February 2018 Newsletter: Institute for Study of Sports, Society and Social Change Launches Research

Dr. Ted Butryn is the interim founding director of the Institute for the Study of Sports, Society and Social Change at San Jose State University.(Photo by David Schmitz)

Dr. Ted Butryn is the interim founding director of the Institute for the Study of Sports, Society and Social Change at San Jose State University.(Photo by David Schmitz)

By Melissa Anderson

Last January when Ted Butryn attended the Institute for the Study of Sports, Society and Social Change (ISSSSC) Words To Action Town Hall, he was there as an observer, as a professor of Kinesiology with a specialization in sport sociology and sport psychology, and as an admirer of Dr. Harry Edwards. Edwards, ’64 Sociology, ’16 Honorary Doctorate, was a student-athlete at SJSU who has become a renowned activist and scholar. He helped to launchISSSSC, starting with a donation of historical photos, autographed books, memorabilia and correspondence that is housed as part of the Dr. Harry Edwards Collection in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library.

When Butryn was approached to be the interim founding director of the fledging institute, he jumped at the chance to develop an interdisciplinary research center and to collaborate with Edwards.

“I met Dr. Edwards this summer and when I first started teaching the sociology of sport course at SJSU, I used to tell students, humbly, that I could never fill his shoes but I was going to do my best. I told him this story and said, looking up, that I know that now quite literally,” Butryn said, alluding to both Edwards’ reputation and 6’8” stature.

Butryn recalled first learning about Edwards’ work when he was an undergraduate student at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville, where he ran track and cross country while studying sport psychology. In an African American history course, he discovered the Olympic Project for Human Rights, and the 1968 protest by-then San Jose State University students Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who used their Olympic medal moment to bring attention to their cause.

His interest led him to SJSU, where he completed a master’s in sport psychology before returning to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville to complete a doctorate in their cultural studies and sport unit.

“I loved looking at how race, class, gender, sexual orientation, among other identities, worked and intersected in sporting spaces,” he said, of his master’s and PhD work.

Butryn has built a reputation in his own right and was named a North American Society for the Sociology of Sport Fellow in 2017. His own research has examined technology and sporting bodies and white racial identity and white privilege in sport, with his most recent research pivoting to the NFL protests. He has published more than 20 refereed articles, including four in the Sociology of Sport Journal, which is one of the top journals in the field. Along with numerous published book chapters, he also has presented more than 50 juried presentations at various academic conferences.

“ISSSSC was founded on the same principles of academic excellence and social integrity that have guided our university for over 160 years and in recognition of the influential power that sports and athletes have on our national and global cultures,” said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Andy Feinstein, in an email announcing Butryn’s appointment last fall. “SJSU considers the sociology of sport to be an emerging and prominent pillar in the field of social sciences and established ISSSSC to facilitate interdisciplinary collaboration, analysis and education to further our knowledge on the intersection of sport, society and social justice issues.”

In his early months as director, Butryn identified SJSU faculty who are interested in interdisciplinary research around sports and society, as well as top scholars from other universities and colleges in the US and Canada. The SJSU Academic Advisory Board members are listed online.

“We will be looking at a number of issues from different perspectives, drawing from sociology, cultural studies, psychology, and management, and using a variety of research methodologies” he said.  For example, he noted that he and his colleagues are examining the media coverage of the NFL protests, how young athletes interpret the protests, as well as how sport managers can learn about how to navigate the age of athlete activism in the future.

Other potential areas for research include sports and technology, the intersections between concussions, gender, race and socioeconomic status, and the sporting experiences of racial, ethnic and cultural groups that reflect the SJSU community. The ISSSSC team is also especially interested in providing research, scholarship and creative activity opportunities for undergraduate and graduate students.

“In the fall, we plan on having student research teams led by faculty advisors presenting during the week-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1968 Mexico City Olympics and SJSU’s legacy in the area of sport and social justice,” he said, noting that he would be recruiting students from numerous classes across campus.

ISSSSC will also continue to host important and timely conversations about the intersection of sports, society and social change.

The upcoming Words to Action: Gender, Sport and Society Town Hall will beMarch 14, from 8:30 a.m. to noon. The event will feature leading voices on gender equity and women’s rights in the sports world. Tickets are on sale now.

“In 1993, I remember sitting with my teammates in Tennessee watching the World Track and Field Championship 10K,” Butryn said. “I was already familiar with the Carlos and Smith protest, but they aired a brief documentary commemorating the 25th Anniversary (of the 1968 protest) that was really powerful. To be involved with the Institute leading into the 50th Anniversary at SJSU is more than a dream come true.”

February 2018 Newsletter: Video – Engineering Dean Sheryl Ehrman’s Flu Study Gains National Coverage

Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering Dean Sheryl Ehrman’s study of how the flu virus is spread gained national media coverage in January with at least 10 news outlets reporting on the findings that the virus can be spread just by breathing. The coverage of her work included mentions in the San Jose Mercury News, the New York Timesand multiple radio and TV news outlets. In the video above, Ehrman discusses the study with ABC 7 News reporters at the height of flu season. Ehrman said the study was launched at the University of Maryland during the flu season of December 2012 through March 2013. The findings were recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

February 2018 Newsletter: SJSU Professor Shares Insight on SV Culture in Documentary

Photo: James Tensuan Dr. Jan English-Lueck will be featured in a three-part documentary on Discovery's Science Channel in March as an expert on Silicon Valley culture.

Photo: James Tensuan
Dr. Jan English-Lueck will be featured in a three-part documentary on Discovery’s Science Channel in March as an expert on Silicon Valley culture.

By David Goll

A San Jose State University professor considered one of the leading experts on the unique culture of Silicon Valley will be prominently featured when the small screen takes a close look at the world’s birthplace of high tech.

Dr. Jan English-Lueck, a professor of anthropology at SJSU since 1991, is part of “Silicon Valley: The Untold Story”, a three-part documentary series premiering March 19 on Discovery’s Science Channel. Produced by Michael Schwartz for Menlo Park-based Kikim Media, the series will examine how the agricultural region once world famous for vast reaches of fruit orchards — known as the “Valley of Heart’s Delight” — became fertile territory for technological innovations and sprouted such household-name corporations as Intel, Apple, Google and Facebook.

English-Lueck is among the Valley’s Who’s Who of interviewees for the program, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, venture capitalist and entrepreneur Heidi Roizen, entrepreneur and tech executive Kim Polese, journalists John Markoff and Michael Malone, and high-tech historians Leslie Berlin of Stanford University and Margaret O’Mara of the University of Washington.

History plays a big part in the program, as the series will sift through 150 years of the region’s history.

The program’s debut comes just a few months after English-Lueck’s second edition of her famed book about the region, “Cultures@SiliconValley, was published last summer. Her 2,000 hours of research included spending a year with local families to assess the impacts of the industry and its products on local life. The book’s first edition appeared in 2002.

English-Lueck’s participation in the television project dates to 2014, when she underwent three hours of interviews at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View. Afterwards, she heard nothing more about the program until December, when she received an invitation to attend the series’ premiere at the museum in January.

“I sort of forgot about it,” she said with a laugh during a recent interview. “It was a surprise to get the invitation. I’m one of the talking heads.”

English-Lueck, who spent several years as associate dean of the College of Social Science before returning to teaching in 2014, was hired 27 years ago to delve into and explore Silicon Valley as a cultural phenomenon. She has become a popular interpreter of the region’s social fabric and its powerful societal impacts.

“I get calls from throughout the world, including recently from the BBC,” she said. “Silicon Valley has developed its own cultural identity over the years. It has its own way of life and exported it to the entire world.”

English-Lueck, also a fellow at the Institute of the Future, a Palo Alto-based nonprofit research organization, said Europeans especially are both fascinated and repulsed by Silicon Valley.

“They find it distasteful people here can’t compartmentalize their lives, they’re always connected to technology and every social interaction is viewed as a way to get ahead professionally and socially,” she said.

Dr. Roberto Gonzalez, chair of the Department of Anthropology said he was thrilled to hear of his colleague’s involvement in the series and “delighted, but not surprised” about her book’s second edition.

“It has become a modern classic in the field of anthropology,” he said. “Very few ethnographies have such lasting relevance or maintain such interest.”

Gonzalez said English-Lueck’s expertise is renowned.

“Jan is among a small handful of social scientists who have gained keen insights into the workings of Silicon Valley’s diverse cultures, not just the ‘tech culture’ of engineers and programmers, but the cultures of immigrants, working people and families,” he said.

He described SJSU’s relationship with Silicon Valley as “complicated.”

“On one hand, SJSU students who want to work for the industry often have great success in finding positions with companies like Google, Facebook, Adobe and the rest,” he said.

But, he said the tech industry has been justifiably criticized for its lack of diversity.

“The vast majority of top positions are filled by graduates from Ivy League schools or Stanford, not San Jose State and other public universities,” he said.

February 2018 Newsletter: SJSU and MTI Take Lead with CSU Research Consortium

Photo: James Tensuan Karen Philbrick, PhD, executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute, poses for a photo in downtown San Jose. SJSU and MTI have been selected to lead a CSU research consortium focused on transit issues in the state.

Photo: James Tensuan
Karen Philbrick, PhD, executive director of the Mineta Transportation Institute, poses for a photo in downtown San Jose. SJSU and MTI have been selected to lead a CSU research consortium focused on transit issues in the state.16

By David Goll

San Jose State University and its Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) are preparing to play a prominent role in finding solutions to California’s seemingly intractable transportation problems.

The approval last year by state legislators of Senate Bill 1 (SB 1) — co-authored by state Sen. Jim Beall, D-San Jose — designated $2 million annually for three years for CSU research and workforce development. The Chancellor’s Office held a competition to determine which campus would lead the efforts, with SJSU and MTI selected to guide the research consortium.

Karen Philbrick, PhD, executive director of MTI, founded in 1991 in the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business, said SB 1 authorizes funds to conduct transportation-related research by students and faculty from throughout the CSU, and $5 million annually for the University of California. The measure raises an average of $5.2 billion annually for improvements over the next decade.

During an interview in the MTI offices, a few blocks north of campus, Philbrick said she was “thrilled” her organization won out in the CSU competition and will manage collaboration on research activities system wide. The researchers will work to devise improvements for the state’s overtaxed roadway, air and rail transportation networks.

“We are honored and delighted to be selected as the lead transportation research center and to administer funds provided to the CSU by SB 1,” she said. “MTI’s focus on providing access to equitable, affordable and sustainable surface transportation through the highest-quality research aligns well with the legislation’s vision for accountability in ensuring the best possible use of these resources.”

Transit dilemmas in California, with the world’s sixth-largest economy, are daunting. Three of the top five most-congested metropolitan areas in the nation for vehicular traffic are in the Golden State: Los Angeles-Long Beach, San Francisco-Oakland, and San Jose. Meanwhile, the state’s trailblazing effort to build the first high-speed rail system in the U.S., as well as upgrade commuter rail networks in the Bay Area and Southern California have become bogged down with legal and political challenges and cost overruns.

As a result, the hamstrung movement of goods in a state whose seaports — including the nation’s busiest of Los Angeles/Long Beach, and the fifth busiest at Oakland — handle 45 percent of the nation’s continental, containerized cargo, is often a major headache for businesses.

Sen. Beall said the SJSU/MTI collaborative organization is the logical place to lead campus and CSU-developed solutions.

“I consider San Jose State’s Mineta Transportation as California’s public-sector equivalent of the research and development departments that are so common in the private sector,” he said. “MTI has a great record of transportation research. It is eminently qualified to evaluate proposed projects for their merit and innovation. The institute’s research teams have a well-earned reputation for being thorough and forward thinking.”

With California’s transportation system the “backbone” of its economy, Beall said, “MTI’s research will be applied to help create an effective infrastructure system for an ever-increasing mobile society.”

Philbrick said CSU research efforts will focus particularly on four campuses that comprise the MTI-managed California State University Transportation Consortium — SJSU, CSU Chico, Fresno State University and CSU Long Beach, all of which operate transportation-oriented academic centers. She said SB 1 calls for emphasizing research into maintenance and rehabilitation of surface roads, congestion relief, and improvements in trade corridors and pedestrian/cyclist safety.

Philbrick said requests for proposals for research projects were issued in January, with a deadline of Feb. 26. She expressed high hopes for those proposals from all CSU campuses.

“We have wonderful (transportation research) programs throughout CSU,” she said.

February 2018 Newsletter: Khatami, Schuster Receive 2017 Early Career Investigator Award

By David Goll

Ehsan Khatami and David Schuster had nearly identical reactions to winning San Jose State University’s 2017-18 Early Career Investigator Award. Both assistant professors used the words “honored” and “humbled” to describe how they felt.

The annual award recognizes SJSU academics who are still early in their careers who have completed significant research, scholarship or creative activities (RSCA) in their chosen fields of research. A subcommittee that includes SJSU Research Foundation board members and SJSU faculty reviews each nomination for the award. The subcommittee reviews each nominee’s success in securing funds for RSCA and in publishing in peer-reviewed journals or carrying out other important scholarly or creative activities. Each awardee receives a $1,000 cash award, to be used at their discretion.

The assistant professors will be honored during the annual Celebration of Research, April 4 in the Diaz Compean Student Union, where they will give a presentation of recent work.

Khatami, who is a professor of physics in the College of Science Department of Physics and Astronomy, said he feels the award provides him incentive to do great work. He is credited with helping build his department’s first modern high-performance computational cluster. He has also — along with some of his students and in collaboration with such top-tier research institutions as MIT, Princeton University, Rice University and the University of California, Davis — conducted research projects in his field of Computational Physics, aspects of which are also known as solid state physics or condensed matter physics.

Now in his fourth year at San Jose State, Khatami, who also worked at Georgetown University and UC, Santa Cruz, said he is impressed with the level of support he has received for his research from departmental and university officials.

“It’s very encouraging to see that I have the freedom to pursue my research, with lots of room to grow,” he said. “But I also get to teach classes. I love to teach.”

Both Khatami and Schuster have been highly successful at pursuing grants from the National Science Foundation (NSF) — as well as other organizations — to fund their research projects. Khatami helped secure a $900,000 grant as a co-principal investigator and Schuster received one for $500,000 from the NSF’s Early Career Development program. Khatami also individually secured a $171,000 grant from NSF.

The NSF grant for Schuster is a five-year award to support his work on improving cybersecurity in the private sector. Schuster is in his fifth year with the College of Social Sciences Department of Psychology and involved in the second year of work on his interdisciplinary research project.

“I feel great about the progress we have made so far,” he said. “This is such a tremendous opportunity, and we have the potential to get great results.”

Schuster and his students have been working with large technology companies “to try to make a dent in the many problems involving cybersecurity today. There are no easy fixes.”

He and his students are involved in the study of human factors, an interdisciplinary science and practice focusing on everything from ergonomics and workplace safety to product design and human-computer interaction.

“It is the intersection of psychology and engineering,” Schuster said. “These companies are interested in designing approaches incorporating technology and human behavior.”

Khatami is also pleased with his research progress, including projects publicized in such prestigious publications as Nature and Science. In the latter publication last fall, theorist Khatami and a team of experimentalist collaborators from Princeton reported their observation of an exotic magnetic phase of matter with ultra-cold atoms that may explain the workings of superconductivity at high temperatures. And in the past two years, Khatami has begun using artificial intelligence, or AI, in his research.