The Creator State

The Creator State

Welcome to the Creator State where we share stories of social innovation and entrepreneurship from movers, shakers, change-makers, and creators. Each episode will celebrate success (and failure!), ingenuity, and the endless pursuit of knowledge.

From education to implementation, join us as we explore everything in between: The Creator State.

All Episodes

Crime novelist Tod Goldberg has made a career of writing about bad people behaving badly. A New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen books, including the popular “Burn Notice” series, his work has been published in a dozen languages all over the world. In addition to exploring the dark side of glitzy cities in his novels, he serves as director of UC Riverside’s low-residency MFA program where he is a professor of creative writing. He is also co-host of the popular podcast “Literary Disco” with writer Julia Pistell and actor Rider Strong. Goldberg’s latest book is “The Low Desert: Gangster Stories,” a collection of short stories expanding upon the universe of his acclaimed “Gangsterland” series. Set mostly in Goldberg’s own backyard of the Coachella Valley, his new book explores the noirish underbelly of California’s inland desert. UCR Magazine Associate Editor Jessica Weber caught up with Goldberg to talk about falling in love with crime fiction, the secret world behind the palm trees and fancy desert resorts of Southern California, and why we sometimes root for the bad guy. Listen in for the lowdown on “The Low Desert.”

May 13

33 min 13 sec

Can you name the fastest land mammal in North America? If you guessed pronghorn, you’re right. In the world, they’re second only to the cheetah. A team from UC Riverside met some friendly and very fast pronghorns along with giraffes, chimpanzees, and okapis while interviewing UCR alumna Denise Verret at the Los Angeles Zoo and Botanical Gardens. The zoo, according to Denise, represents the best of Los Angeles, a place she loves dearly and has dedicated her life to serving. In 2019, after three decades working for the city of Los Angeles, Denise was named CEO and director of the zoo, becoming the first African American woman to lead a major U.S. zoo. In this wild episode of The Creator State, Denise shares her love for animals and LA during an interview with UCR Magazine editor Omar Shamout inside The Lair, the reptile and amphibian house at the LA Zoo.

Mar 2020

35 min 36 sec

Tom Lutz knows a lot about writing. He writes about travel, he’s written books about crying, nervousness, and even about doing nothing. His works have received numerous accolades, including the American Book Award, and have appeared on New York Times and Los Angeles Times bestseller lists. Tom is the founding editor-in-chief of The Los Angeles Review of Books, known as LARB (“larb”), founder of The LARB Radio Hour, The LARB Quarterly Journal, The LARB/USC Publishing Workshop, and LARB Books. At UC Riverside, Tom is a distinguished professor and chair of the Department of Creative Writing, as well as the director of Writer’s Week, the longest running, free literary event in California. Tune in to hear Tom talk with UCR Magazine editor Omar Shamout about his fiction debut, “Born Slippy,” and about writing, of course.

Feb 2020

41 min 5 sec

Rafael Lopez knows when to press play. As a DJ, music producer, and artist based in Palm Desert, California, he’s known as Alf Alpha. He creates and performs hip hop and electronic dance music for nightclubs, festivals, TV and film, and parties…sometimes from the inside of one of his 70’s era Volkswagen busses, customized and retrofitted as mobile DJ booths. Alf Alpha began his career as a DJ while attending the University of California, Riverside, where he played soccer for the Highlanders and was a founding member of the UCR Chapter of the Hip Hop Congress. Following an album release in 2009 and self-released beat tape the following year, Alf Alpha was invited to perform at the annual Coachella Valley Music and Art Festival in 2011 and has been an artist at the festival every year since his debut. Alf Alpha is a DJ for the Los Angeles Football Club and brands across the globe, and he is also an educator, sharing his time and talents with high school students during six-week DJ workshops.

Nov 2019

40 min 57 sec

After learning her 10-year-old sister was being bullied at school for her dark skin, UCR alumna Taylor Pollard tweeted a photo of her younger sister with the hashtag #flexininmycomplexion. The photo and phrase went viral, with positive messages flooding in from around the world, including support from celebrities Alicia Keys, Lena Waithe, and Lupita Nyong’o. And just like that: a business was born, launching with a t-shirt line made in their garage that sold out in 10 minutes. Under the leadership of Taylor and her sister, Kheris Rogers, Flexin’ In My Complexion has evolved from t-shirts emblazoned with the phrase once used by their grandmother to encourage their confidence into a non-profit aimed at empowering youth against bullying. Taylor now splits time between managing business operations and her younger sister’s exploding fashion career as a model and designer, the youngest to ever show during Fashion Week, as well as speaking engagements, media appearances, and partnerships with LeBron James and Nike. Join us for a conversation with Taylor Pollard about using social media savvy to launch a business (and a movement), and learn how a major change at UCR aligned perfectly to prepare her for the future she couldn’t even imagine.

Oct 2019

30 min 37 sec

Regina Louise never knew a “normal” childhood. Throughout her tumultuous youth, she was shuffled through more than 30 foster homes and psychiatric facilities, all before the age of 18. Compounding the trauma, a racially motivated ruling in 1974 prevented Regina’s counselor from being able to adopt her. And yet… After aging out of the foster care system, Regina pursued her dream of higher education, built a thriving hair salon business, and became a successful author, motivational speaker, and advocate for foster youth. Following nearly 30 years of separation, Regina reunited with her counselor and was adopted as an adult in the same courthouse where the pair lost the previous legal battle. For more than 16 years now, Regina has traveled the country telling her story to bring awareness to the systemic failures that continue to affect foster youth today. In April 2019, a film based on Regina’s memoirs premiered on Lifetime alongside PSAs about adoption and foster care, giving voice to the more than 400,000 children currently in the U.S. foster care system. Join us for this moving conversation with Regina Louise about taking control of your own story no matter the circumstances and using your voice to become your own hope.

Oct 2019

20 min 48 sec

How hard is it to take an “ugly” photo? Former corporate lawyer turned photographer Chris Jordan is certainly trying. For many years, he’s been looking through his lens at the destructive power of our culture and global mass consumption. Chris documented devastation following Hurricane Katrina and visited Midway Island for photo and video projects about plastic pollution responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of seabirds. His TED Talk, “Turning Powerful Stats into Art,” has received more than 1.7 million views and his documentary ALBATROSS is currently available as free public artwork and screening all over the world. Chris’s heartbreaking art inspires viewers to reflect on the consequences of convenience and the effects of our collective consumption habits, elevating his work into environmental activism. So exactly how hard is it to take an “ugly” photo? Chris says it can’t be done. Even while photographing heaps of discarded electronics, Chris sees that beauty permeates everything in our world. Join us for a thought-provoking conversation with Chris Jordan about how to find hope and beauty amidst despair and learn more about his exhibition “Intolerable Beauty,” on view at UCR’s Barbara and Art Culver Center of the Arts in downtown Riverside through January 2020.

Sep 2019

31 min 32 sec

Nwaka Onwusa has managed the enviable feat of making music the guiding theme of her career. According to her, the road to curating music history — first at the Grammy Museum in downtown Los Angeles and now at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland — began at UC Riverside. The first in her family to attend college, Onwusa says her experience working in the UCR fine arts box office got her foot in the door at the Grammy Musuem box office, then joining its education department, and later becoming its curator. In 10 years, she conceptualized, researched, and produced more than 20 exhibits for the museum, including “Legends of Motown,” “All Eyez on Me: The Writings of Tupac Shakur,” and “Hip-Hop: A Cultural Odyssey.” At the Rock Hall, Onwusa hopes to bring a broader range of artists into the fold, including those traditional rock ’n’ roll fans might consider outside the genre’s boundaries, especially more West Coast hip-hop artists. Listen in for a conversation with Nwaka Onwusa as we discuss her career ascent in music and her new role. Plus, we’ll put her on the spot to name her all-time favorite songs.

Sep 2019

24 min 47 sec

Fatima Farheen Mirza started writing her first novel in a classroom at UC Riverside. Following her passion to pursue writing full time, she changed majors from pre-med to creative writing and went on to become a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Fatima’s debut novel “A Place for Us” was the first book to be released by Sarah Jessica Parker’s new publishing imprint, SJP for Hogarth. It became an instant New York Times Bestseller and was named one of the best books of 2018 by The Washington Post, NPR, and People magazine. We sat down with the author in the Middle Eastern Student Center at UCR for a conversation about how characters evolve and teach us to reflect upon our own lives. Join us as we explore identity amid powerful family dynamics and how freeing it can be to allow yourself and your art to become what they need to be.

Aug 2019

31 min 15 sec

What’s a good road trip without great snacks? For Eugene Kang, a road trip stop for beef jerky sparked his entrepreneurial journey to become the co-founder and CEO of Country Archer Jerky Company, a brand you might recognize from the shelves of Starbucks, Target, Whole Foods, and Costco stores across the country. Growing up working in his parents’ gas station convenience stores, Eugene was familiar with popular snack options and with the hard work needed to run a thriving business. Following a record year of growth in 2018, Country Archer was included as one of the fastest-growing private companies on the Inc. 5000 list and Eugene was named to the 2019 Forbes 30 Under 30 List in the food and drink category. Join us as we talk with Eugene Kang in this episode about seizing opportunity, creating a national brand, and where his focus lies as a visionary leader.

Aug 2019

32 min 56 sec

Susan Straight was born in Riverside and still proudly calls it home. Learning this about her comes as a surprise to many. But for Susan, the best, most powerful stories often begin at home. In her new memoir, “In the Country of Women,” Susan explores home, the intricacies of family, and the stories of her family’s female ancestors. Susan is a distinguished professor of creative writing at UC Riverside, where she has taught since 1988. She has published eight novels including “Highwire Moon,” “Between Heaven and Here,” and “A Million Nightingales.” She has been a finalist for the National Book Award, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, and the National Magazine Award. Join host Rickerby Hinds for an insightful conversation with acclaimed author Susan Straight as we discuss what she calls “those who leave and those who stay,” writing, life, her love for Riverside, and the inspiring power and resiliency of women.

Aug 2019

37 min 46 sec

Shelby Worthington Loomis has a talent creating spaces people enjoy being in. Whether meeting friends for a drink or celebrating some of life’s grandest occasions, places play an important role in shaping the meaningful moments in our lives. In Riverside, there’s an emerging downtown scene – the historic Mission Inn, a convention center, eateries, antique shops, churches, museums, and nearby universities. Shelby Worthington Loomis believes so much in the potential of the area, she’s investing her time, energy, influence, and money to its success as a regional destination. Be sure to check out for notes, links, and photos from this episode. In this episode, join host Rickerby Hinds for a conversation with Shelby inside an event venue she owns in downtown Riverside. The building has a storied past: It opened in the 1920s as a hotel and furniture store. During World War II, it served as anti-aircraft intelligence headquarters and in the 70s, transformed into the Riverside Ballet Arts dance school. In 2014, Shelby partnered with a friend to renovate the space into the unique event venue now known as Loft .84.

Sep 2018

31 min 10 sec

Tech entrepreneur Kevin Marcus is naturally curious. With a knack for problem solving and tendency to take risks, he’s created some amazing opportunities for success. He’s started and sold companies, is the author of several patents, and he’s a self-proclaimed “tech evangelist” who created some of the world’s first mobile phone games. Today, Kevin is the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer at Versium, a predictive analytics company helping businesses make sense of all their data. Tune in to hear how boredom can fuel innovation and why it’s a great idea to step outside your comfort zone every once in a while. Be sure to check out for notes, links, and photos from this episode. Hosted by Rickerby Hinds and recorded inside a computer lab in the Marlan and Rosemary Bourns College of Engineering at the University of California, Riverside.

Sep 2018

30 min 1 sec

Before Heidi Marie Garrett Villa was a successful bridal hairstylist and makeup artist, she was a Division I soccer player and the kicker for her high school football team. Tune in to hear Heidi explain how she’s turning her wedding industry competitors into a supportive community and why her biggest goal is to be able to give her services away for free. We’ll also explore how social media is altering the creative process for artists, and how she’s using her experiences as a competitive athlete, hair and makeup artist, and health coach to create new definitions of beauty. Be sure to check out for notes, links, and photos from this episode. Hosted by Rickerby Hinds and recorded in the Goldware Library at the University of California, Riverside Alumni & Visitors Center.

Aug 2018

32 min 56 sec

From pitching projects on the Comic-Con showroom floor to a hip-hop fellowship at Harvard, John Jennings is creating art to inspire a new generation in an increasingly visual world. In this episode we talk with the award-winning illustrator about his work on the New York Times best-selling graphic novel adaptation of Octavia Butler's classic dark fantasy novel “Kindred,” and discuss ways in which art allows us to explore how the past continues to influence the present. Be sure to check out for notes, links, and photos from this episode. Hosted by Rickerby Hinds. This episode was recorded at the Center for Ideas and Society at the University of California, Riverside.

Aug 2018

34 min 16 sec