President Papazian’s May Blog

I want to begin this month’s blog by expressing heartfelt concern for the victims of Monday’s terror attack in Manchester, U.K., their families and friends, and all those who are impacted by this senseless act of violence.

Six SJSU students have been studying abroad in England; I’m able to report that all six have been contacted since the attack and we have confirmed that they are safe and sound.

Closer to home, we are at long last enjoying some of the fruits of spring—sunnier skies; blossoming trees; a sense of new possibilities. It is about time!

April was National Poetry Month, established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States.

As a student and scholar of literature I long have found unique inspiration from poetry, ranging from the works of such classic poets as John Donne—the subject of my own scholarly efforts—to contemporary, less heralded writers such as British poet Angela Wybrow.

Wybrow observes in a poem called Spring: New Beginnings that “…the season heralds a bright new dawn,” and “…there’s a sense of hope at this time of year.”

This indeed is a hopeful and bright season, dawning with possibilities. On our campus, it is a time to celebrate SJSU’s legacy as we prepare to plan for our future; to bid farewell to this year’s graduates; and to continue to deepen our relationships with community partners.

Inaugural Week Reflections

The many events and activities that preceded the May 4 inaugural ceremony celebrated our campus’s remarkable legacy and promise, showcased the creative, academic and operational excellence of our students, faculty and staff, and illuminated issues of global significance.

Ours is a community of uncommon cultural, intellectual and personal diversity. These attributes were revealed in the array of lectures, exhibits, concerts and other pre-inaugural events that were held on campus and in our community. As I observed on several occasions throughout the week, these moments afforded us a unique opportunity to celebrate our storied past and reflect a bit on the grand promise that awaits us. It is my hope that you were able to enjoy some or all of them.

Investiture

The investiture ceremony itself brought together members of our campus community; professional colleagues who have profoundly influenced my career and life; leaders from the CSU and numerous sister campuses; elected and community leaders; and members of my immediate and extended family and friends.

While mindful of the important ceremonial and symbolic nature of this moment, the investiture—taken from the term “investment”—affirmed my commitment to the campus and to you. This is a promise that I take very seriously, and which I attempted to convey in my inaugural address while also reflecting on SJSU’s legacy and promise and the personal and professional journey that brought me here.

I am deeply grateful for the trust that has been placed in me by CSU trustees, Chancellor White, the individuals who served on the presidential search advisory committee and our community. My first year here has fully affirmed my belief that together, we can fulfill our extraordinary potential.

Many of you have heard me say that coming to SJSU was a “homecoming” after nearly three decades of service to public universities in Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

Dennis and I indeed feel very much “at home,” and we deeply appreciate the extraordinary effort that went into planning the investiture and all of its accompanying activities. Select news coverage and social media content and a video of the ceremony are available online.

Gala Celebration

The Inspiration to Innovation gala in our Event Center beautifully capped the week. SJSU alumnus Luis Valdez, ’64 English, the acclaimed playwright, activist and father of Chicano theater, received the 2017 Tower Award. Joe Pinto, a senior vice president at Cisco Systems and collaborator in several nascent academic initiatives, received a community partner award.

Luis’ spellbinding remarks truly embodied the meaning of “inspiration.” He spoke lovingly and passionately about his experience as an SJSU student, declaring that “…I learned diversity, I learned multi-versity in this university.”

The resumption in 2016 of an annual gala celebration at SJSU, benefiting students through individual and institutional philanthropy, is an important building block in broader efforts to attract private support.

Building on this momentum, the 2017 gala attracted a diverse array of sponsors. The support of these partners reflects growing respect for and belief in SJSU’s role in powering Silicon Valley.

Please bookmark October 18, 2018 for the next Inspiration to Innovation gala. I promise you, it will be special!

Commencement Season

Among the most powerful of our celebrations this spring are those that showcase the success of our students. Commencement season  culminates this Saturday, May 27 with the official campus commencement ceremony at CEFCU Stadium.

I was thrilled to see the large number of students who achieved President’s Scholar or Dean’s Scholar status and were recognized in front of a capacity Event Center crowd at this year’s Honors Convocation on April 28. It truly was a pleasure to participate in honoring these outstanding graduating seniors and to witness the immense pride and excitement among family members, friends and campus community members there to celebrate with them.

In addition to celebrating the accomplishments of the entire Class of 2017, this Saturday’s commencement ceremony will confer doctoral degrees on SJSU’s first cohort to complete the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership; hear what I know will be an inspiring commencement address from Spartan alumna, legendary journalist, cancer survivor and Latina leader Ysabel Duron ’70 Journalism; and confer an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree on Tower Foundation Board member and long-time Silicon Valley business leader Phil Boyce.

I strongly encourage you to join us the morning of May 27 for what I truly believe is the signature moment of our academic year.

Fall 2017 Admissions

As we prepare to bid farewell to the graduating Class of 2017, we also are preparing to welcome a highly diverse and large—potentially, the largest ever—cohort of new students this fall.

Throughout the spring, Student Affairs worked strategically and diligently on outreach to this year’s admitted applicants. Admitted Spartan Day in early April attracted a spirited crowd of ten thousand prospective students, families and friends to campus for a day of programming and personal engagement.

I want personally to thank the many members of the SJSU community—450 volunteers from all over campus—who ensured that this important annual outreach event was welcoming and successful.

Although we will not know the precise size or composition of the new class until late summer—some students inevitably withdraw their commitments prior to the first day of the fall term—we should be proud of the very strong response from this year’s admitted first-year and transfer students. San José State clearly has become a “first choice” institution!

Key Leadership Recruitments

A strong institution depends on strong leadership, and I am pleased to report that we are nearing completion of recruitments for several key academic and administrative leaders, each of whom will play an important role in strengthening our leadership and enhancing our capacity to serve students and all members of our campus community. Here is an update on each:

Dean, Lurie College of Education

Campus visits by finalists for this important academic leadership role concluded on May 8.  Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Andy Feinstein and I are grateful to search committee chair Professor Michael Kimbarow and other members of the committee for their efforts to date.

We also have been conducting two cabinet-level positions:

Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer

As I have shared in previous communications, the successful candidate will play an integral role in developing university-wide strategies and action plans to enhance the use of technology in support of our strategic goals. Given our presence in Silicon Valley and proximity to the world’s most innovative technology companies, SJSU should be a leader in the deployment of technology to support student and institutional success. The addition of an experienced technology executive will help enable us to fulfill this vision.

Several finalists recently visited campus. We will update you as soon as we have determined next steps.

Director of Athletics

Last Friday we announced the appointment of Marie Tuite as SJSU’s next director of Athletics. Marie stood out among a group of excellent candidates, demonstrating the unique mix of experience, expertise and commitment to educational values needed to ensure that intercollegiate athletics is deeply woven into the fabric of campus life.

We already are seeing evidence of momentum in Spartan athletics in the wake of the hiring of Brent Brennan as head football coach, a comprehensive sponsorship agreement with Adidas, and philanthropic support that is fueling a comprehensive renovation of our South Campus facilities.

I am convinced that Marie can sustain this energy while providing strategic leadership and direction for a program placing a priority on student success through academic achievement and athletic excellence.

Congratulations, Marie!

Community Engagement

My last blog included some reflections on SJSU’s role in shaping policies that meaningfully will impact the future of central San Jose and the broader region. In particular, I focused on looming decisions about transportation enhancements including the extension of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) into San Jose’s downtown.

This is only one among numerous policy issues in which SJSU, as the downtown’s top employer and landowner, should meaningfully be involved. With 10,000 students living within four miles of our campus, a total student and employee population exceeding 40,000, and more than 200,000 average monthly visitors to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. library, we have an important role to play in housing, public safety, economic development and transportation planning.

Last month, I was invited to share some of our long-range thinking about these issues at a breakfast meeting convened by SPUR San Jose. My presentation included a campus update as well as historical perspective on SJSU’s enduring role in shaping—literally and otherwise—the character of downtown San Jose over the past century-and-a-half.

This is a conversation that we should continue to have, both within and beyond our campus community, and we will be seeking opportunities to do so in coming months. I look forward to engaging campus urban planning experts and others as we evolve and broaden this dialogue.

In Pursuit of Equity, Locally and Globally

I believe we should help remove barriers to success for everyone. No identity characteristic—including one’s gender—should impede or limit educational or career opportunities.

The third annual Silicon Valley Women in Engineering Conference, hosted in late March by our Davidson College of Engineering, was designed with this aspiration in mind.

Professor Belle Wei, who as Guidry Chair for Engineering Education spearheads efforts to broaden opportunities for all SJSU engineering students, shared a startling statistic: women account for less than twenty percent of engineering and computing graduates while representing close to sixty percent of all college graduates.

More than 80 SJSU faculty members joined presenters from Silicon Valley technology companies—some of them Spartan alumni—in a day of programs focused on emerging technologies and personal and professional development.

I am heartened to see this type of creativity and resourcefulness in preparing our students for future workplace opportunities and challenges.

Barriers to personal and professional growth—particularly for women—are not confined to Silicon Valley. In late April, I attended a conference hosted by the American University of Armenia (AUA) on the Empowerment of Girls and Women, where I served as the opening plenary speaker.

This was a meaningful opportunity for me professionally and personally, bringing me to my ancestral home—a fledgling republic established 25 years ago after the breakup of the former Soviet Union—just days before the April 25 anniversary of the 1915-1923 Armenian Genocide.

In my remarks, I highlighted unique issues facing women in Armenia and the extent to which, to the surprise of some attendees, they are similar to conditions confronting women in America and all over the world. These synergies form the basis for opportunities for a global academic and cultural partnership between AUA and SJSU, and other higher education institutions in Armenia and globally, which we will explore in the coming months.

Telling SJSU’s Story

Throughout the spring, SJSU has garnered a steady stream of national and local news coverage highlighting the expertise and accomplishments of students, faculty and staff. Faculty experts commented on reaction to the U.S. military strike on Syria; deliberations in the U.S. Senate on the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch; cutting edge research projects involving fire weather science and vehicles of the future; Facebook’s response to live crimes and fake news; and reputation challenges facing major U.S. companies and the White House.

Closer to home, there were features on the Paseo Prototyping Challenge and Festival at the Hammer Theatre; a creative potential solution to local homelessness; a Money Magazine feature ranking SJSU favorably among public universities delivering the strongest “rate of return” for humanities graduates, and a study ranking SJSU ahead of all Ivy League schools for placing graduates in Silicon Valley’s 25 largest technology companies.

And, as a strong dose of Spartan pride, I encourage you to view the video of assistant football coach Alonzo Carter’s “dance moves” that inspired players and fellow coaches. Upon going viral, it was featured on Good Morning America, The Today Show and ESPN and attracted at least fourteen million online views on social media.

I also am very proud to share this video profile of our own Dr. Debra Griffith, winner of this year’s CSU Wang Family Excellence Award in the Outstanding Administrator category.

Dr. Griffith’s work as associate vice president, Transition and Retention Services and director of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) is a stellar example of our institutional commitment to student success. Congratulations, Debra! You are an inspiration to all Spartans.

Athletics Update

Hearty congratulations to our Spartan softball squad, which qualified for the NCAA tournament after winning the Mountain West Conference championship. Over last weekend in Los Angeles, the team opened with a victory over CSU Fullerton—the first NCAA win in program history—before being eliminated in a 1-0 loss to Fullerton on Saturday night.

This accomplishment is all the more impressive considering that they spent the entire 2017 season away from their home field due to ongoing renovations to South Campus athletic facilities.

Speaking of those renovations, we will celebrate the official opening of the South Campus golf complex at a ribbon cutting ceremony on June 1.

I wish everyone the very best in these final days of spring term as we prepare to celebrate commencement and the beginning of summer.

And, I look forward to seeing many of you at Saturday’s commencement ceremonies at CEFCU Stadium as well as other end-of-semester celebrations taking place on and around campus.