Talia Rizzi

Talia Rizzi
Photo by David Schmitz

Dean’s Scholar

Major: Creative Arts
College of Humanities and the Arts

Why did you choose your major?

I did not choose Creative Arts, I feel like Creative Arts chose me. The nature of the program appealed to me because it focuses not only on the importance of creativity but also the collaboration of ideas and social activism through artistic mediums that promote change for the betterment of society as a whole. I have been a music teacher and advocate for children and the LGBTQ community throughout my adult life, so it seemed only natural for my life path to lead me here in order to give me a more well rounded understanding of the world and how important the arts are to the preservation of diversity and culture. I truly feel like I found my place in the Creative Arts major. With that said, I could not be more proud to accept this academic award.

What does receiving this particular award mean to you?

For me, this honor is a symbol of my curiosity and thirst for knowledge. School had never come easy to me, mostly because I feel that I was not properly prepared for higher education as I was placed on a vocational track at a young age due to certain learning disabilities. Regardless of that carried stigma, I realized that if you follow your heart and immerse yourself in subjects that you are passionate about, the education you receive will be fulfilling and provide you with endless opportunities.

Who has had the greatest influence or impact on your life?  In addition, tell us about a SJSU faculty member who contributed to your academic success.

There are countless people who have encouraged me throughout this journey and I am extremely fortunate to have a family who supports me and encourages me to follow my dreams. On top of that, my Creative Arts classmates and professors have also become like a family to me and I think that that is what makes the program so special. There is so much love, support and mutual respect within this diverse group of people that it inspires each of us to want to succeed and work hard for one another as well as ourselves. Additionally, there is no one student or professor that could be viewed as better or more successful than the next because each person’s contribution is vital in breathing life into the program as an educational experience. However, there is one person that I would personally like to acknowledge as the glue that holds us together and that person is Dr. Shannon Rose Riley. Dr. Riley has had such a profound effect on my progress as a student and my personal growth as a human. I cannot thank her enough for the knowledge, compassion and guidance that she has shown me throughout my time at SJSU. Cheers to you, Dr. Riley! You are unforgettable and without a doubt, one of a kind.

What makes you a Spartan?

I am a Spartan because I am part of a team of amazing individuals who have shown tenacity, perseverance and strength. Congratulations to the Creative Arts graduating class of Spring 2017. We did it!


Nominated by Shannon Rose Riley 
Professor, Humanities Department

“Talia Rizzi was identified as an “at risk youth” in California public education and had a long struggle through grade school as a girl who chose, from the age of 5, to dress “as a boy.” In Fall 2015, Talia transferred to SJSU from West Valley College—and since that time has become an integral part of the Creative Arts major as well as the Humanities Student Club (currently serving as Treasurer). Talia is an excellent student who is stepping into her leadership potential. For example, she has recently created the “Stand Up Coalition,” which is an arts-based anti-hate coalition that already has multi-campus participation! She has worked with faculty, students, and administrators at West Valley and Sac City College, both of which launched “Stand Up Coalition” during their Flex day events—and San José State also has an active chapter. She has recently reached out to local assemblymen around trans-gender issues and is working to build a community to help nurture and protect LGBTQ rights as well as “at risk youth.” For me, this is why we do what we do—to watch a student who was so terribly mislabeled find her strength and her voice to act as an agent for change.”