It’s A Dean’s Life Vol. 21

As our Fall semester comes to an end and the holiday season begins, we have much to celebrate in the College of Humanities and the Arts. We have had an exciting semester as our faculty and students engaged the themes in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, published 200 years ago but amazingly relevant to our world here in the Silicon Valley. Successful panel discussions on the novel, on the films of Frankenstein, a radio play that was broadcast on our own KSJS on Halloween night, and a musical piece involved almost all of the disciplines in our college. Faculty members were not only involved in these college activities, they were participating in other Frankenstein activities across the country. Professor Michael Locher designed the set for Chicago’s Guthrie Theater fall production of Frankenstein – Playing with Fire.

Our Frankenstein@200 programming joined our Deep Humanities initiative which brought in three speakers from diverse fields to explore the importance of orienting technology within humanistic and artistic values. Students, faculty, and community members came to Hammer4 for talks on gender, the politics of Silicon Valley, and notions of “the human”. The Deep Humanities initiative will be one of the College of H & A’s programming themes for 2019-2020 and we look forward to even more opportunities to hear about groundbreaking work in this area. 

Our second programming theme for the college will be migration, borders, and identity. Our goal is to integrate arts and humanities events into our curriculum to allow students across the university to engage these timely topics. This theme was beautifully explored by two events this fall at the Hammer Theatre: the fall mainstage production of American Night: The Ballad of Juan José and The Dreamer Project. You can read more about American Night in this issue, which explores Juan José’s dream-filled night before he takes his American citizenship test. The Dreamer Project is based on interviews of SJSU’s own undocumented students. This issue discusses migration further with Professor Robin Lasser’s work on Dream Boats: San José Stories-The Vietnamese Diaspora. 

The theme of migration is also central to the Camino Chronicles project sponsored by the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies. The Center, in collaboration with El Camino Arts, has commissioned a symphony by Gabriela Ortiz, a major Mexican composer. The symphony will explore the themes of the El Camino, a road that transverses two countries, extends the length of California, and is both home and history for many of us. This work will be performed by the Silicon Valley Symphony in Spring 2021.

The arts and humanities continue to find ways to unify us, to inspire us, and to broaden our perspectives. Programming by our students in the Hammer Theatre, our University Theatre, and our School of Music and Dance Concert Hall are just some of the ways that we spread the power of our fields. Our upcoming spring musical, Urinetown, produced by the Department of Film and Theatre, explores the timely issues of social justice and economic inequality. Please join us as the College continues to leverage the arts and humanities to explore the important issues of our time.

shannon miller