With “Marisol,” San José State Offers First Theater Performance to an In-Person Audience at Hammer Theatre Since March 2020

When Kirsten Brandt attended a Shakespeare Santa Cruz performance in summer 2021, the assistant professor of theater was overcome with emotion. She hadn’t experienced live theater as an audience member for a year and a half due to the pandemic, and wasn’t prepared for the gratitude and relief she’d feel watching actors interact live. 

This fall, after directing multiple live-streamed and virtual shows, Brandt is thrilled to direct in-person performances of “Marisol” at the Hammer Theatre — the university’s first performance in front of a live, masked audience since early 2020. 

“We’ve had events during the pandemic, even performed live on the Hammer stage, but it’s just not the same without an in-person audience reacting in real time,” said Brandt. “This is why we are in theater — we want that tangible connection with an audience.” 

Brandt chose the Obie-award-winning “Marisol,” a play written in the late 1980s by Puerto Rican playwright José Rivera, because the subject matter aligns with two of SJSU’s College of Humanities and the Artscurricular communities: the Inclusion Initiative and Sustainable Futures

“College programming themes are chosen based on faculty interest, but also the most important issues affecting us today,” said Shannon Miller, dean of the College of Humanities and the Arts. “Sustainability, social justice and racial equity seemed to be the most important issues for our students to consider, given the fires and other climate change events that have been impacting California so devastatingly over the last few years, as well as the murder of George Floyd and the aftermath of this tragic event.”

“The play mirrors many of the events happening today,” said Brandt. “It talks about how the Earth is dying. It references ‘the plague that killed my friends,’ bad water, climate change, systemic racism and the need for empathy when helping people with mental health challenges. It is the theatre of the absurd meeting magical realism and calls attention to the horrific things in society in a tragicomic way. It incites action.”

The ‘compassionate badass’

Marisol, the show’s protagonist — played by Nayeli Roman, ’24 Radio-Television-Theatre-Film — is a copy editor for a Manhattan publisher. She’s confronted by her guardian angel, who informs her that the angels have declared war upon a senile, power-hungry god. Written in the tradition of the theater of the absurd — an existentialist genre that explores the absurdity of humanity — “Marisol” explores relevant social issues in a quickly changing world. 

Roman calls Marisol a “compassionate badass,” adding how much it means to her as a Puerto Rican actor to play a Puerto Rican character created by a Puerto Rican playwright. While the play addresses racism, sexual assault and gun violence, Roman said that “when audience members view this play … they feel the urgency for change.” 

She looks forward to hearing audience reactions in real time to her performance. Though she made her debut on the Hammer stage in last spring’s “Alone Together,” this will be her first time performing in front of an in-person audience with SJSU.

As a performer for 10 years now, nothing compares to the experience of live performance and how gratifying it is to see and hear the audience’s reactions to your performance,” said Roman. “Live-streaming theater performances for me are enjoyable because I still get to perform, but it feels so empty looking at seats instead of faces. Performing in the live stream of ‘Alone Together’ was especially bittersweet because it was my first time performing and even being in the Hammer Theatre, but it was also the first time my family was not there to see me perform.”

She is looking forward to seeing fellow actors’ faces without masks, adding that when she and her cast mates are able to perform maskless, it “makes working with each other much more interactive in the sense that we won’t only have to focus on each other’s eyes and can react to things with our whole being.” 

“Marisol” will be performed at the Hammer Theatre Nov. 12-20. Audience members are required to wear masks and present proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative PCR test within 72 hours of attendance. 

Get tickets to see “Marisol” at the Hammer Theatre.

SJSU Co-sponsors Event to Honor Legacy of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

RBG Memorial event

Dorit Beinisch, Former President of the Supreme Court of Israel, Highlights Panel Discussion

Though it’s been more than a year since her passing, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg remains an iconic figure to admirers in the U.S. and worldwide.

To help honor her legacy, SJSU’s Jewish Studies Program is co-sponsoring a virtual memorial event with RBG’s longtime friend and colleague, Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, former president of the Supreme Court of Israel.

Former Chief Justice of the Israeli Supreme Court, Dorit Beinisch, and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Joining Chief Justice Beinisch will be Alison Brunner, CEO at Law Foundation of Silicon Valley — whose work is dedicated to promoting social justice — and SJSU President Mary Papazian, who will deliver introductory remarks.

“RBG became an icon for so many women and girls around the world as she demonstrated how persistence, resistance, good argumentation and wit can lead to real change,” said Anat Balint, coordinator of SJSU’s Jewish Studies program.

The RBG memorial event, she said, is the first in a series of events celebrating Jewish culture in Silicon Valley.

The event takes place on October 19 at 10 a.m. and is open to the public. Pre-event registration is required. Chief Justice Beinisch, Brunner, and President Papazian will discuss RBG’s influences on social change, feminism, Jewish identity and friendship.

“I do not believe I am alone when I say that Ruth Bader Ginsburg is near the top of the list of women whom I have admired and learned from over the span of my lifetime,” said President Papazian.

“She was an extraordinary woman who never allowed barriers to get in the way of the professional and societal progress that she was determined to make. I know it will be a real treat hearing the insights that will be shared at this event.”

Chief Justice Beinisch was the first woman to lead the Israeli Supreme Court, while Justice Bader-Ginsburg was the second woman to join the U.S. Supreme Court. Both were Jewish, and each trailblazer led lives and careers dedicated to creating a more equitable society.

Over the last decade, Justices Beinisch and Bader Ginsburg met on several occasions and developed a professional and personal relationship. After RBG’s passing, Chief Justice Beinisch wrote in Israel’s leading newspaper:

“People regularly note that she was the oldest justice on the U.S. Supreme Court, but in my eyes she was the youngest of all. She was young in spirit. Young people admired her the same way they do rock stars, and she even warmly adopted the identity of a famous rapper by means of her initials.”

The event is a collaboration of the Jewish Studies Program at SJSU, Jewish Silicon Valley, the Israeli Consulate to the Pacific Northwest, Congregation Shir Hadash, Congregation Beth David, and Congregation Sinai.

 

SJSU Hosts “The Burn and Beyond: Wildfires, Drought and Environmental Justice” Webinar

San José State University brings together experts from academia, government and industry to discuss critical issues facing California today — wildfires and drought, and how they disproportionately impact historically disadvantaged communities.

On September 16, SJSU will host “The Burn and Beyond: Wildfires, Drought, and Environmental Justice” virtual webinar to address the problems and potential solutions from 2 to 3:15 p.m.

Register here

San José State University President Mary A. Papazian will moderate the discussion.

“Often, it seems as though some of our communities do not receive the attention and care that other communities enjoy and take for granted during environmental crises,” said Papazian. “Given the events that have unfolded nationally these past two years related to systemic racism and the disparities in how people are treated by our institutions, this event could not be more timely or urgent.”

U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, Santa Clara Valley Water District CEO and Vice President of the California NAACP Rick Callender, and SJSU Associate Professor and Director of the Human Rights Institute William Armaline will participate in the discussion.

“Cycles of drought and wildfire are worsening in California and neighboring regions in no small part due to climate change, threatening the survival of our precious communities and delicate ecosystems,” said Professor Armaline.

“Such threats are also challenging to human rights and the ability for Californians to enjoy the fundamental security and human dignity that everyone deserves. We at the SJSU HRI are ecstatic to join our colleagues and local public agencies to investigate the problems and potential solutions to these incredible social and ecological challenges.”

SJSU’s Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center (WIRC) is on the cutting edge of wildfire research in California.

Learn more about SJSU’s research and work related to wildfires:

SJSU Establishes the Nation’s Largest Interdisciplinary Research Center in the Read about San José State’s Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center

Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center at SJSU

Camino Chronicles Arts Series: a Celebration of Mexican and Latin American Music Influenced by California History

Historically, the Camino Real connected Spanish missions along the state of California. Image by Chandler O’Leary.

How can music reframe the story of the ancient road we know as El Camino Real?

Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz and the folk Americana band the Ronstadt Brothers will celebrate California history through their music on October 1-3, during a weekend of activities presented by San José State University’s College of Humanities and the Arts, The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies, TomKat MeDiA, CaminoArts and Symphony Silicon Valley (SSV). The Ronstadt Brothers will also offer a moderated conversation on the business of music.

“CaminoArts celebrates the folk and classical music of Mexico and Latin America through an excavation of El Camino Real, the historical indigenous trade route used by the Spanish to colonize Mexico and what is now the U.S. Southwest and South America,” said Marcela Davison Aviles, managing partner and executive producer at TomKat MeDiA, a production company founded by Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor to inspire creativity for the common good.

“We brought this idea to the Center for Steinbeck Studies as a way to catalyze writing a new fourth-grade curriculum about the history of El Camino Real.”

Gabriela Ortiz.

Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz.

Ortiz’s new composition, a concerto for flute and orchestra entitled “D’Colonial Californio,” will make its world premiere at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, with SSV at the California Theatre, and again at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 3.

Her work is a joint commission underwritten by the TomKat Foundation and presented in collaboration with TomKat MeDiA, SSV, CaminoArts and San José State as part of a broader initiative to examine California history through arts and education.

Admission to the Ronstadt performance is free. Tickets for the symphony performance are on sale through Symphony Silicon Valley.

“The stories and songs inspired by El Camino Real — the transcontinental pathway forged by Indigenous peoples and later colonized by the Spanish and other European powers — set the stage for the Camino Chronicle Arts series,” said Kat Taylor, founding director of the TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation (TKREF) and one of Camino Chronicles’ sponsors.

“We’re thrilled to illuminate the work of Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz, Mexican American singer/songwriters Peter and Michael G. Ronstadt, concert flutist Marisa Canales, the musicians of Symphony Silicon Valley under the baton of Maestra JoAnne Falleta, and project music director Benjamin Juarez Echenique,” she added.

“And we’re doubly delighted to thank San José State University and the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies for believing, as John Steinbeck did, in the unique power of harmony, dissonance, cadence and rhythm of diaspora and migration.”

The symphony will also perform “New World Symphony” by Antonín Dvořák, a piece that was especially meaningful to John Steinbeck, added Steinbeck Center Director and Assistant Professor of American Studies Daniel Rivers. Canales, who also is a co-founder of CaminoArts, will serve as soloist for both the Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon performances, under the direction of Grammy-winning conductor Maestra Falletta.

Ronstadt Brothers

The Ronstadt Brothers will be performing at the Hammer Theatre on Oct. 3. Image courtesy of Marcela Davison Avilas.

The Ronstadt Brothers will perform the world premiere of their new album “The Road,” commissioned by the Camino Chronicles Project and underwritten by the TomKat Foundation, at the Hammer Theatre at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 3. The event is free and open to the public.

“This full-length album from the Ronstadt Brothers centers on the theme of roads, migration and the existential experience of travel,” Rivers said.

Multi-instrumentalists Michael G. Rondstadt and Peter D. Rondstadt describe their music as a “new and fresh take on traditional Southwestern and Mexican folk songs” that carries forward the legacy of their aunt Linda and their father Michael.

“The curricular connections of the Camino Chronicles with the university are related to music, history, humanities and education,” said Shannon Miller, dean of the College of Humanities and the Arts.

“Ortiz’s work rethinks the identity of the El Camino around issues of migration, while the Ronstadt Brothers are composing work in the American folk music tradition while also exploring connections to their Mexican heritage and the Camino’s indigenous roots. This introduces a lot of interesting issues related to decolonizing the curriculum and the arts,” Miller added.

Visit the Symphony Silicon Valley to learn more about the Oct. 2 and 3 performances of Ortiz’s work.

Learn more about the Rondstadt Brothers’ performance and work with the Steinbeck Center.

Read about TomKat MeDia and CaminoArts.

SJSU Students Use Data to Help Serve City’s Most Vulnerable Communities

A map created by SJSU graduate students presents data from San José’s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services.

Data has the power to transform communities.

Just ask Saritha Podali, ’22 MS Data Analytics, and Fengling Zhou, ’22 MS Data Analytics. As part of a new partnership with San José State and the City of San José — supported by the Knight Foundation — the pair played a key role in gathering, interpreting and presenting data that can help the city provide resources to those who need it most.

San José’s Parks, Recreation, and Neighborhood Services (PRNS) offers scholarships for qualifying residents to participate in youth activities and after-school programs. While the city has always sought to ensure the scholarships went to those most in need, certain questions persisted: Were the people receiving the scholarships getting the right amount of aid? Who was being left out, and why?

Saritha Podali, '22 MS Data Analytics

Saritha Podali, ’22 MS Data Analytics

Enter the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation who, thanks to a partnership with SJSU’s MS Data Analytics program, brought Podali and Zhou on board to tackle the issue in what was dubbed the city’s Data Equity Project.

“We define data equity as using the city’s data ethically and in ways that drive equitable outcomes for constituents,” explained Julia Chen, project manager for the Data Equity Project.

Starting in April, Zhou and Podali got to work mining PRNS data — by organizing records from 2009 to 2019 using the programming language Python — to paint a full picture of who was enrolling in the youth programs and who was receiving financial support.

“One of our primary objectives was to provide PRNS folks who might have little or no tech background with an easy-to-use, interactive experience to present the trends to their board,” explained Podali.

Fengling Zhou, '22 Data Analytics

Fengling Zhou, ’22 Data Analytics

And that’s exactly what they did: Their final presentation to PRNS and Mayor Sam Liccardo included an interactive map identifying the city’s most vulnerable communities by ZIP code and how many scholarship dollars were allocated to those areas compared to others. Plus, it highlighted where certain communities indicated a need for programs that were unavailable locally by attending those outside their immediate area.

Podali and Zhou, along with others who worked on the project, shared a list of recommendations on how to use the data, which PRNS plans to do, explained Hal Spangenberg, interim division manager of PRNS.

“We will use this data and information to help inform key decisions in the allocation and distribution of scholarship funds and hopefully increase scholarships to those most in need,” he said.

“We can’t overstate the value of the dashboards they created,” Chen added. “Now, the PRNS team has a level of data and truth they can refer to as they make their future decisions.”

“Data is not anonymous,” she continued. “These are people’s lives we have in our hands. It’s not just analysis for the sake of analysis; we are ultimately here to hopefully better the lives of residents of San Jose. That’s the importance of having local students doing this kind of work and bringing their local context to the table. We need to understand the community we’re serving, so it made sense to partner with the university, where there’s a pipeline of talent.”

A demonstration of the interactive map created by Podali and Zhou for the City of San José.

One of the goals of the SJSU MS Data Analytics program is to show students that they can apply analytics to solve relevant, real-world problems, explained Ruth Duran Huard, dean of the College of Professional and Global Education (CPGE).

“One of our core learning objectives is for our students to integrate multidisciplinary knowledge to engage in practical data analytics projects, from analyzing requirements to managing data, building models, presenting results and assessing societal impacts,” she noted.

“The partnership of CPGE’s Applied Data Science department with the City of San José speaks to our university’s commitment to connect and contribute within our communities,” Huard continued. “To be able to support the city in its efforts to meet its data systems needs and develop an overall data strategy has been invaluable, especially for our faculty and students.”

Mohamed Abousalem, SJSU’s vice president for research and innovation, says this collaboration is an example of how the university’s research expertise can have tremendous public impact.

“SJSU has several areas of research expertise that intersect with the City of San José’s interests and priorities,” he said. “This collaboration was a demonstration of how our students and faculty can help the city make data-informed decisions based on expertise and skill in data analytics. Our partners have a great opportunity to tap into the resources of today’s students to select tomorrow’s employees through meaningful and productive research and development projects.”

For Podali and Zhou, the experience broadened their understanding on the power of data.

“Being fair when creating policies to serve a community is hard,” noted Zhou. “But our data project provides evidence that will help the best decisions to be made.”

“This experience has helped me develop a new perspective of how data can be transformative for communities,” Podali said.

“I now realize the impact technology advancement has when it is leveraged across all walks of life,” she continued. “Studying community problems, identifying areas of improvement and assessing risks using data analytics is the need of the hour. As exciting as it is to work on groundbreaking artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, it is equally important to ensure that communities receive enough help to position themselves in today’s world of technology.”

View the students’ final presentation, and learn more about SJSU’s MS Data Analytics program

How Can Educators and Parents Prepare for the K-12 School year? A Q&A with Lara Ervin-Kassab

SJSU faculty interact with a small child in the Lurie College’s Child Development Laboratory Preschool in Feb. 2020. Photo by Bob Bain.

Whether you’re a K-12 educator, caregiver or parent, this fall promises more than the usual back-to-school excitement and anxiety. Nearly 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, caregivers and educators must, once again, evaluate how to safely interact with learners while feeling the pressure to make up for lost time. 

As the spouse of a high school teacher and mother to a kindergartner and a 1-year-old, I’m all too familiar with these concerns. While I’ll feel better once my kids can access a vaccine, I am still eager to usher them both into classrooms of some kind next week. Like many of my peers, I have way more questions than answers.

Lucky for me, San José State’s Connie L. Lurie College of Education is home to experts like Assistant Professor of Teacher Education Lara Ervin-Kassab, who has 25 years of experience teaching pre-K through graduate school. 

This summer, she offered a webinar on considering community and trauma as part of the Lurie College’s K-12 Teaching Academy. She was kind enough to answer my questions — and yes, lower my blood pressure — about preparing for school in a COVID world.

Lara Kassab.

SJSU Lurie College of Education Teacher Education Department Faculty Lara Kassab. Photo by Brian Cheung-Dooley.

How can schools, educators and parents prepare students for returning to a classroom environment?

Lara Ervin-Kassab (LEK): Everyone has experienced some level of trauma during the pandemic, and we need to acknowledge that in others and in ourselves.

First, this is an opportunity for us to step back and ask, what is really worthwhile in education? What is the actual purpose of this whole process? What do we really want it to do?

Then, we can reprioritize and open up dialogues around how we make schools a place where everyone feels supported coming out of this traumatic experience. How can we make schools a place where everyone’s humanity is acknowledged and engaged and their interests are being heard?

How have districts addressed some of these concerns? 

LEK: Several of our local districts and parent-teacher associations have started these conversations about what we want schools to look and feel like. At least one district has moved toward offering an in-house online school for parents and students who may have concerns about going back to face-to-face. That, again, is an opportunity to look at making sure our educational system is thinking about everyone’s needs and how those can best be supported.

How has COVID-19 affected how teachers design and implement curriculum?

LEK: I teach a course in classroom management for pre-K and K-12 teachers. I’ve also been researching how teachers should continue to use technology. 

I think there has been resistance to changing some of the ways we teach in order to better utilize technology, and COVID either reinforced resistance to the tech or helped teachers overcome their fears. A lot of us used tools we never used before, and the ways we used those tools caused us to reflect on how we’ll continue to use them moving forward.

For instance, I feel strongly that all student voices need to be heard. In a face-to-face classroom, you have students who may never speak, who may not raise their hands or who may feel really uncomfortable engaging that way. Since teaching online, a lot of the students who usually don’t want to raise their hands or speak out loud were very engaged through the virtual chat feature.

So, going forward, how can I still provide my students with that ability to be a part of the conversation through chat once we’re back in a face-to-face environment?

Many of my teaching colleagues have provided their students with options to do videos or podcasts in lieu of more traditional assignments. This semester will be a test case for what sticks and what doesn’t, not only in K-12, but in education writ large and even in the corporate world. 

As COVID protocols continue to shift and the Delta variant poses a threat this fall, how can teachers manage their own stress, mental health and well-being as well as that of their students?

LEK: I recommend teachers and parents look into the Center for Reaching and Teaching the Whole Child, which was founded by Emerita Professor of Elementary Education Nancy Markowitz. It is grounded in the idea of helping the whole person learn. It’s very integrated with  social emotional learning — helping our students learn to engage socially to understand and regulate their own emotions.

This is especially important after more than a year of being isolated from other people. With every class I teach, whether in person or online, I start with a short mindfulness activity that helps reinforce how to breathe and sit in the present.

The center has a great teacher competency anchor framework that reminds teachers to do the work alongside their students. So, for teachers and parents alike, if you take a few minutes to practice mindfulness with your kids, remember to practice it yourself. These activities are very helpful when you or your kids are feeling overwhelmed.

What main message do you have about returning to school, whatever it looks like, in 2021?

LEK: Be patient. Be kind to yourself and to all the people around you.

Take this uncertainty and find ways to embrace your creativity. This year is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the discomfort, and with that, we can either push back and close down, or we can say, “This is uncomfortable. What do I need to do to make it better? How creative can I be right now? How can I think of how these possibilities could recognize our diversity?”

What’s one tip you’d give every parent and teacher?

LEK: When you’re not sure about something, ask the children and listen to their answers. Because even children as young as 2 or 3 years old have a really good sense of what they need. They may not have the vocabulary for it, and they may not be able to distinguish between what they want and what they need, but if you have a conversation with them, you can begin to understand what they need.

Watch Ervin-Kassab’s 2021 K-12 Teaching Academy webinar, “Considering Community and Trauma,” for more resources for teachers, caregivers and parents.

San Jose Art Project Illustrates a Safe Emergence from ‘COVID Bubbles’

A live art installation at Heritage Rose Garden directed by SJSU’s Robin Lasser. Photos of the scene appear on billboards around San Jose. Photo by Robin Lasser

There’s a new art exhibit opening this week in San Jose — but you won’t find it in a gallery. Instead, look up.

Starting August 2 and lasting through the month, billboards throughout the city are featuring art installations created by Robin Lasser, professor of art at San José State, and her longtime collaborator and former student Adrienne Pao, ’05 MFA Photography.

The message behind the art? Celebrate a safe, vaccinated emergence as a community from our “COVID bubbles.”

“The ‘bubble’ represents our social, familial or solitary bubbles that we live in during the pandemic,” Lasser explained.

The art is part of a statewide project aimed at reminding Californians that their actions can save lives. Fourteen artist teams throughout the state created pieces designed to empower their communities to protect one another and to show resilience. The project was developed in partnership with The Center at Sierra Health Foundation.

Members of San Jose’s Vietnamese community appeared in a tableau honoring emergence from the pandemic. Photo by Robin Lasser

“One of the goals was to work with harder hit and under-recognized communities during the pandemic,” Lasser explained.

So she and Pao worked with members of San Jose’s Vietnamese and predominantly Mexican American, as well as other Hispanic and Latino, communities to illustrate a celebratory emergence using traditional clothing, cultural elements and, of course, their signature dress tents. Messages like “Vaccinated, no more loneliness!” are written in Vietnamese, Spanish and English onto either silk lanterns or papel picado.

A rendering of a billboard featuring Lasser’s and Pao’s art installation. Image courtesy of Robin Lasser

The installations were created in public spaces. Lasser invited members of the Vietnamese community to Kelly Park on May 30 for one installation, and Mexican American and other Hispanic and Latino community members to Heritage Rose Garden on June 5 for another. At each public gathering, she invited some attendees to participate in the tableau she and Pao created, while the rest served as onlookers watching the scene come to life.

Then, she took photos.

“We wanted to create an event where those who had been vaccinated could finally be together and celebrate that emergence. It’s a two-pronged experience: We created art with members of these communities, and then we took the art and are now placing it back into those very communities with the billboards.”

While this art is specifically geared towards disproportionately affected populations, Lasser emphasized that her work carries a global message.

Map shows where billboards will be feature Lasser's art around San Jose

A map indicates where the tableaus will be featured on billboards around San Jose. Image courtesy of Robin Lasser

“When something happens to everyone everywhere, it helps us unite, to come together, to understand one another, to have greater empathy. Not that everything needs to have a silver lining, but as I spoke with people while working on this, there was a greater sense of openness and understanding for each other because we are all going through the same thing,” she explained.

She added that she hopes that anyone who spots a billboard can feel a similar celebratory feeling.

“The spirit of the work is intended to provide a sense of magic, to uplift, and imagine a hopeful future as we emerge from our solitary bubbles.”

Explore photos, videos and read more about Lasser’s and Pao’s project.

San José State Launches In Our Own Words, a Community Collection of COVID-19 Experiences

In Our Own Words

How will the Bay Area remember the COVID-19 pandemic? For University Archivist Carli Lowe, the pandemic has offered a unique opportunity to interact with history in real time. This summer SJSU’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, in partnership with the College of Humanities and the Arts, have officially launched “In Our Own Words: A Multilingual Public History of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Bay Area,” a public digital humanities project designed to document Bay Area residents’ personal experiences of the pandemic. 

The project is the result of Lowe’s partnership with San José State Assistant Professor of World Languages and Literatures Chunhui Peng, a memory studies scholar who is adding a multilingual component to the project.

“Usually, archives deal with records of things that happened many, many decades ago, or even centuries in the past,” said Lowe. “One of the reasons I was excited to partner with Dr. Peng is that we are very focused on collecting memories as they unfold in our contemporary moment. We know that we are living in a historic moment.”

In May 2020, Lowe launched “Spartans Speak on COVID-19, a project designed to memorialize journal entries, blog posts, social media posts, photographs, audio and video recordings, and other documentation of personal experiences during the pandemic and make them available online through SJSU Digital Collections. Community members have shared the effects of social distancing and county shelter-in-place orders on their social lives, mental health, financial well-being, and campus life. The project has already amassed more than 300 submissions.

Peng responded to Lowe’s call for submissions with a proposal to widen the project scope to reflect the diverse communities of the Bay Area. Together, they partnered with several faculty members of the World Languages and Literatures Department to translate their call for submissions into seven of the most commonly spoken languages in the Bay Area — English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Russian. Associate Dean of Faculty Success and Research Jason Aleksander has been a big proponent of the project.

“‘In Our Own Words’ builds on ongoing collaborations between the library and the College of Humanities and the Arts to establish a digital humanities center at SJSU,” said Aleksander. 

“The project also fits well with one of the major public programming themes sponsored by the college — ‘Racial Equality and Social Justice’ — a series of public events that engages broadly with challenges and opportunities in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion. ‘In Our Own Words’ is an impressive and interesting project.”

In Our Own Words Peng and Lowe hope to capture a 360-degree perspective of the pandemic by including essential workers such as farmworkers, health care workers, grocery store employees, as well as students and families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 and employees who were laid off or had their careers otherwise derailed

“In memory studies, we always ask who is speaking and for what purpose,” said Peng. “The second world war was written differently by different groups — by the United States, by Germany, by Japan. Some groups were less visible in the conversation, and their voices were not recorded. That’s why it is very important for us to give all the invisible voices a chance to share their experiences about the pandemic.”

Lowe added that the true power of a digital archive is that it expands access to critical information to those who may not have been able to contribute to it. 

“Information can be transformative for individuals and communities,” said Lowe. “I’m trying to think about whose voices are being heard through this collection and whose voices are not being heard.

“My motivation as an archivist is rooted in actively making space in collections to serve people who may or may not be in power, projects that serve the needs of marginalized people. I see a project like this as an opportunity to create access to information and to bring people together.”

To contribute to the project, contact Lowe and Peng at covid19collection@sjsu.edu or visit https://library.sjsu.edu/own-words.

SJSU Joins National Alliance to Redesign the Future of Higher Education

Student-designed innovations will be rapidly tested and scaled to address access, engagement and equity gaps in higher ed

San José State University has joined five other colleges and universities, hundreds of high schools, and community partners to launch REP4 (Rapid Education Prototyping) – a national initiative to change the future of education. Unique to the alliance, students will take the lead conducting “Rapid Education Prototyping” to address the urgent challenges of access to education and fully deliver on higher education’s promise of social and economic mobility.

“Educating a diverse student population for professional success and civic engagement is part of our core mission at San José State, and the REP4 initiative is well-aligned with that goal,” said SJSU President Mary A. Papazian. “Our participation in REP4, we believe, will help us strengthen existing efforts and build new approaches that will empower our students to design a learning framework that suits their individual needs and create a climate where all students feel a sense of belonging.”

The REP4 name underscores how student-led Rapid Education Prototyping will engage the voices of learners to design innovative, actionable solutions for pressing challenges. Learners will co-design education prototypes, and the best ideas will be scaled nationwide through the alliance to maximize impact.

American Council of Education (ACE) President Ted Mitchell called the alliance’s approach unique and exciting.“Flipping the model from learners simply giving feedback to learners being designers of education is a truly innovative idea,” Mitchell said. “It’s unprecedented to engage learners directly in the designing experience, and REP4 can serve as a model for higher education nationwide.”

Tackling the crisis in education

The REP4 alliance formed as a response to a growing number of challenges facing higher education: low completion rates, lack of access, and persistent racial gaps across nearly all measures.

According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, citing a 2016 Pell Institute study, the country has struggled to close a persistent gap related to income and degree attainment. From the study: among students in the bottom socioeconomic quartile, 15 percent had earned a bachelor’s degree within eight years of their expected high school graduation, compared with 22 percent in the second quartile, 37 percent in the third quartile, and 60 percent in the top quartile.

COVID-19 has further exacerbated the crisis in education. A December 2020 McKinsey & Company study estimated that “students of color could be six to 12 months behind, compared with four to eight months for white students. While all students are suffering, those who came into the pandemic with the fewest academic opportunities are on track to exit with the greatest learning loss.”

By employing this innovative approach of allowing learners to design solutions, REP4 will focus on improving outcomes and eliminating these barriers.

“As we look to the future of higher education, it is critical that we center the voices and priorities of students who are from communities that have historically been marginalized,” said Connie L. Lurie College of Education Dean Heather Lattimer. “If we re-design to value and build on the experiences and strengths that they bring, we will create universities that better serve all students and communities.”

First prototype

Grand Valley State University designed and held the first prototype last summer and has implemented two ideas from the Learner Engagement Challenge. “We are inspired by young learners with keen perspectives on what their future can be,” said Grand Valley President Philomena V. Mantella. “These learners gave us ideas that will play a key role as we lead the national conversation on a new vision for education. Their insights will help us create a model for an education system designed for learners by learners.”

Each of the six founding partners will hold its own regional summit for REP4, with Grand Valley State University hosting the national convening  August 4 – 5, 2021.

Assistant Professor of Child and Adolescent Development Ellen Middaugh at the Connie L. Lurie College of Education, an expert in youth civic engagement, will help design and implement SJSU’s REP4 summit. “Transformative change requires imagination,” said Middaugh. “This is something adolescents and young adults are great at — creative thinking and imagining a better future. Our Child and Adolescent Master’s students recognize this and will serve as youth-centered facilitators to create a space for our high school, community college, and SJSU undergraduates to dream big and grapple with what it would take to bring their ideas to life.”

The six founding colleges and universities in the alliance collectively serve more than 100,000 students. The founding partners are San José State University; Amarillo College; Boise State University; Fort Valley State University; and Shippensburg University. Grand Valley State University is the organizer and convener of the REP4 alliance.

Microsoft will participate in the REP4 summit to support the alliance in reimagining student-centered experiences, consistent with its recent whitepaper on student-centered learning in higher education. Microsoft will help shape how technology, particularly data and AI, can empower personalized and inclusive learning experiences.

The alliance is intended to grow over time, and other institutions are invited to become involved with REP4. Visit rep4.org for more information.

Connie L. Lurie College of Education Launches Fourth Annual Celebration of Teaching Awards for Aspiring Educators

Alberto Camacho with his mother Irma.

Alberto Camacho and his mother Irma attended the 2019 Celebration of Teaching event, where he was recognized for his teaching promise. Photo: Bob Bain.

Alberto Camacho, ’20 English, ’21 Teaching Credential, can remember the names of all of the influential teachers in his life — from his preschool teacher, “Mr. E,” to his Chicana and Chicano Studies professor Marcos Pizzaro, associate dean of the Connie L. Lurie College of Education. 

He recalls Mr. E teaching him “e for effort” almost as clearly as he remembers Pizarro honoring him at the spring 2019 Celebration of Teaching event, where Camacho was recognized for his teaching potential and awarded a $1,000 scholarship. 

“My teachers had an impact; they genuinely wanted the best for their kids, and that’s what I want to do in the classroom,” said Camacho, who is completing his student teaching at Silver Creek High School in San José this spring. 

“I want the best for my kids, their families and their communities. It is thanks to my teachers that I feel this way — they planted the seed.”

The Lurie College of Education Student Success Center was first inspired to start the Celebration of Teaching event in 2017, when the college joined the CSU EduCorps initiative, a CSU-wide program dedicated to increasing outreach and recruitment for teacher preparation programs. Janene Perez, the center’s director of recruitment, student success and alumni engagement, said they first learned of a similar initiative at Sacramento State and drew on that model at SJSU in 2018.

“We wanted to reach students who might not have considered teaching as a career but had a deep commitment to their communities and exhibited qualities that were impactful in a teaching and learning setting,” said Perez.

The inaugural Celebration of Teaching event initially focused on recruiting from within SJSU but has expanded well beyond the university and into the community. 

“Recognizing that the consideration of career fields often begins much earlier, we’ve grown the initiative over the past few years to include outreach to community colleges, high schools and middle schools,” said Heather Lattimer, dean of the Lurie College. 

“Our outreach is intentionally designed to strengthen the diversity of our educator workforce, a critical equity issue that has a direct impact on student success in K12 and post-secondary education.”

Since then, 151 students have been recognized at the Celebration of Teaching. Of them, 16 have redeemed their scholarships and enrolled in one of the Lurie College’s credential programs. 

By recognizing students who show the potential to become transformative educators, Lattimer and Perez hope that the encouragement and financial incentive will inspire young people to consider careers in teaching. The initiative aims to increase outreach and recruitment efforts to students who perhaps wouldn’t have seen themselves becoming educators previously based on their interests or identities.

“So many of us share insecurities around academics: feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, and thoughts of, how could I possibly become a teacher if I’m not a top student?” said Perez. “When a trusted teacher, professor or supervisor nominates a student, that is something that not only boosts confidence but also sparks interest. 

“We hope that the nomination validates who the student is holistically, recognizing their diversity of experiences, resilience and cultural assets — all critical pieces of their whole being that they bring to the table and are at the heart of transformative education.”

To learn more about this year’s Celebration of Teaching nominees, visit sjsu.edu/education/community/celebration-of-teaching.

SJSU Legacy of Poetry Festival’s 14th Annual Event Goes Online April 15 – 23

Legacy of Poetry 2021

San José State University’s Poets and Writers Coalition will host the 2021 Legacy of Poetry Festival: “Closing the Distance—Sheltering in Technolog[ies],” online from April 15 – 23.

In honor of National Poetry Month, San José State University’s Poets and Writers Coalition will host the 2021 Legacy of Poetry Festival: “Closing the Distance—Sheltering in Technolog[ies],” online from April 15 – 23. The SJSU Legacy of Poetry Consortium coordinates the festival.

“As human beings, we have been robbed of contact with one another through social gatherings and literary events for one year now,” said Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing Alan Soldofsky. “The 2021 festival recognizes the pain of isolation that people are experiencing and how poetry—through various technological means—can close the distance between us.”

Recognizing how poetry can inspire and offer hope to broad and diverse audiences, the festival offers a lineup of readings and panels featuring poets from San José State, the South Bay community and across the country. Registration and information for the events is available at the Legacy of Poetry website.

Thursday, April 15 at 7 p.m.

The first free keynote event will be an online reading by award-winning poet Lillian-Yvonne Bertram. This event is presented by the SJSU Center for Literary Arts in conjunction with the SJSU College of Humanities and the Arts “Deep Humanities Initiative,” which explores the intersection between the arts and technology. Bertram’s most recent book, Travesty Generator (Noemi Press, 2019), is described as remixing “programming codes … to ruminate on the intersections of race and gender.” Longlisted for the 2020 National Book Award in Poetry, Lilian-Yvonne Bertram writes that she uses “codes and algorithms in an attempt to create work that reconfigures and challenges oppressive narratives for Black people and to imagine new ones.” She considers this “an intervention into a set of literary practices that have historically excluded women and minorities.”

Friday, April 16 at 3 p.m.

The festival will also include a master class on how to startup and sustain an independent literary press. It features the publisher of Noemi Press, American Book Award-winning Carmen Giménez Smith, ’96 English, and Noemi Press senior poetry editor and award-winning poet J. Michael Martinez. Martinez will be joining the SJSU Creative Writing faculty as its newest core member in Fall 2021.

Monday, April 19 at 5 p.m.

A second featured event presents a reading and conversation between Ellen Bass, SJSU’s Lurie distinguished visiting author-in-residence for 2021, and award-winning poet and Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh Toi Derricotte. Both poets have served as chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.

Tuesday, April 20 at 5 p.m.

The festival will also host a tribute program for eminent San Francisco poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, founder of City Lights Bookstore and City Lights Publishing, who died at age 101 on February 22. Ferlinghetti often visited SJSU to give public readings of his poems, guest-teach poetry workshop classes, and collaborate with art department faculty on printmaking projects that combined visual and literary arts elements. It will feature a screening of the documentary film Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder, produced and directed by Chris Felver, who will introduce the film.

Other notable events

Also on the event schedule is a free online reading hosted by SJSU’s REED Magazine, the oldest continuously published literary magazine west of the Mississippi. The event will feature award-winning poet Rodrigo Toscano, winner of REED’s 2020 Edwin Markham Prize, and author of the just-published poetry collection, The Charm and The Dread (Fence Books, 2021). He will read with Santa Cruz Poet Laureate Emeritus Danusha Laméris, who most recently authored a collection of poems titled Bonfire Opera (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020).

Poetry Center San José will host a workshop on performing poems and producing poetry videos for Instagram and other social media platforms. Enrollment will be limited and cost $15 for PCSJ members and students with ID and $25 for the general public.

SJSU Looks Ahead to Fall Semester at Recent Adapt Town Halls

An infinity symbol with SJSU Adapt inside the inner circles

The recent town halls are part of the SJSU Adapt plan, a four-phase approach for the continuation of campus operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past week, San José State outlined how the university plans to adapt to an expected increase of students, faculty and staff on campus in the fall. In December, the California State University announced an anticipated return to delivering courses primarily in person during the fall 2021 semester. 

The SJSU Adapt Town Halls on March 10 and March 16 featured short presentations by President Mary A. Papazian, Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Vincent Del Casino, Jr., and Dr. Barbara Fu, acting medical director of the Student Wellness Center, before shifting to a Q&A format. The Q&A featured questions submitted by attendees prior to the event as well as during the town hall.  

Most of the discussion was focused on fall 2021 courses and repopulation of campus for employees and students, with an emphasis on how the continued progression of the COVID-19 vaccination process plays a role in SJSU’s planning for the fall. 

“We live in a time of flux and fluidity, and we are doing the best we can to plan for fall while also understanding that a lot could change between now and August,” Del Casino said.

Del Casino added that he expects more face-to-face opportunities for learning in the fall while also remaining flexible for students who like learning in an online or hybrid environment. SJSU will continue to closely follow Santa Clara County and state of California public health guidelines as it finalizes the course schedule. 

Joanne Wright, senior associate vice president for University Personnel, said SJSU will not require the COVID-19 vaccination for students, faculty and staff. She added that departments will spend the coming weeks finalizing repopulation plans for employees. 

“Our mission is to educate our students, so as we repopulate, that will be foremost in our minds,” said Wright. “For individual units, the question will be: ‘How do we need to staff to best support our mission given that we anticipate a larger campus population for fall semester?’”

Wright added that some positions may continue telecommuting. SJSU currently has employees working on campus to support the limited on-campus population for the spring 2021 semester. 

To view the town halls in their entirety, visit the SJSU Adapt Town Halls page

San José State University Launches Cybersecurity and Coding Bootcamps With Fullstack Academy

Photo courtesy of Fullstack Academy

To meet demand for tech jobs in the region, San José State University (SJSU) and Fullstack Academy have launched tech bootcamp programs focused on training aspiring cybersecurity and coding professionals.

Offered through SJSU’s College of Professional and Global Education (CPGE), the bootcamps will be presented in a live online format and are geared to train early-career and experienced professionals of any IT level.

Equipping students with the skills and portfolios to enter the tech workforce in just 26 weeks, the SJSU/Fullstack program is uniquely positioned to serve the burgeoning Silicon Valley market, a region long considered the nation’s center for technology and innovation.

San José has more than 10,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs and nearly 17,000 software job openings, according to Cyberseek.

Bootcamp graduates will qualify for high paying cybersecurity or coding jobs. Pay for beginner-level software engineers in the area is roughly $95,000, and cybersecurity analysts are making nearly $80,000 according to Glassdoor. Both figures well exceed the average San José entry-level salary of $36,807.

“Tracing its origins to Silicon Valley, the tech industry continues to grow at an accelerated pace,” said SJSU College of Professional and Global Education Dean, Ruth Duran Huard, Ph.D. “While these cybersecurity and coding bootcamps will present opportunities for those interested in transitioning into the tech market, the part-time live online format provides greater accessibility to anyone considering a career change or looking to develop a new skill-set.”

“Given the influence of the California market, it’s essential that we continue to expand our footprint in the state,” said Mogan Subramanian, president of Fullstack Academy. “To meet the state’s ever-growing demand for skilled technology experts, we’ve now partnered with our fifth prestigious higher learning institution, having already launched with the University of San Diego; Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo; CalTech; and California State University East Bay.”

Applications are now being accepted for the new part-time, 26-week bootcamps. The SJSU Cyber Bootcamp will teach students how to monitor and secure systems, networks and applications, and deploy offensive and defensive tactics needed to appropriately respond to cyber breaches. The SJSU Coding Bootcamp will provide Fullstack JavaScript training, giving students a foundation in front- and back-end web development and the crucial programming skills needed for in-demand coding jobs.

The bootcamps, which do not require SJSU enrollment or prior technical experience, will run from May 24 to November 20, 2021. Students must apply for the bootcamps by May 13, 2021. Scholarships are offered for SJSU alumni, current students and employees, as well as military personnel.

New Impact Report Highlights SJSU Partnership With Nonprofit Braven

Braven Fellows participating in a Learning Lab opportunity before the COVID-19 pandemic.

San José State University is a proud partner of Braven, a national nonprofit that empowers underrepresented students with skills and confidence to transition from higher education to successful first jobs

Since becoming a founding university partner in 2014, SJSU has helped Braven implement innovative career education into the undergraduate experience for low-income and first-generation college students. Through these distinct partnerships with universities and employers, Braven has created a path to impact for emerging leaders as diverse as the future requires.

In addition to integrating cutting-edge career education into the undergraduate experience, Braven is able to provide students with a supportive network and a sense of belonging—which in a pandemic is more important than ever.

Among Braven’s employer partners are Adobe, Barclays, Deloitte, Google, LinkedIn, Prudential and Salesforce, who sponsor learning experiences and events for students and provide engagement opportunities with students to support their employees’ professional development. Many of SJSU’s alumni have also become leadership coaches in Braven’s Accelerator course.

Every year, Braven provides an impact report to capture the scope, breadth and depth of the SJSU Fellows’ accomplishments. This year, the report also includes how Braven, SJSU and employer partners helped students navigate the evolving professional landscape created by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Lurie College to Host Free K-12 Online Teaching Academy Starting January 8

K-12 Online Teaching Academy

The Lurie College is launching its second K-12 Online Teaching Academy on Jan. 8.

San José State University’s Connie L. Lurie College of Education is launching its second K-12 Online Teaching Academy on Friday, January 8, from 3 – 4:30 p.m. PST. The five free sessions are designed to prepare educators to teach online. The webinar series originally launched in summer 2020 in response to the inequities in learning exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis and gained media attention for providing high-quality professional development for educators nationwide. The 23 Summer 2020 webinar recordings discussed how to build equity and employ emancipatory pedagogies in an online environment, how to utilize various online platforms, and more. More than 100 participants have already registered for each of the five sessions, which include presentations such as “Decolonizing STEM” and “Providing Students Choice: Engagement and Equity.”

“Initially, our goal was to create an initiative that would support our college’s teaching candidates and teachers in the field as we were all making the transition to remote teaching, learning, and working,” said Lurie College Dean Heather Lattimer. “Since our summer K-12 Academy was online, we decided to also make it available to anybody at no cost and we were amazed by the overall demand for the webinars—over 3,000 people attended our 23 summer webinars and the recordings have over 20,000 views on our YouTube channel. As the COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare and exacerbated the many social inequities within education and the movement for racial justice has gained momentum in recent months, we wanted to host another K-12 Academy at the midpoint of the academic year to provide further support to educators as we are navigating this landscape. The presenters for our upcoming webinars on January 8, 15, 22, 29, and February 5 will highlight the intersection of their topics with educational equity, social justice, anti-racism, and/or emancipatory education.”

In an EdSource article published in October, student teacher Erin Enguero, ’16 Kinesiology, stated that the webinars helped “contribute to this very important conversation about what it means to do distance learning.” Most recently, the California Governor’s Task Force on Business and Jobs Recovery identified the webinar series as one of the most helpful distance learning resources for educators and highlighted it on the COVID-19 CA website.

There is still time for educators to register in the webinar series, which occur January 8, 15, 22, 29 and February 5 from 3 – 4:30 p.m. PST: sjsu.edu/education/community/k12-academy.

 

SJSU Biological Sciences Professor Katie Wilkinson Casts Vote as California Elector

On Monday, December 14, San José State Biological Sciences Professor Katie Wilkinson traveled to Sacramento to cast her vote as an elector for the electoral college—one of only 538 Americans to participate in this democratic process. She live tweeted her experience and agreed to answer some questions about her day.

What does it mean to be selected as an elector for the electoral college? What criteria does one need to meet?

There is one elector for every Congressional district and one for each of the two state Senators. Each party chooses their slate of electors and the party that wins the state seats their slate at the Electoral College. In this case, the Democrat who holds the elected office or ran against the winning Republican got to nominate an elector to represent their district. Typically people nominate elected officials, activists, or party volunteers to the seats. The role is largely ceremonial, as it should be to respect the will of the state’s voters.

How and when did you find out that you were selected as an elector?

In September, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren called me to ask if I would like to be CA-19’s elector. Sadly I was driving and missed the call, but I immediately emailed to accept the position after hearing the message.

How did it make you feel?

It is an incredible honor to have been chosen. As a California elector, I represented about 500,000 voters, so it is honestly unbelievable that Rep. Lofgren chose me out of all the people doing amazing things in our district.

How has your political advocacy overlapped with your career as a scientist and educator? I remember you mentioning that you had taken a previous student to Rep. Lofgren’s office. What was that like?

In 2013, the sequester led to a huge budget cut for the NIH-supported Maximizing Access to Research Careers (MARC) training program. The MARC program provides support for students in groups underrepresented in science to gain a mentored research experience. The cuts meant that students lost about 40 percent of the tuition support they had been given and also that the program had to cut about half of the training slots. At the time, Joy Franco, ’14 Mechanical Engineering, was a MARC student in my lab and we worked together to provide a script for people to call their legislators about the funding cuts. We also hosted Rep. Mike Honda to tour research labs and talk to the MARC students.

After that experience, I decided I want to learn how to more effectively advocate for the issues I cared about so I became a Society for Neuroscience Early Career Advocacy Fellow. In that program I got mentored support in learning how to navigate visits with elected officials and how to structure the meetings. In fact, I first met Rep. Lofgren when I scheduled an in district meeting with her. Usually you talk to Congressional staff, but I was offered a last minute opening with the Congresswoman because her office said she was a big supporter of women in STEM. I brought a research student from my lab, Anusha Allawala, ’15 Biomedical Engineering, with me to give a student’s perspective. Anusha was also supported by the Department of Education’s McNair Fellowship program and did a great job explaining the challenges she faced as a first generation college student and recent immigrant to the United States. Rep. Lofgren was also a first generation college student and they had a great conversation. Rep. Lofgren has also visited SJSU to tour research labs and it was great to see students in the lab explain their projects and illustrate firsthand how important federal investment is for SJSU science.

To stay involved in science policy, I joined the American Physiological Society’s Science Policy Committee and, starting in May 2021, I will chair that committee. This is a very exciting opportunity to help shape the issues that the society advocates for and to provide a non-Research Intensive Institution’s perspective.

Tell me about your day. How many people were at the capital? Was it your first time there? What did it feel like to cast your vote?

This was my first time visiting the Capitol Building. The Capitol was empty except for the 55 Electors and minimal staff to help maintain social distancing. We were all given KN95 masks to wear and had to stay six feet away from each other at all times. The actual Electoral College meeting is fairly scripted. We started by taking the Electoral College Oath. Then we nominated and elected an Electoral College Chairperson, Assemblymember Shirley Weber and Secretary Franklin Lima. A few electors couldn’t make it, so replacement electors were nominated, elected, and given their oaths. Then we cast our ballots for President. We were given official ballots to sign and they were collected and counted by the Secretary.

When the Chairwoman announced the 55 ayes for President-elect Biden, there was a huge round of applause. We did the same thing for Vice President-elect Harris. After that, we all had to sign official documents affirming the accuracy of the vote and then were dismissed. The Chairwoman announced that with our California Electoral College votes Joe Biden had over the 270 needed to be elected. The most special thing about the day for me, though, was getting to cast another ballot for the first female Vice President. Since I was a kid I’ve been disappointed that we’ve never had a woman in the White House, so getting to be part of this election was extra special. I have a five-year-old daughter and I’m so excited that the first presidential administration she will pay attention to has a woman of color as Vice President. Our daughter was really excited to learn that Kamala Harris’s mom was an immigrant from the same part of India as her dad.

What message would you want to share about civic engagement and staying active in local, statewide and national politics?

It is easy to feel like your single vote or call doesn’t matter, but the truth is our elected officials are literally paid to listen to what we have to say. A pretty small percentage of people actively engage with their representatives so you can help educate them on your issues. Politicians want to hear personal stories that they can use when arguing for a position and their offices do tally phone calls and letters. It can also seem intimidating to talk to your elected officials, but once you do it a few times, it gets much easier. It’s especially helpful to go to a meeting with someone who has done it before or a group of people.

 

Collaborative of CSU Art Museums and Galleries Announces Virtual Event Series

The newly formed ConSortiUm, a ground-breaking collaborative project of art museums and galleries from the California State University (CSU) system, is pleased to announce a virtual event series that actively engages students, faculty and staff members, and communities through visual arts-based dialogue.

The inaugural program, PLATFORM, launched in September 2020, includes six live virtual conversations with contemporary artists, collectives, and curators whose work is critical to current re-imaginings of the art world and the world at large.

“The goal of the PLATFORM speaker series is to be accessible to anyone in any discipline. It is to make sure we address the issues that are going to be at the top of our student’s minds as well as the faculty’s minds at this moment in time,” said Natalie and James Thompson Art Galleries Director and Collections Manager Alena Sauzade.

According to Sauzade, all of the speakers in the series have been hand-chosen to be meaningful during these times, and the talks will not just pique the interest of art historians and designers but it’s meant to cut a broad swath “that could address contemporary topics ranging from the environment to immigration to social justice,” said Sauzade.

The Thompson Gallery is the first of all the ConSortiUm art museums and galleries to transition to a digital format back in April 2020. “We hosted our first webinar lecture at the end of the spring semester. I brought that idea up to the ConSortiUm members as a possibility,” said Sauzade.

The PLATFORM speaker series fits well with the gallery’s Tuesday night lectures and all the other great programming that’s happening in the College of Humanities and the Arts. Most of the gallery’s program has shifted online, including lectures and exhibitions, without impeding content and productivity.

San José State will be co-hosting two lectures next semester. Spring 2021 lectures will feature Oakland-based People’s Kitchen Collective and multidisciplinary artist Shaun Leonardo.

According to Sauzade, all of the speakers’ sessions will be inspiring for students, especially People’s Kitchen Collective, a group of social activists artists who work with local issues of food insecurity and food poverty in the Bay Area. “It may seem that art is disconnected from something like food, but actually it’s not at all,” said Sauzade.

The final event for 2020 will occur on Thursday, November 12 at noon and includes a presentation by Forensic Architecture founder Eyal Weizman. A London-based artists’ collective, Forensic Architecture undertakes advanced spatial and media investigations into cases of human rights violations, with and on behalf of communities affected by political violence, human rights organizations, international prosecutors, environmental justice groups, and media organizations. The collective’s work often involves open-source investigation, the construction of digital and physical models, 3D animations, virtual reality environments, and cartographic platforms.

ConSortiUm recognizes that CSU students are integral to creating a new future, and is therefore committed to providing access to a multiplicity of voices and inspiration as students discover and nurture their own agency.

All events will be presented live via Zoom with access to all CSU campuses. Recordings of the events will be available for post-live stream viewing and archived by the sponsoring institutions. These events are free and open to the public.

EVENT INFORMATION: 2020

Artist Beatriz Cortez in conversation with Erin Christovale, Associate Curator, Hammer Museum
Thursday, September 24, 5:30 p.m.
Hosted by Cal Poly Pomona, CSU Long Beach, and CSU Northridge To register for the Zoom webinar visit: https://www.cpp.edu/platform-csu-art-speaker-series/ .

Postcommodity : A conversation with artists Cristóbal Martínez and Kade L. Twist Thursday, October 22, 5:30 p.m.
Hosted by CSU Humboldt, CSU Long Beach and Fresno State

Forensic Architecture: A conversation with founder Eyal Weizman
Thursday, November 12, noon

Hosted by CSU Bakersfield and Sacramento State

The CSU system represents the largest public four-year college system in the country, with more than 480,000 students enrolled at 23 campuses. ConSortiUm formed when CSU announced remote teaching would continue through the end of 2020. ConSortiUm members are dedicated to supporting students, artists, and their campuses’ surrounding communities during the pandemic, while also responding to the pressing demand for an end to systemic and overt racism in California and beyond.

Bay Area Media Turn to SJSU on Election Night 2020

Four political science professors are lined up on top of a red, white and blue graphic with the SJSU logo and title "2020 Elections."

(L-R) Adjunct Professor Donna Crane, Associate Professor and Chair of Political Science Garrick Percival, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education and Political Science Professor Melinda Jackson, Emeritus Professor Larry Gerston.

San José State University political science professors will share their insights and expertise with millions of Bay Area television and online viewers on election night, November 3, 2020, and beyond.

Political Expertise

For months leading up to the 2020 elections, faculty members in the SJSU Department of Political Science participated in interviews with local, regional, national, and international media outlets. They offered commentary and analysis on the presidential campaign, national, state and Bay Area races and propositions.

“The 2020 elections is one of the most consequential in generations,” said Associate Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department Garrick Percival. “The political science faculty at SJSU has a long tradition of offering our expertise in politics and government to help inform the broader community. We see it as a crucial part of being faculty members at a public university. It’s a great way to give back.”

Where to Watch

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education and Political Science Professor Melinda Jackson will join NBC Bay Area as it provides continuous election night coverage of local election results on its digital platform, nbcbayarea.com.The online coverage, which runs from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m., will also be available on Roku and Apple TV.

Professor Emeritus Larry Gerston will share his political expertise with NBC Bay Area broadcast and online viewers on election night, including an election wrap-up newscast at 11:00 p.m. Professor Gerston has provided expert political analysis to NBC Bay Area viewers for 40 years.

Adjunct Professor Donna Crane will join the news team at KRON-TV election night each hour from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. to discuss national, state and Bay Area election results.

Associate Professor and Chair of Political Science Garrick Percival will appear on the ABC affiliate KGO-TV the morning after the election. As an expert on state and Bay Area politics, he will comment on the 12 state-wide propositions and many Bay Area measures and races.

SJSU’s political science department, established in 1962, is dedicated to educating students and the Bay Area community about political and social issues.

SJSU Recognized as Adobe Creative Campus

A female and make student smile while admiring graphic design posters lined up on the wall.

Students look at graphic design posters on the wall prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Jim Gensheimer / San José State University.

San José State University has been named an Adobe Creative Campus for its commitment to using technology to provide students with a transformative path to success.

SJSU is among a select group of colleges and universities Adobe identified as higher education innovators actively advancing digital literacy skills across the curriculum. By making Adobe Creative Cloud available to its students, SJSU provides creative and persuasive digital communication tools that will give them an edge in the competitive modern workplace.

“San José State is honored to be recognized by Adobe as a Creative Campus,” said Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs, Vincent J. Del Casino Jr. “There is nothing more important in today’s world than creative and digital literacy. By providing our students with access to these creative software tools, we can enable them to do wonderful things in the digital world, but also to gain expertise at productive collaboration. Being named an Adobe Creative Campus is one of the many puzzle pieces we are putting in place to ensure that SJSU students can take advantage of as many opportunities as possible.”

SJSU students have access to all the Adobe Creative Cloud apps and services at no additional cost. Universal access to these industry leading communication tools is part of SJSU’s endeavor to prioritize equity and inclusion, leveling the playing field in the classroom. By becoming proficient in the software used every day by so many employers, SJSU students can gain valuable experience and soft skills to better demonstrate their digital literacy capabilities when entering the job market.

There are more than 20 Adobe Creative Cloud applications that students can practice with every day, including InDesign, Photoshop, Premiere Rush and Illustrator—leading industry standard applications across the curriculum used by many employers where SJSU students will be working.

“Digital literacy and fluency are quickly becoming core competencies for employment opportunities on an international scale,” said Sebastian Distefano, director, education strategic development. “One of the most effective ways academic institutions can ensure their students become digitally literate and fluent before they enter the competitive workforce is through early and frequent exposure to creative tools. We are delighted that San José State University has embraced Adobe Creative Cloud, as students will now have the tools they need to seamlessly unlock their creativity and share their stories in more visually compelling ways. As a result, students of all majors can nurture the fundamental soft skills that will be critical to success in their future careers.”

As an Adobe Creative Campus, San Jose State University will also have access to peer-to-peer collaboration with other Adobe Creative Campus institutions, support for driving student adoption in the classroom, and thought leadership opportunities within the global higher education community.

John Delacruz Named as a 2020 Adobe Master Teacher

Professor John Delacruz gestures with his hands while teaching his class.

John Delacruz teaches a course prior to COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Jim Gensheimer / San José State University

Associate Professor John Delacruz was included as one of Adobe’s inaugural Master Teachers, one of 35 educators in K-12 and higher education selected from across the globe. The program recognizes pedagogical expertise, educational innovation, and a commitment by “master teachers” to share their best practices, insights, and curricular materials with educators across the globe. The summer program included a professional learning community within the cohort, training on instructional design and professional curriculum writing, and a badge to share on professional profiles.

An experienced educator in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Delacruz is responsible for the Creative Track of San José State’s advertising program. The fellowship recognizes his expertise in using Adobe Creative Cloud in his teaching, his ongoing development of industry and education partnerships, and his success guiding student collaborative projects nationally and internationally.

Delacruz said, “The collaboration tools, Adobe Creative Cloud, that I’m using in the classroom now are the collaboration tools that they’re going to be using when they get out into the working world.”

Last spring, in Delacruz’s senior capstone course in design for advertising, students created awareness campaigns for a local business or local nonprofit organization. Using the Adobe Creative Cloud, students make real-world advertising creative projects and pitch them to real clients. Delacruz said the projects his seniors did in class matched how they will work once they start their jobs.

“For a lot of my students, this is such a big taste of the real world,” Delacruz said. “They’re learning a bunch of digital tools they’re going to have to use to move forward. They get to present orally, they ideate and collaborate in teams, and they work through a problem using critical thinking and understanding user groups and people.

“Adobe Creative Cloud is what industries are built on,” he said. “Even in this online moment, our students are learning skills that are really going to help them in the workplace.”

Delacruz has been a campus and statewide leader in using Adobe communication tools to augment his teaching. Last year, SJSU hosted a unique virtual Adobe Creative Jam with participants from seven other California State Universities.

All of these partnering initiatives are part of the connection that becoming an Adobe Creative Campus brings with it. SJSU collaboration with other Adobe Creative Campus institutions is designed to foster the sharing of ideas and innovations that expand digital literacy on the path to student success.

San José State University and the City of San José Extend Operating Agreement of Hammer Theatre Center for 35-Year Period

Editors note: This media advisory was distributed on June 25, 2020.

Corner view of the Hammer Theatre Center Box Office entrance.

Hammer Theatre Center. Photo: Christina Olivas.

Media Contacts:
Robin McElhatton, San José State University
O: 408-924-1749
E: robin.mcelhatton@sjsu.edu

Steph Keay, Carla Befera & Co
O: 650-327-1200
E: steph@cb-pr.com

SAN JOSÉ, CA – June 25, 2020– The city of San José and San José State University have agreed to a new contract that allows the university to continue operating the Hammer Theatre Center for up to 35 years. The theatre, which is owned by the city of San José, is a state-of-the-art performance venue located in the heart of downtown San José at 101 Paseo De San Antonio.

In March, San City Council voted unanimously to proceed with the contract, which builds on a successful partnership initiated in 2016. San José Director of Cultural Affairs Kerry Adams Hapner told the council, “This has been such a successful model in so many ways.” She says, “We are looking forward to continuing a fruitful partnership that increases the cultural vibrancy of the downtown and brings long-lasting benefits to the city and SJSU.”

San José State has signed the agreement, which allows SJSU to operate the Hammer for the next fifteen years with additional options to renew through the year 2055. “This contract allows the Hammer Theatre to bring high-quality arts programming to San José for decades to come,” said College of Humanities and the Arts Dean Shannon Miller. “It also gives our music, theater, and dance students the opportunity to perform on the Hammer’s professional stage, and connects our campus community to the cultural and economic corridors throughout the downtown area.”

Formerly the home of San José Repertory Theatre, the architecturally striking, bright blue building sat vacant from June 2014 until SJSU took the helm in early 2016, investing approximately $2 million to renovate the facilities. “One of the hallmarks of the Hammer has been the diversity of our programming,” said Hammer Executive Director Christopher Burrill. “We have been attracting new audiences with a wide range of interests—not only theatre lovers, but also fans of dance, music, film, live talks, and much more, with programs that speak to all sectors of our multicultural community.”

For the past four years, the 528-seat theatre has presented an array of offerings including outstanding professional productions, community-based works, SJSU shows, and concerts, as well as dance, music, talks, film screenings—even live aerial performances with dancers suspended outside, scaling the sides of the iconic blue building. In addition to a complete renovation of the stage, and updated audio and lighting equipment to reflect the latest technology, an upstairs rehearsal space was transformed into Hammer 4, a black box theatre space designed for intimate productions such as Hammer’s “Black Cab Jazz” collaboration with San José Jazz.

In the last season, the Hammer presented nearly 200 events, drawing more than 57,000 audience members. From jazz performances to mariachi extravaganzas, the popular National Geographic Live! speaker series to the acclaimed National Theatre Live film screenings, Cinequest film festival presentations, ballet and modern dance shows, kid-friendly performances, live art and more, the Hammer’s mission is to serve the community through artistic and educational programming that express the unique characteristics and diverse cultures of Silicon Valley. The Mercury News raved, “It’s safe to say San José State has exceeded anyone’s expectations for the reactivation of the theater and have kept it as a vital community asset. That is certainly worth applauding.”

On June 15, 2020, the Hammer announced its plan to invest in additional technology to create a studio-quality, high-definition, multi-camera video environment that will allow the theatre to offer its audiences live stream events to view from home. These tech upgrades provide the Hammer the opportunity to offer high-quality alternatives for the short term—while large public gatherings are prohibited by COVID-19—and long term—for those who may not be able to attend a live event in person for accessibility reasons. To help with the effort, the Hammer has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $30,000 to pay for the refit of the theatre and to offer live stream content from its stage. For more information visit: power.sjsu.edu/hammertheatre.

About San José State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 145 areas of study with an additional 108 concentrations—offered through its nine colleges.

With approximately 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural, and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing more than 7,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 280,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.