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: 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.

SJSU Hosts Eighth Annual Biomedical Device Conference

On March 29, San Jose State University hosted the Eighth Annual Biomedical Device Conference, with SJSU students, faculty and staff engaging with representatives from leading biomedical device companies. The annual event is coordinated by the Biomedical Engineering Society student group and Dr. Guna Selvaduray.

SJSU’s Biomedical Engineering Program continues to grow, with more than 300 undergraduate and 100 graduate students enrolled this year. The degree program launched four years ago and received accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET) in 2016.

The annual conference allows students, faculty and staff to engage with representatives from the more than 1,000 medical device firms in the Bay Area. The day’s activities included plenary sessions with industry leaders such as Evidation Health, Medstars and HealthTech Capital and Abott Vascular; a panel on “How to (Boot Strap) Fund your Medical Device Company” and morning and afternoon parallel sessions in which participants selected workshops of particular interest to them.

More than 50 students shared their research and design concepts that will enhance treatment for a wide range of medical conditions, from diabetes to heart disease to spinal injuries. Most of the students were from SJSU, but a few visiting scholars from San Francisco State, the University of California Riverside and the University of Cairo also shared their work.

March 2017 Newsletter: Room Updates Bring Campus into 21st-Century

Photo: James Tensuan Connie L. Lurie College of Education students gather in the Student Success Center for a career advice session.

Photo: James Tensuan
Connie L. Lurie College of Education students gather in the Student Success Center for a career advice session.

By Barry Zepel

Technology continues to enhance more and more of the classrooms of San Jose State University. Outdated classrooms have transitioned into 21st-century learning spaces, one of the goals of the Vision 2017 strategic plan.

More “smart” classroom are – or are scheduled to become – operational across campus during the spring semester. Modernization has been an ongoing project for several years within the Connie L. Lurie College of Education, according to Mary McVey, a former associate dean who directed the changes in classrooms and other facilities. She reports that with the installation of modern mobile furniture and “state-of-the-art” technology, 14 old-style classrooms have been converted into “smart” learning spaces. Added to those updates are a student collaboration lab, a faculty-staff meeting and professional development room, and a conference room.

“We were the first at SJSU to redesign our classrooms so that they were fully mobile and based on a 360-degree classroom concept,” said McVey, who recently returned to duties as a full-time professor of child and adolescent development. “The idea is there is no front, back, or sides of the room. All walls are used for active instruction and the instructor is able to move freely about the room rather than being restricted to the front or ‘sage on stage’ position. All of our furniture is mobile so that the rooms can be easily and quickly reconfigured to suit the mode of instruction.”

The newest of the facilities in Education, a Student Success Center (SSC), opened this spring. Whereas other colleges have utilized their centers for academic advising, Education will use its SSC for career counseling of its predominately-graduate level students.

“Unlike the other colleges, two-thirds of our students are at the graduate level,” said Michele Burns, who is coordinator of the SSC for Education. “Most of our students are working on their teaching credential or preparing to become school counselors, speech pathologists and education administrators.

In some cases, students will be able to check out equipment that includes a new supply of 75 iPads and five swivel cameras, mini robotic video devices that move to follow the instructor as he or she moves about the room. McVey indicated that the new technology will be used for communicating with student teachers who are working in the field as well as for professors to record lectures and provide students with supplemental information.

“We want to engage students with their individual learning styles,” said Burns, who has been a lecturer in counselor education at SJSU for six years. “Some students are more kinesthetic (wanting hands-on experience), others are more auditory (wanting classroom discussion to hear other people), while others are visual (seeing and reading the text) learners. By using the technology, we reach more students’ learning style. Students will more likely remember what they learn.”

Similar changes have been made in the College of Science, where “facilities, student seating and instructional technology renovations in classrooms include large lecture rooms in Duncan Hall 135, and Science 258 and 142,” according to Stan Vaughn, instructional and research facilities manager for the college.

“Of special note is the work completed in Science 142, the largest and most heavily used lecture hall by our college,” Vaughn said, noting that three new projectors, a document camera and demonstration camera can now be used for multiple projections on three screens. Those devices are complimented by a new audio system in that room.

Vaughn said that additional improvements for several other teaching labs in the Science Building are scheduled for use during the spring semester, with the Physics and Astronomy teaching lab in Science 319 being the first designated “active learning lab” in the College of Science.  When completed, the facility will have new furniture, digital projectors, wall-to-wall whiteboards, sound attenuation, and modern window treatments to better control room lighting conditions.

In addition to the technology upgrades, more than 150 classrooms were improved during 2014-16 with upgrades that included new blinds, whiteboards, projectors and other enhancements. Read more about classroom updates online.