Spartan Alumna Premieres Feature Film at Cinequest

BY DAVID GOLL

As in previous years, students and faculty from San Jose State University will be well represented at the 2017 Cinequest Film and VR Festival staged at various venues throughout San Jose and Redwood City starting this week.

“Disaffected Youth,” billed as a “punk-rock coming-of-age” film directed by Patrick Mattes and co-written and produced by Jacob Ohlhausen, is a short film produced by Spartan Film Studios.

“I’m very excited,” said Mattes, a December graduate of the university’s Television, Radio, Film and Theatre (TRFT) department, about his film’s inclusion at Cinequest. “We’re both excited. I texted Jake the moment I heard.”

It will be shown as part of the College Shorts program on March 7, at 8:45 p.m.; March 10, at 7:15 p.m.; and March 11, at 12:45 p.m. at the Cinemark Century 20 theater complex, 825 Middlefield Road, Redwood City.

Also selected for Cinequest was “swiPed”, a four-minute, 38-second animated film both humorous and poignant about the detrimental impacts of smartphones on society. It’s the creation of David Chai, associate professor of Design and Animation/Illustration in the Department of Design, whose tagline for the film is: “Texters texting, tweeters tweeting, likers liking, posters posting, Googlers Googling, Amazonians Amazoning, webheads surfing, snappers chatting, pinnters pinning, tubers tubing, tenders tindering, Netflixers chilling — are we binging too much? More connected than ever, but more distant by the day. Is humanity being swiped away?”

Chai was a Silicon Valley smartphone holdout until recently.

“I had a flip phone until last year,” he said. “I don’t want to be emailing when I can be out enjoying life. People have become so disconnected from one another through technology. Even when you are with them, you’re often not.”

Chai’s film debuts on March 3, at 9:30 p.m. It will subsequently be screened March 5, at 1:05 p.m.; March 7, at 4:30 p.m.; and March 11, at 6:45 p.m. All presentations will be at the Cinemark Century 20 in Redwood City.

A 2008 alumna of the TRFT program, Los Altos resident Saila Kariat, will also be represented at Cinequest with her dramatic, one-hour, 38-minute film titled “The Valley” that she wrote, directed and co-produced. The movie will premiere at 7 p.m. March 5 at the California Theatre, 345 S. First St., San Jose. The feature-length film centers on an Indian-American entrepreneur who has an existential crisis following the suicide of his young-adult daughter.

Kariat — who grew up in India, Canada and the United States — said the film project took three years to complete. Professor Scott Sublett, chair of the SJSU’s TRFT department, said Kariat studied film and screenwriting and distinguished herself in student screenwriting competitions before becoming the department’s Valedictorian.

Kariat partially self-funded the production, which cost $500,000, but also attracted several investors. It had a cast of 30 and crew of 35. She said its international cast includes actors from Pakistan, Alyy Khan; India, Suchitra Pillai; and American Jake T. Austin.

For those who miss the premier, “The Valley” will also be shown on March 6, at 4:15 p.m.; March 9, at 9:15 p.m., and March 11, at 4:15 p.m., at the Cinemark Century 20 theater complex in Redwood City.

The annual festival, which has grown dramatically in size and prestige in recent years, provides matchless industry exposure for SJSU film students.

“We want our students to have a professional experience and Cinequest provides a great opportunity for them,” said Barnaby Dallas, coordinator of production for Film and Theatre, and the director of Film Production for Spartan Film Studios, which produced “Disaffected Youth” last summer. “Every year, the film industry comes to San Jose for 10 or 12 days.”

Tickets for events and more information about the Cinequest Film and VR Festival are available online.

SJSU Celebrates Super Sunday 2016

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

Pastor Jason Reynolds (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications)

Members of the Emmanuel Baptist Church choir crooned “no weapon they throw at me, you know it won’t prosper, no,” while donned in all black outfits and carrying picket signs reading “Black Lives Matter” during this year’s CSU Super Sunday service.

Super Sunday, part of the California State University system’s African American Initiative, resulted in CSU ambassadors visiting over 72 churches and speaking at over 100 church services in the state to encourage African American youth to pursue higher education.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the CSU system to remind people that our mission is to aid ordinary people in being successful and transforming their families,” said San Jose State Interim President Susan Martin.

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

Vice President for Student Affairs Reginald Blaylock (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications)

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

SJSU Interim President Sue Martin and Pastor Jason Reynolds (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications).

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

Vice President for Student Affairs Reginald Blaylock (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications)

President Martin, who attended Emmanuel Baptist Church’s service on Feb. 28 along with SJSU Vice President of Student Affairs Reginald Blaylock, stressed the importance of encouraging youths to start considering college at a young age.

“Most of our CSU campuses, including ours, only have three percent of our students identifying as African Americans,” Martin said. “So we need more African American families to prepare to send their children to college.”

Tierney Yates, Social Sciences ’14, said he was only one of three African Americans in his political science program while in his undergraduate career and hopes the initiative will help boost representation in the CSU.

Yates, who serves as the church choir director, said the Black Lives Matter message was incorporated into the musical performances in addition to Pastor Jason Reynolds’ sermons for the month of February in order to bring attention to institutional racism and other issues.

“We talked about issues with community, income and family, so this week we were talking about the issues as they relate to education and disparities,” Reynolds said. “There is so much need for our children to see that knowledge is possible.”

Blaylock, who has served in the CSU system for 28 years, told the service attendees that he was a product of the system’s opportunities.

“My story can be summed up in eight words: ‘It wasn’t supposed to happen but it did,’” Blaylock said. “I came as a freshman over 30 years ago, and CSU and EOP [Educational Opportunity Program] most likely saved my life.”

Despite it being the 11th year that the CSU has organized a Super Sunday with California churches, Blaylock said there is a deep-rooted culture of partnerships within the system.

“There are many people in the CSU who have been doing work and reaching out to communities of color for many, many years,” Blaylock said. “I applaud and celebrate the coordination of these (Super Sunday) efforts, but as a witness today, there are staff and faculty from SJSU that attend this church that are on the scholarship committee and that organize afterschool tutoring, so we’ve been here long before the initiative.”

Yates said he was pleased to see over 20 SJSU or CSU alumni members in the church audience.

“When you’re on a campus of 33,000 students, you feel like you’re the only one,” Yates said. “But when you see it in a smaller setting you can see the impact that it can have and the potential growth that needs to happen.”

 

SJSU Outdoor Adventures Unites Students

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Backpackers at Hetch Hetchy Damn after trek from Rancheria Falls, Yosemite National Park 2013 (Jay J. Manalo photo).

By Kelly Curtis

Sunset in Hetch Hetchy Valley. Granite hillsides reach toward a lavender sky, pine trees sway in the breeze and tents dot the needle-covered flat at Rancheria Falls backpacker campground. After a six-mile hike, leader Kristine Kirkendall and her group of San Jose State students relax around a fire. They are in Yosemite National Park with the Outdoor Adventures program.

Kirkendall, ’89 Speech Communication, ’11 MA Sports Psychology, is the Associated Students Campus Recreation manager and director of Outdoor Adventures, where students sign up for off-campus trips such as backpacking, kayaking and hiking. The new perspectives gained on these adventures are helping shape a more united SJSU community.

Phil Priolo White Water Rafting 2013 (Phil Priolo photo).

Phil Priolo white water rafting 2013 (Phil Priolo photo).

On her first adventure, senior Janine Tram, learned how much people rely on modern technology. “In nature, people need to do things on their own,” said Tram. “Backpacking in Yosemite taught me it’s hard to live off the land. Now I don’t take home amenities for granted.”

“Experiential learning: take people away from ordinary life, technology and social confines. Make them practice new skills,” said Kirkendall. “Setting up a tent or building a fire for the first time is challenging, but these new experiences grow the whole person.”

Phil Priolo, also a junior, joined Outdoor Adventures because he was seeking more friendship than traditional sports offered. The adventures helped him connect with others because there wasn’t a sense of competition.

“Usually, I’m a wallflower,” Priolo said. “But in an outdoor activity I can be social. It’s a safe environment.”

Kirkendall said social skills are where students grow the fastest. She believes that even though nature is rugged, it’s a place where students don’t feel judged.

“Outdoors,” she said, “students can express themselves. The normal social barriers don’t exist. You have to look people in the eye, speak to them and problem solve.”

On campus, social groups are often founded on cultural differences. Kirkendall acknowledges this is healthy for a diverse student body, but Outdoor Adventures is about uniting the SJSU community.

Erika Ghose overlooking Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Yosemite National Park 2013. (Kevin Brown photo)

Erika Ghose overlooking Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, Yosemite National Park 2013 (Kevin Brown photo).

“On trips, everyone is responsible for their own food,” she said. “People show up with Taiwanese lettuce wraps or Korean noodles. Someone always has curry. They share everything. Sharing makes a stronger community.”

Erika Ghose, a junior, lost count of her adventures. Her appreciation for what she calls “The Big Quiet,” has helped enlarge her circle of friends.

“On campus, we rarely make deep connections,” Ghose said. “On adventures, I see the other side of people, the raw person. I hear their stories and experience the world with them.”

As if an appreciation for nature, more self-confidence and a greater sense of community weren’t enough, Ghose said the outdoors help her decompress from academic life.

“The Big Quiet,” she said, “is the stillness and peace of nature. I can’t help but sit and listen, which sounds ironic. Who listens to the quiet? It’s something that’s understood away from the city and the chaos, out in the sun and the mountains, surrounded by trees.”

Spartans Best Dance Crew

Entertainment and service go hand-in-hand for Delta Sigma Phi fraternity members, who organized this unique competition showcasing local talent in order to raise over $4,500 for Smile Train. Preparations began months ago. The event was held Nov. 1 in Morris Dailey Auditorium. Read more on the results and this year’s first place team, Attack of Piepan.

Dance Crew Contest Supports Smile Train

Dance Crew Contest Supports Smile Train

Dance Crew Contest Supports Smile Train

Spartans Best Dance Crew, an award winning example of the philanthropic events sponsored by San Jose State’s fraternity and sororities, is back for a second year.

More than a dozen student crews will showcase their best dance choreography 7 p.m. Nov. 1 in Morris Dailey Auditorium. Created by students and organizations, these groups will perform their best choreography before an audience including a panel of judges.

The event is organized by Delta Sigma Phi as a fundraiser for The Smile Train, which provides free cleft surgery to hundreds of thousands of poor children in developing countries, helping the children eat and speak properly.

Last year, Spartans Best Dance Crew raised more than $3,000. This year, the fraternity’s goal is $5,000. Tickets are on sale now at the Event Center ($8 pre-sale, $10 at the door).

Sequester Hits SJSU

Sequester Hits SJSU Science Students

Sequester Hits SJSU

Congressman Mike Honda

Media contact: Pat Lopes Harris, 408-924-1748

Congressman Mike Honda will visit SJSU Sept. 5 to see first-hand how the federal sequester is hitting home for more than a dozen students seeking to reach their potential as biomedical and behavioral scientists.

“Our success rate will surely be impacted,” said Professor Leslee A. Parr, who also serves as program director for the SJSU Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program.

President Mohammad Qayoumi will join Honda as he meets students and faculty members and tours the labs where they collaborate on research, building the academic and hands-on skills students need to pursue graduate degrees.

“Investment in education at all levels has been the cornerstone of my efforts in Congress, and it is rewarding to see the work being done right here in Silicon Valley in the biomedical field,” Honda said. “Funding for programs like MARC at San Jose State University are under constant threat due to sequestration and other partisan battles in Washington, and as a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, I pledge to continue fighting to ensure that a quality education remains affordable and available to all.”

Honda will be treading on familiar ground. A Spartan with two degrees from SJSU, he received a bachelor’s in biological sciences and Spanish in 1968 and a master’s in education in 1974.

He went on to a 30-year career in education as a science teacher, school board member, principal and researcher at Stanford University.

Providing Access

The MARC program under the National Institutes for Health recently provided $252,000 to SJSU for the first year of a five-year grant. This represents a 54 percent cut from the amount awarded before the sequester.

The need is clear: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Alaska Natives and U.S. Pacific Islanders combined make up less than 5 percent of the U.S. biomedical workforce.

“Increased diversity helps expand the range of research questions asked and the perspective of analysis and application and may help to decrease health disparities,” Parr said.

The results have been excellent:

  • SJSU-MARC graduates have received 24 advanced degrees, including 12 PhDs and one MD/PhD.
  • More than 40 SJSU-MARC graduates are currently in graduate and professional programs at institutions including UC Berkeley, UCSF, UC Santa Cruz, UC Irvine and Stanford.
  • SJSU-MARC alumni are now professors at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Arizona State University and Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

But this year, when Congress resorted to a sequester to the balance the federal budget, MARC funding to SJSU was drastically reduced, forcing the university to drop five of the program’s 14 students.

Sequester Hits SJSU

Brian Castellano, ’13 chemistry, was a MARC program participant who received a fellowship for graduate school (photo by Christina Olivas).

Building Mentors

Even those who remain will sustain a 40 percent cut in tuition support, which means they’ll need to spend less time on preparing for graduate school and more time working to pay the bills, Parr said.

The sequester’s impact could go well beyond the students directly affected, given that many SJSU-MARC participants are driven by the prospect of one day mentor minority students following in their footsteps.

“That’s one of the reasons I am interested in science,” said Brian Castellano, an SJSU-MARC graduate who entered a doctoral program at UC Berkeley this fall. “There is an unlimited amount to learn and discover, and through mentoring, I am able to help others gain a similar passion.”

Alumni Association Scholarships

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

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

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

Learn more about the scholarship program. 

Alumni Association Scholarships

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

Living Legacies

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

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

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

Alumni Association Scholarships

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

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

Special Programs

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

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

 

Spartans at Work: Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose

(This summer, SJSU Today hit the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job at summer destinations throughout the Bay Area. Our 2013 Spartans at Work series continues with journalism alumnus Matthew Zane.)

Driving along Highway 87, it’s hard to miss the enormous inflatable character sitting atop a 52,000-square-foot purple building on Woz Way.

That structure is home to Children’s Discovery Museum of San Jose, which seeks to inspire creativity, curiosity and life-long learning.

For the last eight years, Matthew Zane, ’07 Journalism, has been helping the museum’s staff think through ways to interact with the region’s multicultural community.

“The experiences that I have had here have been invaluable. One of the main things that I’ve learned is how to multitask and how to keep calm and just drive toward my goals,” he said.

As a communications specialist, Zane works on cross-departmental internal and external communications, participates in outreach, and maintains the museum’s online social media presence.

In his current role, Zane strategizes how to communicate key initiatives such as Children’s Discovery Museum’s commitment to combat childhood obesity through healthy eating and active living. Zane is also helping build the museum’s online community.

“I’m learning how to give our audience and my colleagues’ valuable and useful content for the museum’s news feeds and other social media channels,” he said.

Zane started by working at the museum’s youth program summer camp. He was later hired to work full time running a volunteer program and supervising museum floor staff.

As an SJSU student, Zane learned how to interact with the public and be comfortable communicating with people.

“Looking back on all of the resources and the wealth of ideas and support that SJSU had for their students is just something that really impresses me. I could tell that if you put the work in and you were serious about pursuing a career, there where people there that would help to make that happen for you.”

 

 

Chemistry Major Receives Gilliam Fellowship

Spartan Receives Gilliam Fellowship

Chemistry Major Receives Gilliam Fellowship

Inspired by a professor, Brian Castellano changed majors from nutrition to chemistry, and will soon begin a doctoral program (Christina Olivas photo).

In recognition of his academic interests and service, chemistry major Brian Castellano has received a 2013 Gilliam Fellowship for Advanced Study.

The honor provides $46,500 annually for four years from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute, which seeks to improve the diversity of college and university faculty members by supporting students from groups traditionally underrepresented in the sciences.

“That’s one of the reasons I am interested in science: There is an unlimited amount to learn and discover, and through mentoring, I am able to help others gain a similar passion,” said Castellano, who will enter a doctoral program this fall.

Castellano arrived at SJSU in spring 2009 planning to pursue a degree in nutrition. Inspired by an enthusiastic chemistry professor and his own interest in cell research, Castellano changed his major to chemistry.

So Castellano joined Associate Professor Daryl Eggers’ research lab, where he started work on the effects of water on binding systems. Castellano currently investigates the role of water thermodynamics on aqueous binding equilibria.

“Brian is one of my strongest students ever,” Eggers said. “When I met him, I knew almost immediately he understood very subtle ideas about our research that would be very difficult for other students, a clear sign to me that he would succeed in PhD programs.”

At SJSU, Castellano has also participated in the HHMI-SCRIBE Program and the National Institute of Health’s Minority Access to Research Careers Program, both of which provided him with financial support so he could flourish academically.

Academic Mentors

“One of the rewarding aspects of being a professor is seeing your students go and do these wonderful things,” Eggers said, adding he enjoys “seeing students grow and be successful after leaving San Jose State.”

Mentoring has also been a major part of Castellano’s experience. He has helped fellow students and is a volunteer organic chemistry workshop facilitator.

Castellano is now looking forward to earning a doctorate degree in biological and biomedical sciences. He has been accepted to doctoral programs at the University of California-Berkeley, Johns Hopkins University, Yale University and the University of Pennsylvania.

Spartans Defend WAC Swimming & Diving Championship

Swimming & Diving Team Wins WAC Championship

Spartans Defend WAC Swimming & Diving Championship

Alli Davis in the 200 IM (photo courtesy of Regina Cunningham).

San Antonio, Texas — Ashlyn Acosta set a San Jose State University record in the 200 yard butterfly and the team’s overall depth prevailed as the Spartans successfully defended their Western Athletic Conference Women’s Swimming and Diving Championship.

San Jose State had 695 points in the team scoring to finish ahead of Northern Arizona’s 688 and Denver’s 631.5 in the nine-team championship. The Spartans now have back-to-back championships after not having any prior to 2012.

“When you have 25 people working together through the season with a common goal, they can do great things,” said San Jose State head coach Sage Hopkins, who was named WAC Women’s Swimming Coach of the Year for the second year in a row. “The depth and strength of our team carried us through the whole season.”

Acosta broke the school record twice on the meet’s final day with a 1:59.86 qualifying round time and a NCAA Championship provisional qualifying mark of 1:59.03 to finish second in the championship final.

The Spartans won the championship without a first place finish in any of the last 13 events on the final two days. San Jose State won the first three relay races and 2012 WAC Swimmer of the Year Marisa DeWames captured the 50 freestyle for the second year in a row during the first two days of the four-day championship meet.

Acosta and DeWames in the 100 freestyle and Amy Kilby in platform diving finished second in their events.

“They (Kilby and Jessica Holden) were humungous,” said co-captain Julia Craddock, who was third in the 200 butterfly final, about the Spartans’ diving contingent. Kilby scored points with a third in the 3-meter and fourth in the 1-meter to go along with her second in the platform. Holden’s fourth in the platform was her best finish in the WAC Championship. “They really, really helped the team and dove extremely well.”

“This is a tremendous team, a tremendous group. I’m very lucky to work with a great group of student-athletes,” Hopkins added.

Get all the results from SJSU Athletics.

Expo 2013 Job/Internship Fair

More than 2,300 students and 120 employers filled the Event Center Feb. 26 for the SJSU Career Center Expo ‘13 Job/Internship Fair. The first job seekers in the door were those who completed the Job Fair Success Webshop, a quick but effective way to learn how to shine while searching for work. A stellar line of employers waited inside, including Cisco Systems, Juniper Networks, IBM, Target, Kohl’s and Yahoo! More than 30 percent offered both job and internship opportunities. Of course the huge benefit of attending a job fair is the human dimension. The SJSU Alumni Association was on hand to greet the many recruiters who were SJSU graduates. It was awesome to see so many Spartans helping Spartans! Didn’t make it to this event? There’s lots more you can do, from a Nonprofit and Public Service Forum to informational sessions and tech talks. To learn more, check out the Career Center’s website.

San Jose Mercury News: Latina Student from Silicon Valley Creates National, Online Mentoring Program

Published by the San Jose Mercury News Feb. 18, 2013.

By Joe Rodriguez

SAN JOSE — Where Stephanie Bravo comes from, the working-class Northside neighborhood of San Jose, the title of “Doctora Bravo” sounded awfully nice in Spanish. And it almost rang true until the bright, over-achieving Mexican-American left medical school.

“Medicine wasn’t playing to my strengths,” she said recently. “It was very trying, because it kept me from doing other things that I was good at.”

One of those things earned her an invitation to the White House and recognition as an up-and-coming Latina leader. She is the founder and president of StudentMentor.org, a free online mentoring service that in fewer than three years has paired 10,000 college students across the country with 6,000 professionals eager to help them set goals and stay on course.

“It’s built like a tech company but with a social mission,” Bravo said at Santa Clara University, where she is assistant director for social media in the office of marketing and communications.

At 27, she has the big brown eyes of a curious student framed by the long, arching eyebrows of a super model, giving her a near perfect look for a millennial generation leader — optimistic, smart and cool.

What separates StudentMentor from traditional mentoring programs is that the students and mentors seldom meet face-to-face. Well, they sort of do on Skype, a video-communication service. Yet, they manage to deal with heavy issues, from choosing careers and finding money for tuition, to coping with outside responsibilities and building the confidence to stay in school and graduate.

“It’s 90 percent online, computer to computer,” Bravo explained with a laugh. “We’re millennials. We grew up using technology. Everyone is on a gadget of some sort.”

Educated girls

Growing up on the Northside, Bravo took free tennis lessons from Don Johnson, an African-American coach from back east who took a young Arthur Ashe under his wing and later helped the late tennis champion establish a nationwide tennis program for disadvantaged kids.

Bravo’s parents found the money for private piano lessons and a piano teacher in the neighborhood. Her grandfather owned El Tarasco Restaurant, a local landmark known for its mural of an ancient Mexican warrior until it was unceremoniously whitewashed after the restaurant closed. After middle school, Bravo boarded buses for the one-hour ride to a white high school in suburban San Jose.

“My mom decided education was important and that her girls needed to go to a good school without violence, drugs and high rates of failure,” Bravo recalled.

But just as the busing ultimately failed to integrate schools or deliver equal education, it didn’t work out personally for the bright, barrio girl. She still remembers being on the outside of a conversation between affluent girls discussing which stylish and expensive Coach purse to buy.

“I felt out of place,” Bravo said. “My whole world had been turned upside-down.”

After transferring and excelling at Lincoln High, a more urban campus, Bravo entered San Jose State. Still undecided about her future, she took special “interest tests” designed to help students find their true calling. She scored high on nursing. Nothing against nurses, but she was a little miffed.

“Forget that! I’m going to be a doctor,” she told herself. “I did not want to take orders. I wanted to be in charge.”

Open the mind

While taking pre-med courses at San Jose State, she joined a mentoring program for minority medical students at Stanford University. She was surprised to meet her assigned mentor, Matthew Goldstein, who was from a rich, Jewish family.

“He was a shock and I had to open my mind a bit,” she said. “But Matthew was just what I needed. He actually prompted my affinity for mentoring. He showed me that mentoring meant getting past your comfort zone, trusting other people for their experience and getting through to a sense of purpose.”

Taking a hard look around, Bravo noticed the high number of low-income, minority students dropping out of community and four-year colleges. Four of five failed to earn bachelor’s degrees by their mid-20s, she said.

After entering the University of California-Irvine medical school she started a similar mentoring program. She was already working online to raise money for orphanages and water projects in Cambodia when the idea of online mentoring popped into her head.

She took a break from medical school and teamed up with Ash Jafari, a partner in the Cambodia effort, to launch StudentMentor.org in October 2010.

“We wanted to bring mentoring to the masses,” she said.

They did, and fast. Latina magazine named her one of 10 “Next Generation Latinas” in 2012. The White House invitation came earlier in 2011. Although they were greeted by President Barack Obama, the two actually spoke with White House insiders and congressmen about the details of the program.

“That’s when the tables turned, with that visit,” Bravo said. “What I was doing had value. I liked it and decided to switch my career to education.”

Valuable contacts

Borrowing from her stereotype-busting experience with Goldstein, StudentMentor does not figure race or ethnicity into the pairing of students with mentors. It does it by field of study, career goals, financial advice and so on.

“I was interested in pursuing a finance career, so I looked for mentors who currently work in the financial services industry,” said Jason Au, a senior at San Francisco State. “I think the difference in background did not matter. All the mentors I got a chance to connect with were all very helpful and able to give me great insights about their careers.”

The online approach appeals especially to busy mentors with hectic jobs or family obligations, or who live far from the students best suited for them.

“Mentoring anytime, anywhere, sounded awesome,” said Joelle Brinkley, a graduate student, wife and mother with a full-time job. “I enrolled because it worked with my schedule but more importantly would allow me to actually have an impact on individuals’ lives in a new way.”

Another mentor, Rachel Collier, misses the face-to-face meetings with students, but going online makes for more frequent contact.

“It’s a simple idea that didn’t exist before,” Collier said. “What a great way to connect with people.”

With such early success, Bravo said she and Jafari are seeking grants to grow StudentMentor. Currently, the program runs on about $350,000 annually, much of that from in-kind services donated by 15 volunteers and paid part-timers.

For now, she’s happy at SCU, a Jesuit college where she can blend her social media skills with Catholic teaching on social justice and equality. She still lives in the family homestead in the old neighborhood.

“I like educating and bringing people together,” Bravo said. “That’s what mentoring is for me.”

 

CNN: Pairing Up to Take the Pain Out of College Search

Posted by CNN Feb. 21, 2013.

(View video.)

San Jose, California (CNN) — At 17 years old, Jessica Perez is an honor student who aspires to be the first member of her family to graduate from college.

But when it came to the application process, she felt lost, alone and ill-prepared.

“I didn’t really know where to start,” said Perez, who wants to be an astrophysicist. “There wasn’t really anybody at home that could help me figure out how I could reach my dream.”

Perez’s grandparents, who raise Perez and her two siblings, both work long hours to make ends meet. And neither continued their education beyond elementary school.

Fortunately for Perez, she was directed by her school guidance counselor to a nonprofit called Strive for College.

“It helps students who don’t really know anything about the college process,” she said. “College students come to you and they tell you how to do it because they’ve been through it also.”

Strive for College pairs high-school students with college students for free, one-on-one consultation over a yearlong period. Each pair works together through the application process for colleges, scholarships and financial aid.

“We take them through every little step of the process, because, frankly, it’s a pretty detailed process — and if you miss one step, you could ruin all your chances,” said Michael Carter, who founded the nonprofit in 2007 while he was a college freshman.

So far, Strive for College has already helped 600 low-income students across the country enter four-year colleges and universities. And it expects to help an additional 900 this year.

Carter grew up in an upper-middle-class suburb of San Jose, California. He attended private school throughout his early childhood, and he remembers his grandfather calling him a “menso” — basically translated to “moron” in Spanish — for claiming everyone in the United States got an equal shot at success.

That pessimism started to make more sense to Carter when he transferred to a public high school in his junior year.

“Going to private schools, a lot of students who didn’t do amazingly academically knew they were going to a four-year college because their parents had gone. It was just a given,” said Carter, 24. “Whereas a lot of students at my public school, even if they had great GPAs and SATs, they didn’t know if they could go to a four-year college. It was just very foreign to a lot of them.”

It didn’t help that there were two guidance counselors for roughly 1,600 students. They just couldn’t devote themselves to students who failed to approach them about college — the very students who Carter felt needed this help the most.

“This made me realize that my grandpa was right, I was a menso,” Carter said. “And it made me firmly believe that this was a problem that was solvable.”

Carter designed a pilot study during his freshman year at Washington University in St. Louis. Pairing his classmates with low-income high school students at a nearby high school, he hoped to prove that college acceptance rates could be dramatically changed.

The pilot’s success was astounding: 24 of the 27 seniors in the study were accepted into four-year colleges. In the previous year, the school’s acceptance rate was only 1 out of every 30 seniors.

“At first it was like, ‘Wow, look at this amazing miracle that happened,’ ” Carter said. “But I quickly couldn’t sleep at night thinking how many of the (students) the year before had earned the right to go (to college) and just no one helped them across the finish line.”

Carter found that his study was indicative of a more widespread problem in the United States.

“There’s over 400,000 low-income high school seniors every year who (are) qualified to go to a four-year college, and for whatever reason they just don’t go,” Carter said.

And the difference between going to college and not going to college can often mean limited career opportunities or growth. Over a 40-year career, college graduates on average make nearly $1 million more than someone with only a high school degree, according to the U.S. Census (PDF).

“When my first (mentee) called me and said, ‘I got into my first college. You helped changed my life,’ I started crying,” Carter said. “I was like, ‘I think I really did help change your life.’ And it was just an amazing feeling.”

With the help of high-school administrators, Strive for College targets youth who attend schools where 50% or more of the students are eligible to receive free or reduced lunch.

To participate, students must have a GPA of at least 2.0. Interested students fill out a questionnaire about their academic and financial histories as well as their interests, abilities and ambitions. Then they can attend a “speed-dating-style” session in which they choose their college student mentor.

Throughout the school year, pairs meet at the high school once a week for an hour. The process takes the students through each step: selecting their target schools, filling out applications, writing essays, obtaining letters of recommendation, targeting scholarships and financial aid, reporting test scores and completing entrance exams.

“As a mentor, your role can be coach, pseudo-parent, cheerleader,” Carter said. “But it’s that amazing near-peer connection of young people with young people … helping them through a process you just went through yourself, and taking the mystery and anxiety out of it, that I think is really important.”

Strive for College also aims to help students graduate with the least amount of student loan debt possible, ensuring stronger graduation rates and enhancing the college experience. With scholarships and financial aid, 40% of Strive students attend four-year colleges without having to come out of pocket for their tuition — compared with 32% of low-income college students nationwide.

Beginning this spring, mentors and mentees will be able to communicate and track progress over the interactive “UStrive” community website. The social network will allow students to track the curriculum’s calendar and see when their peers complete major steps in the application process. Participants can make suggestions and bookmark items of interest for others.

Carter has found that the social component helps students stay on track with their goals.

“It creates peer pressure, but of a rare, positive kind. As they see one another looking at great universities and trying to aim for great financial aid packages, then their peers, their friends also say, ‘If you can do that, I can, too.’ And they start to raise their goals,” he said. “It’s a really powerful process in which you’re building a culture of achievement in the schools.”

It’s a culture that helped Shanna Brancato raise her own academic ambitions. The former foster child had never considered college as part of her future when she was encouraged to attend her first Strive for College session in her junior year of high school.

“I’ve never really thought of myself as the greatest student. College was not on my mind,” she said. “Now I’m a sophomore at San Jose State University. My full tuition is covered, and I’m mentoring a high school student.”

Many former mentees, like Brancato, become Strive for College mentors.

“It’s that ‘paying it forward’ mentality that is building a Strive movement that will solve this problem, I think, within the next decade,” Carter said.

Carter graduated from college in 2010 and has devoted himself full-time to his nonprofit. Strive for College now has 12 university chapters working in 15 high schools nationwide, and it is planning to launch eight more chapters this year.

“The more we grow, the more students we help, the greater our impact, the bigger our movement,” Carter said. “We’ll go from changing hundreds to thousands of lives, to changing hundreds of thousands, and some day soon, even millions.

“I’m so sure this will happen, because I believe in our generation. I know our mentors. I know the students we serve. And I know that together we are going to solve this problem.”

Want to get involved? Check out the Strive for College website at www.striveforcollege.org and see how to help.

 

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.

Animation/Illustration Winners

The SJSU Animation/Illustration program continues to win prizes at regional, state and national competitions. Originally conceived to give locals a chance to compete for careers in the screen arts, the program now attracts students nationally and internationally.

Recent graduate Michelle Ikemoto and a production team composed of classmates won awards for Best Film Under 30 Minutes and Best Student Film for their animated short film, “Tule Lake.” Tule Lake is a tribute to the director’s late grandmother and the risks she took to preserve normalcy for her family during their exile in the Tule Lake internment camp during World War II. The awards were sponsored by CreaTV San Jose, a non-profit that seeks to inspire, educate and connect San Jose communities using media to foster civic engagement. The ceremony was held Jan. 5 at San Jose’s historic California Theater. Previous wins for Tule Lake include first place for Animation and a tie for Best In Show in the CSU Media Arts festival in November 2012.

Two films won awards at the AsiansOnFilm Festival. “Couch & Potatoes,” a stop-motion film produced and directed by May 2012 graduate Chris Lam and senior Eunsoo Jeong, was the winner in the Short Animation category. “A Knock On My Door,” directed by Associate Professor David Chai and produced by his 2012 Advanced Animation class, took Honorable Mention in the same category. The festival, which is sponsored by AsiansonFilm.com, will be held Feb. 15-17 at J.E.T. Studios in North Hollywood.

Chai and team also won the gold medal in the Moving Image Category at the New York Society of Illustrators 55th Annual Exhibition for their animated short film, “A Knock on My Door.” The film has a two-fold San Jose State connection as it documents the life of David Chai’s father, SJSU Professor Emeritus of Electrical Engineering Hi Dong Chai. The awards ceremony was held Jan. 4 in New York City. The Society of Illustrators Annual Exhibition is open to artists worldwide, and each year a jury of top professionals considers thousands of entries before selecting the best for inclusion in their exhibition at the society’s gallery in New York. Professor Chai’s accomplishment marks the first time that SJSU has received a gold medal at this prestigious venue.

Five illustrations by SJSU A/I Lecturer Inga Poslitur were accepted into the Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles Illustration West 51Competition. Her illustration “Eve Redeemed” received the gold medal. The Society of Illustrators of Los Angeles was founded in 1953 to promote the professional status of illustration art as well as to foster both philanthropic and educational projects. From this small beginning, SILA has grown into a productive membership whose work is seen locally and nationally by millions in printed media, television, films, online and at gallery exhibitions. Today, SILA is firmly established as a major professional art entity on the West Coast.

Spartan Shops Hires New Head Chef

Spartan Shops Hires Head Chef

Spartan Shops Hires New Head Chef

Head Chef Mario DeLuca (photo by Sherry Estrada)

By Stephanie Fabian, Spartan Shops Marketing Manager

Spartan Shops would like to welcome the newest member of our culinary team, Head Chef Mario DeLuca.

He comes to San Jose State from the Midwest. Born and raised in Chicago, he worked throughout the Chicagoland area in several restaurants and country clubs, including his externship at the historic, 86-year-old Italian Village, where he mastered Italian cooking.

This complements the classical French cooking he learned while pursuing a bachelor’s in culinary management at Kendall College in Evanston, Ill., where he sharpened his skills under the wing of a French chef with over 55 years of experience.

DeLuca has taken part in a variety of culinary contests and holds first and second place medals in jeune commis (young chef) mystery basket competitions as well as a silver medal in the American Culinary Federation professional mystery basket competition.

Noteworthy positions he has held include executive chef at Lambeau Field (home of the Green Bay Packers) and the Rock Gardens banquet facility in Wisconsin; sous chef at the Village California Bistro and Wine Bar at Santana Row and, most recently, he was responsible for opening a newly remodeled café at the Hewlett-Packard headquarters in Palo Alto.

Chef Mario’s strong commitment to delivering quality cuisine and the highest standards of customer service will fit in well with our existing team in the catering department. He will provide leadership and direction to the culinary production staff for the Student Union Food Court and commissary as well.

Spartan Shops is excited about the breadth of experience Chef Mario brings to our organization and we look forward to displaying an array of new menu items and improved recipes to showcase at both our university and off-site events.

Student Learning and Research Commons

Student Learning & Research Commons

Student Learning and Research Commons

The view from the SJSU Student Learning and Research Commons (Elisabeth Thomas photo).

Are you a student looking for a comfortable place to work on a research paper, where you can borrow a computer and get help from a librarian?

Then you might want to check out the SJSU Student Learning and Research Commons at the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library. A grand opening and dedication will be held 1 p.m. Jan. 31 in the space, which is above the Children’s Room.

“This new space brings technology and support together in one physical place, and it will continue to grow and change as technology and student needs grow and change,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Junn.

The commons also offers a glimpse of the future for libraries.

“Today information comes to us. With e-books and databases, students can do much of their research from home or even while riding public transit,” said University Library Dean Ruth Kifer. “But even as information becomes increasingly digital, students still need a physical space to talk, plan and learn.”

Need a printer or wifi? No problem. Both will be available at the commons, along with desktops, laptops and iPads. You’ll also find meeting space with whiteboards for group projects. And in case you’ve got a question, library staff will be right there for research and technical support.

You’ll need your Tower Card to get in. This commons is for SJSU only. On Jan. 31, everyone will be treated to complimentary coffee and hourly giveaways.

For the rest of spring term, the commons will be open 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday.

Students Learn #ItCanWait

Did you know…

  • taking your eyes off the interstate to read a text is like driving blind for the length of a football field?
  • driving while texting is like piloting a 3,000-pound metal missile with your eyes closed?
  • more than 100,000 crashes annually involve drivers who are texting?
  • drivers who text are almost 25 times more likely to crash?

Speakers shared these facts and more at a “Txtng & Drivng… It Can Wait” news conference Jan. 25 in the SJSU Event Center. Vice President for Student Affairs William Nance opened the event by recalling his response when AT&T offered to help: “I said, ‘Absolutely, we’ll figure out how and when to do it.’” AT&T Regional Vice President for External Affairs Marc Blakeman announced an Apple version of DriveMode is in the works. This Android and Blackberry app sends auto-replies to people who text, email and call while you’re on the road so you can keep your hands on the wheel. University Police Department Chief of Police Peter Decena, San Jose Police Department Commander of Traffic Enforcement Jason Ta and SJPD Officer Jim Hagen (all SJSU alumni!) noted police will hold 23 texting and driving enforcement events this year.  Associated Students of SJSU President Calvin Worsnup was the first of many to take a spin on AT&T’s texting and driving simulator, which looks alot like an arcade driving game equipped with a cell phone for texting. Some students were super cautious, both most crashed within minutes. KGO Bay Area News, the San Jose Mercury News, Spartan Daily and Update News covered the event to help spread the word. To learn more, check out the “Txtng & Drivng… It Can Wait” website, where you can watch videos and take the pledge “to never txt and drive.”