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.

New Provost Arrives at SJSU July 15

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Vincent Del Casino, new provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, joins San Jose State University July 15.

Vincent Del Casino, who was named the university’s next provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs in January following a comprehensive national search, will arrive at San Jose State University July 15 ready to prepare for the fall 2019 semester.

“I have great confidence that he will bring a strong foundation to this key leadership position while fostering collaboration across colleges and departments. Vincent is a visionary who will chart a course for our Academic Affairs division into the future,” President Mary A. Papazian said, following his appointment in January. “He is an exemplary fit to lead our continuing efforts to support students and faculty, build community partnerships, and expand innovative teaching and learning at our university.”

Del Casino joins SJSU from the University of Arizona, where he has most recently served as the interim senior vice provost and vice president for Academic Initiatives and Student Success, but he started his academic leadership career in the California State University system in 2007 as chair of the Department of Geography at CSU Long Beach.

“Having worked in the Cal State system previously, I have always been energized by the fact that this system serves a very diverse group of first-generation learners,” he said. “San Jose State University is no exception. What makes this campus unique, however, is that it is located in the heart of one of the most robust economies in the world.”

He sees the university’s greatest potential in its ability to drive regional, national and global conversations about the value of higher education.

“SJSU can be a hub for applied and basic research that plugs into the networks of creativity that surround the campus and its global position,” he said. “There are also many new ‘solutions’ being presented to address the world’s educational attainment gaps at the undergraduate and graduate levels, some of which are driven by the tech industry that surrounds the campus. As public educators we have to provide leadership in those conversations, otherwise we will end up with market-driven solutions that don’t necessarily meet the needs of our diverse learners.”

Del Casino envisions SJSU as a leader in taking up the question of what the future of higher education should be as well as a model for the value of public education that continues to demonstrate that ‘technological innovation’ must also be met with strategies that recognize the complex and diverse experiences of students.

At the University of Arizona, Del Casino provided leadership and administrative oversight as the campus redeveloped central spaces for student support activities; re-organized its central administrative areas; and enhanced student success and retention. During his tenure, the university greatly increased its online undergraduate enrollment and program offerings. He was also integral in implementing the University of Arizona’s 100% Engagement Initiative that allows students to participate in “extra-classroom” activities through credit-bearing and non-credit engaged learning experiences.

He said he is especially excited by the opportunities—such as finding ways to leverage the location of SJSU to support all members of the campus community—and the challenges—such as recognizing the real socioeconomic and political strains that come with the Silicon Valley economy.

“I think the faculty, staff and students are already driving this conversation and I look forward to supporting those efforts,” he said.

Del Casino’s own academic background lends itself to considering the social implications of geography. He is a prolific writer and researcher who has authored the book Social Geography: A Critical Introduction and co-edited with CSU, Long Beach faculty member, Dr. Mary Caputi, Derrida and the Future of the Liberal ArtsHe has also edited and co-authored multiple other books and published dozens of articles and book chapters on topics ranging from health, robots and robotic technologies, cartographic theory, and tourism, in the context of geography. Del Casino has a bachelor’s in international relations and East Asian studies from Bucknell University, in Pennsylvania, a master’s in geography from the University of Wisconsin and a doctorate in geography from the University of Kentucky.

“I am looking forward to deepening my understanding of the rich historical geography of SJSU and the Silicon Valley region, and to partnering with community organizations, the city of San Jose as well as for-profit companies and nonprofits that want to work with SJSU to create a more inclusive environment for the ideas that we are generating and the students we are educating,” he said.

Students and Faculty Members Recognized for Environmental Effort

Photo: Courtesy of Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful

Photo: Courtesy of Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful

Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful, a community organization that works closely with the SJSU Center for Community Learning and Leadership and CommUniverCity, has received a 2015 Outstanding Environmental Project award from the Friends of the San Francisco Estuary.

“This award demonstrates the value of collaboration, as a community of stewards, to raise awareness, educate, restore and preserve our precious waterways,” said CCLL Director Michael Fallon. “On yet another front, the partnership between SJSU, the city of San Jose, and environmental organizations is benefiting our community.”

More than 200 SJSU students and faculty members have been volunteering their time and talent to help clean and care for Coyote Creek, a 64-mile long waterway spanning Henry Coe Park near Gilroy, San Jose, and the San Francisco Bay.

A multidisciplinary approach

Spartan volunteers include faculty members and students from the departments of Environmental Studies and MIS (Management Information Systems), and the School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Volunteer Mary Yan, ’16 Environmental Studies, appreciates Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful Program Manager Deb Kramer’s passion and attitude “about bringing organizations together to work towards the same goals.”

“All the issues and connections to the creek are very interesting to me,” Yan said. “I am hoping that Coyote Creek becomes a successful restoration story one day without any reason to continue cleaning it up.”

Wildlife, homelessness

Photo: Mary Yan, ’16 Environmental Studies

Coyote Creek is a wildlife habitat and location for an important steelhead trout restoration project. Bike and hiking trails line the banks, which have also become a refuge for the homeless.

Acutely aware of the need to mitigate the environmental impact of homeless camps while caring for those who live there, SJSU advertising and public relations faculty members and students organized Coyote Creek Howl, a one-day summit in April focusing on ecological and human issues.

Communication studies students produced “Journey Through Homelessness: Silicon Valley’s Unsolved Problem,” described as “a thought and emotion provoking performance that immersed the audience into a world ignored by the masses and experienced by the few.”

Work continues

On Oct. 2, SJSU hosted the premiere of “Exodus from the Jungle,” a documentary on the closure of the nation’s largest homeless encampment, which was located within a mile of campus, on the banks of Coyote Creek.

As a new academic year begins, Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful continues to connect this generation of Spartans with service-learning opportunities. The goal? Gifting a vibrant watershed, and the knowledge of how to rally community support to protect it, to future generations.

 

SJSU’s Accreditation Reaffirmed

WASC noted SJSU presented "a detailed and organized approach to describe assessment" of five core competencies, with a special focus on information literacy and writing (photo by Christina Olivas).

In a letter reaffirming the university’s accreditation, WASC noted SJSU presented a detailed and organized approach to describing assessment of five core competencies, with a special focus on information literacy and writing.

Media contact:
Pat Harris, SJSU Media Relations Director, 408-924-1748

SAN JOSE, CA – The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) has reaffirmed San Jose State University’s accreditation for seven years.

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