It’s a Dean’s Life Vol. 18

Spring is a time for collaboration across departments in our college, with the City of San José, and with downtown venues and foundations.

The departments of English, Philosophy, and Chemical and Mechanical Engineering will be sponsoring our biggest spring event: celebrating our Frankenstein Bicentennial initiative. This initiative, the focus of one of Expressions’ articles, links us with universities across the region and the county that are also exploring the significance of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein over the course of 2018.

Panels on “Deep Humanities” and a public talk by Martin Ford on May 1 will intersect the humanities into the possibilities but also threats of artificial intelligence, as well as the growing discussion around the absence of diversity within the use of analytics—analytics that are now controlling our finances, our economic opportunities, even policing practices. Data, humanities argue, does not live outside the issues of bias, and we need to be central in these conversations within the Silicon Valley.

As Victor Frankenstein shows us, lack of restraint and an absence of serious ethical questions around building technology have unanticipated, unintended, and potentially devastating consequences.

The College of Humanities and the Arts will be collaborating with the Tech Museum and the Knight Foundation to present Martin Ford, author of The Rise of the Robots. His free, public lecture on “Disruptive Technology: Do Robots Want Your Job?” will take place at the Tech Museum of Innovation in downtown San José on May 1 at 7pm.

The Hammer Theatre continues to be a site of exciting artistic collaboration. The departments of Film and Theatre and the School of Music and Dance are mounting Lin-Manuel Miranda’s first musical, In the Heights. Our students along with community artists will present a musical that speaks to the issues of cities, diversity, and belonging—the perfect musical for our own community. This production, which one of our articles covers in this issue, runs at the Hammer from April 27 to May 6.

Some of our most exciting programming is produced by our students in the performing and fine arts. Check out SJSU student productions in our “SJSU Presents” series at the Hammer Theatre. Additionally, we are introducing exciting new programming such as the National Geographic Live series in our “Hammer Speaks” series this spring.

In the National Geographic Live series, photojournalists present their photographs, stories, and amazing accounts of our interrelated, global challenges of conservation and climate change.

The recent “In Search of Big Cats” featured National Geographic photographer Steve Winter who talked about snow leopards in Tibet, tigers in India, and our own beloved P-22, the California mountain lion who lives in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park. Series like these bring us the diverse, high-quality programming that is the marker of the Hammer Theatre.

The collaborations across areas of study have also been supported by the Knight Foundation. Richard Prum, author of The Evolution of Beauty, will be speaking about his recent exploration of Charles Darwin’s theories, one that integrate biology, the history of science, aesthetics, and gender in exciting ways. A professor and curator at Yale University, as well as a former MacArthur fellow, Richard Prum will be speaking in the Hammer4 Theatre space on May 14.

Look for other Knight-sponsored speakers this fall, including Cordelia Fine, who recently won the Royal Society of London’s award for the best book of popular science with Testosterone Rex. She will speak on discourses of gender in the Silicon Valley on October 8, of interest to both our university community and the region.

So much of this collaboration is happening between our students and our amazing faculty. Please meet three of our new faculty in this issue, two from the fine arts—Rhonda Holberton in Art and David Yee in Design—and one in the humanities field of linguistics, Julia Swan. Building our tenure-line faculty numbers is one of our highest priorities, as we connect our innovative faculty with our students.

Please join us in some of these wonderful collaborations this spring and fall, whether that means enjoying the amazing products of our student artists or attending challenging lectures and programming that speaks to our local and or global issues.

Please see for film festivals, lectures, and more details about “Deep Humanities” on May 1.

Be sure to check out the new website for the Hammer Theatre at

shannon miller