For many around the world, spring’s arrival is a time of celebration. I hope all of our students and faculty members are spending spring break with friends and family, or supporting an important cause through participating in an alternative spring break program. As I write this message, I can see our beautiful campus. The sun has returned, the sidewalks are quiet, and I would like to take a moment to share a few thoughts.
Remembering Dr. Jennifer Gonzales, Veterans Ally
I begin on a rather somber note to acknowledge the deep and personal loss felt by many on our campus as a result of recent events in Yountville.
Among the four individuals who lost their lives on March 9 was Dr. Jennifer Gonzales. Jennifer was a Veterans Administration clinical psychologist who worked with San Jose State from May 2015 to September 2016. She provided services to military and student veterans, and helped launch our Veterans Resource Center. In fact, Jennifer was here recently to celebrate the center’s grand opening in the Diaz Compean Student Union.
Jennifer grew up in the South Bay and although she was not a San Jose State graduate or employee, she responded to our call for assistance with veterans’ services at SJSU. Her work here was funded by a grant program called VITAL, or Veterans Integration to Academic Leadership, which supports military veterans pursuing college degrees. Her many specific contributions include assistance creating a VA Campus Toolkit and an online course focused on student veterans.
In addition, Jennifer worked closely with our students, faculty, and staff. One faculty member shared that “most striking…was her ability to meet student veterans ‘where they were at.’ In her role as a clinical psychologist, she was able to engage veterans in whatever level of care they needed. For some veterans, this involved access to academic accommodations and tutoring, for others it meant involvement with peer-support specialists or groups, and for still others it included individual treatment.”
After Jennifer completed her work at San Jose State, she accepted a new role, which took her to the San Francisco VA and the Pathway Home program located on the grounds of the Yountville veterans home. In the past year, she was married, and she and her husband T.J. Shushereba were expecting their first child.
Please join me in sending your thoughts to all who knew and loved her.
Campus Safety Updates
It is not lost on me that the recent gun violence, like that which took Jennifer’s life, is top of mind in our community as well. Campus safety has never been more complex. As a university president, and as a mother of two college-age daughters, there is not a moment in time when I am not at some level thinking about this topic, if not discussing it with all of you and our campus leadership team.
Let me start with some news. As some of you know, Chief of Police Peter Decena will step down March 30 to become chief of the Los Gatos-Monte Sereno Police Department. Please join me in thanking Chief Decena for eight years of service to the San Jose State community. Chief Decena’s deep commitment to our campus is rooted in his own experience pursuing bachelor’s and master’s degrees here. He began his policing career with us in 1980, left to join the San Jose Police Department, and then returned to serve as our chief. We soon will commence a national search for a new chief. An interim chief will be appointed shortly.
In the context of campus safety, I encourage all of you to be our eyes and ears. “See something, say something” works, as evidenced by several recent incidents, and on a campus as large and complex as ours, we most certainly need to engage all of you.
Should you come across any information that causes you to question campus safety, please check first with the University Police Department, which is available 24-7 at 408-924-2222. UPD immediately will investigate and validate information and then take appropriate action as needed, which includes informing all campus community members.
In addition, resources are available on a confidential basis to all impacted by sexual misconduct and violence, whether or not those seeking assistance choose to file a police report. For more information, please contact the San Jose State University Title IX Office at (408) 924-7290. Our Title IX office takes every report seriously, and will respond accordingly.
A final note: All students, faculty and staff are invited to take part in our bi-annual safety walks. Help spot safety concerns while touring campus with Vice President for Administration and Finance Charlie Faas, University Police Department representatives, Facilities Development and Operations personnel, and all interested community members. The next safety walk is scheduled for 7 to 9 p.m. April 2. Meet outside the FD&O building at South Ninth and East San Fernando streets.
Appointments and Searches
As Provost Feinstein shared last week, we have appointed a new dean for the Connie L. Lurie College of Education. Dr. Heather Lattimer will join us from the University of San Diego, where she is a professor of education and the executive director of the Jacobs Institute for Innovation in Education. She has a proven record of collaborating with local school districts, community partners and industry leaders, and in developing new programs. She will join us August 1.
In addition to her time spent in higher education, Dr. Lattimer has nearly 10 years of experience teaching multiple subjects at the middle school and high school levels. Indeed, she began her teaching career right here in San Jose! The professional beliefs and practices she expressed during the search process – a commitment to diversity, dedication to ensuring student success, and a passion for preparing educators who prioritize equity and excellence – connect with the college’s mission and our university goals.
I look forward to working with Dr. Lattimer when she joins us this summer and hope you will offer her a warm Spartan welcome in August. I also would like to express my gratitude to Dr. Paul Cascella, who has served as interim dean for the past 18 months and will continue to lead the college through the end of July.
There are several more searches under way. We now are accepting applications for vice president for Student Affairs. Candidates for dean of the College of Science and the senior associate vice president for University Personnel visited campus in recent weeks. Expect to hear more on these positions soon.
“Behold the View”: Alumna Nancy McFadden
This past week, we lost a remarkable alumna, Nancy McFadden, ’84 Political Science. She passed away on March 22. I was not here when San Jose State invited her to deliver the Commencement address in May 2014, but it is clear to me that she was the perfect candidate to speak at the university-wide ceremony held in Spartan Stadium, where she received an honorary doctorate. Nancy dedicated her entire career to public service, including senior leadership positions in the administrations of both President Bill Clinton and Governor Jerry Brown.
Often, I have heard people say her address was unforgettable to those present at the time, and now we know it was equally meaningful to Nancy herself. The Sacramento Bee’s obituary begins with an especially powerful quote from that speech, described as one of her favorite memories. In the address, she urged graduates not to forget kindness and gratitude as they changed the world:
“I hope you live life not for the accolades but for the experience itself. Climb the mountain not to plant the flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world and not so the world can see you. I hope you don’t let fear stop you. I hope you take a pause every so often, and I wish you so much more than luck.”
Nancy was selfless and always demonstrated, even when the pressure was on in Washington, D.C., and Sacramento, that our most precious role in life is mentoring those who follow us. This is a trait common in SJSU alumni, I have come to learn in my first two years here. I encourage all of you to read the full story. Please join me in keeping Nancy’s loved ones in your thoughts.
Inspiring Student Success
Like Nancy, the students who spoke at our first-ever Student Success Symposium on March 15 have embraced challenges and flourished.
As I shared at the event, when we discuss student success, we often focus on graduation rates, the equity gap and other data points that can easily be measured. But behind each number and data point, we have students with dreams and aspirations.
More than 230 faculty, staff and students attended this inaugural event to hear from innovative national leaders in higher education and listen to our current students who shared their unique educational journeys.
- Jabriel White is a transfer student from Riverside who admitted SJSU wasn’t his first-choice school. But now in his second semester, he said San Jose State is a perfect fit. Connecting with student organizations has made him feel at home.
- Puneet Sanghera started as a pre-nursing student and then took a semester off to care for an ailing family member. She returned to enroll in a new major and hit her stride working in a neurophysiology research lab on campus. Puneet graduates this spring and has been accepted into a graduate program at San Francisco State University.
- Asya Evelyn is a sophomore political science major who has her sights set on affecting positive change now and after she graduates. She already is involved in promoting the kind of social justice for which our university is known through her work with the MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center.
- And Jose Jaime Esquivel Patricio is working hard to earn his aerospace engineering degree as he promotes social change as the president of Student Advocates for Higher Education. While engaged in outreach to local high schools and prospective SJSU students, he completed a summer research program at Stanford last year.
These students — like all the students we serve — have remarkable stories that have led them to San Jose State. It is up to us to help them succeed through graduation and beyond.
I encourage you to visit the Student Success Website to find ways to get involved in our efforts.
A Conversation with Condoleezza Rice
It was an honor to welcome Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State (2005-2009), to SJSU on the evening of March 22. The event organizers and I are especially appreciative that Dr. Rice arrived early and was able to spend 30 minutes speaking with a small group of business and economics students. Their questions and her responses were enlightening! An especially memorable moment was when she recalled why she switched majors from music to political science while she was in college at the University of Denver.
“Find something you are passionate about, and try something hard,” she said. As Secretary Rice described her own journey, she remarked on how as a college student at the University of Denver, she was particularly inspired by a faculty member who loved his subject. His name was Josef Korbel, and in a stroke of serendipity, he was the father of Madeleine Albright, who also served as Secretary of State (1997-2001).
My thanks to all who attended the main event, which included a 20-minute address by Sec. Rice, followed by my on-stage conversation with her. During the event, she covered a lot of ground, from international and national affairs (“Democracy is only as strong as its weakest link…If you are a citizen of a democracy, you need to own it.”) to intercollegiate athletics (“The student part matters as much as the athlete part.”)
Perhaps most memorable for the students in the crowd was Sec. Rice’s advice on writing papers. “At some point, you have to ask yourself, ‘What is my greatest weakness?’” she said. She admitted hers was procrastinating. She urged students to finish required reading early to give themselves time to think it over, and to create an old-fashioned outline so that the writing took care of itself.
Dr. Rice was the first in our new speaker series, “Insights,” which promises to bring to SJSU a variety of perspectives on economics, business and international affairs. I would like to express my gratitude to the Valley Foundation for underwriting this series and to all who helped with preparations for Dr. Rice’s visit.
Discussing Gender, Sport and Society
As Women’s History Month comes to a close, I also must mention the significant and invigorating discussions we hosted on March 14 at the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change town hall, “Words to Action: Gender, Sport and Society.”
We were fortunate to have more than a dozen distinguished guests, some who were trailblazers of the early Title IX era, and others who are active today as executives, attorneys, advocates, coaches and TV commentators. In the larger context of the #MeToo movement sweeping our country, the timing of this conversation could not have been better. Thank you to all who helped orchestrate the day’s activities.
As a woman university president at a time when only 23 percent of college and university presidents are female (the California State University is exceptional, with more than half of our campus presidents being women), I had the extraordinary experience of listening to our panelists and experiencing their words and emotions while sitting between my two young adult daughters, something I will never forget.
The event fostered discussions with my family about the challenges we do and will face. And professionally, I think often of the issues we explored at the town hall, especially in the context of the tech culture of our region. I have always felt a personal responsibility to pay it back and create pathways of true opportunity for women and girls, as well as for all members of underrepresented communities.
Equity and Engineering
Speaking of tech culture, the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering hosted the 2018 Silicon Valley Women in Engineering Conference on March 17. The conference is in its fourth year and is a truly remarkable collaboration involving our university, community and tech companies, with the goal of diversifying the engineering workforce.
Women engineering students from SJSU and local community colleges gathered in the Diaz Compean Student Union to learn from women and men who have broken barriers in every engineering discipline, including executives from leading companies such as Google, Intel, IBM and more.
As Dean Sheryl Ehrman said, news stories nationwide point toward a new empowerment in our pursuit of gender equity. Our appreciation goes out to the sponsors who made the event possible, including the Mark and Carolyn Guidry Foundation, which has supported the conference since 2015.
Business-Higher Education Forum
As we recognize the important connection between business and higher education, it was a true pleasure to participate in a panel discussion and host a dinner March 14 and 15 with the Business-Higher Education Forum. Based in Washington, D.C., this national organization seeks to foster partnerships between higher education and the corporate community in support of workforce development. The dinner at our own Hammer Theater was followed the next day by a panel, at Amazon Web Services in East Palo Alto, focused on cybersecurity, artificial intelligence, automation, cloud and digital skills gaps.
I was pleased to share information about existing and potential collaborative efforts to provide our students with the academic and practical skills needed to further their careers and support the region. This is at the heart of what we do as a university, and an area of focus where I see tremendous opportunity for growth. Conversations like this one help the tech and higher education worlds better understand the challenges each face.
The setting for the dinner the opening night was the practice hall on the fourth floor of the Hammer Theatre. It was an appropriate location given it is reflective of San Jose State’s partnership with the City of San Jose, which enables us to operate the Hammer for the benefit of all who live, work and enjoy the arts in the South Bay.
Among those in attendance were former CSU Board Chair Bob Linscheid, Chancellor Timothy White, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo President Jeffrey Armstrong and CSU Maritime Academy President Thomas Cropper.
Attending from San Jose State were Vice President for Information Technology Bob Lim, College of Science Dean Michael Kaufman, Lucas College and Graduate School of Business Dean Dan Moshavi, and Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering Associate Dean of Extended Studies Jacob Tsao.
MESA Schools Program
It always is impressive to see positive media coverage of future and current San Jose State students. My thanks to Susan Arias, of the SJSU MESA Schools Program within the College of Science, for sending me this link to a story about Campbell Middle School. What a thrill to see so many girls and boys excited about their achievements at a recent event here at SJSU. MESA is a national program that provides middle and high school students with hands-on, real-world opportunities to explore science, technology, engineering, and math.
On the topic of media coverage, SJSU’s own Spartan Daily newspaper received two second place awards at the National College Journalism Convention this month. The student journalists received second place in the Best Newspaper category and second for Best Special Issue in a competition that included nearly 100 university and college papers. And in true Spartan spirit, the winning special issue edition, entitled “Divided/United,” focuses on hot topics such as political partisanship, immigration policy and more. The Spartan Daily, Update News and Spear Magazine also won 13 awards in a statewide competition. Congratulations to our student journalists and their faculty advisors!
In other good news, our School of Music and Dance’s University Dance Theater students were invited to perform their work, Exoskeleton, at the American College Dance Association Gala Concert this month in Tempe, Arizona. The performance earned them an invitation to attend a national conference and to perform their work at the Kennedy Center. Only two dozen works were selected for this honor from nearly 700 that were submitted.
Our student-athletes also have provided reasons for us to celebrate this month. Senior Madison Aurin was named USA Softball Collegiate National Player of the Week for games ending the week of March 18. In four games, all Spartan wins, Aurin hit three home runs, was the winning pitcher in two Mountain West victories over San Diego State and was credited with a pitcher’s save in a non-conference victory over Fairleigh Dickinson to earn the national honor.
We also received word that 38 Spartans were named to the Mountain West’s All-Academic team for the fall sports of football, women’s volleyball, men’s cross country, women’s cross country and women’s soccer.
Chalk up another national championship for the women’s team at the 2018 National Collegiate Judo Association championships in Ames, Iowa. The Spartan men finished second. San Jose State’s Shadi Ebrahim was named the tournament’s “Outstanding Female.”
I mentioned my personal response to our Town Hall on March 14, but would like to add that our football team showed their commitment to advocating for their female peers with their attendance. “It’s important for our guys to hear the discussion,” said Head Coach Brent Brennan after the event. “Treating people with respect is one of our team’s core values.”
Next month, our men’s golf team will continue with tradition as it hosts the 72nd annual Western Intercollegiate, the longest-running men’s college golf tournament west of the Mississippi, at the Pasatiempo Golf Course in Santa Cruz, April 7 and 8.
We have many more upcoming activities planned for April, including the SJSU Celebration of Research April 4, Faculty Service Recognition and Awards Luncheon April 5, distinguished American pianist John Nakamatsu in concert April 7, Legacy of Poetry Day April 12, and Honors Convocation April 20, when we will recognize a record 4,600 students for their academic achievements.
Three campus organizations will celebrate significant milestones: MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center will mark its 20th anniversary on April 11, CommUniverCity will mark its 13th anniversary on April 13, and the Associated Students of SJSU will mark its 120th anniversary on April 27.
Dr. King Remembrance
The 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s death is April 4. University and community members will gather at our library, named in his memory, to ring chimes 50 times in King’s honor. The chimes will begin at 3:50 p.m., and end at 4:01 p.m. Pacific Time, the exact date and time in 1968 when King was struck at the Lorraine Hotel in Memphis, Tenn. I would like to thank Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications Michael Cheers for helping to organize this event.
An SJSU Budget Forum is planned for 11 a.m. to noon April 19 in King 225/229. Vice President for Administration and Finance Charlie Faas will describe our plans for the coming year. Provost Andy Feinstein and I will be available to answer questions.
Governor Brown’s budget proposal provides less to the California State University system than expected. Many CSU leaders including me are doing all we can to explain our needs to legislators. Meanwhile, we will plan thoughtfully, with a firm commitment to our priorities, including instruction, student support, campus safety, and the Strategic Plan.
Our campus is indeed quiet now, with most faculty members and students away for spring break. In addition, on Friday, we will close in observance of Cesar Chavez Day, which marks the birth and legacy of the human rights leader, memorialized with the beautiful arch outside the Diaz Compean Student Union. Rest now because April promises to be another busy month!