Author Archives: ajhsdsu

An Open Book

I am lucky to know Joanna Brooks.

Joanna chairs SDSU’s Department of English and Comparative Literature.  She is friendly, charming and disarmingly insightful.  She tells a story with panache.  And she makes the best chocolate chip cookies since Florence Rachman.

In her company, people often feel compelled to share parts of themselves they usually keep guarded.

Joanna Brooks enjoys writing, baking and hot-sweaty yoga.

Joanna Brooks, chair of SDSU's Department of English and Comparative Literature, is a national voice on Mormon life and politics and an award-winning scholar of religion and American culture.

And, yet, she doesn’t reveal her own secrets nearly as easily.  Until now.

In January, Joanna self-published a memoir, “The Book of Mormon Girl: Stories from an American Faith.”

I don’t yet enjoy reading books on my cell phone or tablet, so I waited until it became available last week for print-on-demand from Amazon.

In it, she describes her childhood in a conservative Mormon household and her evolving relationship with her religion through tumultuous years at Brigham Young University, a marriage to a nice Jewish boy and their journey raising two beautiful daughters.

In many ways, her relationship with Mormonism is a story of unrequited love.  It makes for a book that’s laugh-out-loud funny, sometimes heartbreaking and impossible to put down.

Showing the Love and The Washington Post recently featured Joanna, and named her one of “50 Politicos to Watch.”

Look for an upcoming feature about Joanna in SDSU NewsCenter, which will be published the week of Feb. 13.

Find out more about Joanna at

The Nice Jewish Boy

Joanna is married to David Kamper, chair of the Department of American Indian Studies, which recently celebrated the 35th anniversary of its founding at San Diego State.

David and his eldest daughter, Ella, were featured last year in a video about fatherhood.

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Commencement is Here!

Commencement ceremonies may not happen until May, but for me they’re right now.

Let me explain.  I’m currently building a new commencement website.  There is a great deal of information to organize and communicate and I am neck-deep in it all.

Commencement is the most important thing we do.

Much of the information is geared toward students, but families and friends are also included. Schedules and other critical instructions are sorted by college.

This student graduated from SDSU in 2011

Commencement captures a feeling of momentous achievement for many graduates, illustrated by this SDSU graduate from 2011.

Believe it or not – if you have a twenty-something college student for a child, my guess is you believe it – some students don’t know their college.

That’s right.  After four-plus years and all those classes in the Arts and Letters Building, some literature major will email commencement organizers to ask, “What’s my college?”

This prompted me to include on the site a list of majors and departments by college.  I’m sure we’ll still get those emails.

Cynicism aside, commencement is the most important thing we do.  More important than the novel discoveries, innovative programs and community service, graduating students defines the value of San Diego State University.

I’m reviewing hundreds of photos from last year’s commencement and I’m struck by the emotions captured in each snapshot – a mix of elation, pride, satisfaction.

A few knowing students look afraid, perhaps about entering the real world.

But most look happy.  They leave campus with terrific memories, hard-earned achievements and the initiative to take on their next challenge.

To the class of 2012, I offer a hearty, “Congratulations!”

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What’s your story?

This artist's concept illustrates Kepler-16b, the first planet known to definitely orbit two stars.

The top part of the SDSU homepage features the terrific efforts of our students, faculty, staff and alumni.

When I catch up with family or longtime friends, I’m often asked, “What’s new at San Diego State?”

It’s a tough question to answer, if only because the people here do so many interesting things and I don’t want to unfairly pigeonhole the university with a clumsy response.

Thankfully, my job requires me to identify SDSU’s best stories and retell them on the homepage.

The top part of the page is dedicated to the terrific efforts of our faculty, staff, alumni and students – especially students.

And we’re always looking for  more good stories to tell.

Here’s a quick rundown of current stories being featured:

Tatooine in Real Life — SDSU professors Jerome Orosz and Bill Welsh discover the first planet to have two sun-like orbiting stars.

Better, Faster, Stronger
— SDSU engineers work to invent brain-controlled bionics.

The Gift of Sight — SOLO Eyewear, a company started by SDSU students, uses revenues to provide eye surgeries and prescription glasses to people in need.

Worldly View — Eric McDermott investigates Huntington’s disease in Bangalore, India, at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences.  He’s part of SDSU’s surge in Fulbright scholars.

American Indian Inspiration — Generations of local American Indian leaders celebrate the 35th anniversary of one of the first academic departments dedicated to the study of their history and culture as means to create a better future for their people.

Share your story

If you’ve got a great story, please drop me a line at

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V-Day Love for San Diego State

San Diego State University wishes you a Happy Valentine’s Day!

To celebrate, SDSU asked current students why they love SDSU.  Check out the video below to see what they said.

Head over to Enrollment Services’ Facebook page and share why YOU love SDSU.

If you are unable to view the video above, you may view the video transcript.

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Long Time Gone

Carl Yoshimine

Carl Yoshimine

For all the WWII movies, novels, mini-series and documentaries, nothing brings the era more to life than meeting someone who lived it.

My grandfather and other family members served in combat – my great uncle died fighting in Europe – and their stories resonate in a way that’s difficult to convey.

In the same way, it’s a challenge to describe meeting Carl Yoshimine.

Yoshimine, 87, welcomed our MarComm video team into his quaint Anaheim home to interview him about the honorary degree he will receive from San Diego State University next week.

He sat in his living room rocking chair and recalled his freshman year at SDSU in 1941. The San Diego native easily made friends and assimilated into the campus community.

“But then the war broke out,” he told us. “And that ripped the rug out from my foundation.”

Yoshimine was forced to abruptly leave school when the United States began relocating Japanese Americans from along the Pacific coast to inland internment camps.

He calmly recalled the events that transpired – from Pearl Harbor to his internment and eventual release to pursue his education and the rest of his life in America.

He felt little ill will about the past. If anything, he credited the United States and its citizens for their capacity to admit prior wrongs and confront them.

Yoshimine and his wife Miko – who next week will celebrate their 57th wedding anniversary – invited us to join them for lunch. We couldn’t accept, but he would not let us leave without a bag of cookies and other treats.

Yoshimine, as charming a man as I’ve ever met, posed for photographs outside his home and thanked us profusely while walking us to our car.

Thank you, Carl.

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Filed under Admissions, Alumni, College Community, Events, Greater Good, New Media, Prospective Students, Uncategorized, University News

Video: Budget Message from President Weber

Watch the video or read the text version.

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The Bridge Never Built…

The Bridge Never Built

billboard close-up

A lone figure stands on a precipice.  He overlooks a dangerous 100-foot deep chasm, unable to cross to the safe plateau on the other side.

The striking image will catch the eye of drivers and pedestrians alike who pass near the billboard on College Avenue just north of Montezuma Road.

The billboard image was installed this week as part of critical new campaign called Fuel Potential that aims to increase scholarships for SDSU students.

For bright, promising students, a college education is a bridge to a better life.  And once that bridge is crossed, they are closer to making their dreams come true.

Fuel Potential billboard

billboard street view

But the legacy of deep cuts to higher education comes at the cost of those dreams.  Many SDSU students, eager to embark on or continue their educational journey, have found that the promise of a college degree is no longer within their grasp.

Without the resources to attend San Diego State, their hopes for their future will never be realized.  Their creativity will remain unsparked, their ingenuity untapped and their talents wasted.

And we will all be the worse for it.

Our students need your support – now more than ever.

Find out more at

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