SJSU Hosts Panel on Creating Native and American Indian Studies Programs

A zoom screen of four panalists discussing Native and American Indian Studies.

On Dec. 3, SJSU Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Vincent Del Casino, Jr. moderated a panel featuring Joely Proudfit from CSU San Marcos (top right), Craig Stone of CSU Long Beach (bottom right), and Cutcha Risling Baldy from Humboldt State (bottom left).

On Thursday, December 3, San José State hosted three leaders of Native and American Indian Studies Programs from across the California State University system: Joely Proudfit from CSU San Marcos, Cutcha Risling Baldy from Humboldt State and Craig Stone of CSU Long Beach. The 90-minute online panel was moderated by Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Vincent Del Casino, Jr. More than 100 attendees registered for the webinar.

Joely Proudfit.

Joely Proudfit.

Del Casino opened the event by reading a land acknowledgment in honor of the Thamien Ohlone and Muwekma Ohlone tribes, recognizing the ethnohistoric tribal territory and offering a message of gratitude to local Native and American Indian residents who have served in the military. After introducing the three panelists, he asked them to help contextualize the history of Native and American Indian Studies while engaging the realities of building a similar program at San José State.

“Prior to beginning a Native or American Indian Studies department, it’s important for universities to work with local tribal leadership,” said Proudfit, professor and department chair of American Indian Studies and director of the California Indian Culture and Sovereignty Center at CSU San Marcos, where she has collaborated with a local tribal advisory council for more than a decade. “The most successful programs have been built alongside tribal communities. They can help determine what it should be named and what its mission should be. What is your campus best situated to do to support tribes in your region?”

“Higher education wasn’t designed for Native American Studies—we had to fight to become a part of this institution,” said Risling Baldy, assistant professor of Native American Studies at Humboldt State University and founder of Native Women’s Collective, a nonprofit organization that supports the continued revitalization of Native American arts and culture. She pointed out that tribes native to the San José region are not federally recognized, which underscores the importance of working together. “When you are building a department, you need to be done studying Native people. It’s now time to learn from and with Native people.”

Cutcha Risling Baldy.

Cutcha Risling Baldy.

The conversation tackled both the opportunities and challenges of establishing a new department, both from a curriculum perspective, as well as from the faculty point of view. Stone, who recently retired from CSU Long Beach but remains an active advocate and educator within the community, argued how important it is to include local Native and tribal communities not only as faculty members, but as members of the staff. While many Native and American Indian programs partner with scholars of indigenous cultures from other countries, such as the Maori in New Zealand and aboriginal tribes in Australia, all three panelists agreed that it is critical that universities offering Native and American Indian curriculum connect first with the tribes closest to them.

Craig Stone.

Craig Stone.

“We hire people with a sustained interest in supporting Native and American Indian communities,” said Stone. “Who will positively impact the lives of Indian people?”

Del Casino encouraged participants to share questions over the online Q&A, fielding questions about encouraging students of all disciplines to study Native and American Indian studies, as well as how the discipline can help faculty of all areas to decolonize the way they teach. Proudfit shared some additional resources to better clarify the tension between the field and anthropology, English, literature and linguistics, departments that historically have exoticized or alienated Native and American Indian studies and Native scholars.

“It’s important for us to flip the conversation from one of loss and sadness to one of survival, resistance, resurgence and decolonization,” said Risling Baldy. “We need to dismantle, disrupt and remake everything into a better world. It is those big visions of Native people that have made all of this possible. That’s the vision that we need to have.”

 

$3M Anonymous Gift Will Establish Endowments at SJSU

Three students hover over a laptop while studying together.

An anonymous $3 million planned gift will establish three endowments at SJSU. Photo taken prior to COVID-19 pandemic.

San José, Calif. — San José State University is pleased to announce that it has received a $3 million gift commitment from anonymous donors. The gift will create three $1 million endowments to provide full tuition to eligible students majoring in management information systems (MIS) in the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business, computer science in the College of Science and computer engineering in the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering.

“We believe strongly in the importance of education. It is important to invest in the future by giving back to the educational institute which we attended and to invest and assist future students,” said the donors, a married couple who graduated from San José State. “We hope our gift will help students achieve their academic goals and so serve as our investment in the future.”

“Recognizing the importance of supporting students in areas of study as wide-ranging as business, science, and engineering is quintessentially San José State,” said Theresa Davis, vice president for university advancement and CEO of the Tower Foundation. “The donors, both alumni, demonstrate how our Spartan family champions one another’s disparate dreams and vision for the future. We are incredibly grateful for their generosity.”

“With rising inequality, support for student scholarships has never been more important,” said Sheryl Ehrman, dean of the Davidson College of Engineering. “Our society will greatly benefit from the ideas generated by these computer engineering students supported by these scholarships!”

“This gift will expand access to our high-quality computer science degree program—and the outstanding experiential learning, internship, and career opportunities that come with it—regardless of a student’s ability to pay for their education,” said Michael Kaufman, dean of the College of Science. “This aligns precisely with SJSU’s role as a transformative institution and the College of Science’s mission of creating knowledge and expanding opportunity. We are extremely grateful for the generosity of the donors.

“This incredibly generous gift is truly an investment in our MIS students’ future,” said Dan Moshavi, dean of the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business. “These scholarships will significantly reduce financial pressures and allow students to spend more time focusing on their studies and engaging in co-curricular activities that can advance their careers.”

“This wonderful act of generosity will help provide a high-quality education to a new generation of Spartans,” said SJSU President Mary A. Papazian. “Investments by donors like these enable us to transform the lives of our students and their families, and for that we are very grateful.”

To learn how you can support the university through a planned gift, please contact Randy Balogh, director of planned giving, at 408-924-1123 or via email at randy.balogh@sjsu.edu.

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 250 areas of study—offered through its nine colleges. With more than 35,000 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 10,000 graduates to the workforce.The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 280,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

Research Shows Lockdowns Did Not Decrease Park Visits

A single white crane stands in the middle of a brownish grassy field with a lake path curving behind.

Photo: Robert Bain / San José State University.

Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Planning Ahoura Zandiatashbar scoured publicly available data and found that although we have limited our visits to stores, Americans are still visiting parks and beaches at near pre-pandemic rates.

In the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, Zandiatashbar—a newly hired faculty member in SJSU’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning in the College of Social Sciences—published a study he co-authored with Shima Hamidi, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Using publicly available data, Zandiatashbar and Hamidi looked at millions of trips in 771 counties. Their model studied the period when the COVID-19 pandemic reduced daily visits to grocery stores, pharmacies and transit stations. They found that people visited “essential” destinations such as grocery stores 13 percent less frequently, yet they did not shy away from visiting parks and beaches.

“It gives us a clue that parks are quite important, because people are not reducing their visits,” Zandiatashbar said. “Staying at home increases anxiety. To reduce it, people are relying more and more on park facilities.”

People in more densely populated areas significantly reduced their trips to stores, but not to outdoor spaces—“possibly due to the smaller homes, lack of private yards and the higher level of anxiety amid the pandemic,” the study found. Residents who lived near restaurants may also have more affordable ways to order home delivery online. Reduced in-person shopping leaves time for more frequent park visits, Zandiatashbar said.

Zandiatashbar and Hamidi examined areas based on “compactness”—a measure of four factors: population density, land use, activity centering (how spread out activities are) and walkability. Over the years, compact, dense walkable residential development has been demonstrated to have multiple health benefits. However, the COVID-19 pandemic had some people questioning whether high population densities would be associated with increased viral transmission. “From day one of COVID-19,” Zandiatashbar said, “there was a perception that urban density spreads the virus, but multiple research studies show that urban density was not positively associated with spread of virus, which was interesting.” Residents of less dense areas may consolidate trips, making rarer visits to a single big-box store for grocery, pharmacy and other purchases—but they may also take fewer precautions.

Zandiatashbar and Hamidi surmise why people in denser areas might not necessarily be spreading the virus more widely. “Residents of dense areas have a greater exposure to first-hand information about the susceptibility to the virus,” the study reads. “Knowing people who are being infected is a more powerful force in following social distancing advisories than just hearing about the disease from the media outlets.”

“This finding shows the need for a closer attention to parks,” Zandiatashbar said. During stay-at-home orders, policy should support public use of parks and beaches, while maintaining precautions to prevent them from becoming spreader places, he said. “Local authorities need to be aware that people are going to visit parks more often. Therefore, they have to increase the infrastructure in the parks to make sure that social distancing is being maintained,” Zandiatashbar said.

COVID-19 notwithstanding, he said, “Public parks are a public health resource and great assets in the community. During shelter in place, we saw that park visits are more important than ever and necessary for mental health.”

NPR’s Marketplace reported that steady, intensive public visits to parks now add costs to the strained budgets of the local governments tasked with the additional expense of sanitizing and cleaning them.

“Our policy suggestion includes public education on how to use parks during lockdown or shelter in place. When we saw the results we were happy that people are trying to get some relief from stress. There’s a need for more public education and public information on how to use parks during this time.”

Zandiatashbar is an expert in mining geospatial data, locating patterns such as those found here. The publicly available Google data was based on anonymized mobility information from millions of Android, iPhone and Google Maps users.

Frequently partnering with local communities, Zandiatashbar has published widely on the impact of urban development on the knowledge economy. His research aims to provide data analysis that assists communities with better decision making.
 

Collaborative of CSU Art Museums and Galleries Announces Virtual Event Series

The newly formed ConSortiUm, a ground-breaking collaborative project of art museums and galleries from the California State University (CSU) system, is pleased to announce a virtual event series that actively engages students, faculty and staff members, and communities through visual arts-based dialogue.

The inaugural program, PLATFORM, launched in September 2020, includes six live virtual conversations with contemporary artists, collectives, and curators whose work is critical to current re-imaginings of the art world and the world at large.

“The goal of the PLATFORM speaker series is to be accessible to anyone in any discipline. It is to make sure we address the issues that are going to be at the top of our student’s minds as well as the faculty’s minds at this moment in time,” said Natalie and James Thompson Art Galleries Director and Collections Manager Alena Sauzade.

According to Sauzade, all of the speakers in the series have been hand-chosen to be meaningful during these times, and the talks will not just pique the interest of art historians and designers but it’s meant to cut a broad swath “that could address contemporary topics ranging from the environment to immigration to social justice,” said Sauzade.

The Thompson Gallery is the first of all the ConSortiUm art museums and galleries to transition to a digital format back in April 2020. “We hosted our first webinar lecture at the end of the spring semester. I brought that idea up to the ConSortiUm members as a possibility,” said Sauzade.

The PLATFORM speaker series fits well with the gallery’s Tuesday night lectures and all the other great programming that’s happening in the College of Humanities and the Arts. Most of the gallery’s program has shifted online, including lectures and exhibitions, without impeding content and productivity.

San José State will be co-hosting two lectures next semester. Spring 2021 lectures will feature Oakland-based People’s Kitchen Collective and multidisciplinary artist Shaun Leonardo.

According to Sauzade, all of the speakers’ sessions will be inspiring for students, especially People’s Kitchen Collective, a group of social activists artists who work with local issues of food insecurity and food poverty in the Bay Area. “It may seem that art is disconnected from something like food, but actually it’s not at all,” said Sauzade.

The final event for 2020 will occur on Thursday, November 12 at noon and includes a presentation by Forensic Architecture founder Eyal Weizman. A London-based artists’ collective, Forensic Architecture undertakes advanced spatial and media investigations into cases of human rights violations, with and on behalf of communities affected by political violence, human rights organizations, international prosecutors, environmental justice groups, and media organizations. The collective’s work often involves open-source investigation, the construction of digital and physical models, 3D animations, virtual reality environments, and cartographic platforms.

ConSortiUm recognizes that CSU students are integral to creating a new future, and is therefore committed to providing access to a multiplicity of voices and inspiration as students discover and nurture their own agency.

All events will be presented live via Zoom with access to all CSU campuses. Recordings of the events will be available for post-live stream viewing and archived by the sponsoring institutions. These events are free and open to the public.

EVENT INFORMATION: 2020

Artist Beatriz Cortez in conversation with Erin Christovale, Associate Curator, Hammer Museum
Thursday, September 24, 5:30 p.m.
Hosted by Cal Poly Pomona, CSU Long Beach, and CSU Northridge To register for the Zoom webinar visit: https://www.cpp.edu/platform-csu-art-speaker-series/ .

Postcommodity : A conversation with artists Cristóbal Martínez and Kade L. Twist Thursday, October 22, 5:30 p.m.
Hosted by CSU Humboldt, CSU Long Beach and Fresno State

Forensic Architecture: A conversation with founder Eyal Weizman
Thursday, November 12, noon

Hosted by CSU Bakersfield and Sacramento State

The CSU system represents the largest public four-year college system in the country, with more than 480,000 students enrolled at 23 campuses. ConSortiUm formed when CSU announced remote teaching would continue through the end of 2020. ConSortiUm members are dedicated to supporting students, artists, and their campuses’ surrounding communities during the pandemic, while also responding to the pressing demand for an end to systemic and overt racism in California and beyond.

2020 ISSSSC Sport, Society and Social Change Conference

A single black line morphs midway into a person running with golden wings.

San José State University’s Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change (ISSSSC) will host its inaugural Sport, Society and Social Change Conference: Dream With Your Eyes Open: (Re) Imagining Sport in the Age of COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter.

The two-day virtual conference takes place on November 12 – 13 from 9:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m. (PST).

Thought leaders, scholars, social change organizations, athletic administrators, athletes, and students will discuss the legacy of social activism and ways to promote social change and equity.

ISSSSC Executive Director and Associate Professor of African American Studies Akilah R. Carter-Francique says the inspiration for the conference comes from the musings of C. Wright Mills’ ‘The Sociological Imagination’ (1959). “Mills’ concept of sociological imagination promotes “the awareness of the relationship between personal experience and the wider society.”

The event includes keynote speakers, panel discussions, presentations, and community conversations highlighting personal experiences, on-going challenges and acknowledging people, groups, and organizations’ efforts to promote social change.

“The ISSSSC wanted to create a space that brings a variety of communities together to discuss the state and role of sport locally to globally, to educate, to network, to share ideas, research and innovations, and to support one another in efforts to promote social justice and social change. We especially want to use this space to engage the next generation in the legacy of equity and social justice and to, in the words of Dr. Harry Edwards, ‘ . . . teach our children to dream with their eyes open, Carter-Francique says.

Keynote speakers on November 12

  • Shireen Ahmed, Sports Activist, Public Speaker, Writer, Independent Journalist, CA
  • Dr. Jules Boykoff, Professor and Department Chair, Political Science, Pacific University, USA
  • Dr. Amira Rose Davis, Assistant Professor of History and African American Studies, Penn State University, USA
  • Dr. Jamil Northcutt, Vice President, Player Engagement, Major League Soccer, USA

Keynote speakers on November 13

  • Dr. Algerian Hart, Associate Dean of the Graduate College and Professor of Kinesiology at Missouri State University and President (2020-2021) North American Society for the Sociology of Sport
  • Dr. Kevin Hylton, Emeritus Professor of Equality and Diversity in Sport, Leisure, and Education, Leeds University, UK and Chair Sheffield Race Equality Commission, UK
  • Dr. Nicole LaVoi, Director, Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women, University of Minnesota, USA
  • Rachelle Patel, Director of Marketing and Events, Laureus Sport for Good, USA

Conference Agenda

The conference will also feature pre-recorded 5-minute lightning talks from SJSU students on topics related to sport and social justice. Students who submitted presentations are eligible for awards ranging from $50.00 to $150.00

Conference Registration

The ISSSSC will continue conversations about the legacy of social justice and equity through its “Sport Conversations for Change” webinar series, internship program and educational collaborations.

Dr. Anthony Fauci to Receive SJSU’s William Randolph Hearst Foundation Award

 

Please note the time for this event has been changed to 2:00 p.m. (PST). The media availability has been changed to 3:30 p.m. (PST)


On Tuesday, November 17, 2020, the faculty in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications at San José State University will present the William Randolph Hearst Foundation Award for excellence in mass communication to Dr. Anthony Fauci. 

Throughout the COVID-19 global pandemic, public opinion surveys nationwide have consistently reported Dr. Fauci as the medical expert most Americans trust and sought out for timely and reliable information about the deadly virus. 

As Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NAID) since 1984, Dr. Fauci has earned a national reputation for timely and astute professional public communications about developing health threats to the United States. Before his work during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Fauci was best known for his groundbreaking work in HIV-AIDS research, helping to develop effective drugs to scale back its mortality rate. Dr. Fauci has also spearheaded the federal government’s public responses to combat West Nile Virus, SARS and Ebola.

“Dr. Anthony Fauci was the unanimous choice of our faculty because it was obvious by late spring 2020 that most Americans prioritized knowing what his thoughts were to help them understand the gravity of COVID-19 and determine how to save lives,” says Bob Rucker, professor in the SJSU School of Journalism and Mass Communications and coordinator of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation’s annual award and national media education top honor. Rucker, a former CNN correspondent in San Francisco who covered the initial outbreak of the AIDS epidemic, said “Dr. Fauci has once again masterfully drawn on his extensive medical training and experiences to educate and advise people while maintaining a calming, reassuring doctor’s tone and bedside manner that inspires confidence.”   

SJSU students, faculty and staff, and community leaders will participate in the celebration of Dr. Anthony Fauci in a virtual ceremony Tuesday, November 17, 2020 at 2 p.m. Space is limited, and registration is required

A picture of Dr. Anthony Fauci with the William Randolph Hearst Award text and medallion

History of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation Award

In the 1990s, the SJSU Journalism School received a William Randolph Hearst Foundation Endowment for Visiting Professionals. It established the creation of a special honor for outstanding professional media service in journalism, public relations, advertising and mass communications. Each year, an honoree’s work is showcased for students and celebrated for efforts that meet the expectations and high standards for public service by a free press, as provided in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The School of Journalism and Mass Communications (JMC) was founded in 1936 and is the largest of its kind in Northern California. It remains dedicated to the proposition that the free flow of ideas, together with accurate and timely information, is vital to developing and improving democratic societies. Today, the JMC School is recognized worldwide for producing outstanding graduates who become leaders in global communications.

Master’s Student Katy Jiang Wins 2020 Deepfake Education Competition

 

The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, in partnership with the CITRIS Policy Labs at the University of California, Berkeley, announced that Katy Jiang, ’21 MS Software Engineering, won the 2020 Deepfake Education Competition with her three-minute explanatory video. The competition challenged students of all levels to create engaging video content to educate the public on deepfakes, the use of artificial intelligence to manipulate images and video to influence public opinion.

“Deepfake is a form of artificial intelligence. The word deepfake combines deep learning and fake,” said Jiang. “It can produce a persuasive counterfeit by studying photographs and videos of a target person from multiple angles, and then mimicking its behavior and speech patterns. By making this video, I want to educate people about the technology behind their day-to-day entertainment application and raise people’s awareness that deepfakes can also be used in committing crimes such as frauds and scams.”

A 2019 Pew Research study reported that two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) say made-up news and information cause a great deal of confusion. Associate Chair of the Computer Engineering department Magdalini Eirinaki, who is teaching Jiang’s Web and Big Data Mining course this semester, recommended that Jiang submit her video, originally a class assignment, for the Deepfake Education competition.

“Identification and spread of fake news (whether in text or deepfakes) has been on my radar as a very interesting and critical research problem,” said Eirinaki. “This technology can be very easily weaponized and used to enhance the perceived credibility of fake news and disinformation campaigns. This can have even more devastating effects than current fake news, ranging from politics, to the environment (e.g. global warming), to public health (e.g. spreading disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic). It is therefore more critical than ever for the research community to develop more sophisticated techniques to keep up with the deepfake technology to promptly identify and remove/flag them before too much harm is done.”

Jiang’s video explains how deepfakes can be used to impact how people interpret fake news—especially timely during a hotly contested presidential election and a global health pandemic. Using engaging visuals, music and voiceover to describe the dangers that deepfakes pose to democracy, she encourages viewers to assess content carefully before sharing it on their social media platforms. She demonstrates how many free apps are available to superimpose public images with false or misleading suggestions, inserting her own face over that of celebrities and politicians. Her winning submission will be featured on CITRIS media channels and through the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s media channels. The recognition also includes a $2,500 prize.

“As we are in the pandemic and the election is coming, deepfakes pose a danger to democracy,” said Jiang. “Fake news will influence everything from stock prices to the election. People should be critical about what we see online.”

 

Bay Area Media Turn to SJSU on Election Night 2020

Four political science professors are lined up on top of a red, white and blue graphic with the SJSU logo and title "2020 Elections."

(L-R) Adjunct Professor Donna Crane, Associate Professor and Chair of Political Science Garrick Percival, Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education and Political Science Professor Melinda Jackson, Emeritus Professor Larry Gerston.

San José State University political science professors will share their insights and expertise with millions of Bay Area television and online viewers on election night, November 3, 2020, and beyond.

Political Expertise

For months leading up to the 2020 elections, faculty members in the SJSU Department of Political Science participated in interviews with local, regional, national, and international media outlets. They offered commentary and analysis on the presidential campaign, national, state and Bay Area races and propositions.

“The 2020 elections is one of the most consequential in generations,” said Associate Professor and Chair of the Political Science Department Garrick Percival. “The political science faculty at SJSU has a long tradition of offering our expertise in politics and government to help inform the broader community. We see it as a crucial part of being faculty members at a public university. It’s a great way to give back.”

Where to Watch

Associate Dean of Undergraduate Education and Political Science Professor Melinda Jackson will join NBC Bay Area as it provides continuous election night coverage of local election results on its digital platform, nbcbayarea.com.The online coverage, which runs from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m., will also be available on Roku and Apple TV.

Professor Emeritus Larry Gerston will share his political expertise with NBC Bay Area broadcast and online viewers on election night, including an election wrap-up newscast at 11:00 p.m. Professor Gerston has provided expert political analysis to NBC Bay Area viewers for 40 years.

Adjunct Professor Donna Crane will join the news team at KRON-TV election night each hour from 7:00 to 10:00 p.m. to discuss national, state and Bay Area election results.

Associate Professor and Chair of Political Science Garrick Percival will appear on the ABC affiliate KGO-TV the morning after the election. As an expert on state and Bay Area politics, he will comment on the 12 state-wide propositions and many Bay Area measures and races.

SJSU’s political science department, established in 1962, is dedicated to educating students and the Bay Area community about political and social issues.

67 New SJSU Faculty Members Hired Since COVID-19 Pandemic Began

As San José State University faces a historic $92 million budget cut, SJSU continues to demonstrate its investment in its educational mission by hiring 65 new faculty members since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. Two additional faculty members were recruited during this time period and will be starting in fall 2021. Faculty members span colleges and disciplines, from Justice Studies to Marketing and Business Analytics to members of the newly-formed Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center (WIRC).

The latest faculty cohort reflects San José State’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in more than one way. According to University Personnel, 53 percent of new hires identify as women, 10 percent identify as Latinx, six percent as Black, 25 percent as Asian and 39 percent as white.

Senior Director of Faculty Affairs James Lee provided additional data to demonstrate how the demographics of incoming faculty members have changed since 2015.

*Prior years using PeopleSoft Data. AY 20-21, Interfolio. 2 or more race/ethnicity is not reported.

Interim Vice Provost for Faculty Success and Chicano/a Studies Professor Magdalena Barrera said that new and returning faculty must be cognizant of challenges that students are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our goal is to attract a very diverse pool of faculty applicants—diverse in terms of their training, their areas of expertise, their gender, their ethno-racial identities along multiple axes,” said Barrera. “It’s important that faculty are understanding of issues around diversity and inclusion and are very equity-minded in their approach, using their training and creativity to the best of their abilities to be empathetic towards students. They are helping students get through a very challenging time and it’s important that they keep them motivated to stick with school and make progress toward their degrees.”

Deanna Fassett, assistant vice provost for faculty development at the Center for Faculty Development (CFD) and former chair of SJSU’s Communication Studies department, adapted much of the CFD’s previously face-to-face onboarding activities for remote work. Fassett said the shift to online programming has gone smoothly, with weekly trainings over Zoom ranging from curriculum development for online learning to anti-racist pedagogies. Professional development workshops are recorded and available for members who may not be able to attend in real time.

“This is the most resourced group of [new] faculty” at San José State, Fassett said. “They’re getting the effort and the labor and the drive behind me, eCampus Senior Director Jennifer Redd, our new Equity and Accessibility Educator Valin Jordan and their department chairs. We’re building out guides for how to have more interactive classrooms. There are new Teach Anywhere and Learn Anywhere website resources. Facing new challenges, we leaned in and asked, how can we be better in online mode? The Chancellor’s Office really enabled us to do that.”

“I was really looking forward to getting into the classroom and connecting with students,” said Hillary Hurst, theoretical physicist and newly minted assistant professor of physics and astronomy. She completed some of the activities online while moving from Washington D.C. to California this summer. “I’ve had to rethink some things about how I teach my courses. Jump Start offered an asynchronous onboarding course for faculty members. I started doing sessions before we moved, I continued completing them while we were on our road trip and finished the course in California. I’m looking forward to completing the online teaching certificate this winter. While it’s tough feeling like I’m not quite getting to know the students, I am working on improving my online teaching.”

Fassett also believes that hiring new faculty and updating recruitment and retention practices helps the overall health of the university.

“The better our faculty teach, the more students will come back to us, the better we will retain them, and we will continue to help them advance to their professional goals,” said Fassett. “Our university remains more relevant than ever, and that shows in our enrollments and in the work our faculty do.” ”

Both Fassett and Barrera said that by investing in recruiting, retaining and investing in the continued professional development of faculty, San José State can better address Graduation Initiative 2025, an ambitious system-wide campaign to increase graduation rates while eliminating equity gaps.

“This is a critical moment for us to observe student needs and not lose focus on Graduation Initiative 2025,” said Barrera. “A lot of historically underrepresented students find online learning challenging because they don’t have regular or reliable Internet access. Many of them have taken on more hours at work to provide economically for their loved ones. Incoming faculty members need to be aware of these challenges. How do we turn these into opportunities to really connect with faculty members in terms of their pedagogical styles? We have to think creatively about building community when we can’t physically be together in the classroom or on campus. We want to not just meet those goals; we want to be a leader among the CSU. We have a bigger mission and together we’re working towards it.”

Steinbeck Fellow Yalitza Ferreras Earns Rona Jaffe Award

Yalitza Ferreras wearing an orange top and smiling in front of some green hills.

Yalitza Ferreras is the fourth Steinbeck Fellow and seventh Spartan to receive the prestigious Rona Jaffe Award in recognition of her writing. Photo courtesy of Yalitza Ferreras.

On September 17, six woman writers were recognized with 2020 Rona Jaffe Awards by the New York-based Rona Jaffe Foundation. Among this year’s recipients is Yalitza Ferreras, a Dominican American fiction writer and recipient of the 2014-2015 Steinbeck Fellowship. Ferreras is the fourth Steinbeck Fellow and seventh Spartan to receive this award, joining Vanessa Hua, Gabriela Garcia and Dominica Phetteplace. Three other SJSU-affiliated writers have also received this recognition: Assistant Professor of English Selena Anderson, English Lecturer Aamina Ahmad, and former Lurie Visiting Writer ZZ Packer.

The prestigious honor awards $30,000 to emerging woman writers of exceptional promise and includes a reading at New York University. This year’s event was hosted online due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Ferreras read an excerpt of her novel-in-progress, The Four Roses, which follows Altagracia, a Dominican artist who immigrates to Spain in the 1990s to create art while struggling to survive.

“The characters I’m writing about are usually poor people, often people of color and very often women,” said Ferreras, whose work has been published in Kenyon Review, Bellevue Literary Review, The Southern Review, Aster(ix) Journal, and The Colorado Review. Her story “The Letician Age” was included in the 2016 Best American Short Stories, edited by Junot Diaz. “I like to explore everyday, quotidian situations—people trying to work and survive. There’s so much conflict in people’s lives as they go about their days and feed their families. I want readers to truly see my characters, to insert them into the stories that everyone is reading. That is very worthwhile to me.”

Born in New York and raised in both New York and the Dominican Republic, Ferreras identifies with the immigrant experience and sees fiction as an opportunity to “bear witness” to the daily triumphs and challenges of negotiating new places. The first in her family to attend college, Ferreras intended to pursue a career in law before discovering a fiction workshop as an undergraduate at Mills College. At the urging of her professor and 2010 MacArthur Genius Fellow Yiyun Li, Ferreras went on to earn an MFA in creative writing at the University of Michigan, where she worked on a short story collection and began writing her novel. She has since received fellowships from Djerassi Resident Artist program, Yaddo, Voices of Our Nations and the Tin House Writing Workshop. She describes San José State’s Steinbeck Fellowship as a turning point in her writing career, which was interrupted in 2011 when she suffered a brain injury in a car accident. The fellowship allowed her to visit Spain and the Dominican Republic, research trips for her novel. It also introduced her to a network of writers, fellows and alumni.

“The Steinbeck Fellowship was really timely for me; it allowed me to really begin working on the project in earnest,” said Ferreras, who has often supported herself as a graphic designer. “I’ve finished a draft of the manuscript and the support from the Rona Jaffe Foundation is going to allow me to finish the novel. I’m really grateful to both organizations for their support because they’re helping me make this happen. It feels really amazing to be a part of these two communities.”

“When a former Steinbeck Fellow wins a major award, or finds a large audience for a new book, I am thrilled for them first of all, but I also feel validated,” said Nick Taylor, professor of English and comparative literature and director of the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies. “It demonstrates that our program is good at finding and supporting talent. And these successes aren’t rare anymore. At this point we’ve had 64 Steinbeck Fellows who have received something like $750,000 in support from the program. They’ve gone on to publish 40 books—a number that increases every year without fail. Not every former fellow publishes a book every year, but every year some do, and each of those publications gives us an opportunity to call attention to what we’re doing here at SJSU.”

Current Steinbeck Fellows are Rita Chang-Epigg, Tammy Delatorre, Brice Particelli, Daniel Pearce, Kate Osana Simonian and Anthony Veasna So. Applications open January 2 for the 2021-2022 fellowship.


Watch Ferreras’ Sept. 17 Rona Jaffe reading.

SJSU Center for Community Learning and Leadership Launches Civic Action Fellowship

A young girl with long brown hair hovers over her desk as she works on an electric device.

Photo: David Schmitz / San José State University.

San José, Calif.— San José State University’s Center for Community Learning and Leadership (CCLL) is pleased to announce the launch of the Civic Action Fellowship—a partnership between the California Volunteers within the Office of the Governor, AmeriCorps and a coalition of public and private universities—designed to help students pay for college while addressing regional challenges.

This unique collaboration between federal and state funds will allow 44 San José State undergraduate and graduate students from diverse disciplines to become AmeriCorps Civic Action Fellows and engage in virtual service during a time of great crisis triggered by the COVID-19 global pandemic. CCLL received $75,000 for planning and $480,868 ($136,106, federal funds and $344,762, state funds) for implementation as part of the grants.

The goal of the fellowship is to ensure a new cohort of California citizens committed to addressing local and state challenges, public concerns and a life of public engagement. The students who dedicate time to public service will receive financial support to obtain a college degree designed to position them for success in career and life.

“San José State students will meet some of the highest needs in our country during this time, first, by providing STEM education to underserved youths in surrounding neighborhoods. And second, by contributing to health promotion around COVID-19 through high-impact social media campaigns,” said CCLL Director and SJSU Professor of Psychology Elena Klaw.

The Civic Action Fellows will primarily work with local after-school programs to provide computer programming enrichment for underserved third- and sixth-grade youths. In addition, Civic Action Fellows will participate in the city of San José and Santa Clara County initiatives. For their efforts, the fellows will receive a monthly living allowance and an education award upon completion of the program.

“The Civic Action Fellowship enabled our center to expand upon our Cyber Spartans program. We now have the capacity to increase our partnerships, reach more youths and expand the content the youths are taught from only cybersecurity to civic engagement and health promotion,” said CCLL Assistant Director Andrea Tully.

Since the once completely in-person program is now entirely virtual, Tully said, “Our fellows are learning how to teach computer programming in unplugged ways through interactive kits that have puzzles and other games. They’re learning how to provide social-emotional support virtually to youths who struggled with online learning when the stay at home orders were first issued in spring.”

Joshua Lawson, ’23 Computer Science, who worked earlier on the Cyber Spartans Program said the Civic Action Fellowship program offered him the opportunity to design a lot of the curriculum being used. “I was actually in charge of a lot of the design of the curriculum and had written a lot of programs and units of work that were designed to be either in person or in small groups with mentors,” said Lawson.

Due to COVID-19, the team had to dramatically change the curriculum over the last couple of months to adapt to the online environment. Lawson enjoyed the transition process as it allowed him to build a critically thought out creative project. Now, the virtual program model includes time to interact virtually with San José State fellows, as well as kits that students can work on at home.

Mercedes Mansfield, ’22 MS Occupational Therapy, who is working with the CCLL for the first time, said, “the program is important, as it will help me gain experience in hands-on work with members in underserved communities, as well as help me develop leadership skills.” Mansfield and Lawson both agree that the CCLL weekly seminars have helped to broaden their knowledge on societal issues and what they can do to create a larger change in the communities they serve.

“Our model at the Center for Community Learning and Leadership has always been innovative in that although there are many organizations on campus that provide service, our emphasis is long-standing mutually beneficial relationships that address ongoing community needs,” said Klaw.

CCLL works closely with Campbell Unified School District’s Expanded Learning Program, as well as its long-standing partner, Third Street Community Center, located very close to the SJSU campus.

“The pandemic caused unprecedented challenges to our program launch, as it has for our community partners and for the families of the youths our fellows serve. They are learning patience and resilience that I know will serve them well in their future careers,” Tully added.

SJSU Recognized as Adobe Creative Campus

A female and make student smile while admiring graphic design posters lined up on the wall.

Students look at graphic design posters on the wall prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Jim Gensheimer / San José State University.

San José State University has been named an Adobe Creative Campus for its commitment to using technology to provide students with a transformative path to success.

SJSU is among a select group of colleges and universities Adobe identified as higher education innovators actively advancing digital literacy skills across the curriculum. By making Adobe Creative Cloud available to its students, SJSU provides creative and persuasive digital communication tools that will give them an edge in the competitive modern workplace.

“San José State is honored to be recognized by Adobe as a Creative Campus,” said Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs, Vincent J. Del Casino Jr. “There is nothing more important in today’s world than creative and digital literacy. By providing our students with access to these creative software tools, we can enable them to do wonderful things in the digital world, but also to gain expertise at productive collaboration. Being named an Adobe Creative Campus is one of the many puzzle pieces we are putting in place to ensure that SJSU students can take advantage of as many opportunities as possible.”

SJSU students have access to all the Adobe Creative Cloud apps and services at no additional cost. Universal access to these industry leading communication tools is part of SJSU’s endeavor to prioritize equity and inclusion, leveling the playing field in the classroom. By becoming proficient in the software used every day by so many employers, SJSU students can gain valuable experience and soft skills to better demonstrate their digital literacy capabilities when entering the job market.

There are more than 20 Adobe Creative Cloud applications that students can practice with every day, including InDesign, Photoshop, Premiere Rush and Illustrator—leading industry standard applications across the curriculum used by many employers where SJSU students will be working.

“Digital literacy and fluency are quickly becoming core competencies for employment opportunities on an international scale,” said Sebastian Distefano, director, education strategic development. “One of the most effective ways academic institutions can ensure their students become digitally literate and fluent before they enter the competitive workforce is through early and frequent exposure to creative tools. We are delighted that San José State University has embraced Adobe Creative Cloud, as students will now have the tools they need to seamlessly unlock their creativity and share their stories in more visually compelling ways. As a result, students of all majors can nurture the fundamental soft skills that will be critical to success in their future careers.”

As an Adobe Creative Campus, San Jose State University will also have access to peer-to-peer collaboration with other Adobe Creative Campus institutions, support for driving student adoption in the classroom, and thought leadership opportunities within the global higher education community.

John Delacruz Named as a 2020 Adobe Master Teacher

Professor John Delacruz gestures with his hands while teaching his class.

John Delacruz teaches a course prior to COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Jim Gensheimer / San José State University

Associate Professor John Delacruz was included as one of Adobe’s inaugural Master Teachers, one of 35 educators in K-12 and higher education selected from across the globe. The program recognizes pedagogical expertise, educational innovation, and a commitment by “master teachers” to share their best practices, insights, and curricular materials with educators across the globe. The summer program included a professional learning community within the cohort, training on instructional design and professional curriculum writing, and a badge to share on professional profiles.

An experienced educator in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Delacruz is responsible for the Creative Track of San José State’s advertising program. The fellowship recognizes his expertise in using Adobe Creative Cloud in his teaching, his ongoing development of industry and education partnerships, and his success guiding student collaborative projects nationally and internationally.

Delacruz said, “The collaboration tools, Adobe Creative Cloud, that I’m using in the classroom now are the collaboration tools that they’re going to be using when they get out into the working world.”

Last spring, in Delacruz’s senior capstone course in design for advertising, students created awareness campaigns for a local business or local nonprofit organization. Using the Adobe Creative Cloud, students make real-world advertising creative projects and pitch them to real clients. Delacruz said the projects his seniors did in class matched how they will work once they start their jobs.

“For a lot of my students, this is such a big taste of the real world,” Delacruz said. “They’re learning a bunch of digital tools they’re going to have to use to move forward. They get to present orally, they ideate and collaborate in teams, and they work through a problem using critical thinking and understanding user groups and people.

“Adobe Creative Cloud is what industries are built on,” he said. “Even in this online moment, our students are learning skills that are really going to help them in the workplace.”

Delacruz has been a campus and statewide leader in using Adobe communication tools to augment his teaching. Last year, SJSU hosted a unique virtual Adobe Creative Jam with participants from seven other California State Universities.

All of these partnering initiatives are part of the connection that becoming an Adobe Creative Campus brings with it. SJSU collaboration with other Adobe Creative Campus institutions is designed to foster the sharing of ideas and innovations that expand digital literacy on the path to student success.

Urban and Regional Planning Department Chair to Lead a National Professional Organization

Laxmi Ramasubramanian in a black blazer and white top smiling.

Photo: Robert Bain / San José State University.

Professor Laxmi Ramasubramanian, chair of the SJSU Department of Urban and Regional Planning, was elected vice president and president-elect of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP).

ACSP, a consortium of more than 100 university departments and programs offering planning degrees, is a scholarly association dedicated “to promoting the field of planning as a diverse global community that works collectively toward healthy, equitable and sustainable neighborhoods, cities and regions,” according to its website.

Ramasubramanian described taking an ACSP leadership position as a “personal calling.” She said she felt now was a good time to help shape how planning professionals do their work because the current era demanded more active promotion of the values she teaches her students to keep forefront.

“My area of research is participatory planning,” Ramasubramanian explained. “I use every opportunity, whether in service, teaching or research, to think about process issues. Planning is about thinking about the future. To me, the governing board of the planning association should reflect the ethos of the field: Our processes should be transparent, accountable, participatory, engaged—all the things we want our public planners to do.”

Ramasubramanian said once the thought of contributing to her profession’s national leadership entered her head, she could not dismiss it. “I’ve been thinking this summer about the national mood,” she said, “which has refocused our attention to inequality in city after city, community after community. So I was struggling with this as an individual. And often I find that I need to be with other people to make change.”

Ramasubramanian said important structural changes could rarely be made by individuals alone, but only in concert with others. “We can’t do what we need to do by ourselves, and we shouldn’t try to do it by ourselves. How can we work in partnership with groups of people to create the kind of transformation they’re aspiring for?” Mulling that over led her to seek her new leadership position.

Ramasubramanian will serve as vice president through 2021, after which she advances automatically to president for the term 2021-2023.

“My goal is to spend this year really listening to the interest groups that are part of our association and who share the same anxieties and fears and mood that is going on around the country,” she said.

A professional organization undergoes the same struggles happening outside it, she said. Ramasubramanian said her role would be to actively support planning faculty and students who are Black, indigenous or people of color through both policy and action. “We’re a good organization,” she said. “We’ve always said the words. An academic organization with our heart in the right place. But that’s not enough right now. That’s what the world is telling us: It’s not enough.”

As a public university, SJSU is accountable to a wide range of people. “At public universities we have a teaching mission,” she said. “We are preparing planning professionals who go out in the world and solve the difficult problems of climate change and environmental degradation, build resilient and inclusive communities, fix our transportation problems. So I’m really proud of the work that universities like ours do.” Ramasubramanian said she hoped to represent the voices of public universities in the ACSP governing board. You have to have diverse points of view in the room to change the conversation.”

SJSU offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in geography and an accredited master’s of urban planning degree—the only programs of their kind in Silicon Valley. The department’s diverse student population includes working students who prefer to attend the program on a part-time basis—a rare opportunity, given that few fully accredited master’s in urban planning programs offer graduate students an entirely part-time option. Emphasizing experiential learning and career preparation, the department’s faculty members teach about architecture, communication, economics, history, public policy, and sociology. Through public service projects, students assist local communities in addressing topical planning issues. SJSU has excelled in the field of urban planning since 1970.

College of Social Sciences Dean Walter Jacobs said, “Laxmi was outstanding in her first year as the chair of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, so I was not surprised to learn that she was selected as vice president of a national organization. I have absolutely no doubts about her ability to thrive as the vice president and then president of ACSP while she continues to excel as a department chair.”

Ramasubramanian said she saw this step as part and parcel of the university’s larger mission. “I’ve chosen a narrow pathway to have an impact—trying to serve my peers in the academy, a membership organization of university people—but the work that we do, the professors, is hugely important because we impact young people,” she said. “One reason I’m at San José State is that here we can see so clearly how education is the pathway to transformation. The education you receive at SJSU prepares you to move in your career, your life, to move your family and your community to the next aspirational goals you set for yourself, whatever they may be.”

Learn Anywhere Website Launched to Aid Student Success

student working remotely on his laptop.

Student working remotely.

On August 6, San José State University launched Learn Anywhere—a website to help students better adapt to the hybrid teaching and learning model for the upcoming fall 2020 semester that consists of mostly online learning.

The Learn Anywhere site—the third in a trio of help and instruction websites—joins Work Anywhere and Teach Anywhere, which were created last spring to assist staff and faculty members transitioning to sheltering in place.

Learn Anywhere offers students a readiness questionnaire, basic tips to get started, guides to Zoom mastery, help navigating Canvas—and even what to do if students don’t have reliable Wi-Fi access at home, or need a loaner laptop. The Learn Anywhere site also has many easy-to-find tips on how to access other SJSU resources available to students, including:

  • Academic support, like the Writing Center, Accessible Education Center and Career Center
  • Advising Hub
  • Campus Life’s rich range of virtual opportunities to join in and connect
  • Financial Aid and SJSU Cares
  • How to use the library remotely

Learn Anywhere provides a “one-stop shop” where students can find information about technology needs, using online tools and campus resources like student centers, activities and events.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Vincent J. Del Casino, Jr., said the Learn Anywhere website “helps students tap in and figure things out: How do I connect to tutoring? How do I connect to other success programs?”

Melinda Jackson, associate dean for undergraduate education, said, “We are excited to roll out Learn Anywhere for our students. Online learning is a new experience for many, and we want to make sure that students know about all of the resources the university is offering this fall.

“We recognize that online learning brings new challenges,” Jackson said. “Our faculty and staff members have been working hard all summer to reimagine and revamp what we do to offer an excellent educational experience for all.”

Last spring—when sheltering in place threw everything into a whirl—eCampus launched Teach Anywhere, a rich resource to help faculty members find what they needed. “It was a whole campus team effort getting that up,” said Jennifer Redd, director of eCampus. “This was truly a cross-campus collaborative effort to design and develop,” Redd said. Together, Learn Anywhere and Teach Anywhere curate resources, provide tips and offer guidance for teaching and learning online.

In addition to pointing students toward upcoming workshops, the Learn Anywhere site also displays numerous helpful recorded tutorials, such as tips on how to go beyond Zoom basics. A simple video tutorial explains how to share videos within Canvas. Another reminds students that, with access to the Adobe Creative Cloud suite of tools, they’re able to practice making polished, professional-quality presentations.

The homepage also features personal tips offered by undergraduate and graduate students on strategies they use to succeed in learning remotely.

Sumeet Suhas Deshpande, a current student who helped the eCampus staff design and produce Learn Anywhere, said in an email that he hoped the site would make for “a smooth and efficient online learning experience in the semesters to come. Learn Anywhere is primarily built to cater to the needs of students who are not so well-versed with technology and software applications and are new to online learning.” Deshpande said he intended to use the very site he helped create to better manage his own time and studies, learn how other students were coping and succeeding, and connect with peers. As a student himself, Deshpande said he and the team had put a great deal of thought into “building the website with the end user’s perspective, as that is what matters the most.”

“We hope that students will bookmark the Learn Anywhere site and visit it often throughout the semester,” Jackson said. “We are all on this online journey together and want this site to help students connect to the Spartan community and find the support they need.”

STEM Faculty Members Receive $1.69M NSF Grant Award

SJSU community members participating in STEM education program.

Photo: David Schmitz

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has recently awarded a $1.69 million grant to San José State’s faculty members for a research proposal titled “Transforming Undergraduate Teaching and Learning Through Culturally Sustaining, Active and Asset-Based Approaches to Introductory Science Courses” that aims to increase diversity, inclusion and retention in STEM.

Over the course of the next five years, the STEM research team led by Cassandra Paul, associate professor of physics and astronomy, and science education, will be employing innovative instructional approaches to reduce attrition rates in introductory STEM courses.

“The goal of this grant is to increase student success and graduation rates for undergraduate students and, more specifically, for Latinx and other students belonging to regional, racial and ethnic minority groups,” said Paul, principal investigator of the project.

Historically, the attrition rates in STEM courses are highest during the first two years of college, especially among Latinx and underrepresented minority students. “We want to make sure that we’re listening to what the students are bringing with them to SJSU, and engaging with them more actively,” said Paul.

According to Pamela Stacks, associate vice president of research, the beauty of the kind of research that Paul and her team are doing is that it not only tells us about Latinx students but provides insights into all students.

“Getting this grant opportunity means that STEM faculty members can now be more collaborative and informed about connections between different STEM disciplines, and also they’ll be able to identify issues students are struggling with,” said Stacks. Stacks added, “eventually when the research gets published, it will impact a much bigger audience and, in the process, elevate our whole institution.”

Co-PIs Tammie Visintainer, assistant professor of teacher education and science education, and Marcos Pizzaro, associate dean of the Lurie College of Education, have lent their expertise in educational equity to the project. Their research and service work informs the culturally sustaining and asset-based approach of this work.

“This grant is truly unique because it explores introductory science instruction as something that needs to be more inclusive and leverage the diverse resources that Latinx and other students of color bring with them—which has consistently been ignored and/or not celebrated in institutions of higher education,” said Visintainer, who played a significant role in writing the grant.

Part of the impetus for the grant, according to Paul, came about during informal meetings with STEM faculty members Resa Kelly, professor of chemistry and science education, and Katherine Wilkinson, associate professor of biological sciences, who are also co-PIs for the project. The idea to better align and link content across different courses like biology, chemistry and physics motivated the team to create a cohesive experience for students entering STEM majors.

The novel part, said Visintainer, “is how faculty “see” students of color and how this shapes their instruction.”

“The innovative approach of this grant is that we are specifically seeking to identify the cultural wealth, assets, and strengths that uniquely position Latinx students to thrive and succeed in STEM disciplines – and tapping into those,” said Visintainer.

The entire first year of the five-year grant will be spent on collecting data, talking to students and interviewing them, and also learning more about their experiences.

“The first year is really about getting a better understanding of what the students’ STEM experience is at SJSU in order to be better informed for the next stages of the grant,” Paul said. Subsequently, the team has plans to develop new faculty learning communities that will engage with the data, identify different aspects of the curriculum, and then adapt and align content to ensure a coherent experience for the students.

Since it’s a grant with a particular focus on Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI), Tammie Visintainer said, “we are going to focus on that population while also transforming science and undergraduate education for everybody.”

Stacks agrees that gender, race and ethnicity elements are crucial in STEM, she thinks that diversity of thought is what the community should strive for. “What’s more powerful as we become more inclusive is that we expand the intellectual elements, and then we make possible solutions to how we approach things,” said Stacks.

Stacks said that Paul has implemented a radical reform process in her physics classes since joining SJSU in 2012. Besides improvising on teaching style and technique, Paul is also experimenting with grade scales that are different from the traditional percent scale for assessing students. “We saw our fail rates go way down. And so our students are much more successful in the course,” said Paul. “We’ve also started group quizzes and group portions of the finals. So every aspect of the class has a community element to it,” she added.

“In this moment in history, the most exciting part of this grant is that it creates space for a true reimagining of undergraduate STEM education,” said Visintainer.

The other important aspect of the grant is that the research faculty members were supported for preliminary research by CSU STEM-NET (a system-wide research affinity group) that promotes research, community building and innovative educational ideas across the CSU university system.

Diversity in STEM Master’s Degrees Recognized

Professor sits with science students in lab.

Photo courtesy of Miri VanHoven.

The July 23 issue of Diverse Issues in Higher Education highlighted a list of institutions that best produce minority post-baccalaureate graduates in STEM fields. San José State took multiple honors.

In addition to its regular annual top 100 rankings, Diverse published an expanded list highlighting master’s degrees in the STEM fields of engineering, math and statistics, and physical science. SJSU was included on all three lists.

In granting a master’s in engineering, SJSU ranked #5 in diversity among all institutions, any size, public or private. Rounding out the top five were Georgia Tech, UC Berkeley, USC, and Stanford. Minorities also earned SJSU master’s degrees at high rates in:

  • Mathematics and statistics: #13
  • Physical sciences: #52

This analysis was based on master’s degrees conferred in the 2017-2018 academic year.

Marc d’Alarcao, dean of the College of Graduate Studies, said, “One of our priorities in the College of Graduate Studies (CGS) is to assure that the grad student population reflects the diversity of the community. Although we still have more work to do, we’re delighted to be recognized in this way.”

In March, the CGS hired Dr. Amy Leisenring as associate dean of inclusive student success. Her work, d’Alarcao said, would “continue to deepen an examination of our practices in the College of Graduate Studies, focusing on making them inclusive and equitable.”

“San Jose State University is proud of its role in serving all students seeking graduate degrees in STEM fields,” President Mary A. Papazian said. “SJSU has a legacy of a commitment to inclusion, and sending our diverse group of talented STEM graduates into the Silicon Valley workforce and beyond, and on to advanced degrees, is just one way we demonstrate that commitment.”

In 2019, SJSU ranked #1 for total minorities receiving master’s degrees in Diverse’s library science category, and #1 for Asian Americans, Hispanics, and African Americans.

Bachelor’s Degree Diversity across All Fields

San José State University has also previously topped the magazine’s charts for diversity in bachelor’s degrees awarded.

San José State was the #1 school in the country in Diverse‘s rankings for producing Asian American bachelor’s degree graduates in visual and performing arts, and in business administration, management and operations. For both those undergraduate majors, the school ranked #3 nationwide in total minorities (including Hispanic, African American, Native American, and graduates who list multiple ethnicities).

For all disciplines combined, SJSU ranked #5 in the 2019 data for Asian American bachelor’s degrees, split evenly between men (1285) and women (1262).

Those same rankings show SJSU placing tenth in all minorities completing a bachelor’s in the two fields of communication/journalism/related degrees and natural resources and conservation. Nationally, SJSU ranked #6 in engineering bachelor’s degrees for all minorities.

“The diversity of the undergraduate program reflects the larger community,” d’Alarcao said, “and we hope undergraduate students stay on for graduate school, further increasing our diversity there.”

These recognitions come on the heels of recent rankings demonstrating SJSU’s excellence at facilitating social mobility. Last year, U.S. News and World Report added a ranking for social mobility that compares how well universities and colleges do in graduating Pell grant-eligible students. SJSU ranked #3 among public universities in the West, and #5 overall for the region.

SJSU Launches Human Rights Institute

HRI director W. Armaline with his students that make up the HRI team.

Director William Armaline (far right) with the HRI team.

Formally launched in October 2019, San José State’s Human Rights Institute (HRI) has already been making an impact—and now is poised to do even more.

Years in the making, the HRI recently launched its website offering a world-class policy and research institute’s research, education and praxis, the intersection of policy with action.

Director William Armaline credited numerous faculty and staff members who collaborated to bring the San José State’s Human Rights Institute come to life. “So many people have been critical in building this entire project,” he said.

Armaline said creating the HRI “has really has been sort of my grind and mission since I’ve been at at San José State: Trying to build this—both the minor program, which launched in 2012 out of justice studies—and also a research and policy institute that would go beyond pedagogy and education to actually giving a public university very real roles in the communities we serve.” Armaline said the HRI brings research and frameworks from international human rights and international standards to bear on “social problems that confront the communities that we literally are chartered to serve as a university.”

College of Social Sciences Dean Walt Jacobs said that creating a formal institute had meant navigating a long approval process to win official status. Within the CSU system, research centers tend to spotlight research, which the approval process is designed to prioritize.

“But the HRI is unique,” Jacobs said. “It also has that component of praxis. Which is about teaching action, putting research into action. We had to go through a lot of hoops to get the HRI approved. But we did. And it fits really nicely into the legacy of social justice work that San José State has done throughout its history. It’s a good fit.”

Armaline described his view of how an institute in a public university ought to serve community needs: “We want to answer legitimate questions from the community: ‘If I don’t have kids going to your university or even beyond that, why should we really support it? Why do we need to have it here? Why is it a critical member of our community institutionally?’ And we want to be an answer to that question. We want to be able to say, ‘Because centers of learning are critical for communities to be able to understand the world around them and develop solutions for the problems that they face.’ And also to answer the questions they find interesting and relevant. I think people rightly want direct and pragmatic kinds of answers to those kinds of questions.”

Jacobs said that when Armaline was hired in 2007, his purpose was to build something like the University of Connecticut Human Rights Institute, where Armaline previously worked. Preeminent nationally, even internationally, “they had a very robust program there,” Jacobs said. “Bill was hired in part to establish an institute here on the West Coast that would be very similar to the very successful one on the East Coast.”

A sociologist by profession, Armaline moved to the sociology department from the justice studies department, where he was hired in 2007. Doing the work, demonstrating results and setting up the structure of the HRI have consumed almost a decade of his life—along with the many other projects and initiatives he’s engaged in (not to mention teaching).

HRI faculty members include award-winning authors, educators and journalists who partner with SJSU’s extremely diverse student body—as well as organizations across the region—to inform policy and practice according to international human rights law, standards and scholarship. For example, since 2012 the HRI has offered an undergraduate minor to students who want to add training in international human rights law or human rights reporting/journalism and advocacy to their field of study.

After receiving official approval as a research center in October, the HRI has been preparing for the public launch of its website amid the months of the 2020 COVID-19 restrictions.

“One of the requirements is that the center or institute has to have a plan for self-sufficiency within two years,” Jacobs said. “As a college, we’ve been supporting them as they’ve been in the planning process. But a big part of their efforts will be to raise funds to keep going. I’ll also be helping too, as we go out and talk to donors about places we can help support them.”

Armaline highlighted the importance of connecting international human rights research with the lived experience of Californians right here in SJSU’s neighborhood. For him, tying scholarship to immediate, real-world problems is at the core of the mission: “We dedicate ourselves as a research and policy institute to study and understand the problems that confront us—the local community but also the national and global community. And then really work with those communities and other stakeholders and decision makers to develop the best possible solutions.”

Support the Human Rights Institute

Beyond supporting human rights education and research, contributors can support the HRI’s new Human Rights News Network, which includes human rights reporting classes where students will develop original news content, report on the HRI’s research and action, and learn to use human rights laws, conventions, monitoring mechanisms and data in news stories. The HRI has already received gifts that will support student scholarships, and seeks additional support to further the institution’s path to self-sufficiency as an institute advancing research and action on human rights. Learn more about the Human Rights Institute and how you can support its work.

$1.2M Gift Commitment from Michael C. and Kathryn M. Grischy to Provide Future Support for Students Studying Abroad

Michael C. and Kathryn M. Grischy.

Photo courtesy of Michael C. and Kathryn M. Grischy.

San José, Calif. — San José State University is pleased to announce that it has received a $1.2 million gift commitment from Michael C. and Kathryn (Katy) M. Grischy. The gift will support students who study abroad for a semester.

“This generous gift commitment will help us share the life-changing opportunity of a globally facing educational experience that exposes SJSU students to a deeply immersive cross cultural experience to help them reach their academic, personal and professional goals,” said Study Abroad and Away Director Susie Morris. “We’re grateful for how these resources will support our mission to provide accessible global experiences for all SJSU students, providing the support they need to incorporate a global experience into their university education but who might not have the resources to experience study abroad otherwise.”

The Michael C. and Kathryn M. Grischy Study Abroad Fund in the College of Professional and Global Education will establish an endowed fund for scholarships that cover tuition and fees for one semester of study abroad.

A consulting software/firmware engineer, Michael is the retired co-founder and president of Octave Software Group, a technology service consulting firm in San José, California. Michael graduated summa cum laude with a degree in electrical engineering in 1985. Katy Grischy studied English at SJSU from spring 1967 to spring 1968, completed her bachelor’s in English at Cal State Long Beach, and attained her master’s in counseling psychology at Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles. She retired from her 30-year San José private practice in psychotherapy in 2016.

The Grischys both expressed a deep commitment to the value of a broad-based education that is more than just the sum total of classroom experience.

“Michael and I want more students to have the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective, to augment their academic experiences and have the privilege of learning through travel,” Katy said.

“A study abroad experience can change a student’s worldview, a student’s life,” said Michael. “Our idea is to enable more SJSU students to be able to have those experiences.”

“Internationalizing San José State cultivates an environment of diversity and inclusion,” said Ruth Huard, dean of the College of Professional and Global Education. “The Grischys’ generous donation will directly support students and the wider campus community as we continue to prepare to live and lead in a globalized world.”

Their gift commitment was established via the Grischys’ living trust.

To learn how you can make a gift to SJSU from your estate, please contact Randy Balogh, director of planned giving, at 408-924-1123, randy.balogh@sjsu.edu.


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 250 areas of study—offered through its nine colleges. With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing 10,000 graduates to the workforce. The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 280,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

NSF Awards $1.5M to Fund STEM Curricula for Students with Visual Impairments

A student with visual impairment touches a 3D model.

A student explores a 3D printed tactile model of the constellation Orion. The spherical stars have diameters that represent their true relative brightnesses and are attached to posts whose lengths indicate the stars’ true relative distances from the Earth. Photo: Professor Thomas Madura/San José State University.

Multiple 3D printers assembled by students with visual impairment.

3D printers assembled by students with VI at the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons in Kalamazoo, MI. Photo: Professor Thomas Madura/San José State University.

Researchers from San José State University, The Ohio State University and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) located at John Hopkins University have been awarded a $1.5 million dollar Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curricula for students with blindness and visual impairments (VI).

The funding will be used to research and develop STEM Career Exploration Labs (CELs) where students with VI can learn about STEM, career opportunities in STEM and develop STEM skills.

“Students will participate in hands-on activities such as assembling and using desktop 3D printers and using 3D printed models and sound to learn astronomical topics, such as celestial motion and lunar phases,” said Principal Investigator and San José State University Assistant Professor Thomas Madura. “Spatial thinking is particularly important for students with VI, who touch their surroundings and gather information via sound to form mental images and make sense of the world.”

The STEM Career Exploration Labs will also include interactions with STEM professionals with VI and field trips to local businesses that offer insights into STEM careers. The CELs will serve high school students from ages 14 to 20 with VI, their sighted peers, STEM high school teachers and teachers of the visually impaired.  The Council of Schools for the Blind will help recruit students and teachers for the program.

Previously, researchers conducted two pilot workshops including one in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs’ Bureau of Services for Blind Persons and the South Carolina Commission For the Blind in Columbia, South Carolina.

“In the workshops, the students explored current research data obtained with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope through 3D prints,” said Hubble Space Telescope Outreach Project Scientist at STScI Dr. Carol Christian. “The use of such tactile materials allows students to discover the wonder as well as some of the scientific detail of the astrophysical universe.”

A student with visual impairment holds a 3D printed model of the Eta Carinae Homunculus nebula.

A student explores a 3D printed model of the Eta Carinae Homunculus nebula created using observations obtained from the European Southern Observatory’s telescope in Chile. Photo: Professor Thomas Madura/San José State University.

According to Assistant Professor Thomas Madura, there is very little research to date on how students with VI learn science and fewer studies on the impact of technological tools designed for students with VI. Researchers will collect and provide new data by investigating:

  • The effect on students with VI’s understanding of scientific concepts
  • How students participate in the inquiry-based STEM work
  • How the project affects student attitudes towards STEM, STEM careers, and astronomy
  • Assess understanding of spatial thinking skills and astronomy concepts
  • Identify STEM high school teachers’ attitudes towards students with disabilities in STEM classes

Data results will be distributed in a variety of ways, including peer-reviewed research journals, presentations, and workshops at various STEM, astronomy, VI, education, 3D printing, persons with disabilities and related domestic and international conferences.

“We know very little about how persons with visual impairments understand abstract concepts, such as astronomy, as they are presented through 3D models,” said Project Researcher and Associate Professor at The Ohio State University Tiffany Wild. “The results of this research can impact the way we teach astronomy to students with visual impairments and ultimately increase accessibility for all those with visual impairments to the world of astronomy.”

Depending on the current COVID-19 pandemic, researchers plan to set up STEM Career Exploration Labs in public high schools, schools for the blind, and state agencies in 12 states beginning in spring 2021.

CSU May Require Ethnic Studies Course to Graduate

Mural of Cesar E. Chavez.

The César E. Chávez Monument: Arch of Dignity, Equality and Justice, designed by Judith F. Baca.

A bill that moved forward in the California legislature on June 18 would require all CSU students in the class of 2025 and those beyond to complete a three-unit course in ethnic studies. If signed into law, the graduation requirement would begin in fall 2021.

College of Social Sciences Dean Walt Jacobs said that SJSU’s readiness to respond to an incoming mandate along these lines stems from the years of preparation. Several steps have already been taken to strengthen ethnic studies. One is the College of Social Sciences’ Ethnic Studies Collaborative, established in 2018.

“A collaborative is a more informal way of getting people together,” Jacobs said.

Yvonne Kwan, an assistant professor of Asian American studies, who joined the program in 2017, is director of the collaborative.

“The collaborative was a way for us to bring together the various ethnic studies programs and departments that we already have,” Kwan said. Chicana and Chicano studies and African American studies are departments, whereas Asian American studies and Native American studies programs are smaller. One thing the collaborative helps do, Kwan said, is to make them more equal and balanced. “The collaborative is a way in which we can come together to have these difficult conversations.”

Kwan said that an ethnic studies graduation requirement would help students understand what is going on in our world. “It’s important to know because K-12 education tends to have a very Eurocentric basis.” She distinguished her field from the fields of history and purely studying a culture. “It’s about a critical interdisciplinary way we understand racial and ethnic relations and how it shapes power dynamics in the United States.”

New Faculty Hires and a New Minor

Another weighty step taken, Jacobs said, is new hiring in all four of these fields.

“Three new faculty members in African American studies are starting this year, including a new department chair,” Jacobs said. “We’ve also had two recent hires in Chicana and Chicano studies, and a new faculty member in sociology who also does Native American studies is coming in this year. We also have two recent hires in Asian American studies, including Yvonne Kwan, who is doing a fabulous job leading the Ethnic Studies Collaborative. She followed inaugural director Magdalena Barrera, who will soon step down as chair of Chicana and Chicano studies to become SJSU’s vice provost for faculty success.”

In the fall, SJSU will offer a minor in comparative U.S. race and ethnic relations for undergraduates who want to pursue this topic alongside another course of study.

Kwan explained that some students already enroll in ethnic studies classes to fulfill a general education requirement. Two of her Asian American studies classes, for example, are heavily populated by students not focused intensively on ethnic studies.

Concerns that adding a three-unit ethnic studies graduation requirement might slow progress to graduation were unfounded, Kwan said. “We’re often worried about how AB 1460 could delay students’ time to graduation. But if students take an ethnic studies class, it’s not going to, because many of our existing courses already fulfill several GE requirements.”

She said students complete her classes with new skills and tools for looking at history, culture, comparative thinking and especially how power structures work.

She described one student who, at the beginning of the semester, told her that ethnic studies fosters divisive thinking. “But by the end of the semester—and especially with COVID and the proliferation of anti-Asian racism,” she said, the student’s understanding and analysis changed. The student said, “Many minority communities still do not have full human rights. People fought for ethnic studies courses because ethnic minorities have been politically oppressed for a really long time, and no one wanted to talk about it.”

Kwan added that sometimes ethnic studies classes serve other purposes—like engaging students and building skills that help them in whatever other course of study they are pursuing. “The research shows that it doesn’t matter what race you are. It benefits students academically and socially,” she said. “Also for students of color in particular, ethnic studies increases retention and graduation rates.”

About AB 1460

According to the language of the bill, AB 1460, “It is the intent of the Legislature that students of the California State University acquire the knowledge and skills that will help them comprehend the diversity and social justice history of the United States and of the society in which they live to enable them to contribute to that society as responsible and constructive citizens.”

Kwan described how the bill had moved forward in 2020. “As a collaborative, we’d been having this conversation [about the issues in the bill] for a very long time. The recent reinvigoration of the Black Lives Matter movement, spurred on by continued proliferation of police brutality and the murder of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Dion Johnson—and the list goes on—made it ever so clear that this is what we need at this moment. Because AB 1460 passed with a great majority, 30 to 5, it’s clear that ethnic studies is important.”

Although no ethnic studies graduation requirement is in place yet, if a CSU-wide ethnic studies requirement is coming, Jacobs said, “We’re ready to go.”