San Jose State University’s CommUniverCity and the city of San Jose partnered to host the 10th Annual Safe and Green Halloween Fiesta at McKinley Elementary School Oct. 20. Students and faculty from many departments, including Health Science, Environmental Studies and the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business worked together to host an afternoon of fun for neighborhood children and their families. SJSU students planned fun activities to teach kids about sustainability and health.
As we end another academic year, I am pleased to share the progress we have made on one of our top priorities – student success. This spring, Vice President for Student Affairs Reggie Blaylock and I updated SJSU’s Four Pillars of Student Success: College Readiness, Advising, Student Engagement and Clearing Bottlenecks, a plan informed by many campus stakeholders who helped us to identify initiatives that will move us toward improving graduation rates, retention, student experience, and preparing our graduates to pursue advanced degrees or to thrive in their careers.
Our 2016 graduation rates, reported in the fall, show that we are steadily moving toward our 2025 graduation goals. We improved our first-time freshmen graduation rate from 10 percent to 14 percent; our six-year graduation rates improved from 57 percent to 62 percent; and we decreased the achievement gap between our underrepresented minority students and their peers from 17 percent to 11 percent.
Other indicators show that we continue to make progress in shortening the time to degree for students. For spring 2017, 36 percent of our undergraduate students enrolled in 15 units or more, up from 25 percent in fall 2015. We have offered additional courses to clear bottlenecks and hired more advisors while increasing awareness that students need to complete 15 units each semester to stay on track to graduate on time. The Office of Student and Faculty Success launched their #FinishinFour and #TakeTwo campaigns during orientation sessions last summer and worked hard to inform students that to graduate in four years for first-time freshmen or two years for transfer students, they need to take 15 units a semester. These communication efforts doubled the number of first-time students taking 15 units. Our efforts are showing returns and undergraduate average unit load is already trending upward.
We still have much work ahead to meet the ambitious goals of eliminating our achievement gap entirely and graduating 35 percent of our first-time freshmen in four years by 2025. I have confidence that as we continue many of the initiatives launched this year, we will meet these goals (see monthly updates online).
In addition to supporting students once they enroll, we are also looking at ways to partner with K-12 and community colleges to prepare students for university coursework. Reggie and I co-hosted two student success summits with Assemblymembers Evan Low and Ash Kalra that brought together partners from community colleges, K-12 and nonprofits to discuss the ways we can work together to ensure students are prepared for college-level math and English when they arrive at CSU campuses. We have created working groups around three key areas in which SJSU faculty, staff and administrators will partner with local high schools: summer initiatives for high school students; teacher professional development; and college readiness presentations for school boards. I look forward to reporting more in the fall after we launch pilot programs in each area.
While we are measuring much of our progress in numbers, students’ personal stories are also marks of our success. I am pleased to share with you some of the ways our Four Pillars plan is supporting students – from ITS’s internship for students who are using predictive analytics to improve advising processes to the African-American Student Success Task Force’s alternative spring break and Chicanx/Latinx posole study breaks to the record number of students who were recognized for high achievement at this year’s Honors Convocation on April 28 – these student experiences are the reasons we remain dedicated to our plan.
Dr. Stacy Gleixner has been appointed as the associate vice president for Student and Faculty Success following a thorough search process, effective immediately.
Gleixner started as the interim AVP for Student and Academic Success Services in February 2016 and oversaw the reorganization of units to the Office of Faculty and Student Success in fall 2017. She has been an integral leader in implementing SJSU’s Four Pillars of Student Success plan. Her appointment will allow us to maintain momentum around our initiatives and make movement toward our 2025 graduation rate targets.
She served as a lecturer at SJSU in the Davidson College of Engineering. She joined the faculty as an assistant professor in the Department of Biomedical, Chemical and Materials Engineering in 1999, and became a full professor in 2011. She served as associate chair of the department from 2008 to 2014; and as chief of staff to the president from 2014 to 2016.
During her tenure on campus, she has been committed to improving student success as well as increasing access to STEM programs for women and underrepresented minority students. As interim AVP, she has worked closely on increasing student average unit load; communicating with faculty about high-impact practices that can increase engagement; and on refining metrics to measure the success of SJSU’s Four Pillars initiatives.
Gleixner, who is herself a first-generation college student, holds a bachelor’s in materials science and engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology; and a master’s and a doctorate in materials science and engineering, from Stanford University.
Winifred Schultz-Krohn chaired the search and worked with committee members to select a top candidate.
College of Humanities and the Arts Dean Lisa Vollendorf has been appointed Provost, Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs and Chief Academic Officer at Sonoma State University. She will depart SJSU at the end of the spring term and start her new post on July 1, 2017.
The university soon will commence a national search for her successor; information on that process will follow. In the meantime, I want to congratulate Dean Vollendorf on her new opportunity, thank her for her outstanding service to SJSU and acknowledge her many accomplishments.
During her five years leading the College of Humanities and the Arts, Lisa has promoted collaboration, interdisciplinarity and innovative teaching and learning across campus. She led efforts to forge a partnership between SJSU and the city of San Jose that enabled the reopening of the downtown Hammer Theatre Center as a premier regional performing arts center. Since 2015, she has overseen operations of the venue, which has become a coveted space for campus and community performances and events. Lisa also has fostered individual and corporate philanthropy, raising more than $11 million during her tenure.
Through it all, Lisa has remained steadfastly focused on student success. Under her leadership, the university has prioritized writing outcomes by strengthening Writing Across the Curriculum, transitioning from developmental English to a Stretch English option that provides course credit for students in need of remediation and hiring writing faculty to support students at all levels of their education. She oversaw the creation of the college’s Student Marketing Team and Student Success Center; has championed arts, innovation, and technology collaborative projects; and helped implement a student-designed collaboration hub in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library.
In addition, Lisa founded the Deans’ Leadership Academy in 2014 to mentor and support faculty leadership development across the campus. The program has served 54 faculty members to date.
We will soon announce plans to celebrate Lisa’s service to SJSU. In the meantime, please join me in congratulating her on this exciting new career opportunity and expressing gratitude for her outstanding service.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs
SJSU staff and faculty are invited to attend the second annual interdivisional competition Feb. 25 at the Spartan Women’s Basketball game against Boise State, in the SJSU Event Center. Doors open at 1 p.m. and the game starts at 2 p.m. RSVP online.
Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Andy Feinstein and Vice President for Student Affairs Reggie Blaylock launched the event last year when they competed to see which division could fill more seats in the stands during a women’s basketball game. Faculty and staff, along with their families, were invited to attend. The pair provided a meal and lots of entertainment throughout the evening, including a free throw competition, a cheer off and a relay race. At the end of the evening, Academic Affairs was crowned victorious for the evening’s competition and Provost Feinstein accepted a trophy on behalf of the division. This year’s event promises even more fierce competition as invitations have been extended to include University Advancement and Administration and Finance colleagues – all four divisions will compete to take home the trophy and the title of most Spartan Spirit.