Once in a Lifetime: Professor Participates in NASA’s Cassini-Huygens Mission

Professor Essam Marouf, an original member of NASA's Radio Science Team for the Cassini-Huygens Mission, meets with the media on Sept. 13 in the Engineering building on the grounds of SJSU. (James Tensuan/San Jose State University)

Professor Essam Marouf in his lab (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Photojournalism).

One of the most remarkable space explorations ever conducted is coming to an end on Sept. 15, and a San Jose State professor has played an important role.

“It has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, providing more knowledge than what was known before by orders of magnitude,” Professor of Electrical Engineering Essam Marouf said. “It changed the way we think about giant planets.”

Design work for the Cassini-Huygens Mission began 26 years ago with the goal of providing mankind its first close-up view of Saturn and its rings, atmosphere and moons.

The 22-foot-long spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral in 1997, and spent the next seven years traveling to Saturn.

Marouf is one of the original members of the Cassini Radio Science Team, which used radio waves to learn about the Saturn system. The Huygens probe even landed on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.

Professor Essam Marouf, an original member of NASA's Radio Science Team for the Cassini-Huygens Mission, meets with the media on Sept. 13 in the Engineering building on the grounds of SJSU. (James Tensuan/San Jose State University)

Professor Marouf is interviewed by Mercury News reporter Lisa Krieger (James Tensuan, ’15 Photojournalism).

From his lab right here at SJSU, Marouf and his students have been analyzing data collected by Cassini, making important discoveries, along with scientists from 26 nations.

Among the most significant is the discovery of a methane sea on Titan, described by NASA as strikingly similar to Earth in a deep freeze of minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit.

Many news reporters came to campus Sept. 13 to interview Marouf before he departed for Pasadena, where he will witness the disintegration of Cassini.

The spacecraft is almost out of fuel, so operators are deliberately plunging Cassini into Saturn to ensure its moons will remain pristine for future exploration.

“I have mixed emotions,” said Marouf, who has celebrated Cassini milestones with his family including his wife, daughter and two granddaughters.

“Part of me is sad because the last 26 years have been an integral part of my daily life, planning experiments and analyzing data.”

Bay Area Media Turn to SJSU on Election Night 2016

Sergio Bejar-Lopez, Melinda Jackson, Larry Gerston and Garrick Percival. Photo Illustration: SJSU Strategic Communications and Public Affairs

Sharing their expertise with millions of television viewers and radio listeners will be professors Sergio Bejar-Lopez, Melinda Jackson, Larry Gerston and Garrick Percival. Photo Illustration: SJSU Strategic Communications and Public Affairs

San Jose State University political science professors will be sharing their expertise with millions of television viewers and radio listeners across the Bay Area on election night. Four professors will be providing reaction and expert commentary on six television and radio stations Nov. 8 and 9.

Our political science faculty is excited to be able to share its expertise with the community,” said Melinda Jackson, department chair. “SJSU has a long tradition of engaged scholarship and public service, one of the things we love about teaching here.”

How to Tune In

Associate Professor Jackson will appear on ABC affiliate KGO-TV on election night beginning at 8 p.m. She will also offer post-election analysis the next morning on KGO-TV’s newscasts.

Assistant Professor Sergio Bejar-Lopez will be on-set analyzing the election for Telemundo affiliate KSTS-TV and Univision affiliate KDTV-TV.

For the 36th year, Professor Emeritus Larry Gerston will share his political expertise with NBC Bay Area viewers and KCBS radio listeners.

Associate Professor Garrick Percival will offer analysis of some of the 17 propositions on this year’s ballot with Fox affiliate KTVU and others. 

A Wealth of Knowledge

“We are especially proud of the fact that so many of our department’s faculty members have been asked to provide political analysis on the important issues and races at the local, state and national level this year,” Professor Jackson said. “We have a wealth of expert knowledge on this campus!”

Faculty Wives Club Holds Final Meeting

Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

September 25, 2015, marked the end of an era for the San Jose State University Faculty Wives Club. The nearly century-old club held its final meeting and handed out the last of its scholarships.

At its height, the group boasted a membership of 165 women. It has dwindled to 41.

“It’s unfortunate that we can’t keep it going, but we can’t,” said Pat Daoud, ’74 MA Psychology. “Nobody can survive in this valley without both people working, as a general rule, so young women don’t have that option of joining social groups and supporting the community.”

Photo: Christina Olivas

Photo: Christina Olivas

Winifred MacQuarrie, wife of Professor Thomas MacQuarrie, started the Faculty Wives Club in 1927. He was appointed president of San Jose State in 1927. As a final act, club members donated to the SJSU President’s House a silver coffee and tea service that was commissioned in the 1950s in memory of Winifred MacQuarrie.

Betty Van Arsdale is one of the longest living members. She joined 69 years ago in 1946.

“The scholarships have been the most important part, but of course the friendship and contact throughout all the years with people who were in the same position as being wives of professors has been very endearing,” Van Arsdale said.

The club served as a social and community-minded organization. It held fashion shows, sold cookbooks and donated money to fund student scholarships.

Over the years, the club handed out an estimated $123,000 in scholarships. Four students received $3,000 scholarships at the club’s final meeting.

Cindy Brown-Quinn, ’14 BA Social Work, was one of them. The scholarship was critical for her.

“It’s basically keeping me from going homeless. I feel like there’s no way I would have been able to do this, without the scholarship,” she said. Brown-Quinn is currently working on a master’s degree in social work at SJSU.

Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

Another scholarship recipient, Kanotha Kamau-Devers, ’16 Civil/Structural Engineering was grateful for the Faculty Wives Club scholarship, too. After talking to club members at the final meeting, he realized the club offered more than financial assistance.

“The love and spirit this group brings, means a lot,” he said.

Club members also awarded scholarships to Nhan Nguyen, ’15 Nursing, and Elizabeth Marie Mellow, ’15 Psychology. These final scholarships closed out the books for the club, but their legacy will live on.

“I want to be that person in the future who starts my own scholarship, whose part of committees to give back to the next generation, to pay it forward,” said scholarship recipient, Cindy Brown-Quinn.


Faculty Member Re-Creates Antiquities Destroyed by ISIS

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications

Morehshin Allahyari (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications).

SJSU lecturer and artist Morehshin Allahyari is using technology to save art from the past for the future.

She started her latest project, “Material Speculation: ISIS,” after seeing images of ISIS fighters destroying ancient artifacts at the Mosul Museum in Iraq. Not only does the Iranian-born artist have a personal interest in re-creating the 3,000-year-old art work, but her research lies at the nexus of 3-D technology, art and activism.

“I think there’s a lot of interest around ways you can use new technology to resist something political, but also how, as artists, you can respond to social, cultural and political events of our contemporary way of life,” Allahyari said.

3-D printers

One of the four miniature artifacts destroyed by ISIS. (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications)

Using 3-D printers, Allahyari produced miniature versions of four of the artifacts destroyed by ISIS. The reproductions are miniature, plastic replicas of the original pieces.

“Getting accurate information about the artifacts was one of the most challenging aspects of the project,” she said. “So I included a flash memory card inside these artifacts, where I think about this idea of a time capsule. So in 20 to 30 years, people can take out these artifacts and have access to the information.”

The 3-D pieces are on display in Florence, Dallas, Istanbul, and soon, New York. Allahyari is traveling to each city to speak about her work. She’s also planning on re-creating five or six more artifacts that were destroyed by ISIS.

Art and history

As a new media artist, Allahyari believes we are entering an era of having access to certain kinds of artifacts, and having more affordable high-tech tools as a way to document and archive history.

“I think it’s really, really interesting to see in 10 years how that will change the whole landscape of museums, digital and physical archiving, and our role in general, as humans, to save, reflect back, or think about concepts related to history,” Allahyari said.


Men’s Water Polo Returns to SJSU

Men's water polo coaches gather around their players at the edge of the pool.

The San Jose State men’s water polo team jumped back in the pool after a 34-year hiatus for its season opener against the Santa Clara Broncos on September 5 (Photo: Terrell Lloyd).

In the 1960s and 1970s, SJSU had a powerhouse water polo team. They won a national title in 1968, and finished in the top five nationally four times in the 1970s. But in 1981, the school discontinued the program to comply with Title IX regulations.

Bill Simpkins, a former college water polo player himself and son of long-time SJSU benefactors and alumni Alan and Phyllis Simpkins, repeatedly pressed the university to reinstate the sport. But the funds weren’t there. So Simpkins spearheaded an effort to raise enough money to bring the sport back.

“The team had a winning history. It needed to come back,” Simpkins said. “The sport of water polo has not added a new D1 team for over 30 years. Hopefully, this will start a trend. My parents, Alan and Phyllis, were my wingmen.”

Alumni support

Before the team’s first game, several donors and former water polo players participated in a cap ceremony, giving swim caps to the 19 players on the current roster (Photo: Terrell Lloyd).

Bill Simpkins and his wife Brigid made a generous donation. So did Peter Ueberroth,’59 Business Administration. Ueberroth is a former travel industry executive, Major League Baseball commissioner and U.S. Olympic Committee chairman.

Jane Hind set up a $1 million dollar endowment in her late husband’s name. Greg Hind, ’69  Health Science, was an All-American water polo player in the 1970s at SJSU.

Altogether, more than 100 people donated more than $3.5 million, which will sustain the program for five years until the university takes over the financing. Interest from the Greg Hine endowment will fund student-athlete scholarships beginning next year.

Cap ceremony

Before the team’s first game in September, several donors and former water polo players participated in a cap ceremony, giving swim caps to the 19 players on the current roster.

For a moment in time, right there on the pool’s edge, the years melted away as the generations bonded over their love of the game and their quest to keep this Spartan tradition going strong.


Top Technologists Speak at SJSU

Michael Schroepfer (photo courtesy of Facebook)

Facebook Chief Technology Officer Michael Schroepfer will visit campus for the Silicon Valley Leaders Symposium (courtesy of Facebook).

SJSU Media Relations contacts:
Pat Harris, 408-924-1748, pat.harris@sjsu.edu
Robin McElhatton, 408-924-1749, robin.mcelhatton@sjsu.edu

Ten of the world’s leading tech experts are coming to San Jose State this fall for the 13th annual Silicon Valley Leaders Symposium, beginning Sept. 10.

Google Director of Research Peter Norvig

Google Director of Research Peter Norvig

The speakers include Facebook Chief Technology Officer Michael Schroepfer and Google Director of Research Peter Norvig, who are “exploring completely new things that will change the way we live,” according to The New York Times.

Schroepfer is connected to many Facebook innovations including, most recently, solar powered drones beaming Internet access. Norvig literally wrote the book on artificial intelligence.

The Silicon Valley Leaders Symposium takes place every Thursday from noon to 1 p.m. in ENG 189. Also on the agenda are executives from LinkedIn, Intel, Qool Therapeutics, Splunk, NetApp, Greentech, and Twitter.

The Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering has been hosting the series since 2002. The symposium brings industry and government leaders to campus to discuss business, technology, the competitive global economy and hiring trends.

Associate Dean of Graduate Studies Ahmed Hambaba conceived the series and has been its champion since its inception.

“It’s more than just a lecture series—it’s a networking and relationship-building partnership with organizations that will hopefully hire our graduates down the road,” he said.

About San Jose State

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San Jose State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 134 areas of study with 110 concentrations – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 33,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San Jose State continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing more than 7,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 220,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

Inspiring Student Receives Top CSU Honor

Photo courtesy of CSU Chancellor's Office

Photo courtesy of CSU Chancellor’s Office

SJSU Media Relations contacts:
Pat Harris, 408-924-1748, pat.harris@sjsu.edu
Robin McElhatton, 408-924-1789, robin.mcelhatton@sjsu.edu

SAN JOSE, CA – Melissa Ortiz, ’17 Computer Engineering, has faced more adversity in her young life than most people do in a lifetime. After her father died, she became homeless, lived in extreme poverty, and dealt with physical and mental abuse.

Overcoming Odds

But Ortiz managed to overcome those obstacles. She started her own company and secured an internship at Intel to support herself so she could go to college. She is the first in her family to do so.

That’s why Ortiz has been named a recipient of the 2015 CSU Trustees’ Awards for Outstanding Achievement. The awards are given to 23 students who overcome adversity and demonstrate superior academic performance, personal accomplishments, community service and financial need. She will fly to the Chancellor’s Office in Long Beach on Sept. 8 to pick up her award.

Love of Engineering

Ortiz is majoring in computer engineering with an emphasis on embedded systems. She maintains a 3.3 GPA. She’s also a member of several campus organizations, but it’s computer engineering that intrigues her the most.

 “Engineering brings out the kid in me, I feel like a kid in a candy store every time I work on a project,” Ortiz says.


Photo courtesy of CSU Chancellor's Office

Photo courtesy of CSU Chancellor’s Office

After completing her undergraduate degree, Ortiz plans to earn a master’s degree in computer science and business administration, with the hopes of one day, running her own engineering firm. She also wants to inspire young women to be independent and take an interest in STEM fields.

Ortiz was named the William Hauck scholar. The Hauck endowment will provide $6,000 to this year’s CSU Trustee Award recipient. The late William Hauck, ’63 Social Studies, served as deputy chief of staff to Governor Pete Wilson and chief of staff to Assembly speakers Bob Morretti and Willie L. Brown, Jr.

About San Jose State

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San Jose State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 134 areas of study with 110 concentrations – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 33,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San Jose State continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing more than 7,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 220,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.


Alumnus Photographs Veterans

SJSU alumnus Tom Sanders, ’15 MFA Photography, is on a 24-city photographic journey. At each stop he takes photos of World War II veterans.

“The goal of this assignment is to create a greater appreciation for all veterans and soldiers,” Sanders said. “The veterans get the opportunity to tell their story and be honored before they pass away, to preserve their stories and images for future generations.”

Sanders got the idea for the veteran photo project after snapping photos of a World War II vet for a senior project at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. During the shoot, the vet told him a spine-chilling story that he says put his life into perspective.

Continue reading

CyberGirlz Find Friends at Facebook

Photo: David Schmitz

SJSU CyberGirlz program participants at Facebook (photos by David Schmitz).

Thirty-eight middle school girls from San Jose State University’s CyberGirlz program took part in a unique experience this summer that may ultimately be a life changing experience for them. They went to cybersecurity camp at Facebook. For months, students from SJSU’s Jay Pinson STEM Education program taught the girls basic coding and cybersecurity skills in after-school programs made possible through funding from Symantec, Intel, AT&T and Facebook.

At Facebook, the girls advanced those skills and learned more about malware, firewalls and cyber-ethics. They also heard from Facebook’s chief security officer, and a panel of female employees who shared their personal career stories and advice on getting into the cybersecurity field.


Facebook gave each girl a new laptop computer to make sure they continue to hone their cyber sleuthing skills.

Facebook, along with the Jay Pinson STEM Education program and several non-profit groups  are working together to get young girls interested in STEM fields, especially computer science.

They hope to pique their interest early on since some researchers believe girls loose interest in STEM subjects around 12 or 13 years of age. Facebook hopes to keep the interest going. They gave each girl a new laptop computer to make sure they continue to hone their cyber sleuthing skills.

The Jay Pinson STEM Education program is also gearing up for a new year of providing classroom instruction to elementary and middle school students in the San Jose area.

“We feel there’s a need to provide a safe space for girls to explore their curiosity and skills in cybersecurity, so in ten years we see a workforce that resembles our community with at least 50 percent men and 50 percent women participating,” said Virginia Lehmkuhl-Dakhwe, director of the Jay Pinson STEM Education program.

Green Ninja stickers

Pedaling for the Planet

Green Ninja team

The Green Ninja Climate Ride Team (courtesy of The Green Ninja Project).

Green Ninja in the classroom.

In the classroom (courtesy of The Green Ninja Project).

After months of training and fundraising, the Green Ninja Climate Ride Team is set to take off in the Northern California Climate Ride. The ride starts in Eureka on May 17, and ends five days later in San Francisco on May 21.

The eight team members will bike 320-miles along the Northern California coastline to raise awareness about climate change and support environmental non-profit organizations like the Green Nina Project — an SJSU environmental outreach program that teaches middle school students about climate change and inspires them to take action.

300 ninja

A custom-designed jersey (courtesy of The Green Ninja Project).

We are excited about the ride, but also a little nervous,” says Professor Eugene Cordero, a climate scientist in the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science.

The team is made up of two professors, one alumna, one staff member and three students. Some are avid cyclists, while others are beginning bicyclists. Even though their skill level varies, they all share a common goal — a commitment to maintaining a healthy planet and reducing climate change.

Follow the team

You can follow the team and encourage them on via SJSU’s official Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, using the hashtag #SJSUclimateride.

Spartan Superway May be the Ride of the Future

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications

Inside an old, plain building in downtown San Jose, dozens of students are busy working on a futuristic transportation system.

“We are inventing, developing, and demonstrating a new paradigm in urban transportation, sustainable urban transportation since our system is going to be 100 percent solar powered and grid tied,” said Burford “Buff” Furman, a mechanical engineering professor in the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering, and head of the Sustainable Mobility System for Silicon Valley project. The goal is to design a personal rapid transit system using renewable energy. Students call it Spartan Superway.

Four teams of students are designing and building a full-scale working model, a large tabletop model, and a mock-up of the interior cabin of one of the vehicles that will travel on the system. They’ll be displayed May 16-17 at the Maker Faire in San Mateo. The full-scale model includes a gondola-type pod that moves under the bottom of a 33-foot- long steel track suspended ten feet in the air. The pod rolls into a life-size transit station. Solar panels on top power the system, and excess energy is fed back to the electric grid.


Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications

Burford “Buff” Furman, mechanical engineering professor, and former engineering professor and team sponsor Ron Swenson with the 2014-2015 Spartan Superway team. (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications)

The student team

There are mechanical engineering, civil engineering, computer science, industrial design and business students working on the Spartan Superway. Most are seniors. Natalie Granados, ’15 Mechanical Engineering, is on the propulsion team.  She’s interested in the transportation field so she decided to join the project. “I’ve learned how to design a propulsion system,” Granados said.  “I feel like that’s pretty valuable.”

Jack Irwin, ’15 Mechanical Engineering, lead on the full-scale team, has gained valuable skills too. “It’s given me a lot of project management experience, and learning what it takes to get a project done of this scale,” Irwin said.  “It’s a pretty big project that we’re trying to accomplish. We have deadlines and timeframes, funding, and we have to make sure we have money and a budget. It’s similar to working in a startup company.”

The project is made possible in part by SJSU former engineering professor Ron Swenson.  He mentors the students, and supports the project through his 501(c)(3) non-profit organization: the International Institute of Sustainable Transportation. His brother, local builder Barry Swenson, donated use of the 9,000-square-foot building for three years, and  friend Francis DeWinter provided most of the tools and a substantial part of the materials.


Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications

Jack Irwin, ’15 Mechanical Engineering, and Danny Ornellas, ’15 Mechanical Engineering, stretch a recently welded piece of metal to bring it up to specification. (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications)

Building support

“The goal is to get vehicles separated from people.  To give the streets back to the people,” Ron Swenson said. “It’s amazing to see the work the students are able to accomplish.”

The project started three years ago, but doesn’t yet have all the funding necessary to take it to the next level of development. “Getting funding is difficult because agencies are interested in funding paper studies instead of steel and concrete, which demonstrates concepts,” Professor Furman said.

Jordan Carter, ’15 Mechanical Engineering, and lead of the cabin team, thinks the project is a great way to end her senior year. “This is something bigger, something ongoing, that’s not going to be done at the end of the year when I graduate, and I think it’s been really rewarding just to contribute,” Carter said.

Spartan Superway may one day have an impact on transportation systems of the future.  For now, its giving students skills that will put them in the driver’s seat as they begin their careers.

Spartan Fund

SJSU Students Rock the Financial World

Spartan Fund

The Spartan Gold Team (courtesy of the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business).

Facing tough competition, a four-student team from SJSU walked away with a first-place trophy at the CFA Institute Investment Research Challenge for the Northern California region.

They were up against teams from the Stanford MBA program, the Wharton executive MBA program, Santa Clara University, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of San Francisco.

The win was a major accomplishment,” said Stoyu Ivanov, associate professor of accounting and finance, Nancie Fimbel Investment Fellow, and assistant director of the Center for Banking and Financial Services.

The teams

Two teams from SJSU took part in the competition March 5 in San Francisco’s financial district. Earning the top spot at the competition was the Spartan Gold Team made up of Joel Gonzales, ’15 Finance; Shayan Khales, ’15 Accounting; Valeriya Razdyakonova, ’18 Corporate Accounting and Finance; and Nirav Shah, ’15 MBA.

A second SJSU team, the Spartan Blue Team, consisted of Aaron Foster, Tarriq Hansrajh, Michael Farrell and Mark Smith, all finance majors.

The teams were required to research and analyze Gilead Sciences, a Bay Area biotech company. As part of their pitch, they wrote a paper, gave a presentation, and participated in a question-and-answer session.

We applied a lot from what we learned in the Spartan Fund and our finance classes,” Gonzales said.

Spartan Fund

The Financial Navigator Student Managed Investment Fund, also known as the Spartan Fund, was established with a $100,000 donation from Nancie Fimbel, and her husband C. Edward Van Deman, CEO of Financial Navigator.

Fimbel, who capped a 28-year career at SJSU by serving as acting MBA director and senior director of development for the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business, wanted to give back to the university.

I’m very proud of having started this,” Fimbel said. “I had dreamed of this, and it’s really a kick to see the students pitch to each other.”

Students manage the $50,000 Spartan fund using 12 Bloomberg terminals in their classroom. They’ve raised the fund to $52,000 in just six months.

Next up for the Spartan Gold Team is the national competition on April 15 in Atlanta. A win there will send them to the Global Final, where they’ll face teams from the Europe and Asia Pacific regions.

SJSU Cheer

Spartan Cheerleaders are National Champions—Again!

SJSU Cheer

The SJSU cheerleading team wins the national pennant (photo courtesy of Kelvin Lam).

For the second year in a row, the SJSU cheerleading team walked away with first place at the United Spirit Association Collegiate Championships.  They competed against 10 other four-year schools March 22 and 23 in Anaheim.

Head Coach Kelvin Lam says the team prepares physically and mentally all year long for this one competition.

If you compare it to football, you only have one chance to run a play to make a touchdown.  There are no second chances, so everything has to be perfect. That tells you the amount of pressure the cheerleaders face,” Lam said.


The 22 women and two men team performed a two-and-a-half-minute routine choreographed to customized music and sound effects. Lam says their acrobatics, tumbling and stunts were nearly perfect on the first day, but less so on the second day.

Because of that, many team members were nervous going into the awards ceremony, uncertain of the outcome. But the Spartan cheerleaders were judged best overall in the two-day competition.

Lam says when they heard they won first place, “everyone was just ecstatic, jumping everywhere, just so full of excitement.”

Sweet victory

Cheerleader Paige Collins, ’15 Child and Adolescent Development, is one of seven seniors who will leave SJSU with a national win in hand.

The team this year was absolutely amazing, and it feels amazing to share a title with people who worked so hard and deserved it,” Collins said.

The win was even sweeter given the team had faced some adversity throughout the year, including a weight room injury just two weeks before the Anaheim competition, forcing major changes in the routine.

“It always feels good to win and it always feels great to get pats on the back from other people, but the most satisfying thing for me is to see how the team handled itself before, during and after the event,” Lam says. “I couldn’t have picked a better group of people to represent SJSU.”

SJSU Honors its Faculty Members

Seventy faculty members stepped into the spotlight at the 16th annual Faculty Service Recognition and Awards Luncheon, and were honored for their work at San Jose State University.

“It is an honor for me to take part in this annual event, recognizing our faculty members for their years of service to San Jose State University and acknowledging the special achievements and contributions of this year’s four faculty awardees,” said President Mohammad Qayoumi in his prepared remarks.

2014-2015 Faculty Awards

“I have devoted my career to training students in order to develop the next generation of scientists who will tackle the next generation of tough issues in human system integration.  It is very gratifying to see that the university places such high value on those activities.”

With that said, Kevin Jordan, professor of Psychology in the College of Social Sciences, accepted the President’s Scholar Award. His 30-year career at the university is impressive. He’s authored or co-authored approximately 80 academic papers and presentations, supervised some 80 master’s theses, and secured nearly $200 million in research funding.

The Student Union ballroom erupted with applause as President Qayoumi presented the Distinguished Service Award to Scott Guenter, professor of Humanities in the College of Humanities and Arts. Guenter also received an award for his 25 years of service to the university.

Outstanding Professor Anne Marie Todd of the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Social Sciences and Outstanding Lecturer Cynthia Baer of the Department of English and Comparative Literature in the College of Humanities and the Arts also received a warm reception.

Yearly Service Awards

The university gave awards to faculty members with 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 and 50 years of service. William McCraw, professor emeritus of Political Science and a Humanities lecturer, was the only person at this year’s luncheon to receive an SJSU Tower frame for 50 years of service.  As he walked to the stage, everyone in the ballroom rose to their feet and applauded.

“I feel a lot of pride for being associated with this vibrant campus,” said McCraw.  “It seems just like yesterday that I stepped foot on campus.”

More than 350 people turned out to honor the faculty members for their inspiring work and dedication to SJSU.


Climate Ride team

Green Ninja Team Joins Climate Ride

Climate Ride

Climate Ride team members before training in Woodside. Left to right, they are Ramya Shenoy, Huong Cheng, Kelly Chang, Eugene Cordero and Clare Cordero (photo by Steve Branz).

A team of Spartans will pedal hundreds of miles along the California coast this spring to raise awareness about climate change, and support SJSU’s environmental outreach program, The Green Ninja Project.

Before joining the team, the last time Ramya Shenoy, ’15 Computer Science, rode a bicycle was 11 years ago to pick up groceries for her parents in India. She recently rode 47 miles, and is determined to complete The Climate Ride, which runs May 17-21.

“I’m putting all my willpower into training for this. I think anything is possible, if you really put your heart into it,” Shenoy said.

The Team

The Green Ninja Team, a diverse group of SJSU students, alumni, and faculty and staff members, is participating in the California Climate Ride. They’ll be biking 320 miles in five days from Eureka to San Francisco to raise awareness about climate change and support environmental non-profit organizations like the Green Ninja project.

Shenoy and several other team members work for the Green Ninja Project, a non-profit environmental outreach program designed to educate middle school kids about climate change and inspire them to take action.

The Green Ninja Project is the brainchild of Professor Eugene Cordero, a climate scientist in the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science.  Convincing Professor Cordero to participate in the Climate Ride wasn’t too difficult.

“I love cycling, I’m passionate about promoting solutions to climate change and our SJSU team is so inspiring,” Cordero said.


Each team member must fundraise $2,800 to ride, but they hope to raise $5,000 a piece.  Kelly Chang, ’13 Biological Sciences, the team captain, loves getting active outside and hopes to inspire others to get outdoors through the Climate Ride. She’s actively promoting the ride, and trying to get more riders and sponsors to sign up.

We’re always looking for new riders, and we welcome all levels of bike riders,” Chang said.

Chang has been contacting local businesses to partner with and support the team. So far, Good Karma Bikes has graciously donated a bike, which will be raffled off in an upcoming silent auction.


The Green Ninja team has organized training rides every other Sunday and they recently completed their longest ride of 47 miles. Huong Cheng, ’15 Animation/Illustration, learned to ride a bike just one month ago.

“I want this to inspire my friends and family to take on challenges in life with a can-do attitude. I know once I finish this ride, I will not be afraid of any obstacle I come across,” Cheng said.

Learn more about SJSU’s Green Ninja Team and support their fundraising goals. Want to join the team?  Contact Kelly@greenninja.org.

Alumni Win at the Academy Awards

Congratulations to three SJSU alumni! The Walt Disney film they worked on, “Big Hero 6,” won an Oscar for best animated film at this year’s Academy Awards.

“Big Hero 6” is a 3-D animated comedy about a plus-size inflatable robot and a prodigy who team up with a group of friends to form a band of high-tech heroes.

Scott Watanabe was the lead art director. His wife, Kendelle Hoyer, worked as a story artist on the film, and Lauren Brown, ’13 Animation/Illustration, is a publicist.

This is the second win for Hoyer, who also worked as one of the main story board artists on “Paperman,” which won an Oscar for the Academy Award’s Best Animated Short in 2013. Watanabe and Hoyer met in the SJSU Animation/Illustration Program and graduated as art majors in 2006.

The student Animation/Illustration club, ShrunkenHeadMan, is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year. The club started in room ART 218.

“Our alumni try to sneak either ‘SHM’ or ‘218’ into the films, games and shows they produce. You can catch a ‘218’ on one of the buildings in the credits of ‘Big Hero 6,’” said Associate Professor of Animation/Illustration David Chai.

SJSU alumni worked on two other films that were nominees in this year’s Academy Awards:

Animated Feature Film Category
“How to Train Your Dragon 2”
Andrew Harkins

Short Film, Animated Category
“The Dam Keeper”
Jeanie Chang
Cody Gramstad
Kristy Kay
Becky Roberts
Lucie Roberts

lunar new year

Spartans Celebrate the Lunar New Year

Lunar New Year

An estimated 100,000 people in San Jose mark the holiday, including roughly 10,000 San Jose State students.

Red envelopes filled with cash, fire crackers and dancing lions are all part of the Lunar New Year – the most celebrated holiday of the year in the Asian culture. An estimated 100,000 people in San Jose mark the holiday, including roughly 10,000 San Jose State students.


Hien Duc Do

It’s the biggest day of celebration for a lot of Asian cultures. It’s like combining New Year’s, Thanksgiving and Christmas all together,” said Hien Duc Do, director of the College of Social Sciences Student Success Center and professor of sociology and interdisciplinary social sciences.

Although the Lunar New Year is celebrated by millions of people worldwide, there is some disagreement this year over which animal symbolizes the 2015 New Year. Some people believe it’s the sheep, while others say it’s the ram or goat.

It all began as a way for farmers to celebrate their rice harvest, reflect on the past year, and think about goals for the coming year. According to Professor Do, the holiday has significant meaning this year to the Vietnamese community because of the upcoming 40th anniversary of the fall of Saigon this spring.

Every year, people continue the tradition by remembering ancestors, wishing family and friends prosperity and good health in the coming year.

alan wong replacement

SJSU Director of Development Alan Wong and family (courtesy of Alan Wong)

Traditionally, everything is about good wishes, clearing out the past and preparing for a new start; a new year. We visit relatives and use the opportunity to show appreciation to family and friends,” said Alan Wong, director of development at the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering.

“We also celebrate with lots of food, big dinners, red round boxes of candies to great guests. You’ll see people wearing red clothes to symbolize new energy,” Wong said.

Sovannida Nau, ’16 Biomedical Engineering, has been celebrating the Chinese New Year since she was a baby.  She’s always received a “lucky” red envelope filled with cash, including this year.  She said she enjoys the special food and large family gatherings the most.

“I’ve grown up with this tradition and I really enjoy it.  When I have my own kids, it will be something I do as well.”

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Sovannida Nau, ’16 Biomedical Engineering (photo by Robin McElhatton)

There are several Lunar New Year events in the Bay Area this year. The largest ones are the Vietnamese Tet Festival at History Park San Jose on Feb. 28 and the Southwest Airlines Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco on March 7.

The Lunar New Year runs from Feb. 18-24.

Giant Puppet

Spartan Filmmakers Create Movie Magic

Giant Puppet

A crew member works on a puppet for the animated short “Behind My Behind” (courtesy of Animation/Illustration).

San Jose State University will have a big showing at the 25th Cinequest Film Festival, which runs Feb. 24 to March 8 right here in downtown San Jose.

The films are spectacular yet admission is affordable at $6 for students and $8-11 for everyone else.

“Behind My Behind”  

Associate Professor of Animation/Illustration David Chai and 43 current and former students spent three months on “Behind My Behind,” the story of a disheartened writer who reunites with his love for creativity in a secret world he finds in his couch.

“Fueled by Trader Joe’s bananas and Costco pizza, students worked on everything from animation, creating backgrounds and building puppets and sets to looking for props at flea markets,” Professor Chai said.

Behind My Behind

A scene from “Behind My Behind” (courtesy of Associate Professor David Chai).

This is Chai’s 11th film, and the first one featuring stop-motion production. The short has already won two awards and been accepted into six film festivals total.

“Animation is a ton of work,” said Professor Chai, but he and his crew added some fun.

“We had many themed days including plaid and glasses day [dressing like the main character in the film], amazing hat day, chips day, necktie day, superhero shirt day, and a disastrous uncooked rice day,” Professor Chai said.

“Bell Jar”

Joshua Pausanos, ’15 Radio-Television-Film, and three friends had a few laughs while working on their new film, “Bell Jar.” JP Emodi, ’15 RTVF, Riley Leggin, ’17 RTVF, and Nika Burnett, a UC Santa Barbara alumna, shot the film over three days.

Pausanos and Burnett wrote “Bell Jar,” inspired by Sylvia Plath’s novel, The Bell Jar.

Bell Jar

Meticulous preparations for a swim in a scene from “Bell Jar” (courtesy of Joshua Pausanos, ’15 Radio-Television-Film).

“We wanted to tell a very visual story showing the pressure and failure involved in wanting to be perfect at something. We chose to do this by following a swimmer who strives to be perfect,” Pausanos said.

“Bell Jar” won the award for best cinematography at the SJSU Campus MovieFest last October and will compete in the same category at the Campus MovieFest finale this summer in Hollywood.

“9th Hole”

Jacob Ohlausen, ’15 RTVF, and a crew of 20 current or former SJSU students produced “9th Hole,” a comical look at fathers protecting their daughters on prom night.

The film was created for Cinequest’s Barco Escape program, which uses technology to give movie goers a more immersive cinematic experience.

Instead of one screen, the Barco Escape uses three screens of images and sound, placing the viewer right in the middle of the action.

Pebble Beach SEMT

Golf: Their Favorite Course

Pebble Beach SEMT

Marissa Giacomo manages a concession stand staffed with volunteers from the Carmel Youth Center at the 2015 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (College of Applied Sciences and the Arts photo).

Thirty-four SJSU hospitality and management students are among the 150,000 people converging on the Monterey Peninsula this week for the 2015 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Though they may get a brief moment to soak in the sun, or even catch a glimpse of a top golfer or celebrity, the SJSU Special Event Management Team will be busy working.

Kelsey Castellano, ’16 Hospitality Management, arrived at the Pebble Beach resort at 6 a.m. Feb. 11, the day of the celebrity tournament. She expected to work a 12-hour shift.

“I can take a break, but I’ll probably just eat what’s nearby,” Castellano said, referring to a behind-the-scenes area where food is kept for employees to snack on.

One team. One dream.

Wearing blue Pebble Beach jackets, the SJSU students will spend a full week gaining valuable hands-on experience in a professional environment. They’re managing the concessions, including two hospitality tents and the on-course food and beverage operations.

Pebble Beach

During the 2015 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, SJSU students from a variety of disciplines intern as managers overseeing operations in concessions, corporate chalets and corporate sky boxes such as the ones seen in the background along the 17th green at Pebble Beach (College of Applied Sciences and the Arts photo.

Marissa Giacomo, another hospitality management major, is in charge of a concession stand near the 18th green. Her staff consists of volunteers from the Carmel Youth Center, which will receive 10 percent of the concession stand proceeds.

“It feels good to know everyone has a job. I’m surprised at how open they are to doing things,” Giacomo said.

Professional training

The students manage and oversee multiple corporate client events; host VIP guests in luxury suites; interact with servers and bartenders; and help manage employees. Castellano is over-seeing five employees in one of the skyboxes for a corporate client.

“I’m in control of my staff,” she said. “They are asking me questions. Until today, I had no idea what it would be like.”

Many former students of the program say their time at the AT&T Pro-Am gave them enough experience and know-how of event management that they were able to get jobs right after graduation. In golf terms, that’s what you’d call, a hole in one.

This is the 10th year SJSU’s Hospitality Management Program has partnered with Pebble Beach Resorts to assist with the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, one of the most popular golf competitions on the PGA tour.


PGA Pro Pops the Question


Mark Hubbard proposes to his girlfriend Meghan McCurley on the 18th green during the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am (photo by Chris Condon/PGA TOUR).

Love is in the air for two Spartans at the 2015 Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

PGA pro Mark Hubbard, ’11 Business Management, surprised former swim team standout Meghan McCurley, ’12 Kinesiology, with a marriage proposal on the 18th green Feb. 12.

“I felt like I had to do something different than just take her out to dinner or something,” Hubbard told the San Jose Mercury News.

For McCurley, the first sign came when she was alerted to the video board, which was flashing, “Meghan, Will You Marry Me?” Then Hubbard went down on one knee, and she said yes!

The couple has yet to set a date and venue. A return to Pebble Beach might be worth considering. They’ll find many fellow Spartans working there.

The SJSU/Pebble Beach Special Event Management Team is managing the concessions, chalets and skyboxes at this week’s tournament. And that experience often translates into full-time jobs at Pebble Beach Resorts for SJSU alumni.