California State University, Long Beach

Spotlighting Research

Telling Stories with Jazz

Hang around Dr. Christine Guter and you might hear her humming a show tune or jazz favorite, songs she has performed alongside such legendary musicians as Mel Torme, Lionel Hampton and Bobby McFerrin. 

Christine Guter, Music, COTA

Or the songs might come from one of the more than 40 movie soundtracks she has worked on, including “X-Men: The Last Stand,” “Happy Feet” and “Spider-Man 3.” 

“I don’t know if anyone ever told me to major in singing, but in elementary school everyone would always say you have a really pretty voice,” Guter said. “I know that I’m living the dream I want to be living.” 

Part of that dream is passing on her knowledge as a jazz vocalist to her students in the Bob Cole Conservatory of Music. As director of Vocal Jazz, she teaches student singers the intricacies of using their voices to tell stories, entertain audience through varying degrees of improvisation, and soothe listeners with syncopated rhythms. 

Most would be satisfied with a full slate of classes, side gigs and movie credits. Not Guter. She wants to share her knowledge with aspiring jazz artists around the world. She has in the past two years traveled to Thailand, Nepal, China, Taiwan and Indonesia to conduct workshops. 

“I believe in this mission so much because jazz is such a collaborative effort, that even if you have people who don’t speak the language, they can create music together,” Guter said. 

Guter would like to expand the Vocal Jazz program at Cal State Long Beach. She conducts Pacific Standard Time, the university’s award-winning jazz ensemble, which has been recognized by Downbeat Music Awards as one of the top ensembles in the world for the past 10 years. 

Creating Language out of Science

Dr. Susan Gomez Zwiep was dismayed to discover that many middle school English language learners where she taught had to choose between improving their language skills and learning science. So, she had an idea. Why not integrate English language development with the objective of learning science? 

Susan Gomez Zwiep, Science Education, CNSM

“We birthed this program that was very bumpy at first, but over 3 to 4 years we developed a program around content (science) and language so that teacher could provide English-language development in the context of science learning,” she said. 

She, along with Professor Dr. William Straits and Jo Topps, lecturers in the Science Education department, founded the Bell Gardens Elementary Partnership that focused on putting students in real science environments, such as science museums and exploratory field trips. 

At the end of the five-year pilot program, the results showed improvement in the students’ English proficiency in the classroom and on standardized tests, and in 2016, the school was given the prestigious California Gold Ribbon School Award. The project was supported by a $945,222 grant from the California Post-Secondary Education Commission’s Improving Teacher Quality program and conducted in coordination with the Montebello Unified School District in Montebello, California. 

The results indicated that the blended program not only helped improve the English-language learners’ oral language, listening and speaking skills, but also improved their understanding of science concepts with the help of student-to-student dialogues. More than 3,300 students took part in the blended program. 

Gomez Zwiep said the blended program provided things that were used in science, such as visual aids, pictures and diagrams. 

Gomez Zwiep’s experiences at the middle school continue to influence her work as a researcher and educator in the university’s Science Education program. 

Smoking Deaths Higher for Black Males

How is the use of cannabis and tobacco/ nicotine related to other risk behaviors among young Black men who have sex with men (YBMSM)? And, how and in what contexts does experimentation with these substances progress to frequent use among this group? 

These are questions Dr. Laura D’Anna hopes to answer because of the high mortality rates from smoking within this population. Backed by a $1.12 million grant from the University of California’s Tobacco-Related Disease Research Program, D’Anna and her team will develop and test strategies to support this subgroup of Black males in avoiding or lowering the use of tobacco/nicotine and cannabis with the assistance of their peers.  

More specifically, D’Anna is studying whether or not a tailored, peer-based intervention model (PPOWER2- Peer Promotion of Enhanced Wellness and Linkage to Resources Project) for YBMSM, along with targeted communications through their social and sexual networks, will make a difference. 

“We need to have a better understanding of the circumstances and contexts within which young people initiate and use combustible or vape forms of tobacco and marijuana,” D’Anna said. “With so many new products on the market targeted to this group, it is important that we focus efforts on developing and testing strategies to support young people in avoiding initiation, which may unknowingly lead to long term addiction and health complications. This is especially important for minority communities who have long been targeted by the tobacco industry.” 

The general population smoking rate has declined to nearly 15 percent (2017) from a high of nearly 22 percent (2005), and tobacco-related deaths and cancer rates have also declined. However, despite these gains, Black men continue to experience the highest mortality rates related to smoking, reports the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

D’Anna’s research team includes School of Social Work Professor Alex Washington, CHER members Carol Canjura, Jeff Wood, Jaelen Owens, Laurie Jorgensen and Professor Jennifer Unger (Preventive Medicine at the USC Keck School of Medicine), as well as collaborators from the LGBTQ Center Long Beach, Behavioral Health Services, St. Mary Medical Center and Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services. 

Spanish Empire was Shaped by Slavery

Dr. Emily Berquist Soule specializes in the history of the early modern Spanish Empire and colonial Latin America. Her interest in the abolition of slavery in the 19th century sparked a question: What influenced the Spanish Empire, one of the largest empires in history, to abolish slavery?

Emily Berquist Soule, History, CLA

Through her research, Berquist Soule learned that, for the most part, there was not much anti-slavery sentiment within the Spanish Empire, a contrast to the well-known early activists against slavery and the slave trade in Great Britain. Upon this realization, Berquist Soule has dug deeper to figure out why that was the case. 

What she found was that slavery was in fact instrumental in shaping the entire empire throughout the early modern period, from the late 15th through the mid-18th century. That discovery influenced her decision to start her second monograph now in-progress, “The Atlantic Slave Trade and the Rise and Fall of the Spanish Empire,” which will be published by Yale University Press in 2021.  

Dr. Emily Berquist Soule visited Archivo General de Indias in Seville, Spain to better understand how the Empire dealt with slavery.

“From the beginning of Spain becoming an empire with overseas territories, slavery was at the center,” Berquist Soule said. “The book traces it from the Canary Islands, to Africa, to the Caribbean and then to America, throughout the entire colonial period through the Independence wars and Spain’s final American possessions of Puerto Rico and Cuba, which abolished slavery in 1873 and 1886, respectively.”

To make the monograph possible, Berquist Soule went on three research trips to Spain and discovered that the Spanish monarchy used slavery to determine its economic decisions and political situation. 

Electrifying How We Talk and Live

Dr. Hen-Geul (Henry) Yeh has been working on three inventions that aim to use power lines as communication tools, improve power line safety and optimize power lines.

Henry Yeh, Electrical Engineering, COE

“Today, we are using wireless communication, like cell phones,” Yeh said. “The first invention focuses on how we can actually use existing power lines for communication due to having power grids delivering electricity. The infrastructure is there, but for some reason, the communication capabilities have not been taken advantage of.” 

He and his team, which includes chemical engineering professor Dr. Yu Yang, have found a process that involves a mathematical model and some simulations to have power lines provide data and voice communication. With the help of this invention, a person would be able to communicate to others within the same building using an electricity line instead of a wireless phone. This is important because, at times, wireless phones experience significant background noise at different locations within the same building. By using electricity, a caller would have a clearer line of communication.

“The second invention is related to detection,” Yeh said. “The electricity based on green energy resources, like solar, is continuing to increase. When we have more solar energy in the electric grid, then we start thinking about the safety issue because we don’t want an instance where we have a power line down on the ground and then have an animal or person touch it and then get injured as a result.”

Yeh said the third invention focuses on optimization methods, such as power distribution in neighborhoods. A user can disrupt distribution by using something that consumes a lot of power, like turning on some sort of engine,” Yeh said. 

These projects were made possible with funding from the Office of Naval Research. 

Trusting Makes Good Business

Trust is everything in the world of business. Retailers collaborate with manufacturers. Manufacturers provide goods to retailers, and retailers allocate their resources, like shelf space and promotional events, to market the products. 

Yu Wang, Marketing, COB

However, for a retailer to figure out how much in resources it should allocate, a level of trust and trustworthiness must be established. That, according to Dr. Yu Wang, can facilitate better cooperation. 

Wang researched what leads to trustworthiness. Her conclusions are presented in her paper, “Information Sharing, Advice Provision or Delegation: What Leads to Trust and Trustworthiness?” 

“In this paper, we’re interested in essentially the cooperation between suppliers and retailers,” Wang said. “One aspect that can influence the effectiveness of this cooperation is the way a supplier provides ‘assistance’ to a retailer so the retailer can better determine the amount of its resources it should use to market the manufacturer’s products.”

The assistance the supplier provides to a retailer can come in three forms: information sharing, advice provision or delegation. 

To help see the forms of assistance in action, picture this: A manufacturer is giving its goods to a retailer to sell; however, only the manufacturer knows the true quality or appeal the products have because the manufacturer generally has a better understanding of market trends, consumer needs and shopping behaviors for its brands.

Wang said that a manufacturer sharing, or even distorting, the products’ appeal or true quality to a retailer is an example of information sharing. Once the retailer has that information, it can try to figure out what the true value of the goods are based off the manufacturer’s trustworthiness. After the retailer has an idea of what the value might be, the retailer can move forward with allocating resources to market the products. 

Going back to that same scenario, and instead of receiving information about the products’ quality, the retailer could have asked the supplier for input on how to market the products. For example, the supplier could suggest the retailer place the supplier’s goods in the middle of the store with as many signs and flashy lights as possible. This is an example of advice provision, and the retailer can choose whether to follow the advice or do something else.

Promoting Social Justice for All

In the United States, social justice advocates are concerned with whether economics and other spheres of life are equal for all. That could include the environment, healthcare, gender and race. Dr. Charles Slater is researching what it is like elsewhere. 

Charles Slater, Educational Leadership, CED

“Social justice is critically important in education and leadership, and we wanted to take an international perspective,” Slater said. “We focused particularly in areas with marginalized populations or large immigrant populations because one of the major issues facing the world today is the mass immigration of people across borders. Some countries are experiencing this influx of people for the first time, and we wanted to see the impact on schools and the actions a social justice leader takes to respond to the new challenges.” 

Slater is focusing on how K-12 school principals in Spanish-speaking countries view and enact social justice. 

“Through the International Study of Leadership Development Network, a multi-country project, scholars have been working on a common research design for several years that involves identifying and visiting social justice leaders – the principals – at their schools,” Slater said. “I work with scholars in countries around the world, but spend the most time with the Spanish-speaking network, particularly, Mexico, Costa Rica and Spain.” 

During his visits, Slater and the other scholars talk with the principals about their beliefs regarding social justice, the obstacles they face when implementing social justice in schools, and how their backgrounds formed them to become social justice leaders.

For his research, Dr. Charles Shaw visited an elementary schools to discuss with principals about their beliefs regarding social justice.

Slater returned from a trip in 2019 to Ensenada, Mexico, with other university faculty and doctoral students. They visited a school for teachers, a university and an elementary school that provides educational refuge for children who have recently migrated from extremely impoverished conditions. 

Slater is planning to continue his research of social justice and educational leadership beginning in fall 2019 at the Autonomous University of Madrid. He will interview a number of experts around the country about social justice leadership and discover what they see as the major issues within Spain.