Los Angeles Times: Uber’s Driver Screening Practices Fuel Political Debate on Rider Safety

Posted by the Los Angeles Times on Aug. 20, 2015.

By Laura J. Nelson and Emily Alpert Reyes

The ride-hailing revolution holds the potential to radically change the way people get around. But the political battle over Uber and Lyft in California has focused on something more obscure: fingerprints.

Uber is facing some of the fiercest challenges to its business practices from an array of California officials who claim the Silicon Valley-based company does not adequately screen its rapidly expanding pool of tens of thousands of drivers…

A number of other issues such as insurance coverage and liability have swirled around the rise of Uber and similar services. But for both elected officials and their constituents, questions of criminal histories are “a much more immediate concern if you’re deciding whether to use one of these services rather than a traditional taxi,” said Melinda Jackson, an associate professor of political science at San Jose State University.

Read the full story.

Inspiring Student Receives Top CSU Honor

Photo courtesy of CSU Chancellor's Office

Photo courtesy of CSU Chancellor’s Office

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

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

Overcoming Odds

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

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

Love of Engineering

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

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


Photo courtesy of CSU Chancellor's Office

Photo courtesy of CSU Chancellor’s Office

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

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

About San Jose State

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

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

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


Student Journalists to Stream Taco Eating Contest

Chacho’s World Taco Eating Championship

SJSU students are seeking to capture the excitement, with world-class competitors like last year’s event (photos by Adrian Trujillo and Sergio Estrada).

SJSU students are seeking to capture the excitement, with world-class competitors like last year’s event (photos by Adrian Trujillo and Sergio Estrada).

San Jose State University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications will stream the second Chacho’s World Taco Eating Championship on Aug. 15 at St. James Park in downtown San Jose. The stream will be available on South Bay Pulse, an app built by students.

Co-anchors Jonathan Wold and Brenda Norrie will go live at 4:15 p.m. Expect behind-the-scenes videos and interviews with top-ranked competitive eaters Matthew Stonie and Miki Sudo. As contestants gobble up the tacos, commentator Abraham Rodriguez will follow the action.

All three students are journalism majors or recent graduates. More than a dozen Spartans are involved, in front of the camera, behind the camera, and online. They’re collaborating with the goal of producing a high-caliber program on a shoe-string budget thanks to the power of the Internet and their own ingenuity.

The project is an excellent example of the cutting edge efforts underway at SJSU’s journalism school. Students built the South Bay Pulse app (Apple iPad, Android, Kindle Fire) using the Adobe Digital Publishing Suite. Adobe provided mentors, straight from corporate headquarters just a few blocks from campus in the heart of Silicon Valley.

In fact, the entire project grew from a synergy that could only happen here. The students and the taco contest’s producer met at a business event. David Ocampo, ’89 BS Advertising, ’92 MA Mexican American Studies, is creative director at Milagro Marketing. The event was sponsored by Content magazine, which covers the innovative and creative culture of Silicon Valley.

Man holds a prosthetic limb. Photo by Randy Leu

Prosthetic Limbs for Less Than $30?

Man holds a prosthetic limb. Photo by Randy Leu

Students showcase Simple Limb Initiative prosthetic limbs that they created and interact with guests at an open house event (Randy Leu photo).

What can you do with $30? How about creating a life-altering device for a child who lost a limb in a landmine explosion? This was both the mission and the challenge for a group of industrial design students, who introduced their completed projects at a May 13 open house.

Poster boards lined the walls of an Art Building room with different prosthetic limbs for above and below the elbow amputations and above and below the knee amputations. Three countries, among the most affected by landmines, were represented: Afghanistan, Cambodia and Colombia.

Corey Higham, a junior industrial design major, showed a prosthetic leg that he designed and built out of materials including PVC pipes, bike tires and rubber washers.

“I’m proud of the work that we’ve done,” he said. “It was a lot of work. I think we’ve come up with a lot of creative solutions that can be useful.”

Introducing Simple Limb Initiative

Computer monitors throughout the room displayed a website created by senior graphic design students, recognizing the launch of Simple Limb Initiative. This is a collaboration between SJSU Associate Professor Leslie Speer and Professor Gerhard Reichert of HfG Schwäbisch Gmünd, a university in Germany. Reichert had applied to be a visiting scholar to SJSU from December 2012 to February 2013. One of his proposed workshops focused on affordable prosthetic limbs, catching Speer’s eye.

“The area of research that I focus on is ‘design for the majority,’ problems of the world that affect great numbers of people,” she said.

According to a project brief that the two professors presented on the first day of class, children are among the most affected victims of landmines worldwide. The loss of a limb can be devastating for people in developing countries. A typical prosthetic limb costs thousands of dollars, whereas Speer said, “A lot of people in impoverished parts of the world earn less than a dollar a day.”

For this semester-long project, industrial design students kept in mind using raw materials that were cost effective and readily available or attainable in their assigned countries. The prostheses had to be functional in the countries’ natural terrains and for the cultural lifestyles, whether it’s working in the fields or praying five times per day. The countries’ residents have to be able to make simple fixes and adjustments to the prosthetic limbs when necessary, and the aesthetically and ergonomically sound prostheses have to be adaptable to a child’s growing body.

“It was a really big learning curve, but it was a really beneficial learning curve,” said Irene Rose, a senior industrial design major. “You step outside of your comfort zone and walk in other people’s shoes.”

Making Connections

The entire process involved several stages of research, evaluating and testing. Industrial design students reached out to relevant organizations and groups in their assigned countries. They also received support closer to home, including testing out their work on people who have undergone amputations. Occupational therapy students, led by Professor Heidi Pendleton, provided insights into the technical and medical aspects of these patients.

This cross-disciplinary interaction is what Speer would like to continue encouraging in the future. The Simple Limb Initiative could eventually become a continuous university-based research initiative involving departments all across campus, such as occupational therapy, engineering, business and graphic design, as well as Reichert’s classes in Germany.

A spirit of generosity presents itself on the initiative’s website, which features manuals and diagrams for each of the prosthetic limbs. The intention is to make the information open source to encourage others to build and build upon these ideas.

One Spartan alumnus whose work already focuses on prosthetic limbs invited the students to visit his workplace. Scott Summit, ’94, Industrial Design is co-founder of Bespoke Innovations, which uses 3D printing to create customized coverings for prosthetic limbs. Summit and his colleague Chad Crittendon attended the open house.

Complex Balance

I was impressed by the range and thoughtfulness that went into the projects,” Summit said. “Many of them managed to achieve a complex balance of cost, human need and design. I appreciate the devotion that went into their work, and I especially applaud Leslie for taking on such a challenging topic and handling it so superbly.”


Working the Pebble Beach Pro-Am

Standouts in their bright red jackets, the SJSU Special Event Management Team once again played a pivotal role in the 2013 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Despite the super early mornings and long days, these students say the week they spent managing the skyboxes, chalets and on-course food and beverage operations at one of the nation’s premier pro-ams will go down as a highlight of their college careers.

Of the more than 80 Spartans who applied this year, 34 students were selected for this unique, hands-on experience featuring 56 hours of training. Team members came from a wide range of majors including hospitality, recreation and tourism management; nutrition, food science and packaging; kinesiology; and advertising.

Many of the over 240 students and alumni of this eight-year-old program say the lessons they learned combined with the Pebble Beach name have earned them interviews and jobs in the industry, including 60 students and alumni working as temporary or permanent employees right there at the resort, according to Program Director Rich Larson.

For most team members, this was their first managerial experience, overseeing up to 20 workers responsible with providing thousands of spectators with refreshments. Some worked in corporate skyboxes or chalets, while others managed concessions open to the public.

“It’s great to see students succeeding and conquering their fears,” said Pebble Beach Resorts Banquet Manager Mark Hansen, who coaches many team members through a case of the nerves when it comes to interacting with the public and corporate clients.

“I’ve learned there are effective and professional ways to deal with managing people,” student Rebecca Mockabee said.

When it comes to the scenery, the students will tell you the worst day at Pebble Beach will always beat the best day in the classroom! Want to learn more? Check out this super cool video from last year.

Afghan Journalism Professors in San Jose

What better way to gain media skills and knowledge than hands-on learning? What better way to find out about another culture than immersing yourself in it?

Three professors from Afghanistan completed such an opportunity during Fall 2012: an 11-week stay in San Jose while studying at one of the top journalism schools in the United States. Their classrooms went beyond four walls, including media tours of NBC Bay Area, San Jose Mercury News and KLIV 1590 with Vanita Cillo, a senior account manager with LAMAR Transit Advertising.

The whole Bay Area experience was something that Professors Yahya Alazin, Hamid Safwat and Ahmad Zia Ferozpur can literally take home with them – and pass on to their own students.

With two $1 million U.S. State Department grants, SJSU is leading efforts to enhance college-level journalism education in the Afghan provinces of Balkh and Herat. Diane Guerrazzi, an associate professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, organizes journalism academies in the Middle East.

During the 2012-2013 academic year, Afghan journalism professors, including a new group arriving this spring semester, learn closely from SJSU professors, who prepared detailed lesson plans focused in areas such as beginning reporting, information gathering and media law. SJSU professors meet with the Afghan professors regularly to go over the lessons in hour-long sessions. Using Cisco’s WebEx video conferencing program, these sessions are recorded and the videos are made available for other professors in Afghanistan.

Beyond academics, visiting professors have a social life with their assigned Bay Area ambassadors consisting of local professors, university students and members of the Rotary Club. This initial trio also met and interacted with President Qayoumi and his wife Najia Karim, both Afghan natives.

“The community has really rolled out the red carpet,” Guerrazzi said. “President Qayoumi has been supportive.”

Reflecting upon the past 11 weeks, Ferozpur wrote in a personal essay, “Education is the most important key to change! I believe in learning, hope, compassion and forgiveness. My last word is that education is one of the most important elements that can bring peace, security, development and stability in a country like Afghanistan.”

Spartans at Work: NASA Ames

Where will an SJSU degree take you? We hit the road to find out, visiting summer interns and recent grads on the job in the Bay Area and beyond. Our video series continues with Ali Guarneros Luna, ’10 ’12 Aerospace Engineering. She is a systems engineer at NASA Ames Research Center. Read more about her experience! http://bit.ly/sjsu-aluna-post

Spartans at Work: San Jose Rep

Where will an SJSU degree take you? We hit the road to find out, visiting summer interns and recent grads on the job in the Bay Area and beyond. Our video series continues with Oluchi Nwokocha, ’11 Theatre Arts and African-American Studies. Read more about her experience! http://bit.ly/sjsu-rep-post

Spartans at Work: The Walt Disney Family Museum

Where will an SJSU degree take you? We hit the road to find out, visiting summer interns and recent grads on the job in the Bay Area and beyond. Our video series continues with Alex Turner, ’14 Animation/Illustration. He’s an education intern at The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco. The museum’s collection includes some 25,000 works Disney and his staff used in creating his characters and films. Educational programs include a summer camp, where Alex works. Read more about his experience! http://bit.ly/sjsu-alex-post

Spartans at Work: SolutionSet

Where will an SJSU degree take you? We hit the road to find out, visiting summer interns and recent grads on the job in the Bay Area and beyond. Our video series begins with Miguel Martinez, ’13 Advertising. He’s a summer intern at the San Francisco office of SolutionSet, the second largest independent marketing services company in the U.S. Read more about his experience! http://bit.ly/sjsu-mmartinez

Major Decisions: Music

Daniel Matthews shares how his passion for music has grown as he works towards his major in music with an emphasis in jazz studies. The music program at SJSU brings people together from all over the world. SJSU’s prime location gives music majors many opportunities to find gigs throughout the Bay Area, including venues in SF and Santa Cruz.

Major Decisions: Sports Management

Alyssa Wong is working toward a master’s degree in sports management through San José State University’s Kinesiology Department. In this feature, Alyssa explains how her original interest in athletic training soon changed after she started to explore the business aspect of sports. Alyssa currently works at the Timpany Center, a non-profit therapeutic facility providing a 92° warm-water pool and 102° spa, operated by SJSU’s department of kinesiology. Find out how a love for sports and business can set the stage for a fulfilling career in athletics.

SJSU Launches Major Tech Initiative

Media contacts:
Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU Media Relations, 408-656-6999
Andrea Cousens, Cisco Communications, 310-270-8903
Meredith Ehrenberg, Nexus Communications, 949-265-6088

SAN JOSE, CA – As the only large public university in Silicon Valley and as the major source of workforce power for the region’s tech industry, San Jose State University has launched a five-year, $28 million initiative to partner with Cisco and Nexus IS Inc. to upgrade the campus’ information technology infrastructure.

Moreover, San Jose State is supporting faculty in using and applying next generation technologies to better support students’ learning by partnering with corporate neighbors and with other cutting edge educational efforts such as Harvard-MIT-UC Berkeley’s edX and Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative.

SJSU President Mohammad Qayoumi outlines the long-term potential for this tech initiative in his white paper, “Reinventing Public Higher Education: A Call to Action.”

“The university sits in a position of real opportunity given the double incentive of recent technological advances coupled with the decline in state support for public education,” President Qayoumi said. “Never before in the history of higher education has technology provided such important challenges and opportunities. We must reinvent teaching, learning and educational delivery systems.”

The Next Generation Technology Project reflects “SJSU’s Strategic Plan: Vision 2017,” developed after President Qayoumi’s 49 town hall meetings with students, faculty and staff who collectively identified five distinct campus priority goals including supporting “Unbounded Learning,” “21st Century Learning Spaces” and “Agility Through Technology.”

Students work together in class

These SJSU electrical engineering students are working on problem sets in class after viewing edX lecture videos at home, a concept known as a “flipped class” (Christina Olivas photo).

An Integrated Plan

San Jose State selected Cisco and Nexus to upgrade the campus’ infrastructure in accordance with a fully integrated and comprehensive plan designed to improve the learning experience for students. Plans for the first 18-24 months include the following:

  • SJSU will develop a total of 51 next-generation learning spaces with all the equipment needed to enable high-definition recording, indexing and transcription of lectures and classroom experiences within the next 18 months. Eleven next-generation learning spaces will be completed this fall, with the remaining 40 to be completed by the start of fall 2013.
  • SJSU will make Cisco Show and Share® and TelePresence® available at no cost to all students, faculty and staff within the next 18 months. These services will be fully integrated with audio and video recording equipment in the 51 next-generation learning spaces, providing students with access to classroom experiences, lectures and meetings anytime and anywhere.
  • SJSU has brought Cisco WebEx® web conferencing to the campus community.  WebEx provides access to live lectures inside the 51 next-generation classrooms and beyond, anytime and anywhere faculty members and students connect using cameras on their own computers.
  • SJSU will consolidate phone service from five separate systems into a single Cisco Unified IP Phone system for the entire campus within the next 18 months.
  • SJSU will expand its free, secure wireless Internet service, utilizing Cisco wireless solutions to serve all students, faculty, staff and guests campuswide.

Mindful of the dramatic budget cuts that continue to loom for the state and public higher education, the first year of the project will be funded by proceeds from the sale of San Jose State’s Educational Broadband Service spectrum, facilitated by the Federal Communications Commission to increase educational programming accessible via the Internet. Other funding sources include the ongoing SJSU Information Technology Services office budget, SJSU’s new Student Success, Excellence and Technology Fee, and SJSU’s continuing education program.

Dr. Mohammad Qayoumi

Dr. Mohammad Qayoumi

Supporting Student Learning

The goal is not to replace conventional teaching methods, but build on what we do now in order to enhance student learning and preparation for the workplace. Numerous studies have shown outcomes improve when instructors and students combine traditional and new teaching methods using the latest technology.

For example, “lecture-capture” software and equipment will allow students to review as many times as needed all aspects of a classroom presentation, including slides and whiteboard notes. This could benefit all students on all topics, but will be especially helpful for challenging classes heavy with complex material or for students who speak English as a second language.

“This is a top priority for San Jose State, which seeks to provide access to higher education and professional opportunities for many first-generation Americans in the heart of Silicon Valley, where science, technology, engineering and mathematics are at the core of the industries driving the regional economy,” Qayoumi said.

New Teaching Methodologies

In addition to the IT infrastructure upgrade, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Junn, along with Associate Vice President for Academic Technology Catheryn Cheal, are leading efforts to strategically employ and assess new teaching methodologies with faculty and other key industry leaders such as Adobe to deepen San Jose students’ skills with new technology products and services.

“San Jose State University is uniquely positioned to be pioneers in the use of academic technology because we are the only large, public university located in the heart of Silicon Valley. It has been incredibly gratifying to reach out to the industry leaders in our backyard, and receive such a positive response in terms of partnering with our faculty to develop and use technology to enrich and deepen our students’ learning and skills in the digital world,” Provost Junn said.

Dr. Ellen Junn

Dr. Ellen Junn

“Our graduates go on to become top hires for many of the tech industries here in Silicon Valley,” Junn said. “So, it’s no surprise that San Jose State and our technology partners want to invest more in our students by working closely with our faculty to become cutting edge adopters and forerunners in the use of academic technology to enhance student learning.”

Some of the new programs that will be launched this fall for faculty include the following:

  • Enhancing students’ use of Adobe® Creative Suite® software and digital media.
  • Innovating learning with Apple products such as iPads, iBooks, iTunesU and iMovie.
  • Designing more effective learning experiences for students by creating online, hybrid and flipped (viewing recorded lectures at home so instructors can work with students in class) courses.
  • Implementing lecture capture and video conferencing.
  • Introducing the use of online student writing support tools such as ETS Criterion.
  • Joining with Harvard-MIT-UC Berkeley’s edX initiative and with Carnegie Mellon University’s Open Learning Initiative.
  • Tracking and measuring student learning with learning analytics and learning dashboards.
  • Utilizing assessment tools such as ETS Major Field Tests and ETS Proficiency Profile to measure student learning outcomes and support institutional reporting.
  • Leveraging game-based resources for student learning.
  • Making educational materials from the KQED and PBS LearningMedia archive available to faculty and students in partnership with the University Library.

“At SJSU, we seek to become recognized leaders in developing innovative and effective curricula, reinventing and supporting faculty work, deepening student engagement with academic and professional learning and expanding our international and global connections by utilizing effective new technologies to meet academic goals,” Provost Junn said. “It’s a very exciting time to be at San Jose State—we are a community of faculty, students and staff who are on the move!”

San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,500 students and 3,850 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO) is the worldwide leader in networking that transforms how people connect, communicate and collaborate. Information about Cisco can be found at http://www.cisco.com. For ongoing news, please go to http://newsroom.cisco.com.

EdX is a not-for-profit enterprise of its founding partners Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology that features learning designed specifically for interactive study via the web. Based on a long history of collaboration and their shared educational missions, the founders are creating a new online-learning experience with online courses that reflect their disciplinary breadth. Along with offering online courses, the institutions will use edX to research how students learn and how technology can transform learning-both on-campus and worldwide. Anant Agarwal, former Director of MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, serves as the first president of edX. EdX’s goals combine the desire to reach out to students of all ages, means, and nations, and to deliver these teachings from a faculty who reflect the diversity of its audience. EdX is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts and is governed by MIT and Harvard.

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