Power of Gratitude: A Winning Attitude

Photo: Thomas Sanders, ’15 MFA Photography

David Fales, ’13 Psychology

I’m so grateful for everything I’ve received here. It’s something I’ll remember forever. It’s been a great time.”

“If I hadn’t gotten a scholarship,” says David Fales, ’13 Psychology, “I probably wouldn’t be going to school here.” Which would be too bad for the Spartans. Since the quarterback came to San José State on a football scholarship in December 2011, he has become a single-season record holder in seven categories. In the 2012 season, Fales led the Spartans to an 11-2 record—throwing more than 4100 yards and 33 touchdowns with a pass completion rate of more than 72 percent—that culminated in a Military Bowl win and a move to the Mountain West Conference. Fales has not disappointed this season either: the Spartans are once again bowl-eligable following their last win, during which Fales threw for a school-record 547 yards and six touchdowns to spoil the Fresno Bulldogs’ perfect season.

“I always tell everybody that I don’t know what exactly I would be doing without the scholarship,” says Fales, who transferred from a junior college where he shouldered the cost of his education. “I’m very fortunate. Life is a lot easier now.”

Right now Fales is focused on football, but he has other plans in the works following his graduation in December. “I want to see how long I can play football and hopefully ride it out for a little bit longer. After that, I want to get involved in sports psychology.” Fales was first exposed to the profession during a brief semester at Wyoming. “They had a sports psychologist there and he really got me interested in working with teams.”

“I’m so grateful for everything I’ve received here,” says Fales. “Being with the football team, the different experiences we’ve had, the relationships I’ve built in the two years I’ve been here. It’s something I’ll remember forever, and the relationships I have now I’ll have for the rest of my life. It’s been a great time.”

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Power of Gratitude: Being Inspired

Photo: Thomas Sanders, ’15 MFA Photography

Gary Ortega, ’12, ’14 MA Jazz Studies

“Teaching challenges you to be a better person, for yourself and for others. Thank you to all of my teachers for keeping me inspired.”

“The music department is close-knit,” says Gary Ortega, ’12, ’14 MA Jazz Studies. “You are dependent on each other for ensembles; your music and your livelihood are reliant on it. It’s a community—a music family.”

Ortega has the opportunity to study, work and play with this family in part due to the Katherine Peterson Alumni Association Scholarship. Awarded on the basis of academic achievement, need and community service, this scholarship has allowed Ortega to say goodbye to the days of waiting tables so he can focus on more important things, like running his music lessons business, teaching instrumental music to third through eighth graders at St. Leo the Great School and staying involved with the nonprofit organization, San Jose Jazz.

“This award will be contributing to the success and completion of my master’s degree this spring with a lighter financial burden,” says Ortega, who is currently teaching jazz improvisation at SJSU. He plans to continue teaching to children and adults after he graduates. “Teaching challenges you to be a better person, for yourself and for others. And you get to help other people be better. Thank you to all of my teachers for keeping me inspired.”

The Power of Gratitude: Shooting High

Ta’Rea Cunnigan in uniform and basketball in-hand.

Photo: Thomas Sanders, ’15 MFA Photography

Ta’Rea Cunnigan, ’15 Psychology

Basketball is only temporary but the relationships you make with people can last a lifetime!”

Ta’Rea Cunnigan, ’15 Psychology, is known for her skills on the basketball court, where she’s been helping lead the Spartans to victory. But the 5’9” guard is far from being all brawn and no brains. She has made the most of her San Jose State Athletics scholarship, as a Dean’s Scholar, Arthur Ashe Jr. Sports Scholar, Capital One Academic All-District VIII honoree and Academic All-WAC honoree for two years running.

As a psychology major with a kinesiology minor, Cunnigan has big plans for her future. She is shooting for a career in sports psychology, working with children and collegiate athletes to help them develop the mental stamina to balance the demands of being a student-athlete. “Through my scholarship, I’ve had the chance to inspire and work with young girls who want to play collegiate sports and get a college education,” she says. “I understand and can help them reach success, not only in academics, but in their sport as well.”

“I am most grateful for the friends and relationships I have made while being at San Jose State,” says Cunnigan. “Basketball is only temporary but the relationships you make with people can last a lifetime!”

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The Power of Gratitude: Sharing Success

Quang Le, ’14 Civil Engineering

Photo: Thomas Sanders, ’15 MFA Photography

Quang Le, ’14 Civil Engineering

Success isn’t just about being successful yourself, but also helping others achieve success. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for some mentors I’ve had. I’m thankful, and I want to give back.”

“I never thought I’d be here,” says Quang Le, ’14 Civil Engineering. Since transferring from an East Bay community college, Le has completed two internships—with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and with The CORE Group construction company, where he served as lead estimator on a hospital project. This year, he was elected SJSU chapter president for the Associated General Contractors of California and he received the Alumni Association Dean’s Scholarship for the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering.

“At SJSU, there are lots of ups and downs,” says Le. “Receiving this scholarship gives me the motivation to keep going—academically and professionally. It gets hard.”

Le is quick to share the credit for his success. “A lot of people helped me out,” he says. Now, along with becoming “the best project manager out there,” Le hopes to mentor students who will impact their communities with innovative ideas for a sustainable future. Down the line, he dreams of endowing a scholarship in his name for other students like himself who, he says, “you’d never think could be engineers.”

“Success isn’t just about being successful yourself, but also helping others achieve success,” says Le. “I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for some mentors I’ve had. I’m thankful, and I want to give back.”

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The Power of Gratitude: Coming Home

Photo: Thomas Sanders, ’15 MFA Photography

Dylan Wondra,’13 Behavioral Science/Anthropology

“This scholarship does something extra to help soldiers coming home. It makes us feel appreciated.”

Two weeks after Sept. 11, 2001—on the day after his 17th birthday—Dylan Wondra, ’13 Behavioral Science/Anthropology, enlisted in the Navy. His heart filled with purpose and patriotic duty, he rose rapidly through the ranks as an airman, covering the globe by sea and land, and eventually, deciding to pursue a college education—something he never thought he’d do.

“To go from excelling at military life to being the lowest and the oldest student in remedial classes is incredibly difficult,” says Wondra. But a year into San Jose State, he was back at the top of his game. Newly married, he had just been recognized as a Dean’s Scholar in 2011 when he received word that he was to deploy—this time to Kuwait for 15 months. With his life “flipped upside down,” Wondra once again put his education on hold.

After returning to SJSU in spring 2013, Wondra received a veteran’s scholarship, funded by Cisco. “I believe that all student veterans deserve the scholarship money due to their unwavering dedication to the United States of America,” he says. With a pregnant wife at home, the scholarship was especially useful. “It’s so nice that there is a scholarship program just for veterans. Finding a job is the hardest part for vets,” says Wondra, who turned down a job in law enforcement to pursue new passions through education. “This scholarship does something extra to help soldiers coming home. It makes us feel appreciated.”

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Power of Gratitude: The Gift of Confidence

Photo: Thomas Sanders, ’15 MFA Photography

Klarence OuYang, ’13 Management Information Systems

I had mentors, and you realize later what a big impact they had on you. One day I hope to be able to contribute to the next generation of students.”

When Klarence OuYang, ’13 Management Information Systems, first read the description of the MIS major he thought, “It was like it was written for me.” He packed up his belongings and left San Diego for San Jose—but not without help.

“I wouldn’t have been able to afford school if it weren’t for scholarships and aid,” says OuYang, who has received the Danny Fortune Memorial Business Scholarship, the Friends of Jack Holland Business Scholarship, and the Alumni Association Dean’s Scholarship for the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business. “It has greatly lightened my financial burden, allowing me to concentrate on my coursework and stay active on campus.”

The benefits of receiving scholarships go even deeper for OuYang. “A big part of their impact is in terms of self-confidence. Even the act of writing the application essay is valuable for looking back and reflecting on your accomplishments,” he says. He also recognizes that support comes in more forms than money, and currently works in the Career Center and as a mentor for the Gary J. Sbona Honors Program. “I had mentors, and you realize later what a big impact they had on you. One day, I hope to be able to contribute to the next generation of students.”

The Power of Gratitude: Saved by the Music

Music major and Spartan, Jessica Nuygen

Photo: Thomas Sanders, ’15 MFA Photography

Jessica Nguyen, ’15 Music Education

Music saved my life. I could finally be myself with music; I could make my own path. It’s a special thing and I want to share it with others. I can’t be selfish and keep that gift to myself.”

Discipline, teamwork, fine motor skills, expression, a way to connect cross-culturally and without language—these are just some of the reasons why Jessica Nguyen, ’15 Music Education, believes her field is important. A recipient of this year’s Alumni Association Dean’s Scholarship in the College of Humanities and the Arts, Nguyen plans to pursue a career teaching band, choir and orchestra to elementary and middle school students. “I connect with the younger kids—plus I’m taller than them,” jokes the diminutive musician, singer and conductor.

Nguyen is a member of the Concert Choir, Marching Band, Symphonic Band, Jazz Band and the Choraliers, with whom she’s traveling to Europe in a few months for a concert tour—a dream come true. “Winning this scholarship made Europe possible,” she says with a wistful smile. “I’ll get to sing in the cathedrals where my favorite music was born! I’m so thankful.”

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Jordan Gonzales

Overcoming Odds to Earn His Degree

Jordan Gonzales

Jordan Gonzales, 2013-14 Trustee William Hauck Scholar (Christina Olivas photo)

For many years, Jordan Anthony Gonzales was having such a tough time battling dysautonomia, a malfunction of the autonomic nervous system, that he couldn’t leave home to go to school.

Now an SJSU student, Gonzales has received the California State University system’s highest honor for students who overcome incredible odds to attend college.

Gonzales has been named the 2013-14 Trustee William Hauck Scholar, one of 23 CSU Trustees Awards for Outstanding Achievement. He flew to the chancellor’s office in Long Beach on Sept. 24 to pick up the award and meet the other recipients.

While their commitment, drive and perseverance are extraordinary, these students are not unlike the thousands of students who look to the CSU each year for high-quality, accessible, affordable educational opportunities.

An art major minoring in psychology, Gonzales’ long-term plans include earning a master’s in art therapy so he can help people use artistic expression as a way to deal with grief and loss.

“Combining art with psychology allows me to share my experiences and reach out to others,” he said.

Gonzales also helps raise funds for the Make-a-Wish Foundation and he has served two terms on the Youth Commission for the city of Sacramento.

William Hauck, who graduated from SJSU in 1963 with a bachelor’s in social studies, endowed the scholarship in 2010. The endowment now provides $3,000 annually.

Hauck has served as deputy chief of staff to Governor Pete Wilson and chief of staff to Assembly speakers Bob Morretti and Willie L. Brown, Jr. At SJSU, Hauck was student body president.

Alumni Association Scholarships

Meet the students who will receive more than $90,000 in scholarships this year from the SJSU Alumni Association.

“I’m grateful to the alumni who support the scholarship program as members and donors. The awards have a transformational impact on the lives of San Jose State students,” said Brian Bates, Alumni Association executive director.

Recipients will be recognized at a reception 4 p.m. Sept. 17 at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. The Alumni Association has provided scholarships to SJSU students since 1974.

Learn more about the scholarship program. 

Alumni Association Scholarships

Brenda Vasquez received the Starek Family Scholarship (Alumni Association photo).

Living Legacies

Included this year are the inaugural recipients of the Gerald M. Starek Family Alumni Association Scholarship and the Alan and Phyllis Simpkins Alumni Leadership Award.  All told, 42 students will benefit from the support of these awards.

Brenda Vasquez, a transfer student from Cabrillo College, plans to focus her studies in corporate financial management.  She received the Starek Family Scholarship, which is designated for students studying accounting and finance. The $7,500 award is renewable for up to four years.

Jolene Hom, a freshman from Millbrae, is the recipient of the Simpkins Leadership Award. The award was created by the Alumni Association Board of Directors to honor the extraordinary legacy of Alan and Phyllis Simpkins. The $5,000 one-time award goes to an incoming freshman that exhibits tremendous leadership qualities.

Alumni Association Scholarships

Jolene Hom received the Simpkins Leadership Award (Alumni Association photo).

Across the campus, the Alumni Association provides the dean in each college the opportunity to select two recipients for a $3,000 one-time award.

Special Programs

The association’s Santa Cruz Area Chapter provides $20,000 in support to students who come to SJSU from Santa Cruz County high schools or transfer from Cabrillo College. The association has partnered with the San Jose Woman’s Club to recognize their three recipients, as well.

The association also sponsors a student’s participation in the university’s Salzburg Program, which includes an intensive week of study at the Salzburg Global Seminar in Germany and projects on campus that help San Jose State’s diverse constituencies–faculty, staff, administrators and students–become better global citizens.