San Jose State receives $2M for Student Success

San Jose State University is one of a dozen Bay Area institutions to receive funding from the Koret Foundation as part of a multi-year $50 million initiative to support higher education.

SJSU will receive $2 million from the Koret Foundation to support student success, with University Advancement’s Tower Foundation administering the gift. The influx of funding comes on the heels of the recently released SJSU’s Four Pillars of Student Success: College Readiness, Advising, Student Engagement and Clearing Bottlenecks plan. The data-driven campus-wide student success strategy has one goal: to significantly increase retention and graduation rates for all students while improving the quality of their educational experience.

The $2 million has been earmarked to support college readiness, advising and student engagement at San Jose State. It will be used to create a new student information analytics system that will improve advising and to support the Spartan Scholars Program, a newly launched summer bridge program that is aimed at increasing retention and graduation of underrepresented and first-generation students.

SJSU’s Four Pillars plan was created by Provost Andy Feinstein and Vice President for Student Affairs Reggie Blaylock, with input from multiple campus stakeholders, including students. The plan was highlighted in a recent NPR story in which Feinstein shared that the university is offering up to 500 additional course sections to help students make progress toward degree (with funding from the university’s general fund.)

“They (SJSU students) are the inspiration that keeps me going and get me up in the morning,” he said, during the NPR interview.

According to its press release, Koret believes that education not only enables individual success and mobility, but also helps build a vibrant Bay Area. The initiative addresses a number of high priority needs at each institution, including capital, research, scholarships, technology, and recruiting, advising, and retention programs for low-income, first-generation students.

“The Koret Foundation is proud to fund this initiative that builds on and expands our longstanding commitment to these important Bay Area academic institutions,” said Michael Boskin, President of the Koret Foundation. “This program is designed to be a catalyst for new approaches to optimize student success, improve completion rates, and bolster career advancement opportunities, particularly among underserved populations.”

Read the full press release and view an outline of the initiatives at all of the higher education institutions partnering with Koret online.

Based in San Francisco, the Koret Foundation supports civic, cultural, and educational organizations that promote a vibrant and distinctive Bay Area. Koret focuses its giving in two major areas: strengthening Bay Area anchor institutions and fostering Jewish connection and identity. Since its founding in 1979, Koret has invested $500 million to contribute to a higher quality of civic and Jewish community life. For more information, visit

‘Dream’ Scholarship Supports SJSU Students

Edgar Sanchez Lopez is a second-year civil engineering student who received TheDream.Us scholarship.

Edgar Sanchez Lopez is a second-year civil engineering student who received TheDream.Us scholarship.

Edgar Sanchez Lopez just finished his first year at San Jose State and he is already thinking ahead to next fall, when he will take physics and a civil engineering surveying course. In his second year, he wants to get involved with the American Society of Civil Engineers student chapter to connect with his peers and he wants to find an internship to get real-life experience in his field.

Sanchez Lopez speaks confidently and his near perfect English belies the fact that he has lived in the United States for less than a decade. He moved to Mountain View from Mexico City when he was 10. His father moved six months ahead of the family, then Sanchez Lopez, his mother and younger sister joined him.

Like 550 other San Jose State students, Sanchez Lopez came to California as a child as an undocumented immigrant. He is one of eight SJSU students who received TheDream.US National Scholarship in 2015-16. The scholarships are provided through a program of the nonprofit New Venture Fund that grants renewable scholarships to eligible students who have been accepted for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.  SJSU is one of fourteen universities and community colleges in California who have partnered with the TheDream.Us scholarship program. An additional 30 incoming SJSU students have received scholarships for 2016-17. The scholarship covers the cost of tuition and fees, up to $25,000 towards a bachelor’s degree.

Sanchez Lopez recalls his early days in California.

“It was tough. I had a lot of friends in Mexico,” he said. “I didn’t speak any English. I couldn’t even ask the teacher to go to the bathroom.”

He took ELL classes and became more comfortable with English.

“I started making friends and that helped a lot,” he said. “I did well in math. I was at the top of my class.”

Sanchez Lopez enrolled at Los Altos High School, where he participated in the Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) program that aims to prepare high school students for four-year universities. The AVID program provided mentorship and advice about the college process, including an explanation of what a personal statement is and how to apply for scholarships.

Due to California State Assembly Bill 540 (known as the Dream Act), Sanchez Lopez is eligible for in-state tuition and received a Cal-grant, but is ineligible for any federal financial aid.

While he worked full-time in high school and managed two part-time jobs in his first year at San Jose State – as a tutor and working at an Express clothing store – he said the scholarships he received helped him to scale back on his work schedule without asking his parents for financial support.

“My parents haven’t given me money since I was in middle school,” he said. “I buy my own clothes. Pay my insurance, my car and gas. They have their own bills. I’d rather they use money on my younger sister.”

Before applying to college, Sanchez Lopez initially wanted to be an architect. He realized his true passion is for building and not drawing. When he was not accepted at his top-choice school, UCLA, he quickly learned about the prestigious reputation of SJSU’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering and warmed to the idea of studying civil engineering closer to home.

“My dad had friends who had graduated from here and they said it was a good school,” he said, acknowledging that his first year was more challenging than he had expected. “I realized I needed extra help, especially in math, and that was hard for me to admit.”

Sanchez Lopez joined study groups and visited his professors during office hours.

“I had to change my study patterns and work less,” he said.

Now that summer has started, he is back to working two jobs to save up money for the fall semester. He is optimistic that he will stay on a path to graduate in four years and he plans to become a structural engineer who builds skyscrapers.

His role model is an aunt who is the only one in his family to go to college.

“Since I was little, I wanted to do better,” he said. “I saw how my aunt was able to travel and go places. She doesn’t worry about money. I want to be able to live that life and want to provide for my family.”

He also tries to be an example for his younger sister who is 15 and will be a high school junior in the fall.

“I can help her out with her college applications because I went through the process,” he said.

For more stories of undocumented students at SJSU watch The Undocumented Story by Tina Castellanos, available below.

Moss Landing Marine Lab Shares Ocean Education with Guests

More than 2,200 visitors attended the Moss Landing Marine Labs Open House April 30 and May 1. Members of the public were invited to listen to presentations from SJSU students, faculty and staff and to engage in educational activities about marine life in the Monterey Bay.

Presenters and presentation topics included:

Laurel Lam
Habitat-based life history variations of lingcod along the US West Coast.
Fishery stock assessments are often based on quantifiable life history traits (i.e. growth rate, maturity, fecundity and mortality) and assumes that those characteristics are stable and unchanging throughout a species range or management area of interest. This results in regulations (minimum size limits, catch limits) and policies applying equally over broad geographic regions. They do not take into account regional or habitat-based variations in growth and maturation rates even though many fish species are known to grow slower, attain larger sizes, and reach sexual maturity later at higher latitudes. In my study, I will be examining lingcod, a commercially and recreationally valuable top predator found along the US West Coast, and how its life history parameters can vary both latitudinally and between two essential habitats, soft-bottom and rocky substrate. Understanding the potential for these variations can help us better understand the implications of using small-scale, regional and habitat-specific sub-stocks to manage our coastal fisheries.

Kristin Walovich
Search and Discovery! A graduate student’s search for new species of Ghost Shark.
Graduate students at MLML’s Pacific Shark Research Center are on the search for new species of the elusive and mysterious Ghost Shark. Ghost Sharks, relatives of sharks and rays, are rarely seen and so much is left to discover about these deep-sea creatures. But before we can answer questions like ‘Where do they live?’ or ‘How big do they get?’, we need something far simpler…a NAME! Join Kristin Walovich to discover how scientists find and name these strange sharks.

Jim Harvey
MLML: Who We Are, What We Do, and Where We Do It.
The director of Moss Landing Marine Labs will discuss ongoing projects and the MLML community. Join Jim as he talks about the ins and outs of MLML and shows a new introductory video!

Tracy Campbell
Microbiomes of Ecologically Dominant Zooxanthellate Anthozoans: A Tropical-Temperate Comparison
Marine bacteria are known to play an important role in cnidarian health, the cycling of organic matter, and nutrients in reef ecosystems. The breadth of investigation surrounding this relationship in tropical reefs is vast; however, little work has been done in temperate non-reef building systems. Anthopleura elegantissima is a common zooxanthellate anthozoan on the Northeastern (NE) Pacific coast, thought to be the most abundant invertebrate in the upper intertidal, yet relatively little is known about the bacterial community it harbors. In this study, we compare the bacterial communities of tropical Porites and Pocillopora species with the temperate Anthopleura elegantissima. We further compare bleached A. elegantissima polyps to polyps dark with zooxanthellae to investigate the complex relationship between host, symbiodinium, and bacteria.

Amber Reichert
First North Pacific records of the pointy nosed blue chimaera, Hydrolagus cf. trolli
The occurrence of Hydrolagus cf. trolli is reported for the first time from the central and eastern North Pacific Ocean. Using video taken during ROV surveys, specimens were identified using MBARI’s Video Annotation and Reference System database (VARS). This is a geographic range extension for this species, as it was previously only known to occur in the southern Pacific Ocean off of Australia, New Zealand, and New Caledonia.

Mo Wise
Nutrient Flux and Algal Biomass Dynamics in Tidally Restricted Regions of the Elkhorn Slough
Nutrients flux dramatically in estuarine systems due to terrestrial runoff mixing with incoming and outgoing tides from the coastal environment. The Elkhorn Slough has a dynamic nutrient flux regime, particularly in regions where developments such as roads, dikes, levees and railroad tracks have restricted flushing with the tides. These pocket regions have been shown to exhibit altered biogeochemical cycling, and through closer investigation I aim to analyze the nutrient cycling through the surface water, algae and sediments of each site I have chosen that all share a restricted flow pattern. It is necessary to understand the nutrient cycling and potential outcomes of these estuarine systems due to the fact that estuaries act as buffers between the land and sea environments, particularly between humans and our coastal zone.

Greg Bongey
Cool Critters! The Amazing Stories of Distinctive Sea Creatures That We Rarely Talk About
We humans are pretty knowledgeable about our fellow creatures of the land. For instance, most of us can tell the difference between a deer and an antelope, even though they look similar. But the ocean is different world from ours, and it is filled with many distinctive creatures that most of us have never heard of. Have you ever heard of a sea butterfly? Or a boxer crab? We all know about sea stars, but what about basket stars? Come learn about these creatures and more!

Drew Burrier
The Motion in the Ocean
A brief introduction to Physical Oceanography and Internal Waves.

June Shrestha
Ocean Optimism: Success Stories of Marine Conservation at MLML
We frequently hear of the problems threatening our oceans: global warming, invasive species, and human impacts. But where are the success stories? This talk will highlight research at MLML that have successfully informed conservation efforts to show that not all is “doom-and-gloom” for our oceans.

Victoria Vasquez
Changing The Fate of Lost Sharks: How to Bring Lesser known Species Into the Spotlight
‘Lost Sharks’ refer to chondrichthyan species that suffer from a severe lack of attention resulting in them being forgotten by the public and science. As new species are discovered, many fall within generas already heavily populated with ‘Lost Sharks’ and thereby threatens them with the same forgotten fate. In an effort to prevent the ‘Lost Shark’ pattern, an innovative naming process was used for a new species of Lanternshark, discovered off the Pacific coast of Central America. Four young shark enthusiasts, ages 8 to 14, were bestowed the naming privilege and the process was recorded. The new species is named Etmopterus benchleyi n. sp. in honor of Jaws author and subsequent shark conservationist, Peter Benchley. The common name, the Ninja Lanternshark, refers to the uniform black coloration and reduced photophores (light-emitting organs) used as concealment in this species, which are reminiscent of a ninja’s typical outfit and stealthy behavior.

Catarina Pien
Changes in the Elasmobranch Assemblage of a California Estuary
Elkhorn Slough is an estuarine embayment that drains directly into the Monterey Bay. Estuaries are environmentally productive environments providing important habitat for many marine mammals, migratory birds, and fishes, and is known to be used as a nursery for flatfishes and some elasmobranch (shark and ray) species. Over the past several decades, Elkhorn Slough has undergone several natural and anthropogenic changes, leading to both physical and biological changes, including shifts in the shark and ray populations in the Slough. Annual shark derbies and student theses have provided insight into some of the historical changes, and my thesis aims to describe the current assemblage of sharks and rays and how they are using Elkhorn Slough.

Amanda Heidt
The Path to Becoming a Marine Scientist
If you are considering pursuing marine science into higher education, or if you’d just like to learn a bit more about getting involved and the work being undertaken by students at Moss Landing, drop in for this talk regarding the path to a career in marine science, its oftentimes humorous misconceptions, and what it means to conduct research here at Moss Landing Marine Labs.

Stephanie Schneider
Ecology of Seabirds nesting at a large colony in Northern California
Despite its modest reputation, Castle Rock National Wildlife Refuge is the most populous single island Common Murre colony in California. This 16 acre island in northern California provides nesting habitat to over 150,000 Common Murres and thousands of other seabirds. Since 2006, wildlife biologists have used video and audio recordings to study the diet and reproduction of seabirds at Castle Rock. Join us and discover more about the fascinating lives of seabirds nesting at Castle Rock.

Alex Olson
Drips & Slicks: Mercury Speciation in the Ocean
A review of mercury pollution and investigating its transport into California coastal fog.

SJSU Featured in NBC’s 12 Degrees of Inspiration Series

San Jose State University’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering is featured in NBC Bay Area’s 12 Degrees of Inspiration Series. The videos highlight the college’s Engineering Pathways to Success program, including the Excellence in your Engineering Education (EXCEED) program featured in the first video. A second video will begin airing in the summer and a third in the fall.

SJSU’s Four Pillars of Student Success

Dear Campus Community,

For the past year, we have collaborated and gathered information from faculty, staff, students and other experts, to develop a data-driven campus-wide student success strategy with one goal: to significantly increase our retention and graduation rates for all students while improving the quality of their educational experience. Our 57 percent six-year and 10 percent four-year graduation rates, and a double digit underrepresented minority student graduation rate gap are not acceptable. We owe it to our students, their families, taxpayers, employers and our community to improve.

We have developed a plan to accomplish this. We encourage you to review “SJSU’s Four Pillars of Student Success: College Readiness, Advising, Student Engagement and Clearing Bottlenecks,” which highlights our process in developing the plan and details of each pillar.

Public universities across the nation are striving to improve graduation rates, and provide an educated workforce. It’s a huge challenge, and now, SJSU is on the road to a meaningful solution on our campus. We look forward to working with you to enhance the success of every SJSU student.


Andy Feinstein, Provost and Reggie Blaylock, VP for Student Affairs