February 2016 Newsletter: Immigration and Performing Arts Connect

Photo courtesy of Matthew Spangler Dr. Matthew Spangler, center right in gray, and Dr. David Kahn, center left in white, lead participants of a 2014 summer institute, "The Immigrant Experience in California through Literature and Theatre" through a performance exercise. The pair will host the program this summer with a National Endowment for the Humanities grant.

Photo courtesy of Matthew Spangler
Dr. Matthew Spangler, center right in gray, and Dr. David Kahn, center left in white, lead participants of a 2014 summer institute, “The Immigrant Experience in California through Literature and Theatre” through a performance exercise. The pair will host the program this summer with a National Endowment for the Humanities grant.

Matthew Spangler, a professor of communication studies in the College of Social Sciences, and David Kahn, a professor and chair of the Department of TV, Radio, Film and Theatre in the College of Humanities and the Arts, will be leading a summer institute for K-12 teachers and graduate students at San Jose State in July, with a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

“The Immigrant Experience in California through Literature and Theatre” will bring 25 teachers and graduate students working toward a career in K-12 teaching to SJSU where they will interact with professors from a multitude of disciplines as well as artists and authors who have explored the immigrant experience in their works. The teachers will explore the written pieces through performance activities and will perform a piece of their own creation by the end of the program.

“The institute combines immigration and performance, and that’s what I do with my scholarship,” said Spangler, who wrote Staging Intercultural Ireland: New Plays and Practitioner Perspectives (co-edited with Charlotte McIvor, Cork University Press, 2014).

“The Immigrant Experience in California through Literature and Theatre” was offered at SJSU in 2014 through an NEH grant, with 150 teachers applying for the available slots. Guest faculty include Maxine Hong Kingston (author of The Woman Warrior) and Andrew Lam (author of Perfume Dreams: Reflections on the Vietnamese Diaspora), playwright and SJSU alumnus Luis Valdez, ’64 English (author of Zoot Suit and founder of El Teatro Campesino), and theatre artist Ping Chong (author of East West Quartet and creator of “Undesirable Elements” performance series). The program will discuss immigration in an historical context with curriculum around emigration from Mexico, China, Afghanistan and Vietnam to California.

Other SJSU faculty members who are involved in the summer institute include Glen Gendzel, an associate professor of history, and Persis Karim, an associate professor of English.

Spangler, who studied at Trinity College in Dublin and completed a dissertation on Irish author James Joyce, said he became interested in the influence of immigration on Irish arts when there was an influx of movement into the country between 1995 to 2008.

“Ireland has a long history of emigration and it doesn’t have a national mythology around immigration like we do in America,” Spangler said. “Immigration is turning that on its head and demanding Ireland rethink its national identity.”

In addition to his scholarship, Spangler has also adapted books for the stage, including Khaled Hosseini’s Kite Runner and T.C. Boyle’s Tortilla Curtain.

“The book has to be something I really like,” Spangler said, of working on an adaptation. “When you write a play, you spend a lot of time with it. It takes about a year to write it, then I look for a theatre that wants to produce it and then there’s the rehearsal time. It can be a two-to-three-year process so it has to be a story I really feel connected to and I want to share.”

Read more about “The Immigrant Experience in California through Literature and Theatre” online.

February 2016 Newsletter: Study Grant Aims to Improve Resources for Vietnamese Dementia Caregivers

Dr. Van Ta Park shares her background as a Vietnamese refugee and the role of personal connection in improving resources for dementia caregivers.

Dr. Van Ta Park shares her background as a Vietnamese refugee and the role of personal connection in improving resources for dementia caregivers.

As a refugee from Vietnam, Dr. Van Ta Park, an associate professor in the Department of Health Science and Recreation in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, has a unique understanding of the challenges that face family caregivers.

“We escaped by boat, but I was very young so I have no recollection,” Ta Park said. “My parents shared stories with me of the refugee camps and the violence…For a lot of refugees this experience follows them in their everyday lives.”

Ta Park has received a grant for $150,000 over three years from the Alzheimer’s Association to develop culturally-tailored mental health resources to support Vietnamese American dementia caregivers. San Jose has one of the largest Vietnamese populations in the nation. Among Vietnamese Americans, 68 percent are foreign born and 87.5 percent speak another language other than English at home. Prior research, including Ta Park’s, have shown that Vietnamese Americans are less likely to utilize mental health services compared to the general population, which is concerning as caring for a family member with dementia is associated with higher rates of depression than in the general population.

William Fisher, the CEO of the Alzheimer’s Association Northern California and Northern Nevada Chapter, presented Ta Park with a check for her grant on Feb. 19. He noted that grant proposals are selected through a peer evaluation process, with the top eight percent of proposals receiving funding. Ta Park was one of only two scientists to receive the Mentored New Investigator Research Grant to Promote Diversity (MNIRGD). She will be working with her mentors, Dr. Dolores Gallagher-Thompson and Dr. Gwen Yeo from Stanford University, School of Medicine, and will work closely with the Vietnamese American community.

Before receiving the Alzheimer’s Association grant, Ta Park received funding for a qualitative study from SJSU and her college that allowed her to interview mental healthcare providers who work with the Vietnamese population to understand the way they used existing services and the best way to reach clients.

“I found consistently that they recommended incorporating spirituality and the need to ask personal questions as well as allowing them to ask personal questions,” Ta Park said.

Through this input, Ta Park is developing a face-to-face, cognitive behavioral skill training program that will meet at the homes of Vietnamese caregivers in small groups, with five to six caregivers at a time. The participants will be divided into two groups: 30 people in the control group will receive existing resources from the Alzheimer’s Association website that have been translated from English into Vietnamese, and the other 30 will receive newly developed resources that have been created specifically for the program. All participants will be recruited through community organizations that serve local Vietnamese residents.

To support the research, Ta Park has recruited bilingual and bicultural Vietnamese SJSU students to be research assistants.

“I see the language barrier,” Trieu Vy Nguyen, ’16 Health Science student. “There is a lack of resources. I want to be involved to have a positive impact on their quality of life.”

Pakistani instructors visit SJSU

San Jose State University’s College of International and Extended Studies hosted a lunch to welcome a handful of visitors from Pakistan’s Allama Iqbal Open University on Nov. 6. The Pakistani educators are working with CIES staff, administrators and SJSU faculty from other colleges on the Pakistan Distance Education Enhancement Program, with funding from the U.S. State Department.

The goal of the PDEEP partnership is to support instructors at the Pakistani university in developing online and hybrid classes. Many of the students who are served in the program are women who are unable to travel to a university due to familial responsibilities or cultural barriers that prevent women from seeking higher education as well as rural residents without the means to attend a university.

CIES Dean Ruth Huard is the principal investigator on the grant while Mark Adams serves as the program director.

“Three or four years ago, Mark and I were finishing up work at 7 or 8 p.m. and we saw this opportunity,” Huard said, of the PDEEP grant. “We said, ‘Wow, this is great. But we don’t have time to do it.’ Then we said, ‘We have to do it.’”

In the three years since SJSU received the grant, Adams said there have been two dozen faculty exchanges, 15 workshops and multiple sub projects to build distance education capacity.

Dr. Nasir Mahmood, of Allama Iqbal Open University, said the institution serves more than 1.2 million students through a distance program in which they send printed learning materials directly to the homes of students.

Mahmood said with PDEEP, they are initially using degrees such as the master of philosophy, similar to a master of science in the U.S., and doctorate programs which have 10-20 students enrolled to serve as a pilot. He acknowledged some of the infrastructure challenges in bringing education to all with the new model.

“There are power shortages in some places that can last eight hours,” he said, of the infrastructure. “We struggled with how to connect people together as many students do not have access to the internet. They are not used to the interfaces.”

From the main goal of expanding online and hybrid curriculum, some other projects have evolved. Minna Holopainen, an SJSU communication studies professor, has been working with PDEEP on Collaborative Online Intercultural Studies. Through COIL, SJSU students and Pakistani students interact via teleconferences including an exchange between students enrolled in math courses.

“COIL caused stereotypes to melt away,” Adams said. “It hasn’t been a one-way benefit. We have learned so much expertise from so many faculty.

Afshan Huma, a faculty member in educational planning policy and leadership in Pakistan, said she was not initially involved in the project but she was intrigued every time her colleagues met about PDEEP. She said she had the chance to study in the United States and in the United Kingdom. She described Pakistani education as teacher centered and content centered, but her experience abroad showed her an educational system that is focused on students. She said she recognized that not all students will have the chance to study abroad as she has.

Huma signed on recently to be an active partner in the hopes that her students will benefit from engaging with people who have a different perspective.

“I believe them having an international interaction will have a positive effect,” she said.

SJSU students from the Pakistani Student Association were invited to the luncheon. Sami Ullah, an electrical engineering student, said he got involved with the Pakistani Student Association because he hadn’t met any students from his own country when he arrived at SJSU. He said he liked that his professors have worked for companies in the Bay Area and can share first-hand experience. At the start of the program, Ullah and three other students presented the visitors with a poster and welcomed them to the United States. Other visitors included Dr. Tanveer Afzal and Shabnan Shahid, along with Richard Boyum, the University Partnerships coordinator for the U.S. State Department.

Read more about Pakistan Distance Education Enhancement Program.

SWEEP team honored at Hanoi summit

The San Jose State University College of Applied Sciences and Arts Social Work Education Enhancement Project (SWEEP) team and co-investigator Dr. Alice Hines received prestigious awards from the government of Viet Nam during a September Summit in Hanoi.

Dr. Hines is the first American citizen to receive an award and medal from the director of Vietnamese the Ministry of Labour, Invalids, and Social Affairs (MOLISA), according to the Vietnamese officials who presented her with the honors.

SWEEP is funded through the US Agency for International Development with a grant that ends in Spring 2016. Visitors from Viet Nam have visited SJSU for a Fellows Academy and leaders summits, while SJSU SWEEP team members traveled to Viet Nam for conferences each year.

The purpose of the grant is to:

  • Develop systems to strengthen higher education management and administration,
  • Devise processes to enhance faculty development opportunities and programs
  • Develop and employ relevant curriculum adaptable to Viet Nam’s changing knowledge and needs.

SWEEP is funded through the US Agency for International Development with a three-year grant. Visitors from Viet Nam spent a week at SJSU in September, with a group of fellows expected to stay for a month in the spring. Members of the SJSU SWEEP team will also be traveling to Viet Nam in December for an annual conference.

Read more about the SWEEP Summit and award ceremony.

Learn more SWEEP.

Grant: Summer institute will focus on immigrant experience through literature and theatre

Matthew Spangler, a professor of Performance and Communications Studies, and David Kahn, a professor and chair of TV, Radio, Film, & Theatre, received a grant for $168,000 from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

The grant will allow Spangler and Kahn to put on a two-week summer institute for 25 school teachers that will explore the immigrant experience in California through literary works and theatrical adaptations. Previous institute faculty included Luis Valdez, playwright and author of “Zoot Suit,” Maxine Hong Kingston, author of “Woman Warrior,” and many others. The institute explores ways in which the immigrant experience to the United States, and California, in particular, has been represented through literary texts. the topics include: (1) the construction of political borders between geographic territories and social borders between groups of people; (2) intercultural interaction 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, Vietnam, and Afghanistan.

Scholars from the 2014 “The California Immigrant Experience through Literature and Theatre" program pose for a photo.

Scholars from the 2014 “The California Immigrant Experience through Literature and Theatre” program pose for a photo.

Entitled “The California Immigrant Experience through Literature and Theatre,” the institute will be held July 17-31, 2016. Applications are available online for qualifying K-12 teachers.

For more information, visit the Immigration Theatre Institute website.