From documentary films and interdisciplinary research to isolating stem cells in fish, California State University, Chico faculty are driving to advance their fields.

The University has named three professors as recipients of its annual Lantis Endowed University Chairs, selecting them from a competitive pool of 10 outstanding and worthy applications. Brian Brazeal, from the Department of Anthropology; Chiara Ferrari, from the Department of Media Arts, Design, and Technology; and David Stachura, from the Department of Biological Sciences, each will receive a financial award to advance their research and student-centered learning projects.

Endowments of faculty positions help grow the potential of our students and provide a firm foundation for the people whose work transforms our communities, region and the world. Endowed professorships, like the Lantis award, support projects that advance student success, community engagement, and scholarly or creative activity. The awards range from $20,000 to $40,000 (as appropriate to the project), which can be spent on release time, travel, equipment, student stipends, or a summer salary.

Brazeal has been a professor at CSU, Chico since 2007 and earned his PhD from the University of Chicago in 2007. As the founder and director of the Advanced Laboratory for Visual Anthropology (ALVA), he provides students the unique opportunity to collaborate and produce anthropological documentary films for television broadcast and use in classrooms. Brazeal received the Outstanding Research Mentor Award in 2016–17 and the Professional Achievement Honor in 2017.

Brazeal will use the Lantis funds to bring student cinematographers to Thailand and Sri Lanka to capture footage for an ALVA documentary film on the international trade in rubies and sapphires. The team will travel abroad to conduct collaborative ethnographic studies on gemstone mining and trading, and a student editor will compile the footage into a documentary film.

Ferrari joined the CSU, Chico faculty in 2007, after earning her PhD from UCLA in cinema and media studies earlier that year. She chairs the Educational Policies and Procedures Committee as a member of the University’s Academic Senate. In addition, she is the curriculum chair for the College of Communication and Education, the chair of the Faculty Development Advisory Board, and the coordinator for the Quality for Learning and Teaching Program. She was also recognized with the University’s Outstanding Faculty Service Award for 2017–18.

Ferrari plans to use the Lantis professorship and create a documentary film about the city of Matera in her native Italy in a project focusing on film location, film-induced tourism and cultural heritage. This multi-disciplinary collaboration will provide a holistic look at how film representation can be interpreted and connected to broader elements of cultural heritage. Ferrari’s research will be shared in a public interdisciplinary presentation that will accompany the opening of two exhibits in 2021, one at the Jacki Headley University Art Gallery and one at the Valene L. Smith Museum of Anthropology.

Stachura has been a professor at CSU, Chico since 2014, and earned his PhD at the University of Pennsylvania. He is a member of the University’s Center for Water and the Environment, and also runs his own lab on campus, the Stachura Laboratory, which focuses its research on hematopoiesis (blood cell production).

Stachura intends to use his Lantis professorship toward continued work with fish, isolating their mesenchymal stem cells that can be coaxed into producing different types of tissue (like muscle, fat, bone and cartilage). The project will generate a cell line that can make all the cell types of a fish fillet. Stachura’s research will contribute to understanding cellular reprogramming and will engage students from the local community and Chico High School, as well as CSU, Chico.

Professor David Lantis was a faculty member of the Department of Geography who understood that private giving would help to enrich the teaching and learning environment of the University. Professor Lantis and his wife, Helen, donated $2 million to endow a University Chair in their name, and this endowment allows for the annual funding of University Chairs. Past recipients of the Lantis University Chair include Michael Ennis, Susan Roll, Georgia Fox, Rachel Teasdale, David Colson, Michelle Neyman Morris, Stephen Lewis, Greg Kallio, Tracy Butts, Kate Transchel, Lori Beth Way and Byron Wolf.