SJSU Celebrates Innovation Design Collaborative with Partners

By Melissa Anderson

On June 8, in the basement of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, students, educators and industry leaders mingled together at the soft launch of San Jose State University’s new Innovation Design Collaborative.

The lower level of the library, which houses the first public materials library as well as shelves of periodicals, is now home to a new interdisciplinary innovation space for students, faculty work together, and test out ideas.

“A few weeks ago, you would have seen a very different space,” said Paul Lanning, vice president for University Advancement. “This is just the start and we are excited to unveil it for all of you. This is a glimpse of what is to come, not just for San Jose State University, but all the representatives here. This is an interdisciplinary space to work together on every type of unit imaginable.”

The IDC started several years ago when representatives from the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering connected with a handful of industry partners to discuss ways the university could better prepare students to meet evolving workforce needs. The group grew to include more than 30 industry and educational partners from off campus as well as campus representatives from each college. Now in addition to the advisory group, the university also has a dedicated space for students and faculty to work together to incubate ideas and gain just the type of experience needed to succeed in Silicon Valley after graduation.

During the event, teams of students and recent graduates showcased prototypes of products that are close to launching or ready for national competition. The teams included representatives from different degree programs and colleges who have grappled with technical development, legal questions and marketing.

One team was on the verge of launching a beta version of a digital jukebox that will allow multiple users to develop playlists at gatherings that include songs that appeal to the group – unlike existing music applications that are controlled by individuals.

Another team created an application called Gratis Food that will connect food vendors with excess products to students with food insecurities. The team, which won best overall innovation at SJSU’s Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge and were selected to participate in ZinnStarter through SJSU’s IDEAS program, moved from a nonprofit to a profit model that will be more easily scalable.

“We’ve created a beta version and we plan to expand to community colleges and universities,” said Raghav Gupta, founder and project manager of Gratis Food.

The final team demonstrated Spartan Hyperloop, a magnetic levitation system that they have entered into the SpaceX 2018 Hyperloop Pod Competition, on July 22.

After the networking hour and lunch, President Mary Papazian welcomed the more than 30 industry and educational partners who attended the event, including Joe Pinto, senior VP Technical Services at Cisco Systems, Donna Bell, director of Ford Innovation Research and Innovation Labs, Mark Roenigk, head of hardware at Facebook, Jennifer Andaluz, the co-founder and executive director of Downtown College Prep, and Andrea Schwarz, founding Bay Area executive director of Braven.

“One of the wonderful things about today is that our various programs across the campus are represented and that is where a lot of the magic happens,” Papazian said. “San Jose State University is a place to innovate as evidenced by the Paseo Public Prototyping Challenge and Festival and the Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge, our excellent interdisciplinary academic programs, and the high rate at which our graduates are hired in the Bay Area.”

Pinto, of Cisco, said the IDC is an opportunity for SJSU to play a different role than just supplying talent.

“Silicon Valley is unique with intellectual property, venture funding and a group of universities in an area that people from around the world want to come to innovate and design,” he said. “We are strengthening the ecosystem.”

Dean Sheryl Ehrman, of the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering, spoke about how important collaboration across disciplines is in grounding innovation with the critical thinking that comes from “cross pollination” with others in the humanities, applied health sciences, business or other perspectives.

While SJSU has a vision for an innovation wing that will become part of a science and innovation complex on campus, the library space is helping to increase capacity for interdisciplinary learning immediately.

“Why are we in the library?” asked University Library Dean Tracy Elliott. “This is where multidisciplinary work happens—the university, the community, all of you use the space. We have all disciplines represented throughout the building.”

#ImmigrantHeritageMonth: “Use Your Voice”

Fernanda Perdomo-Arciniegas was on a path to become a lawyer in her native Colombia when she immigrated to the United States. But when she arrived, in California, most of her university credits were non-transferable and she felt unsure about her written English skills. So she enrolled at West Valley College where she completed an associate’s degree in math while enhancing her language proficiency. She transferred to San Jose State University, where she earned a bachelor’s in mathematics/statistics  in 2001 and a master’s in Public Administration in 2008. Now the deputy diversity officer for SJSU, she started her career at SJSU in 2002, working first in Academic Affairs in the math and biology departments for five years and then in Student Affairs, as director of Campus and Community Relations for 10 years.

“One thing I focused on was access to college,” she said. “For immigrant parents or first-generation children, navigating K-12 can be confusing. I wanted to demystify the college process and help families get their students on a path to higher education. We, as parents, want our children to succeed regardless of our national origin or education background.”

As a mother of two, she said she also wanted to learn more about the United States K-12 system to help her own children.

Perdomo-Arciniegas helped to create College Day, where families of K-12 students could visit SJSU to learn more about preparing for college, and also oversaw the Advancing Latinx Achievement and Success Conference. She helped to facilitate the Spartan East Side Promise, an agreement that offers a clear roadmap for admission for students in the East Side Union School District to San Jose State University.

“As  an immigrant, I feel a responsibility to advocate, to speak up, to use my voice now that I have a place at the table,” she said. “It is very important to remember where you came from and to use your voice to set the stage for those who are coming after you.”

She found herself quite literally using that voice as a Spanish-language translator at times during community meetings between the university and neighborhood families who worried about the effect of impaction on admissions. Through the years, she also found herself advocating for underrepresented minority students, specifically undocumented students.

As the daughter of educated parents who was privileged to immigrate through legal channels, she said she has always empathized with undocumented students.

“While working on a resource guide by and for undocumented students, I learned of their dreams, hopes, difficulties and fears,” she said. “As an immigrant, I related to undocumented students at some level (learning a second language, being misunderstood often, culture shock, etc.), but I could never equate my privileged experience to theirs. They taught me so much during our work together.”

And she also appreciates the importance of cultural traditions, no matter where one lives. She and her family continue to participate in Novena de Aguinaldo (Nine Days of Christmas), in which they pray, sing and tell a special story of the birth of Jesus. Different friends host each year, and the Colombian Consulate collects toys to donate to their native country.

“For us, Christmas is always about family and it’s also a time to give back and be generous with our gifts, spiritual and/or material,” she said. Giving back is a mantra for Perdomo-Arciniegas.

In celebration of Immigrant Heritage Month, San Jose State University’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion along with the University Advancement Strategic Communications and Marketing team collected and shared stories of Spartan students, faculty, staff and alumni who have unique and inspiring immigrant narratives. In addition, the university is highlighting research, scholarship and creative activities that enhance our understanding of immigration and contributions of immigrant populations to the fabric of our campus community and our society. See some of the photos posted on SJSU’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts.

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.

Faculty May Nominate Students For Bertha Kalm Scholarship, Due May 4

The Office of Graduate Studies, Graduate and Undergraduate Programs, is pleased to offer the Bertha Kalm Scholarship for graduate students attending SJSU. From a donation made several years ago, this endowment has grown enough to provide six $5,000 awards to “support graduate students in any field of instruction, who need financial assistance to continue their education, and who demonstrate a desire to make a difference for humanity” (Bertha Kalm
Memorandum of Understanding).

Awards are restricted to first-year students in a master’s degree program at SJSU. Only faculty members who mentor graduate students can put forward for consideration the name and supporting documents of an applicant. Students may not self-apply. Applicants will be evaluated on the quality of scholarship that established eligibility for admission to a graduate program, application information including the student’s personal statement regarding the goals to be achieved by obtaining a master’s degree, the mentor’s letter of support, and an additional letter of recommendation from a professional source (another professor, business contact, volunteer organization). Additional consideration will be given to applicants with financial need.

This is a significant scholarship award. We are looking for the best and most rewarding of your graduate students. Please push this message out to all faculty in your programs. Only one award per program will be granted. Faculty should contact those students they believe are deserving of this generous scholarship. Students must complete the application available online and provide all of the supporting documentation to their mentor. Supporting documents include graduate and undergraduate transcripts, a letter of support from the student’s mentor, a second letter of recommendation, and a Statement of Purpose from the student.

The mentor will thereafter deliver the completed application package to Graduate Studies, ADM 146. Applications will not be accepted from students. The application is due by May 4, 2018 by 5:00 p.m. Please direct any questions you may have to Cheryl Cowan at 408.924.2485 or

Support for Undocumented Students

Editor’s Note: The following message was emailed to all students April 5, 2018.

Dear SJSU Community,

We hope you had a restful spring break and are looking forward to these last few weeks of the semester. We want to make sure all of our students complete the term successfully, and we know that some of our undocumented students continue to face uncertainty about the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and Temporary Protected Status (TPS) designation as well as reported increases in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in the Bay Area. We are aware that many in our Spartan community have been and continue to be seriously impacted. SJSU remains committed to ensuring access to a quality education for all our students.

This spring semester we hired the first program coordinator for our UndocuSpartan Resource Center (USRC), Ana Navarrete Avina. The resource center is now open and located on the second floor of the Student Union, room 2450. We have held workshops about DACA renewals, and Associated Students has offered funding for renewal fees. We have partnered with local non-profit immigration rights organizations including Asian Law Alliance and SIREN to bring legal experts to campus for undocumented students, and the Counseling and Psychological Services department has facilitated a support group for undocumented students.

We have also communicated to our employees that any inquiries from ICE or any federal, state or local official requesting information about a student’s immigration status should be directed to the University Police Department at 408-924-2222.

To answer questions about DACA and related matters, and how the campus can support our undocumented students, we will be engaging in outreach to students. If you are interested in learning more information about these efforts, please contact the USRC at 408-924-2762 or

Later in April, we will be providing an UndocuAlly training program that will provide information on how to be prepared for an ICE raid. While unlikely to occur on campus, we want to ensure students have the information needed to be prepared. If you are not able to attend but have questions, please reach out to USRC at 408-924-2762 or via email at

SJSU stands with the leadership of the California State University (CSU) in its unwavering commitment to our undocumented students. The CSU Office of the Chancellor recently revised its CSU Resources for Undocumented Students website that is also a useful tool for students.

Each of our students deserves an educational environment that is welcoming and safe. We are committed to every student’s success on our campus. Look for more information soon about future workshops and outreach opportunities. Thank you.


Andy Feinstein, Provost

Sharon Willey, Interim Vice President for Student Affairs

Kathy Wong(Lau), Chief Diversity Officer