‘One Carbon Footprint At A Time’ Airs on KQED

San Jose State University Emeritus Professor Bob Gliner’s latest documentary will premiere on KQED on Jan. 2 at 11:30 p.m. and repeat on Jan. 3, at 5:30 a.m.

The former Sociology professor is a prolific filmmaker who has traveled the world to produced documentaries focused on social issues and social change. He combines his interest in education and climate change in his latest half-hour documentary, “One Carbon Footprint At a Time.” The film highlights how education can inspire everyday actions that play a critical and potentially transformative role in affecting climate change. The film explores a unique interdisciplinary Global Climate course at SJSU as well as classes at two San Jose area middle schools to see how the curriculum influences students to make changes in their daily lives.

The documentary features SJSU students, alumni and two faculty members, Eugene Cordero, from Meteorology and Climate Science, and Anne Marie Todd, from Communications Studies.

Gliner has received more than 16 awards for his films and was named as San Jose State’s 2002 President’s Scholar. For more information on Gliner’s latest documentary as well as other work, visit his website. DocMakerOnline.com. For updates on the SJSU alumni featured in the film, visit the program’s website.

Teaching and Learning Span Disciplines

Gordon Douglas, a professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning applies his knowledge of communications and sociology to his interdisciplinary research on unauthorized do-it-yourself urban planning. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Gordon Douglas, a professor in the Department of Urban and Regional Planning applies his knowledge of communications and sociology to his interdisciplinary research on unauthorized do-it-yourself urban planning. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

By David Goll

As with many institutions of higher education, students at San Jose State University are exposed to a variety of subjects through their lower division GE courses. But many professors are also taking interdisciplinary approaches within courses, providing students with a deeper understanding of how knowledge and skills can span across majors.

Costanza Rampini, Tasha Reddy and Bettina Brockmann are taking a multi-pronged approach to tackle the myriad of issues involved with climate change in a course they are teaching this year. The trio of instructors is examining the issue through the academic lenses of science, economic and social impacts, and communications, among others.

For today’s college students, climate change is not some distant, theoretical menace years away that is unlikely to affect their lives. Many want to learn as much about the issue as possible to confront what they consider a real threat to their futures.

They view this cross-disciplinary approach as the ideal way to educate the upcoming generation of citizens and leaders on this vast subject.

The twice-weekly, two-semester course — Global Climate Change — earns six units this fall and three next spring for its 90 enrolled students (though the class capacity is 120.) It is comprised of mostly juniors and seniors majoring in communications, environmental studies or a multitude of other majors such as physics, theatre arts, economics and public relations, among others.

Developed in 2007, Global Climate Change is in its 10th year and has served nearly 1,000 students, according to Anne Marie Todd, a professor of Communications. Integrating climate science with policymaking, public communication strategies and principles of climate justice, students complete the course as climate experts. It’s the only course of its kind at SJSU and in the CSU and has twice been recognized by the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) for educational excellence.

“Students love community engagement projects that promote climate change awareness in schools, neighborhoods and businesses,” Todd said. “For example, students create educational materials integrating climate science with practical knowledge in English, Spanish and Vietnamese. Students have founded nonprofit groups and developed programs that support ongoing community educational initiatives.”

Recent surveys and focus group interviews of course alumni show that students feel a lasting personal connection to climate change and a strong sense of personal obligation and perceived individual agency to address climate change in their personal and professional lives.

“I think ours is a unique approach,” said Rampini, who earned a Ph.D. in environmental studies, focusing on climate change adaptations in India, from the University of California, Santa Cruz in 2016. She is in her second year as an SJSU lecturer.

Jamie Pilar, a senior majoring in communications studies, said she was not a climate change skeptic, but also not a passionate advocate in favor of taking action on the issue when she enrolled in the class this fall. But her class experience has changed her outlook, and she has found a cause worth studying and promoting.

“I’m a communications student, and I’ve never particularly liked science,” Pilar, who transferred to SJSU from Ohlone College, said during a break in the class held in Washington Square Hall. “This class has challenged me to view the issue of climate change from many different perspectives. I’ve started talking about this with my friends and family. They’re surprised I’ve developed such a strong interest and point of view on this subject.”

Pilar has learned to appreciate the natural science instruction of Reddy, the newest member of the teaching team who started at SJSU in August after completing post-doctoral work on climate change in the Arctic Ocean region using supercomputers. She discusses the Earth’s climate systems and how humans have an impact on climate through their activities. Rampini enlightens students on how humans are in turn affected by climate change.

Another student Akash Patel recently interact with former Vice President Al Gore during a livestream Q&A about An Inconvenient Sequel. Patel asked what students can do to influence a tax on carbon system. View a video of the encounter online.

Brockmann, who came to the United States from Germany 19 years ago and has been teaching this class since 2012, highlights how climate scientists and climate change advocates can effectively communicate their message to the public.

“The multi-disciplinary approach helps students make connections,” Rampini said.

That multi-faceted teaching style informs not only the classroom presentations of Gordon Douglas assistant professor of SJSU’s Urban and Regional Planning department but also guides him in conducting his academic research.

That includes the extensive, wide-ranging research he compiled for his book about unauthorized do-it-yourself urban planning done by residents of large cities in North America and Europe, titled “The Help Yourself City.” Described as a multi-disciplinary urbanist, Douglas is a newcomer to SJSU, having joined the Department of Urban and Regional Planning this fall. He earned his Ph.D. in Sociology from the University of Chicago, a master’s degree in Global Communication from the USC Annenberg School for Communication and a bachelor’s degree in International Relations from the University of Southern California, among other academic achievements. He completed his post-doctoral work at New York University’s Institute for Public Knowledge.

Douglas conducted more than 100 interviews for his forthcoming book, spending many weeks doing research in such cities as Los Angeles, Vancouver, Toronto, New York and London. Delving into his interest in culture and gentrification, he studied how residents of these cities created their own pocket parks, median-strip gardens, pedestrian seating, unofficial bike lanes and even their own system of directional signs along streets in an ultra-conservative Jewish enclave in the New York City borough of Brooklyn — independent of city planners.

Compiling both quantitative and qualitative data and statistics, Douglas also returned to his hometown, Davis, to study how Minneapolis-based Target Corp. managed to build the first big-box retail outlet in the famously slow-growth university town of 65,000 west of Sacramento. A development particularly surprising after city’s voters rejected a proposal for a second Village Homes project to create another green, sustainable residential community.

“An interesting study into how large companies can get what they want, even in unexpected places,” Douglas said.

He now teaches Social Issues in Planning and a course in Urban Design at SJSU. Douglas also serves as director of the university’s Institute for Metropolitan Studies and will be working with his students to create a documentary film series.

October 2017 Newsletter: Provost Update – Greatness Happens When Disciplines Intersect

While Halloween is still a day away, I had the pleasure of celebrating early this month at McKinley Elementary School during the 10th Annual Safe and Green Halloween Festival. The yearly event hosted by SJSU’s CommUniverCity and the city of San Jose brings together neighborhood children and families for an afternoon of fun while also teaching them about sustainability and healthy living. SJSU students and faculty from the health science, business and environmental studies programs worked with dozens of officials to make the event a success.

As economist Robert J. Shiller once said, “In the longer run and for wide-reaching issues, more creative solutions tend to come from imaginative interdisciplinary collaboration.” We take this to heart at our university. The October event is just one example of the multi-disciplinary learning opportunities we provide for our students. Through these experiences, they are prepared for a world that increasingly requires collaboration on interdisciplinary teams. Whether our students pursue careers in the arts, sciences, technology, business, healthcare, the public sector or nonprofits, they will be prepared for the kind of thoughtful interactions that can lead to groundbreaking developments.

We have a long history of taking an interdisciplinary approach to education, as with our Humanities Honors Program founded in 1954. The program appeals to students from a variety of majors who understand that a strong foundation in communication and critical thinking will benefit them – in engineering, business, psychology or any one of a multitude of majors. In another unique course, students enrolled in a Global Climate Change benefit from natural science, environmental studies and communications perspectives in a team-taught course that highlights how climate scientists and advocates need to find an effective way to communicate to the public.

Our university is a rich environment for people with different skill sets and interests to connect, and sometimes this intersection of passions happen within one individual. This is surely the case for Chemistry Professor Bradley Stone who recently won an award for a weekly jazz music program and for Professor Gordon Douglas whose teaching and research explores the connection between urban political-economy, community studies and the cultures of planning and design.

As we continue to focus on student success, I am excited to explore more ways we can foster interdisciplinary learning, teaching and research on our campus.

Happy Halloween!

Faculty Notes for January 2016: Publications, quotes and more

By Kat Meads

Associate Professor Michael Cheers was interviewed by the San Jose Mercury News at the unveiling of a downtown mural.

Associate Professor Michael Cheers was interviewed by the San Jose Mercury News at the unveiling of a downtown mural.

The San Jose Mercury News interviewed Associate Professor Michael Cheers, School of Journalism and Mass Communications, regarding the December unveiling of a multicultural mural in downtown San Jose that depicts six barbers of Barbers, Inc. styling the locks of six icons, including Muhammad Ali, Bruce Lee, Johnny Cash and poet Maya Angelou. “Imagine kids leaving here and seeking out Maya’s books of poetry,” Cheers said. The mural is located near the corner of Eighth and Santa Clara streets.

Department of Physics and Astronomy Lecturer Friedemann Freund, a senior scientist at NASA’s Ames Research Center in Mountain View, was a presenter at the American Geophysical Union’s fall meeting in San Francisco. He shared his research on predicting earthquakes via electromagnetic anomalies that appear in the Earth’s crust minutes to days before an earthquake occurs.

This month, iSchool Assistant Professor Christine Hagar presented at the United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction Science and Technology Conference in Geneva, Switzerland. Hagar shared research on her specialty, crisis informatics, concerning the role of information professionals and public libraries in disasters and collaborations with disaster and emergency management agencies.

In December, Professor of Art and Art History and Director of the Natalie and James Thompson Art Gallery Jo Farb Hernandez presented her book “Singular Spaces: From Eccentric to the Extraordinary in Spanish Art Environments” at the Reina Sofia Museum in Spain. Hernandez’ book was presented along with books by three other women who have recently published on the theme of art brut/art environments in Spain, Cuba and Italy.

Last month Lecturer Sharmin Khan, Department of Computer Science and Department of Linguistics and Language Development, published “A Muslim call to fight radical Islam” in the San Jose Mercury News, calling on “all progressive Muslims to wake up to the peril within our midst.” Read the article online.

Assistant Professor Ellen Middaugh, Department of Child and Adolescent Development, was interviewed by NBCBayArea.com on how to discuss the recent Paris terrorist attacks with children. Most critically, parents should emphasize that the actions of Islamic extremists do not reflect the beliefs and actions of all Muslims, Middaugh stressed. Read more online.

Professor Scott Myers-Lipton, Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, is leading a San Jose business tax initiative. The proposed ballot measure would establish a gross-receipts tax, taxing businesses based on income. The proposal will go before voters in November if 20,000 signatures can be gathered in six months. Myers-Lipton, who also led the successful 2012 campaign to raise the city’s minimum wage, is the author of “Ending Extreme Inequality” (Paradigm 2015).

Assistant Professor Dustin Mulvaney, Department of Environmental Studies, published an article in the San Jose Mercury News on climate change and the importance of preserving desert habitats. “Permanently protecting large swaths of the California desert, such as Mojave Trails National Monument, will ensure that these landscapes continue doing the important work of sequestering carbon pollution,” he wrote. Read the article online.

New Scientist interviewed Assistant Professor Aaron Romanowsky, Department of Physics and Astronomy, about his team’s discovery of a dwarf spheroidal galaxy “in distress, orbiting NGC 253, a giant spiral galaxy 11 million light years from Earth,” the article reported. “It looks like it’s being ripped apart by the larger galaxy,” Romanowsky said. Read more online.

Lecturer Edward Webb, Department of Accounting and Finance, was promoted to partner at Burr Pilger Mayer, one of the largest California-based accounting and consulting firms. Webb leads the firm’s Consulting Practice Group. At SJSU, he teaches corporate finance and accounting.

Professor Elizabeth Weiss, Department of Anthropology, recently spoke at the Milpitas Public Library on the links among modern health problems, lifestyle and evolutionary history. Weiss teaches physical anthropology courses at SJSU and has presented her research findings at annual meetings of, among others, the American Association of Physical Anthropologists, Canadian Association of Physical Anthropology and the Paleopathology Association.

The December issue of Nature Neuroscience featured an article co-authored by Biological Sciences Assistant Professor Katie Wilkinson on the discovery of a protein related to proprioception – a sense that allows humans and animals to tell where their body parts are relative to each other and the environment. Read more online.