San Jose State University will celebrate its top students May 3 at the 57th Annual Honors Convocation in the SJSU Event Center. This year 1,342 President’s Scholars will be honored for achieving a 4.0 grade point average in spring or fall 2018.
The Office of the Provost reached out to department chairs to nominate some of these students who are in the top 5 percent to share a few words about why they chose their major, who influenced them and what makes them a Spartan for a Featured Stories site.
Using Education to Uplift a Community
Jenny Ballesteros, a political science major from the small town of Castroville, said she selected her major because she thought it would open up doors to careers that could help her uplift her community.
“I remember struggling in my first semester at SJSU because I did not have the skills to succeed,” she said, noting she attended high school in a district that lacked resources. “I had to teach myself how to study, how to take good notes, how to effectively read through scholarly articles and much more.”
Achieving a 4.0 GPA and being honored as a President’s Scholar “signifies that my hard work has paid off.”
She credits her parents for helping her along with her success in college as well as Assistant Professor Mary Currin-Percival, from the Department of Political Science in the College of Social Sciences.
“(She) gave me the opportunity to work on a research project with her,” Ballesteros said. “That opportunity has meant a lot to me because she believed in my abilities and trusted that I would be an asset to her team.”
Professor and Chair of the Department of Political Science Melinda Jackson nominated Ballesteros.
“Jenny is an active member of our department, and the broader community,” she said. “She has interned in Washington, D.C., and as a communications fellow with Services, Immigrant Rights, and Education Network (SIREN)…Balancing academics with internships, research, and community engagement, Jenny has impressed us all with her enthusiasm and passion for public service.”
Developing a ‘Warrior’s Mentality’
Omar Mustafa, a business administration/management major in the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business, was nominated by Professor Singmay Chou, from the School of Management.
“Omar has a positive personality and an open and sharing nature,” she said. “He is always willing to learn from his own personal experiences and apply the lessons learned to future challenges.”
He selected his major because he loves working with people and said that after making the Dean’s Scholar list several times he was determined to achieve the President’s Scholar status.
“I developed a ‘warrior’s mentality’ at San Jose State,” he said. “My experiences at this school have taught me that no task is too difficult and that every obstacle you face can, and will be accomplished.”
Rediscovering a Love of Literature
Natalie Knows His Gun-Wong is an English major who has always been an avid reader and writer. She lists her mother as having a great impact on her life.
“She supported my siblings and me all our lives and always encouraged us to do well in school while we were growing up,” Knows His Gun-Wong said.
Before arriving at SJSU as a transfer student in fall 2018, Knows His Gun-Wong had taken a year off school after attending Ohlone College and Sacramento State University. She said she felt behind because she wouldn’t be able to graduate as quickly as she had expected.
“As the semester progressed, I was able to get back into the swing of things and reignite my love for being an English major,” she said.
Some of the credit for helping her rediscover her passion goes to Professor and Chair of the Department of English and Comparative Literature Noelle Brada-Williams and Assistant Professor Cynthia Baer in the College of Humanities and the Arts who she said have helped her improve her reading skills, introduced her to literary criticism and given her a new-found appreciation of Shakespeare.
Brada-Williams nominated Knows His Gun-Wong, pointing to a thoughtful essay the English major wrote about her experience with a unique last name.
Read more about these students and others on the Featured Stories site.