Fall 2020 - Archived Newsletter

Fall 2020

This online publication is produced each semester to recognize faculty and students and their ongoing work. More information can be accessed by clicking on the topics below.

New Awards, New Proposals and Research Expenditures

July 1, 2020 - September 30, 2020

Total # New Proposals Submitted  Total New Research $ Requested Total # New Proposals Awarded Total New Research $ Awarded Research Expenditures
58 $16,614,085 45 $12,993,239 $6,551,819

Faculty Receiving External Awards: April 2020 through September 2020

Faculty Name Funding Agency  Amount Awarded  Project Title College/Unit
Barjasteh, Ehsan National Science Foundation (NSF)      2,099,874 An Active Learning-based Educational Program for Hispanic STEM Students through Industry-University Partnership COE
Ahrens, Courtney FreeForm          11,840 Financial Freedom Study CLA
Alt, Nicholas National Science Foundation (NSF)        148,030 Collaborative Research: Social Perception of Groups CLA
Ayala, Perla NIH-National Institute of General Medical Sciences        147,500 Engineering Biomimetic Tissues for Muscle Repair COE
Baker Prindle, Paul Arts Council for Long Beach 5,000 Community Project Grant COTA
Baker Prindle, Paul RuMBa Foundation of Long Beach 50,000 Plugged in Virtual Connections RuMBa COTA
Ban, Hyowon EWHA Woman's University            4,442 Standardization of Costal Feature Names and the Informing CLA
Barjasteh, Ehsan Airtech International, Inc.          20,000 Additive Manufacturing of Carbon-fiber Reinforced Plastics for Composite Tooling Application COE
Barjasteh, Ehsan National Science Foundation (NSF)          26,735 An Active Learning-based Educational Program for Hispanic STEM Students through Industry-University Partnership COE
Becker, Matthew Department of Toxic Substances Control via US Dept of Energy          20,000 Hydrogeology Support: Santa Susana Field Laboratory CNSM
Becker, Matthew CA Department of Toxic Substances Control via NASA          40,000 Oversight and Research for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) groundwater characterization and cleanup planning efforts at Santa Susana Field Laboratory CNSM
Binnal, James CSU Fullerton via CSU Project Rebound Consortium 114,000 Project Rebound CHHS
Blair, Ryan National Science Foundation 51,373 CDS&E: RUI: Collaborative Research: Data-driven methods in classical knot theory CNSM
Buonora, Paul NIH - National Institute of General Medical Sciences        425,811 CSULB Research Initiative for Scientific Enhancement CNSM
Camacho, Trace Dept. of Parks and Recreation - Boating & Waterways via US Coast Guard          27,243 Aquatic Center SA
Chandra, Shailesh San Jose State University Research Foundation          10,000 Evaluating financing mechanisms and economic benefits to fund grade seperation projects COE
Cleary, Patricia National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH)          60,000 The Destruction and Afterlife of the Indian Mounds of St. Louis, Missouri CLA
Fata, Frank Institute of International Education        437,430 ROTC Language and Culture Training Grant CLA
Ghafoori, Bita California Victim Compensation Board (Cal VCB)      3,089,511 Trauma Recovery Center Grant CED
Ghafoori, Bita Long Beach Unified School District          70,000 Trauma focused services: A School based approach CED
Gomez-Zwiep, Susan CSU East Bay Foundation via NSF          50,192 Aligning the Science Teacher Education Pathway. A Networked Improvement Community CNSM
Gredig, Thomas National Science Foundation (NSF)        335,858 MRI: Acquisition of an Atomic Force Microscope for Materials Science Research and Student Training CNSM
Holland, Erika NIH - National Institute of General Medical Sciences        433,652 DREAM Mediated Transcription Acts as a Biomarker for Pollutant Induced Calcium Signaling Disruption CNSM
House-Peters, Lily Univesity of Calgary           23,340 Incorporatating Local & Traditional Knowledge Systems: New Insights for Ecosystem Services & Transdisciplinary Collaborations CLA
Huckabay, Loucine Office of Statewide Health Planning and Development (OSHPD) 96,000 Song-Brown Healthcare Workforce Training Program - Family Nurse Practitioner CHHS
Jaikumar, Prashanth National Science Foundation (NSF)          35,705 RUI: Neutron Star Oscillations as Probes of Dense Matter Properties and Phases CNSM
Johnson, Lorin The Downey Foundation for Educational Opportunities 4,359 ArtsBridge COTA
Johnson, Lorin The Downey Foundation            3,429 ArtsBridge COTA
Kalman, Joseph Office of Naval Research 449,869 Interfacial Properties towards Additive Manufacturing of Solid Propellants  COE
Kalman, Joseph Office of Naval Research 448,037 Interfacial Properties towards Additive Manufacturing of Solid Propellants  COE
Kelly, Dave Long Beach Memorial Heritage Association          35,000 Television documentary on LB women in aviation history CPIE
Kelly, Kenneth CSU Chico via CA.Dept of Public Health         184,938 Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program - Education (SNAP-ED) For High Need Cal Fresh Eligible Students SA
Kim, Jinwon SJSU Research Foundation via State of Ca          66,984 Trip Scheduling and the Cost of Congestion: Estimates Using Travel Diary Data and Big Data CBA
Kline-Crockett, Megan RuMBa Foundation of Long Beach 49,500 Classroom Connections COTA
Lanza, Isabella NIH - National Institute of General Medical Sciences        442,500 Pathways and Processes to Co-occurring Obesity and Tobacco Use in Emerging Adults CHHS
Lowe, Chris Save Our Seas Foundation          36,000 Marine Beach Safety and Pollution outreach for Kids-Comic books CNSM
Malm, Aili Arizona Board of Regents 23,566 Tempe First Responder Opioid Recovery Project CHHS
Malm, Aili Contra Costa Public Defender's Office          16,267 Contra Costa Holistic Intervention Partnership (HIP) Evaluation CHHS
Marcus, Richard Peace Corps          38,060 Peace Corps Campus Recruiter CLA
Marcus, Richard University of California Office of the President (UCOP)          43,875 Calfiornia Global Education Project at CSU Long Beach CLA
Mark, Ron California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) 2,570,032 Sherman Block Supervisory Leadership Institute CHHS
Mark, Ron California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) 229,849 Executive Development Course CHHS
Mark, Ron California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) 429,510 POST Certified Law Enforcement Management Course CHHS
Mark, Ron California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) 301,035 POST Use of Force Scenario Simulations Train the Trainer Course CHHS
Meyer-Adams, Nancy LA County Department of Mental Health        100,000 DMH Mental Health Intern Training Program FY 2020-21 CHHS
Mezyk, Stephen The Lutheran University Assoc dba Valparaiso Univeristy via NSF        140,807 EAGER: CAS-NP: Laboratory Radiation Chemistry Methods to Induce Rapid Aging Microplastics in Water to Assess Fundamental Chemical Reactivity Changes CNSM
Monge, Alvaro The Regents of the University of California Berkeley via CA GOPR        106,069 Reorienting Formative and Summative Assessment Towards Mastery Learning for Learner Success, Student Equity, and Institutional Resilience  COE
Moon, Ju Cheol Dankook University  99,403 Deep Learning-based healthcare system for disease early detection COE
Neff, Hector National Science Foundation (NSF)        162,919 The Human Input and Coastal Landscape Change CLA
Nguyen Rodriguez, Selena CSU East Bay Foundation Inc, via NIH            4,500 Culturally appropriate interventions to increase CRC screening in South Asian Populations CHHS
O'Brien, Thomas University of Southern California            5,544 Metrofreight: The Local/Global Challenge of Urban Freight CPIE
O'Brien, Thomas USC - Metrans        140,000 National Center for Sustainable Transportation CPIE
O'Brien, Thomas San Jose State Research Foundation 15,000 CSUTC Regional Workforce Needs Assessment CPIE
Onderdonk, Nate USC via USGeological Survey          20,000 SCEC5 Year 4 Research Collaboration at the CSULB CNSM
Rahmani, Mehran SJSU Research Foundation via State of CA 74,996 Post-Earthquake Rapid Structural Damage Detection and Damage Localization in Bridges Using Low-Density Sensor Arrays COE
Richards-Tutor, Cara The Rector & Visitors of the University of Virginia via US Dept. of Ed        220,639 Iterative Replication of Read Well in First Grade CED
Robertson, Curglin US Department of Education          22,281 Trio Upward Bound I SA
Scibetta, Dominica California Student Aid Comission         689,448 Cal Soap SA
Scott-Hayward, Christine City of Long Beach Prosecutor 36,000 Innovations in Prosecutorial Strategies GUIDES App Evaluation CHHS
Shaffer, Gwen USC via US. Dept. of Transportation        100,000 Development of Cost-Effective Sensing Systems & Analytics (CeSSA) to Monitor Roadway Conditions and Mobility Safety CLA
Slowinska, Katarzyna Shiseido          54,000 An Investigation of Possible Mechanisms of Human Dermal Fibroblasts Stimulation by Electric Field and Effects of Short Time ES CNSM
Steimetz, Seiji City of Long Beach, Economic Development Dept.          25,000 Quarterly Census of Employment and Wages (QCEW) Data CLA
Suh, Ga-Young Stanford University 50,000 Biomedical Analysis of the Ascending Aorta after Dissection of TEVAR Treatment Thora COE
Sun, Paul (Hui) National Science Foundation (NSF)        257,741 Collaborative Research: Spatiotemporal Dynamics of Interacting Bacterial Communities in Compact Colonies CNSM
Tian, Fangyuan NIH-National Institute of General Medical Sciences        110,625 Porous inorganic Framework Thin Film as Drug-Eluting Stent Coating CNSM
Topete, Rafael US Department of Education      1,309,440 TRIO Student Support Services - Disabilities SA
Topete, Rafael US Department of Education      1,309,440 TRIO Student Support - STEM SA
Topete, Rafael US Department of Education            8,857 TRIO-Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program SA
Trajkovic, Jelena National Science Foundation (NSF)        306,040 Collaborative Research: Equity of Access to Computer Science: Factors Impacting the Characteristics and Success of Undergraduate CS Majors COE
Weers, Paul NIH - National Institute of General Medical Sciences        110,625 Mechanism of initiation of lipid binding of apolipoprotein A-I CNSM
Whitcraft, Christine SJSU via Natural Resources Agency        131,815 A Framework for Condition Assessment and Monitoring of Estuary MPAs in California CNSM
Whitcraft, Christine Orange County Coastkeeper via CA State Coastal Conservancy          79,206 Upper Newport Bay Living Shoreline Project Renewal - Oyster and Eelgrass Habitat Restoration CNSM
Whitcraft, Christine Orange County Coastkeeper via Honda Marine Science Foundation          33,330 Innovative Oyster and Eelgrass Habitat Restoration CNSM

By Assistant Professor Andrea Balbas

Andrea Balbas

Geological Sciences Department
College of Natural Sciences and Mathematics


Stories Only Rocks Can Tell! 

I am often asked why I became a geologist and not a biologist. My reply is always the same, “well because the rocks can’t outrun me”.

But, the real answer is that I’m dazzled by the power of the geological sciences and how its practitioners continue to uncover unimaginable natural processes that occurred in Earth’s past.

Mud cracks in soil
Large mud cracks in the soil. Photo by Dr. Richard Behl.

Mud Cracks by Parker Concannon

Clay, silt, and mud dry
Ground shrinks and cracks like an egg
“Sun-baked” tidal flat

Plate tectonics may be an accepted idea today, but the concept of crystalline rock plates being moved around Earth’s surface by convecting plastic rock below is far from intuitive.

Rocks show us that our planet and solar system have a geologic history full of mind-boggling stories. Some of the stories that captivate me most are about megafloods, super volcano eruptions, abrupt shifts in climate and the growth of ice caps that once covered the entire Earth. Such fantastic stories are teased from the rocks using various methods that range from geochemical analyses to interpretations of structures found in sedimentary deposits.


Large stromatolites in Australia
Large stromatolites in Australia. Pen at right to show scale. Photo by Dr. Kenneth A. Farley.

Stromatolite Layers by Kaylin Luciani

Algae builds layers
Mounds of sediments and stones
Shallow, salty seas


As an educator, the stories that rocks tell can transform a sleep-deprived room of students into bright-eyed rock enthusiasts. I find students build a fellowship around their shared love of rocks and the stories they tell. Unfortunately, in our new Zoom dominated world, this sense of community has largely disappeared. The missing aspect of community and its positive influence in my classroom has left a void that I cannot ignore.

How can I help facilitate this bonding over the love of stories that only rocks can tell? I turn to the Japanese culture and Haiku.


Herringbone in sandstone
Herringbone cross-bedding recorded in sandstone. Photo by Dr. Richard Behl.

Herringbone cross-stratification by Bryan Camarillo

Current switches flow 
Stratification by tides
Formed in tidal areas

A good geologist is a good observer of nature and I find this is also reflected in good Haiku. I asked my students to compose Haiku with a first line that describes the process that creates a sediment structure, a second line that describes its physical appearance and a third line describing the depositional environment. My students did not disappoint.

Perhaps it is because I offered a fossil to the student that wrote the best Haikus or perhaps, they are beginning to share my love of Geology. 

Mud Drapes by Sarah Goodale

A pause in movement
Slices of mud between sand
Tide current places

Mud Drapes by Alec Billmeier

Tide drops on ripple
Thin mud atop sandy crest
Tidal flat is home

Current Ripples by Nathan Simpson

Sand crests go crawling
Plucked from the lee, tossed on stoss
Currents push the load

Images and haikus courtesy of Andrea Balbas

Becky Nash
By Associate Professor Becky Nash
School of Criminology, Criminal Justice, and Emergency Management
College of Health and Human Services



Uncovering Criminal Networks with Technology

Do you ever find yourself worrying about being killed by your own furniture?

Probably not, but you should.

It turns out that we have a higher chance of being killed by our own furniture than we do of being killed in a terrorist attack, but this does not stop the unfounded fear of terrorism that is so pervasive within the United States.

Typically, within my area of researching terrorism and white-collar crime, I apply the methods and theories of network analysis to analyze dark or illicit networks, uncovering social networks that revolve around crime and criminality. For example, mapping and analyzing terrorist networks, mapping the radicalization of extremists through social networks, or analyzing the spread of fraud within a Ponzi scheme.

Recently however, by request from Dr. Monica Lounsbery, Dean of the College of Health and Human Services (CHHS), and President Jane Close Conoley, I, along with my colleague Dr. Aili Malm, embarked on a fun, completely new research adventure using network analysis – creating social networks of community agencies within our college and faculty.

The main purpose of this research is to create a network of CHHS departments and faculty members, and their ties to community organizations through research, education, and volunteering collaborations to name a few. Using social network analysis, I constructed and analyzed the social networks of our College’s eleven departments and their ties to community agencies, as well as our individual faculty members’ ties to community agencies.

Each study includes descriptive analyses of the main network, subgroup analyses to uncover shared ties within tightly knit subnetworks, and measures to identify central players, including academic departments, faculty members, and community agencies. This study shows that CHHS departments and faculty have extensive local and statewide networks with agencies and organizations and that these social networks facilitate opportunities for outreach, research, and student engagement. This study also reveals an extensive shared network of community agencies among CHHS departments and faculty members, with lecturer faculty key in creating and maintaining a large portion of agency ties.

Department Network
CHHS Department Network
Faculty Network
CHHS Faculty Network


I am also currently working on collecting data and mapping a network of online vintage Kenner Star Wars action figure websites for buying, trading, and selling to uncover the spread of fraud through this network. Concurrently, I am examining how these online networks help prevent the spread of fraud. Why is this tiny, seemingly unknown niche so important you ask? One tiny, 3.75” prototype action figure of a rocket-firing Boba Fett recently sold for $157,500!

This is just the tip of the iceberg within the continually increasing market values of vintage Kenner Star Wars action figures. I would say definitely worth a peek. May the force be with you.  

Becky Nash at San Diego ComicCon
Professor Nash doing research at San Diego Comic Con

Images courtesy of Becky Nash

Ava Hedayatipour
By Assistant Professor Ava Hedayatipour
Electrical Engineering Department
College of Engineering

What Technology are You Wearing?

As technology grows day by day, we become increasingly dependent on and less willing to separate ourselves from it.

The advancement of technology has pushed devices to be faster and smaller and given rise to a new generation of devices, named wearable technology. These devices from fitness trackers and Smartwatches to Smart Glasses and Smart Contact Lens, have attracted unprecedented interest  in the last two decades.

It is expected that the global market for wearable technology which was worth $750 million in 2012 will increase to over US $50 billion by 2022.

Apart from the common wearable devices that we love and use, many more applications are under research and testing, and device development is a hot topic of many interdisciplinary research studies. These designed systems are becoming more and more mature in recent years and are moving from research fields to commercial devices.

Using state-of-art wearable devices provides a more convenient way to extract accurate measurements of vital signals, along with physical and physiologic parameters. Wearable applications have various applications in different areas of health care and clinical practices, such as prevention (activity tracking, eating behavior and calorie intake tracking, stress monitoring), diagnosis (early detection, different symptoms tracking), and disease management (monitoring of drug intake and drug reminders). 

My research goes through the design and implementation of different sensors used in these biomedical devices. These sensors are implemented at transistor level and fabricated on Integrated Chips (ICs).

Temperature sensor
A 1.5mm temperature sensor IC design by Dr. Hedayatipour implemented in 180 nm fabrication technology

Among different sensors, I have designed impedance and temperature. (Impedance is the measure of the opposition of an electric current.) These sensors step further than current state-of-art designs by providing low power, low-area designs with frequency output. In temperature sensors, accuracy is of great importance, as they are the main method of measuring fever, which is the main symptom of various diseases. Moreover, temperature sensors are a good add-on to any system to monitor the functioning of electronic parts. In wearable devices, especially implantable devices, the rise of the device's temperature should be closely monitored to prevent harm to sensitive body parts.  I have also designed a portable impedance system and have researched on applying this sensor in applications, such as early heart failure detection and real-time translation of sign language.

Portable impedance sensor
A portable impedance sensor to detect early heart failure designed by Dr. Hedayatipour

Besides area and power consumption, security is a crucial, mostly ignored aspect of sensors when it comes to data transfer. I have designed a chaotic ciphering, implemented on-chip, as a viable solution for the incorporation of security on sensor devices. The integration of analog security with sensors is the initial step towards having hardware-based integrated security encryption in any IoT and arrayed sensor systems. I aim to keep working on devices with biomedical applications and try to increase quality of life using Electrical Engineering and circuit design!

Images courtesy of Ava Hedayatipour

Martha Carter
By Assistant Professor Martha Carter
Theatre Arts Department
College of the Arts

Creating New Worlds and Sensory Connections with Audiences

Imagine passing through a normal everyday doorway to find yourself walking on air. A mirrored image of the sky above reflects on the floor below. You are surrounded by the brilliant blues of the sky, wrapped in the cool clouds, smelling crisp air full of morning dew and afternoon showers.

Now go deeper into your mind’s eye. Picture opening another door and feeling the rush of soft white sand engulfing your feet. With your shoes in your hands, you walk to a shallow pool of glowing water gently kissing the shore with each magical wave. Stars twinkling all around you, the sound of your own ocean memories and nightly dreams, are transporting you to a new world.

Now, imagine if this were a reality, the setting of your next Friday night dinner.

Reflected light exhibit
Research image with mirrors:
Reflected light research for the creation of a water fall of light.

I am endeavoring to create such worlds. I seek to use theatrical innovations to transform a common act like dining out, into an uncommon and unique experience. Our quarantined existence has turned our lives upside-down, to such a degree that the simple idea of going to a restaurant is no longer routine. Live entertainment, theater, opera, dance, music events, etc. are gone for the foreseeable future.

I am a theatrical lighting designer and an expert in the field of live entertainment; my artistic soul is driven by creating new worlds in which audience members and patrons can live. With the entertainment industry shutdown, I have actively shifted my research towards new avenues to provide escapism and live entertainment outside of traditional theatre. I seek to take the evanescent world of live entertainment and the ephemeral quality of light to create an elevated dining experience. Rather than having an audience sitting and watching a narrative unfold before them, they would have an immersive experience, ensconced in a story, experiencing a new depth of emotional and sensory connection.

Immersive tactile installation of strings and light where au
Immersive tactile installation of strings and light where audience members manipulate the strings creating new shadows and colors.
Immersive tactile installation
Close up of tactile installation.

I have been researching and testing how to incorporate and elevate conventional theatrical devices to create a curated experience. By using mirrors to reflect the clouds in the sky onto the floor below, I can create a floating floor illusion, and by installing that floor on a rooftop, I would be able to surround guests with the crisp afternoon air and a cool breeze to deepen their “in the clouds” experience. The addition of fog would awaken their tactile senses and add texture to the environment. A dinner scheduled just before sunset will allow me to play with the elements and provide the optical illusion of the horizon collapsing in on itself as the sun goes down. Providing a moment of distraction from the worries that face us may just help bring a new sense of purpose to us all.

Images courtesy of Martha Carter

By Professor and Chair Sam Min, Assistant Professor Eunho Park, and Professor Praveen Soni of the Marketing Department in the College of Business; and Executive Director Mahmoud Albawaneh and Interim Associate Director for Faculty Analytics Juan Carlos Apitz in Institutional Research and Analytics

Sam Min
Eunho Park
Praveen Soni
Mahmoud Albawaneh
Juan Carlos Apitz

Authors of study (L-R): Sam Min, Eunho Park, Praveen Soni, Mahmoud Albawaneh, and Juan Carlos Apitz.

The Impact on Graduation of Students Switching Majors

Students choose the wrong major for many different reasons — e.g., high aspiration, lack of information about majors, and the mismatch between ability and interest. The consequences of choosing the wrong major can be detrimental to a student, leading them to either switch their major or drop out of the school.

Our key research question of the study is what are the impacts of switching majors on dropout rates as well as timely graduation rates? 

To answer the research question, we analyzed major switching and graduation rates of 3,576 students who joined the CSULB in Fall 2010 as freshmen.

First, we found major switching is common among the 2010 freshmen cohort. Close to half of the students (45.8%) switched their majors at least once. One of our startling findings is that graduation rates are higher for those who switched their majors than those who never switched their majors, 86% and 67%, respectively. 

The difference is even more apparent if we consider dropout rates — the average dropout rate for those who changed their majors is 14%; the average dropout rate for those who didn’t change their majors is 33%.

The results appear to support a claim that major switching is actually NOT a bad thing. It could help improve graduation rates, although it could also delay the time to graduate.  

We further analyzed the graduation rates by the timing of major switching. Among students who switched majors, 22% switched their majors in their first year of college, 32% in the second year, and the remaining 46% switched after their second year. It is striking to see that a lot of students switched their majors after their second year. Comparing graduation rates among three groups, we found that early major switching can help improve graduation rates. Four-year graduation rates are 20.7%, 18.4%, and 7.4% for those three groups, respectively. One interesting finding is that eventual graduation rates are slightly higher for students who switched majors after 2 years. The graduation rate is 90.2% for students who switched their majors after 2 years, but one for students who switched within 1 year is 80.1%. The counterintuitively high graduation rate for late-switchers warrants a further analysis.

Data table

In addition, we looked at the GPA distribution of major switchers. Surprisingly, the average GPA of switchers is higher than what we expected. 41.2% of switchers have GPAs that are 3.0 or higher. Only 12% of switchers had less than a 2.0. We found ‘good’ students are able to switch majors and speed up graduation. 

In sum, the analysis of the 2010 cohort clearly indicates that major switching can help students to graduate. By the same token, major switching substantially lowers dropout rates.

Images courtesy of Eunho Park

Robert Blankenship
By Associate Professor Robert Blankenship, German Studies
Department of Romance, German, Russian Languages and Literatures
College of Liberal Arts


Imagining East Germany

What can we learn by studying fictional stories from and about a country that no longer exists?

Quite a bit, it turns out.

Indeed, that’s what I spend much of my time doing. And some of what I’ve uncovered in the process even leads back to Southern California.

I study the literature, cinema, and thought of the German Democratic Republic (GDR, East Germany); the legacy of the GDR in literature, cinema, and other media today; and the literary and philosophical traditions that were widely received in the GDR (e.g. Karl Marx, Bertolt Brecht).

Professor Blankenship in Berlin (2018) with German philosophers Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

I struggle to answer questions such as: What role did the literary imagination play in the East German socialist experiment? How was literary production in the GDR different from that of other times and places? How was the cultural heritage of the GDR constructed, and how did it unravel? What can we learn about our own time and place by reading East German literature? How do we and how should we remember the GDR today, thirty years after the collapse of the country?

My first book—Suicide in East German Literature: Fiction, Rhetoric, and the Self-Destruction of Literary Heritage (Camden House 2017)—resists the common assumption that suicide in GDR literature merely reflects real suicides in East Germany. I show rather that many of the literary suicides in question are especially literary and help to unravel the literary heritage of the GDR.

I’m particularly interested in the literary works of East German writer Christa Wolf. In the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s; many looked to Wolf as a spearhead for optimistic projects related to feminism, ecological conservation, world peace, and a form of socialism that people would support.

Stadt der Engel book
Professor Blankenship with Christa Wolf's Stadt der Engel (City of Angels)

In the wake of German unification, Wolf found herself at the center of multiple scandals. She spent the 1992-1993 year at the Getty Center. In 2010, Wolf published her final novel City of Angels or The Overcoat of Dr. Freud, which takes place in Southern California, a setting from which the narrator remembers her East German past.

But how does Los Angeles instigate memories about East Germany? How does a communist see LA? Is LA a place of forgetting? A city of angelic intervention? The lion’s den of capitalism? Proof, on Skid Row for example, that capitalism is immoral?

In January 2020, I published my most recent article: “Christa Wolf’s Richard Neutra: Architecture, Psychoanalysis, and Southern California in Stadt der Engel oder The Overcoat of Dr. Freud” in the Germanic Review. However, my work on Wolf and on East German literature in general is far from complete.

Images courtesy of Robert Blankenship

Yoonhee Choi
By Assistant Professor Yoonhee Choi
Management and Human Resources Management Department
College of Business


The 'Push' and 'Pull' of Working with Award-Winning CEOs: The Unintended Consequences

Media attention highlighting a manager’s successful performance in the form of “CEO of the Year” or “Best Performing Manager of the Year” awards deserve a celebration for the award-winning CEOs and their firms. Studies found that CEOs received 11% to 44% higher compensation after receiving CEO awards. These CEOs’ firms also benefit by attracting higher numbers of stakeholders to contract with the firm, receive an increase in the premiums paid for initial public stock offerings, and generate abnormal stock returns.

However, what do such awards mean to the rest of the top managers working with the award-winning CEOs?

Similar to seeing your best friend getting married, top managers may find mixed feelings about working with their award-winning CEOs receiving fame and higher compensation. Although many studies examined how CEO awards influence the award-winners and their firms, rarely does any study explore the awards’ impacts on the close colleagues/subordinates of these award-winners. Thus, my coauthor Namgyoo Park at Seoul National University, and I were intrigued to investigate how CEO awards influence economic and psychological mechanisms in the top managers’ decisions to exit their firms. (Choi, Y., & Park, N. K. (2020). Examining the pull, the push, and their simultaneous effects on managerial turnover. Management Decision.)

Our study provides implications as to why it is difficult to keep highly valuable managers in firms following media attention, even with higher compensation.

Time magazine
Time magazine names 2019 Businessperson of the Year

Management scholars have developed the pull-and-push theory in voluntary turnover. The theory suggests that one can exit his/her firm due to the ease of moving posed by alternative job opportunities (i.e., the “pull” or economic mechanism) or the desire to move due to low job satisfaction (i.e., the “push” or psychological mechanism).

We suggest that CEO awards have spillover effects. Top managers working with award-winning CEOs may receive more attention from the executive labor market and find attractive offers from other firms, perhaps even for a CEO position. This represents the enhanced pull factor (economic mechanism) in turnover.

Further, the greater compensation gap between award-winning CEOs and the top managers themselves can lead to lower job satisfaction for the top managers. Some may feel that they contributed to the firms’ success and their CEOs received much of the credit for their own contributions. This represents the enhanced push factor (psychological mechanism) in turnover.

In our study, we used 25 years of panel data on more than 2,000 top managers across industries in the U.S. and found that CEO awards (economic mechanism) and low compensation (psychological mechanism) independently had positive effects on turnover of top managers. However, turnover due to the economic mechanism led to a higher position and pay, whereas turnover due to the psychological mechanism did not guarantee the same outcome. Further, when examining how pay dissatisfaction influences turnover simultaneously with the announcement of CEO awards, we found that top managers with the highest pay leave their firms but not those with the lowest pay.

Our findings show that CEO awards provide an interesting twist in terms of which top managers find the most discontentment in his/her job. 

Images courtesy of Yoonhee Choi