President Papazian’s April Blog

President Mary A. Papazian congratulates students at Honors Convocation on April 20 (photo by Brandon Chew, ’19 Photojournalism).

President Mary A. Papazian congratulates students at Honors Convocation on April 20 (photo by Brandon Chew, ’19 Photojournalism).

As we head into the final weeks of the semester, I want to begin with some good news for our students: California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White has just announced that there will be no tuition increase in 2018-19. While this is certainly good news for students, we are not out of the woods yet. I encourage all to continue your advocacy with our legislature to ensure that the CSU is a priority and is recommended for full funding in the next fiscal year.

Keeping tuition at the current level means our students can focus on pursuing the degrees we offer here at San Jose State as they prepare for success in their chosen fields. California’s commitment to higher education, represented by fully funding the CSU budget request, combined with the professional opportunities our state offers contribute greatly to SJSU placing among the top colleges and universities in the nation, as evidenced by the CollegeNET Social Mobility Index (#4) and the Forbes Best Value Colleges (#55). More on budget in a moment.

During these final weeks of the semester, we have a whirlwind of activities and events ahead of us. Students and faculty are preparing for finals and our soon-to-be graduates are full of anticipation for what the future holds. This year we are on track to confer degrees to graduates who are about to embark on a new phase in their Spartan journey as alumni. I hope to see all our graduating students at the commencement ceremony for their college, along with many friends, family members, faculty and staff members, and peers who I know will want to be part of the festivities.

Appointments and Searches

Provost

As many of you know, Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Andy Feinstein will be departing SJSU in June to become president of the University of Northern Colorado. Andy worked within his own division of Academic Affairs to help create and implement many innovative programs and initiatives that brought more than 250 new tenure-track faculty members to San Jose State, elevated research, scholarship and creative activity, and made significant progress with plans for an Interdisciplinary Science Building to be constructed near Duncan Hall.

More information about our transition plan will be shared with the university community soon. In the meantime, I hope you all will join me in wishing Provost Feinstein farewell at a reception in his honor from 3 to 5 p.m. May 7 in the Student Union Ballroom. Please be sure to RSVP by May 1.

VP for Student Affairs

We are making progress on our search for a vice president for Student Affairs. Four candidates are visiting SJSU this week and are meeting with students, faculty and staff in a series of conversations and open forums (see the full schedule online). For those who are unable to attend in person, videos of each forum will be posted to the cabinet-level search page by end of day April 27. I encourage everyone to complete the online feedback forms for each of the candidates by 5 p.m. May 2 to insure we have robust input into the selection of the best candidate for San Jose State.

Other Appointments

On April 16, Dr. Michael Kaufman was appointed as dean of the College of Science after a comprehensive national search. Michael has more than 20 years of experience at SJSU and has served in multiple leadership roles, most recently as interim dean for the college. I am confident that he will provide enthusiastic and strategic leadership as we continue to make progress on the Interdisciplinary Science Building and other important initiatives within the college.

 On April 23, Joanne Wright will take on the position of senior associate vice president for University Personnel. Joanne moves into this new position from her current role as senior director, Academic Employee Relations and deputy Title IX coordinator, a position she has held since joining SJSU in 2015.  Prior to that, Joanne enjoyed a long career as counsel and an administrator in personnel and employee relations matters in both the public and private sectors.

Please join me in congratulating Dr. Kaufman and Ms. Wright on these new roles.

A Commitment to Diversity

One of the most admirable aspects of academia is our tradition of preserving a core set of values through many years and leadership transitions. This applies to San Jose State’s commitment to diversity, and especially our commitment to nurturing a community where everyone feels welcomed, supported and successful. This is, of course, much easier said than done, as recent events at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo remind us. Let me be clear: Such behavior has no place at San Jose State.

We don’t have to look too far into the past to remember that we have had our own experiences with poor judgment and intolerant behavior. There has been a great deal of effort to move toward a more inclusive and healthy campus climate since San Jose State concluded its own hate crime task force, and I appreciate the efforts in which so many of you have engaged to bring about meaningful change. All of you have been touched by our Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, a perpetual reminder of the value in making thoughtful and respectful choices in all aspects of campus life, from classrooms and residence halls to offices and events. Even what one of us posts on a personal social media account can reflect on all of us.

To our students, I would like to make clear that we are here to support you. We firmly believe your participation in campus life, including Greek Life, will make you a stronger student and a more well-rounded individual. Our Student Involvement office, now in the Diaz Compean Student Union, is staffed with professionals who value your personal growth through many registered student organizations.

But remember, membership in these organizations, and our community, is a privilege and a responsibility. I am not afraid to take quick action if such action becomes warranted, although I have every confidence that it will not be necessary here at San Jose State. Should you have any concerns or questions, our Title IX Office is available to assist even if you would like what you share to remain confidential.

Budget Priorities: Student Needs

The campus budget outlook is changing as I write this. When we held our campus budget forum on April 19, Chancellor White was considering a tuition increase for the coming academic year. Less than 24 hours later, we learned that the chancellor decided against a tuition increase, in light of our strong economy and strong expressions of legislative support for the CSU system. This is predicated on progress with the Graduation Initiative and increasing enrollment to meet the needs of our state’s high school and community college graduates.

At the SJSU budget forum, we took a deep dive into the CSU’s budget request. We saw how the governor’s proposed appropriation of funds to the CSU falls short of our needs by $171 million, and we discussed the importance of legislative advocacy work. I would like once again to thank all who have participated, including the Associated Students of SJSU and many members of our faculty and staff. As Chancellor White wrote, “our future is now clearly and unambiguously in the hands of lawmakers.”

While the state’s budget process continues through June, San Jose State must move forward with its own budget plans with the goal of supporting stable operations in the years to come. For this reason, San Jose State will proceed with its three-year budget planning process, including our decision to apply any available funds to shared priorities such as the Graduation Initiative, student support and campus safety.

We are committed to remaining in contact and seeking your input as this situation evolves. Vice President for Administration and Finance Charlie Faas is available to assist with questions. You can reach him at vp.adminfinance@sjsu.edu.

Enhancing Student Success with EAB

As we focus on student success, I am pleased to share we are making steady progress in launching our EAB Student Success Collaborative partnership. Last week, EAB representatives visited campus to meet with Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, IT leaders and advisors in preparation for our initial rollout of new advising tools. Through EAB’s Student Success Management System, we will be better able to predict when students need additional support to stay on track toward graduation and how to communicate with them about resources that can help them. This new tool also will facilitate interactions between various departments and groups that provide advising resources on campus. As we continue our focus on student success, these types of interdivisional collaborations that combine technology solutions and personal interactions will be essential to enhancing student support and student success.

Honoring Top Students

Our commitment, as always, is to our students, and last week’s Honors Convocation provided a renewed sense of purpose, mission and pride. On April 20, our Event Center hosted our 56th annual Honors Convocation.  Filled to capacity for a rousing recognition of our top students, we honored a record number for academic achievements—4,105 Dean’s Scholars maintained a GPA of 3.65 or higher in two contiguous semesters of the last three while 505 President’s Scholars maintained a 4.0 during the same period. I had the pleasure of saying a few words to the President’s Scholars, a stellar group of undergraduates who have reached a level of excellence through their own individual sacrifice and through the support of their families, friends, our faculty and staff. It was an honor to shake hands with so many students that evening. Read personal stories of some of our 2018 scholars online.

Honors Convocation also provides an especially poignant time to celebrate our 2018 Faculty Award Winners. Joining me on stage for the evening’s celebration were our Outstanding Lecturer Deb Nelson, President’s Scholar Carlos Sanchez, Outstanding Professor Peter Beyersdorf and Distinguished Service Award Recipient Roy Okuda. These four professors exemplify the important role all our faculty members play in inspiring our students to dream big and supporting them in achieving those dreams. Thank you to all the faculty in attendance who cheered on our students and to the planning committee who put on another wonderful event.

A Breadth of Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity

On April 4, I was delighted to attend the Celebration of Research and meet many students and faculty members who are engaged in interesting and impactful research, scholarship and creative activity. When I speak of these endeavors on our campus, I prefer to use the full phrase rather than the campus shorthand of RSCA. Using the entire phrase allows us to educate our community on the breadth of work that is conducted here and the importance of expanding access to these opportunities for faculty to engage with our students.  We know that faculty engagement in research, scholarship, and creative activities not only strengthens our faculty but also creates opportunities for students to learn from mentors, empowering them to learn using hands-on techniques.

I was especially excited to learn about the topics pursued by our 2018 Undergraduate Research Program Student-Faculty Research Pairs. We have 45 student-faculty pairs who have pursued projects on a host of topics, illustrating the rich variety of pursuits that exists across our entire campus. From adding to our understanding of driverless cars to the representation of minorities in television to climate change, our students and faculty have selected work that is timely and has the potential to make positive change in our community and beyond.

During the event, we also honored our 2017 Early Career Investigator Award recipients. Assistant Professor Ehsan Khatami, from the Department of Physics and Astronomy, and Assistant Professor David Schuster, from the Department of Psychology, surely deserve the title. As recent arrivals to our university—Khatami joined us four years ago and Schuster five years ago—they have already made tremendous progress in earning grant funding, publishing their findings and building strong research labs that provide opportunities to engage with students.

Our research, scholarship and creative activity take different shapes for different disciplines. Some endeavors are pure discovery, others are applied projects with industry partners. Interacting with everyone the afternoon of the Celebration of Research reminded me of why we must continue to provide support for these important activities. I encourage everyone to review the SJSU Research Foundation 2018 Annual Report to learn more about this $57 million enterprise.

Celebrating a Legacy of Poetry

As a scholar of English literature, I was especially pleased this month to celebrate San Jose State’s rich legacy of poetry. As some of you may know, we have a long history of creative endeavors. Thank you to professors Annette Nellen and Alan Soldofsky for continuing to highlight the legacy of Edwin Markham, famed alumnus and writer of The Man with the Hoe, and Dr. Henry Meade Bland, a professor who helped to establish in 1867 our very first literary journal, The Acorn, as well as the many accomplished writers who have been part of our university community through the years.

This year, Legacy of Poetry Day included a community poetry reading outside the Hammer Theatre on April 12 and was part of a broader weeks-long poetry festival with a theme of “Celebrating the Poetry of Migration and Diaspora.”

After our community gathering outside the Hammer Theatre on April 12, I was pleased to spend the evening in dialogue with Armenian-American poet Peter Balakian as part of the Center for Literary Arts Reading and Conversation series. My husband Dennis and I have known Peter for many years, and it was wonderful to share the stage with a talented writer and dear friend. More than 300 people were in attendance to hear Peter read from his selection of poetry that touches on the experience of the Armenian diaspora. The gravitas of his work clearly shows why he won a Pulitzer Prize for his collection of poetry, Ozone Journal.

During the evening, I was pleased to engage with Peter as well as audience members as we explored the importance of culture and what happens to the culture of people who are displaced. It is an especially timely topic as the United Nations recently has reported that 255 million people around the world are migrating annually, often to escape military conflicts, political or social oppression, or to increase their economic opportunities. As a university that is committed to supporting a variety of students, faculty and staff members, including those who are immigrants or the children of immigrants, the conversation with Peter was a reminder of the perseverance of many in our community. My appreciation to Cathleen Miller, the director of the Center for Literary Arts, and her staff and students for coordinating such a wonderful event.

International Scholarship

On April 19, I was honored to represent San Jose State at the Dublin-San Jose Sister Cities flag-raising ceremony just a block from our campus border at City Hall. In a wonderful example of town-gown partnerships, the founding chairman of the Dublin-San Jose Sister City committee Pat McMahon also served as president of the Center for Literary Arts, where he once introduced renowned Irish poet Seamus Heaney at an event. Heaney is credited with saying, “I can’t think of a case where poems changed the world, but what they do is they change people’s understanding of what’s going on in the world.”

Six years ago, the Dublin-San Jose Sister City committee developed the first master’s degree scholarship exchange. The most recent recipients include Aidan Smyth, who is studying electrical engineering while living in SJSU’s International House and interning at Cypress Semiconductor, and Gurpeet Pannu, a music student who is spending a semester living and studying at Dublin City University. We are fortunate to be able to expand access to international experiences for our local students with support from generous donors and to offer international students exemplary opportunities to study at our university.

Academic Achievements

Drabble Appointed to NIH Study Section

Dr. Laurie Drabble, a professor in the School of Social Work in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, has been selected to serve as a member of the National Institutes of Health’s Center for Scientific Review Community Influences on Health Behavior Study Section. She will begin her term on July 1 and serve through June 2022. Through her service, Dr. Drabble will have the opportunity to contribute to the national biomedical research effort.

Fulbright Appointments

San Jose State is honored to have two faculty members appointed as U.S. Fulbright scholars. Dr. Cathleen Miller, a professor of English and director of the Center for Literary Arts, will serve as the first distinguished chair of humanities at the University of Manchester in the United Kingdom, where she will teach creative non-fiction and continue research into the phenomenon of women’s migration throughout the world. Dr. Victoria Rue, a lecturer in the Department of Humanities, has been awarded a United States Fulbright Scholar appointment to the Palestinian Territories (West Bank). Her work in the field of comparative religions is exemplary and this appointment serves as a testament to her leadership in the broader field of humanities.

Athletic Achievements

Congratulations to our women’s gymnastics team, which has won the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championship for the second year in a row. Senior Kaitlin Won lived up to her name winning the all-around individual championship and sophomore Chelsey Andrada finished first in the vault.

Several spring sports teams recently competed in and other squads are nearing their respective conference championships. Sophomore Sean Yu of the men’s golf team finished third at the 2018 Mountain West Championship in Bremerton, Wash., the highest individual finish by a Spartan since we joined the conference in 2013.

Big things continue happening at South Campus. Last December, we had a ribbon-cutting ceremony for our new outdoor tennis complex. On Friday afternoon, April 27, we will have a ribbon-cutting ceremony for our new softball field right next to the Spartan Tennis Complex.

Diverse Issues in Higher Education recently recognized 41 Spartan student-athletes of color with the publication’s annual Arthur Ashe, Jr., Sports Scholar Awards. San Jose State was No. 1 nationally among colleges and universities for the most student-athletes receiving this honor in 2018.

And, finally, congratulations to Dr. Harry Edwards (Class of ’64, ’16 Honorary Doctorate), who will be inducted into the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-America Hall of Fame at the end of June. This prestigious honor recognizes student-athletes that excelled academically and athletically, achieved success in one’s professional career and are committed to philanthropic causes. Dr. Edwards is joining San Jose State alumna and 1980 U.S. Olympics team fencer Dr. Stacey Johnson (Class of ’80), a 2017 inductee, in this Hall of Fame that now has 150 distinguished honorees from among the millions of student-athletes that participated in intercollegiate athletics through the years.

Creative Achievements

Graphic Design Program Tops Rankings

Animation Career Review 2018 Graphic Design School rankings listed our graphic design program in the top 7 percent nationally and the top 5 percent among public universities. This high ranking is a nod to the strong reputation of our program that allows students to learn the foundational aspects of design while they build a versatile portfolio that has landed our graduates positions at top firms, including Pixar Animation Studies and Google, among others.

In the Heights Premieres

This Friday, SJSU’s production of In the Heights opens at the Hammer Theatre. The award-winning show from Lin-Manuel Miranda is a collaboration between the Department of Film and Theatre and the School of Music and Dance. Watch our students perform in this story of the American Dream set in a Hispanic-American neighborhood in New York City, through May 6. Tickets are on sale now.

Conclusion

As we head into the final month of our semester, the pace of events and activities promises to stay just as energetic as recent weeks. Tonight, CommUniverCity will celebrate 13 years of university, city and community engagement. Tickets are free with registration online. Stop by the Duncan Hall Breezeway from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. April 27 to see the accomplishments of many of our students at the College of Science Student Research Day. On April 28, the Native American Student Organization will host its first ever Community Powwow. And we will, of course, have many more opportunities to celebrate the achievements of our students as we close out the semester, starting with the Braven Live Your Legacy event on May 16.

Please also remember that while the end of the year is a joyful time, it can also be a stressful time. Counseling and Psychological Services and the Behavioral Intervention Team are available to support students who may need services during these final weeks of the semester. Faculty and staff, please refer students who may be in need of support to these resources. In addition, counseling is available at no cost to all faculty and staff members through our employee assistance program.

In closing, I especially want to encourage everyone to attend the Strategic Planning Steering Committee’s final university-wide event of the year, from 10 to 11 a.m. May 7, in the Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom. I hope you will join me as our task force chairs share the latest iteration of desired outcomes and action items that will form the foundation of our next strategic plan. Please RSVP for the event online.

Let’s work together to finish out the semester on a strong note!