‘Disability at Work’ Panel Teaches Students to Expand Their Horizons

Attendee Rosse Strda poses for a photo with panelists Joseph Fox, Karo Caran and Vincent Tsaran at the "Disablilty At Work" Panel hosted by Communications Studies students.

Attendee Rosse Strda poses for a photo with panelists Joseph Fox, Karo Caran and Vincent Tsaran at the “Disablilty At Work” Panel hosted by Communications Studies students.

By Riley Wilcox and America Yamaguchi, Communication Studies students

On May 5, San Jose State University students hosted a panel on “Disability at Work. Students enrolled in Communication Studies 132F Dis/Ability Communications with Professor Bettina Brockmann coordinated the three-person panel event that was open to the public in the Dr. Martin Luther King. Jr. Library. The event was widely publicized, with invitations going out to the entire Communication Studies department as well as all Accessible Education Center (AEC) registered students, and a Facebook event post that made it clear the event was open to the public. The panel’s purpose was to inform the audience about employment and accessibility difficulties for people with disabilities.

The speakers included Vincent Tsaran, technical program manager at Google, Karo Caran, who also works in accessibility at Google and is an  accomplished author, and Joseph Fox, senior vice president at SAP Ariba.

Tsaran and Caran presented together, speaking on their experiences growing up as vision-impaired children in Ukraine and Poland respectively, and the differences in their experiences in mainstream and specialized education programs. Tsaran and Caran both work with Google to increase the accessibility of the user interfaces for Google and Google Play. They concentrated on perspectives in ableism for people with disabilities, and the similarities between ableism and other forms of oppression such as racism, sexism and homophobia.

Dreams became a theme that emerged throughout the event. Caran pursued a dream of studying Chinese that early instructors had hesitated about due to her vision impairment.

“I work in the business of dreams,” Tsaran said. “I had a few dreams—I wanted to teach history at my school of the blind. But [when I came to the United States], my dreams expanded as my horizons were expanded.”

He noted that his university’s dedication to accessibility created a capacity for dreams he had not had before. Working in the tech industry, the pair also spoke on how computers are “great enablers,” that allow people to speak, get their point across and have a sense of self. Caran explained that because times are changing, and so much of the world is now accessed through an electronic platform, society must more than ever make sure that computer technology is accessible for everyone.

Joseph Fox, who also works in the tech industry, is the parent of four children, three of whom are on the Autism spectrum. Fox spoke on always having a “parent view” before having a “business view.” He said he has found as a father, as an employer and as a student, there were many challenges for people with disabilities. Fox presents frequently on the benefits of hiring a neurodiverse workforce, informs parents of resources for their children, informs young adults with an Autism Spectrum Disorder on toolsets and programs to aide them, and highlights for employers the best ways to incorporate accessibility into the workforce. Some of his key advice includes self advocacy and the benefits of finding peers and mentors who can help young adults to obtain the accommodations they need. He also recommends employers to develop hiring processes that do not involve interviews because people who are capable of the job may not always be impressive during interviews. Under Fox’s leadership, SAP Ariba announced in May 2013 a goal of having one percent of its global workforce represented by those on the Autism Spectrum.

After Fox’s presentation, the floor was opened to audience questions. Some of the key messages were that accessibility development requires trial and error, and that the best way to reduce ableism is to maximize exposure by reading and meeting more people with disabilities.

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.

 

April 2017 Newsletter: SJSU and Columbia Law Students Connect on Record Clearance Project

Justice Studies students partnered with Columbia Law School students during an alternative spring break in which pairs worked to help clients expunge their records for misdemeanor  and felony charges.(Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Justice Studies students partnered with Columbia Law School students during an alternative spring break in which pairs worked to help clients expunge their records for misdemeanor and felony charges.(Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

By Barry Zepel

On March 13, San Jose State University undergrads met 12 law students visiting from New York’s Columbia Law School. They spent an intense week helping low-income clients with criminal records prepare to have their convictions expunged. This was the sixth year that a contingent of students from Columbia Law School spent their spring break at SJSU. Each year, the visits have been sponsored by the Chinese Law Society.

Each SJSU student partnered with a law student to work on behalf of their client.  By the end of the week, 12 clients had expungement petitions ready to be filed in court.

The week is part of SJSU’s Record Clearance Project (RCP), a program in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts Justice Studies Department. Established in January 2008, the RCP provides undergraduates with practical experience working in the justice system while helping people clear their criminal records in court.  Peggy Stevenson, RCP director, created the program nine years ago. She and the RCP staff guide students through the process in classes each semester.

“This year has been particularly exciting because we had the most law students we’ve ever had before, and thus have finished the most clients’ cases,” Stevenson said.  “The undergrads and law students work together in teams to benefit their clients and, in the process, learn from each other.”

Angelica Viscarra, a senior justice studies major from SJSU, and Lisa Xia, a second-year law student, were case partners during the week. Their client had been convicted as an accessory to a crime 14 years ago. The client was trying to get it expunged, as she is interested in employment as a caregiver.

“Her mistake was hanging out with the wrong crowd,” Viscarra said. “Her peers had been involved in the criminal activities (of fraud and identity theft). She was convicted of conspiracy because she provided them with a place to stay.”

Xia was thrilled with her week in San Jose.

“This one spoke to me when I was considering various spring break programs that Columbia had information on,” she said. “I was impressed with RCP. I didn’t have (a program like this) as an undergraduate at Georgia Tech. I can see how it has been making great impacts on people’s lives.”

Viscarra is equally enthusiastic about her time with RCP. Indeed, like many of her classmates, she has plans for a career in law.

“While the workload is very heavy, it is very rewarding,” she said.  “People come to you for help in getting their records cleared, and we are able to assist.”

Under attorney supervision, students learn to review rap sheets showing an individual’s convictions, to interview clients during drop-in advice sessions and to prepare petitions seeking expungement for the consideration of a judge.

“RCP prepares our students for many types of jobs,” said Anahi Beltran, ’16 Justice Studies, the full-time RCP project coordinator who first became involved with the program when she was a student two years ago. “We’ve had people who have taken the RCP classes and now work in law enforcement. We get a lot of interest from future probation officers.  This also is a great program for those who want to go to law school.”

RCP Director Stevenson believes that the RCP is the only program in the country in which undergraduates can take such classes and gain experience providing legal assistance directly to clients. To date, the RCP has filed more than 1,100 petitions in court, with a success rate of 99 percent. Since it requires significant staff assistance to operate, the RCP relies on outside funding, including support from CommUniverCity, grants from Santa Clara County, the city of San Jose, private foundations such as The Health Trust and Castellano Family Foundation, and individual donors.

April 2017 Newsletter: An Adventure of EPICS Proportions

Photo: Lisa Francesca SJSU students work on a Spartan Superway project as part of the Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) course.

Photo: Lisa Francesca
SJSU students work on a Spartan Superway project as part of the Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) course.

Adapted from the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering Spring 2017 “Engineering for Good” Alumni Magazine article by Lisa Francesca, communications specialist

San Jose State University’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering launched a pilot of an Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) course in 2016 to provide service learning and project-based opportunities to undergraduate students. Originally started at Purdue University 20 years ago, the EPICS program is now offered at more than 25 universities. The student teams are interdisciplinary and work for real-world nonprofit clients to solve a community concern.

Dr. Jinny Rhee, the associate dean for undergraduate students in the College of Engineering, initiated the program last spring.

“A study by CSU Northridge showed that involvement in community service increases both retention and graduation rates in engineering programs,” she said. “This was a profound motivation for us to start the program, and now we are realizing even more benefits. Students become involved with authentic problems and build valuable connections with members of local industry and nonprofit communities. And it provides them with opportunities to mentor each other.”

One team developed a software program called “Study Buddy” that will allow computer science students to text questions to IBM’s supercomputer Watson and receive answers.

“I’m so excited about this project,” said Joey Richardson, ’16 Computer Engineering. “We are creating a completely new technology. We are training Watson to learn computer science so it can answer the questions. That means we have to supply all the information to Watson as well as devise the questions that first and second-year students are likely to ask. We are manipulating our knowledge so Watson can help anyone to study successfully.”

A second team continued through 2017 with a project started by students in the spring 2016 pilot program. The students are working to convert an old shipping container into a mobile shower and laundry facility for the homeless. The initial team moved the container from the Port of Oakland to the Engineering building courtyard by outfitting it with axles, wheels and a hitch. They installed the initial shower and laundry fixtures, attaching solar panels to it. This year’s team is working on adding insulation to the unit that is equipped to provide showers to 14 clients a day. The students received donations from the Gilroy Compassion Center, SJSU and Sunpower, and also launched a GoFundMe campaign.

Another set of students is working on creating an electric vehicle charger with parameters set by Dr. Fred Barez, the chair of Aviation and Technology.
“We’ve been learning all about restrictions,” said Daniel Khawaja, ’16 Computer Engineering. “We don’t get to design whatever we want – it’s what he wants. It would be much easier to design a solution for a ‘fun’ problem. But it’s exciting, too. We’ve been able to get critiques, ideas and help from industry professionals.”

The program is expanding to include an upper and lower division course so seniors will have an opportunity to mentor peers while first-year students will have a chance to do relevant community service, according to Keith Perry, the professor who is teaching the class.

Read the full article online.

April 2017 Newsletter: Interns Gain Valuable Skills at Cinequest Film Festival

Photo: James Tensuan Bianca Jaimes posed for a photo on campus with her Cinequest Film and VR Festival pass. She was one of eight SJSU students to intern during the spring festival. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Photo: James Tensuan
Bianca Jaimes posed for a photo on campus with her Cinequest Film and VR Festival pass. She was one of eight SJSU students to intern during the spring festival. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

By David Goll

By the time Bianca Jaimes — a San Jose State University senior majoring in Radio, Television and Film — finished her internship with the 2017 Cinequest Film and VR Festival last month, the experience had sharpened her focus on her future in the industry.

Not only did she learn firsthand how film festivals work, including the crucial art of networking to make industry connections, but also how important the planning and pre-production part of a film project is for its ultimate success.

“The internship definitely helped me and gave me consideration, choices and options to consider for my future,” she said. “It did give me more insight on the process of getting my own productions out there.”

At this year’s festival, eight SJSU students participated in the internship program for the annual event that screened more than 500 films from Feb. 28 to March 12 at venues scattered throughout downtown San Jose, as well as San Jose’s Santana Row and Redwood City. Alison McKee, a professor in the Department of Television, Radio, Film and Theatre who alternates directing RTVF internships with Professor Kimb Massey, said one-quarter of the department’s 32 spring semester internships among juniors and seniors are with the film festival.

Internships, both paid and unpaid, are required to earn a degree from the department and can be with a wide variety of companies and organizations. McKee said RTVF students, who must find and secure internships on their own, are also at ABC7 News in San Francisco and NBC Bay Area in San Jose this semester. The internships in her department are also occasionally with Silicon Valley high-tech companies that have their own media production facilities or such high-profile film production companies as Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville and Paramount Pictures in Los Angeles.

“Cinequest, in particular, presents an amazing opportunity for students, partly because it is just so convenient,” McKee noted, adding most festival venues are within easy walking distance of the campus. But it also brings the film industry, based largely in Southern California, to the Capital of Silicon Valley every year.

Student interns at Cinequest perform a variety of tasks, ranging from helping set up events, running errands in the background, setting up the hospitality center, assisting projectionists, promoting the festival and a myriad of other duties.

Jaimes worked as a hospitality concierge at the film festival, allocating passes to filmmakers, contacting them to make sure they would attend festival events, working on guest lists for breakfasts and workshops, creating and filling filmmaker “goodie bags,” among other tasks. She was stationed in the event’s VIP Lounge, located in The Continental Bar & Lounge, next door to the venerable California Theatre. The lavishly renovated 1,122-seat movie palace opened in 1927 and serves as headquarters for Cinequest.

“In general, I helped make sure everything ran smoothly, and that guests and filmmakers were happy and got great service,” Jaimes said.

McKee stays in close contact with students enrolled in RTVF 198 — Internships, Portfolio, Career Prep — a three-unit semester course. She meets with them three to four times during the semester and requires a report about the internship from students at its conclusion. The real-world workplace experience can be invaluable.

“They learn practical skills, how to present themselves and how to network and establish relationships,” McKee said. “They get tested in a real-work environment, and it also helps them hone their interests while still in school. Another valuable lesson is learning the value of time management. Our students are pulled in so many different directions. They have to learn how to manage their time in what is a less-forgiving environment than school. They can apply that to their studies, as well.”