March 2018 Newsletter: McNair Scholars Look Toward Graduate School

Students involved in the McNair Scholars Program complete a project or research that prepares them to pursue graduate study after completing a degree at SJSU. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Students involved in the McNair Scholars Program complete a project or research that prepares them to pursue graduate study after completing a degree at SJSU. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

By David Goll

Puneet Sanghera is the daughter of immigrants from India, a first-generation American college student and she is on the verge of earning a bachelor’s degree in molecular biology.

“I grew up in a conservative family,” she said. “Because my parents didn’t attend college in this country, they didn’t know all of the opportunities available to me when I was in high school.”

The San Jose native entered SJSU as a pre-nursing major, but she discovered nursing “wasn’t the right fit for [her].” After taking a semester off to help her grandmother recover from surgery, she returned to school. She switched majors, became a McNair Scholar and found a mentor in Dr. Katherine Wilkinson, an assistant professor of Biological Sciences.

“I really want to learn more about my field, so decided to pursue graduate studies,” she said.

On March 11, Sanghera reached her goal. She got word she was accepted at her first-choice school, San Francisco State University.

Sanghera credits hard work and her involvement with SJSU’s Ronald E. McNair Post Baccalaureate Achievement Program for helping her gain admission to a graduate program. The McNair Scholars program is named for the second African-American to fly in space who overcame long odds to earn a PhD in physics and become an astronaut. After he died in the 1986 Challenger space shuttle explosion, Congress created the program in his honor to increase the number of underrepresented students pursuing doctoral degrees.

Dr. Maria Elena Cruz, director of the SJSU McNair chapter, said the university’s two-year program started more than two decades ago. It is funded entirely by federal dollars. Students typically get involved during their sophomore or junior years.

“Through the work we do with students in the program we can see if they’re a good fit for graduate education,” she said.

Most are, Dr. Cruz said. The group is comprised of at least 28 students who start the program in January. They hail from a variety of SJSU majors. During the first spring semester, students meet weekly to learn about research methods, weigh research subjects and prepare for GRE (Graduate Record Examination) tests. Fifteen of the students receive a stipend of $2,800 during the summer to work on research projects. A summer “boot camp” open to McNair scholars and all students from SJSU, and other universities gives instruction on how to choose a graduate school, how to write a great personal statement, and how to write to some of their dream schools and professors.

During the fall, McNair scholars do research analysis and begin the writing process, so that they can publish in our yearly McNair Scholars Journal. Dr. Cruz said she supports them by enlisting writing specialists, such as Taylor Dawn Francis, who is working on a master’s in English. At SJSU Students have up to 10 years to complete work on master’s and doctoral degrees from the time they graduate with their bachelor’s degree.

“Some students end up just pursuing a master’s degree, though they may eventually pursue a PhD,” Cruz said. “We’ve had students attend Johns Hopkins, Columbia, Stanford, Maryland, the University of Chicago and UC-Berkeley. On average we have two people who have earned their PhD every year. Compared to the national average of 3.3% according to the National Science Foundation, the McNair Scholars Program at SJSU has earned an 11.11% for 2016-2017.”

Dr. Cruz states that “participation in doctoral education by underrepresented minority groups such as African Americans and Chicanx/Latinx groups who are first-generation and are awarded a PhD is lower than 2 percent of the national average (NSF 2017). Thus, the McNair Scholars Program is pivotal for the future of our communities.”

Sanghera’s classmate, Daniel Kelley, also graduates in May. Though interested in attending graduate school, Kelley said he knew little about it until a friend introduced him to McNair.

“I want to stand out and be more competitive,” said the psychology major from southern California’s Lancaster. He hopes to attend either SJSU or UC Berkeley for grad school. “McNair has prepared me.”

Kelley already works with his mentor, Dr. David Schuster, an assistant professor of Psychology, in conducting research into cyber-security issues in private companies.

Isaac Gendler, a junior mechanical engineering major from Los Angeles, also had an early jump on research, studying automatic transit system guide ways. His report is in the process of being published. He said McNair has provided valuable information about graduate school applications and securing research funding. It even helped him attend a recent Chicago conference on heating, ventilating and air-conditioning systems. The greatest value to McNair, he said, is its diverse, multi-disciplinary approach.

“It gave me the opportunity to talk with people from different backgrounds and perspectives,” Gendler said. “When you have homogeneous groups of people talking to each other, nothing new results. McNair brings together people from all over, offering fresh viewpoints. This is how you innovate and disrupt the status quo.”

March 2018 Newsletter: DARE Fellows Visit SJSU

SJSU professors discuss faculty life, diversity and inclusion. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

SJSU professors discuss faculty life, diversity and inclusion. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

By David Goll

Nearly 12 years after arriving in the United States from his native Spain, Eduardo Munoz-Munoz is preparing to start the next phase of his academic career this fall at San Jose State University. Munoz-Munoz will begin his position as a tenure-track assistant professor in the university’s Connie L. Lurie College of Education in August. An SJSU adjunct professor since 2014, his specialty is bilingual education.

He is one of 22 fellows engaged in Stanford University’s Diversifying Academia, Recruiting Excellence (DARE) Doctoral Fellowship Program that works to advance students from traditionally underrepresented racial, ethnic, gender and sexual orientation demographic groups who are investigating academic careers. Members of Stanford’s DARE program visited SJSU on March 1, meeting with university officials and faculty members as they weigh career options. For the past 10 years, the doctoral students have visited SJSU and other Bay Area universities to explore career options.

Munoz-Munoz earned a degree in English Philology from Spain’sUniversity of Cordoba, a master’s degree in Arts Education and an administrative credential from the University of California, Berkeley. He has lectured at Mills College in Oakland and Belmont’s Notre Dame de Namur University, and served as a principal in the Oakland Unified School District.

“I’m very happy to start my career at an institution where teaching is considered a major part of the work and doesn’t take a back seat to research,” Munoz-Munoz said. “As an educator with a political consciousness, I love working at a public institution (that is) working to empower public education. I love San Jose State because of the diversity and the commitment of students working hard to get a great education.”

In the 23-campus California State University system, only 27 percent of students identified as white in 2015, while 63 percent of faculty identified as such. SJSU has one of the most diverse student populations in the nation. According to Dr. Kathleen Wong(Lau), SJSU’s chief diversity officer, as of fall 2016, 42 percent of SJSU students were Asian, 24 percent Hispanic, 19 percent white, three percent Black, and 10 percent in the “other” category. Less than one percent identified as Native American or Pacific Islander.

In an effort to attract DARE members to SJSU careers, Wong(Lau) touted the university’s progressive credentials championing racial and economic justice.

“It’s a little-known fact the nationwide minimum-wage movement started here, as did the tiny-house initiative,” she said of a design for diminutive abodes for the homeless unveiled last year by SJSU students.

Wong(Lau) spoke proudly of the university’s statue honoring former students and track athletes John Carlos and Tommie Smith, who famously raised their fists in protest during their medal ceremony at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City.

“It was more than just about racial equality,” she said. “They were also passionate about economic inequality in this country.”

Another speaker at the DARE event was Dr. Magdalena Barrera, SJSU associate professor of Mexican-American Studies and faculty-in-residence for Diversifying the Faculty.

“The university has redoubled its efforts to diversify the faculty,” she said. “It’s so important we move in that direction because of the changing demographics of students.”

Hiring committee members for faculty recruitments now undergo a two-hour diversity training session designed by the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and Faculty Affairs.

On March 1, DARE visitors heard from a panel of faculty members about their SJSU careers. They all praised the ability to teach, conduct research, scholarship or creative activities, and participate in service projects. Some described it as a tough balancing act.

“I’m still working on balancing teaching, research, service and my personal life,” said Dr. Patricia Lopez, in her third year as an assistant professor in Educational Leadership. “My family, none of whom are in academia, keep me grounded. I am doing something I love and am an employee of the state of California, with the benefits that brings.”

Dr. Carlos Garcia, professor and department chair of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, also talked with the DARE Fellows.

“Despite the challenges of living in Silicon Valley, and despite the challenges that are part of working at a university such as ours, we are still lucky to be in the place that we are and to have the positions we do,” he said.

March 2018 Newsletter: Provost Update – Diversity Drives Creativity and Innovation

I hope everyone is finding some time during spring break to reenergize before we head into the final months of the semester. March was especially busy, and I was fortunate enough to be involved in events that highlight the diversity of our university as well as our work to create a more inclusive campus and community.

On March 1, I welcomed nearly two-dozen doctoral students from Stanford University’s Diversifying Academia, Recruiting Excellence (DARE) Doctoral Fellowship Program. The program aims to build a pipeline for faculty from underrepresented groups. For the past 10 years, fellows have visited our university to learn about SJSU’s commitment to diversifying the faculty and to hear from some of our own faculty members about their experiences. I shared with the visitors that this year, Faculty Affairs and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion implemented newdiversity training for search committees involved in faculty recruitment.

During their visit, the DARE Fellows also engaged with student researchers and scholars from our Ronald E. McNair Postbaccalaureate Achievement Program. The McNair students engage in undergraduate research, prepare for the GRE and learn how to choose a graduate school, among other activities that will help them on the path to a doctoral degree. The newsletter this month shares more about these programs along with other efforts to support diversity and inclusion such as our African American College Readiness Summit, the Women in Engineering Conference, and the Chicanx/Latinx and African American/Black Student Success Center internships.

As many of you know, we have one of the most diverse student populations in the nation. On March 15, we hosted the inaugural SJSU Student Success Symposium attended by more than 230 faculty, staff and students. Many of our guest speakers discussed ways to engage students from underrepresented groups, especially Dr. Sylvia Hurtado, from the University of California, Los Angeles, whose talk was entitled “Campus Climate and Institutional Change: Advancing Diversity and Institutional Practice.” Visit the Student Success Website to learn how to participate in a follow-up session after spring break to help us identify the next steps in promoting academic excellence.

While we strive to be inclusive of people from many backgrounds and experiences, it is also important for us to have a diversity of perspectives, disciplines and ideas. Our university has many interdisciplinary programs and centers, such as the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change, the Mineta Transportation Institute, the Humanities Honors Program, among others. We are also in a prime position to expand opportunities for our students to engage in multi-faceted projects that cross discipline lines.

Just this week, the Biomedical Engineering Society of San Jose State hosted its 9th Annual Bay Area Biomedical Device Conference. As part of the conference, 34 student teams presented ideas for devices to help medical professionals and patients. These teams included students from many engineering, business, health professions and other majors, working together to find a solution to a medical problem. The industry leaders who spoke at the conference reiterated how diverse perspectives affect product and process innovation.

As we head into April, we will have more opportunities celebrate our diversity and academic excellence. Some upcoming events include theCelebration of Research April 4, the Faculty Service Recognition and Awards Luncheon April 5Legacy of Poetry Day April 12, the Inclusive Innovation Summit April 13, Admitted Spartan Day April 14Honors Convocation April 20 and the Fifth Annual SJSU Cultural Showcase April 25.

I hope to see you at these and other events next month as we continue to work together to improve student success while creating an inclusive and welcoming university community.

SJSU Students Host ‘Disability at Work’ Panel

Event flier

Event flier

Students enrolled in Professor Bettina Brockmann’s Communications Studies 132F Dis/Ability Communication course are coordinating a panel on “Disability at Work,” May 4, from noon to 1:15 p.m., in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, Room 225. The event is designed to expand awareness of the largest minority group in the world and the United States – people with disabilities, according to the students. They will moderate a discussion that includes guest speakers from Google and SAP Ariba, who will share opportunities for the implementation of accessibility and inclusion strategies. The presenters will use their innovative approaches to engage the audience in exploring a new perspective of the concept of disability.

Guest speakers include Victor Tsaran, from Google, Karo Caran, from Adecco at Google, and Joseph Fox, from SAP Ariba.


University Scholars Series Continues March 22

SJSU’s University Scholars Series continues March 22, from noon to 1 p.m. in the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, Room 225/229 with a lecture by Associate Professor Shannon Rose Riley, who will discuss her book “Performing Race and Erasure: Cuba, Haiti, and US Culture, 1898-1940.”

When Riley was a graduate student at the University of California, Davis – with a background in fine arts, performance art and video, among other artistic disciplines – a conversation with a respected colleague more than a decade ago encouraged her to follow her passion for the nations of Cuba and Haiti and their impact on American arts, culture and society.

Riley said the spark that led to her book grew out of a conversation she had with the late Marc Blanchard, a highly regarded UC Davis comparative literature professor, who was impressed with her passion on the subject.

“I was talking about my belief that those countries, which are on opposite sides of the Windward Passage and provide a corridor for travel between the U.S. East Coast and the Panama Canal, have had a major impact on culture in the United States,” Riley said.

The proximity has been significant to the nation’s artistic culture as well as perceptions of race and racial relations in the U.S. Riley’s interest in the Caribbean grew out of a trip she made to Haiti through the Art Institute of Chicago as a young art student.

Sharon Rose Riley poses for a photograph at San Jose State University, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Riley will be participating in the Spring University Scholars Series. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Sharon Rose Riley poses for a photograph at San Jose State University, on Thursday, Feb. 2, 2017. Riley will be participating in the Spring University Scholars Series. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)