Society entrusts public universities like ours with the responsibility to nurture the next generation of educated, engaged citizens. But we are more—much more—than conferrers of degrees. The midpoint of the fall semester is an apt moment to reflect on another of our vital responsibilities: public service.
As the founding campus of the California State University and a long-standing member of both the American Association of State Colleges and Universities (AASCU) and the Association of Public & Land-Grant Universities (APLU), San Jose State University embraces each of the three pillars that collectively form our public mission: increasing degree completion and fostering student success; research and related scholarship; and meaningful public engagement.
The third pillar—community engagement—is every bit as vital to fulfilling our mission as all that we do to educate students and advance knowledge through research and scholarly activities.
Indeed, as I have said on a number of occasions, I believe that active, meaningful engagement between a university and its surrounding community animates and enhances all that we seek to do for students, our region and society.
To that end, this month’s blog highlights some of the ways SJSU strategically is engaging—locally, regionally and nationally—with community partners in government and the private sector. There also are updates on several ongoing strategic initiatives, notable achievements by students, alumni and others, key upcoming events, and a remembrance of a legendary Spartan.
Extending our hands during times of need
Our public engagement efforts extend well beyond our city and region. To this end, I want to begin with a few reflections on the multiple raging wildfires that continue to inflict severe damage across our state, including multiple North Bay counties, Orange County, and elsewhere.
Although the fires largely have been concentrated in multiple geographic areas, their impact has been felt and will continue to touch to every corner of our state and beyond. The skies above San Jose have reminded us of this in recent days.
The numbers shared by authorities are staggering. As of this writing, officials have reported dozens of deaths; hundreds of persons unaccounted for; many thousands of structures destroyed; and hundreds of thousands of acres scorched. These numbers regrettably have continued to rise.
As of the weekend, the wildfires had spread to vast swaths of the North Bay— including the wine country—and migrated east and north toward Solano county, posing a danger to communities there as well.
Worse still, dry and windy conditions have compromised efforts by firefighters to contain these deadly, destructive blazes. Meteorologists say that shifting weather conditions later this week, including the possibility of rain to our north, may help.
Our hearts of course go out to fire victims, including many members of the Sonoma State community. My Sonoma State colleague President Judy Sakaki and her husband Patrick lost their home; Executive Vice President and Provost Lisa Vollendorf, who previously led our College of Humanities and Arts, was forced to evacuate hers. Others of their employees similarly were impacted.
The impact of the wildfires has been felt here as well. The family of at least one of our students lost its home.
First responders, as ever, have responded heroically. We are grateful for their courage and skill. It is during times like these that we are reminded of the true meaning of selflessness and of the critical importance of lending a hand to others in need.
I am proud to say that Spartans, as always, have risen to this challenge.
Members of our faculty with uniquely relevant expertise regularly are being featured in regional and national news coverage. Students have hosted donation drives in support of fire victims; their latest effort continues through this Thursday.
Other efforts have been focused on supporting members of our own CSU family. Locally, we have in recent days provided police, strategic communications, counseling and emergency management support to Sonoma State’s emergency operations center during a mandatory campus closure that is expected to be lifted later this week. As campus operations there stabilize, we will seek other ways to help. Many of our sister campuses also are joining in this effort.
I encourage you to consider joining your CSU colleagues in providing much-needed support to fire victims through the Sonoma State Fire Victims Fund. This fund was established to provide victims with essentials to help get them through what surely will be a difficult recovery period.
Finally, we are mindful of our sister campuses nearer to fires burning elsewhere in California, including the Orange County Canyon Fire 2 wildfires that burned thousands of acres and destroyed more than two dozen structures before containment efforts began to take hold late in the week. Our thoughts are with the victims of these fires and our CSU colleagues who have been affected or are involved in relief efforts.
Celebrating community heroes
California State Senator Bob Wieckowski annually honors “Local Heroes” for impactful community service. The honorees—individuals and organizations with meaningful ties to Sen. Wieckowski’s district, which includes portions of Silicon Valley—are selected for noteworthy individual and institutional accomplishments that improve the quality of life for all community members.
I am immensely proud to share that Spartans were represented among this year’s honorees, who were recognized by the senator at a September 28 ceremony.
The Unity Award was presented to SJSU alumnus and noted sports sociologist Dr. Harry Edwards in honor of his tireless, decades-long efforts in support of human rights and social justice. Dr. Edwards, who received an honorary doctorate in 2016, has been deeply engaged in the launch and early development of our campus’s Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change and generously entrusted to our care many priceless artifacts from his personal archives.
SJSU B.F.A. student Andy Nguyen also was honored by Senator Wieckowski for meaningful humanitarian and philanthropic efforts. Andy, who has used his expressive artistic skills to illuminate the plight of global refugees, is a past recipient of the CSU Trustee Scholar’s Award and volunteers for SJSU’s Generate program, which supports the unique needs of our first-generation students.
I am grateful to Senator Wieckowski for honoring noteworthy community heroism, and I am immensely proud of these Spartans—one whose legendary efforts over many decades have had uncommon global impact, and another whose work is only getting started.
Honoring a legendary community-minded Spartan
Citizens of San Jose and Silicon Valley long have benefited from the tireless contributions of selfless individuals from public and private life, like those recently honored by Senator Wieckowski.
As one would expect, many of these community heroes have had significant ties to SJSU. One such hero—SJSU alumna Shirley Lewis ’55—passed away earlier this month. She was 84. Lewis’ myriad accomplishments and testimonials from her many admirers easily could fill this blog.
Lewis invested much of her life in community service: twelve years on the San Jose City Council; executive director of the San Jose Symphony and Youth Symphony; president of San Jose Rotary; president of the SJSU Alumni Association; a director for SPUR San Jose (a chapter of what formerly was known as the San Francisco Bay Area Planning and Urban Research Association).
Mercury News columnist Scott Herhold aptly called Lewis’ passing the loss of an “authentic patriot.” He recalled the devotion and patience she brought to her work on the City Council and her uncommon openness to civil disagreement and dialogue—which I find especially noteworthy in today’s divisive political climate.
Former San Jose mayor Tom McEnery said that “San Jose meant everything to her,” according to Herhold. A former symphony colleague called her “a force of nature.”
In reading about Lewis, I especially am struck by her commitment to her own family—she raised six children, the first of whom was born while she was a married SJSU student—and to her native city, which was her extended family.
A Mercury-News editorial headline may have said it best: “San Jose’s Shirley Lewis persisted in love for family and community.” On behalf of the Spartan family, I offer my condolences and best wishes to Shirley Lewis’ family and all who were fortunate enough to know her well.
Cybersecurity: partnerships, awareness-building
October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month. As part of our broader academic and research efforts, this annual awareness-building month affords us the opportunity to help students explore opportunities in a globally-relevant field while heightening our collective awareness of threats to data and personal security.
Ably supported by Virginia Lehmkuhl Dakhwe, program director of the Jay Pinson Center for Stem Education in our College of Science, members of SJSU’s Information Security (“InfoSec”) Club competed earlier this month in a two-day national data security competition hosted by Uber at its San Francisco headquarters. Public/private partnerships like these open doors to invaluable relationships benefiting students and faculty and foster productive relationships between SJSU and top technology companies like Uber and Cisco.
Our involvement in national cybersecurity initiatives continues to deepen. The National Initiative for Cybersecurity Education (NICE) K-12 Cybersecurity Education Working group, co-chaired by Virginia, will stage its first annual Cybersecurity Career Awareness week early next month. Through a collaboration with the CSU, this program will help our local K-12 computer science initiatives—which encourage students, especially girls, to explore STEM education—better integrate cybersecurity career exploration into its activities.
Last Thursday, our Information Technology office hosted Sasha Hellberg, Manager of Threat Research at Trend Micro, who shared insights from three decades of experience to illustrate the evolution of cyber-attacks, lessons learned, and best practices for enhancing cyber “hygiene.” She also spoke about technical and non-technical career opportunities.
I encourage you to watch a recording of the presentation.
DNP degrees authorized
There was very good news from Sacramento late last week. Governor Brown signed into law Assembly Bill 422, a bill granting full authority to the CSU to offer Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degrees. SJSU was one of five CSU campuses selected to launch two pilot DNP programs—one each in northern and southern California—that began in 2012.
The program, designed to ensure a steady flow of new nursing faculty throughout the state to keep up with demand in degree-based nursing programs, would have expired later this year without legislative authorization.
The bill passed both houses of the legislature despite opposition from the legislative analyst’s office, which was hesitant to grant the CSU broader authority to offer doctoral degrees. As one of the participating pilot campuses, I earlier this year was proud to testify in support of the bill in a legislative policy committee.
The enactment of AB 422 stands to benefit the health of all Californians and strengthen quality degree-based nursing programs like ours. College of Applied Sciences and Arts Dean Mary Schutten, in the wake of the governor’s action, observed that “…this was a group effort for an outstanding medicine and health impacting program. I am pleased that SJSU’s joint pilot program contributed to paving the way for Governor Brown’s signing of AB 422.”
I share Dean Schutten’s pride in SJSU’s meaningful contributions to this very important outcome.
Press announcement of legislative protections for Dreamers
Our commitment to Dreamers is well-documented. We were honored to host an October 5 press conference to commemorate Governor Brown’s signing of Assembly Bill 21, legislation authored by Assemblymember Ash Kalra (D-San Jose) strengthening DACA protections. I was privileged to stand alongside Assemblymember Kalra, SJSU Associated Students president Ariadna Manzo and assistant professor Patricia Lopez and help contextualize the importance of this legislation.
SJSU convenes important conversations
I often have spoken about the important role played by a public university—especially one intrinsically linked to the affairs of an urban center like San Jose—as a convener of important conversations on issues of broad public import.
Last week, amid heightened interest in the role of public art in community discourse, we hosted a panel discussion, moderated by former San Jose city councilmember Blanca Alvarado, that included SJSU alumnus and assistant professor of Mexican American studies Dr. Jonathan Alcanta and two SJSU faculty members: Mexican American Studies lecturer Gregorio Mora-Torres and Professor and Anthropology Department Chair Roberto Gonzalez.
The panel explored the unique and somewhat misunderstood story of Quetzalcoatl, a Robert Graham sculpture in Plaza de Ceser Chavez.
We are proud to have the opportunity to serve as hosts this week to several other important conversations, meetings and public presentations:
- Representative Ro Khanna (D–CA) visits campus on Tuesday, Oct. 17. I will have the opportunity to engage in a conversation with Rep. Khanna on numerous national issues of relevance to us all.
- Also Tuesday evening we will host a public conversation concerning public art and, of local interest, the future fate of the Columbus statue in San Jose City Hall. We are partnering with the City of San Jose in convening this timely dialogue, featuring a strong panel of experts facilitated by SJSU political science professor and department chair Melinda Jackson.
- This Monday and Tuesday, Oct. 16-17, we welcome CSU government relations and public affairs staff from throughout the state for two days of discussion and professional development.
- Wednesday evening, Oct. 18 the Hammer Theatre Center will welcome decorated author Viet Thanh Nguyen, the celebrated Vietnamese author, MacArthur Genius awardee and Pulitzer Award recipient for his acclaimed novel, The Sympathizer.
I also want to note the upcoming third anniversary of our agreement with the City of San Jose to operate the Hammer and bring the arts back to our downtown. The opportunity to revitalize an important venue for artistic expression through an eclectic mix of artistic, intellectual and cultural programming has been yet another reminder of the important role SJSU plays in enriching our region’s quality of life. We look forward to continuing this city/university partnership.
Honoring service and achievement milestones
Fall brings several unique opportunities to celebrate the accomplishments of individual students, faculty and staff as well as institutional icons.
2017 CSU Trustee Scholar
The 2017 class of CSU Trustee Scholars includes SJSU awardee Essy Barroso-Ramirez, a first-generation student studying public health, Mexican American studies and legal studies. A Phi Kappa Phi honor society member, Essy is an active participant in numerous campus organizations and is deeply committed to utilizing her education to “pay forward” the educational and societal opportunities that have been made available to her by others.
SJSU faculty member appointed CSU trustee
Governor Jerry Brown’s recent appointment of SJSU Professor of World Languages and Literatures Romey Sabalius to the CSU Board of Trustees is yet another example of SJSU’s growing influence in matters of significant importance to our students, community and state.
Professor Sabalius has served as a professor and coordinator of the German Program in our Department of Foreign Languages since 2003. He joined our campus as an associate professor in 1998. In order to be able to fully focus on his trustee responsibilities, he will step away from active service on the San José State University Academic Senate, California State University Academic Senate and the California Faculty Association San José State University Chapter Executive Board.
I congratulate him on this two-year appointment.
Honoring our literary legacy
I was honored to participate late last month in a celebration of Reed Magazine’s 150 years of distinguished literary excellence as our state’s most venerable literary journal. This stellar model for faculty/student collaboration and experiential learning has nurtured the aspirations of countless writers and solidified SJSU’s relevance in the humanities and liberal arts—an essential ingredient in fulfilling our mission, as I often have said.
Congratulations to Associate Professor and Reed Editor-in-Chief Cathleen Miller, her editorial team and all of the Spartans who have contributed to this journal’s remarkable 150-year legacy.
Seeking faculty service award nominees
Nominations for the 2017-2018 Faculty Outstanding Lecturer Award, Distinguished Service Award, Outstanding Professor Award, and President’s Scholar Award as provided by University Policy S13-6 are being accepted through October 31. I encourage you to review the nomination criteria for each award and offer your input to the Academic Senate office by completing its online nomination form, in writing to extended zip 0024, or in person to ADM 176 by 5:00 p.m. on Oct. 31.
SJSU strategic planning: your input desired
I was pleased to see that 330 individuals participated in early strategic planning conversations last month during our kickoff events. I also know that our students, staff, and faculty have many more ideas to contribute. You can share your insights by completing our online Strategic Planning survey through October 22.
As we develop collaboratively a strategic plan to guide us over the next decade, it will be valuable to think about how to enrich SJSU’s community impact. We have a strong foundation on which to build, and our efforts in this area will be as essential as anything we do to realize our potential to become a preeminent urban public university.
Updates on this important journey toward a long-term campus planning roadmap will be posted to our strategic planning website.
With fall sports in full swing, we can take pride in many first-half season accomplishments. Our first-place women’s soccer team later this month will be poised to seek its second Mountain West Tournament championship in three years. Our women’s cross-country team has won its last three races and will seek to extend that streak at the Mountain West Conference championship meet on October 27 in Albuquerque, N.M.
Finally, men’s water polo—which returned in 2015 after a 34-year absence, has a winning record, is nationally ranked, and has seven home matches remaining before its mid-November conference championship tournament.
A joyful parade through campus. A loud, intense Fire on the Fountain rally. A competitive battle between SJSU and long-standing rival Fresno St. for possession of the Valley Trophy.
Homecoming Week 2017 was memorable in many ways—none more so than the indomitable spirit of Spartan pride displayed at these events and others throughout the week.
I was immensely proud of our community and heartened by the energy and spirit from students, faculty and staff, alumni and our many other supporters.
My sincere thanks—and a big Spartan Up—to all of you.