Chicano Commencement Honors Students and Their Families

In 1968, a group of Chicano students participating in the San Jose State commencement ceremony at Spartan Stadium peacefully walked out of the president’s speech in protest of lackluster resources and in support for students of color. They created their own “Chicano Commencement” to celebrate their accomplishments, and a tradition was born.

Now 48 years later, Chicano Commencement has evolved into an elaborate event where participating students invite loved ones on stage, give speeches and share cultural food while enjoying mariachi music.

“This is rooted in history,” said Lizbet Huizar, ’16 MA Mexican American Studies  and co-chair for Chicano Commencement. “Back in the day, it was just a few parents putting together a potluck and through the years, it’s expanded to what we see now, which is a $50,000 celebration.”

By hosting fundraisers on campus, participants of each year’s commencement aim to raise $50,000 toward planning and supplying an event location, food and entertainment. The organization is currently $15,000 shy of their goal.

Loved Ones

Huizar said 60 graduates will enter the Event Center accompanied by two loved ones and have the opportunity to bestow “Stoles of Gratitude” to their loved ones in honor of their support.

“I thought this was a perfect thing to add to find different ways to connect our parents even more to this ceremony,” Huizar said.

For Irma Flores, ’16 Behavioral Science, her family support system eased her “rollercoaster” of a transition when she learned she was pregnant in her second semester at SJSU.

Flores comes from a family of hard workers; her grandfather came to the U.S. as a fieldworker as part of the Bracero Program in the 1940s, her mother cleaned houses and her father has worked in the fields during Flores’ upbringing.

“My mom has always told me ‘go to school’ and she’s always pushed that on me,” Flores said. “I just wanted to be a good role model for my daughter because I wanted her to grow up with everything I didn’t have.”

Andrea Fernandez, ’16 Communication Studies and co-chair of Chicano Commencement, said she believes the ceremony is as much about celebrating family and loved ones of graduates as it is for the students who participate.

“I want to recognize all the families and friends present because they are a huge part of the journey here as Spartans,” Fernandez said.

Progress

Some journeys prove to be historically bumpier than others, and only flourish by an aspiration for a better life.

Andrea Ruiz, ’16 Public Relations, is the programming chair of the ceremony and has been fueled by her parent’s journey from Oaxaca, Mexico, to the United States.

“I’ve realized the biggest thing that they’ve ever granted me was the ability to dream,” Ruiz said. “[Chicano Commencement] highlights how we can progress as a culture, as a community, that change is coming.”

In 1969, 11 students participated in the commencement protest and now 60 students will grace the Event Center stage as part of this historic event. But Fernandez wants those numbers to steadily increase for years to come.

“I think it just shouldn’t be 60, I think it should be every single Latino and Chicano student who is graduating. It’s almost like a hidden gem of the university that people find out through word of mouth,” Fernandez said. “Our focus is to make it as inclusive for anybody who attends just as it is for their graduates, so I think it brings cultural awareness to the campus as well.”

Activism

‘This year Damien Trujillo,’93 Journalism, will take a break from his reporting gig at NBC Bay Area to deliver the keynote speech, a speech that Fernandez said she hopes resonates with the emerging professionals.

Most notably though, Huizar said Chicano Commencement’s legacy should endure through the activist spirit on which it was founded.

“We’ve really emphasized this year that this is an organization of activism. It’s not the same as before, when you would get out and go protest, but there is still this responsibility that you have to help your community in any way possible,” Huizar said. “I feel like these graduates are going to go out there, do whatever they can, wherever they work, as they now have knowledge of what it means to be a Chicano or Chicana.”

Honors Convocation Recognizes Top Academic Achievers

When Kenney Chiu, ’15 Business Finance, joined 4,127 Dean’s and President’s Scholars as part of the Honors Convocation in the Event Center on April 15, someone special shared a seat with him — his baby boy Abraham Charles.

“I snuck him in to sit on my lap,” Chiu said with a laugh. “All the honorees that sat around me were playing with him and they just loved it, too.”

Chiu joined a record number of 3,714 students honored with recognition for earning a 3.65 or higher GPA in at least two contiguous of the past three semesters at San Jose State.

Although Chiu credited his honor with the exceptional teaching found in his home Lucas College of Business, he stressed the impact that his baby boy has had on his academic accomplishments.

“That’s where my motivation comes from,” Chiu said. “I just want to show my kid that he can be proud of his dad.”

Supporters

Interim President Sue Martin took a moment during the ceremony to praise the “unsung heroes,” including family members, friends and spouses who helped support and guide the student scholars.

For Emily Vann, ’16 Public Relations, her President’s Scholar recognition was a testament to her mother Olivia and her coaches both on and off the basketball court.

Vann joined a record setting 59 student-athletes recognized for academic excellence, including eight student-athletes who maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA for at least two contiguous of the past three semesters.

“You have to kind of go into another gear to kind of get this distinction,” Vann said. “I know firsthand how much it takes and how much time, dedication and effort it takes to go through the everyday process of waking up and having to wear two hats as a student and an athlete.”

Vann, a forward on the SJSU women’s basketball team, said she could not have reached the academic milestone without the support of her mother.

“My mom is a teacher and I just feel really blessed to have had her in my life. She helped me and coached me from the time I was little,” Vann said. “[She’s] always letting me know that my academics come first even though I’m an athlete.”

Provost Andy Feinstein said such support by loved ones and faculty members alike married with personal sacrifice helped usher in the record number of honored scholars this year.

“These students have shown a commitment to their studies, through personal, economic, social and educational circumstances, to be among the top one percent at this university,” Feinstein said.

Sacrifice

Kenneth Peter, 2016 Outstanding Professor, said in his keynote speech that students should be fueled by the various sacrifices they make in their quest for higher education.

“Your talents are not only exhibited in your academic success, but are profound when viewed in light of the struggles you have overcome,” Peter said. “When many of you are first generation college students, when most of you worked more than half time, when many of you have family obligations, when most of you come from public schools with inadequate resources, you are remarkably talented and you have proven this by being in this room tonight.”

Peter’s assertion rang particularly close to home for Jamil Elbanna, ’16 Mechanical Engineering, who spent most of his academic career working two jobs in addition to his schoolwork.

In order to finance his way through college, Elbanna took a job as a courtesy clerk at Safeway and a security officer at a hospital, all while pursuing a degree.

“It’s definitely not the easiest thing but having passion for my major and what I want to study is important,” Elbanna said. “There were times where it almost felt impossible, but I just keep at it and pushed at it day and night.”

Peter concluded his keynote speech by reminding the student honorees that by receiving recognition for their academic accomplishments, they are also receiving an important responsibility.

“Your talent must not be wasted. Each of you should leave SJSU with the kind of education you will need to fight for greater fairness and equality than this world has yet seen fit to offer,” Peters said. “You have likely experienced some hardships. Let those light the fire within.”

“Spartan East Side Promise” to Prepare East Side Students for SJSU Admissions

Media contacts:
Linda Ornelas, ESUHSD Marketing and Public Engagement Director, 408-347-5014, ornelasl@esuhsd.org
Connie Skipitares, SVEF Media Relations Manager, 408-790-9593, connie@svef.com
Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU Media Relations Director, 408-924-1748, pat.harris@sjsu.edu

SAN JOSE, CA – An initiative that fosters a college-going culture in East San Jose schools and promises to help prepare students for admission to San Jose State University will be unveiled at a formal “promise signing” next week.

WHAT:  Spartan East Side Promise
WHEN:  9:30 – 10:15 a.m Friday, April 29
WHERE:  W.C. Overfelt High School, Room F5, 1835 Cunningham Ave., San Jose, CA 95122

Collaboration

Remarks will be offered by East Side students, SJSU Interim President Susan Martin, East Side Union High School District Superintendent Chris D. Funk and Silicon Valley Education Foundation CEO Muhammed Chaudhry.

The “Spartan East Side Promise” provides a pathway to admission to SJSU by clearly specifying admissions requirements and actively sharing this information with students and families at the 13 high schools in the East Side Union High School District.

The Spartan East Side Promise is a collaborative venture created by SJSU and ESUHSD, with support from the East Side Alliance, a network that includes ESUHSD, seven elementary feeder school districts (Alum Rock, Berryessa, Evergreen, Franklin-McKinley, Mt. Pleasant, Oak Grove, Orchard), and the Silicon Valley Education Foundation.  The East Side Alliance brings together these eight districts as an educational community to share ideas, leverage resources, and align practices to ensure every student’s success.

Admissions Pathway

In order to gain admission into SJSU, students must meet the California State University/University of California course requirements known as the “A-G” requirements — a set of 15 high school course requirements covering a range of subjects that establish a foundation for college-level work.

Students must achieve a “C” grade or better in these subjects. Students at ESUHSD this fall must also earn a 3300 eligibility Index (SAT) or 790 (ACT), and require no remediation as determined by math and English placement test scores. The eligibility index is based on grades and test scores.

By clearly articulating the specific criteria for SJSU admission as part of the Spartan East Side Promise, ESUHSD students will know what is expected early in their academic careers and can prepare to take the steps needed to ensure college admission at SJSU.

The key here is locking in the eligibility index. The EI when an East Side student enters high school will be the maximum EI when the East Side student applies for admission to SJSU. This is important because SJSU may need to make upward adjustments to the EI for other applicants, depending on the university’s capacity to admit new students.

Roles

“We want students and families to see how students can go to college and earn a degree. This program provides a clear roadmap for success,” SJSU Interim President Susan Martin said. “We are excited to collaborate with East Side Union High School District, the East Side Alliance and the Silicon Valley Education Foundation on this innovative program to serve our local students.”

SJSU will provide presentations on CSU and SJSU admission requirements to students and their families at ESUHSD schools and middle schools feeding into ESUHSD; participate in onsite college fairs; identify a specific admissions counselor and financial aid counselor for East Side students and families; offer opportunities for ESUHSD students to visit SJSU; and ensure East Side Union high schools have publications regarding SJSU admission requirements.

The ESUHSD will appoint a district sponsor to work with SJSU; provide opportunities and facilities for SJSU representatives to meet with East Side students, families, faculty and counselors; provide bus transportation for ESHUSD students to visit SJSU and tour campus; promote the Spartan East Side Promise in elementary, middle and high schools; and identify a specific contact for SJSU at each high school.

Quotes

“This is an exciting program that will provide a clear pathway into a university for students who might not otherwise gain this access,” said SVEF CEO Muhammed Chaudhry. “We are thrilled to be giving students this chance for a bright future and rewarding career opportunities ahead.”

“The Spartan East Side Promise will reinforce all our current efforts to create an environment that encourages our students to strive for college,” said Chris D. Funk, superintendent of the East Side Union High School District.

“We are excited to provide our East Side Alliance elementary students with a college pathway to a great California State University right here in their own back yard!” said Kathy Gomez, Evergreen School District superintendent,

“I want to acknowledge and thank both Interim President Sue Martin and former President Mo Qayoumi, who have been active partners with the East Side Alliance and have made the Spartan East Side Promise possible,” said Manny Barbara, SVEF coordinator of the East Side Alliance.

About the East Side Union High School District

East Side Union High School District, established in 1950, serves more than 23,000 students in grades 9-12 in San Jose, Santa Clara County (Silicon Valley). The district has approximately 2,021 employees. It has the seventh largest high school student enrollment in the state and the largest in northern California.

The district’s mission is to align decisions to create safe, dynamic and relevant learning environments that inspire critical thinking, problem solving and innovation.

 About Silicon Valley Education Foundation

Silicon Valley Education Foundation is a nonprofit resource and advocate for students and educators. We drive scholastic achievement in the critical areas of science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) by combining resources and partnerships to provide innovative academic programs. We are a catalyst for policy solutions in public education. Our mission is to make Silicon Valley the leader in academically prepared students. To learn more, please visit: www.svef.com.

About San Jose State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 145 areas of study with an additional 108 concentrations – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 32,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State University 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.

College of Engineering Celebrates 70th Anniversary

Roy Kusumoto

Roy Kusumoto, ’66 Mechanical Engineering, will be recognized as a distinguished alumnus. He is founder, former chairman and CEO of Solectron Corporation, once the world’s largest electronics manufacturing services company

Media contact:
Lisa Francesca, Engineering Communications Specialist, 408-924-3801, lisa.francesca@sjsu.edu

SAN JOSE, CA – San Jose State University announced today that the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering is celebrating its 70th anniversary.

To commemorate its achievements throughout the last seven decades, the college will hold a 70th Anniversary Engineering Awards Banquet on Thursday, April 28, at the Fairmont Hotel. The event will celebrate the college’s longstanding industry partnerships with more than 30 Silicon Valley firms such as Applied Materials, Brocade, California Water Service Group, Cisco, IBM, Juniper Networks, Lam Research, Lockheed Martin, Netgear, Santa Clara Valley Water District, San Jose Water Company, and Xilinx, among others.

On this momentous occasion, the Davidson College of Engineering will recognize a distinguished member of its alumni: Roy Kusumoto, ’66 Mechanical Engineering, and founder, former chairman and CEO of Solectron Corporation, the world’s largest electronics manufacturing services company. Dr. David Hemker of Lam Research and Dr. Ivo Bolsens of Xilinx will also receive Dean’s Service Awards.

Professor of Mechanical Engineering Winncy Du and students (photo by David Schmitz).

Seeking to bring relevant skills into the global marketplace, Professor of Mechanical Engineering Winncy Du works with students (photo by David Schmitz).

Tickets will be available until noon April 27. Interested alumni should contact College of Engineering staff member Lisa Francesca at lisa.francesca@sjsu.edu.

Keynote speaker

Former president, chairman, and CEO of Rockwell International, Don Beall, ’60 Metallurgical Engineering, will be the keynote speaker. Under his leadership, Rockwell became a global leader in aerospace, electronics, and automotive markets.

Beall has served as a director on the boards of Rockwell Collins, Conexant Systems, Mindspeed Technologies, and CT Realty. He is a former director of Jazz Semiconductors, Skyworks Solutions, Proctor and Gamble, Amoco, Rockwell, and Times Mirror. Involved in numerous professional, educational, public service and philanthropic endeavors, he is an overseer of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and has received many honors including the Horatio Alger award. At the event, Beall will receive a 70th Anniversary Lifetime Achievement Award.

Supplying Silicon Valley

Nearly 70 years ago, Prof. Thomas E. Leonard began providing the leadership and vision to deliver excellence in an aviation education at SJSU.

Professor of Aviation Thomas E. Leonard was one of the college’s early champions (photo courtesy of the College of Engineering).

“I’m both proud and honored to be managing the helm of this prestigious college over some of its greatest historic growth,” said Dean Andrew Hsu. “We have a time-tested reputation of supplying Silicon Valley companies with smart, grounded, hardworking engineers, as well as creative, industry-disruptive entrepreneurs. They are bringing relevant skills into the global marketplace, and learning how to solve planetary problems. Our faculty and I look forward to seeing what our students will accomplish over the next 70 years.”

As the largest contributing school to the engineering workforce of Silicon Valley, the Davidson College of Engineering offers unique programs to prepare career-ready engineering graduates: an industry-enriched learning community, Engineering Programs in Community Service (EPICS), and the Silicon Valley Leaders Symposium.

Read the latest edition of the college’s magazine.

About the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering

The Davidson College of Engineering comprises 12 engineering disciplines in addition to General Engineering, more than 7,300 undergraduate and graduate students, and approximately 260 faculty and staff members. It is the largest engineering program in the 23-campus California State University system. 

About San Jose State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 145 areas of study with an additional 108 concentrations – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 32,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State University 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.

SJSU Receives $4.8 Million Gift from Late Professor for the Steinbeck Center

Martha Heasley Cox

Martha Heasley Cox

Media contact:
Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU Media Relations, 408-924-1748, pat.harris@sjsu.edu

SAN JOSE, CA – San Jose State University has received a $4.8 million bequest from the estate of Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature Martha Heasley Cox. The gift will support the Center for Steinbeck Studies that bears her name. Cox’s total lifetime giving to SJSU is $5.5 million, the largest total ever for a faculty member.

“An Arkansas native, Martha Heasley Cox came to California and was immediately taken by the opportunities she found here,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Andrew Hale Feinstein. “She dedicated her career to research on one of our region’s most iconic writers, John Steinbeck. Through this work, she sought to inspire a new generation of writers and scholars.”

Shortly after arriving, Cox began collecting Steinbeck materials. The collection grew to become so extensive and well respected that it was incorporated into plans for the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library, opened in 2003. The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies is the only university research archive in the world dedicated solely to Steinbeck’s life and work. Cox was active in Steinbeck Center affairs throughout her 34-year SJSU teaching career and after her retirement. She died in September 2015 at the age of 96.

Impact

Cox leading a tour of Cannery Row (photo courtesy of Greta Manville).

Leading a tour of Cannery Row (photo courtesy of Greta Manville).

Professor Cox provided financial support for the collection from the very start, and she continued to do so as the center grew into a multi-faceted organization with many related programs. Her bequest means the center and its work will reach more students than ever before in an array of fields, from humanities and the arts to science and mass communications. For example, the Martha Heasley Cox Steinbeck Fellowships will receive $3.1 million from the bequest.

“Her vision was to bring together a group of scholars drawn from the disciplines Steinbeck practiced—including fiction, drama, journalism and marine biology,” said Nicholas Taylor, Steinbeck Center director and an associate professor of English and Comparative Literature. “Over the last 15 years, SJSU has welcomed 36 writers and scholars to campus, at a rate of two or three per year.”

“The bequest will allow SJSU to expand the program significantly, bringing 10 or more fellows to campus each year,” Taylor said. “Steinbeck Fellows typically visit several classes during their residencies, but with only two or three fellows on campus at a time, the number of students they could reach was limited. Having a larger annual cohort of fellows will allow the program to touch many more students.”

Entrepreneur

Receiving the Tower Award (photo courtesy of the Steinbeck Center).

Receiving the Tower Award (photo courtesy of the Steinbeck Center).

The bequest will fund two more programs she founded. The Martha Heasley Cox Lecture Series will receive $1 million and the Cox-Manville Steinbeck Bibliography of everything Steinbeck will receive $690,000. Those who knew Professor Cox described her as an entrepreneur of arts and letters, offering a ceaseless stream of ideas on how to grow the Steinbeck collection and use its resources to encourage others to follow in the author’s footsteps.

“Martha made her fortune the old-fashioned way, through hard work as an ambitious academic author and careful investment in stocks and real estate,” said Paul Douglass, Steinbeck Center director from 2005 to 2012. “A child of the Great Depression, she wanted every dollar, like every moment in life, to count. She was a practical woman who wrote practical books: texts on writing, critical studies and guides for readers, and bibliographies useful to scholars of American literature.”

Martha Heasley was born in Calico Rock, Arkansas, in February 1919. She graduated with a bachelor’s in English from Lyon College, Arkansas, and received her doctoral degree from the University of Arkansas. In 1955, she moved across the country and joined the faculty at SJSU, where she taught for 34 years. She and her husband Cecil Cox divorced but remained lifelong friends. In 2000, she received the Tower Award, SJSU’s highest recognition for service to the university.

“Martha’s case for John Steinbeck was difficult to resist. Her colleagues in the Department of English weren’t exempt from service to the cause,” said Professor Emeritus Arlene Okerlund, who was new at SJSU when she met Cox. The two worked together on pioneering Steinbeck conferences and remained friends in retirement. Cox recruited graduate student Greta Manville, ’75 BA ’78 MA English, to create the Steinbeck bibliography that came to bear both of their names.

Steinbeck Award

With Steinbeck Award recipient Bruce Springsteen (courtesy of the Steinbeck Center).

With Steinbeck Award recipient Bruce Springsteen (courtesy of the Steinbeck Center).

In 1996, musician Bruce Springsteen reached out to the Steinbeck family with a request: he wanted to name his upcoming album and tour after the “Grapes of Wrath” protagonist Tom Joad. “Professor Cox’s warm relations with Steinbeck’s widow and literary agency led to an inspired idea,” Douglass recalled, the formation of the John Steinbeck Award: “In the Souls of the People.” The award became another way to honor Steinbeck’s legacy while supporting those who were following in his footsteps.

Now a regular fundraiser for the Steinbeck Center, the award brings to campus writers, artists, thinkers, and activists whose work captures Steinbeck’s empathy, commitment to democratic values, and belief in the dignity of people who by circumstance are pushed to the fringes. Recent recipients include civil rights icon Ruby Bridges, novelist Khaled Hosseini and documentary filmmaker Ken Burns.

About San Jose State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 145 areas of study with an additional 108 concentrations – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 32,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State University 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.

 

SJSU Appoints Chief Diversity Officer

Kathleen Wong(Lau)

Kathleen Wong(Lau)

Kathleen Wong(Lau) has been appointed to serve as SJSU’s chief diversity officer. Wong(Lau) will lead the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, providing vision and direction for university-wide efforts to ensure a welcoming, safe climate for every member of our community and serving as a liaison to community partners and constituents on a wide array of diversity initiatives.

She was selected by and will report directly to incoming SJSU President Mary Papazian, and will serve on the president’s cabinet. Wong(Lau) will join our community on July 25.

Wong(Lau) joins SJSU from the University of Oklahoma where she has served since 2014 as director of the Southwest Center for Human Relations Studies and the National Conference on Race and Ethnicity in Higher Education (NCORE).

Her noteworthy accomplishments at Oklahoma included launching faculty training institutes on inclusive teaching, and administrator training on management and leadership for diversity and innovation.

In addition, she designed and led an inaugural, mandatory, five-hour Freshmen Diversity Experience training for more than 5,000 students.

Read an announcement sent via email to all students, faculty and staff on April 12, 2016.

Conference Brings 300 Women Engineers to SJSU

Photo: David Schmitz

Photo: David Schmitz

When Hanni Ali, ’17 Chemical Engineering, took the Student Union Ballroom stage, she prepared to share an all-too familiar experience with over 300 female engineering students and professionals as part of the second annual Silicon Valley Women in Engineering (WiE) Conference on Saturday, March 12.

“Usually, when people ask me what I’m majoring in, I reply with ‘engineering,’ and they give me a confused look and ask me ‘Why?’” Ali said. “And I reply, ‘Why not?’”

Ali attended the conference last year as a prospective transfer. This year, she was selected to speak at a gala dinner. The event offers the opportunity for professional women engineers to share with students their perspectives on entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership in the predominately male dominated industry.

Photo: David Schmitz

Oracle CEO Safra Catz (Photo: David Schmitz).

Photo: David Schmitz

Associate Dean of Engineering Jinny Rhee (Photo: David Schmitz).

“It is crucial to continue to hold events to encourage and empower future generations of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) women,” Ali said. “This year’s conference is bigger than last year’s, with a lot more professionals donating their time to inspire the next generation of women innovators.”

Speakers included Oracle CEO Safra Catz, Apple Vice President of Wireless Technologies Isabel Mahe, and Facebook Vice President of Product Management for Social Good Naomi Gleit.

Guests attended 25 workshops throughout the day in topics including mentorship strategies, women in STEM leadership, smart cities, renewable energy, water sustainability, 3D printing, robotics, self driving cars, precision medicine and big data.

The conference was supported by a gift from the Mark and Carolyn Guidry Family Foundation. The late Carolyn Guidry, ’79 MS Computer Engineering, worked at Hewlett-Packard and then founded two companies in partnership with her husband. The conference is part of a wider effort to support aspiring women engineers. Applied Materials was a sponsor.

“I was deeply touched by the level of enthusiasm and energy of conference participants,” said Belle Wei, conference chair and Carolyn Guidry Chair in Engineering Education and Innovation Learning. “It is about building a community to inspire the next generation of women engineers to change the world.”

With the help of each speaker and activity, the misconceptions and concerns expressed by many in the beginning of the day were exchanged with supportive, excited chatter come dinnertime.

Apple’s Isabel Mahe silenced the common concern that women can’t be successful engineers and also be strong mothers when she shared her experience getting invited to dinner by Steve Jobs while she was still on maternity leave. After two hours of conversation with Jobs, Mahe accepted the position that she has held for eight years. She is now a mother of four.

Grumblings of the “glass ceiling” limiting women in the industry were shattered when Catz shared her journey from a stint in the “boys club” investment banking realm to the evolving software industry — all while donning a pair of blue pumps.

“Advice that I learned: if you really want to be successful, you have to change the game entirely,” Catz said. “In my case, I decided ‘I’m going to take a risk with my very fledging career and look at software.’ But you see, it was against crazy odds in those days. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

Photo: David Schmitz

IBM Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs Manager Kristina Vasquez, ’02 Computer Engineering (Photo: David Schmitz).

IBM Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs Manager for IBM Kristina Vasquez, ’02 Computer Engineering, hosted an interactive mentorship workshop with nine engineering students to discuss the importance of mentors and how to find them.

“I remember being in their shoes and I remember the people who helped me, and I don’t think I would be here today if it weren’t for them,” Vasquez said. “I have a daughter and these girls are like my daughters. I want the best for them.”

Vasquez, who graduated from San Jose State in 2002, said she saw this conference as an opportunity to not only maintain the sense of community among women engineers at the university, but also teach women that anyone can fill the role of being a mentor.

Photo: David Schmitz

Photo: David Schmitz

Photo: David Schmitz

Solango Altanparev has been accepted as an SJSU civil engineering major (Photo: David Schmitz).

One attendee of the workshop, Solango Altanparev, raised her hand during a discussion portion and admitted her initial interest in attending the conference was beyond merely receiving professional advice.

“I came here to this conference in a way seeking a mentor because I don’t really have any guidance,” Altanparev said.

Altanparev, who has been accepted as an SJSU transfer from Peralta Community College as a civil engineering major this fall, said the conference gave her a sense of hope and preparedness as she continues her academic career.

“I thought it took a lot of bravery and initiative to share her story with us,” Vasquez said. “If we can help someone feel better about their career, feel better about what they’re doing and make a difference — that’s why we’re here.”

Kaitlyn Bell, ’18 Mechanical Engineering, said she struggles to find representation in her department, where just 17 percent of the students are women, but felt warmly welcomed into the broader evolving engineering community.

“When I first saw everyone here, it honestly kind of choked me up,” Bell said. “It’s always nice to meet other female engineers so you can relate with them and know that someone feels the same way you do — together we can all get through it, being a minority in such a male-dominated field.”

The idea of girl power was a common discussion point across several workshops and even in the final keynote speech of the evening, delivered by Leyla Seka, senior vice president and general manager of SalesForce.

“You have to help other women,” Seka said. “This is not an optional situation given where we are as a nation, as a world and as an industry.”

Seka pressured the women in attendance to raise their voices in the professional realm so they may pursue opportunities, demand equal pay compared to male counterparts in the industry, and take risks.

“There are things that are built into society about the way we think about ourselves so it’s important that we as future leaders — you more specifically as future leaders — are the people that can write technology and the next generation of technology,” Seka said. “We will push the world that much further.”

 

 

“Essence of Blackness” Event Educates, Entertains and Builds Community

IMG_8264

Brian Andres & the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel perform at the second annual Essence of Blackness event (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

The pounding of conga drums married with the seductive blare of the trumpet filled the Student Union Ballroom as part of the second  annual Essence of Blackness event.

The African AmericanStudent Success Task Force hosted the event along with its Harambee Committee to explore just one influence of African culture on the world by focusing on jazz music and its rich, diverse history in the United States and beyond.

“Harambee, the arm of the task force that sponsors these kinds of events, brings together not only the African American students, faculty and staff but also reaches out to the larger campus to participate in cultural events,” said Michelle Randle, director of the CASA Student Success Center and chair of Harambee. “And [also it is important] for the African American students to see the support that they actually have on campus beyond themselves.”

The Essence of Blackness theme was born last year following conversations with African American students regarding the type of programming they felt was necessary to share with the campus community, with an educational component being at the forefront.

Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism

Charlie Channel of the Charlie Channel Quartet strums on his bass during a traditional jazz performance at the second annual Essence of Blackness event (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

“I do think young people now are not exposed to jazz and do not always understand that its origins do come from Africa and this country,” Randle said.

Charlie Channel of the Charlie Channel Quartet, one of two types of jazz represented that night, lectured attendees on the history of jazz before delving into a traditional jazz performance.

Channel read Langston Hughes’ poem titled “Drums,” which represents the origin of jazz by chronicling the movement of slaves from Africa while describing the survival and re-emergence of the drums into new lands.

“When you think about slavery and tribes of people who were thrown together, who didn’t know each other, the oppression, the brutality, there was just one thing they had in common — it was the drum,” Channel said. “Ultimately, it resulted in this new form of music that had never been heard before on the planet called ‘jazz.’”

IMG_7623

A server from Sandi’s Cobbler Cups serves American soul food at the second annual Essence of Blackness event (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

The genre’s diversity was introduced to attendees by Brian Andres, the drum set and leader of the Brian Andres & the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel. He discussed how the music evolved in the United States with the help of Mario Bauza, a Cuban clarinetist who played a role in launching the Afro-Cuban jazz movement during the Harlem Renaissance.

While some attendees leapt to their feet and danced as Andres and his band’s upbeat conga drumming and lively trumpeting reverberated throughout the ballroom, others merely indulged in Walia Ethiopian, Caribbean and American soul-food cuisine.

As part of the Harambee Awards, a first in the program’s history, commemorative clocks were given to individuals in the campus community who have served and shown commitment toward the success of African American students.

Six members of administration, four students and two community members were awarded recognition and two students were given special recognition for their “Strength in the Face of Adversity.”

“It means something if it comes from the community out to people to say ‘hey we recognize what you do, and we want to publicly be able to acknowledge your contributions because I don’t think people do it for the recognition,” Randle said. “They do it because they love what they do, they want to see the students succeed, and they want to be a part of a community that supports everybody.”

IMG_7741

Commemorative clocks were given to individuals in the campus community who have served and shown commitment toward the success of African American students (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

Gary Daniels, Harambee awardee, said although he is thankful for the recognition, he is not a student activist to gain accolades.

“Young people should use their talents and energy to make the world a better place regardless of whether they get awarded or recognized,” Daniels said.

Jerusalem Bekele, ’17 Kinesiology and fellow Harambee awardee, said events like Essence of Blackness are essential to not only educating the campus community about various cultures and the origin of traditions, but also to building a sense of community.

“Our perspective is kind of limited to what’s in front of us, and not necessarily outside so events like this kind of reach outside of America,” Bekele said. “I think it introduces a lot of culture and tradition to the SJSU community as well.”

Donntay Moore-Thomas, ’17 Communications, said although it was nice to see familiar faces that comprise the three percent African American population at SJSU, she was thrilled to see people from other cultural backgrounds attend as well.

“If we can share a meal together, I feel that we can come together for a greater cause,” Moore-Thomas said.

Students Organize Biomedical Device Conference

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

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

The San Jose State Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) ushered in its Seventh Annual Bay Area Biomedical Device Conference March 30 with discussion topics ranging from unmet medical device needs in developing countries to nanotechnology and entrepreneurial guidance.

The conference, which has been student-organized by the SJSU BMES since its inception in 2010, was created to give students the opportunity to exchange ideas and network with medical device industry professionals and academics.

“As our biomedical program continues to expand, collaboration with industry partners becomes increasingly important,” said Provost Andy Feinstein. “Today’s conference is one of many ways we can work together in preparing San Jose State students to work in this growing field.”

Hanmin Lee, surgeon-in-chief of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, said the more than 300 students, staff and industry professionals who filled the Student Union Ballroom all share a common interest as part of the biomedical realm — making the world a healthier place.

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

Olubunmi Ode (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications).

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

Shanelle Swamy, ’18 Biomedical Engineering (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications).

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

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

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

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

“Helping your fellow man is the most important thing we can do and we’re all interconnected,” Lee said. “To be able to help somebody else not only helps them but it helps you. It’s just the biggest privilege that we can all have.”

Olubunmi Ode strives to do just that, by aiding unmet biomedical needs of young children in Nigeria, a country that she says is plagued by power outages and a lack of proper medical devices.

Ode, a pediatric intensivist based in Abuja, Nigeria, has focused her life’s work on taking care of children in intensive care units through Hospitals for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that is mostly volunteer based.

“We do the surgeries and take care of the kids, but also train people on the ground so they know how to do this so we can set up the pipelines,” Ode said. “The kids do well. They survive, they go home and then come back to visit and they’re doing great.”

Shanelle Swamy, ’18 Biomedical Engineering, said she was inspired by Ode’s tales of working in inadequate medical conditions in an effort to improve Nigeria’s high child mortality rate.

“I come form the Fiji Islands and I’ve lost a lot of family members to inadequate medical conditions, hospitals that don’t have devices or just not having enough surgical rooms,” Swamy said. “Hearing about the medical needs in these developing countries is essentially what I want to work on after I graduate to really implement what we have here in the U.S. and bring it to these countries.”

Swamy, who was also a conference volunteer from SJSU BMES, said listening to the successes and difficulties of Ode and other industry professionals helped her narrow her goals as an emerging biomedical engineer.

In addition to the talk sessions, 28 student groups presented various research projects to industry professionals on posters during the networking reception portion of the conference.

Jung Han Kim, ’16 MS Biomedical Engineering, presented his research on using nanoparticles to deliver drugs that can precondition the heart to future heart attacks.

The drug delivers “small heart attacks” so that “when the real heart attack occurs, the heart is preconditioned so it can withstand the longer heart attacks,” Han Kim said.

Han Kim’s research was born from his advisor Folarin Erogbogbo, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, who is an expert in nanotechnology. Erogbogbo presented his student-collaborated findings as part of his afternoon session titled, “Nanotechnology for Biomedical Theranostics.”

“I’m part of [Erogbogbo’s] group and there are many students that are working under his advisory, so it was good for me to see where my project actually plays a role in that research.” Han Kim said. “I know that my research can also help play a big role, maybe in some ways that I don’t even know right now, in nanotechnology development.”

Erogbogbo said conferences like these are important for students to not only showcase their research, but to also engage with professionals.

“[Han Kim’s] been an excellent student, learned to solve problems and worked on a whole variety of nanoparticle synthesis techniques so it’s always great working with students like that,” Erogbogbo said. “It’s extremely important to engage in this kind of communal activity and the impression that a lot of people leave with is, ‘wow the SJSU students are really organized and impressive,’ so it’s also building our reputation here.”

Student Hackathon Explores Internet of Things

San Jose State undergraduate and graduate computer science majors whip out their laptops and begin downloading Python and JavaScript software (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

San Jose State undergraduate and graduate computer science majors whip out their laptops and begin downloading Python and JavaScript software (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

Thirty San Jose State undergraduate and graduate computer science majors spent a recent Saturday hunched over hardware chips and sensors as part of a two-week Internet of Things Workshop that kicked off on March 19.

The workshop, born from collaboration between the SJSU Department of Computer Science and Aeris, a Santa Clara-based cellular network operator, offers students not only an introduction to various scripting languages but also the opportunity to create their own applications.

“I am thinking about a smart parking garage, so you have an app that says ‘this car is leaving this spot right now,’ then you can direct the people looking for spots to that spot,” said Dennis Hsu, ’16 MS Computer Science.

But even a simple idea requires sophisticated tech tools and collaborating with experts. This is where Aeris comes in.

Aeris senior software engineer Maanasa Madiraju gives thirty San Jose State computer software engineering majors an introduction to downloading software needed for the workshop (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

Aeris senior software engineer Maanasa Madiraju gives thirty San Jose State computer software engineering majors an introduction to downloading software needed for the workshop (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

Meredith Ku, VMware intern, and Robinson Raju, MS Computer Science ’16, review the accounts they’ve just set up on Aeris’ cloud management system (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

Meredith Ku, VMware intern, and Robinson Raju, MS Computer Science ’16, review the accounts they’ve just set up on Aeris’ cloud management system (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

Meredith Ku, VMware intern, takes a closer look at a blinking Tessel Board as it connects to her laptop (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

Meredith Ku, VMware intern, takes a closer look at a blinking Tessel Board as it connects to her laptop (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

“One of the original goals of this was a basic hackathon but at a much higher level, so most of the work is going to be with JavaScript, Python, the Tessel platform and the types of sensors that feed data into the Internet of Things,” said Harry Plant, vice president of social sector at Aeris. “More importantly, I would like [students] to take away a sense of working at a Silicon Valley company.”

The thirty students are divided into ten groups of three, where they are tasked to work collaboratively to build an application over the course of two weeks to solve a real world problem or an application that has commercial value.

Groups were armed with a box of components to kick-start their product development stage, which included AeroCloud credentials to access the company’s Cloud system, a Tessel board hardware platform, connecting cable, climate or RFID (radio-frequency identification) modules, and Python and JavaScript software for coding.

Maanasa Madiraju, Aeris senior software engineer, guided participants in connecting Tessel boards to their laptops and navigating the company’s data management system.

“Our basic objective is to help students learn new languages so they can use them for the mainstream jobs,” Madiraju said.

Hsu, who envisioned the parking garage app, said prior to attending the workshop kick-off, the idea of the Internet of Things was an abstract concept as it relates to the broader connected world.

“I like that we got hands-on experience with the devices and actually doing the programming with professionals who give us their feedback and their ideas,” Hsu said.

Paired with Vihneshwari Chandrasekaran, ’17 MS Computer Science, Hsu said most of their early conceptual application ideas were born from various examples provided in short information sessions proctored by Aeris software engineers.

Aeris engineers suggested exploring applications that improve society in some capacity like water filter sensors for water crises, refrigerator sensors to prevent food spoiling and mobile payment applications.

Over the next two weeks, participants will have the opportunity to visit Aeris offices to attend “office hour” sessions, where they can de-bug ideas and gain feedback from Aeris engineers on how to improve their applications.

Students will present their final applications to Aeris on April 2, in a judging process that takes into consideration originality of the idea, technical achievement and execution, and real world value or commercial viability.

“There are two end goals,” Plant said. In addition to completing an app, the firm wants to “bring more students into Silicon Valley workplace and to expose them to the Internet of Things, and have them think from a design perspective,”

 

Student Uses Wearable Tech to Track Stress

Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism

Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism

Exactly how much stress do you feel on the job?

Kelli Sum, ’16 Industrial and Systems Engineering, and Assistant Professor Dan Nathan-Roberts are tackling this question as part of their work in the SJSU Undergraduate Research Grants Program.

The program, which gives student-faculty teams the opportunity to collaborate, provided the pair a $1,000 grant toward their project regarding quantifying workload with wearable technology.

“I was always interested in fitness trackers and how it let me understand how much I moved that day,” Sum said. “I brought up that idea to Dr. Nathan-Roberts and was talking about my research interests and we were able to find a way to use this human factors application as research.”

Sum’s initial idea was founded on how fitness trackers can be used as motivation to improve a person’s health, but she realized upon consulting her professor how the same technology could lend itself to tracking and managing the workload of nurses, athletes and even soldiers.

“My goal is to hopefully solidify that foundation and use these [trackers] for many different people to quantify how hard they’re working,” Sum said.

Sum is conducting preliminary research with the help of her colleagues in the USERlab (User Systems Engineering Research Laboratory), a group of undergraduate and graduate students collaborating on research projects under the guidance of Professor Nathan-Roberts.

Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism

Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism

Armed with Basis Peak fitness trackers for a week at a time, Sum’s colleagues have tracked their heart rate, skin temperature, Galvanic skin response (the skin’s electric activity), number of calories burned and number of steps taken.

After a week of tracking, Sum downloads the device’s collected data, drops it into an Excel worksheet and analyzes the information.

“What it will have is minute-by-minute reporting,” Sum said. “I basically have a line graph looking at the heart rate and other factors over time and we try putting all this information into a graph so we can understand the trends.”

The peaks in the graph indicate when a person is working hardest, and perhaps experiencing the most stress. That knowledge may one day help nurses, soldiers and others moderate their activities so they are more effective over the long run.

For now, Sum is testing the concept on fellow students.

Michael Cataldo, ’17 Industrial and Systems Engineering, said his one-week pilot with the tracker was telling of the technology’s benefits.

“I’m getting more and more into fitness, so it can tell me if I need to push myself further or ‘hey your heart beat is too high, you need to slow down,’” Cataldo said.

Cataldo said his involvement in Sum’s research and collaboration with Professor Nathan-Roberts has cultivated a culture of sharing ideas.

“I think that I’m lucky to get to work with a number of students that have a lot of passion in the same area that I do, which is improving health and health care,” Nathan-Roberts said. “It’s aligning our research interests together and finding places where my expertise could help identify what is missing in the research or if there are opportunities for us to further study.”

As Sum nears the end of the preliminary data collection period, she hopes to collaborate with the SJSU Valley Foundation School of Nursing to pair nursing students with trackers in an attempt to understand how the body works in various environments.

 

Student Helps Develop New 3D Technology

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

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

When holographic reality tech company LEIA Inc. invited 16 computer science students to participate in an automotive hackathon last December, the startup looked forward to the results.

The students did not disappoint, delivering projects utilizing the company’s 3D technology in various capacities including car displays, speedometers, navigation and automation.

But the hackathon was extra meaningful for one Spartan: Daniel Geisler, ’17 Computer Science, is now a member of the company’s software development team.

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

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

“We saw that Daniel was very quick at figuring stuff out and working with the other students and teams, and he had a good technical background,” said LEIA Inc. Project Lead Loren Beyerstein. “We originally were hoping to hire several interns and it turned out that we decided that it was best to start out with one, and we’re hoping that we can bring in more in the future.”

Geisler joined the team in February as an intern, where he’s been working on improving the company’s 3GS technology, a 3D technology that runs in a user’s web browser, so its holographic technology can work smoothly on any platform including Mac, Windows or Android.

The company’s name reflects a scene from Star Wars IV when Luke finds an S.O.S. message from Leia. R2D2 displays the message in 3D. In 1977, this was science fiction. Today, it’s becoming reality.

“I’m trying to describe it more elegantly than just ‘awesome,’ but it is awesome,” Geisler said. “It’s really brand-new technology that is not out in the wild yet, so it’s really good to get first-hand experience before it’s out.”

Although Geisler has only been working with the company for a little over a month, Armand Niederberger, director of data science and algorithms at LEIA Inc., said his contributions are immeasurable.

“He helped build the LEIA Core Library when he first started,” Niederberger said. “In the beginning especially and still now, [he’s] very crucial to helping us get our code clean and to the next level, and to making sure it works with the latest software out there.”

Part of Geisler’s role entails translating the company’s code so it can be utilized on any platform on any computing environment, which can be a tedious task.

Geisler spends eight hours a day fishing through code and ensuring that LEIA Inc.’s animation demos run smoothly.

More recently, Geisler has utilized his prior videogame development experience in fine-tuning LEIA Inc.’s mesh animation, which is technology that is intended to mirror a human’s facial expression and duplicate it on a 3D-simulated character, or avatar.

“I literally just sit there tweaking some code and looking at it to see if it’s working right [by making facial expressions],” Geisler said.

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

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

The technology, which for now offers two avatar choices of either a monkey or a pixie-like character, is intended to one day provide users the opportunity to 3D holographic chat with other users.

“So you’ll be looking at someone else’s avatar, and they’re looking at your avatar, and you’re seeing their real-time face as the monkey, and you’ll be seeing theirs as whatever avatar they want,” Geisler said.

Debra Caires, Geisler’s computer science lecturer, said she is thrilled that her student has benefited from the opportunity to work with a Silicon Valley startup company in SJSU’s backyard and have a hand in developing emerging technology.

“[LEIA Inc.] didn’t view Daniel as merely a student. LEIA presented in the classroom during one of our Wednesday night tech talk events and was already looking at our students as professionals and individuals who have intellectual value,” Caires said. “These collaborations between students and startups [are] phenomenal opportunities.”

Geisler, who sometimes even dreams of finding solutions to 3D technology in his sleep, said his experience is beyond what can be taught in the classroom.

“It’s cool just to see a developer’s environment, like how people in the industry work, and to work with professional code that other developers are going to be using,” Geisler said. “I love to program, so [this is] forcing me to do what I love.”

 

SJSU Celebrates Super Sunday 2016

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

Pastor Jason Reynolds (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications)

Members of the Emmanuel Baptist Church choir crooned “no weapon they throw at me, you know it won’t prosper, no,” while donned in all black outfits and carrying picket signs reading “Black Lives Matter” during this year’s CSU Super Sunday service.

Super Sunday, part of the California State University system’s African American Initiative, resulted in CSU ambassadors visiting over 72 churches and speaking at over 100 church services in the state to encourage African American youth to pursue higher education.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the CSU system to remind people that our mission is to aid ordinary people in being successful and transforming their families,” said San Jose State Interim President Susan Martin.

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

Vice President for Student Affairs Reginald Blaylock (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications)

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

SJSU Interim President Sue Martin and Pastor Jason Reynolds (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications).

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

Vice President for Student Affairs Reginald Blaylock (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications)

President Martin, who attended Emmanuel Baptist Church’s service on Feb. 28 along with SJSU Vice President of Student Affairs Reginald Blaylock, stressed the importance of encouraging youths to start considering college at a young age.

“Most of our CSU campuses, including ours, only have three percent of our students identifying as African Americans,” Martin said. “So we need more African American families to prepare to send their children to college.”

Tierney Yates, Social Sciences ’14, said he was only one of three African Americans in his political science program while in his undergraduate career and hopes the initiative will help boost representation in the CSU.

Yates, who serves as the church choir director, said the Black Lives Matter message was incorporated into the musical performances in addition to Pastor Jason Reynolds’ sermons for the month of February in order to bring attention to institutional racism and other issues.

“We talked about issues with community, income and family, so this week we were talking about the issues as they relate to education and disparities,” Reynolds said. “There is so much need for our children to see that knowledge is possible.”

Blaylock, who has served in the CSU system for 28 years, told the service attendees that he was a product of the system’s opportunities.

“My story can be summed up in eight words: ‘It wasn’t supposed to happen but it did,’” Blaylock said. “I came as a freshman over 30 years ago, and CSU and EOP [Educational Opportunity Program] most likely saved my life.”

Despite it being the 11th year that the CSU has organized a Super Sunday with California churches, Blaylock said there is a deep-rooted culture of partnerships within the system.

“There are many people in the CSU who have been doing work and reaching out to communities of color for many, many years,” Blaylock said. “I applaud and celebrate the coordination of these (Super Sunday) efforts, but as a witness today, there are staff and faculty from SJSU that attend this church that are on the scholarship committee and that organize afterschool tutoring, so we’ve been here long before the initiative.”

Yates said he was pleased to see over 20 SJSU or CSU alumni members in the church audience.

“When you’re on a campus of 33,000 students, you feel like you’re the only one,” Yates said. “But when you see it in a smaller setting you can see the impact that it can have and the potential growth that needs to happen.”

 

President Releases Diversity Update

Editor’s note: This message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on March 17, 2016.

Dear campus community,

As many of you know, court proceedings involving three former SJSU students charged with race-based hate crimes and battery against a fellow student ended earlier this week. Although jurors found all three guilty of misdemeanor battery, none were convicted on hate crime charges and all received reduced sentences.

These verdicts and sentencing outcomes left many in our community disappointed; some have expressed outrage. While we respect the independence and discretion of jurors and the courts in reaching these determinations, the offenders’ conduct was unacceptable and incompatible with our values. They are no longer enrolled at SJSU.

It is clear to me—as I believe it is to many of you—that building an inclusive, welcoming climate at SJSU demands sustained effort and contributions, large and small, from all of us. And these efforts need to support the unique academic, cultural and socio-economic needs of a highly diverse student population and campus community.

Some progress has been made. I am writing today to update you on this work. Among many things, our campus:

  • Is completing a search for a chief diversity officer. Finalists for this role will visit campus beginning this Friday, March 18. You can meet each of them during scheduled open forums. The successful candidate will report directly to the president, lead an Office of Diversity and Inclusive Excellence, and spearhead diversity initiatives.
  • Added diversity awareness programming to new-student orientation, student leadership development and residence hall staff training, to increase every student’s sensitivity to others’ perspectives and differences.
  • Hired more resident assistants, bringing the ratio of RAs to resident students to 1-to-35, better than the national average of 1-to-40. This provides a greater degree of monitoring and mentorship in our residential community.
  • Launched task forces to support Chicano/Latino and African American student success by creating support networks and targeted, culturally specific programming and services.
  • Welcomed civil rights icon Ruby Bridges to campus on February 24 to receive the prestigious John Steinbeck Award and participate in an onstage interview on race issues.
  • Hosted KQED Forum for a very candid conversation about campus climate and race issues.

I am proud that students, faculty and staff have taken the lead on many of these and other diversity activities.

But, many challenges remain—among them, clear indicators in recent campus climate surveys that some in our community feel unwelcome, disconnected or unsafe. In some areas, perceptions have worsened over time. Clearly we have much work to do.

I believe an important next step in addressing these concerns is to have a meaningful dialogue that includes an overview of campus climate survey results and facilitated conversations about our future. This is scheduled for April 11 at 10 am in the Student Union Theater; we will follow up next week with additional details.

Together, we can work to make our campus safe and welcoming.

Sue Martin
Interim President

World-Renowned Sports Sociologist and SJSU Alumnus Harry Edwards to Serve as 2016 Commencement Speaker

Media contact:
Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU Media Relations, 408-924-1748, pat.harris@sjsu.edu

Harry Edwards speaks at a campus event in May 2012 (photo: Christina Olivas)

Harry Edwards speaks at a campus event in May 2012 (photo: Christina Olivas)

SAN JOSE, CA – San Jose State University announced today that human and civil rights icon Harry Edwards, ’64 Sociology, will serve as its 2016 Commencement speaker. In addition, Edwards will receive an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters at Commencement. The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 9:30 a.m. May 28 at Spartan Stadium.

“Harry Edwards came to San Jose State to pursue an education while representing the university in intercollegiate athletics, and he accomplished both with extraordinary distinction,” said SJSU Interim President Susan Martin. “Dr. Edwards went on to dedicate his life to developing innovative approaches for raising the nation’s consciousness about the hidden inequities and barriers that exist in our society through his work in athletics. We are proud to recognize his contributions with an honorary degree and look forward to hearing him address our graduates.”

This academic year, an estimated 9,000 San Jose State students will earn bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees. Approximately 15,000 family members and friends are expected to attend Commencement.

Harry Edwards

Harry Edwards, 73, was born in St. Louis, Mo., and raised in East St. Louis, Ill., the second of eight children. With no more than a third-grade education, his father supported the family and encouraged Harry to take advantage of the opportunities the sports world provided.

Edwards followed through, excelling in sports and academics in high school. With financial support from a St. Louis-area attorney, he arrived in California to attend Fresno City College on a track and basketball scholarship. He later transferred to San Jose State University, where he served as captain of the basketball team and set school records for the discus.

Edwards set SJSU records for the discus (courtesy of Spartan Athletics).

Edwards set SJSU records for the discus (courtesy of Spartan Athletics).

After graduating in 1964 with a degree in sociology, Edwards had three choices: professional football, professional basketball, or graduate school. He chose graduate school, and began work on master’s and doctoral degrees at Cornell University in New York. After completing his master’s degree, he took a break from his studies to return to San Jose State, where he worked as a part-time instructor of sociology.

The year was 1966, and the civil rights movement was in full swing. Drawing on his childhood experiences, his years as a college athlete, his academic training, and his desire to educate, Edwards began gaining national attention for speaking out on the inequities he perceived in the nation and the sports world.

“During the 1967 college football season, Edwards, then a part-time instructor… presented a list of civil rights grievances to the administration on behalf of the school’s black students, particularly its athletes. Edwards’s group threatened to ‘physically interfere’ with the opening game if demands were not met. It was a regional watershed in radical sports activism, and the mainstream reaction was also a first; the opening game was canceled,” according to The New York Times.

Taking a Stand

The following year brought the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy. Edwards lent his voice and support to the Olympic Project for Human Rights, a movement calling upon black athletes to boycott the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Watching television in the United States, Edwards observed SJSU track stars and U.S. Olympians Tommie Smith and John Carlos take a stand for human rights on the awards podium.

Harry Edwards and Sandra Boze Edwards met at SJSU, and have been married 47 years (courtesy of Mr. Edwards)

Harry Edwards and Sandra Boze Edwards met at SJSU (courtesy of Mr. Edwards).

At the time, all three men were heavily criticized for their actions. Three decades later, San Jose State student leaders recognized the courage of these Spartans by memorializing the moment with a 24-foot tall sculpture in the heart of our campus.

Edwards went on to earn a doctoral degree from Cornell University in 1971, and to begin a distinguished, three-decade career as a professor of sociology at the University of California, Berkeley. A giant of a man with a caring presence, his “Sociology of Sports” course was among the most popular on campus.

During that time, he remained in constant contact with the professional sports world, where he served as a consultant to two luminaries who also graduated from San Jose State: Major League Baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth, ’59 Business, and the late San Francisco 49ers Head Coach Bill Walsh, ’55 BA, ’58 MA Education.

Providing Opportunity

In addition, Edwards worked with the Golden State Warriors and the University of Florida. In all of these roles, he sought to develop practices and programs to increase minority representation in the coaching ranks and to support players of color as they navigated the opportunities and pressures of college and professional sports. Edwards delivered a moving eulogy for Walsh, summarizing the ways they sought to provide opportunities to all NFL players.

Harry Edwards is the author of four books: “The Struggle That Must Be,” “Sociology of Sports,” “Black Students,” and “The Revolt of the Black Athlete.” He has been married for 47 years to Sandra Boze Edwards, ’70 BA Liberal Studies, ’88 MA Education. The couple resides in Fremont, Calif., and they are the parents of three now adult children: a lawyer, a physician, and an information technology/computer programming specialist.


About San José State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 145 areas of study with an additional 108 concentrations – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 32,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State University 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.

President Releases Statement on Hate Crime Sentencing

Media contact: Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU Media Relations, 408-924-1748, pat.harris@sjsu.edu

SAN JOSE, CA–The following should be attributed to SJSU Interim President Susan Martin.

We respect the district attorney’s and the court’s discretion in considering appropriate sanctions based on the defendants’ conduct. That notwithstanding, the behavior described in this case is unacceptable, and SJSU is committed to a welcoming and inclusive environment for all students. The three individuals convicted of committing battery on D.J. Williams are no longer enrolled here.

 

Student Aims for Cannes With “The Yellow Wallpaper”

Photo: Christina Olivas

Kourosh Ahari, ’16 Radio, Television and Film, director of “The Yellow Wallpaper” (Photo: Christina Olivas).

Armed with a Cannes Film Festival nod for his short film titled “Malaise” and now two films premiering at Cinequest, a San Jose State student filmmaker has already accomplished more than he expected — and he hasn’t even graduated yet.

Kourosh Ahari, ’16 Radio, Television and Film, premiered his 80-minute feature-length adaption of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s story “The Yellow Wallpaper” at the grand re-opening of the Hammer Theatre Center on March 2. The event was held in collaboration with Cinequest. The film will be shown again March 12.

Ahari, an Iran native, sowed his passion for directing during his time producing short films, with “Malaise,” his first directing job, premiering at SJSU’s Campus Movie Fest last year.

Ahari enjoys the process of connecting with actors and delving into the depths of human emotions in his role as a director, but wouldn’t have gotten his start in film had he been accepted in SJSU’s impacted animation department.

“‘The Yellow Wallpaper’ is something I’ve always wanted to bring to life as a film, as a motion picture,” Ahari said. “I read the book in college and I was really fascinated with the story itself, like what was happening to women at that point in time when they were overlooked.”

Photo: Christina Olivas

Amy Roberts, ’16 Radio, Television and Film, screenwriter of “The Yellow Wallpaper” (Photo: Christina Olivas).

The story, originally set in the 1800s, chronicles a woman named Eleanor and her struggle to overcome postpartum depression. Living in a newly bought Victorian mansion with her husband, she quickly loses her sanity while locked in her bedroom. There, she begins to become obsessed with the changing patterns of the yellow wallpaper.

Ahari pitched this story as part of his advanced special projects class last spring. SJSU Director of Theater and Film Production Barnaby Dallas suggested Ahari work with a female screenwriter to adapt the story in order to maintain an authentic women’s perspective of how postpartum depression was just one of many issues ignored by society during that time.

“The best writer I had in my screenwriting class was Amy Roberts,” Dallas said. “I introduced Kourosh to Amy and said ‘well, you guys have two or three weeks till the deadline to work on something,’ and they cranked out the script.”

Roberts, who will graduate this year with a bachelor’s in Radio, Television and Film, decided to adapt the script to a more contemporary 1950s setting so themes of female subjugation could still ring true with audiences.

“That’s what impressed me, to have a male student so moved by the story itself and choose to go forward with it,” Roberts said.

During the one-month pre-production phase, Kourosh and his crew built the yellow bedroom set, cast the actors, obtained permits for the Victorian house set and launched into principal photography.

“The shooting part of it was seven days,” Ahari said. “It required working 14 to 16 hours every day.”

(Photo: Jessica Perez via Department of Television, Radio, Film and Theatre website)

Behind-the-scenes building the yellow bedroom set (Photo: Jessica Perez courtesy of Department of Television, Radio, Film and Theatre)

Despite the grueling hours, Ahari said work ethic of his cast and crew is the reason he was able to complete the shooting portion in just a week.

Dallas, who often supervised production days as part of his mentorship role with Spartan Film Studios, said the student crew’s dedication was astounding.

“I’ve been there for 12 hours at a time and see how happy and hardworking these students are,” Dallas said. “If a student director like Kourosh is great like that, it sets the right tone.”

Cinequest is showing Ahari’s film not just once, but twice, with the second showing scheduled for March 12.

“When I heard that our film was the first show premiering (at the Hammer Theatre) it was really exciting and very nerve-wracking because you know it has to be good, so I’m hoping I can get more feedback on the next screening,” Ahari said. “For me, audience is what matters, and when I make a film, I make it so it can resonate with audiences and normal people, and really focus on the human condition.”

Ahari hopes to complete “The Yellow Wallpaper” by May 2016 so he can submit it to Cannes Film Festival.

(Photo: Christina Olivas).

Kourosh and his crew on stage at the Hammer Theatre (Photo: Christina Olivas).

Following the Cinequest premier of the film, Kourosh and his crew took the stage and invited the audience to critique the film.

A handful of viewers questioned the choice to focus on the mental health theme of the 1892 story, as opposed to the feminist interpretation found in other adaptions.

“Women’s mental health was not something that was faced with any type of gravity,” Roberts responded. “The whole mental issue and the feminist side aren’t completely separate because it all has to do with recognizing an individual’s actual needs.”

 

San Jose State Receives $15 Million Gift Commitment from South Bay Philanthropist Lupe Diaz Compean

Media contact: Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU Media Relations, 408-924-1748, pat.harris@sjsu.edu

The Student Union will be named the Ramiro Compean and Lupe Diaz Compean Student Union, pending approval by the California State University Board of Trustees (Photo: Muhamed Causevic).

The Student Union will be named the Ramiro Compean and Lupe Diaz Compean Student Union, pending approval by the California State University Board of Trustees (Photo: Muhamed Causevic, ’15 BFA Graphic Design).

SAN JOSE, CA–San Jose State is pleased to announce that it has received a $15 million gift commitment from South Bay resident and friend of the university Lupe Diaz Compean. The gift will support student success initiatives and scholarships. In addition, the gift will support the maintenance of SJSU’s newly renovated and expanded Student Union, and the many activities housed in this structure located in the heart of campus.

“Lupe Diaz Compean’s remarkable generosity will enable San Jose State to make meaningful, sustained investments in student success initiatives, scholarships and student programming,” Interim President Susan Martin said. “Mrs. Compean did not graduate from college, but she and her late husband recognized the value of a college education for all and exemplified that a fulfilling life is within reach of everyone who works hard to achieve their dreams. San Jose State is pleased to recognize and honor the extraordinary work and generosity of donors who are making an enduring impact on our university and community.”

The building will be named the Ramiro Compean and Lupe Diaz Compean Student Union in honor of Mrs. Compean and her late husband, pending approval by the California State University Board of Trustees at its March 8-9 meeting in Long Beach, Calif. President Martin and Vice President for University Advancement Paul Lanning will represent SJSU at the meeting.

“San Jose State has been in conversation with the Compeans for the past two decades,” said Vice President for University Advancement Paul Lanning. “Throughout this time, Lupe Diaz Compean has been crystal clear that her motivation in making the gift was to benefit students, honor her family and her late husband by naming a facility, and demonstrating that by working hard and getting an education, anyone can achieve what she has in her lifetime.”

Endowments

Photo: David Schmitz

Student Union interior (Photo: David Schmitz).

The gift will be used to create the following endowment funds:

  • A Student Success Fund to support initiatives that foster student success and increase retention and graduation rates.
  • Three scholarship endowments to support emancipated foster youths, California Dream Act students, and a merit scholarship for high-performing students.
  • A Student Union Programming Fund to provide support for visiting lectures, art exhibits, workshops and other student-focused special events and programming.
  • A Student Union Operating Fund that will provide resources for ongoing maintenance and operating needs of the facility.

Lupe Diaz Compean

Photo courtesy of Lupe Diaz Compean

Photo courtesy of Lupe Diaz Compean

Lupe Diaz was born in 1926 in Edinburgh, Texas and was the oldest in a family of 10 children. In 1955, she married Ramiro Compean, who was born in Reynosa, Mexico, in 1932. He was one of seven children in his family. Mr. Compean passed away in August 2002.

In 1956, one year after they were married, the Compeans moved to San Jose. Mr. Compean worked for George Day Construction building houses in Saratoga. Mrs. Compean attended school and helped her husband in the business. They saved their money and soon were able to purchase a home in Almaden Valley. They continued to buy properties as they were able. Mrs. Compean, at age 89, is still actively managing the properties she owns.

Mrs. Compean is not a graduate of SJSU, but believes very strongly in the mission of the institution and the importance of education. She first approached SJSU regarding making a gift in the mid-1990s. She and her husband had heard that SJSU had a good Mexican American Studies Department and wanted to contribute. Eventually, those conversations turned to the possibility of including the university in their estate. Following Mr. Compean’s death in 2002, Mrs. Compean continued the conversation with University Advancement and indicated that SJSU would be a beneficiary of half her estate.

In 2012, Mrs. Compean and her certified public accountant, Anne Lee of Bauerle, Lee and Associates, LLP, approached the university to explore how Mrs. Compean might experience the impact of her legacy while she was still alive. Over the course of the next three years, discussions continued regarding the use of the gift and how the gift would be structured. In December 2015, Mrs. Compean finalized the gift agreement.


About San José State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 145 areas of study with an additional 108 concentrations – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 32,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State University 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.

 

Civil Rights Icon Ruby Bridges to Receive Steinbeck Award

SJSU Media Relations Contact:
Pat Harris, pat.harris@sjsu.edu, 408-924-1748

Ruby Bridges

Ruby Bridges today (photo courtesy of Ms. Bridges).

SAN JOSE, CA – Civil rights icon Ruby Bridges, the first black child to attend an all-white elementary school in Louisiana, will be on campus Feb. 24 to receive the John Steinbeck Award.

“An Evening with Ruby Bridges” is slated for 7:30 p.m. (doors open at 7 p.m.) in the Student Union Ballroom. The award presentation will culminate an evening featuring an onstage interview of Bridges by KQED’s Joshua Johnson. This event is sold out.

Ruby Bridges has been called the youngest foot soldier of the civil rights movement. In 1960, the NAACP selected a six-year-old girl to break the color barrier of an all-white elementary school in New Orleans. White parents removed their children from classes, and angry protesters jeered at Ruby as she walked the steps of William Frantz Elementary School surrounded by federal marshals. For months, Ruby sat alone in her classroom, instructed one-on-one by Barbara Henry, a white teacher from Boston. John Steinbeck was moved by Bridges’ courage and wrote about her in his 1962 book “Travels with Charley.”

More information is available on the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies’ website.

 

President Releases Statement on Hate Crimes

Editor’s note: This message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Feb. 22, 2016.

Dear SJSU community,

A jury in Santa Clara County criminal court earlier today returned verdicts on misdemeanor charges against three former SJSU students accused of race-based hate crimes against a fellow student and residence hall suite mate in fall 2013.

All three defendants were found guilty of misdemeanor battery. One of the three was found not guilty of a misdemeanor hate crime; the jury could not reach a verdict on hate crime charges against the other two.

A fourth defendant was a minor when these acts occurred and was adjudicated through the juvenile court. That outcome is confidential.

All four students who engaged in these acts are no longer enrolled at SJSU. The victim and his family are pursuing civil remedies independent of the criminal actions.

Much work lies ahead as we seek to create a truly inclusive, welcoming and safe environment for every member of our community. We continue moving forward on multiple fronts:

Plans are underway to bring campus community members together this semester to openly discuss results of the most recent campus climate survey.

The search for a chief diversity officer is moving toward a conclusion; semifinalist interviews will take place this weekend.

More information will follow on these and other efforts.

Sue Martin
Interim President