Spartans at Work: At The Walt Disney Family Museum, I’m “Inspired to Keep Pursuing My Own Goals”

By Sarah Kyo, Web Communications Specialist

(This summer, SJSU Today hits the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job across the country and around the world. Our Spartans at Work series continues with animation/illustration major Alex Turner.)

Where will an SJSU degree take you? How about to a place that celebrates one of the most influential people in your field? Alex Turner, ’14, Animation/Illustration major is an education intern at The Walt Disney Family Museum in the Presidio of San Francisco.

From the outside, the museum’s building matches the surrounding red-brick structures not far from the Golden Gate Bridge. Inside, it contains historic artifacts from Disney’s life and the classic Disney animations, films and television programs.

Turner said he feels inspired to come to work, drawing in his sketchbook as he commutes on the Caltrain every weekday. At the museum, he helps inspire a younger generation’s creativity and imagination at the museum’s Disney Discovery Summer Camp. Each week-long session revolves around a different topic, such as animation, comics books and designing theme park rides.

Once camp wraps up in early August, Turner will apply his skills in helping the museum redesign its website. The SJSU animation/illustration program gave him a great foundation for his internship.

“I feel like I have pretty strong fundamentals in art and animation,” he said, “and what we’re doing at the camp at The Walt Disney Family Museum, I’ve been able to apply a lot of those skills like either design or painting, you know, or just being organized.”

Young Special Agents Get Hands-On Experience at SJSU’s First-Ever CSI Camp

Young Special Agents Get Hands-On Experience at SJSU's First-Ever CSI Camp

A camper studies fingerprints uncovered with magnetic powder (Department of Justice Studies photo).

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

Sixteen middle and high school students, ages 13 to 17, got a chance to uncover the secrets of a crime scene at SJSU’s first-ever Forensic Science and Crime Scene Investigation Camp, offered by SJSU’s Department of Justice Studies July 9-13.

“The goal is to inspire students into careers where they are helping to solve crimes,” said Steven Lee, the camp’s director and a professor of justice studies.

Wearing crime scene “do not enter” tape as sashes, campers worked in teams of four to look at evidential material used during a crime scene investigation. Each team carefully observed, collected and interpreted fingerprints, bloodstain patterns and DNA, applying tools they learned in forensic science, criminology, neurology and forensic anthropology workshops.

“Everyday I see them, I get a chance to see the light inside them that ignites on how they really like forensic science,” said lead camp counselor Phillip Nhan, ’11 Justice Studies.

The CSI camp was held simultaneously with the AAFS Forensic Science Educators Conference, which seeks to raise and strengthen overall science education in the United States. Last year, SJSU was the first West Coast university to sponsor the teacher conference.

Working With Real-Life Crime Scene Investigators

According to Lee, the collaboration brings students the latest information, allows them the opportunity to work with real-life crime scene investigators and forensic scientists in the field, and dispels fallacies on how crime scenes are being portrayed on television.

“Everything is so predictable on those shows,” said 17-year-old camper Matthew Shull, whose favorite part of camp was uncovering fingerprints with magnetic powder. “Everything always happens the right way and they always find the right evidence and the right person.”

According to Lee, this year’s camp will serve as a national model for future CSI camps. The American Academy of Forensic Sciences donated 10 scholarships to cover registration fees and supplies.

SJSU Organizes Journalism Skills Academy for Afghan Professors

SJSU Organizes Journalism Skills Academy for Afghan Professors

One of the most challenging aspects of the academy was teaching non-linear editing in just a couple of days. Adobe donated copies of it's new Creative Suite 6 to help our efforts, and Dubai's Higher College of Technology donated its classroom space (photo courtesy of Diane Guerrazzi).

By Diane Guerrazzi, Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications

(Editor’s Note: Professor Guerrazzi sent the following from the Middle East, where she is helping establish college journalism programs. Her work is funded by the U.S. State Department.)

SJSU sweated it out in Dubai this July, organizing a two-week Journalism Skills Academy for professors from five different universities in Afghanistan: Kabul, Shaikh Zayed, Nangarhar, Balkh and Herat. Their homeland is too unpredictable for conducting training, as I saw first hand when I was abruptly evacuated from Herat last year, following coordinated suicide attacks.

Albeit hot, Dubai is orderly, with easy airport and Metro access for journalists to practice reporting. As part of their work in the academy, Afghan professors created television news stories.  The topics ranged from the burgeoning Indian population in Dubai to the technology behind the fountains near the “tallest man-made structure in the world,” the Burj Khalifa. One of the most challenging aspects of the academy was teaching non-linear editing in just a couple of days. Adobe donated copies of its new Creative Suite 6 to help our efforts, and Dubai’s Higher College of Technology donated its classroom space.

SJSU Organizes Journalism Skills Academy for Afghan Professors

SJSU organized the academy and sent four representatives to teach and assist: English instructor Kelly Robart, Assistant Professor Diane Guerrazzi, alumna/Afghan-American journalist Halima Kazem and contracts administrator Susan Mir (photo courtesy of Diane Guerrazzi).

The weeks were long, Afghan-style. In keeping with the school schedule in Afghanistan, our only days off were Fridays.  We managed to squeeze in a quick tour of Dubai and a “Desert Safari.” SJSU organized the academy and sent four representatives to teach and assist.

SJSU has two $1 million State Department grants to modernize journalism education at Afghan Universities; one of our grants is for Balkh University in the north, and the other is Herat, in western Afghanistan. We invited the other U.S. universities with grants to join us and help teach the Academy and they all took us up on the offer:  Ball State, University of Arizona and University of Nebraska, Omaha.

Our colleagues from Herat and Balkh Universities are scheduled to visit SJSU for 11 weeks each in the coming months. The first group will arrive in October. Having spent two weeks with them this summer, and seeing them on previous visits to Afghanistan, we’ll be introducing old friends to campus. The welcome will be warm, and the San Jose weather will be welcome, after the summer in Dubai.

John Mellencamp to Receive Steinbeck Award

John Mellencamp to Receive Steinbeck Award

Tickets are on sale now at the SJSU Event Center box office or or 1-800-745-3000.

Media contact: Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU Media Relations
Tickets: SJSU Event Center box office or or 1-800-745-3000

For the first time since Joan Baez in 2003, a musician will receive the prestigious John Steinbeck Award, “In the Souls of the People.” On Monday, July 30, at the historic California Theatre, Thomas Steinbeck will present the John Steinbeck Award to singer/songwriter/activist John Mellencamp. “A Conversation and Special Performance” will include a talk with Mellencamp, moderated by Robert Santelli, executive director of the Grammy Museum, and musical performance from Mellencamp.

Upon receiving the John Steinbeck Award, Mellencamp will have his name further linked to that of the legendary Baez on a select list of two as the only recipients of both the Steinbeck and Woody Guthrie awards. Mellencamp received the Guthrie award in 2003.

Previous recipients of the John Steinbeck Award include: Bruce Springsteen, Arthur Miller, Studs Terkel, Dolores Huerta, John Sayles, Jackson Browne, Garrison Keillor, Joan Baez, Michael Moore, Sean Penn, and Rachel Maddow.

The Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University is the world’s leading archive of Steinbeck materials, with over 30,000 items. The center has been authorized by the Steinbeck estate to present awards to those artists and activists whose work exemplifies the themes and values found in the writings of John Steinbeck: in particular, his concern for the natural environment, his commitment to the common people, and his willingness to critique the contrasts between the powerful and the poor.

Of John Mellencamp, Thomas Steinbeck, noted author and the surviving son of John Steinbeck, said: “My father always carried a deep and profound respect for songwriters and musicians. He felt they were the voice of the people and had the unique opportunity to reach the very souls of the people. Like Woody Guthrie, Bruce Springsteen, and a handful of others, John Mellencamp has done just that. He has spent his life serving as a voice for the people.

“John’s 40-year career makes one marvel. As an artist, John Mellencamp has been a superb singer-songwriter-storyteller; as an exemplary activist, and as a creator and longtime champion of Farm Aid, he has maintained the true spirit of John Steinbeck’s compassion for the worker. Without question, John Mellencamp has earned the John Steinbeck Award, and it will be my great pleasure to present it to him.”

John Mellencamp commented, “John Steinbeck’s remarkable ability to give voice to the common man and to people on society’s margins, to describe their plight and aspirations, continues to inspire us more than a century after his birth. I’m very honored to be the recipient of an award given in his name.”

The John Steinbeck Award, “In the Souls of the People,” was first given in 1996. Nominations for the award are made by a committee of members of the board of the Center for Steinbeck Studies at San Jose State University.

Tickets for this one-of-a-kind John Mellencamp event, “A Conversation and Special Performance,” are on sale now. For tickets or further information, visit the SJSU Event Center box office or or call 1-800-745-3000.

Spartans@Work: At GM, “I Get to Work with New Tech No One Has Ever Seen”

Randy Floresca, Mechanical Engineering '10, sets up a battery cell in a thermal chamber (Chris Clor photo).

By Amanda Holst, Public Affairs Assistant

(This summer, SJSU Today hits the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job across the country and around the world. Our series begins with the Class of 2010’s Randy Floresca.)

Ever want to grow up and play with cars for a living? One Mechanical Engineering grad has turned a childhood interest into a reality.

For the last two years, Randy Floresca, Mechanical Engineering ’10, has worked as a technical engineer for GM’s Global Battery Systems Laboratory, in Detroit. The decision to leave California was an easy one.

“I was ready to try something new,” Floresca recalled. “I think it was a great career move, especially since I was graduating.”

Floresca tests and validates the performance of new battery technology for hybrid, plug-in, and electric vehicles.

“In my job I learn about the different battery chemistries and their capabilities,” he said.

Getting the job

For Floresca, participation in Spartan Racing, the SJSU student chapter of SAE International, played a huge role in landing the job at General Motors’ headquarters.

“The year I graduated, our SAE student chapter started formula hybrid car,” Floresca said. “We went to compete in New Hampshire and I gave my resume to GM recruiters at their booth. GM is one of the biggest sponsors for the event.”

What’s Floresca’s favorite part about his job?

“I get to work with new technology that no one knows about or has ever seen.”

GM benefits, too. Floresca says the performance testing he does for General Motors helps the company plan for the future.