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Thursday, June 1, 2023

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2017 Zahn Spirit of Innovation Award Winner Named

Graduating senior Anthony Berteaux is the recipient of the 2017 Zahn Spirit of Innovation Award, which honors exceptional entrepreneurial drive.
By Katie White

Anthony Berteaux and his father will have a lot to catch up on when they reunite for San Diego State University commencement this weekend. Berteaux is graduating on Sunday morning with a degree in journalism with an emphasis in media studies, and his father is flying in from Japan for the ceremony.

In addition to his degree, the 22 year-old Berteaux is celebrating another prestigious honor, he is the recipient of the 2017 Zahn Spirit of Innovation Award. The award is given annually to recognize a graduating senior for exceptional entrepreneurship.

A binational childhood

Berteaux was born in Los Angeles but his family moved to Japan when he was eight years old. He spent many of his formative years in Tokyo and moved back to the United States for high school.

“Although I grew up an American and went to an international school in Tokyo, coming back was a culture shock for me,” said Berteaux. “It was initially very hard to adjust to American culture and society.”

Berteaux turned to writing to process his experiences as a binational and biracial high school student.

“When I started out, I wrote columns mostly about what it was like to be Japanese in the United States and what it was like to experience all these American experiences for the first time,” said Berteaux. “Early on in my career here at San Diego State University, I discovered that I wasn’t going to be a traditional news journalist—I found a lot more passion and excitement in opinion journalism and advocacy journalism.”

Making a mark at SDSU

Soon after he came to SDSU in the fall of 2013, Berteaux joined KCR College Radio, for which he hosted a weekly radio talk show, “18 and Not Pregnant,” using the airtime discuss pop culture and his own personal experiences. In the spring of 2014, he started as an opinion writer for The Daily Aztec. His second column went viral and was subsequently covered by national media outlets, including The Huffington Post and Uproxx. He was promoted to senior staff writer and then assistant editor of the opinion section of The Daily Aztec.

“I wanted to tackle topics that no one else really wants to talk about openly, precisely because they are controversial and people aren’t having conversations about them,” said Berteaux. “In my writing and my journalism, what I want to do is jumpstart that conversation and get people talking about these difficult issues.”

Getting involved in the community

His desire to understand controversy led him to participate in the Anti-Defamation League’s Campus Leaders Mission trip to Israel and the West Bank during winter break in 2015. He has since returned to Israel and the West Bank on several occasions, both as a Tikkun Olam Journeys fellow and on a student leaders’ mission trip with Hillel.

In spring 2015, Berteaux was selected as a campus editor-at-large for The Huffington Post. In that role, he contributed to the publication and recruited other writers. During the summer, he and other campus editors-at-large were flown to New York for a two-day summit where they learned best practices from experts at the Huffington Post. He also wrote several columns that generated national attention, including one that criticized Jerry Seinfeld for his reluctance to perform on college campuses.

"The goal of the selection committee is to find recipients who have the courage and drive to make positive changes,” said Stephen Welter, SDSU’s vice president for research and dean of graduate affairs. “Berteaux’ public stances on diversity, anti-Semitism, sexism, and religious tolerance have already resulted in international coverage for his articles as well as an appearance on CNN International, making him a terrific candidate for this award.”

Berteaux has interned with the Anti-Defamation League of San Diego, freelanced for various publications and recently completed an internship at the San Diego Union Tribune’s opinion and editorial desk as a recipient of the Carleton-Hunt Internship Scholarship, a scholarship created by Mary Ruth Carleton, SDSU Vice President for University Relations and Development, and her husband Bruce Hunt.

In addition to his father, Berteaux will celebrate his achievements at SDSU with his grandparents, who met on the SDSU campus.

Berteaux is still looking for jobs and hopes to land a position where he can tell stories that bridge the cultural divide between the United States and Japan.

"In receiving this award, I am making a promise to the university and the donors that I will use this money and recognition to really make a difference,” said Berteaux.

The Zahn Spirit of Innovation Award is funded by Irwin Zahn and the Moxie Foundation and comes with a $25,000 scholarship. Zahn’s philanthropic giving goes beyond this annual scholarship. His donations also created the Zahn Innovation Platform Launchpad and the Zahn Professorship of Creativity and Innovation.