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.

San José State University’s Reed Magazine Earns Its First Pushcart Prize

Reed Magazine No. 153

Reed Magazine’s award-winning 153rd issue

San José State University’s literary publication, Reed Magazine, has earned its first Pushcart Prize for a poem published in its 153rd issue — “Father’s Belt” by Kurt Luchs

Described as “the most honored literary project in America,” the Pushcart Prize recognizes small presses and literary journals that feature “the best poetry, short fiction, essays or literary whatnot published in the small presses over the previous year.” The winning poem will be reprinted in the anthology, “Pushcart Prize XLVI: Best of the Small Presses 2022 Edition.”

Luchs’ poem was originally selected by a team of San José State students enrolled in English 133, a course that offers hands-on editorial, marketing, and publication experience, including learning how to usher submissions through a rigorous vetting process. Poetry editor Anne Cheilek, ’23 MFA Creative Writing, said that Issue 153 received more than 4,000 poems, from which they selected 18 for the print journal and an additional six that appeared on the Reed website.

“This is Reed’s first Pushcart Prize,” Cheilek said, adding that the editorial team has only been submitting nominations for a few years. “I can’t help but feel that it is a sign of our superlative quality that we earned one of these coveted awards so quickly.”

The poem is dark and challenging, written from the point of view of a belt used to discipline children. But the SJSU editorial staff determined that “the poignant message, the artistic merit, and the emotional catharsis delivered by the work were too great, and too important, to pass up.” 

Kurt Luchs

Award-winning poet Kurt Luchs. Photo credit: Ellie Honl Herman.

Luchs originally submitted the poem to the magazine’s Edwin Markham Prize for poetry. Though he didn’t win, he was thrilled to have it included in Issue 153 and honored to learn that it had won a Pushcart Prize.

“I was quite pleased to have work appear in Reed, even before the unexpected windfall of a Pushcart Prize,” he said. 

“Winning this prize is for sure the biggest thing that has happened to me thus far as a writer. I’m so grateful that the Reed staff nominated me. I didn’t even realize they had. Pushcart’s annual anthology is sold in every bookstore in the country, and every poet I’ve ever admired who is still alive will probably read ‘Father’s Belt.’”

“Each year the magazine gets better because we build on what the staff has done in years past,” said Emerita Professor of English and Comparative Literature Cathleen Miller, who served as the editor-in-chief of Issue 153 prior to retiring. 

“We continue to learn new and better ways of publishing the journal, and as our reputation has grown, we are receiving submissions from first-rate writers and artists around the globe.”

Issue 152, which was supervised by Assistant Professor of Creative Writing Keenan Norris, published a piece that was named as a notable essay in “Best American Essays,” another prestigious honor.

“These recognitions are the culmination of years of hard work and advancement by both the faculty who have led Reed and the amazing dedication of the staff,” Miller added. 

Described as “California’s oldest literary magazine,” Reed will soon recognize its 155th anniversary. Under the stewardship of English and Comparative Literature Lecturer Helen Meservey, the magazine has recently published Issue 154. The winning poem also appears in Luchs’ full-length debut poetry collection, “Falling in the Direction of Up,” released May 1.

Spartan Studios’ Steinbeck Adaptation “Breakfast” Debuts at Beverly Hills International Film Festival

Breakfast film_Jessica Perez

L-R: Brett Edwards, Jessica Erin Martin, Darin Cooper and Matt McTighe, ’02 Theatre Arts. A scene from “Breakfast,” a short film directed by Spartan Film Studios. Photo by Jessica Perez.

August 2019, San José’s Coyote Valley: The Spartan Studios film crew awakened at 2 a.m. to prepare for a sunrise shoot of “Breakfast,” a film adaptation of one of John Steinbeck’s short stories.

They only had a few hours to set up camp, ready the old-fashioned stove and capture the dozen or so lines of dialogue that compose the story, which is rumored to have inspired Steinbeck’s masterpiece, “The Grapes of Wrath.

The story, which is excerpted from “The Long Valley,” depicts a man walking alone in the wilderness when he comes upon a migrant camp before sunrise. A young mother busies herself over a stove while nursing an infant, frying bacon and baking biscuits. Two men emerge from a tent to join her for breakfast, and upon noticing the stranger, invite him to join them.

The short film originated a decade ago, when San José State Film and Theatre Lecturer Nick Martinez, ’02 Radio, Television and Film, shared his vision with SJSU’s Director of Production for Film and Theatre Barnaby Dallas, ’00 MA Theatre Arts. Together they approached Nick Taylor, director of SJSU’s Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies, and English Professor Susan Schillinglaw, with the idea to acquire the rights to the story.

“Steinbeck fits so much beauty and symbolism in three-and-a-half pages,” said Martinez, who is also co-founder and director of Spartan Studios. “It’s a first-person story, and he didn’t write many first-person stories. The more I researched it, the more I thought, he probably wrote it this way because it happened to him. That means I had an opportunity to put Steinbeck on screen.”

Brett Edwards in Steinbeck's Breakfast

Brett Edwards in “Breakfast.” Photo by Jessica Perez.

Martinez, the film’s director, worked with producers Dallas and Jessica Olthof, ’13 RTVF, of Roann Films, to shoot in summer 2019. Assistant Professor of Film and Theatre Andrea Bechert served as the production designer, Film and Theatre Lecturer Cassandra Carpenter was responsible for wardrobe and costumes, and Costume Shop Manager and Costuming for Theatre Arts Instructor Debbie Weber, ’83 Theatre Arts, was responsible for the student costume and makeup teams on the days of shooting.

“It was the thrill of my career at SJSU to be able to collaborate with Nick, the faculty, staff and students on this film,” said Dallas. “Steinbeck has been and always will be my favorite author.”

The film was funded by Spartan Film Studios, the Film and Theatre Department, and fundraising efforts of Martinez, Dallas and College of Humanities and the Arts Dean Shannon Miller through Artistic Excellence Grants.

Though the project was completed by early 2020, they waited to release it until spring 2021. “Breakfast” premiered in late April at the Beverly Hills Film Festival.

“Adaptation is never easy,” said Film and Theatre Department Chair Elisha Miranda. “Dallas and Martinez did a good job of taking Steinbeck’s intentions during a very different time to create an educational piece of media. The synergy — not just from theatre to film but between faculty, staff and students — is critical to our department and the collaborative nature of the film industry.

“We look forward to more of these productions with our student directors and filmmakers at the helm, which is true to the mission of our department and implemented through our department production entity, Spartan Films,” Miranda added.

“When you always put the students first, and you put great staff and faculty together, San José State is unstoppable,” said Martinez.

“Breakfast” will run the film festival circuit for the rest of the year, with screenings on campus and events through the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies. Martinez said they hope to make it available free of charge to educators who plan to incorporate it into lesson planning.

Learn more about the Center for Steinbeck Studies.

Virginia San Fratello’s Teeter Totter Wall Earns Beazley Design of the Year Award

The Teeter Totter Wall, designed by SJSU Design Chair Virginia San Fratello and UC Berkeley Architecture Professor Ronald Rael, in 2019. Photo courtesy of Ronald Rael.

In summer 2019, a design project entitled the “Teeter Totter Wall” created by San José State Design Department Chair Virginia San Fratello and UC Berkeley Architecture Professor Ronald Rael became an international sensation when a video of their pink seesaw went viral. As featured in the spring/summer 2019 edition of Washington Square, the project was a collaborative effort involving communities along the United States-Mexico border. By working together, San Fratello, Rael and a collective of Mexican artists created a pink seesaw that used the border wall as the physical and metaphoric fulcrum. Children on both sides of the wall were invited to play for 40 minutes.

A year and a half later, the project has once again captured the imagination of the world. On January 19, 2021, the Design Museum in London announced that the project had won the prestigious Beazley Design of the Year, an honor that recognizes the most innovative designs across fashion, architecture, digital, transport, product and graphic design from the previous year, as nominated by public and design experts worldwide. The winning designers’ work will be included in a physical and virtual exhibition alongside the 73 other nominees at the Design Museum in London.

“The Beazley Design of the Year are the Oscars of the design world,” said Razia Iqbal, BBC journalist and chair of the judging committee for the 2020 Beazley Awards. In an award announcement video released on the Design Museum website, Iqbal said that judges were extremely moved by the Teeter Totter Wall. “The project wasn’t just something that felt symbolically important. It talked about the possibility of things. That’s what moved us and made us feel that all kinds of things are possible when people come together with great ideas and determination.”

San Fratello and Rael were surprised and delighted to hear the news of their winning design, a project that had been in progress for nearly a decade and existed as a physical installation for less than an hour, yet whose impact continues to reverberate internationally, more than a year later.

“Great design allows us to see something in a way we could not before,” said Shannon Miller, dean of San José State’s College of Humanities and the Arts. “These seesaws did exactly that—transforming borders from barriers to bridges, and making division instead an opportunity for connection, play and joy.”

While the Teeter Totter Wall is not currently installed on the border, San Fratello welcomes further collaboration with their partner in Mexico, Colectivo Chopeke, who helped fabricate metal for the seesaw in 2019. She hopes that the project will eventually result in actual social change.

“I think this project speaks to the horror of the border wall, it speaks to the fact that this land was once united and is now divided, and it shows the faces of the families, the mothers and children who live at the border,” said San Fratello from her Colorado home, where she has been sheltering in place and teaching remotely since fall 2020. “In terms of a larger picture, the project speaks to trade and balances between our two nations and the way we treat our neighbors, the care that we take for people that we play and work with. We need to bring joy to other people’s life at this time where we’re so disconnected and hungry for meaningful connections.”

 

Steinbeck Fellow Yalitza Ferreras Earns Rona Jaffe Award

Yalitza Ferreras wearing an orange top and smiling in front of some green hills.

Yalitza Ferreras is the fourth Steinbeck Fellow and seventh Spartan to receive the prestigious Rona Jaffe Award in recognition of her writing. Photo courtesy of Yalitza Ferreras.

On September 17, six woman writers were recognized with 2020 Rona Jaffe Awards by the New York-based Rona Jaffe Foundation. Among this year’s recipients is Yalitza Ferreras, a Dominican American fiction writer and recipient of the 2014-2015 Steinbeck Fellowship. Ferreras is the fourth Steinbeck Fellow and seventh Spartan to receive this award, joining Vanessa Hua, Gabriela Garcia and Dominica Phetteplace. Three other SJSU-affiliated writers have also received this recognition: Assistant Professor of English Selena Anderson, English Lecturer Aamina Ahmad, and former Lurie Visiting Writer ZZ Packer.

The prestigious honor awards $30,000 to emerging woman writers of exceptional promise and includes a reading at New York University. This year’s event was hosted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ferreras read an excerpt of her novel-in-progress, The Four Roses, which follows Altagracia, a Dominican artist who immigrates to Spain in the 1990s to create art while struggling to survive.

“The characters I’m writing about are usually poor people, often people of color and very often women,” said Ferreras, whose work has been published in Kenyon Review, Bellevue Literary Review, The Southern Review, Aster(ix) Journal, and The Colorado Review. Her story “The Letician Age” was included in the 2016 Best American Short Stories, edited by Junot Diaz. “I like to explore everyday, quotidian situations—people trying to work and survive. There’s so much conflict in people’s lives as they go about their days and feed their families. I want readers to truly see my characters, to insert them into the stories that everyone is reading. That is very worthwhile to me.”

Born in New York and raised in both New York and the Dominican Republic, Ferreras identifies with the immigrant experience and sees fiction as an opportunity to “bear witness” to the daily triumphs and challenges of negotiating new places. The first in her family to attend college, Ferreras intended to pursue a career in law before discovering a fiction workshop as an undergraduate at Mills College. At the urging of her professor and 2010 MacArthur Genius Fellow Yiyun Li, Ferreras went on to earn an MFA in creative writing at the University of Michigan, where she worked on a short story collection and began writing her novel. She has since received fellowships from Djerassi Resident Artist program, Yaddo, Voices of Our Nations and the Tin House Writing Workshop. She describes San José State’s Steinbeck Fellowship as a turning point in her writing career, which was interrupted in 2011 when she suffered a brain injury in a car accident. The fellowship allowed her to visit Spain and the Dominican Republic, research trips for her novel. It also introduced her to a network of writers, fellows and alumni.

“The Steinbeck Fellowship was really timely for me; it allowed me to really begin working on the project in earnest,” said Ferreras, who has often supported herself as a graphic designer. “I’ve finished a draft of the manuscript and the support from the Rona Jaffe Foundation is going to allow me to finish the novel. I’m really grateful to both organizations for their support because they’re helping me make this happen. It feels really amazing to be a part of these two communities.”

“When a former Steinbeck Fellow wins a major award, or finds a large audience for a new book, I am thrilled for them first of all, but I also feel validated,” said Nick Taylor, professor of English and comparative literature and director of the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies. “It demonstrates that our program is good at finding and supporting talent. And these successes aren’t rare anymore. At this point we’ve had 64 Steinbeck Fellows who have received something like $750,000 in support from the program. They’ve gone on to publish 40 books—a number that increases every year without fail. Not every former fellow publishes a book every year, but every year some do, and each of those publications gives us an opportunity to call attention to what we’re doing here at SJSU.”

Current Steinbeck Fellows are Rita Chang-Epigg, Tammy Delatorre, Brice Particelli, Daniel Pearce, Kate Osana Simonian and Anthony Veasna So. Applications open January 2 for the 2021-2022 fellowship.


Watch Ferreras’ Sept. 17 Rona Jaffe reading.

Exhibition Celebrates 35 Years of Tabia African-American Theatre Ensemble

Tabia Theatre Ensemble

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Library is hosting an exhibit on the Black theatre group Tabia, founded by SJSU faculty and alumni, in honor of Black History Month. The opening reception was hosted on Jan. 25th, 2020. Photo by Brandon Chew, ’18 Journalism.

This month, the Africana, Asian American, Chicano and Native American Studies Center at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library is home to a special exhibit, featuring costumes, programs, photographs and mementos from the Tabia African-American Theatre Ensemble. Founded in 1985 by artistic director Viera Whye, ’04 MA Theatre Arts, along with Ann Johnson, Robert Parker, Rudy Morris, Arlene Sagun and Adaku Davis, Tabia has presented work by Black and African-American artists in San Jose and with its traveling troupe. The library exhibit was curated by SJSU Associate Professor of Journalism Duane “Michael” Cheers, who worked closely with Theatre Arts Professor Buddy Butler, resident director of the company, and Professor Emerita Ethel Walker, both of whom have dedicated decades to supporting African-American theater in San Jose and beyond.

“It’s important that we have an expression of multicultural theater in San Jose, specifically African-American theater,” said Whye. “Black history is also American history and it is important to have our voices authentically displayed.”

Over its 35-year history, Tabia has produced stage productions and performed as a traveling troupe, taking its touring Black History Show to schools, festivals, corporations, churches and conferences throughout the state. The traveling show presents historical figures, poetry, song and dance that conveys the contributions and culture of African-Americans. The theater company is under the umbrella of the San Jose Multicultural Arts Guild (SJMAG).

“Tabia/SJMAG’s mission is to unite and serve communities by conducting cross-cultural arts programming reflective of the experiences of African-Americans, women and Chicanos and Latinos,” writes Whye in a tribute essay printed in the exhibit. “Culturally specific theater, especially ‘Black Theater’ in San Jose (where the percentage of blacks has fluctuated from two percent to six percent over many years), has been at times a daunting and challenging task. But we have managed to sustain our presence and do high-quality work. I am so proud and appreciative of all who have served in this endeavor.”

“This exhibit is a wonderful exhibit showcasing Viera Whye and Tabia,” said Cheers. “Her African-American ensemble deserves so much credit in what they have achieved over the past 35 years. However, the story doesn’t end there.”

In an essay Cheers printed for the exhibit, he expresses a desire for SJSU to recruit more African-American theater professors, which will encourage more black and African-American students to pursue careers in the field. Cheers writes that representation matters, which is one of the reasons he hopes SJSU students and members of the public visit the library exhibit.

“The exhibit celebrates what Tabia has achieved and what it has given to San Jose State,” said Butler, who Cheers photographed for the exhibit. “It has provided several opportunities for young and upcoming black artists.”

On display on King Library’s fifth floor through February 29, the exhibit includes playbills, photographs, slideshows and props. The Tabia Ensemble’s next production is Eve of Jackie, a one-night performance by Broadway actor and singer Chester Gregory, on Friday, February 7.

SJSU Honors its Faculty Members

Seventy faculty members stepped into the spotlight at the 16th annual Faculty Service Recognition and Awards Luncheon, and were honored for their work at San Jose State University.

“It is an honor for me to take part in this annual event, recognizing our faculty members for their years of service to San Jose State University and acknowledging the special achievements and contributions of this year’s four faculty awardees,” said President Mohammad Qayoumi in his prepared remarks.

2014-2015 Faculty Awards

“I have devoted my career to training students in order to develop the next generation of scientists who will tackle the next generation of tough issues in human system integration.  It is very gratifying to see that the university places such high value on those activities.”

With that said, Kevin Jordan, professor of Psychology in the College of Social Sciences, accepted the President’s Scholar Award. His 30-year career at the university is impressive. He’s authored or co-authored approximately 80 academic papers and presentations, supervised some 80 master’s theses, and secured nearly $200 million in research funding.

The Student Union ballroom erupted with applause as President Qayoumi presented the Distinguished Service Award to Scott Guenter, professor of Humanities in the College of Humanities and Arts. Guenter also received an award for his 25 years of service to the university.

Outstanding Professor Anne Marie Todd of the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Social Sciences and Outstanding Lecturer Cynthia Baer of the Department of English and Comparative Literature in the College of Humanities and the Arts also received a warm reception.

Yearly Service Awards

The university gave awards to faculty members with 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 and 50 years of service. William McCraw, professor emeritus of Political Science and a Humanities lecturer, was the only person at this year’s luncheon to receive an SJSU Tower frame for 50 years of service.  As he walked to the stage, everyone in the ballroom rose to their feet and applauded.

“I feel a lot of pride for being associated with this vibrant campus,” said McCraw.  “It seems just like yesterday that I stepped foot on campus.”

More than 350 people turned out to honor the faculty members for their inspiring work and dedication to SJSU.

 

Aaron Lington

Faculty Notes: How to Win a Grammy

At a University Scholar Series event, Associate Professor Aaron Lington, School of Music and Dance, shared some of the behind-the-scenes realities of producing and recording the album that won a 2014 Grammy for Best Tropical Latin Album. He and his 20-piece jazz ensemble, Pacific Mambo Orchestra, “had to do the recording in a little bit of an unorthodox way,” Lington admitted. A $10,000 Kickstarter campaign paid for studio time, artwork, copyright fees and other necessities. Lington plays baritone saxophone.

COOL4ED, a digital library project whose goal is to bring low-cost textbooks to CSU, CCU and UC students, received the Outstanding Instructional Technology Website award at the annual Directors of Educational Technology/California Higher Education conference in December. COOL4ED partners with California Open Educational Resources Council, chaired by Associate Professor Katherine Harris, Department of English and Comparative Literature.

Two Department of Television, Radio, Film and Theatre Arts lecturers, York Kennedy and Michael Locher, received 2014 Theatre Bay Area Award nominations. Kennedy’s work on Cutting Ball Theatre’s new translation of Samuel Gallet’s Communiqué n° 10 earned him an Outstanding Lighting Design nomination. Locher garnered an Outstanding Scenic Design nomination for his work on Center REP Theatre’s production of Anthony Shaffer’s Sleuth.

Lecturer Linda Levine, Department of Health Science and Recreation, and Associate Professor Yasue Yani, Department of World Languages and Literatures, received Helen L. Stevens Outstanding International Educator Awards in October, honored for creating opportunities for SJSU students to study abroad. Stevens is the retired director of International Programs and Services.

Gwen Mok

Gwendolyn Mok, Coordinator of Keyboard Studies

Pianist Gwendolyn Mok, coordinator of Keyboard Studies, performed Robert Schumann’s “Piano Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 44” with the Pražák Quartet at San Jose’s Le Petit Trianon Theatre. “It is a joyful piece. (The composer) wrote it for his wife Clara when he was in a very happy, bucolic period,” Mok said of the work. Mok and the Czech string quartet last performed at the Le Petit Trianon in 2011, collaborating on a piece by Dvořák. Both performances were sponsored by the San Jose Chamber Music Society.

Professor Annette Nellen, Department of Accounting and Finance and director of the master’s program in taxation, announced the publication of the sixth issue of The Contemporary Tax Journal, a student-managed online journal. Launched in 2011, the journal investigates and explains tax law and features the work of SJSU MST students alongside original articles by other academics and tax practitioners.

Congratulations to Joyce Osland, director of the Global Leadership Advancement Center and Lucas Endowed Professor of Global Leadership, for receiving the Scholarship and Critical Thinking Award at the Outstanding Leadership Book Awards in San Diego. Osland shared the honor with the co-editors of Advances in Global Leadership, volume eight (Emerald Group Publishing), a guide for both researchers and practitioners. “It’s a privilege to have a hand in growing this field of study, given its importance on the global stage,” Osland said.

Professor and Chair Lawrence Quill, Department of Political Science, published Secrets and Democracy: From Arcana Imperii to WikiLeaks (Palgrave Macmillan), an investigation of the role secrets play in liberal democracies and the impact of those secrets on the individual citizen’s “right to know.” Quill is a 2015 visiting fellow at the Center for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, Wolfson College, Cambridge University.

Quake Column

Professor San Fratello’s “Quake Column” (courtesy of Emerging Objects).

Working with her partner at Emerging Objects, a 3D printing MAKE-tank based in San Francisco, Assistant Professor of Design Virginia San Fratello invented a 3-D printed earthquake-proof column designed to withstand major seismic activity. “Quake Column” was inspired by Incan earthquake architecture and uses no bricks or mortar.

Humanities Lecturer Emily Leah Silverman, author of Edith Stein and Regina Jonas: Religious Visionaries of the Death Camps (Routledge), talked about her book and research at an event sponsored by Florida International University’s Program in the Study of Spirituality. Edith Stein, a Catholic Jewish Carmelite nun, and Regina Jonas, the first female rabbi, were both executed by the Nazis in Auschwitz.

KQED Arts interviewed Associate Professor Mary Warner, Department of English and Comparative Literature, about the challenges of teaching aliterate students (students who can read but don’t care to do so). Of particular concern: students who identify themselves as non-readers but aspire to become teachers.

Anne Lawrence today.

Faculty Notes: A Family Tradition of Excellence and Service

530 Lawrence

In 1998, Paul Lawrence received the Distinguished Contributor Award from the North American Case Research Association. At the same meeting, Anne (pictured with her father and mother, Martha) received an outstanding case award. Now a professor at SJSU, Anne has received the same award as her father, an honor bestowed just 15 times in 56 years (photo courtesy of the Lawrence family).

Professor of Design Alice Carter, founder of the Animation/Illustration Program, lectured on “The Illustrator and the Hero: Inventing a Mythology in Pictures” at the Haggin Museum in Stockton on Nov. 6. The presentation explored America’s fascination with superheroes, “very much an American invention,” Carter noted.

Music Lecturer and Director of Orchestra and Opera Theater Michael DiGiacinto is Winchester Orchestra of San Jose’s new music director, succeeding Henry Mollicone who held the post for more than 25 years. DiGiacinto made his debut with the orchestra at San Jose’s Trinity Episcopal Cathedral and Saratoga’s West Valley College in concerts featuring the works of Jean Sibelius, Wolfgang Mozart and Dmitri Shostakovich.

Anne Lawrence today.

Anne Lawrence today (photo by Jane Richey).

Professor of Management Anne Lawrence received the North American Case Research Association’s Distinguished Contributor Award in recognition of her leadership as the organization’s president, her two-time guest editorship of Case Research Journal, her case publications and mentorship. In addition, she founded and currently serves as chair of the Case Research Foundation, whose mission is to provide scholarships to young case writers and researchers. The Distinguished Contributor Award is NACRA’s highest honor and has been awarded only 15 times in the group’s 56-year history. Because her father received the award in 1998, the honor “was especially meaningful,” Lawrence said. “My father was my first case teacher.”

Environmental Studies Lecturer Pat Ferraro, whose expertise is water law, water policy and water resources management, is a member of the Santa Cruz Water Supply Advisory Committee’s review panel. His article about Santa Cruz’s “smart approach” to water conservation appeared in San Jose Inside last month.

After 35 years at SJSU, Jeanne Linsdell retired as General Engineering lecturer and director of the College of Engineering’s Technical Communication. “Life is full of new beginnings and new opportunities,” she said. “I’m looking forward to a new chapter.” An educator and consultant in American Samoa for more than 20 years and former Fulbright Senior Scholar in the Ukraine, Linsdell received Outstanding Lecturer awards from the university and the College of Engineering during her career at SJSU.

SJSU’s Collaborative for Reaching and Teaching the Whole Child, directed by Elementary Education Professor Nancy Markowitz, received a $100,000 Packard Foundation / Ashoka Changemaker Award in recognition of the collaborative’s efforts to build vibrant communities and equip young people to become leaders of change. The collaborative will use the award to develop a model for integrating social and emotional learning in K-12 schools and educator training.

Humanities Lecturer Victoria Rue delivered the Kappen Memorial lecture in Bengaluru, India, sponsored by Visthar, a nonprofit organization dedicated to educating women, children and other marginalized groups about their rights. Rue spoke on “Rehearsing Justice: Theatre, Sexuality and the Sacred,” a discourse on the cultural and religious taboos imposed on gender and sexuality.

Playwright and Associate Professor of Communication Studies Matthew Spangler’s stage adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s novel “The Kite Runner” is currently on tour in the UK, co-produced by the Nottingham Playhouse and the Liverpool Playhouse. An earlier version of the play was performed on campus in 2007. “The book has a huge following and people who come to see the play are going to notice the changes,” Spangler acknowledged. “You have to be faithful to its essence, but you can’t put everything in. Fortunately, Khaled Hosseini is a very generous person.”

scott's cover

Scott Sublett’s “Screenwriting for Neurotics”

Professor  of Screenwriting and Film Studies Scott Sublett published “Screenwriting for Neurotics: A Beginner’s Guide to Writing a Feature-Length Screenplay from Start to Finish” (University of Iowa Press). (SJSU students previously made do with the dog-eared, photocopied course reader version of the book.) “It’s the only screenwriting text on the market that also addresses the psychology of the screenwriter,” said Sublett’s editor, Elisabeth Chretien. Sublett is also an independent filmmaker whose films include “Generic Thriller” and “Bye-Bye Bin Laden!,” which satirizes the build-up to the Iraqi War.

SJSU Research Foundation senior research scientist Grant Taylor, whose work supports the Aviation and Missile Research Development Center, received the 2014 Jerome H. Ely Human Factors Article Award at the annual meeting of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society in Chicago. His applied research focuses on the impact of new technologies on U.S. Army users, specifically the interfaces used to control unmanned aerial systems.

Humanities Convocation

Humanities Department Convocation: “Well-Rounded”

Humanities Department Convocation: "A Well-Rounded Education"

“San Jose State gives us the tools to go out into the world and make it a better place if we use everything that San Jose State has to give to make a change,” Valedictorian Jessica Apple told her fellow humanities graduates. (Stan Olszewski photo)

(This week, SJSU Today’s small but mighty band of writers and photographers will take a peek at graduation receptions and convocations campuswide so we can share with you the excitement of the more than 8,000 members of the Class of 2013. We’ll post more photos on Facebook.)

Representing degrees in humanities, liberal studies or religious studies, the Humanities Convocation on May 23 at Morris Daily Auditorium celebrated individuals who will influence and change the lives of others, many by becoming teachers.

When asked by Associate Professor and Liberal Studies Coordinator Susan Verducci how many of them were first-generation college graduates, roughly half of the group raised their hands.

All of the graduates overall were the lucky ones, according to Humanities Department salutatorian Maimona Afzal. A SJSU 2013 Outstanding Graduating Senior, Afzal wrote an impassioned speech presented in spoken word style.

Her booming voice was full of anger as she passionately spoke about societal challenges and injustices in education — dropout rates and economic disadvantages among others — and how despite all this, this group made it through and can change a child’s life.

This is a path she herself will follow. Afzal has accepted a position at Teach for America, where she will be working with special needs children in East San Jose.

Valedictorian Jessica Apple, who also plans to become a teacher, shared a game that she played with incoming freshmen at orientation, when she would ask, “If I had a magic wand I would _______.”

Magic Wand

The freshmen would fill in the blank with their dreams of making the world a better place. Afterwards, she would tell them SJSU will prepare them well to make their dreams come true.

“San Jose State gives us the tools to go out into the world and make it a better place if we use everything that San Jose State has to give to make a change,” she said.

The components of everyone’s own figurative magic wand, she said, are optimism, self-confidence and skills and knowledge.

In the role of Honored Speaker, Lecturer Judith Georges addressed the graduates about being liberal arts scholars in the center of Silicon Valley in the diverse but expensive Bay Area.

“We don’t know how to use a wafer to build a chip. We think it better to serve wafers and chips to elementary school kids,” she quipped, drawing laughter from the graduates and audience.

In spite of this, she said these humanities graduates are also nerds in their fields by tackling the challenge of being well-rounded people academically.

She imparted on them what she described as a sacred trust: “Be defenders of a well-rounded education.”

Shout-Outs

In a recent survey, SJSU asked new grads if they would like to send a shout-out to family and friends. Here are some of the responses we received from humanities and liberal studies majors. More will be shared at Commencement.

Michael Reinken: “Dr. Ormsbee, thank you for pushing me academically like no one else and being a mentor and friend.”

Megan Mohacsi: “Thank you to my friends and family who have always believed in me, even when I didn’t believe in myself, especially my fiance, Ian who has always been right by my side.”

Sarah Limongelli: “Thank you Professor McCraw for always putting his students first, a little something every teacher and future teacher could learn.”

SJSU Remembers Humanities Honors Program Pioneers

Friends and family recently unveiled a Washington Square Hall plaque in memory of faculty members O.C. “Clint” Williams, Jack E. Fink, Rex Burbank and Richard Tansey, pioneers of our humanities honors program. Founded in 1954, this endeavor offers students a multi-disciplinary, globally inclusive, and collaborative four-semester program of humanities-centered study. The program also fosters a unique learning community, as a faculty team works with each two-year student cohort, teaching, advising and offering guidance.

Visit the Humanities Honors Program website.
http://www.sjsu.edu/hum/honors/