May 2017 Newsletter: ITS Creates Altamont Center to Engage Student Interns

15SJSU students intern with the campus’ Information Technology Services team to support student success.By Barry Zepel

Classroom-based learning provides the foundation for earning a degree; learning in a hands-on, real-life setting sharpens skills to prepare a student for a career.

That is just one part of the strategy behind the creation of the Altamont Center in Information Technology Services (ITS) at San Jose State University, where 16 students majoring in a variety of disciplines are completing internships that help them develop the marketable skills desired by corporations and other organizations in Silicon Valley. Interns work on projects involving data science, business intelligence, technical writing, software testing, software development and project management. Of the students, seven are undergraduates and nine are completing graduate degrees.

The students – who are in disciplines ranging from management information systems (MIS) to computer science to engineering to statistics – work closely with ITS staff on projects that move forward the goals of the department. The strategy is in line with SJSU’s Four Pillars of Student Success plan, with initiatives that support student engagement as a key pillar. Dana Nehoran, who serves as both a faculty member in the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business and a staff member in ITS, proposed the idea a year ago as a way to engage students through internships.

“The center employs students who are able to work on technical tasks related to their areas of study, while they also help achieve important goals and make a lasting impact on the campus community,” Nehoran explained. “Our student interns take part in essential projects that help SJSU provide more effective services for the entire student body.”

The students are mentored and supervised by full-time ITS staff members. The team Nehoran moves SJSU’s Four Pillars plan forward by identifying obstacles to student success, such as financial hardships, advising processes or inability to register for needed classes. The university can then focus resources on the areas that will have the most impact on improving graduation and retention rates. The interns are compiling and analyzing data, and ITS will distribute reports to help campus administrators make decisions about student success initiatives.

Together, the Altamont interns are providing San Jose State with predictive analytics. Nehoran describes it as “a discipline that attempts to make useful predictions about the future based on statistical analysis of historical data.”

“From the ITS point of view, we have this wealth of knowledge and capacity in these students,” said Bob Wrenn, SJSU’s interim chief information officer who oversees the department. “We have a lot of work to do here and we have a finite amount of resources to get it done. I can get students here who are highly trained and highly available; they’re on site and help complete the work we need done.”

The interns play an important role in the department, according to Wrenn.

“They are delivering real-life value working side-by-side with my permanent, full-time staff, who serve as their mentors and supervisors,” he noted.

Nehoran said the interns’ use of predictive analytics could have a positive impact for thousands of their fellow SJSU students, of whom 14 percent graduate in four years with the university focused on increasing that to 35 percent by 2025. The interns are analyzing historical information to find patterns that help identify students at risk of not completing a degree in a timely manner with the objective of enabling the appropriate campus services to provide proactive intervention.

While the interns realize that the “real-life experience” they’re getting will help them when seeking their first jobs after graduation, that isn’t all that is inspiring and exciting them.

“What we do here is going to add value to the campus community,” said Ryan Quigley, a second-year graduate student majoring in statistics. “We’re working under the umbrella of predictive analytics, which is using the data that the university has, to make predictions that are going to be beneficial to students’ lives.”

“Our main goal as Altamont Center interns is to make sure that the university’s resources are allocated efficiently. We don’t want (administrators) opening up class sections that are going to be empty, and we don’t want them closing sections that are going to be in high demand,” noted Quigley, who has already been offered a full-time position with a San Francisco-based financial institution as a result of his Altamont Center experience.

The internship program has had a profound impact on Nazia Khan, who like Quigley is a second-year master’s student and statistics major.

“I am totally a different person since I started (at the Altamont Center),” said Khan, who spent two years as a teacher in her native India after completing her undergraduate studies there. “I have more experience and confidence that I can survive in industry because of Dana Nehoran and the Altamont Center. I’m working on something that I am passionate and excited about because I am helping students to acquire their degrees and complete their education while helping to prevent them from dropping out because of emotional or financial reasons. We are able to help them by providing data to the professionals on campus responsible for directly helping those students.”

Additional information about the Altamont Center internships in the ITS Department is available by contacting Nehoran at dana.nehoran@sjsu.edu.

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.”