September 2016 Newsletter: Development Efforts Support Student Success

Photo by David Schmitz Students in the Spartan Scholars Program gather with a peer mentor after class. The Koret Foundation gave $2 million to SJSU to support student success initiatives, including the Spartan Scholars Program.

Photo by David Schmitz
Students in the Spartan Scholars Program gather with a peer mentor after class. The Koret Foundation gave $2 million to SJSU to support student success initiatives, including the Spartan Scholars Program.

As Student Affairs and Academic Affairs staff and faculty launch initiatives to support student success, two recent gifts to the university are specifically earmarked to fund such efforts. University Advancement received a $15 million gift from Lupe Diaz Compean and a $2 million gift from the Koret Foundation last spring.

Compean’s gift will support student success initiatives and scholarships. The donation will also support the maintenance of SJSU’s newly renovated and expanded Student Union, and the many activities housed in this structure located in the heart of campus.

“San Jose State has been in conversation with the Compeans for the past two decades,” said Vice President for University Advancement Paul Lanning. “Throughout this time, Lupe Diaz Compean has been crystal clear that her motivation in making the gift was to benefit students, honor her family and her late husband by naming a facility, and demonstrating that by working hard and getting an education, anyone can achieve what she has in her lifetime.”

The new student union was dedicated in honor of her and her late husband on Sept. 1. The facility is now known as the Ramiro Compean and Lupe Diaz Compean Student Union.

In addition, SJSU received $2 million from the Koret Foundation as part of a multi-year $50 million initiative to support higher education at a dozen institutions in the Bay Area. SJSU’s funding will be used to create a new student information analytics system that will improve advising; support the Spartan Scholars Program, a newly launched summer bridge program that is aimed at increasing retention and graduation of underrepresented students; and provide scholarships for students with the most need.

“This is a significant start to our efforts to seek funding to support student success initiatives, and it will be complemented by what will ultimately be the $8 million Compean Endowment for Student Success Initiatives once that fund matures,” Lanning said.

The goals of the gifts are in line with SJSU’s Four Pillars of Student Success plan, which is focused on college readiness, advising, student engagement and clearing bottlenecks.

“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.”

In support of the campus priority, Lanning created a new position in University Advancement to continue fundraising efforts around student success. Emily Lane, hired in August, is the new director of development for student success.

SJSU’s Research on Quantum Simulation of Fermi-Hubbard Model published

College of Science Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy Ehsan Khatami had research published in September 2016.

College of Science Assistant Professor of Physics and Astronomy Ehsan Khatami had research published in September 2016.

San Jose State University College of Science Assistant Professor Ehsan Khatami’s research on ultracold atomic gasses has been published in Science, “Observation of Spatial Charge and Spin Correlations in the 2D Fermi-Hubbard Model,” released on Sept. 16. The article is a collaboration between Khatami and other researchers at five universities.

“If you bottle up a gas and try to image its atoms using today’s most powerful microscopes, you would see little more than a shadowy blur,” according to a press release from MIT on the work. “Atoms zip around at lightning speeds and are difficult to pin down at ambient temperatures. If, however, these atoms are plunged to ultracold temperatures, they slow to a crawl, and scientists can start to study how they can form exotic states of matter such as superfluids, superconductors and quantum magnets.”

The Hubbard model is the simplest theoretical model of interacting quantum particles hopping around on a lattice, effectively simulating electrons in the crystal structure of atoms in solids. Only in certain situations can properties of the model be calculated. In other more interesting situations, e.g., when it is relevant to superconductivity (the phenomenon of zero electrical resistance), not even the most powerful computers in the world can solve the model. So, the experimentalists are trying to simulate it using ultracold atoms.

Khatami said the improved understanding of the Hubbard model in two dimensions will help scientists uncover the mysteries of high-temperature superconductivity and other exotic phases of matter.

“It moves us forward in the direction of material by design, using strongly-correlated materials that hold the greatest promise for future technology, transportation and energy applications,” Khatami said.

In the past decade, scientists in the Atomic, Molecular, and Optics (AMO) community have been trying to cool down (to only slightly above absolute zero temperature) and study clouds of thousands of atoms they have mastered to confine in a small region of space, typically several microns wide, using optical traps, potential wells created by lasers. They also impose an “optical lattice,” created by crisscrossing laser beams to mimic the lattice structure in the Hubbard model.

“The long-term goal of experimental efforts in this field is to cool down the atomic cloud to even lower temperatures and find out whether the theoretical Hubbard model can describe the superconducting phase,” Khatami said.

Khatami and his colleague at Pennsylvania State University Dr. Marcos Rigol had published a numerical solution of the two-dimensional (2D) Hubbard model in 2011 that piqued the interest of Dr. Martin Zwierlein, of MIT. The trio worked with seven other researchers from five universities.

“Dr. Zwierlein was wondering if we could use the same numerical method (NLCE-the numerical linked-cluster expansion) to calculate new properties they had measured in their experiment so that they could compare with their results and characterize their system,” Khatami said. “One of the surprising findings has been that lattice sites with pairs of atoms seem to be ‘bunching’ together with empty sites. “

The current article follows another related work by Khatami and his collaborators published in the March 2015 issue of Nature, “Observations of antiferromagnetic correlations in the Hubbard model with ultracold atoms.” In the article, researchers described how long-range magnetic correlations of ultracold atoms in three-dimensions were observed in optical lattices for the first time. The paper was deemed a “hot paper” by ISI in March as one of the top .1 percent of papers in its academic field due to the number of citations it received.

Khatami said for his parallel numerical calculations, he extensively used a computer cluster he put together last year using startup money provided to newly hired tenure/tenure-track faculty, and with support from the Physics and Astronomy Department and the College of Science. The cluster, called Teal, has four nodes, 54 cores, and more than 760 GB of RAM.

Bob Wrenn Appointed as Inteirm AVP of ITS/CIO at SJSU

I am very pleased to announce the selection of Bob Wrenn as the interim AVP for Information Technology Services and CIO, effective Sept. 19, 2016.  Bob will succeed Terry Vahey, who has decided to retire and whose last day on campus will be Sept. 16.

Bob joined San Jose State University in September 2015 in a temporary position before being appointed as senior director and associate CIO of Enterprise Solutions in March 2016. In his role, he has been integral in streamlining processes in ITS while also building relationships between developers and the greater campus community.

As associate CIO, he contributed extensively to the creation of an ITS strategic plan and has established a focus on application solutions that support student success. Some of the projects completed or under way include a supplemental application process for transfer students, online advising tools, and the implementation of a student data warehouse, among other projects in line with SJSU’s Four Pillars of Student Success.

Before joining SJSU, Bob served most recently as vice president of Enterprise Business Applications at Hewlett Packard, where he was responsible for managing and leading teams in enterprise system application development and business operations management. At HP, he was responsible for managing projects, policies, budgets, user expectations and requirements, development, quality assurance and production cycles. In his time there he also held multiple senior management positions in Information Technology and Enterprise Customer Support.

Bob holds a master’s in industrial engineering from Stanford University and a bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from Purdue University. In addition, he has completed three continuing education courses at Stanford University on “Intelligence with Data,” and has used those skills to work closely with others on campus to start the implementation of a student data warehouse solution and predictive analytics models.

I am confident students, faculty and staff will find Bob to be a capable leader who is adept at balancing the many technology needs on our campus. Please join me in congratulating him on his appointment.

Sincerely,

Andy Feinstein

SJSU Librarians Use Research to Guide Student Success

Bernd Becker, left, and Diana Wu, have been recognized for prolific research, with the most publications in their areas of expertise in the nation for the last five years.

Bernd Becker, left, and Diana Wu, have been recognized for prolific research, with the most publications in their areas of expertise in the nation for the last five years.

Bernd Becker and Diana Wu, along with other faculty members who work at SJSU’s University Library are more than just librarians. They are prolific researchers who study how students use libraries in hopes of improving student success and information literacy.

San Jose State University’s Dr.  Martin Luther King Jr. Library has been recognized as having the most prolific university library researchers in the nation based on number of articles published in subject specialty journals in the last five years (2011-2015), with Becker recognized for the most publications in the category of behavioral/social sciences and Wu recognized for the most publications in the category of information literacy and business resources. SJSU was ranked third overall out of 278 four-year institutions of higher learning for all categories. The rankings were announced at the Special Libraries Annual Conference in Philadelphia on June 13.

“My research focuses on the advances in technology as it influences the way academic librarians deliver their services and expertise,” said Becker, who has worked with the University Library for more than seven years, and was promoted to associate librarian in August 2015. “This interest is fueled by the innovative spirit that resides in Silicon Valley, and the readiness of the SJSU University Library to explore new approaches to academic librarianship.”

SJSU was cited as “best in the nation” in behavioral/social sciences for Becker’s work and business for Wu’s contributions, accounting for 26 percent and 28 percent of the national share of papers. SJSU librarians, who are classified as faculty members, published 36 articles in subject specialty journals in the last five years, outpacing their publication record for the previous 10-year analysis period (2000-2010).

Valeria Molteni, the interim associate dean for Research and Scholarship, said the active research by SJSU librarians ranges from research to improve how students use library resources in specific disciplines to collection development to how to best incorporate technology to how to help people develop skills to get the information they need in the moment.

“We are also doing research about space and how students experience it so we can improve services,” Molteni noted, adding that digital screens were added to 22 study rooms because through research librarians discovered that students wanted a way to practice presentations.

Emily Chan, the academic liaison librarian and scholarly communications coordinator, agreed that much of the research is focused on making libraries a third place where students spend their time outside of their homes or work places.

“The library is not only a place to study, but to eat, to socialize and to play,” Chan said.

Becker’s research is focused on developing best practices and principles for implementing high-tech, efficient library services for students and the university.

“Our library supports students who are going to be tech leaders,” Chan said. “We want to try to incorporate that and be responsive.”

During a sabbatical this fall, Becker plans to refine a longitudinal assessment tool of information literacy skills that he developed with fellow SJSU psychology professor Clifton Oyamot.

“My hope is to make this tool scalable so that any SJSU department interested in assessing information literacy can easily adopt it into the curriculum,” he said.

Diana Wu, who has worked with the University Library for nearly 30 years, said she is interested in how users receive and use information to fulfill their daily needs.

“For our students, I am especially concerned with how they educate themselves to become productive citizens,” she said.

Since she started with the University Library, she has been focused on information literacy and has coauthored multiple papers with other SJSU colleagues including Malu Roldan, Sue Kendall, Marilyn Easter, Bobbi Makani, Ann Agee and Connie Haley, from Chicago State University. Her articles, available on SJSU’s Scholarworks, have been downloaded 2,385 times by scholars at 111 institutions in 64 countries.

Wu and Becker’s research is ultimately focused on supporting student success. Becker said he appreciates his library colleagues and administration’s focus on placing student success above everything else.

“Student success is at the heart of my research,” he said. “Being that SJSU is a research and writing-intensive university, we have found that our students rely heavily on the University Library as they progress towards graduation. My research is dedicated to uncovering what their library needs are, and how we can best meet those needs.”

Wu said she helped to develop a campus-wide survey to collect data assessing information literacy proficiency, which has been helpful since information literacy has become one of the core proficiencies for graduation that is assessed by Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) for accreditation.

In the coming year, she plans to work with junior colleagues on investigating student’s information seeking behavior in an era where most students rely on mobile devices to access information.
“Doing research is a long journey, and sometimes it can be lonely,” Wu said. “It requires dedication and self-discipline, but also requires support and encouragement. We need one another to generate and share knowledge for our students and the scholarly community – so be supportive and ready to listen.”

Wu said she has appreciated the encouragement through the years from administrators, including former Provost Carmen Sigler and former library Dean Patricia Senn Breivik, both of whom supported her as she completed “Information Literacy at the Workplace: a Cross-Cultural Perspective” with a grant from the Business Reference and Services Section of the American Library Association.

“We are always presenting and always moving forward,” Molteni said. “We are always looking for change.”

Read the full report.

SJSU Business Grad Supports Accessible Software at Google

Jyotsna Kaki, '06 Management Information Systems, works as an accessibility software testing engineer at Google.

Jyotsna Kaki, ’06 Management Information Systems, works as an accessibility software testing engineer at Google.

When Jyotsna Kaki, ’06 Management Information Systems (MIS), was a student at San Jose State in the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business, she offered to help a classmate in need when the other student fractured a wrist and was unable to take notes. At the time, Kaki discovered the Disability Resource Center (DRC), now known as the Accessible Education Center, where staff members provided her guidance on how to best support her peer.

More than a decade later, Kaki, who became blind while she was a student at SJSU, is still helping others as a software accessibility test engineer for Google. She oversees a central accessibility team of test engineers and trains other Google employees to conduct accessibility testing. Her story was recently featured on CNN Money, with a video and article.

Kaki became blind a semester after she discovered the DRC while helping her classmate. In fall 2004, she woke one morning with blurriness in her right eye. She had been diagnosed with a benign, slow-growing brain tumor as a child. The tumor had grown into the optic nerve and she underwent surgery to regain her sight. Instead, her optic nerve was damaged during the surgery and she was left with a permanent visual impairment.

“It was unexpected,” she said. “I don’t remember much from the month after I found out.”

But her mother tells her less than 10 minutes after discovering she was blind, Kaki called her brother to ask him to help her get back on campus. Within a month, she was back at San Jose State.

When she returned to campus, she felt isolated from her peers who did not interact with her as they had before she lost her vision. Her professors tried to be accommodating, but sometimes did not know how to help her. She turned to the DRC for support. They provided training on how to use screen reading technology, helped her get accessible textbooks and she learned Braille to get through the rest of her coursework.

“Everything pretty much started there (in the DRC),” Kaki said. “Most professors were helpful, but they didn’t have the necessary information.”

Kaki completed her degree two years after she lost her vision with a 3.8 GPA, higher than her GPA before her impairment. After graduation, her brother passed her resume to a friend who worked at Google without telling her. She thought a professor might have sent her resume in, but later discovered it was her brother. When she was invited in for an interview, she did not think she would get the job. They offered her a position and she has since taken on the role of leading a team of engineers. In the last decade, she said she has seen the focus on accessibility increase at Google and she is proud to be part of the efforts.

“It’s been really great because at the end of every day, I can go to sleep satisfied that what I am doing is going to help someone,” she said. “I have been lucky to help other people get assistance and help make products successful. It’s been a great experience and I’ve learned a lot.”