SJSU in the News: “Lots of Reasons to be Optimistic” About Qayoumi

New SJSU president looks like good choice

Opinion originally published in the San Jose Mercury News on March 24, 2011.

There are lots of reasons to be optimistic about the choice of Mohammad Qayoumi as president of San Jose State, not the least of which is that he apparently wants to be here.

San Jose State has had four presidents or interim leaders in eight years. One lasted all of three weeks; another was practically invisible. The university needs a president with the leadership skills, imagination and — this is key — commitment of Robert Caret, who led the campus from 1995 to 2003, or Don Kassing, who graciously returned as interim president last year when the most recent president left.

Kassing and Caret got us spoiled. Both raised the university’s profile and deepened its partnership with the city, to the benefit of both.

Qayoumi appears to be in the same mold. And he knows what he’s getting into, having worked here from 1986 to 1995 and having spent 26 years in the CSU system, most recently as president of Cal State East Bay, in Hayward.

Qayoumi’s personal history is inspiring, even in Silicon Valley, where immigrants’ amazing success stories are commonplace. His journey from a childhood in Kabul through Beirut to America sounds like material for a novel, but Qayoumi is all science and budgets, with multiple engineering degrees and an MBA. That’s a good fit for San Jose State, which prepares a huge portion of the engineers who fuel the valley’s innovation economy.

The CSU system is in crisis today, with budget cuts forcing the betrayal of California youth once promised a college education, only to find themselves shut out. San Jose State needs a leader who can win the trust of faculty and students to guide the campus through this perilous time — and who, ideally, can engage the community in the future of its university. We’re hopeful that Qayoumi is the right person.