Pianist Launches New CD

Pianist Launches New CD

Pianist Launches New CD

Pianist Gwendolyn Mok will appear in concert April 15 to benefit the Historic Keyboard Collection in the School of Music and Dance (photo courtesy of Gwendolyn Mok).

On Monday, April 15, pianist Gwendolyn Mok will be joined by voice and string faculty from the School of Music and Dance to celebrate the launch of her latest solo CD, Brahms, The Composer’s Piano, Late Piano Works Opp 116-119. The works were recorded on two historic pianos from Brahms’ time and are similar to ones that the composer played. The program includes waltzes for piano four-hands, the complete Liebesleider for four voices and piano four-hands, and the magnificent Trio in B major, Opus 8, all performed on the 1868 Erard Grand and 1871 Streicher Grand.

The concert will begin at 8 p.m. April 15 at the Music Concert Hall. General admission tickets will be $20, and $10 for students. The evening is a benefit for the Historic Keyboard Collection in the School of Music and Dance at San Jose State University, where Mok is coordinator of keyboard studies. Her earlier solo CD Ravel Revealed, the complete solo works of Maurice Ravel recorded on the 1868 Erard, is frequently broadcasted on radio stations locally and around the world. Both the Brahms and the Ravel CDs are on the Musicians Showcase Recording label.

Born in New York City, Mok has appeared in many of the world’s leading concert halls, including The Barbican, Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Avery Fisher Hall, Alice Tully Hall, Davies Symphony Hall, and The Hong Kong Performing Arts Center. She is frequently invited to play and record with major international orchestras, most notably the London Symphony Orchestra, The Philharmonia, the Hong Kong Philharmonic Orchestra, the Beijing Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Residency Orchestra of The Hague. Mok is a popular chamber musician and appears regularly with members of the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in Davies Symphony Hall, as well as such prominent groups as the Ives Quartet and Prazak Quartet. She also appears in solo recitals and as soloist with the Symphony Silicon Valley, San Jose Chamber Orchestra, and San Francisco Chamber Orchestra.

Gwendolyn Mok’s newest recording Brahms; Late Piano Works will be available for purchase at the concert, and the proceeds will go towards creating a fund to curate the historic keyboard collection in the School of Music and Dance.

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.

John Cheever's "The Swimmer"

“The Swimmer” Opens at the University Theatre

John Cheever's "The Swimmer"

The play is the work of two of SJSU’s top theatre arts instructors.

What do “Mad Men,” “The Simpsons” and SJSU have in common?

John Cheever, the Pulitzer Prize winning author who inspired these shows and SJSU’s new play, “The Swimmer and Other Suburban Short Stories,” opening March 14 at the University Theater.

Cheever is known as “the Chekhov of the suburbs.”

Associate Professor of Communication Studies Matthew Spangler adapted the piece for the stage, drawing from his experiences with the stage adaptation of “The Kite Runner” by novelist Khaled Hosseini.

Theatre Arts Lecturer Kathleen Normington, recently named SJSU’s 2012-2013 Outstanding Lecturer Award, will direct the show.

Tickets are $10 for students, $15 for general admission. Learn more.

Poet Named 2013 Lurie Distinguished Visiting Author-In-Residence

Poet Named 2013 Lurie Distinguished Visiting Author-In-Residence

Poet Named 2013 Lurie Distinguished Visiting Author-In-Residence

Kim Addonizio (Lin Tan photo)

Contact: Alan Soldofsky, SJSU Creative Writing Director, 408-924-4432

SAN JOSE, CA – Award-winning poet Kim Addonizio has been appointed San Jose State University’s Connie L. Lurie Distinguished Visiting Author-in-Residence for the 2013 spring semester. Annually, the Lurie Author-in-Residence is selected by the Department of English and Comparative Literature in the College of Humanities and the Arts.

Addonozio is teaching the ENGL 240: Graduate Poetry Workshop on Tuesdays at SJSU.  She will give a public reading from her poetry and fiction on 7:30 p.m. March 19 in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, room 225/229.  Admission is free and open to the public.

Addonizio’s most recent book of poetry is Lucifer at the Starlite (W. W. Norton, 2009).  Her previous collections include What Is This Thing Called Love (W. W. Norton, 2004) and Tell Me (BOA Editions, 2000), which was a finalist for the National Book Award.  She also has published two books about writing poetry and the creative process: Poet’s Companion (W. W. Norton, 1997), co-authored with Dorianne Laux, a standard text used in many colleges and universities; and her most recent book of writing prompts and instructional advice, Ordinary Genius (W. W. Norton, 2009).

About the craft of writing poetry, Addonizio emphasizes cultivating a sense of personal power and finding your own way of doing edgy work in both open and closed forms to expand the range of your voice.

She has published two novels, My Dreams Out in the Street (Simon & Schuster, 2007) and Little Beauties (Simon & Schuster, 2005); and a collection of short stories, In the Box Called Pleasure (Fiction Collective, 1999).  In addition, she has co-edited Dorothy Parker’s Elbow: Tattoos on Writers, Writers on Tattoos (Grand Central Publishing, 2002).  She has been the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, The Commonwealth Club Poetry Medal and the John Ciardi Lifetime Achievement Award.

Nonstop Beautiful Ladies

Addonizio grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, just outside of Washington, D.C., and moved to San Francisco in the late 1970s, where she earned her bachelor’s and master’s from San Francisco State. She has taught in the Goddard College MFA program, and also teaches private classes from her home in Oakland. She fronts a rock and blues band, Nonstop Beautiful Ladies, for which she plays blues harmonica, sings, and recites poems.

The Lurie Distinguished Visiting Author-in-Residence in Creative Writing was established in 1999, offering students the opportunity to study with nationally and internationally known authors. Previous Lurie Authors include some of the most distinguished poets, fiction writers, and nonfiction writers writing in English today.

Distinguished Writers

Notable among them are science fiction writer and poet Ursula K. Le Guin; Pulitzer-Prize winning poet Carolyn Kizer; former California Poet Laureate Al Young; international best-selling nonfiction writer and journalist Simon Winchester; acclaimed novelist, essayist and poet Ishmael Reed; Booker-Prize winning Scottish novelist James Kelman; acclaimed short-story writer Z Z Packer; award-winning poet and internationally acclaimed scholar Sandra M. Gilbert; best-selling adventure/outdoor writer Tim Cahill; internationally renown novelist and short-story writer Fernando Alarcón; and award-winning memoirist and investigative journalist Julia Scheeres.

Connie L. Lurie is a generous benefactor who has donated to SJSU on numerous occasions, including a major endowment to the Connie L. Lurie School of Education. Lurie graduated from SJSU in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in both elementary education and psychology after which she taught as an elementary school teacher on the Monterey Peninsula for six years.


Metro Silicon Valley: Two Music Teachers at SJSU Helped Make Thollem McDonas a Nomadic Piano Genius

Posted by Metro Silicon Valley Feb. 20, 2013.

As a tiny kid decades ago, Thollem McDonas crawled into his mom’s piano in south San Jose to explore its strings, its mechanisms and its sonic capabilities. The rest is history.

Now, for the first time in many years, McDonas returns to San Jose to play a private house concert on that very same piano he grew up with and in. Since his mother has now passed on, the piano sits in his sister’s house.

These days, McDonas is one of the world’s most respected peripatetic pianists, a nomadic, perpetually traveling musician, with no permanent home. If that was anyone else, it wouldn’t seem significant, but the list of legendary musicians McDonas now regularly hangs with borders on the extraordinary. His natural talents have equipped him with classical, improv, jazz and punk sensibilities, enabling him to jam with anyone, anywhere. So bear with me, please.

With the Hand to Man Band, McDonas is now on two CDs, including Mike Watt of Minutemen and fIREHOSE fame. Along with Nels Cline and William Parker, he recorded another CD.

Every time he goes to Italy, he tours with Tsigoti, the Italian avant-punk band, reminding one of what would happen if Scott Joplin swapped hormones with Iggy Pop. Other collaborators include John Dieterich of Deerhoof and Jad Fair of Half-Japanese.

On Claude Debussy’s old piano, Thollem performed Debussy’s works and Thollem’s own ‘comprovisations’ (composed improvisations) with the late contrabassist Stefano Scodanibbio. To date, he has somewhere around 30 albums on 12 labels in four countries. It all began with crawling inside a baby grand piano in San Jose.

When McDonas got to SJSU, he studied composition with Allen Strange and piano performance with Aiko Onishi, two people he says were polar opposites, but who complemented each other rather than negating each other. In Allen’s case, McDonas said professor Strange was equally as interested in what he could learn from his own students, as he was in teaching them.

“[Allen] was really important to me,” McDonas explains. “He helped me ask the right questions. He never took me through compositional exercises because I was already composing. Our lessons were mostly him asking me questions, ‘Why did you do this, have you thought about trying that?’ He was one of the most rugged individuals I had ever known. That was important to me. To have an authority figure, who [himself] had stood up to authority.”

Onishi taught piano at SJSU for 20 years until the late ’80s. Contrary to Strange, McDonas says she was a strict disciplinarian.

“That was really good for me in the end,” McDonas recalled. “But also, she didn’t give a shit about convention. She only cared about music and her students. She did not give a shit about what anyone else thought, about anything. So that was really important to me.”

Two other legends in the SJSU Music Department influenced McDonas for life: Royal Hartigan and Dwight Cannon. The former taught there in the ’90s, when McDonas returned to participate in various improv classes. McDonas claims he still hears Hartigan’s voice in his head.

Cannon had been there since the late ’60s and is sadly no longer with us. To this day, McDonas cites his first meeting with Cannon, onstage during a performance, with Cannon scraping a music stand, upside down, across the stage, as a key moment in the realization of Thollem’s musical vision.

“I thought, Here’s the fucking teacher doing that,” recalls McDonas, of his initial surprise. “That, to me, all of sudden, [made me realize] these are not just crazy ideas that I have, or that young people have. They’re just ideas. Even teachers can have them.”

Speaking of ideas, McDonas recently found some old high school and college-era recordings buried in his mom’s garage. Those tapes will now be released on the Wild Silence label in France.

Even though the private house concert this weekend in Willow Glen is not open to the public, it represents yet another intriguing instance of San Jose functioning as the transdimensional mystic vortex, shattering the space-time continuum. Past and future have now collapsed into the present. We should all be grateful.

$300,000 Gift for Persian Studies

Persian Studies Program Receives $300,000 Grant

SJSU’s first-ever Elementary Persian class, held in fall 2012 through the College of International and Extended Studies. “We want to create an opportunity to share the rich Persian language and culture,” said Professor Persis Karim, Middle Eastern Studies coordinator (Layla Forooghi photo).

SAN JOSE, CA – The Persian Studies Program at San Jose State University will continue its mission to educate students and promote Iranian culture and Persian language for the next three years through a generous grant of $300,000 from the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute. The grant has been awarded to Persis Karim, principal investigator and professor of English and comparative literature within the College of Humanities and the Arts.  The funds will support language instruction, cultural events, lectures, faculty research and scholarships as well as a conference on the Iranian Diaspora culture in 2014.

The program directors include Karim, who also serves as coordinator of Middle Eastern Studies, and Shahin Gerami, professor of interdisciplinary social sciences and coordinator of the Women’s Studies Program. Both Karim and Gerami welcome the opportunity to expand the Persian Studies Program, which was initiated in 2011 with seed money from the PARSA Community Foundation. SJSU made an appeal for private support to establish a Persian Studies Program and was granted a generous $200,000 grant from the PARSA Community Foundation during the 2010 Mehregan grant cycle. These donations recognize the importance of teaching Persian language, as well as introducing Iran’s rich heritage to university students.

Iranian Diaspora Studies

Because Silicon Valley is home to California’s second largest population of Iranian immigrants and their second-generation children, the Persian Studies Program increases participation in the emerging field of Iranian Diaspora Studies; it also supports students and scholars engaging with Iran and its diaspora community.  A conference about the Iranian Diaspora is set for spring 2014, when the program will invite scholars to share information and experiences about California’s Iranian-American communities and the rich contributions they are making to American society.

“We couldn’t be more pleased about the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute’s support for Persian Studies at SJSU,” said Karim. “This generous gift establishes a precedent for academic programs, research and public outreach that serves both a student population and a community that has roots in Iran, but that is contributing to and innovating the culture of Silicon Valley. By offering courses in Persian and presenting lectures and programs about Iran and Persian culture, we can engage more constructively with a country that too often is seen only through the prism of negative media headlines. And we can recognize the ways that the Iranian American community is evolving.”

Evolution of a Community

With previous support, the Persian Studies Program developed lecture events, scholarships for students, and initiated an oral history project titled Iranian-American Voices of Silicon Valley: Evolution of a Community. The project will document the lives, histories, and stories of this community. Since 2012, the Persian Studies Program has been offering language courses that are a mix of interested students of Iranian descent, those with Iranian spouses, and those who expect to use Persian language in their careers. Assistant Professor of Geography Kathrine Richardson will use research money from this grant to initiate a study of Iranian Americans in Silicon Valley’s high-tech industry.

Although Persian Studies has conducted a preliminary survey to gain insight into the Iranian-American community in Silicon Valley, numerous cultural and educational events, and musical concerts to celebrate Iranian holidays, the Persian Studies Program aims to build further relationships with the community and to learn more about how we can serve, support, and develop SJSU’s innovative program.

A Norouz Celebration

To further signify its commitment to the community, a Norouz celebration with master santour Player Mahvash Guerami and vocalist Hossein Massoudi will take place at 3 p.m. March 10in the SJSU Engineering Auditorium 189, with a tea and sweets reception at 2:30 p.m. This free and public event, which includes a poetry reading by Iranian American poet and translator Mojdeh Marashi, and Afghan American poet Najia Karim, will inaugurate a new year for the growing program, and offer its gratitude to the Roshan Cultural Heritage Institute and its Chair and founder and President Elahe Omidyar Mir-Djalali.

For more information on this and other events in March and April, view the Persian Studies Program website or call 408-924-4476.


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.”
SJSU's Role in the Oscars

SJSU’s Role in the Oscars

Two Spartans helped create the imagery for 2013 Academy Award Winner “Brave.” Art Director Noah Klocek, ’04 animation/illustration, and Set Artist Paul Abadilla,’08 animation/illustration, brought to the Pixar film, which won for Best Animated Feature Film, skills honed while they were students of SJSU’s Animation/Illustration Program. “Brave” tells the story of Merida, “a high-spirited Scottish princess who resists her mother’s efforts to transform her into a more ladylike young woman. Faced with an arranged marriage she doesn’t want, Merida runs away into the forest, where she encounters a witch who teaches her a dangerous spell,” the Oscars website says. Originally conceived to give locals a chance to compete for careers in the screen arts, SJSU’s Animation/Illustration program now attracts students nationally and internationally.

2012-2013 President’s Scholar: Susan Shillinglaw

2012-2013 President’s Scholar: Susan Shillinglaw

2012-2013 President’s Scholar: Susan Shillinglaw

2012-2013 President’s Scholar Susan Shillinglaw (Peter Caravalho photo)

The President’s Scholar Award recognizes a faculty member who has achieved widespread recognition based on the quality of scholarship, performance or creative activities. This year’s winner comes from the College of Humanities and the Arts.

In 1984, Professor of English and Comparative Literature Susan Shillinglaw came to her first faculty meeting with her baby in her arms, an unfinished dissertation and not a single word published. Twenty-eight years later, her subsequent research and determination have earned her the 2012-2013 President’s Scholar Award.

“When the president called to tell me that I won the award, I was just floored and so moved beyond words,” said Shillinglaw. “It’s such an honor to receive this recognition from the president and from San Jose State—the university that I’ve given my life and career to. I am delighted that my scholarship, outreach and commitment to the university are recognized in this way.

A specialist on Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck, Shillinglaw is “one of the top three or four [scholars] in the world on the subject, and since 2005 has been scholar-in-residence at the National Steinbeck Center,” said one nominator. Her research portfolio includes several edited books and scholarly essays, five introductions for Penguin Classics,  A Journey Into Steinbeck’s California (2006, second edition 2011), and a biography of Steinbeck’s first marriage to San Jose native Carol Henning, a forthcoming book from the University of Nevada Press that she says defines her career as a Steinbeck scholar. Among Shillinglaw’s numerous grants for studies on  Steinbeck are four from the National Endowment for Humanities for Steinbeck Summer Institutes, “John Steinbeck, the Voice of a Region, a Voice for America.” Focusing on place and ecology, each “works to bridge the gap between the humanities and the sciences.”

Shillinglaw’s work has been recognized nationally and internationally, and her articles and introductions are “a major contribution to the Steinbeck field,” said a nominator. Her work has clearly benefited the field of Steinbeck studies as a whole; each scholarly project has challenged Shillinglaw to write to a broad audience. It is the positive and visceral response to Steinbeck’s work that has allowed her to touch so many people and to lecture around the world.

The director of San Jose State’s Center for Steinbeck Studies for 18 years, Shillinglaw is presently working on a Steinbeck encyclopedia devoted to cultural contexts for each book as well as a book on Steinbeck and the Soviet Union. There’s always more to know about a writer whose work remains firmly in the canon. Shillinglaw wrote: “Steinbeck endures because he does not permit readers to complacently dig in, like the hermit crab. He embraces the fullness of life. With compassion, tolerance, and humility, he surveys landscapes: of place, of spirit, of a nation.”

Shillinglaw earned a bachelor’s degree from Cornell College and master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Faculty Awards 2 Slideshow

2012-2013 Outstanding Lecturer: Kathleen Normington

2012-2013 Outstanding Lecturer: Kathleen Normington

2012-2013 Outstanding Lecturer Kathleen Normington (Peter Caravalho photo)

The Outstanding Lecturer Award recognizes a lecturer for excellence in teaching effectiveness and service to the San Jose State campus community. This year’s winner comes from the College of Humanities and the Arts.

Kathleen Normington enjoys staging guerrilla theatre performances on campus and in the community, where her students are taken out of the “theatre space.” Creating innovative approaches to learning outside of the classroom has helped her earn the 2012-2013 Outstanding Lecturer Award.

A lecturer since earning her master’s in theatre arts from San Jose State in 2004, Normington uses her 12 years of teaching experience to bring creativity to her students. She supplies the opportunity for them to genuinely experience theatre by providing them with the tools to put their coursework into practice and by teaching them to be fearless and to take risks.

One student said: “The engaging exercises and skills practiced and rehearsed during lecture and laboratory hours provide an open, supportive and safe creative environment where artists find themselves grounded, present and connected to the work and, perhaps most importantly, themselves and each other.”

“As a researcher, director and teacher Kathleen has a natural curiosity. It is her enthusiasm for and understanding of a broad spectrum of performing art that makes her such an eclectic artist and teacher,” said one nominator. “She also has an exacting eye. As a director, and really in every aspect of her work, she brings taste and specificity. From her understanding of language and story to her intuition about staging and character, Kathleen brings intelligence and restraint to her work.”

Normington’s service to San Jose State extends beyond the classroom. She has directed 11 plays at SJSU and four plays in the community. Normington is co-author of Simply Acting: A Handbook for the Student Actor and Simply Theatre: Appreciating Performance of the 21st Century, two textbooks that support courses taught at San Jose State. She was actively involved in revamping the theatre arts curriculum, and has created course certification reports. Normington serves as lead instructor for sizeable multi-section general education courses that are essential components to the theatre program.

“I hope that students realize that the humanity of theatre is what connects us all,” Normington said. “There is not just one way, but many ways to connect that in their lives.”

Normington earned a bachelor’s degree from UC Berkeley and a master’s degree from San Jose State.

2012-2013 Outstanding Professor: Alejandro Garcia

2012-2013 Outstanding Professor: Alejandro Garcia

2012-2013 Outstanding Professor: Alejandro Garcia

2012-2013 Outstanding Professor Alejandro Garcia (Peter Caravalho photo)

The Outstanding Professor Award recognizes a faculty member for overall excellence in academic assignment. This year’s winner comes from the College of Science.

San Jose State Professor of Physics and Astronomy Alejandro Garcia insists that there is no secret recipe for teaching, but he tries to instill in his students that they must always look with “keen, fresh eyes” in order to understand how things move in the world. This approach to teaching helped him earn the 2012-2013 Outstanding Professor Award.

Garcia’s effectiveness as a professor can be seen through his professional work in physics and animation, and the input he brings to the classroom.  Garcia has been recognized for his commitment to bringing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) education to the visual arts, having developed a MUSE class entitled The Nexus of Art and Science in 2006 and an SJSU Studies class entitled Physics of Animation in 2009. The latter course, which is an interdisciplinary collaboration between the physics and animation departments within the College of Science and the College of Humanities and the Arts, is the product of one of two NSF Transforming Undergraduate Education in STEM grants Garcia has earned; the most recent one looks into the optics of animation.

As physics consultant at DreamWorks Animation SKG, Garcia applied traditional physics to the art of animation in the film Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted and, in this capacity, was able to bring valuable information back to his students about how physics is used in a major feature film studio.

In addition to his physics of animation work, Garcia actively participates in the fluctuating hydrodynamics research program at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and regularly organizes international conferences. He has published more than 80 technical journal manuscripts and his work has been cited 1,400 since 2007.

The physics scholar is also dedicated in the classroom. According to one student, Garcia “takes the time to ensure that the material, no matter how complex, was presented in such a manner that would easily be absorbed by all students.”

“He is not opposed to resorting to dynamic (occasionally fearsome) demonstrations or wildly comic delivery,” said one colleague. “Exploding pumpkins, beds of nails, and hair-raising electrical currents find a place in a curriculum designed to help visually oriented students understand the importance of science in the production of convincing imagery.”

“I make it very clear that sometimes they specifically need to violate the laws of physics in what they are doing, because if they want to create a compelling story, they have to use the right tools for the job,” he said.

Garcia earned a bachelor’s degree from Florida Atlantic University, a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin and completed post-docs at Free University of Brussels and the University of California in Los Angeles.

Metro: KSJS Has Been Experimenting With New Sounds for 50 Years

Posted by Metro Newspapers Feb. 7, 2013.

By Stephen Layton

Three years ago, Nick Martinez walked past the on-air room of KSJS-FM (90.5), the student-run radio station at San Jose State University, and heard something strange.

“What the hell is that?” he asked.

“Oh, it’s called dubstep,” came the reply.

Now, some have argued that dubstep doesn’t deserve to be called music, much less played on the radio, since it can sound like a remixed car accident to some ears. But according to Martinez, the station manager at KSJS, this is just the point of noncommercial student radio. “Our role [in San Jose] is to open listeners’ ears to new music and new talent,” he told me.

On Monday, Feb. 11, KSJS will celebrate its 50th year of broadcasting from the SJSU campus, and while one of its current roles is to expose a wider audience to new music, its primary role has never changed. The station was founded in 1963 by SJSU professor Clarence Flick as a pioneering 85-watt FM station designed to give students hands-on experience in radio broadcasting. At the time, only a quarter of the student population even had FM receivers, and the programming consisted of four hours of opera, classical music and news every evening. KSJS now broadcasts 24/7 at 1,500 watts and reaches almost 35,000 listeners per week.

Not to say that a college radio station always runs smoothly. Besides Martinez, an alumnus who worked at KSJS and was later hired to manage it, the entire leadership staff is made up of current students: students who get locked out of the building at 3am during their shows and then cut their arms opening the window trying to get back in; students who can’t figure out the CD player and end up broadcasting dead air. “That’s the point!” said Martinez. “Let’s do the dead air! Let’s do the mistakes!”

Some students come in with dreams of being a professional DJ only to find that they would rather discover new bands—or market them. They get involved on the production side or on the web team. But again, according to Martinez, that’s just the point of noncommerical student radio, in terms of both music and experience: “KSJS is the place to experiment and see what you do like, and what you don’t.”

Art Students Introduce PechaKucha

Graduate Art Students Try "PechaKucha"

Originating in Tokyo, where this photo was taken, PechaKucha Night is a global network of informal gatherings where creative people share their ideas and works in a simple presentation format: 20 images discussed for 20 seconds each (photo courtesy of PechaKucha.org).

Contact: Sieglinde Van Damme, SJSU PechaKucha Night publicist

SAN JOSE, CA – Eighteen San Jose State University students, graduating this spring with a master of fine arts degree, will host a PechaKucha Night to introduce themselves and their artwork to the public at a new downtown San Jose venue, Cafe Stritch, on Feb. 27. SJSU’s PechaKucha Night will provide a glimpse into the technical and visual research and creative production that each artist has pursued while at SJSU.

PechaKucha Night is a global network of informal gatherings where creative people share their ideas and works in a simple presentation format: 20 images, discussed for 20 seconds each. Christian L. Frock, an independent writer and curator who is designing the Lift Off 2013 MFA Art Exhibit for SJSU, to be held in May at the Art Ark Gallery in San Jose, suggested the PKN format as a fun and informative way for the students to give her an introductory overview of their art.

“I am not aware of any art colleges conducting a PechaKucha Night for the general community to meet their graduates. This is a special opportunity for the public to get a cross section of fresh talent out of the South Bay,” said Frock. “It will offer a composite image of San Jose State University’s singular art program and its influences. We anticipate a great evening of contemporary art and ideas,” she added.

The participating students represent the Pictorial Art, Spatial Art, Photography and Digital Media Art programs in the Department of Art and Art History. Founded in 1911, the department is one of the largest schools at SJSU with academic instruction and fabrication facilities that attract students worldwide. In 2012, U.S. News and World Report rated the art school as one of the top 100 MFA visual arts programs in the country.

The participants are Ara Ahadi, Armine Sargsyan, Avery Palmer, Barbara Boissevain, David Kempken, Esteban Salazar, Gloria Huet, Jacqueline Donecho, Jeffrey Opp, Jennifer Groft, Jonathan Huang, Kat McKinnon, Lan Liu, Marianne Lettieri, Meiru Huang, Sieglinde Van Damme, Wesley Wright and Yvonne Escalante.

Christian L. Frock is 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 master’s degree from Goldsmiths College, University of London.

This event will be the first collaboration of PKN San Jose with Steven Borkenhagen and his new restaurant and performance space, Cafe Stritch (formerly Eulipa Restaurant).

The SJSU PechaKucha Night will be held 6:30 p.m. Feb. 27, 2013 at Cafe Stritch, 374 S. First St., San Jose. Admission is free.


Animation/Illustration Winners

The SJSU Animation/Illustration program continues to win prizes at regional, state and national competitions. Originally conceived to give locals a chance to compete for careers in the screen arts, the program now attracts students nationally and internationally.

Recent graduate Michelle Ikemoto and a production team composed of classmates won awards for Best Film Under 30 Minutes and Best Student Film for their animated short film, “Tule Lake.” Tule Lake is a tribute to the director’s late grandmother and the risks she took to preserve normalcy for her family during their exile in the Tule Lake internment camp during World War II. The awards were sponsored by CreaTV San Jose, a non-profit that seeks to inspire, educate and connect San Jose communities using media to foster civic engagement. The ceremony was held Jan. 5 at San Jose’s historic California Theater. Previous wins for Tule Lake include first place for Animation and a tie for Best In Show in the CSU Media Arts festival in November 2012.

Two films won awards at the AsiansOnFilm Festival. “Couch & Potatoes,” a stop-motion film produced and directed by May 2012 graduate Chris Lam and senior Eunsoo Jeong, was the winner in the Short Animation category. “A Knock On My Door,” directed by Associate Professor David Chai and produced by his 2012 Advanced Animation class, took Honorable Mention in the same category. The festival, which is sponsored by AsiansonFilm.com, will be held Feb. 15-17 at J.E.T. Studios in North Hollywood.

Chai and team also won the gold medal in the Moving Image Category at the New York Society of Illustrators 55th Annual Exhibition for their animated short film, “A Knock on My Door.” The film has a two-fold San Jose State connection as it documents the life of David Chai’s father, SJSU Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering Hi Dong Chai. The awards ceremony was held Jan. 4 in New York City. The Society of Illustrators Annual Exhibition is open to artists worldwide, and each year a jury of top professionals considers thousands of entries before selecting the best for inclusion in their exhibition at the society’s gallery in New York. Professor Chai’s accomplishment marks the first time that SJSU has received a gold medal at this prestigious venue.

Five illustrations by SJSU A/I Lecturer Inga Poslitur were accepted into the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles Illustration West 51Competition. Her illustration “Eve Redeemed” received the gold medal. The Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles was founded in 1953 to promote the professional status of illustration art as well as to foster both philanthropic and educational projects. From this small beginning, SILA has grown into a productive membership whose work is seen locally and nationally by millions in printed media, television, films, online and at gallery exhibitions. Today, SILA is firmly established as a major professional art entity on the West Coast.

“Beethoven’s Vienna” Comes to Life

“Beethoven’s Vienna” Comes to Life

“Beethoven’s Vienna” Comes to Life

Hand-colored, perspective-view engraving of the Schwarzenberg Palace (courtesy of Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies).

Engravings of battle scenes and palaces. A Viennese cookbook from 1803. A zograscope and vue d’optique prints. A lock of hair. A quill pen. Music manuscripts. Period instruments. What do these items have in common?

They allow us to look into the years between 1792 and 1827 when Ludwig van Beethoven lived and worked in Vienna. “Beethoven’s Vienna – Music-Making, Machinery and Technology, the Imperial Capital and Its Surroundings, and Everyday Life” opens Jan. 26 at the King Library Special Collections exhibit hall and Beethoven Center.

The exhibit is free and open to the public through May 25. The pieces were curated by the Ira F. Brilliant Center for Beethoven Studies.  The center is the only institution in North America devoted solely to the life, works and accomplishments of Ludwig van Beethoven.

Established in 1983 when Ira F. Brilliant donated his Beethoven collection to San Jose State, the center officially opened in September 1985 with a gala co-sponsored by the San Jose Symphony. Building on Brilliant’s original donation, the center now has the largest collection of Beethoven materials outside of Europe.

In addition to functioning as a research library and museum, the center is involved in a variety of educational programs and sponsors concerts, lectures, tours, and other events.

"(In)security" Art Assesses 9/11's Impact

“(In)security” Art Assesses 9/11’s Impact


"(In)security" Art Assesses 9/11's Impact

Michele Pred with her piece, Fear Culture 2 (photo courtesy of Art Animal).

Jo Farb Hernandez, Director of the Natalie and James Thompson Art Gallery and a Professor of Department of Art and Art History who specializes in outsider art, has brought to campus an artist with a unique perspective on the World Trade Center attacks.

“If anthropologists were to assess items representing the aftermath of September 11, 2001, they might include the piles of random materials left behind at airport security checkpoints across the country,” writes blogger Elizabeth Coleman.

“For over 12 years, conceptual installation artist Michele Pred has been an anthropologist of sorts, gathering items like lighters, matchbooks, sewing scissors and pocket knives that were confiscated at the security checkpoints at San Francisco International Airport.”

In her newest exhibit, “(In)security,” on display at the Thompson Gallery through Dec. 14, “Pred uses these items to visually represent how our lives have been impacted in unexpected ways since 9/11 … By placing the confiscated items together in recognizable shapes such as a heart or the red, white and blue of the American flag, Pred brings new meaning to the material.” Read more from the Art Animal blog.

Isabel Allende Day

Isabel Allende Day began November 27 with a tour of animation/illustration sketches inspired by her first novel for young adults, “City of Beasts,” and then continued with a stage adaption of her short story “Tosca.” But it wasn’t until after Allende and her husband William C. Gordon settled into arm chairs on stage at Morris Dailey Auditorium that people really got to hear from the world-renowned author.

She shared a few frightening details from the death of her 26-year-old daughter, a moment she said “broke my heart and changed my life.” And she recalled how it felt after a military dictatorship drove her and her children from their Chilean home:

“As an immigrant, you are nobody. You have to stand on your own strength.”

Yet the conversation was filled with lighter moments and clear affection between the the couple, who claimed to have contrasting approaches to everything from writing to walking the dog, though they clearly share a love of writing and living together in their Marin County home. Their connection to San Jose State? They met through a Spanish professor, who gave Allende one of Gordon’s books 35 years ago.

The day also included a short awards ceremony, when Allende was named a Fulbright Global Citizen for marrying art and activism in literature that resonates worldwide. She first won international acclaim in 1982 after the publication of her novel, The House of Spirits. Since then, she has published 19 books translated into more than 30 languages.

Isabel Allende Day was presented by SJSU, Circulo Hispanico, the Center for Literary Arts and the Department of World Languages and Literatures.

Cordero, Green Ninja Receive International Recognition

Cordero, Green Ninja Receive International Recognition

Cordero, Green Ninja Receive International Recognition

Cordero’s Green Ninja climate-action superhero received the people’s choice award at an international film festival.

When international experts gathered Nov. 14-15 for a 24-hour online climate change symposium, SJSU’s Eugene Cordero was invited to take a seat at the table.

The professor of meteorology and climate science appeared on four hour-long segments of “24 Hours of Reality: The Dirty Weather Report.”

That included Hour 20, with former Vice President AL Gore and Virgin Group Founder and Chairman Richard Branson. The program is available online.

Cordero scored a second major victory recently: A video featuring his Green Ninja climate-action superhero received the people’s choice award at an international film festival.

The Green Screen: Climate Fix Flicks award included a $5,000 cash prize, which Cordero will use for students and faculty launching a Green Ninja web series.

Green Ninja

Cordero’s research focuses on understanding climate variability through the use of observations and climate models.

He’s also interested in developing new methods for teaching climate change that engage and ultimately stimulate social change.

That’s where the Green Ninja comes in. The project aims to educate young people about our changing climate and then give them the tools to do something about it.

The award winning video, “Green Ninja: Footprint Renovation”, is about a man whose feet become gigantic because of the large carbon footprint of his home.

The Green Ninja was created through a unique campus collaboration between scientists, artists, and educators across five SJSU colleges.

The YouTube series, to be launched in early 2013, will connect with a larger audience while supporting teachers who want to bring innovative curriculum into their classrooms.


Persian Studies Hosts Forum on the Future of U.S.-Iran Relations

Persian Studies Hosts Forum on the Future of U.S.-Iran Relations

Persian Studies Hosts Forum on the Future of U.S.-Iran Relations

SJSU’s Persian Studies Program invites the university community to “Nuclear Ambitions, Human Rights, and the Future of U.S.-Iran Relations” 7-9 p.m. Nov. 29 in King 225/229.

SJSU’s Persian Studies Program invites the university community to “Nuclear Ambitions, Human Rights, and the Future of U.S.-Iran Relations” 7-9 p.m. Nov. 29 in King 225/229.

The speakers will be Dr. Mahmoud Monshipouri, San Francisco State University; Nazy Kaviani, Committee to Protect Journalists; and Firuzeh Mahmoudi, United4Iran.

The event is sponsored by the Student Association of Middle East Studies and Associated Students of SJSU.

Co-sponsors include the Middle East Studies Consortium of Silicon Valley, Middle East Studies, SJSU Persian Studies Program, the Department of Journalism and Mass Communication, and the College of Humanities and the Arts.


Dr. Mahmoud Monshipouri is an associate professor and graduate coordinator in the Department of International Relations. He specializes in human rights, international relations, globalization and identity construction, and Middle Eastern Studies. He is the author of Youth, Technology, and Democratic Uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa. Currently, he is working on a project on Iran titled “Social Change in the Post-Khomeini Era.”

Nazy Kaviani is a writer, human rights activist, and promoter of Iranian arts and culture. She is also a translator and researcher, focusing on violations of human rights in Iran. She is a frequent contributor to Iranian.com and other websites. Nazy’s poetry and writings have been published in “The Poetry of Iranian Women” and in “Confronting the Clash: The Suppressed Voices of Iran,” which will be published later in 2012. She has recently completed translating and editing “Sketches of Iran,” a book of essays and cartoons about the situation of human rights in Iran.

Firuzeh Mahmoudi is the co-founder and co-director of United4Iran, an independent non-profit working to improve human rights conditions in Iran. Previously, Firuzeh managed a $13 million United Nations project focusing on improving environmental and public health conditions in eight Global South countries. Firuzeh also served as the international coordinator of the global coalition Health Care Without Harm working in over 50 countries. She has worked directly in more than ten countries and with partners in another thirty countries. Firuzeh serves on the board of many organizations focusing on Iranian culture or social change.