Public Works Curricular Community

blue background with public works

Following the success of Ready for Re-Entry, Pandemic Pandemonium and the Inclusion Initiative, the College of Humanities and the Arts continues a journey of exploration, creation, and investment in cross-pollinating the community with the humanities and the arts. The College of Humanities and the Arts strives to enrich the curriculum by infusing current issues faced by the larger community and engaging students by showing the relevance of what they learn to their lives. We gather faculty and students around curricular communities with annual themes and initiatives within H&A in Action and we recognize with awards select student creations.


The broad goals of the H&A Curricular Communities are:

  • to offer the opportunity for students to explore a common experience (e.g., COVID-19) in an academic setting;
  • to reinforce in students the value of the arts, humanities, critical thinking, reflection, and expression in the face of a crisis, all essential tools for life, through course materials and assignments that explore various current themes;
  • to create an intellectual, artistic, and creative community among our students;
  • to provide a platform for showcasing to the SJSU community and beyond student creations that result from signature assignments;
  • to provide students with an opportunity for professionalization in presenting their work to audiences beyond their professor and class; and,
  • to showcase the pedagogical innovations by faculty in leading their students’ work.

Public Works Description

This year’s theme will explore H&A Public Works and will lead our students to take a look at their communities and try to better understand how the physical structures that make up a city and the public artwork serve its inhabitants, and what they tell about the intellectual, cultural and social character of the community.

Just like utilities (water, electricity, and gas) and transportation infrastructure that are essential in the functioning of a contemporary community, humanities and arts provide both the enabling lubrication and the spirit that meaningfully enhances life in a city.

A stroll in a city reveals a lot about its past and present inhabitants, their habits, their struggles and challenges, their functional solutions and their aesthetic values. Unlike a natural environment, cities are constructed by their inhabitants, layer over layer through history, each layer revealing the humanistic, artistic, and aesthetic character of the time. The architecture and ornamentation of the structures, the sculptures, murals, and other public art work, physical or digital, the linguistic and semiotic landscape created by signs, the urban plan with the streets, roads, squares, plazas and city blocks, the pedestrian and vehicular traffic and the sounds and smells from the bustle - all give clues about the culture of past inhabitants of the area and shape the lives of contemporary ones, thereby stimulating curiosity that leads to learning.

To make an area habitable, every aspect of it requires the ingenuity of its designers, urban planners and engineers, but also their respect for humanistic values and artistic implementation in the design phase and the continued maintenance phase. It requires a serious accounting for the safety of its residents and visitors, along with personal and property boundaries - but also an understanding of the communication needs of the inhabitants in wayfinding, including information for identifying and locating landmarks and guidance to safety in case of an emergency. 

In other words, humanities and the arts are essential public works in the service of communities, without which the safety and functionality of the communities would be severely emaciated, compromised and eventually disrupted - and just like other public works, they need care and maintenance. 

Call for Assignment Submissions

We extend a call to faculty to become part of the H&A Public Works Curricular Community and to design assignments that will address humanities and the arts as public works that service our general urban as well as campus environments in a multitude of ways and give meaning to them. 

Here are some questions class assignments could address:

  • What do we take away from a stroll in a city or on our campus? What attracts our attention? How do we make meaning out of the sights, sounds, smells, the feel of the surfaces we stroll on?
  • What do the language(s), shape, size, colors of signs tell us about the social and cultural structure of the city, where locals and where tourists gather, and expectations about the community’s behavior?
  • How do we find our way around? What are landmarks that help us navigate a city? How are navigation routes communicated? In a map, in a poem, in a riddle, in a series of instructions? And how truly effective are any of these?
  • What do the multifaceted artistic expressions that surround us - some more, others perhaps less explicit - tell us about the values, morals, desires, fears and ultimately the mental landscape of the diverse multitudes that all actively coexist and cooperatively share this landscape?
  • What clues about everyday lives of the inhabitants do we get from observing and analyzing urban areas of the past? What line of continuity and organic connection can we discern with the present?  Finally, how might any such ties inform our present existence and, by extension, help improve our current lives? 

How to Submit Your Assignment

We invite you to engage with this effort in two ways:

  1. Submit a signature Assignment from one of your courses that addresses re-entry. Signature assignments could lead to student creations that include artistic creations (paintings, sculptures, ceramic artworks, jewelry, digital media representations), design solutions for social equity, artistic expressions (poetry, short stories, multimedia creations), performances (musical compositions and reinterpretations, dance interpretations and choreographies, films, skits, and animated stories), and analyses (research on the language, texts, and narratives, on media coverage of racial issues, in English and other languages). We ask for submission of just the assignment at this point so you can be notified of acceptance and can prep your students when you submit their creations towards the conclusion of the semester. (Faculty with accepted assignments will receive $150)
  2. Self-Nominate for the Awards Committee to serve as a member of the Re-Entry Awards Committee. The committee of faculty representing each department/school will judge the student creations nominated by their instructors using a set of criteria and will award prizes in each of the five disciplinary categories (analytical scholarship, literary arts, visual arts, performing arts, and media arts). The College is supporting this competition with a generous grant to student winners of $5,000 to be divided equally among the five disciplinary categories. (Faculty on this committee will receive a $250 stipend)


See below for the timeline for submitting your assignment, self-nominating for the awards committee, and submitting your student creations.

This year’s contest will include student works from both Fall 2023 and Spring 2024 semesters. Awards will be decided in May 2024. 

Timeline & Submission Links

Spring '24 Deadline
Feb 22 Submit your assignment through the Google Form using the required assignment template
Feb 22 Self-nominate for the Awards Committee here. Self-nominated faculty will be notified about participation by Mar. 1, 2024
Mar 1 Faculty notified about their assignments being selected
April 25 Submit up to 3 student creation selections here accompanied by student permission form (for each student)
April 26 Student creations made available to Awards Committee
April 29 During week of April 29, Awards committee meets to select winners
May 13 Selected student showcase participants are notified
May 17 Digital showcase of selected showcase participants goes live
May 18 Showcase Opening Event (in-person, if possible) & winners in each category from these showcase selections announced
May-Sept All faculty assignment prompts archived in ScholarWorks

Review Committee

Associate Dean Roula Svorou, is leading the review committee and invites faculty to self-nominate (via this Google Form). Those serving on the committee may not submit an assignment for this opportunity. Faculty on this committee will receive a $250 stipend

Archiving Your Assignments

Because we think that the work and innovation that goes into creating new pedagogy and particularly pedagogy that brings together our college’s multiple disciplines around a theme needs to be recognized and shared, we have created a structure that will permanently archive the assignment prompts and the nominated student creations in SJSU ScholarWorks with a Creative Commons license so that they can be shared globally (See the 2022-2023 faculty assignments from Sustainable Futures).


We sincerely hope that you will consider serving our students by participating in this college initiative either by creating a signature Inclusion Initiative assignment or by being a member of the awards committee. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact Associate Dean Roula Svorou (