CSUEB Alumnus Awarded MacArthur Foundation 'Genius Grant'

  • BY Cal State East Bay
  • September 28, 2016

Cal State East Bay alumnus and graphic novelist Gene Luen Yang (MS ’03, Education) was recently announced as one of 23 recipients of a $625,000 no-strings-attached MacArthur Foundation fellowship, often referred to as a “genius grant.”

Yang and the other fellows were awarded the grants for their exceptional creativity and potential for future contributions to their respective fields, according to the foundation.

“While our communities, our nation, and our world face both historic and emerging challenges, these 23 extraordinary individuals give us ample reason for hope,” said Julia Stasch, MacArthur Foundation president. “They are breaking new ground in areas of public concern, in the arts, and in the sciences, often in unexpected ways. Their creativity, dedication, and impact inspire us all.”

Born in Alameda and raised in the South Bay, Yang graduated from Cal State East Bay’s online master’s in education program in 2003. He taught computer science at Oakland's Bishop O’Dowd High School until last year, when he decided to dedicate more time to his writing and drawing. Earlier this year, he was the first graphic novelist to be named National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature by the Library of Congress.

Yang is a graphic novelist who uses his work to explore history and multicultural experiences, and as a creative instructional medium for children and young adults. He is also one of the writers of DC Comics’ “New Super-Man.”

In his book “American-Born Chinese,” Yang integrates metaphors from American comics, Chinese folklore and the Chinese immigrant experience. Three interlocking narratives tell of the struggles of teenager Jin Wang as he comes to terms with his bicultural identity and attempts to assimilate in America.

Cal State East Bay President Leroy Morishita said the recognition is an extraordinary honor for Yang.

“Receiving the MacArthur Foundation grant is a tremendous recognition for an artist such as Gene Yang who has been a trailblazer in his profession and an inspiration to his community,” Morishita said. “I have known Gene for many years and have been impressed by his ability to approach challenging topics in creative ways that engage and encourage dialogue.”

The MacArthur program awards unrestricted fellowships to individuals who have shown “extraordinary originality and dedication in their creative pursuits and a marked capacity for self-direction,” according to its website. Fellows are selected based on three criteria: exceptional creativity, a track record of significant accomplishment and potential for the fellowship to facilitate future creative work.

Recipients of the awards may be writers, scientists, artists, social scientists, humanists, teachers or entrepreneurs. The foundation does not require or expect specific products or reports of the fellows and does not evaluate their creativity during the fellowship.