March 2017 Newsletter: SJSU’s ‘Ask Me’ Campaign Offers Support to Students

Photo: Christina Olivas 'Ask Me' Campaign volunteers answer questions from students during its inaugural year in 2012. The program was started as part of Vision 2017's Helping and Caring goal.

Photo: Christina Olivas
‘Ask Me’ Campaign volunteers answer questions from students during its inaugural year in 2012. The program was started as part of Vision 2017’s Helping and Caring goal.

By David Goll

San Jose State University, among the largest and most urban of California State University campuses, can be a daunting, confusing place when you’re a new student.

Making the transition to SJSU from high school, community college or after several years in the workplace a bit less stressful was the driving force behind SJSU’s Helping and Caring campaign, first launched in spring 2012 as part of the university’s Vision 2017 campus improvement program. One of its most visible manifestations over the past five years has been the “Ask Me” tables set up at four key locations around the 154-acre downtown San Jose campus for two weeks at the start of each new semester: Clark Hall, MLK Library, the Event Center and the corner of Ninth and San Fernando streets.

“The whole idea (behind Helping and Caring) was to have faculty, staff and fellow students go the extra mile to help students,” said Fernanda Perdomo-Arciniegas, who is currently the deputy diversity officer and previously served as the director of Campus and Community Relations in the Office of the Vice President of Student Affairs. “It means going out of your way to help them instead of suggesting they talk to someone else or go elsewhere to resolve their problem.”

“People who work at tables came from all over campus,” Perdomo-Arciniegas said, noting that the collaboration helped to foster better communication across campus. “Many probably would never have met one another otherwise.”

The “Ask Me” tables provide help answers students’ questions before they even set foot in a classroom. Staffed with two people from the faculty, staff or student body, the tables feature laptops, so information not stored in volunteers’ heads is quickly accessible. Students asked a variety of questions about directions, deadlines, campus clubs and services. Data collected over the years led to FAQ “cheat sheets” providing information on the most frequent inquiries.

“We even offered hot chocolate on cold days and nights,” Perdomo-Arciniegas said.

Incoming freshman and transfer students are not accepted during the spring semester, so only a small number of graduate and international students arrive at SJSU in January, according to Sonja Daniels, associate vice president for Campus Life in the Office of the Vice President. She said the “Ask Me” tables were missing from campus at the beginning of the spring semester, but will be back for the fall semester when classes begin Aug. 23.

“We decided to not have them for spring and focus on fall,” Daniels said, noting the much smaller influx of new students at the start of the spring semester.

At the start of the fall 2016 term, senior Public Relations major Karly Tokioka said she volunteered to work shifts at an “Ask Me” table inside a tent at the entrance to Clark Hall. She answered many questions but also handed out a myriad of resources — including flyers and information brochures — along with free post-it notes, car charger adapters and scheduling planners.

“It’s hard enough to be on a new campus and find your way around,” Tokioka said. “It can really be intimidating as a freshman or transfer student to ask other students for directions, so I think it’s a great way to offer students a way to ask questions without feeling intimidated.”

Senior Bette Cheng, a Psychology major and “Ask Me” volunteer, said the tables provide a valuable service to bewildered, stressed-out students. However, even more than directions or advice on how to add a class, Cheng said she noticed gadgets like pens and USB drives were big hits.

“During tabling, I would have the students ask me a question in order to receive a freebie,” she said. “I found it effective because with a simple question, it led to asking multiple questions.”

March 2017 Newsletter: Provost Update – Reflecting on Vision 2017

As our university prepares to close out our Vision 2017 strategic plan, it is important to acknowledge the accomplishments related to the five goals that have guided our campus since 2012. The Strategic Planning Steering Committee began work last fall to gather information about the process behind Vision 2017, its implementation and the progress our university made in: Helping and Caring, Agility Through Technology, Spartan Pride, Unbounded Learning and 21st-Century Learning Spaces.

 College of Education students learn about career options in their Student Success Center. Photo: James Tensuan

College of Education students learn about career options in their Student Success Center. Photo: James Tensuan

As co-chair of the steering committee with Academic Senate Chair Michael Kimbarow, this closing process has been very informative to me as someone who joined SJSU after Vision 2017 had been initiated. Members of the Steering Committee have been working hard to provide a look back at where our campus was five years ago and how the goals set out in the plan have moved us forward. I am pleased to share some of the successful initiatives that arose from Vision 2017 that relate to our overarching mission of providing a world-class education to students.

In the last five years, we have enhanced teaching and learning spaces in ways that promote student success, including improvements to more than 100 of our most used classrooms. We have launched an “Ask Me” campaign that helps students transition to college life during orientation week. We have expanded our outreach to alumni, and they now serve as a resource for mentoring current students. We have also increased innovative learning opportunities through a variety of new resources from additional internship options to expanded support resources for underrepresented minority students to expansion of faculty-led programs overseas.

The Steering Committee is producing a report to close out Vision 2017 that will highlight the initiatives related to each of our five university-wide goals. The report will also share reflections from campus constituents on what worked during the Vision 2017 planning and implementation process as well as areas of improvement.

I appreciate all the feedback you have shared with our committee along with your work supporting our students over the last five years. We still have more progress to make, and I look forward to having you as partners in our efforts.

Biology Professor Receives APS Early Career Innovative Educator Award

Dr. Katherine Wilkinson

Dr. Katherine Wilkinson

Katherine Wilkinson, an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, has received the American Physiological Society’s 2017 ADInstruments Macknight Early Career Innovative Educator Award. The award recognizes her laboratory activity in which she developed “A Hypothesis-Driven Laboratory Component for an Upper-Division Undergraduate Neurophysiology Course.” Wilkinson, who works closely with student researchers in the Wilkinson Neurophysiology Lab, was originally encouraged to apply for the award by a former lab student. The award includes travel to the spring APS Experimental Biology meeting, an honorarium and lab equipment for the campus.

SJSU and William Randolph Hearst Foundation Honor NY Times Reporter

William Randolph Hearst Award Flier

William Randolph Hearst Award Flier

San Jose State University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications presented the William Randolph Hearst Foundation Professional Award for Excellence to David Streitfeld, a New York Times reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner. On March 13, he visited the campus to talk about global issues and concerns specific to Silicon Valley, as well as the ways in which the New York Times had responded to the Presidential transition.

“Our William Randolph Hearst honoree ended his day at SJSU Monday saying how much he appreciated the award and the wonderful time with us,” said Bob Rucker, a professor of journalism. “He made note several times of how impressed he was with the depth of questions asked by our JMC students.”

Streitfeld was part of a newspaper team that received a Pulitzer Prize for explanatory reporting for “its penetrating look into business practices by Apple and other technology companies that illustrate the darker side of a changing global economy.” He also won his first “Best in Business” award from the Society of American Business Editors and Writers for his investigation of fake online reviews, and his second for an in-depth look at Amazon’s employment practices that he co-wrote with Jodi Kantor.

Previously, David Streitfeld worked for the Los Angeles Times and, before that, the Washington Post. He has written for New York, Vogue, Wired and other magazines. He is also the editor of books about Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Philip K. Dick and J.D. Salinger.

SJSU Students Illustrate Their Perceptions of ‘Fake News’ During Adobe Creative Jam

 

By Barry Zepel

San Jose State University students used their creative wits, quick thinking and ability to collaborate using Adobe Creative Cloud Applications when challenged to design graphics in a tournament sponsored by the university’s eCampus Department and Silicon Valley-based Adobe Systems, Inc. Students applied to participate and nine pairs were selected to compete.

It was all part of the Feb. 24 “Adobe Creative Jam,” where the competing teams had three hours to produce computer-generated graphics that represent — to their imaginations — the theme “Fake News.” They were only informed of the topic, a phrase coined following the 2016 presidential election, by the event host at the start of the evening competition held in the Student Union.

Following the contest, each team’s design was projected on a screen while the competitors explained what the “fake news” catchphrase, used regularly by President Donald Trump, meant to them. Listening was an audience of more than 100 fellow students and six design and creative professionals. The creative professionals judged the submissions while the audience members also had a chance to cast a vote for the “People’s Choice Award.”

The artwork produced by the team of Mariella Perez and Miles Vallejos, both senior graphic design majors, was judged best by both voting bodies. Their design depicted many current national issues, including “Immigration,” being swept under a rug portrayed by the American flag.

“It was a fun challenge,” according to Vallejos. “It definitely took me out of my comfort zone.”

Perez explained how they approached the Creative Jam challenge. “We devoted the first hour to ideation and the final two hours to execution,” she said.

While the general audience honored just one team, the panel of judges recognized an additional twosome. Earning that second place nod, for their entry “News is Defined by Truth,” was the team of Vasudha Varma, a graduate student working on her master’s degree in human factors, and Ashley Chung, a freshman majoring in animation. Varma and Chung became acquainted online and only met in person for the first time just before the Creative Jam began.

In addition to getting a trophy, each winning competitor received a year of creative cloud membership from Adobe that allows them to use the software package for free after they complete their studies. As current SJSU students, they already have complimentary access to Adobe products.

Additional students who attended, while not selected for the design competition, still benefitted from the event. They were able to have their personal design portfolios reviewed and evaluated by creative directors and design professionals from organizations such as Facebook, Yahoo and other Silicon Valley-based agencies and technology companies.

Jennifer Redd, director of SJSU’s eCampus, noted that the Creative Jam is an example of the university’s partnership with Adobe.

“Tonight’s event was an opportunity for our students to showcase their skills as it relates to the Adobe Creative Cloud,” Redd said. “We work closely with Adobe and offer their software applications for the benefit of our students, faculty and staff.”

The company also hosts an annual Adobe Day in which SJSU faculty and staff visit the downtown San Jose headquarters to learn more about new products or features of existing products that can be used to enhance teaching and learning.

Adobe, which sponsors similar events for other universities around the country, is able to promote its software products on campus to discover how the students use them.

“Our goal tonight was to show what is available to San Jose State students and faculty, in terms of our mobile applications and desktop applications, while extending that into other disciplines outside of just the creative ones,” said Liz Arias, Adobe’s customer success manager whose clients include SJSU and other CSU campuses.

The graphic designs of each of the teams that competed in the Creative Jam, can be viewed online via Adobe’s Behance Portfolio Review website.