May 2017 Newsletter: High Achievers Recognized at 2017 Honors Convocation

Photo: James Tensuan Kinalani Hoe poses with her certificate at the 2017 Honors Convocation, where more than 4,300 students were recognized for achieving GPAs of 3.65 or higher.

Photo: James Tensuan
Kinalani Hoe poses with her certificate at the 2017 Honors Convocation, where more than 4,300 students were recognized for achieving GPAs of 3.65 or higher.

By Barry Zepel

San Jose State University recognized the outstanding academic achievements of 4,338 students, a record number, at its 55th Annual Honors Convocation on April 28.  A capacity crowd – including family, friends, faculty and staff members – filled the Events Center, to hear words of encouragement and inspiration.

Some of those words came from Persis Karim, honored as the university’s2017 Outstanding Professor and keynote speaker for the evening.

“Please don’t underestimate the power you have to affect this world and to affect and change the lives of other people,” said Karim, professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature in the College of Humanities and the Arts.

Karim, also the founding director of Persian Studies, directed her comments to the 430 President’s Scholars and 3,908 Dean’s Scholars from all colleges on campus. President’s Scholars are undergraduate students who have earned a 4.0 grade point average in at least two contiguous semesters of the three prior to the honors convocation. Dean’s Scholars are undergrads earning at least a 3.65 GPA in at least two contiguous semesters of the past three.

Among the honored students were 62 Spartan student-athletes, also a record total, with six earning President’s Scholar recognition. It was the third year in a row that a record number of students involved in Intercollegiate Athletics achieved the rank of Dean’s or President’s Scholars.

“Teaching is a two-way street,” Karim said. “Your journey here shapes and influences us, your professors. I pride myself on being a teacher who seeks to make an engaging and meaningful classroom experience where I set a high premium on students’ free expression and their ability to discover and articulate their voices.”

Many of the 2016-2017 scholars were proud to share how San Jose State affected their lives and to name educators who especially helped them on their successful paths.

Anna Adaska, President’s Scholar and dance major from the College of Humanities and the Arts, said “an experience that shaped who I am today would be my first performance with SJSU’s contemporary performing company, University Dance Theater. Our director, Raphael Boumalia, changed the way I viewed performing permanently… After speaking with Professor Boumalia, I viewed performing as an experience that is shared by the audience and performer, in which the performer’s only obligation is to share their art honestly.”

Eulises Valdovinos, President’s Scholar and industrial & systems engineering major from the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering, said being recognized by SJSU “is not only a huge honor, it is also a constant reminder that my family members’ sacrifices as well as the struggles of previous generations who fought for my education have not been in vain. Blanca Sanchez-Cruz (assistant director for student support programs for the SJSU Engineering Student Success Center) contributed so much to my success as a student, and even as I entered the professional world.”

Sanchez-Cruz hired Valdovinos as a peer advisor for the Mesa Engineering Program (MEP), a program that aims to support educationally disadvantaged and first-generation students in attaining four-year degrees in engineering.

“I learned how hard she works to make sure there are opportunities available for our students,” he said.

Wendy Adhearn, Dean’s Scholar and kinesiology major from the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, noted that she has learned a lot from all her professors.

“But in my second semester at SJSU, Dr. Bethany Shifflett gave me an opportunity to really challenge myself and to interact with other kinesiology students and professionals at the Western Society for Kinesiology and Wellness Conference in Reno, Nevada,” she said. “There I was able to present a critique of research that interested me and I received invaluable feedback and encouragement.”

Greg Lucio, Dean’s Scholar and a child and adolescent development major from the Connie L. Lurie College of Education, appreciates that he “has been fortunate to be enrolled in two classes with Professor John Jabagchourin.”

Lucio noted that his professor’s passion for teaching makes learning fun and easy.

“He makes lessons relatable to his students and has inspired me to use the theories and research that we discuss in an international way when working with children,” Lucio said. “It has given me a great understanding of how to work more efficiently with children.”

In addition to Karim, three other San Jose State faculty members were recognized at the Honors Convocation:  Brian Belet, professor of music and an accomplished composer, as 2017 President’s Scholar; Chris Cox, lecturer in sociology and interdisciplinary social sciences, as 2017 Outstanding Lecturer; and Lui Lam, physics professor, as 2017 Distinguished Service Award winner.

Learn more about more of this year’s San Jose State scholars, as well as recent history about Honors Convocation, online.

Final University Scholars Series Lecture Features Rachael French April 26

Early Career Investigator Award Winners Rachael French, left, and Miranda Worthen pose for a photograph at San Jose State University on Friday, Feb. 3, 2017. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Early Career Investigator Award Winner Rachael French, left, will present her work at the final University Scholars Series of the semester on April 26. Also pictured is Miranda Worthen, who was also honored with the ECIA in February. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

Associate Professor Rachael French, recipient of a 2017 Early Career Investigator Award, will present the final lecture in the University Scholars Series on Wednesday, April 26, from noon to 1 p.m., in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, Room 225/229. Dr. French, who has brought in more than $1.2 million in external funding to support her research, will discuss the work she is conducting in her Drosophila Genetics lab. She and her student researchers are studying the impact of fruit fly development when eggs are laid in an alcohol-rich environment. Her goal is that her research may someday help in treatment of fetal alcohol syndrome in humans. Financial backing for her studies, which started during her post-doctoral days at UC-San Francisco, comes from the National Institutes for Health and the National Science Foundation. Her research is aided by three graduate students and six undergraduate SJSU students.

The University Scholars Series is supported by the University Library, the Spartan Bookstore, Faculty Affairs, the Office of Research and the Office of the Provost.

College of Social Sciences Fosters Woodrow Wilson Faculty Fellows

The College of Social Sciences is proud to be developing a tradition of its faculty as receiving the Career Enhancement Fellowship for Junior Faculty from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. Assistant Professor of Sociology Faustina DuCros has received a year-long fellowship for the 2017-2018 year while Associate Professor of Mexican American Studies and Acting Chair of the African American Studies Department Magdalena Barrera received the award in 2011-12.

Funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and administered by the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, the Career Enhancement Fellowship Program seeks to increase the presence of underrepresented junior faculty who are committed to eradicating racial disparities in core fields across the arts, humanities and social sciences. The program allows exceptional junior faculty to pursue scholarly research and writing during their fellowship period in an effort to facilitate the acquisition of tenure.

DuCros’ fellowship project is entitled “Louisiana Migrants in California Oral History Project.” Louisianans were among millions of Black southerners who left their home region during the second phase of the Great Migration. The study documents the migration stream of Louisianans to California, and investigates migrants’ experiences creating community and identity in their destination. Like Southern California (the site of the study’s first phase), the San Francisco Bay Area was a significant destination for Black Louisiana migrants. Though Los Angeles’ Black population was numerically larger, the Bay Area’s Black population ballooned at much higher rates than Los Angeles’ during the World War II period, and cities like Oakland had higher proportions of Black residents. Different neighborhood contexts create variation in how members of racial and ethnic groups construct identities. Thus, the second phase of DuCros’ research — oral history interviews with first- and second-generation Louisianans who helped grow the Bay Area’s Black population at the height of the Great Migration — comparatively elucidates the role of local places in identity construction and documents the community-making experiences of Louisianans in this distinct destination.

DuCros participated in the University Grants Academy, sponsored by the Office of the Provost, the Research Foundation, the Office of Research and University Advancement, as a resource to support faculty members in applying for external funding for research, scholarship and creative activity. The Academy provides workshops and support in preparing a grant application. DuCros was also assisted by colleague Barrera, who worked on three projects during her fellowship year that fell across her two research areas of interdisciplinary textual recovery of Mexican American experiences in the early twentieth century (1910 to 1940) and the mentoring and retention of first-generation students in higher education.  Barrera also moved to Austin, Texas, for ten months to gain access to an archival collection housed at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas-Austin.

The first project, “School Smarts: A Reflection of Personal and Pedagogical Insights,” is now an article published in the Journal of Latinos and Education (2014). In this essay Barrera engaged recent studies that show many college instructors still believe that Latino students lack the “school smarts” for academic success. Challenging the notion of “school smarts,” she argues that Latino students contribute to a transformative educational process in which faculty are also learners. In addition, she shares her model for the SJSU mentorship program that she created and continues to coordinate, which facilitates better student-faculty communication and deepens a student-centered learning environment in a large general education course.

The second project, “’Doing the Impossible’: Tracing Mexican Women’s Experiences in Americanization Curricula, 1915-1920,” was recently published in California History (2016). In this article, Barrera analyzes the manuals of the California Commission of Immigration and Housing’s Home Teacher Program in order to gain a better understanding of Mexican immigrant women’s experiences with the California’s Americanization curricula. Scholars have long explored different ways of mining institutional records and other forms of writing by Americanization advocates for insights into the experiences of those who participated in the programs. She argues that we can “do the impossible” of recovering immigrant women’s responses by undertaking close readings of the manual’s lesson plans, sample dialogues, teacher testimonies, and images.

Barrera also made considerable progress on a third project, “Subjection and Subjectivity: Viewing Vulnerability in the Study of the Spanish Speaking People of Texas (1949),” which is currently nearing completion. This essay focuses on a collection of images taken for the Study of the Spanish Speaking People of Texas (SSSPOT, the archival collection housed at UT) which sought to generate much-needed socioeconomic data about the living conditions of Mexican Americans. Barrera contends that in every photograph of people made vulnerable by their race and class status, subjection and subjectivity share an uneasy coexistence. Through close readings of the images and captions, as well as by interrogating the methods of documentary photography, she examines how Mexican subjects engage with the photographer and viewer in ways that may reflect and restore their individuality.

The College of Social Sciences is very excited that it is establishing a pipeline of SJSU faculty who have received fellowships from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation. These fellowships provide critical support for faculty research, scholarship and creative activity (RSCA) efforts. Assistant Professor Nikki Yeboah is in her first year on the tenure track in the Department of Communication Studies, and is being mentored by Barrera and DuCros with plans for her to apply for the Career Enhancement Fellowship for Junior Faculty from the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation in a few years.

February 2017 Newsletter: Student-Faculty Research Pairs Share Findings

Left to right, Devin Cunningham, Dr. Aaron Romanowsky and Christopher Dixon pose for a photograph at San Jose State University, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Dr. Romanowsky is currently working with undergraduates on a research project. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Left to right, Devin Cunningham, Dr. Aaron Romanowsky and Christopher Dixon pose for a photograph at San Jose State University, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Dr. Romanowsky is currently working with undergraduates on a research project. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)13

By Barry Zepel

A college student’s ability to learn is most positively impacted when the pupil has the opportunity to work as a partner on a research project with a member of the faculty, according to findings presented at a recent American Association of Colleges and Universities conference.

SJSU’s Student-Faculty Research Pairs program provides opportunities for 33 undergraduate students to work with faculty mentors. The 33 pairs will share their work at the Celebration of Research, on Feb. 16, from 4 to 6 p.m., in the Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom.

With the help and guidance of the Center for Faculty Development, each pair prepares a poster to describe their project and the questions they hope their research will answer. Created through the university’s unique “Explorations in Research, Scholarships and Creative Activity” program umbrella in 2012, it offers undergraduates the opportunity to enrich their student experience while attending SJSU.

“As a pair, the idea is for the student and faculty member to write their proposal together, rather than the student write it and faculty member only approve it,” said Amy Strage, assistant vice president for Faculty Development.

This year’s research areas range from astronomy to healthcare-related topics to exploration into areas of mental health to ballet.

“Compact Galaxies & Black Holes” is the topic for juniors Devin Cunningham and Chris Dixon who are working with Aaron J. Romanowsky, associate professor of physics and astronomy. One of their research questions is “What are the origins of compact stellar systems?”

“With my previous affinity for black holes and stars, I wasn’t sure what to work on with Dr. Romanowsky,” said Dixon, a physics and astronomy major. “I’ve always found astronomy and black holes very interesting. I’ve never done any research before this.”

Cunningham, whose eventual academic goal is to complete doctoral studies in theoretical physics, added: “After attending a seminar showcasing Dr. Romanowsky’s research, Chris and I sought to work (with) him.”

Junior biology student Puneet Sanghera has been working with Katie Wilkinson, an assistant professor of biological sciences on “The Effects of Lipopolysaccharide-Induced Inflammation on Spinal Cord Excitability.” Wilkinson’s lab interests have included proprioception – “the ability to sense where your body is in space,” she explained.

SJSU’s Henry Nguyen Wins Elevator Pitch Challenge at MESA Conference

SJSU students participated in the MESA Leadership Conference in October.

SJSU students participated in the MESA Leadership Conference in October.

San Jose State University students participated in the 13th Annual Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA) Student Leadership Conference Oct. 14-15, in Santa Clara. The students engaged in many creative activities designed to sharpen their professional skills, including an elevator pitch challenge styled after the television show “The Voice,” a team-building Lego challenge and networking games.

Henry Nguyen, a member of SJSU’s MESA Engineering Program, won first place in the elevator pitch challenge. He competed against eight other finalists from California community colleges and universities. He received a $500 scholarship as his prize.

According to a press release from the statewide MESA office, the conference provided 1,500 professional development hours to 200 MESA students from 33 colleges and universities. The students engaged with 75 industry professionals from 28 STEM companies. PG&E sponsored SJSU attendees. Other sponsors included NASA, Tesla, AT&T and other industry partners.

During the conference, NASA Astronaut Commander Victor Glover was named the 2016 MESA Distinguished Alum. He participated in MESA when he was in middle school and as an undergraduate. He credits the program as a driving force behind his success as an engineer.

“What you’re doing is so vital, so important to California and the planet,” he said, of staying committed to STEM education.

MESA promotes STEM success for more than 25,000 educationally disadvantaged secondary, community college and four-year college students in California through project-based learning, academic counseling and exposure to STEM careers so that they can graduate from college with math-based degrees. Seventy percent of MESA high school graduates statewide went directly to college after graduation compared to 48 percent of all California graduates. Sixty percent of MESA students go on to math, science or engineering majors. Ninety-seven percent of MESA community college transfer students go to college as STEM majors.

For more information about the SLC visit http://mesa.ucop.edu/newsroom/

For more information about MESA visit http://mesa.ucop.edu/ or on Twitter @MESASTEM.