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.”

History Professor Ruma Chopra Named 2020-21 ACE Fellow

The American Council on Education (ACE) has named San Jose State History Professor Ruma Chopra an ACE Fellow for the 2020-21 academic year. She is one of 38 fellows selected for this prestigious program, which prepares faculty, staff, and administrators for senior positions in college and university leadership.

Ruma Chopra has been named an 2020-2021 ACE Fellow. Photo: Josie Lepe.

“It’s a tremendous honor,” said Ruma Chopra. “I am excited to work with and learn from innovative leaders in higher education.”

Chopra joined San Jose State in 2008. She teaches undergraduate and graduate courses related to immigration, urbanization, racialization, poverty, and violence. She has published three books related to colonialism and slavery; her fourth book project examines the global consequences of pre-Darwinian climatic theories.

Her research has taken her to archives in the United States as well as in Sierra Leone, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad, and Britain. Last year, she received fellowships from the Rachel Carson Center (Munich), the Folger Shakespeare Library (Washington DC) and the John Carter Brown Library (Providence).

“As a scholar, Professor Chopra continues to have a passion for learning, as she thinks of multiple ways to contribute to the mission of our institution,” said SJSU Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Vincent Del Casino, Jr. “The ACE Fellowship provides her with a unique learning space to think about how to extend her intellect to higher education administration. I am excited to see what she brings back to SJSU.”

Chopra holds a doctoral degree from the University of California, Davis, and a master’s degree and bachelor’s degree from Carnegie Mellon University.

The ACE Fellows program combines retreats, interactive learning opportunities, visits to campuses and other higher education-related organizations, and placement at another higher education institution to condense years of on-the-job experience and skills development into a single year.

At the conclusion of the fellowship year, fellows return to their home institution with new knowledge and skills that contribute to capacity-building efforts, along with a network of peers across the country and abroad.

2020 Faculty Award Winners

San Jose State has recognized four distinguished faculty members for noteworthy achievement in teaching, scholarship and service. Read more about each recipient:

President’s Scholar: Lawrence Quill, Department of Political Science

Outstanding Professor: Charlotte Sunseri, Department of Anthropology

Outstanding Lecturer: Sharmin Khan, Department of Linguistics

Distinguished Service: Karen Singmaster, Department of Chemistry

Alumnus, World Renowned Sociologist Remembers Carrie Fisher

TO ALL THOSE WHO GREW UP WITH THE STAR WARS SERIES AND ARE TRYING TO COME TO GRIPS WITH YET ANOTHER DEEPLY FELT LOSS IN A YEAR OF SUCH LOSSES, thank you for your interest in my assessment and I hope that this brief comment brings some solace.

We should not just sit in stunned silence when those who have positively impacted some aspect of our lives—if only our imaginations—pass from among us. Our shared humanity mandates that for our own good, we acknowledge such a loss.

As a huge Star Wars fan, I too have had to try to wrap my mind around this very sad sequence of events. Perhaps an acknowledgement and view appropriate to Star Wars is in order:

Death, with its inescapable icy embrace, eventually casts its sardonic smile upon all things—people, planets, stars, galaxies, and—cosmologically  speaking—at some unimaginably distant time in the future and far, far away, even upon the Universe itself. But the Universe, in its incomprehensibly profound greatness, has endowed people not only with a consciousness of itself, but with the potential character and courage to reciprocate death’s greeting, to smile back. So though death comes like a malevolent intruder, a thief in the night, the Grim Reaper, need not have the last laugh.

Princess Leia and Mom, thanks for all the joy and memories. R.I.P. and—may the force be with you!

—Dr. Harry Edwards, ’64 Sociology, ’16 Honorary Doctorate

Bay Area Media Turn to SJSU on Election Night 2016

Sergio Bejar-Lopez, Melinda Jackson, Larry Gerston and Garrick Percival. Photo Illustration: SJSU Strategic Communications and Public Affairs

Sharing their expertise with millions of television viewers and radio listeners will be professors Sergio Bejar-Lopez, Melinda Jackson, Larry Gerston and Garrick Percival. Photo Illustration: SJSU Strategic Communications and Public Affairs

San Jose State University political science professors will be sharing their expertise with millions of television viewers and radio listeners across the Bay Area on election night. Four professors will be providing reaction and expert commentary on six television and radio stations Nov. 8 and 9.

Our political science faculty is excited to be able to share its expertise with the community,” said Melinda Jackson, department chair. “SJSU has a long tradition of engaged scholarship and public service, one of the things we love about teaching here.”

How to Tune In

Associate Professor Jackson will appear on ABC affiliate KGO-TV on election night beginning at 8 p.m. She will also offer post-election analysis the next morning on KGO-TV’s newscasts.

Assistant Professor Sergio Bejar-Lopez will be on-set analyzing the election for Telemundo affiliate KSTS-TV and Univision affiliate KDTV-TV.

For the 36th year, Professor Emeritus Larry Gerston will share his political expertise with NBC Bay Area viewers and KCBS radio listeners.

Associate Professor Garrick Percival will offer analysis of some of the 17 propositions on this year’s ballot with Fox affiliate KTVU and others. 

A Wealth of Knowledge

“We are especially proud of the fact that so many of our department’s faculty members have been asked to provide political analysis on the important issues and races at the local, state and national level this year,” Professor Jackson said. “We have a wealth of expert knowledge on this campus!”

SJSU Names 2016 Outstanding Thesis

Amanda Feldman

Amanda Feldman

Amanda Feldman is the 2016 Outstanding Thesis Award recipient, in recognition of the quality of her research. She will be recognized at Commencement, beginning at 9:30 a.m. May 28 in Spartan Stadium.

Feldman’s interest in sharp force trauma research was spurred by “the magnitude of the domestic violence problem in America” and the prevalence of knife attacks in these cases.

Learning that domestic disputes accounted for the majority of knife-related homicides, Feldman’s study included research about the motives and mindsets of perpetrators, which she hopes “will contribute to the improvement of validation standards in forensic studies.”

While researching her award-winning thesis, “From Trauma to Trial: Proposing New Methods for Examining the Variability of Sharp Force Trauma on Bone,” Feldman says she “became passionate about collaborating with students.”

Having graduated with a master’s in applied anthropology in December, She plans to pursue a Ph.D. and become a professor.

SJSU Names 2016 Outstanding Seniors

Erin Enguero and Anna Santana are the recipients of SJSU’s 2016 Outstanding Graduating Senior Awards  in recognition of their scholarship and contributions to the community. Both will be recognized at Commencement, beginning at 9:30 a.m. May 28 in Spartan Stadium.

Erin Enguero

Erin Enguero

Erin Enguero (photo by Inderpal Kaur)

Since age 11, having a hearing loss has influenced how Enguero identifies herself academically and socially. She has evolved from a self-described “cautious pre-teen to an ambitious young woman striving for excellence” in her educational and community endeavors.

Carrying a 3.796 GPA, she has earned numerous scholarships and has been recognized as a CSU Trustee Award winner, SJSU Salzburg Scholar and 2016 American Kinesiology Association Undergraduate Scholar.

While Enguero’s hearing loss has taught her to adapt using her existing strengths, she says she is proud “not just for overcoming my disability, but for finding the courage to explore my identities as a student, leader and, ultimately, an agent of change.”

Enguero graduates in May with a bachelor’s in kinesiology. In fall 2016, she plans to pursue a doctorate in physical therapy at California State University, Fresno.

Anna Santana

Anna Santana with civil rights activist Dolores Huerta (photo courtesy of Anna Santana)

Anna Santana with civil rights activist Dolores Huerta (courtesy of Anna Santana)

At age six, Santana transferred schools three times in less than a year in search of a bilingual teacher. This daughter of former farmworkers says this was just part of the struggles that “have shaped my dreams and aspirations.”

Today, Santana advocates for the education of migrant families through the Apoyo Campesino project, which seeks to change a state regulation that forces students to move to a different school after each growing season ends.

In addition, Santana is the founder of the College Awareness Network, which has been integral in bringing students from marginalized schools to university campuses to promote a college-going culture.

A double major in sociology and Spanish, Santana will receive her bachelor’s degree in May. As a McNair Scholar, she maintains a 3.9 GPA and has been accepted to Stanford University for graduate school.

 

Honors Convocation Recognizes Top Academic Achievers

Photo: David Schmitz

Photo: David Schmitz

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

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

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

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

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

Supporters

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

Photo: David Schmitz

Photo: David Schmitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sacrifice

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

Photo: David Schmitz

Photo: David Schmitz

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Harry Edwards

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taking a Stand

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

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

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

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

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

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

Providing Opportunity

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

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


About San José State University

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

With more than 32,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing more than 7,000 graduates to the workforce.

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

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.

Classes without Quizzes: Social Sciences Edition

Date: April 30, 2011

Time: 9 a.m.- 1:30 p.m.

Location: Clark Hall

Summary: Leave your blue books and number 2 pencils at home! The San José State University Alumni Association and the College of Social Sciences invite you to join us for a day of education and enrichment at College of Social Sciences Classes Without Quizzes on Saturday, April 30 from 9-1:30p.m. This free event will be located in Clark Hall. Lunch will be provided.

Review the course information below before registering for the event.

SJSU Hosts “The Changing Face of America: A Conference on Immigration and Social Policy”

“The Changing Face of America: A Conference on Immigration and Social Policy” will be held Oct. 22 and 23 in the Student Union. The SJSU Silicon Valley Center for Global Innovation and Immigration and the College of Social Sciences will co-host the event, bringing together students, scholars and community members from various disciplines for presentations and panel discussions. Open to the public, this conference reflects San Jose State’s commitment to providing a forum for all aspects of this global issue. Continue reading