Faculty Bios


Luis Alfaro

Luis AlfaroLuis Alfaro is an Associate Professor at the USC School of Dramatic Arts. He is a Chicano writer/performer known for his work in poetry, theatre, short stories, performance and journalism. He is the first-ever resident playwright of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival, courtesy of an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation grant. Alfaro is the recipient of a John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation fellowship, awarded to people who have demonstrated expertise and exceptional creativity in their respective fields.  His plays and performances have been seen throughout the U.S., Canada, England, France and Romania. They include Bruja (Magic Theatre in San Francisco), Mojada: Medea in Los Angeles (Oregon Shakespeare Festival) Oedipus El Rey (Victory Gardens in Chicago, Magic Theatre, Boston Court, Woolly Mammoth in Washington, D.C. and is the winner of the Glickman Prize for best play of the 2010 season in San Francisco), Electricidad (Mark Taper Forum, Goodman Theatre in Chicago, Borderlands Theatre in Tucson), Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner (Oregon Shakespeare Festival, Hartford Stage in Conn.) Black Butterfly (Mark Taper Forum, Kennedy Center & Smithsonian Museum), Straight as a Line (Primary Stages Off-Broadway, Romanian National Theatre, Goodman Theatre in Chicago).

Ping Chong

Ping ChongPing Chong is an internationally acclaimed theatre director, playwright, and video and installation artist.   He is a seminal figure in the interdisciplinary theater community and a pioneer in the use of media in theater.  Through his 40-year career in the theater, Mr. Chong’s work has been presented at major festivals and theatres around the world including: The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center Festival, Brooklyn Academy of Music, La MaMa E.T.C, Spoleto USA Festival, Vienna Festival, RomaEuropa Festival, Lille European Capital of Culture, Tokyo International Arts Festival, Singapore Festival of the Arts, and many others.  In 1992, Ping Chong created the first work in the Undesirable Elements series.   Since then, there have been over 40 productions in communities around the United States and around the world.   His 2005 puppet theatre production, Cathay: Three Tales of China, a collaboration with the Shaanxi Folk Art Theater of Xian, China, was commissioned by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts for the Festival of China, the largest celebration of Chinese culture ever presented in the United States. Cathay received threeHenry Hewes Design Awards from the New York Theatre Wing.  Ping Chong’s world-premiere stage adaptation of Akira Kurosawa’s film masterpiece Throne of Blood premiered at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in July 2010 with performances in November as part of BAM’s 2010 Next Wave Festival.   Mr. Chong has taught at numerous universities, including Harvard and New York University.  Among his many honors and awards, he has received a Guggenheim Fellowship, two BESSIE awards, and two OBIE awards, including one for sustained Achievement in 2000.  He is also the recipient of a USA Artist Fellowship and 2013 Doris Duke Performing Artist Award.  In 2015, President Obama awarded him the National Medal of the Arts. See Ping Chong & Company website

Glen Gendzel

Glen GendzelGlen Gendzel is Professor of History and Chair of the History Department at San José State University in San José, California. A Bay Area native, he earned a BA from the University of California, Berkeley, and an MA and a PhD from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He has taught at five universities in five states. He has published numerous articles, essays, book chapters, and reviews. His research interests are California history and modern U.S. history. Recent publications include: “Big Brother and Big Business: Government Regulation and the Constitution in United States History,” in Constitutions: Ongoing Revolutions in Europe and the United States, ed. Marie Bolton and Marie-Elisabeth Baudoin (2017); “The People versus the Octopus: California Progressives and the Origins of Direct Democracy,” Siècles (2013); “The Tortilla Curtain and California’s Nativist Heritage,” Text and Performance Quarterly (2013); “What the Progressives Had in Common,” Journal of the Gilded Age and Progressive Era (2011); “It Didn’t Start with Proposition 187: One Hundred and Fifty Years of Nativist Legislation in California,” Journal of the West (2009); “Not Just a Golden State: Three Anglo ‘Rushes’ in the Making of Southern California, 1880-1920,” Southern California Quarterly (2009); “Pride, Wrath, Glee, and Fear: Emotional Responses to Senator Joseph McCarthy in the Catholic Press, 1950-1954,” American Catholic Studies (2009); and “Pioneers and Padres: Competing Mythologies in Northern and Southern California, 1850-1930,” Western Historical Quarterly (2001). See Glen Gendzel’s San Jose State faculty page.

Khaled Hosseini

Khaled Hosseini Khaled Hosseini is the author of three books focusing on issues pertaining to contemporary Afghanistan or the lives of Afghan/Americans: The Kite Runner (2003), A Thousand Splendid Suns (2007), and And the Mountains Echoed (2013). He was born in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 1965. His father was a diplomat in the Afghan Foreign Ministry and his mother taught Farsi and history at a high school in Kabul. In 1976, the Foreign Ministry relocated the Hosseini family to Paris. They were ready to return to Kabul in 1980, but by then their homeland had witnessed a bloody communist coup and the invasion of the Soviet Army. The Hosseinis sought and were granted political asylum in the United States, and in September 1980 moved to San José, California. Hosseini graduated from high school in 1984 and enrolled at Santa Clara University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in biology in 1988. The following year he entered the University of California, San Diego, School of Medicine, where he earned a medical degree in 1993. He completed his residency at Cedars-Sinai medical center in Los Angeles and was a practicing doctor of internal medicine between 1996 and 2004. In 2006, Hosseini was named a Goodwill Envoy to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

David Kahn

David KahnDavid Kahn is Professor and Chair of the Department of TV, Radio, Film and Theatre at San José State University. His research and teaching interests include new script development, dramatic literature and theatre history, and theatre and social action, in addition to his university production work as a director, writer, and producer. He is author of Bibliography of Multicultural Theatre ResourcesScriptWork: A Director’s Approach to New Play Development and numerous articles on new play development, dramaturgy, and computer-based theatre resources, as well as original scripts for theatre and film. He was founding artistic director of Sierra Repertory Theatre, production manager of the Eureka Theatre Co., managing director of the Bay Area Playwrights Festival, literary manager of San José Repertory Theatre, and consulting director for City Lights Theatre Company of San José, in addition to frequently working as a freelance director and dramaturg.  See David Kahn’s Faculty Page at San Jose State University

Persis Karim

Persis KarimPersis Karim is a professor in the Department of English & Comparative Literature at San Jose State University where she teaches ethnic American literature, world literature, as well as creative writing. She is the editor of three anthologies of Iranian diaspora writing, most recently, Tremors: New Fiction by Iranian-American Writers. She will be leaving SJSU after 18 years to become the inaugural chair of the Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies at San Francisco State University. For more info: PersisKarim.com


Maxine Hong Kingston

Maxine Hong KingstonMaxine Hong Kingston is a Chinese American author and Professor Emerita at the University of California, Berkeley, where she graduated with a B.A. in English in 1962. Kingston has written three novels and several works of nonfiction about the experiences of Chinese immigrants living in the United States.  Her memoir The Woman Warrior (1976), awarded the National Book Critics Circle Award for Nonfiction, explores gender and ethnicity and how these concepts affect the lives of women.  Kingston has received several awards for her contributions to Chinese American literature including the National Book Award in 1981 for her novel China Men.  She was awarded the 1997 National Humanities Medal by President Bill Clinton.  In 2006, she was named by Time magazine as one of the great artists and thinkers in its special issue entitled “60 Years of Asian Heroes.”  In April 2007, Hong Kingston was awarded the Northern California Book Award, Special Award in Publishing for Veterans of War, Veterans of Peace (2006), an anthology that she edited.  Kingston was a member of the committee to choose the design for the California commemorative quarter.  Her most recent books are To Be The Poet and The Fifth Book of Peace. In 2014, President Obama awarded her the National Medal of the Arts. Read more about Maxine Hong Kingston

Erika Lee

Erika LeeErika Lee is an award-winning American historian, Director of the Immigration History Research Center, and the Rudolph J. Vecoli Chair in Immigration History at the University of Minnesota. Her scholarly specialties include migration, race and ethnicity; Asian Americans; transnational U.S. history; and immigration law and public policy. Her new book, The Making of Asian America: A History was published by Simon & Schuster in 2015 to wide acclaim.  Reviewed in The New York Times, the New Yorker, the LA Times, among other places, it was named a Best Nonfiction Book of 2015 by the Kirkus Reviews, a “10 Can’t-Miss History Books of 2015” by History Buffs, and was awarded the 2015 -2016 Asian/Pacific American Award for Literature in Adult Non-Fiction from the American Library Association. She is also the author or co-author of the award winning books Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America (with Judy Yung, Oxford University Press, 2010) and At America’s Gates: Chinese Immigration During the Exclusion Era, 1882-1943 (University of North Carolina Press, 2003).

Andrew Lam

Andrew LamAndrew Lam is a journalist, fiction writer, and a co-founder of New America Media, the country’s first and largest national collaboration and advocate of 3,000 ethnic news organizations. Lam’s first book Perfume Dreams: Reflections on The Vietnamese Diaspora is a memoir and meditation on the consequences of war and exile. It won the Pen Open Book award in 2006.  His second book, East Eats West: Writing in Two Hemispheres, is an exploration on how migration from East Asia has changed the cultural life of America, and was listed as “Top 10 Indies” by Shelf Unbound Magazine in 2010. His latest book, Birds of Paradise Lost, is a collection of short stories that chronicles the lives of Vietnamese refugees struggling to rebuild their lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. It won the West Coast Pen/Josephine Miles Literary Award and was a finalist for The California book award and The William Saroyan International Prize in 2014.  His articles appeared in many publications including the LA times, San Francisco Chronicle, Baltimore Sun, Pittsburgh GazetteThe Nation, Mother Jones, Huffington Post, South China Morning Post, and Shanghai Daily. For seven years, Lam also contributed commentaries to NPR’s “All Things Considered.”  He earned a BA degree in biochemistry from UC Berkeley and received the John S. Night Journalism Fellowship at Stanford (2001-02).  Born in Vietnam, Lam came to the US in 1975 when he was 11 years old as a refugee.

Noah Novogrodsky

Noah NovogrodskyNoah Novogrodsky joined the University of Wyoming law school as an associate professor in the fall of 2009. Professor Novogrodsky teaches International Human Rights, Immigration Law and Civil Procedure. Professor Novogrodsky is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate with highest honors from Swarthmore College; he holds a law degree from Yale and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Queens’ College at Cambridge University, where he won the Daniel Vincent Prize for the best thesis on the Middle East. He is the founding director of the International Human Rights Clinic at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. Professor Novogrodsky has also been a Visiting Professor at Georgetown University Law Center and the University of Connecticut School of Law; his scholarship is focused on the global HIV/AIDS pandemic and international criminal justice.

Matthew Spangler

Matthew SpanglerMatthew Spangler is Professor of Performance Studies at San José State University.  His research interests include transnational migration, intercultural theatre, scriptwriting, and Irish studies.  His articles on these topics have appeared in Theatre Journal, Text and Performance Quarterly, The James Joyce Quarterly, The New Hibernia Review, SIAR: The Journal of the Western Institute of Irish Studies, The South Atlantic Review, Theatre Annual, The Biographical Dictionary of Southern Writers, The Art of Elizabeth Bishop, Nineteenth Century Literature, and Performing the Crossroads: Critical Essays in Performance Studies and Irish Culture.  He co-edited, with Charlotte McIvor of the National University of Ireland Galway, Staging Intercultural Ireland: New Plays and Practitioner Perspectives, a collection of plays and essays on theatre produced by and about immigrants living in Ireland (Cork University Press).  Dr. Spangler is also a playwright.  His plays have been produced by the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Cleveland Playhouse, San Diego Repertory Theatre, San José Repertory Theatre, La Jolla Playhouse (staged reading), Arizona Theatre Company, New Repertory Theatre (Boston), Theatre Calgary, Citadel Theatre (Edmonton), Nottingham Playhouse, Liverpool Playhouse, Oxford Playhouse, Birmingham Repertory Theatre, the National Steinbeck Center, the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Brighton Festival, and the Avignon Theatre Festival, among other theatres and festivals.  His adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner received five San Francisco Bay Area Theatre Critics’ Circle Awards including Best Original Script and Best Overall Production.  His adaptation of T.C. Boyle’s novel The Tortilla Curtain, produced by the San Diego Repertory Theatre, received an Edgerton New American Play Award and was a finalist for the San Diego Theatre Critics’ Circle Award for Outstanding New Script. Go to MatthewSpangler.org

Kinan Valdez

Kinan ValdezKinan Valdez is producing artistic director of El Teatro Campesino in San Juan Bautista, CA.  He has performed in theatres around the country, including the San Diego Repertory Theatre, where he performed in productions of Bandido and the world premieres of Earthquake Sun, Restless Spirits, and Tortilla Curtain.  Valdez directed the 2005 world premiere of Corridos Remix: A Musical Fusion of Ballad Beyond Borders, which he cowrote with his father, Luis.  Aside from working in the theatre as a playwright, director, and actor, Kinan Valdez is also an award-winning filmmaker.  His film credits include King Lear; IPriista; the award-winning video short Little Louise; and Ballad of a Soldier, an independent feature-film adaptation of Luis Valdez’s one-act drama Soldado Razo.  He is currently orchestrating the development of a new cycle of mythic plays based on Popol Vuh, the Quiche-Mayan book of creation, and guiding the world premiere production of Victor in Shadow, a new play with music about famed Chilean folk singer and progressive icon Victor Jara.  He is a lecturer in the Theatre Department at the University of California Santa Cruz.

Luis Valdez

Luis ValdezLuis Valdez is a playwright and founder of El Teatro Campesino in San Juan Bautista, CA.  He was born to migrant farm workers in Delano, California.  He received his Bachelor of Arts in English from San José State University, where he produced his first play.  Valdez worked with the San Francisco Mime Troupe for a year before helping Hispanic labor leader César Chávez organize workers during the Great Delano Grape Strike of 1965.  To support this effort, Valdez founded El Teatro Campesino (The Farmworkers’ Theater), serving as its artistic director for many years.  In 1968, El Teatro won an Obie Award, a distinguished off-Broadway theatre award.  Valdez’s unique combination of acto (sketch), mito, and corrido (musical) quickly brought him to the forefront of Chicano theater, and he enjoyed success with nationwide tours of his works. His play Zoot Suit was produced with the Center Theatre Group of Los Angeles in 1978 and a year later on Broadway.  While he continued his leadership role at El Teatro Campesino, he produced a well-received film version of Zoot Suit in 1981.  In 1987, he directed the hit film La Bamba, which chronicled the short life of Hispanic rock star Richie Valens, and created several performances for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS).  Valdez has served as council member of the National Endowment of the Arts and founding member of the California Arts Council.  His awards include the Presidential Medal of the Arts, the prestigious Aguila Azteca Award, the Governors Award of the California Arts Council, and the George Peabody Award.

Judy Yung

Judy YungJudy Yung is Professor Emerita of American Studies at U.C. Santa Cruz. She is the daughter of Chinese immigrants who were detained on Angel Island. She received her Master’s in Library Science and Ph.D. in Ethnic Studies from U.C. Berkeley. She worked as a librarian and journalist before joining the faculty at U.C. Santa Cruz, where she taught courses in Asian American history, women’s studies, ethnic studies, and oral history. Her publications include Island: Poetry and History of Chinese Immigrants on Angel Island (winner of the Before Columbus Foundation American Book Award), Unbound Feet: A Social History of Chinese Women in San Francisco (winner of book awards from the Western History Association, Association for Asian American Studies, and Women’s Heritage Museum), Chinese American Voices: From the Gold Rush to the Present, The Adventures of Eddie Fung: Chinatown Kid, Texas Cowboy, Prisoner of War, and most recently, Angel Island: Immigrant Gateway to America (winner of the Caughey Western History Association Prize). Professor Yung has also directed exhibits and written two pictorial history books on Chinese American women and San Francisco Chinatown. For the past two decades, she has volunteered her services as a historical consultant to the Chinese Historical Society of America and Angel Island Immigration Station Foundation. She is the recipient of the Association for Asian American Studies’ Lifetime Achievement Award and U.C. Santa Cruz’s Excellence through Diversity Award and Excellence in Teaching Award. More about Judy Yung

Sara Zatz

Sara ZatzSara Zatz is the associate director of Ping Chong & Company and project manager of the Undesirable Elements performance series, an interview-based theater project exploring issues of culture and identity in the lives of individuals in specific communities.  Since she joined the company in 2002, she has managed the production of nearly two dozen original works in the series, working in collaboration with partner organizations ranging from regional theaters to community-based arts organizations, exploring themes such as the experiences of people with disabilities, immigrants and refugees, and disenfranchised youth. She has had the privilege of interviewing hundreds of individuals from all over the world and has served as coauthor with Ping Chong on numerous productions. Additionally, she has overseen the creation of Ping Chong & Company’s in-school arts education program and training institutes to share the methodology of Undesirable Elements with other artists and community members. She is the writer and director of Secret Survivors, a work in a series which explores the experiences of survivors of child sexual abuse, and oversees Ping Chong & Company’s Secret Survivors National Initiative, which partners with non-arts-organizations to use theater to end child sexual abuse.  She served as the editor of a 2012 volume on Undesirable Elements, published by Theatre Communications Group, and has spoken and presented workshops on community-engaged theater at many conferences and universities. With over a decade of experience in arts management, she has also worked with the Henson International Festival of Puppet Theater, the composer Tan Dun, and the Lincoln Center Festival.  See Ping Chong & Company website

Staff Bios:

Maria Judnick

Maria JudnickMaria Judnick is a Bay Area native with an MA in English from San José State University and an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from St. Mary’s College of California. Previously, she spent three summers as the project coordinator for the National Endowment for the Humanities “John Steinbeck: The Voice of a Region, a Voice for America” institute for teachers. Maria teaches full-time in the English Department at Santa Clara University and serves as the Faculty-in-Residence for San Jose State University’s Writing Center. Maria freelances for local publications such as KQED Pop! and the Santa Clara Weekly. She is working on her first novel.