May 2018 Newsletter: Provost Update — Spartan Endeavors Make the News

Dear Campus Community,

Thank you to those who stopped by the farewell reception in my honor on May 7. I was struck by the number of people who dropped in to spend a few moments with me. I appreciate President Mary Papazian and others who shared some heartfelt thoughts with the crowd before allowing me to offer my thanks to all those with whom I’ve worked. I am still realizing just how much I am going to miss all of you, even as I look forward to my new adventure in Colorado. I want to express again that it has been an extraordinary honor to serve San Jose State University.

We are in our last stretch of the semester, with final exams under way and commencement in sight. I am especially looking forward to celebrating with our students on May 23-25, and it is bittersweet that this will be my last graduation season at San Jose State. Thank you to all the faculty and staff members who support our students, and propel them toward this momentous occasion. I hope to see many of you at the ceremonies next week.

Through the Academic Spotlight newsletter, I have welcomed the opportunity to share with you campus and division priorities, to tell stories about faculty and staff, and to reflect on events I have participated in throughout the year.

For this final newsletter of the year — and my final message as provost — I hope you will enjoy reading and watching recent news pieces that have featured members of our Spartan community. We have tremendous talent and experience in our ranks, and it is no surprise that regional, national and global media outlets turn to San Jose State. We hear from reporters who request an expert to speak on timely topics such as mudslides in Southern California, minimum wage increases or Women’s Marches. We have a robust roster of Faculty and Staff Experts who are prepared to provide a quick response on such issues as affordable housing, the evolution of technology, upcoming elections and many other subjects.

Other times we receive media coverage about the research conducted by students and faculty such as a study on how the flu spreads that made the New York Times California Report (scroll to the bottom of the story), or events we host like the Institute for the Study of Sports, Society and Social Change Town Hall on Gender and Equity. We also hear from news outlets who just want to share the compelling stories of Spartans, such as the team of engineering students who displayed unique vehicles at the SV Auto Show.

I am pleased to share with you some of the ways in which Spartans have been newsworthy in recent weeks. It is reassuring to know that when I am in Colorado, I will still be able to check in on San Jose State through the robust media coverage this university receives. Though we may be parting, I know that we all have wonderful journeys ahead of us and I wish you the best.

April 2018 Newsletter: Honors Convocation Celebrates Top Students

San Jose State University celebrated the 56th Annual Honors Convocation April 20, with a record number of students earning the distinction of Dean’s Scholars and President’s Scholars. This year, 4,105 Dean’s Scholars maintained a GPA of 3.65 or higher in two contiguous semesters of the last three while 505 President’s Scholars maintained a 4.0 during the same period. Read personal stories of some of the 2018 scholars online.

April 2018 Newsletter: Spartans Supporting Spartans — Giving, With a Dash of Fun

The annual Spartans Supporting Spartans campaign encourages the SJSU community to donate to campus programs. Last year's campaign raised $87,000. (Photo: David Schmitz)

The annual Spartans Supporting Spartans campaign encourages the SJSU community to donate to campus programs. Last year’s campaign raised $87,000. (Photo: David Schmitz)

By Lesley Seacrist

Did you get a chance to enjoy one of the “Moveable Coffee Breaks” during this year’s Spartans Supporting Spartans campaign?

The popular pop-up coffee stops — offering free drinks, food and giveaways —are a signature part of the annual eight-week campaign, which rallies San Jose State University faculty and staff to donate to campus programs.

The last coffee break of 2018 was April 12 in the student union but faculty and staff still have time to donate or become involved, according to co-chairs of the Spartan Supporting Spartans campaign Lisa Francesca, a communications specialist with the College of Engineering, and Amy D’Anna, a marketing coordinator for the College of International and Extended Studies.

During last year’s campaign, the committee helped to raise $87,000 through one-time gifts and payroll deductions to help with a variety of campus initiatives, including scholarships for students. In addition to the donations to the annual campaign, committee members sold raffle tickets for $1 each or six for $5 with a grand prize of a dedicated campus parking spot. The team raised $2,000 for the SJSU Student Hunger Fund. The raffle this year will benefit the SJSU Student Crisis Fund, which helps students who are faced with challenges from unexpected circumstances such as flooding, fire or other emergencies.

In past years, one of the groups that had the highest participation rate was Facilities Development and Operations custodial staff.

“We had a 5 a.m. coffee break to celebrate their generosity,” D’Anna said. “Examples like this put things into perspective.”

Francesca initially was inspired to help the SJSU Student Hunger Fund. She soon discovered Spartans from across campus coming together to make a difference.

“Our very name says a huge amount about coming together to help the students regardless of position or title,” Francesca said.

D’Anna also noticed an increased camaraderie between coworkers during the campaign.

“It’s not just a place where you work, but a community of people that will help you along your journey,” D’Anna said.

This is D’Anna’s third year participating on the committee and first year as co-chair. After seeing the generosity of staff and faculty, she’s been inspired to also become a contributor, even as a full-time student herself in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, where she is set to graduate this semester.

Both Francesca and D’Anna are passionate about connecting and communicating donor stories, and both were surprised to learn that creating a campus of caring has an impact on outside donations, too.

“Outside donors look at gifts and pledges made by faculty and staff,” Francesca said. “It’s not only about helping our students and creating a bond within the community, but positioning ourselves in the donor community.”

Donations for the 2018 Spartan supporting Spartans Campaign can be made via the campaign website.

April 2018 Newsletter: Graduate Student Presents Work on S.F. Gentrification

Grad student Natalie Fakhreddine studied gentrification and the displacement of people of color in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point. (Photo courtesy of Natalie Fakhreddine)

Grad student Natalie Fakhreddine studied gentrification and the displacement of people of color in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point. (Photo courtesy of Natalie Fakhreddine)

By Melissa Anderson

When Natalie Fakhreddine took an urban and regional planning course last semester, she did not know it would lead her to Chicago this spring. The master’s student researched gentrification and the displacement of people of color in San Francisco’s Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood for her final paper in the Social Issues in Planning class taught by Assistant Professor Gordon Douglas.

“The class and research I conducted throughout the semester was very insightful,” she said, noting that Douglas encouraged her to submit her paper for the Chicago Ethnography Conference.

Fakhreddine said she first became interested in studying the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood after seeing an uptick in development in the area. Through her research, she said she “was astounded to learn of BVHP’s history, and the consequences the community is facing as a result of widespread gentrification.” She discovered that while the neighborhood had seen an economic boost in recent years, long-time residents had not benefited from the new influx of luxury developments.

“When I found out my paper was accepted for the conference, the entire department was incredibly excited for me and helped me get prepared,” she said. “It was a great opportunity to meet passionate and bright students from across the country who are studying a variety of disciplines.”

As a shy person who doesn’t like public speaking, she said presenting at the conference took her out of her comfort zone.

“This experience was a great networking opportunity that allowed me to gain insight into the world of academia,” she said. “I was able to get a lot of really constructive feedback on my research through professors and students from a wide variety of disciplines. I left Chicago inspired and excited to continue pursuing my research in new ways I wasn’t aware of before.”

April 2018 Newsletter: English Professor Heading to U.K. University on Fulbright

Cathleen Miller, associate professor of English at SJSU, will be the first Distinguished Chair of the Humanities at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Cathleen Miller, associate professor of English at SJSU, will be the first Distinguished Chair of the Humanities at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

By David Goll

In a career already full of awards, honors and many accomplishments, Cathleen Miller, associate professor of English at San Jose State University, has received a prestigious Fulbright award and will conduct research into the phenomenon of women’s migration throughout the world.

As part of her honor from the J. William Fulbright Foreign Scholarship Board, Miller will serve as the first Distinguished Chair of the Humanities at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom from September 2018 through March 2019. The university is the largest in the U.K., with 40,000 students.

“Just getting the award is an honor, but to be the first person to hold this position is an amazing feeling,” Miller said, of being selected for the award that has a lengthy application process. “I’m still totally shocked.”
Along with her research, Miller will participate in another first for the university: teaching its inaugural class in creative nonfiction writing. It is her specialty at SJSU, where she teaches in the Master of Fine Arts (MFA) program.

Miller has taught at SJSU since 2004, after teaching stints at the University of San Francisco and Moraga’s Saint Mary’s College of California. She also serves as editor-in-chief of the 151-year-old Reed Magazine, the oldest literary journal in the western United States. Since 2015, she has directed SJSU’s Center for Literary Arts, a program founded in 1986 that has brought five Nobel Prize winners, 16 winners of the National Book Award and 34 recipients of the Pulitzer Prize to campus.

Dr. Noelle Brada-Williams, chair of SJSU’s Department of English and Comparative Literature, was not surprised Miller won this award.

“I am so proud of Professor Miller becoming the first Distinguished Chair of the Humanities at the University of Manchester,” she said. “I think her Fulbright is very well-deserved. She has made a name for herself writing about the rights of women …”

“Miller’s research on migration couldn’t be more topical and timely,” Brada-Williams said, given the huge numbers of refugees generated by the Syrian civil war and exodus of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, among other conflicts. According to the United Nations, 255 million people migrate worldwide annually.

“I hope her work will help her readers understand the refugee experience and gain insight into what our collective responsibility is in responding to our shared humanitarian crisis,” Brada-Williams said.

Miller’s distinguished academic career might have come as a surprise to her grandfather, who was less than supportive when she declared during her rural Missouri childhood she wanted to attend college. Her grandparents ran a small post office and her father worked at the McDonnell Douglas aerospace manufacturing plant in St. Louis.

She did enter college, becoming an art major at Southeast Missouri State University. In mid-career, she earned a Master’s of Fine Arts degree from Pennsylvania State University.

In the tradition of Southern writers, Miller, who considers herself a daughter of the South, is a successful author whose work has been translated into 55 languages. Among her books is Champion of Choice, the 2013 biography of Dr. Nafis Sadik of Pakistan, former executive director of the U.N. Population Fund and special advisor to the United Nations secretary general who went on to be a special advisor to the UN secretary general and a special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Asia. Twenty years ago, Miller published Desert Flower, the story of Somali nomad Waris Dirie, who became a model, then an activist who shared her experience with female genital mutilation. It was later adapted as a feature film shown in 34 countries.

Miller is also a passionate travel writer whose work has taken her to more than 30 countries. Her work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Chicago Tribune and Washington Post.

She’s most passionate about the welfare of women, especially those forced to leave their homes by war, political and economic strife. Miller said she looks forward to gaining a new perspective on the issue during her fellowship in England.

“I think the whole topic of migration in general is important to understand because it stems from widespread political and economic unrest, and is creating challenges in the nations on the receiving end as to how to accommodate and assimilate these populations arriving on their shores,” she said. “Women are much more vulnerable in this process — to exploitation, violence, sexual assault and trafficking, and we need to understand why they have risked so much to immigrate.”

In addition to her research, Miller remains a dedicated teacher. She wants her students to become marketable upon earning their degrees. She instructs them on how to compose book proposals for publishers, create business cards and have “author” pages on Facebook.

“We work on creating their identity as a writer,” she said.

She has a devoted following of current and former students.

“Professor Miller is present for her students,” said Sharon Simonson, a veteran journalist who served as managing editor of Reed Magazine. “She demands accountability, but she’s also nurturing. I think she has tremendous aspirations for SJSU’s MFA writers, which are expressed in her aspirations for the MFA program, Reed Magazine and the Center for Literary Arts.”