Instructor Spotlight: Amanda Quintenz-Fiedler on helping students achieve their [photographic] vision

By Kelly Davis


Name: Amanda Quintenz-Fiedler
Title: President
Company: dBF Associates, Inc.
Courses taught: Introduction to Black & White Photography; Understanding Photographic Light: Studio & Location

For photographer Amanda Quintenz-Fiedler, teaching others her craft is as important as practicing it. “My entire life is photography,” she writes on her website. “Learning it. Teaching it. Writing about it.” She’s the author of three books on photographic techniques and frequently contributes articles to professional photography magazines. Her best advice for aspiring photographers: Find your voice and niche. “Try to be inch-wide, mile-deep, instead of mile-wide, inch-deep,” she says.

Why did you choose this career field?
I’ve always loved photography and teaching. I’ve been a photographer since I was 12 and started teaching first as a tutor when I was in high school, tutoring younger students in math.

I chose photography because I love the creation of images, the concept of the frozen moment and the idea of changing the story of reality with my own perspective. I just gravitated towards it in high school and could never get rid of the bug. I finally realized it’s what I should do for a living after working in corporate America for six years. Best choice I ever made.

How’d you get started?
I majored in Interdisciplinary Film Studies at Purdue University and then got my Master of Fine Arts in photography from Brooks Institute. My first professional gig was for a small greeting card company, shooting still-life images of their products. I knew the owner and we both started our businesses about the same time. After that, I got larger corporate jobs, weddings and family portraits.

What do most enjoy about your job?
I love helping students achieve their vision.

What advice would you give to someone looking to enter the field?
Photography is a saturated field. That doesn’t mean you can’t be successful; it just means that you are more likely to be successful if you excel at a specific [kind of] photography and make it your own. A unique voice with technical skill and consistency will get you a lot further than trying to be a jack-of-all-trades. Try to be inch-wide, mile-deep, instead of mile-wide, inch-deep.

How is your field changing? What new skills do people need to stay current?
Photography changes daily. There are new tools, new software, new cameras. Trying to stay on top of everything will drive you crazy. But you can stay relevant to the things that matter to you — and be sure to always look at new photography to be sure you understand where the trends are headed and if they apply to you.

Why do you teach for Extension?
I teach for UC San Diego Extension because it’s a good program with concise classes. Not everyone wants a semester system or a twice-weekly class structure. This program allows people to engage with photography at their own rate with specific insights and classes to help direct that unique voice I mentioned earlier. It’s important to figure out what you want to do and build skills towards that goal. Extension provides a great structure to do that.

For information on Amanda Quintenz-Fiedler’s courses and the Photography programs at Extension, check out the Digital Arts and Arts & Humanities areas of interest of our website.

50 Voices of the Future: Anthony Davis on musical innovation


In honor of UC San Diego Extension’s first 50 years, 50 Voices of the Future asks thought leaders about the trends, breakthroughs and social advances they foresee over the next 50 years.

Anthony Davis’ cutting-edge operas exude all the drama and power of the art form, while exploring relevant and often charged topics. At UC San Diego, the celebrated composer/pianist is a music professor in Integrative Studies and Composition. His eight operas (he is working on his ninth) include “X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X,” “Five” (about New York’s Central Park Five) and “Wakonda’s Dream,” (about a resilient Native American family). “Lear on the Second Floor,” which premiered at UC San Diego in 2013, is one of his several smaller-scale operatic works.

Davis also writes chamber, choral and orchestral music and leads workshops for the New York-based American Composers Orchestra. He frequently tours as a solo pianist, especially in Europe, and recently performed with acclaimed jazz trumpeter Wadada Leo Smith, his longtime musical compadre. Davis’ collaborators at UC San Diego include playwright Allan Havis and contrabassist Mark Dresser, both fellow professors. Davis has been a music instructor at UC San Diego’s Jazz Camp since it began 15 years ago. He calls the camp a “wonderful experience.”

(1) Why is the work you do important?

My work, particularly in opera, has transformed the medium by creating pieces with political impact and synthesizing different traditions. I’m integrating jazz, classical and longer, extended forms. How I approach text and setting words to music is part of my innovation as composer.

Taking on politically charged issues is an important role that opera can play. My colleagues and I are working to make opera immediate and visceral, to create a different intimacy than grand opera.

(2) What are the influential/exciting developments happening in your field now and why?

One is the use of electronic media, using computers to merge sound effects with music. With synthesizers, we can create a sound world that affects the audience before the baton drops.

There are other innovative forms of storytelling – taking the linear approach out of it and looking at issues from various points of views. Rap and hip hop have influenced the way we approach rhythm and text. We are bringing improvisation into opera.

25ccabucsandiegopublicationserikjepsen(3) What’s the next big thing?

I’m interested in the idea of creating opera using telematics, which enables performers to collaborate in several locations at once. It’s not just the theatrical event but also includes using video projection. Pieces can be presented simultaneously allowing multiple perspectives.

(4) How big an impact will your field play in shaping the future of the San Diego region and beyond?

I don’t think it’s regional, although San Diego is emerging as a cultural center. The work I do looks at the country and the world. Nothing is limited to region now. What happens here happens around the world.

The work we do is very important in this hostile political environment. There’s a threat to our democracy. As artists, what we create sounds an alarm against oppression.

I worry that there will be assaults on the advancements that have been made over the last 20 years. We are looking at a period of great turmoil and ugly confrontations. As artists, we can galvanize people and help them realize what is at stake.

(5) Hop into your time machine…what does the future look like for this field in 50 years? How can individuals/companies get prepared for what’s next?

Who knows? It’s all up for grabs. If we are going to surrender to racist, misogynist forces within our society, we could get pessimistic. The stakes are high. In 50 years, we could be an open society welcoming ideas from people with different backgrounds or a repressive society that has reverted to our awful past. It’s not a given that in 50 years we will be in a better place than we are now.

UCSD Jazz Camp is a five-day summer program designed for intermediate to advanced level jazz musicians, ages 14–adult. UC San Diego Extension also offers a variety of Performing Arts courses in Singing, Guitar, Piano and more, for adults.

50 Voices of the Future: Mike Stevenson on the craft of brewing

mikestevensonIn honor of UC San Diego Extension’s first 50 years, 50 Voices of the Future asks thought leaders about the trends, breakthroughs and social advances they foresee over the next 50 years.

Craft beer has been the fastest growing sector of alcoholic beverages in the nation, and with 130 breweries, San Diego County is considered a capital for beer connoisseurs. For many, brewing starts as an experiment in hopes of turning a passion into a quaffable product. A goal Mike Stevenson found himself achieving when he, and cofounder Ben Fairweather, opened Culver Beer Company in early 2015. Stevenson gained hands-on brewing experience through apprenticeships at brewpubs in Germany and Italy, received a Brewing certificate from UC San Diego Extension, and worked with Twisted Manzanita and White Labs where he gained valuable knowledge about yeast, fermentation and quality assurance.

(1) Why is the work you do important?

For one, craft beer has allowed for manufacturing jobs to exist in America again and people enjoy consuming local products. As an industry, we were fortunate to grow at the same time the farm-to-table movement really took off. People find value in knowing that what they are purchasing is helping support their local economy.

(2) What are the influential/exciting developments happening in your field now and why?

With the craft beer boom, there has been a dramatic shift affecting every aspect of the brewing industry. We’ve moved out of the Budweiser-dominated beer world where there was a limited choice of raw materials and only a few buyers, to now, where we are close to reaching 5,000 small independent breweries nationwide. The landscape has clearly changed. Barley farmers have started growing flavor rich varieties, which we have not seen before, maltsters are producing all sorts of new types of malted barley to brew with and hop growers keep coming up with crazy new strains to help fuel the IPA craze. Most bars, restaurants and pubs have increased their tap real estate to allow for a larger variety of beers and a lot of them strive to keep local craft beer on tap.

(3) What’s the next big thing?

Good question. I think the big bitter IPAs are slowing down in popularity and people are starting to explore other styles. Sour beers have grown into a nice niche market and some breweries in town only cater to this style of beer. Vanilla Cream Ales, Peanut Butter Stouts and other flavor filled beers have helped put their respective breweries on the map and they have seen awesome growth because of them. Our lagers and Belgian styles do just as well as our IPAs in our tap room and we plan on continuing to produce these styles as we try our hand at new ones. We need to find that one beer that will pay the bills and hit the market hard, and we have a few good contenders. I think rapid growth year over year will also begin to slow down as smaller guys come into the marketplace and push pressure upwards.

(4) How big an impact will your field play in shaping the future of the San Diego region and beyond?

San Diego has become an epicenter of brewing worldwide. We get plenty of out-of-town visitors in our taproom and their itineraries include the normal tourist activities followed by stopovers at local breweries. There are over 130 breweries in San Diego County, so almost anywhere you go you’re a short drive away from a brewery. I know plenty of brewers who started their brewing career in San Diego and have had wonderful opportunities to work around the country and world because they had a San Diego brewery on their resume. The recent Great American Beer Festival further solidified San Diego’s status as a craft beer hub, bringing home 18 of the 68 medals awarded to California breweries.

(5) Hop into your time machine … what does the future look like for this field in 50 years? How can individuals/companies get prepared for what’s next?

Beer has been around since civilization began. In 50 years, this craft beer phase will be another chapter in a brewing textbook. History has been repeating itself as of late with larger breweries starting to purchase smaller brands to add to their “craft portfolio.” I think we will see a lot more consolidation in the industry like we did in the 50s, 60s and 70s. However, I think we will see a large number of breweries remain small, catering to their local customer base. We are located in a business-dense area and serve as a pub for the local working-class people, who as they have always done, like to enjoy a beer after work. I think in the near future supply chains will get tighter and materials (hops) will be harder to source as the bigger guys lock down their contracts. The best advice I can give is to make good beer and get to know your regulars in the tasting room.

Interested in becoming a craft brewer? Learn more about UC San Diego Extension’s Brewing Certificate here.

Secrets to his success A screenwriter helps students get ready for their close up

by Kelly Davis

bv1a4605-filtereditIt’s a bit cliché to ask someone who works in filmmaking, “What’s your favorite movie?” But you have to do it. Carlos de los Rios doesn’t hesitate: Casablanca.

“I sound like an old man saying Casablanca,” he said with a laugh. “I love a lot of films, but to me, Casablanca just sort of has it all. The classic writing, it’s got the love story, the crisp back-and-forth lines.”

De los Rios, who’ll be teaching Screenwriting II and a new course called Building Your Screenwriting Career during UC San Diego Extension’s winter quarter, has been making films since he was in high school when he’d recruit friends to act in short spoofs inspired by Saturday Night Live sketches. The films were good enough to get him accepted into USC’s prestigious film writing program, which grants admission to only 24 students a year, and where de los Rios learned from greats such as Julius Epstein, who co-wrote Casablanca, and Michael Creighton. John Singleton, a couple years shy of his debut film, Boyz n the Hood, was de los Rios’ freshman-year advisor.

Though de los Rios was a self-described “drama geek king” in high school, he decided to pursue screenwriting because it was the piece of the movie-making puzzle that posed the biggest challenge. A screenplay is a film’s blueprint, guiding every aspect of its creation.

“Every department, whether it’s props or costumes, the place they go to figure out what they’re doing, they go to the script,” he said.

De los Rios graduated from USC in 1993 and spent the next several years working on scripts and building relationships in Hollywood. His big break was the 2000 film Playing Mona Lisa, starring Alicia Witt (Urban Legend) as a down-on-her-luck concert pianist who’s forced to move back home to live with her parents, played by Marlo Thomas and Elliot Gould. The film, which was produced by Touchstone Pictures, was an adaptation of the play Two Goldsteins on Acid, written by de los Rios’ wife, Marni Freedman.

“We had a great time,” he said. “We won a bunch of awards; it made a lot of money. It wasn’t a gigantic hit of any kind, but it certainly got us going. I never looked back—I just kept going.”

Of the films de los Rios has made, none has been entirely his own—and that’s not unusual in Hollywood, he said. Many screenwriters work collaboratively, either with a producer or director who has rough ideas for a film and needs someone to build the story. They might be paired with another screenwriter to develop a script, or hired as a “script doctor” to fix up a screenplay that’s not quite there yet.

Since 2007, de los Rios has partnered with director Lawrence Roeck, helping bring Roeck’s ideas to life. In 2007, the two made The Forger, which stars a young Joshua Hutcherson—who went on to play Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games—and Lauren Bacall in her last role before her death in 2014. De los Rios said that working with Bacall was “an honor.”

Last year, he and Roeck finished Diablo, a western thriller starring Clint Eastwood’s son, Scott Eastwood, and Danny Glover. Diablo won best feature at the 2015 San Diego Film Festival. De los Rios and Roeck are currently working on two more films: Demigods, which is slated for a 2018 release, and The Crags, about an eccentric scientist who goes missing after inheriting a large amount of money.

While there are plenty of successful solo screenwriters—and writer/directors, such as Quentin Tarantino and Richard Linklater—de los Rios urges his students to embrace a collaborative approach to, as he puts it, “take away some of the loneliness from the process.”

screen“When someone’s hitting a rough patch—there’s a flaw in their storyline and the writer’s not feeling so great—I’ll turn to the group and say: ‘Hey, this is all of our script. Where’s the ideas here?’ I make the group take responsibility for each other’s work. That’s what I’m trying to do—I try to make it a community.”

A broad mix of students take de los Rios’ classes. Some are undergrads fulfilling a requirement. Others are older students who might be thinking about a career switch. And, often, he’ll have students who’ve already completed a screenplay and are looking to hone their craft and see if they can create a marketable product.

One piece of advice he gives them: write for yourself—don’t write the film you think Hollywood wants.

“You should really think to yourself, ‘What would I watch?’ You should create the product you yourself would actually buy,” he said.

And, just because a film has been done before doesn’t mean there’s not an opportunity for a fresh take.

“The appetite [in Hollywood] is a lot bigger than the supply” of screenplays, he said. “I still think there’s a lot of room out there. It’s still going to be a story about war, or two brothers fighting each other, or two neighbors that don’t get along, or the hero versus an awful villain. There’s always a new skin to put on this skeleton, and that’s where the individuality of the writer comes in.”

And even if you don’t aspire to write the next Casablanca, learning what makes a good screenplay—its demand for structure and precise, vivid language—can have a transformative effect not only on how you approach writing but also on your appreciation of film as an art form.

“I think people can walk away and go, ‘Now I’m watching movies and I’m seeing things I never saw before,’” de los Rios said, “and there’s a pleasure in that regardless of whether you ever actually intend to write a screenplay.”

50 Voices of the Future: Blair Thornley on finding artistic inspiration

blairthornley50-2In honor of UC San Diego Extension’s first 50 years, 50 Voices of the Future asks thought leaders about the trends, breakthroughs and social advances they foresee over the next 50 years.

The best artists tend to share this in common: they follow their own instincts, their own voices, rather than succumbing to a singular obsession with how to please an audience. Blair Thornley is a big believer in creating things that “come from the heart.” She is an award-winning illustrator, painter and animator whose work has garnered a national following and appeared in publications such as The New York Times and Vanity Fair as well as prominent ad campaigns. She lives in North Park and has taught classes at UC San Diego Extension, among other places. She looks for inspiration wherever she can find it – and one source happens to be her students. “I love being able to interact with young people and see how they’re thinking and how they problem-solve with their art,” she says. “And it keeps me on my toes.”

Why is the work you do important?

I feel that art reaches people on maybe a spiritual level or a deeper level to communicate one person to another and I feel that is important for our culture – for people to feel encouraged and hopeful by feeling connected to others. I think writing and music and acting and all of those things do very much the same thing. And visual art, when it’s from the heart, reaches other people, and that’s why I think it’s important.

See a sampling of Blair’s work at


What are the influential/exciting developments happening in your field now and why?

The web and social media are changing everything. It has changed the field of illustration – it’s gutted the market and made illustrations very cheap and made it very hard to make a living as an illustrator. I think visual art has become fast and cheap. On the Internet, it’s too easy to lift something and use it. Many people who have not studied art can sample other people’s work and shove it together and call it art, too. Most illustrators that I know don’t do it full-time anymore because of those changes. Young artists need to start fighting for their rights when it comes to copyright issues.

The good side of social media and the digital world is that now I can look online and find other artists that I wouldn’t have found otherwise. I do that all the time on Instagram – I find wonderful artists around the world who are inspiring, and I wouldn’t have found them otherwise. Also, computer advances have helped. With Photoshop, you can do brilliant things. I use it to scan and clean up and send work, but what’s really great is I can make a gigantic poster of my artwork pretty cheaply, I can self-publish books, I can send my work to a gallery with very high-resolution and very quickly. It’s easier to get my art out into the world. And when I put it on Instagram, I’m connecting with the outside world right away and getting feedback right away. If you don’t find a way through social media to get your work out, then you absolutely disappear.

What’s the next big thing?

Artists really need to do work that’s personal and comes from their heart, not to repeat themselves to make money, not to be derivative of other people’s work to make money, but to really develop themselves and keep exploring and experimenting and do their very best in whatever visual medium they’re working in to be really true to themselves. I don’t think that’s new. That would have been my advice 100 years ago, too. I don’t know what the next big things is other than that each person as an artist has to go out and figure that out every day. Artists have the responsibility to reinvigorate themselves on a very regular basis.


How big an impact will your field play in shaping the future of the San Diego region and beyond?

San Diego is a little bit like an open canvas. If somebody wanted to do something dramatic, they could go ahead and do it. There are artists and architects in town doing interesting things. I’m in North Park, where there’s a lot of young people, and that’s very exciting. Many of the new places are very creative. They’re kind of hand-made places. It’s not The Gap and it’s not corporate, which is exciting. It’s quite amazing. I never expected it. Want you really want is young people coming in and trying new things.

Hop into your time machine…what does the future look like for this field in 50 years?

Whether it’s today, in 10 years, in 50 years, the best artists will always be true to themselves. Whether you’re drawing or painting, make it sincere, and always try new things and do it from your heart. Don’t do what you think other people want to see – because that’s just death.

Learn more about Blair Thornley and the courses she teaches on our website, and explore other Art areas such as Art History, Children’s Book Writing & Illustration, Fine Art, Illustration, and Studio & Decorative Arts.

Helen Edison Lecture Series presents Steve Clemons


Sept 23  |  7 PM  |  Mandeville Auditorium, UC San Diego

The Atlantic’s Washington editor-at-large leads a discussion on the impending presidential election. Held in collaboration with Voice of San Diego to kick off Politifest.

We are in the midst of one of the most contentious and controversial presidential elections in modern history. Steve Clemons, Washington editor at large for The Atlantic, will a moderate a panel that will examine how this year’s presidential election is fundamentally reshaping the political process at every level of government – national, state and local – both now and in the future. The panelists include:

·       Thad Kousser, chair and professor of political science at UC San Diego
·       Scott Lewis, editor of the Voice of San Diego
·       Laura Fink, principal, Fink & Hernandez Consulting

UC San Diego is hosting the free event in collaboration with Voice of San Diego to help kick off its Politifest, which takes place the following day on Sat. Sept. 24 at San Diego State University. Guests who attend the Helen Edison lecture will receive discounted admission to Politifest.

For more information and to register online, visit

50 Voices of the Future: Scott Robinson on human-centered design


In honor of UC San Diego Extension’s first 50 years, 50 Voices of the Future asks thought leaders about the trends, breakthroughs and social advances they foresee over the next 50 years.

When it comes to design, Scott Robinson thinks Frank Lloyd Wright said it best: “Form follows function—that has been misunderstood. Form and function should be one, joined in a spiritual union.”  As the founder, president and CEO of FreshForm, an experiential branding agency, Robinson takes that advice to heart, leveraging human-centered design principles to grow and differentiate brands in today’s ever-changing digital landscape, including Acura, Honda, Ballast Point, Facebook, Intel, ExxonMobil, Qualcomm and University of San Diego. Robinson has been in the field of design and marketing for nearly 20 years and at the helm of FreshForm since 2001 and remains intensely passionate about the intersection of marketing, design, technology, innovation and consumer behavior in the digital age.

(1) Why is the work you do important?
Human-centered design is a creative approach to solving both large- and small-scale problems and is at the heart of what we do at FreshForm. I’m an advocate for design and what it provides as a competitive advantage for growth-oriented companies, organizations and institutions. At FreshForm, we combine design and technology to create what we call “experiential branding.” Good design matters because it helps alleviate frustrations, allows for efficiency, creates an emotional connection and can positively influence behavioral change.

At the community level, I’m involved with two important initiatives. One is called the Design Forward Alliance, which is an advocacy group promoting the value of design. Don Norman, the director of the Design Lab at UC San Diego, was the catalyst for the organization and an active advisor. The other initiative is the San Diego Brand Alliance, spearheaded by the San Diego Regional Economic Development Corporation, which is helping craft a global brand for the region.

(2) What are the influential/exciting development happening in your field now and why?
I’m excited about the recent push to advance design education. Design thinking, which is a subset of human-centered design, is finding its way into K-12 and universities across the country. The newly opened Ideate High Academy in Downtown San Diego has a mission is to provide a rich, design thinking–based curriculum for creative high school pupils that incorporates student-centered learning, interdisciplinary challenges, college preparation, internships, empathic social responsibility and innovative thinking for the 21st Century. The Design Lab at UC San Diego is creating an exciting, vibrant design community that pervades the campus, cutting across disciplines, developing cross-campus projects, combining practice with theory. And the University of Texas hired Doreen Lorenzo to oversee a campus-wide initiative to integrate design thinking into the curriculum across the university. All of these institutions are developing a new breed of designers and innovators.

(3) What’s the next big thing?
I’m curious how design can (and will) impact artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT). These are two areas that will change our lives drastically in the next decade. Can we design AI to be more empathetic? Can we be connected emotionally to the IoT devices in our homes and offices? The key is designing for hyper-personalization and contextual awareness.

(4) How big an impact will your field play in shaping the future of the San Diego region and beyond?
San Diego is at an interesting and exciting time. The energy and optimism today is like nothing I’ve ever felt growing up here in San Diego. Design will be at the center of how the future will be shaped. Our choice is whether we embrace good design for our region or not. In the next 50 years, our population will grow by nearly 40 percent, which will mostly be coming from local growth. Due to climate change and rising sea levels, we could be one of the most impacted regions in the country. How we adapt to these factors is up to us. Human-centered design can bring together cross-disciplinary experts to work through ideas and prototype solutions to some of these major initiatives. Design can be the common thread — regardless of the challenge we face.

(5) Hop in to your time machine…what does the future look like for this field in 50 years? How can individuals/companies get prepared for what’s next?
I see two futures – one that is well-designed and one that is not. In 50 years, a well-design future allows for technology to scale as rapidly as it needs to, but our lives are better and less frustrating because of it. A well-designed future allows health care to be more personal and thoughtful, more predictive, preventative and accessible. A well-designed future allows autonomous vehicles to alleviate many accidents, and increase the speed and comfort in our travels. A well-designed future allows for our homes, streets and neighborhoods to embrace smarter technologies, while also making them more secure. A well-designed future allows for us to preserve the natural beauty of this region and this earth, while finding new ways to support the growth and expansion of humanity and technology.

Alternatively, a future that is not well-designed will create a world that is much more visibly and functionally complex and frustrating.

UC San Diego Extension offers a variety of design-related certificate programs and courses each quarter, as well as year-long intensive program in Graphic and Web Design. Learn more in an online information session.

UC San Diego Extension announces “The Next Fifty” scholarship recipients

50thLogoCMYKUniversity of California San Diego Extension has announced the 10 recipients for “The Next Fifty” scholarships, which is part of its yearlong 50th anniversary celebration. The scholarship program is UC San Diego Extension’s way to give back to the community by helping people prepare for what’s next. Awardees can use the $5,000 scholarship toward Extension’s courses and certificates.

Extension selected the 10 recipients out of close to 500 applications and the recipients represent a wide variety of interests and backgrounds. The recipients and their areas of study are:

  1. David Beatty for Business Analysis Tools and Strategies
  2. Lala Forrest for Art and the Creative Process
  3. Rami Husseini for Datamining
  4. Norma Lopez for Teaching Adult Learners
  5. Patrick Mazza III for Occupational Health and Safety
  6. Alexandra Southard for Business Intelligence Analysis
  7. Kathleen Stadler for Fundraising and Development
  8. Abigail Wattierrez for Sustainable Business Practices
  9. Ryan Williams for Community Research and Program Evaluation
  10. Jordan Woolsey for Translation and Interpretation (Spanish/English)

The scholarships were open to those with at least a high school degree or equivalent and who saw UC San Diego Extension as a way to advance their career or pursue their passions. The applicants were required to write a 500-word essay on how Extension can help them prepare for the future, which will be shared on Extension’s blog in the coming weeks.

Ed Abeyta, assistant dean of community outreach and director of pre-college programs for UC San Diego Extension, said “The Next Fifty” scholarships deliver on Extension’s mission to offer the education and training needed to ensure the region is prepared for changes occurring in everything from the arts to technology to science.

“UC San Diego Extension wants to be a positive force for change. For more than 50 years, Extension has been evolving its programs and educational offerings to meet the needs of San Diego,” Abeyta said. “These scholarships will help individuals stay ahead of the curve and get ready for what’s next and underscore our commitment to lifelong learning.”

In addition to the scholarship program, Extension has been publishing a weekly blog feature called “Voices of the Future,” which showcases thought leaders including UC San Diego faculty, industry and civic leaders as well as Extension instructors on the technological and social advances envisioned in the next 50 years. These stories are designed to cover a wide variety of topics and highlight the life-changing advances happening on campus, in the San Diego region, and in the education sector itself.

UC San Diego Extension has also offered a variety of public lectures and programs to deliver on Extension’s anniversary celebration’s core mission and message, which is to prepare individuals and institutions for change. Upcoming events include a panel on the Election 2016 that Steve Clemons, Washington editor at large for The Atlantic, will moderate and that will feature, Thad Kousser, chair and professor of political science at UC San Diego; Scott Lewis, editor of the Voice of San Diego; and Laura Fink, professional political consultant.

To find out more about UC San Diego Extension’s anniversary scholarships, blog features and events, visit

50 Voices of the Future: Thad Kousser talks politics and data


In honor of UC San Diego Extension’s first 50 years, 50 Voices of the Future asks thought leaders about the trends, breakthroughs and social advances they foresee over the next 50 years.

Nowadays political scientists are able to study and analyze more data than at any time in human history, with social-media sites and the rest of the internet offering a treasure trove of information about human behavior and its influence on politics. Such massive amounts of information can be overwhelming, according to Thad Kousser, chair of UC San Diego’s Department of Political Science. One of the profession’s biggest challenges, he says, is figuring out how to make sense of all this data in meaningful ways. He’s confident that the future’s best political scientists will take the same approach of today’s best practitioners: they will come up with compelling theories, find creative ways to test those theories – and follow the facts wherever those facts might lead.

(1) Why is the work you do important?

The political world is becoming more and more confusing, dynamic and high-stakes. Our challenges is understanding both the primal political instincts that have always motivated voters and candidates and how those translate into the new political world that we live in, which is increasingly online and high-tech. That’s what makes being in this field interesting.

(2) What are the influential/exciting developments happening in your field now and why?

Our department is trying to make sure we use smart analysis, shaped by rigorous theory, to attack the massive data sets being created by the internet. One colleague of mine at UC San Diego worked with Facebook to run an election experiment involving millions of people, which showed clearly that you’re more likely to vote if you find out that your social-media connections also voted. One of our new UC San Diego colleagues has done work on which blogs are censored in China and found that if you want to oppose the government, that’s ok. But if you want to mobilize people to get together against the government, that’s what they’ll censor. And she found this by analyzing millions of blogs that were censored and then ran a similar experiment where they put up lots of different kinds of blogs to see which ones would get taken down by the great firewall. So if you say, hey, I don’t like what the government’s going, they’ll leave that up. But if you say, hey, let’s all get together on a street corner to protest it, they’ll take that down. The point of all this is that gathering data is no longer the challenge. Making sure we learn about politics through that data is the challenge.

(3) What’s the next big thing?

Students coming to us over the next ten to twenty years are going to have such strong STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) backgrounds. They’re going to take this big leap forward in their ability to scrape the web, to use artificial intelligence, to quickly code and categorize data. We want to make sure political science is relevant to students and allows them to use those analytical skills to learn about and shape the political world. Also, we want to make sure we’re asking the right questions with all these massive data sets and high-powered tools.

(4) How big an impact will your field play in shaping the future of the San Diego region and beyond?

San Diego is at a time of major demographic transition that will lead to political transition. We have colleagues who are running surveys near the border. We have colleagues sending students out to internships throughout the city in political and community groups. We have a lot of scholars working with community non-profits to figure out how to turn out voters who are new to the country and new to the political process. Those are the ways that our discipline and our department will try to play a role in shaping San Diego.

(5) Hop into your time machine…what does the future look like for this field in 50 years?  How can individuals/companies get prepared for what’s next?

There will be new statistical techniques and new data sets that I can’t imagine. But what I hope is that they’ll be combined with what our discipline has always done well, which is immerse yourself in real political contexts so you can get a sense for how the political world works, then come up with hypotheses you put at risk with research where you can either confirm or disprove your hypothesis. That’s what makes political science a true science.

Thad Kousser is one of the panelists in an upcoming discussion featuring Scott Lewis (Voice of San Diego Editor-in-Chief) and Laura Fink (professional political consultant) and is being moderated by Washington editor-at-large for The Atlantic, Steve Clemons. A kickoff event for this year’s Politifest, the panel will examine how this year’s presidential election is fundamentally reshaping the political process at every level of government – national, state, and local – both now and into the future.

50 Voices of the Future: Marcie Wessels on the fate of children’s books


In honor of UC San Diego Extension’s first 50 years, 50 Voices of the Future asks thought leaders about the trends, breakthroughs and social advances they foresee over the next 50 years.

It might seem both tempting and cynical to conclude that book reading is going extinct, especially among kids, who live in an age of virtual reality and other fast-evolving forms of gadgetry. But many authors, Marcie Wessels among them, don’t buy this type of thinking. The way Wessels sees it, as long as your story is well-told, you’ll find an audience, even if that story comes in the form of words written on hundreds of pages of paper, with a spine holding all that paper together. Wessels – a children’s author whose first book, Pirate’s Lullaby, was published last year – believes the written word will always have the power to connect with people. Of course, when your target audience is the very youngest of readers, having some pictures alongside those words is always helpful, too.

(1) Why is the work you do important?

I tell stories and stories are what connect us. They are what have always connected us and what will always connect us. Books and stories are windows and mirrors. They’re a way for us to understand ourselves and our experiences. But they’re also a window into other cultures and other lives. Books in general help us become more empathic and open-minded. And with children, books can open up a whole new world. Children are naturally curious and books fulfill their desire for knowledge and can ignite their own curiosities.

(2) What are the influential/exciting developments happening in your field now and why?

The We Need Diverse Books Movement. It was started by people in the kid-lit world who feel minorities and different points of view aren’t represented within the canon of children’s literature. The population of the United States is changing, and its cultural diversity should be better reflected in our literature. Everyone should have access to books. And everyone should have access to telling his or her own story.

(3) What’s the next big thing

New technologies like e-books are giving more people access to a platform for telling their stories. But there is also a renaissance of sorts in traditional publishing for children. Some of the most talented writers and illustrators are creating beautiful pieces of art in a form that is underappreciated – picture books. There’s an increased respect for visual story-telling. Look at the growing popularity of graphic novels or highly illustrated stories. There’s a need for that, a call for that. My son was a bit of a reluctant reader but when I gave him a graphic novel, it opened up a completely new world for him.

(4) How big an impact will your field play in shaping the future of the San Diego region and beyond?

I read somewhere that 20 percent of people in San Diego County are either illiterate or functionally illiterate, which is a huge problem. It can be prevented in future generations by instilling in kids a lifelong love of reading and learning. In the spring, I had the opportunity to partner with Words Alive, a local literacy organization, which goes into underserved schools and does story time with the kids. It was exciting to work with others in the community who are also interested in putting books into the hands of kids – kids that might not otherwise have access. If I go out into the community, do a story time and inspire one child to read, I feel I’ve done my job.

(5) Hop into your time machine…what does the future look like for this field in 50 years?  How can individuals/companies get prepared for what’s next?

In recent years, publishers have created enhanced e-books that embed music or videos or link to content on the web. This may be just one of the ways we tell stories in the future. But books will always exist. The medium we use to tell a story may change, but stories will always be told. Stories fulfill a basic human need. Who doesn’t love a good story?

Learn more about the UC San Diego Extension specialized certificates in Children’s Book Writing and Children’s Book Illustration on our website, or view the online information session on YouTube.

(Photo by Roxyanne Young)