 24 Hour Animation Contest, a nationwide competition to create 30-second animated films in 24 hours on a specific theme. More than 70 students from San Jose State’s A/I program competed against more than 240 students from 10 schools, with two teams from San Jose winning second and fourth place in the competition.

The theme — “What would you do if you only had 24 hours left to live?” — was given to competitors 5:30 p.m. Friday, Sept. 27. The teams of five had until 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 28, to conceptualize and complete a 30-second film. Submissions were judged by a panel of industry professionals from studios such as PixarLaika and Yellowshed.

The SJSUAI film, “The Caveman Capsule,” won second place. Team members were Nicki Yee, Grace Lacuesta, Youri Dekker, Ryan Eways and Ryan Ramirez. They were awarded one-year licenses for DIGICEL Flipbook Pro, TOONBOOM Storyboard Pro and Animate Pro.

Another SJSUAI film, “The Cookie of Doom,” won fourth place. Team members were Alvin Concepcion, Clayton Chan, Oscar Guevara, Amanda Sharpe and Hunter Welker. They received Stuart Ng gift certificates and TOONBOOM Storyboard Pro and Animate Pro one-year licenses.

In all, 47 films were completed. The schools that participated in the challenge were CSU Northridge, Middle Tennessee State University, Kendall College, Westwood College, Mount San Antonio Community College, Academy of Art San Francisco, Woodbury University, South Dakota State University, Ringling College of Art and Design and Jarupa Valley High School. Sponsors for the event were Creative Talent Network, Toon Boom, Digicel, ASIFA-Hollywood, DreamWorks and Stuart Ng Books.

Celebrating a Partnership

Ten years ago, when the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library on the grounds of San Jose State opened its doors, it was the only example nationwide of a city and university coming together to co-develop and co-manage a library.

And not just any library, but a crown jewel, with distinctive architecture and art installations designed to inspire learners from all walks of life in a valley whose hallmark is innovation and education.

So when library officials set out to produce materials celebrating the 10th anniversary of the city-university partnership, they sought artwork reflecting the library’s unique attributes.

For this, they turned to a very talented group of SJSU art students under the instruction of Professor Gale Antokal. Their assignment? To paint the library from their own perspectives as students and patrons but to also weave in the city-university connections, the pathways from the city onto campus and vice versa.

The result is these gorgeous watercolors, which adorn street banners and posters getting the word out about the kickoff for the month-long celebration. President Mohammad Qayoumi will join Mayor Chuck Reed 11 a.m. Sept. 5 in the the lobby of King Library, born of a partnership that remains unique a full decade later.

“Picturing Our Library: Watercolors by SJSU Art Students,” an exhibition featuring 18 of the student watercolors, opens Sept. 3 on the fourth floor, and will continue through the end of the month. Rendered this spring, these paintings captures the remarkable vantage points of interior and exterior landscapes of the King Library.

Here’s how organizers summarized the show:

“Our library is a center for knowledge, a symbol of innovation, a place of reflection, and it is a playground for the curious and imaginative. Highlighting the multiplicity our library, each watercolor presents our library as a monumental feat of architecture, intellectual resources, and cumulative experiences from our community. Our library gives its patrons as much as we give it, and the heart of our library is the bond we have chosen to cherish and develop over the past 10 years.  Our library is a hub of possibility—whether inside it, outside it, or beyond it—our library is always with us.”

Learn more about the King Library 10th Anniversary Celebration.

Ken Burns to Receive Steinbeck Award

Ken Burns to Receive Steinbeck Award

Ken Burns to Receive Steinbeck Award

Ken Burns (photo by Jason Savage/courtesy of Florentine Films and WETA Washington, D.C.)

“History made them famous. Ken Burns made them real.” So says PBS about one of the most influential documentary filmmakers of our time.

Join the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies, the Student Union, and KQED for a special evening as Ken Burns accepts the John Steinbeck Award at 8 p.m. Dec. 6 in Morris Dailey Auditorium.

Burns will sit down for an on-stage conversation with Michael Krasny. Tackling subjects ranging from the Central Park Five to the Dust Bowl through the eyes of everyday people, Burns keeps social justice at the heart of all of his work.

Authorized by the Steinbeck estate, The John Steinbeck Award, “in the souls of the people,” is presented to artists and activists whose works exemplify the spirit of Steinbeck’s social engagement.

Previous recipients include Bruce Springsteen, Arthur Miller, Sean Penn, John Sayles, Studs Terkel, Joan Baez, Garrison Keillor, John Mellencamp, Rachel Maddow, and Dolores Huerta (co-founder, with Cesar Chavez, of the United Farm Workers).

Sneak Preview 

At the event, Burns will screen a sneak peek of his upcoming documentary, “The Roosevelts: An Intimate History,” set to air in 2014.

There’s a connection between John Steinbeck and Eleanor Roosevelt. When detractors accused Steinbeck of exaggerating the conditions in migrant labor camps as depicted in The Grapes of Wrath, the first lady came to the novelist’s defense.

Tickets are on sale now at Ticketmaster, the Event Center Box Office, or by phone (1-800-745-3000).

Spartans at Work: San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art

(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 art history graduate student Sarah Dragovich).

Well known in the Bay Area and beyond, the San Jose Institute of Contemporary Art (ICA) offers free admission to some of the most innovative art exhibitions and educational programming in the region, reflecting the entrepreneurial spirit of Silicon Valley.

As a dyed-in-the-wool art lover, Sarah Dragovich, ’13 MA Art History, remembers how excited she was when visiting each new site-specific ICA installation, introduced every three to four months.

When she landed an ICA internship last year, she learned that her passion could become her career.

“There are a lot of career opportunities out there for art and art history majors. But you’ve go to be motivated, persistent and passionate to grab them. You have to build and maintain your network, know your capabilities and strengths, and find a way to integrate them with your passion. In my case, it’s art and culture,” she said.

As gallery administrator, Dragovich is the ICA’s ambassador to the public. She’s the eyes and ears of the organization, connecting artists, visitors and members to the mission.

Her role includes greeting each and every visitor to the gallery. She also manages the ICA’s membership program and administrative office, builds relationships with donors and funders, leads docent tours and manages the organizations’s member database.

Sarah is also learning the business and marketing side of the business and honing her event management skills as she and her colleagues gear up for the ICA’s Annual Art Exhibition and Auction, the gallery’s signature fundraising initiative.

“I feel I am really tapping into my passion for art and art history and making a difference by providing a genuine and genuinely inspired experience to the community,” she said.

Her advice to students and new graduates is to persevere and tap your own resources as well as those within your network. She also encourages students to seek out and apply for internship positions.

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.


Solving Environmental Problems

Solving Environmental Problems

At the 2013 National Sustainable Design Expo on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., SJSU students proposed applying 3D printer technology to make sustainable building materials. Using saw dust instead of plastic, the team is making inexpensive window coverings such as shades and shutters that can be tailored easily to local climates (EPA photo).

San Jose State Department of Design students comprised one of seven teams that have received a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency People, Prosperity and the Planet award of up to $90,000. “The students that participated in this competition — and young people across the country — continue to give me confidence that our next generation of American scientists and engineers are up to the task of solving the world’s most pressing environmental problems,” said Bob Perciasepe acting administrator for the EPA. Three hundred student innovators from 45 teams convened on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., this spring to showcase sustainable projects to protect people’s health and the environment, encourage economic growth, and use natural resources more efficiently. The winning teams will use their grants to further develop their design and potentially bring it to the marketplace. The students proposed using saw dust instead of plastic to create inexpensive building materials, customized for local climates, with 3D printer technology.

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.”

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.”


Humanities and the Arts Appoints Associate Dean

Gustave Caillebotte, 1848-1894, Paris Street, Rainy Day, 1877

William H. Street with Gustave Caillebotte’s Paris Street, Rainy Day, 1877 (Susan Nourse photo).

The College of Humanities and the Arts has a new associate dean, and he’s an accomplished saxophonist.

William H. Street will promote student, faculty and staff success, with his primary responsibilities including oversight of curriculum, personnel and facilities. He will also focus on helping students graduate in a timely fashion. Street begins at SJSU on Aug. 1.

Currently associate dean in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta in Canada, Street received a doctoral degree in music from Northwestern University and has since been active in university administration and governance. He has served on numerous departmental, faculty and university committees and will bring a wealth of university governance principles to SJSU.

Street has travelled widely and has performed and lectured in Belgium, Canada, the Russian Federation, France, Great Britain, Japan, Mexico, Spain, Taiwan, Thailand, Ukraine and the United States. He tours frequently with pianist Roger Admiral and the Quatuor International de Saxophones, emphasizing the importance of both solo and chamber music making.

Strongly influenced by his former teachers Etheridge, Hemke and Londeix, Street has sought to make heard the music of today’s composers in his concerts. He served as president of the North American Saxophone Alliance from 1992 to1994, and his published work includes the English translation of Hello! Mr. Sax, ou les Paramètres du Saxophone (Leduc) by Jean-Marie Londeix, “Elise Boyer Hall,” and “The Life of Elise Boyer Hall” in Les États Géneraux Mondiaux du Saxophone.

Lift-Off 2013: MFA Grads Thesis Exhibition

Lift-Off 2013: MFA Grads Thesis Exhibition

Lift-Off 2013: MFA Grads Thesis Exhibition

Nineteen San Jose State University Master of Fine Art candidates graduating this spring will show their thesis art projects at Art Ark Gallery, May 3-18 (Lift-Off composite image).

Contact: Robert Chiarito, Graduate Coordinator, 408-924-4374 or 408-924-4320

SAN JOSE – Nineteen San Jose State University Master of Fine Art candidates graduating this spring will show their thesis art projects at Art Ark Gallery, May 3-18. Designed by independent curator and art writer Christian L. Frock, the exhibit illustrates the depth and breath of the university’s art and art history program.

Graduating students represent the Pictorial Art, Spatial Art, Photography and Digital Media Art programs in the Department of Art and Art History. The artists are A R A, Armine Sargsyan, Avery Palmer, Barbara Boissevain, David Kempken, Elena Polanco, Esteban Salazar, Gloria Huet, Jacqueline Donecho, Jeffrey Opp, Jen, Jonathan Huang, Kat McKinnon (KGM), Lan Liu, Marianne Lettieri, Meiru Huang, Sieglinde Van Damme, Wesley Wright, and Yvonne Escalante.

The MFA studio art students collaborated with MA art history graduate students to produce a 100-page publication for the Lift-Off 2013 exhibition. The catalog includes images of the art work, foreword by Christian L. Frock, and critical essays written by SJSU student art historians Allison Connor, Ashley Gardini, Emily McEwan, Lale Yasemin Kaya, Megan Merritt, and Melanie Dove. Copies will be available at the exhibition and can be ordered.

Christian L. Frockis the director of Invisible Venue, an independent curatorial enterprise she founded in 2005 that collaborates with artists to present art in the public realm. She is a regular contributor to KQED Arts, Art Practical, San Francisco Arts Monthly, and art ltd. Frock has a masters degree from Goldsmiths College, University of London.The Art Ark Gallery is located on the Art Ark Apartments property, a thriving Artisan Village in the heart of the Martha Gardens Arts District in San Jose. Since 2006 the gallery has provided a space where emerging local artists can explore possibilities and engage the public.

Founded in 1913, the SJSU Art and Art History department is one of the largest at the university, attracting students worldwide. In 2012 US News and World Report rated it as one of the top 100 MFA visual arts programs in the country. Notable artists associated with the school include Tim Hawkinson, Binh Danh, Jay DeFeo, Wayne Thiebaud, Mel Ramos, Robert Graham, Mark Tansey, Harry Powers, Rupert Garcia, Fletcher Benton and Consuelo Jimenez-Underwood.

Lift-Off 2013 will be installed at Art Ark Gallery, 1035 S. Sixth St., San Jose, and open to the public noon-4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday. Artists will serve as gallery docents during opening hours. A reception will be held on May 3, 6 to 9 p.m. Admission is free.


Legacy of Poetry Day

“Submit your poem’s desired elements and characteristics to the Lit Factory, and see what interesting poem comes out,” said an invite to Legacy of Poetry Day April 18 on Caret Plaza, outside the campus entrance for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library. While published poets, students, faculty and alumni offered readings, student members of the Poets and Writers Coalition tapped away on old-fashioned typewriters, improvising pocket-sized poems upon request. Professors Alan Soldofsky and Annette Nellen organized the event, sponsored by the Poets and Writers Coalition, with co-sponsorship support from the Campus Reading Program, King Library, the Middle Eastern Studies Program, the Creative Writing Program, the Department of English and Comparative Literature, Associated Students, and Poetry Center San Jose.


de Young Student Showcase

Works by 18 Spartans will be featured in the 17th Annual New Generations Student Showcase at the de Young Museum in San Francisco. Each year, the de Young invites college students to submit proposals for pieces inspired by the museum’s special exhibitions and permanent collection. Here are the SJSU submissions, created by 16 master’s of fine arts and two bachelor’s of fine arts students:

Aimee Santos, MFA Photo 2014
Avery Palmer, MFA Spatial 2013
Biagio Scarpello, MFA Spatial 2013
Brittney Cathey-Adams, MFA Photo 2014
Esteban Salazar, MFA Spatial 2013
Galen Oback, BFA Pictorial 2013
Gloria Huet, MFA Pictorial 2013
Kathleen McDonald, MFA Photo 2015
Kristin Jones, MFA Photo 2014
Kurt Salinas, BFA Pictorial 2013
Lan Liu, MFA Pictorial 2013
Meiru Huang, MFA Pictorial 2013
Scotty Gorham, MFA Spatial 2015
Tamara Danoyan, MFA Photo 2015
Thomas Sanders, MFA Photo 2015
Wesley T. Wright, MFA Spatial 2013
Yvonne Escalante, MFA Spatial 2013
Sam Metcalf, MFA Spatial, 2014

While these images are spectacular, the pieces are even better in person. The showcase is a pop-up exhibit, on for one day only April 19. Read more from the Department of Art and Art History.

Legacy of Poetry Day: Diverse Poets, Poems on the Spot

Award Winning Poets & Made-to-Order Poetry

SJSU’s Legacy of Poetry event will feature Palestinian-American poet and playwright Nathalie Handal. The New York Times says her work “trembles with belonging (and longing).” (photo courtesy of nathaliehandal.com)

By Professor Alan Soldofsky, 408-924-4432

In celebration of National Poetry Month, San Jose State University will once again host Legacy of Poetry Day 11:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 18 at Caret Plaza, outside the campus entrance for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library.

Provost Ellen Junn, and Dean of Humanities and the Arts Lisa Vollendorf will offer opening remarks and readings for the event, which will feature readings by Palestinian-American poet and playwright Nathalie Handal, and San Jose State alumna and award-winning poet Carmen Giménez Smith, an assistant professor of English at New Mexico State University.

Award Winning Poets & Made-to-Order Poetry

In celebration of National Poetry Month, SJSU will once again host Legacy of Poetry Day 11:45 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 18 at Caret Plaza, outside the campus entrance for King Library.

Also featured will be Santa Clara Poet Laureate Sally Ashton, and contributors to the poetry anthology Poetry On the Move: Poems that Celebrate Who We Are and What We Do In Silicon Valley. The anthology is comprised of poems submitted to the Poetry On the Move Contest; the five winning poems were published as placards placed in VTA light rail and buses and Santa Clara County Libraries.

SJSU’s Legacy of Poetry Day will continue with an afternoon of readings by students, faculty members, emeriti, and alumni. Professors Alan Soldofsky and Annette Nellen organize the annual gathering, sponsored by the Poets and Writers Coalition, with co-sponsorship support from the Campus Reading Program, the MLK Library, the Middle Eastern Studies Program, the Creative Writing Program, Department of English and Comparative Literature, Associated Students, and Poetry Center San Jose.

Poems on the Spot

At this year’s event the students of the Poets and Writers Coalition will staff the Lit Factory booth, which provides typewriters for poets to write short pocket-sized poems on the spot to be given away to those attending the Legacy of Poetry Day events. Submit your poem’s desired elements and characteristics to the Lit Factory, and see what interesting poem comes out. The Lit Factory will be SJSU’s way of participating in the Poetry In-Your-Pocket Day, a national event sponsored by the Academy of American Poets on April 18, during National Poetry Month.


Legacy of Poetry Day 2013

11:45 a.m. Opening remarks and readings by Provost Ellen Junn and Dean of Humanities and the Arts Lisa Vollendorf. Readings in honor San Jose State’s first major poet, Edwin Markham (April 23, 1852 – March 7, 1940).

Noon – 12:30 p.m.: Featured guest poet, Nathalie Handal, award-winning poet and playwright, and Carmen Giménez Smith, winner of the 2012 Juniper Prize in Poetry.

12:30 – 1:30 p.m.: Faculty, staff, student, and alumni Poets Reading, featuring SJSU faculty poets Samuel Maio, Persis Karim, Neli Moody and Alan Soldofsky.

1:30 – 2 p.m.: Featuring a Reading by Sally Ashton, Santa Clara County Poet Laureate, presenting Poetry on the Move: Poetry that Celebrates Who We Are and What We Do In Silicon Valley.

2 – 3 p.m.: Poems and Letters: A reading featuring a sampling of letters and poems from SJSU faculty, students, and alumni poets, and their favorite poets.

Special Added Legacy of Poetry Day Event

7 – 8 p.m.: Palestinian-American poets Nathalie Handal and Philip Metres reading from their works. Dr. Martin Luther King Library, Rm. 225, sponsored by Middle East Studies and the Poets and Writers Coalition.