January 2018 Newsletter: Students Prompt Discussions on Housing Crisis

Laura Cayabyag, '17 Sociology, right, served as president of student organization COOP SJSU and poses for a photo with the group's faculty advisor Michael Fallon.(Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Laura Cayabyab, ’17 Sociology, right, served as president of student organization COOP SJSU and poses for a photo with the group’s faculty advisor Michael Fallon.(Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

By David Goll

Like many students graduating in the Bay Area, housing concerns have often been on the mind of Laura Cayabyab, ’17 Sociology. While she said her parents have a home in Silicon Valley in which she is welcome, her greatest academic and personal passion has been to find solutions for the growing dilemma of homelessness in one of the nation’s most expensive housing market.

A December graduate, Cayabyab turned her concerns into action, serving as president of COOP SJSU for the past year. The student organization addresses pressing social issues on campus and the greater San Jose community. She and fellow COOP officials, including Ryan Eckford, have spearheaded drives on campus to collect clothing and hygiene items to distribute to the homeless.

“I’ve talked to a lot of people, many fellow students, about their housing situation,”Cayabyab said. “For those who don’t have parents who live around here, I would say nine out of 10 have told me they will be looking for work outside the Bay Area. Even for people with technical degrees, they often can only get contract work with high-tech Silicon Valley companies.”

Cayabyab said a 2016 study revealed about 300 of SJSU’s 33,000 students are homeless—the definition includes students who live in cars, on the streets or who “couch surf”. The number of homeless people in San Jose on any given night is estimated at 5,000. The Bay Area’s largest city has among the highest rents in the nation—according to website Rent Jungle, the average monthly cost for a one-bedroom apartment in San Jose in November was $2,430.

As one of her last official acts as president of the student organization, Cayabyab and Eckford helped organize and lead a discussion on the region’s housing crisis last month at an On The Table event, sponsored by the Silicon Valley Community Foundation (SVCF). The nonprofit organization is the world’s largest philanthropic community foundation, with $8 billion in assets under management. Two dozen students, staff, faculty and lecturers attended, along with representatives of the City of San Jose and Santa Clara County.

Cayabyab and Eckford also received assistance in organizing the event from Carol Stephenson of People Acting in Community Together (PACT), a multi-faith, multi-ethnic grassroots social justice organization.

“We asked people who attended to think about housing instability in the Bay Area,” the recent graduate said. “How it affects them and others in their lives, what are the good things about housing in the Bay Area, but also how we can make it much better.”

About a week later, the COOP students attended another On The Table event at the foundation’s Mountain View headquarters. Leaders of community organizations from throughout the Bay Area attended.

“It was really interesting to see people from throughout the region talk about the programs they’ve had to improve housing instability for years,” Cayabyab said. “It’s interesting to hear what keeps them going.”

Michael Fallon, who retired as adjunct professor of sociology at SJSU in June, has been involved in the COOP organization at the faculty level in recent years. He said the group was founded to address pressing social issues in Silicon Valley, primarily focused on housing the homeless.

Fallon also served as Director of the Center for Community Learning and Leadership at SJSU, which has focused its efforts on cleaning up the pollution of Coyote Creek as a result of the former homeless encampment of several hundred people that was closed down three years ago. Known as the Jungle, the infamous camp became a symbol of the haves and have-nots in Silicon Valley.

Fallon said he has been happy to be a catalyst himself in sparking social awareness and the ability to devise practical solutions to seemingly intractable societal ills.

“I am an educator, first and foremost,” he said. “I educate students in how to address critical social issues and hope my students will engage with the community and participate in the solutions.”

January 2018 Newsletter: Innovators Take Top Award at SVIC Finals for Nonprofit Idea

Photo: Ronald Dinoso Raghav Gupta, left, a computer science student, poses for a photo with his teammates at the Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge poster judging. His team included Bala Nyan Kyaw, software engineering, Ian Lam, business administration with a concentration in MIS, Ijaaz Omer, computer engineering and Nhat Trinh, general engineering.

Photo: Ronald Dinoso
Raghav Gupta, left, a computer science student, poses for a photo with his teammates at the Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge poster judging. His team included Bala Nyan Kyaw, software engineering, Ian Lam, business administration with a concentration in MIS, Ijaaz Omer, computer engineering and Nhat Trinh, general engineering.

By Melissa Anderson

Raghav Gupta, a software engineering student set to graduate in fall 2018, was eager to sign up for the Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge (SVIC) when he learned about it from several of his professors. He and a team of classmates already had an idea they had developed as semi-finalists for the Silicon Valley Business Proposal Competition and the Postcode Lottery Green Challenge, in Amsterdam.

“The problem of food insecurity and food waste is not alien to us,” Gupta said. “It is prevalent in today’s time, even amongst our leading generation, the college students.”

He and his partners thought about how to create a fast, inter-linked network between vendors who wish to give away excess food and hungry students looking for free food, which eventually became Gratis Food. As they developed their idea, they worked with professors and connected with Audrey Hague, a user experience research and industry expert. The team took first place for best overall innovation at the SVIC Final Showcase judging on November 29.

“Along the way, we have met many other mentors in the field of student success and business, from whom we have learned tips and tricks to ensure the success of Gratis,” Gupta said.

SVIC helped Gupta and his team learn how to market their product, but also how to market themselves and give a concise elevator pitch. They welcomed the feedback and input from judges at every step of the challenge, and have set milestones for Gratis’ future.

The challenge is facilitated through the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business with students from many colleges participating. In its 14th year, the SVIC program allows students and alumni to work on interdisciplinary teams to develop a creative solution to a social or community issue. Laimin Lo, a lecturer in the College of Humanities and the Arts, has been the SVIC director for three years. She coordinates the program that partners students with industry professionals as mentors and draws in entrepreneurs to serve as judges through several rounds of evaluation. Participants must make it through an online judging session, a poster board presentation and finally an elevator pitch competition in the final round.

Another unique concept included NewsBee, an application created by Matthew Quevedo, ’13 Political Science and a current graduate student in Urban and Regional Planning, and Andrew Demarest, ’15 Aerospace Engineering. Their product aims to change the way people view news by providing a localized map-based application that places news stories as pins so readers can view stories that are relevant to their neighborhood or city.

The two took third place in the category of Best Overall Innovation.

Fan Han, ’17 Computer Science, took first place in the Social Innovation category. He worked with Debra Caires who is the Computer Science coordinator and CS100W/CS200W Computer Science Director of the Internship Program for the College of Science. Their idea includes a technology called Upright Assist that helps people with mobility issues such as paraplegics, those who are wheelchair bound or the elderly to sit or stand independently.

Engineering Management graduate student Neha Maynil was inspired to create a mobile application to increase intelligence in children and won first place for best educational innovation.

“The struggle to find a truly educational mobile app for my nieces led to the development of Progress,” she said. “Every mobile app we saw was a digital version of flashcards or coloring books that lacked a basis in science.”

She noted that SVIC helped her come out of her comfort zone, network with different people and improve her concept.

“SVIC gave me the opportunity to share my ideas with people who have experience in different fields and get some valuable feedback and recommendations, which will help me for setting my future goals.”

Partners this year included San Jose Water Company, Intel, Startup Grind Powered by Google for Entrepreneurs, Tech Lab Innovation Center and The Indus Entrepreneurs.

See the winners in all categories online.

January 2018 Newsletter: Campus Reading Program Inspires Book Drive

Inspired by the Campus Reading Program selection "Hot Dogs and Hamburgers" by Rob Shindler, students in the Connie L. Lurie College of Education started a book drive to donate to literacy programs in the Bay Area. SJSU student Charlene Abi poses with Janene Perez at the Reading Partners headquarters in Milpitas where donated books were delivered.

Inspired by the Campus Reading Program selection “Hot Dogs and Hamburgers” by Rob Shindler, students in the Connie L. Lurie College of Education started a book drive to donate to literacy programs in the Bay Area. SJSU student Charlene Abi poses with Janene Perez at the Reading Partners headquarters in Milpitas where donated books were delivered.
(Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

By David Goll

The 2017-18 Campus Reading Program selection ignited a spark in some readers to take immediate action after they read Rob Shindler’s “Hot Dogs and Hamburgers.” The book by first-time author and Chicago attorney Shindler tells the story of how he helped his young son overcome a learning disability and got involved in supporting adult literacy. Shindler, who visited the campus in October as part of the activities around the book, was impressed with SJSU’s particular approach to the reading program.

Incoming freshmen, faculty, staff and some other campus community members received copies of the book and were invited to read it in preparation of participating in a roster of fall activities such as book discussions as well as a visit from the author.

“There is a strong community service element to the program, and it allows authors like me a chance to get the word out about our cause,” Shindler said.

Scot Guenter, a professor of American Studies at SJSU, oversees the university’s reading program, which has a history of selecting books that tackle important social issues. Inspired by Shindler’s story and the campus activities held in the fall, students, staff and faculty in the Connie L. Lurie College of Education started a book drive with a local nonprofit that supports literacy for elementary school students. The team collected 874 books for Reading Partners, a nonprofit that provides one-on-one tutoring to students in kindergarten through fourth grade in three local counties.

Dr. Robin Love, interim associate dean of the College of Education, helped coordinate the book drive along with Janene Perez, lecturer and director of the College of Education’s Student Success Center. Love and Perez were so encouraged by the outcome that the college has plans for a second book drive during this semester, with a goal of collecting 1,000 books.

“I think it’s a realistic goal,” said Love, adding that Shindler’s book was an excellent selection, especially for students of education. “It’s so well-suited to our students and our college, which has a strong emphasis on helping special needs students and promoting social justice.”

The fall activities also included a panel discussion with recent graduates. Erin Enguero, ’16 Kinesiology, and Gerardo Garay, ’17 Kinesiology, both overcame disabilities to complete successful academic careers at the university. Dr. Karin Jeffery, a professor in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts’ Department of Kinesiology, facilitated the panel.

“Erin won many academic awards here,” Jeffery said, including an Outstanding Graduating Senior Award in 2016. “Gerardo is an amazing example of a student who defied expectations and came back from great adversity.”

Enguero, whose genetic bilateral hearing loss was diagnosed at the age of five, received her first hearing aid at age 10. Though she faced her share of challenges both at home and school, the SJSU graduate said she was lucky.

“I was fortunate to be surrounded by family, teachers, mentors and friends who believed in my ability to succeed,” she said.

Both Enguero and Garay described many of their challenges while at SJSU during the panel. For Enguero, being able to fully hear professors or lecturers, pick up on comments being made by classmates and friends, or handling the audio confusion of being in busy, loud environments such as the Student Union presented daily difficulties. For Garay, who suffered traumatic brain injury from an accident a decade ago, some of the daily difficulties included negotiating public transportation to get to and from work and school, navigating around a sprawling campus and entering buildings.

“I was 21 when I got in an accident, which caused my brain injury, which resulted in a coma,” Garay told the audience at the panel. “I was in a coma for about three months. All my motor skills went bye bye…It was hard for me to go back to school, maintain my degree and graduate in May.”

Enguero said despite periodic difficulties, she felt supported by the university.

“I feel very fortunate that I spent my undergrad years as a member of the SJSU community,” she said. “The key areas I spent most of my time was within the Kinesiology department, Humanities Honors program and the Salzburg Scholars program. Like many of their counterparts, they facilitated inclusive environments among our diverse student population. Even when I ventured beyond my usual circles to volunteer or work for the Student Health Center, the SJSU Giving Fund or Peer Connections, I was always encouraged to share my story and seek out the accommodations I needed to create my best possible work.”

Enguero said the Campus Reading Program selection prompted her to return to campus to share her own personal story, noting that she primarily felt supported at the university.

“Hot Dogs and Hamburgers accurately portrayed an aspect of living with a disability that resonated with me so strongly that I just had to come back to campus and help promote it,” she said.

November 2017 Newsletter: Cilker Conference and Scholarship Promotes Arts in Education

Photo: Luisa Morco San Jose State University students and community members participate in the 2017 Marion Cilker Conference for the Arts in Education in a session where they learn to incorporate music into class lessons.

Photo: Luisa Morco
San Jose State University students and community members participate in the 2017 Marion Cilker Conference for the Arts in Education in a session where they learn to incorporate music into class lessons.

By Melissa Anderson

Marion Cilker, a 1939 alumna of the College of Humanities and the Arts, had a lifelong passion for arts in education that she wanted to share with future generations of teachers. 70 years after her own degree completion, she donated to the Connie L. Lurie College of Education to establish a scholarship and conference to foster the same ideals in prospective and current educators.

Cilker was both an artist and an educator who worked at Turlock High School in California’s central valley for many years – teaching stagecraft and art. But her love of the arts was born long before that, even before she attended what was then known as San Jose State College. She discovered art in high school, and it led her to her college major, a career and travels around the world, including a first trip to Europe after high school to see art masterpieces.

Sarah Henderson, ’18 Child and Adolescent Development MA, is one of three recipients of the Marion Cilker Scholarship for Infusing Art into Education, who shares the same passion for arts in education as Cilker.

“I applied (for the scholarship) because my research interests involve arts in education and arts as a means for higher positive outcomes for children in schools,” she said, noting that the scholarship is helping her complete her education as well as prepare for her future goal to continue research in that area. “I would like to obtain a PhD, possibly become a professor, and work in advocacy with nonprofits or policy-influencing organizations in order to shift public perception on the arts.

Katelyn Palmer, who will complete her single-subject credential in spring 2018 for teaching art, is another of the scholarship recipients. After she graduates, she hopes to get a position as an art teacher at a high school or middle school with a high special-needs population.

“I think making art collaboratively can be synonymous with making connections so I hope to give students more tools to communicate and advocate for themselves and others which they can learn inside the classroom community and bring out into the world,” she said.

Henderson and Palmer both volunteered at the 2017 Marion Cilker Conference for the Arts in Education, co-sponsored by the College of Education and the Santa Clara County Office of Education. The Nov. 3-4 conference brought together students, teachers and parents with local artists and arts organizations to share the joy of teaching through the arts. The conference included a half-day session on Nov. 3 that was free for SJSU students with about 200 in attendance and a half-day session on Nov. 4 for teachers, parents, administrators and interested community members. About 80 people participated in the Saturday sessions held at the San Jose Museum of Art, the Children’s Discovery Museum, Movimiento do Arte y Cultura Latino Americana (MACLA), San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, and Works/San Jose where artists and arts organizations gave presentations and planned activities.

“The best part of participating was attending sessions and exploring the Children’s Discovery Museum,” Henderson said.

She led a group of attendees to presentations and participated in activities on Saturday that included creating a nature journal and creating instruments out of recycled objects as well as writing lyrics to the tune of any children’s song.

Palmer met with presenters and on Saturday participated in a workshop called “String it Up Recyclable Art.”

“I loved getting to interact with teachers who are at different points in their careers,” she said. “I talked to a lot of teachers about why they were attending the conference and they talked about how much they valued art which gets me really excited to be in a school and collaborate with teachers in other subject areas.”

Henderson agreed that the artistic activities benefit students well beyond art class.

“The developmental outcomes for children who have consistent education in a variety of arts (music, fine art, sculpture, sewing, theatre, dance) are much higher than for those who do not,” Henderson said, noting that arts education requirements across the nation are inconsistent. “We are robbing our children of access to creative thinking and self-expression by cutting arts programs and undervaluing the importance of the arts.”

During welcome remarks at the Friday morning session, SJSU President Mary Papazian shared her own thoughts about arts in education.

“The arts open up a world of creativity and curiosity, of innovation and collaboration,” Papazian said. “I want this to expand. I am encouraging our campus community to see all academic disciplines as complementary—humanities and the arts; the sciences and technology; social sciences and business; health and other applied disciplines. It is at these intersections where magic happens.”

Henderson reiterated that thought.

“It is important to understand that no field can exist without the arts—engineers need to use CAD software to imagine their creations; programmers need to work with designers to create an attractive product; all companies need advertisers to sell their products using imagery,” she said.

November 2017 Newsletter: Braven Prepares Students for Careers After College

Photo: Brandon Chew Students in the Braven Accelerator network with industry and nonprofit leaders who teach them valuable skills that will help them search for their first job post graduation.

Photo: Brandon Chew
Students in the Braven Accelerator network with industry and nonprofit leaders who teach them valuable skills that will help them search for their first job post graduation.

By David Goll

At the age of 19, San Jose State University junior Nasheli Arce can already visualize how her business career could look.

The young woman who spent part of her childhood in a town near Mexico City with her eyes on a global career spends one night a week at Facebook Inc. as part of a course she is taking through SJSU’s College of Science and nonprofit Braven. The Lucas College and Graduate School of Business management information systems major is enrolled in the three-unit Braven Accelerator course, a program created to help underrepresented students attain skills that will help them succeed in their career searches after graduation.

Taught both online and in person, one of the main features of the Braven course is small-group work, pairing six to eight students with career coaches from a variety of Silicon Valley high-tech companies and nonprofit organizations. Tianna Hall, a project manager at Facebook, leads Arce’s group. Her group meets at the Menlo Park-based social networking giant.

“She really pushes us to go above and beyond,” Arce said of Hall, one of 20 career coaches working in the program, who volunteer 60 hours per semester. “As humans, we tend to settle into our comfort zones. One of the best things about this class is that it teaches us to put the extra into the ordinary. We have to break those habits and patterns. We have to keep challenging ourselves.”

Arce is one of 127 students in this fall’s cohort of the local Braven Accelerator. SJSU is one of only two universities nationwide to form a collaboration with the four-year-old Chicago-based nonprofit along with Rutgers University in Newark, N.J. San Jose State joined with Stanford University and the University of California, Berkeley as part of an initial 10-week pilot program for Braven in spring 2014.

After the pilot, Braven officials decided to focus resources solely at SJSU where they felt they could have the biggest impact. The program expanded to a 15-week credit course in fall 2015, according to Andrea Schwartz Boone, executive director of Braven Bay Area. Dr. Melanie A. McNeil, professor of chemical engineering, is teaching the course this fall.

“Parts of the course are online, and then students meet in person to practice their skills,” Schwartz Boone said of the class format.

Classes are held Tuesday and Wednesday nights, with sessions held both in Washington Square Hall on campus and scattered about Silicon Valley at the job sites of career coaches such as Arce’s group leader Hall. In addition to Facebook, other coaches work at Google Inc., LinkedIn Corp., eBay Inc., Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority and Teach for America.

Schwartz Boone said she and other members of her Braven Bay Area team began their research for the program by going directly to employers.

“We asked what it takes to get hired and what it takes to get promoted at their companies,” she said.

In talking with employers, five areas of career-searching competency emerged: the ability to network and communicate, operate and manage, solve problems, work as part of a team and development of self-driven leadership, or softer skills, such as being able to learn from both successes and failures.

By the end of the 2017-18 academic year, 600 SJSU students will have completed the Braven program. So far, Schwartz Boone said 96 percent of the students have either graduated or continue to make progress toward their degrees, while 76 percent have had at least one internship as compared to 49 percent of first-generation students at large state schools nationwide.

Perhaps most importantly, 75 percent of Braven’s SJSU alumni who have already graduated have secured what Schwartz Boone calls a “strong job” within six months of finishing college. “Strong” jobs are based on salary amounts, health benefits and whether the position requires a four-year college degree.

“We are seeing some exciting outcomes,” she said.

Dr. Elaine Collins, associate dean of the College of Science, is proud to show off another exciting outcome: two awards recently bestowed upon Braven’s SJSU course. During October, a committee of the CSU/CCC/UC 2017 California Higher Education collaborative Conference recognized the Braven course with its Focus on Efficiency award, while the University of South Carolina’s National Resource Center for the First-Year Experience and Students in Transition gave the program its Institutional Excellence for Students in Transition Award.

During the on-site classes, students receive instruction and feedback on their skills not only from the coaches but also from one another, Collins said. The Braven program is geared primarily to sophomores and junior transfer students new to campus, in hopes of helping shape their academic, internship and career trajectory. Collins said team-building exercises help students to develop “stories” about themselves to create an identity and give them a sense of purpose at college.

“Often, first-generation college students feel at some point like they don’t belong,” Collins said. “In this course, we help them not only develop stories about themselves but progress to developing their own personal professional story, too.”

View Braven’s recent Bay Area Report.