Today’s Tech Revolution Requires Some Humanity, Papazian Tells Sacramento Bee Readers in Opinion Piece

President Mary A. Papazain is a strong proponent of the value of the humanities, liberal arts and social sciences in higher education. Here, she served as a featured guest for the Frankenstein Bicentennial Monster Discussion Panel in 2018. Photo by David Schmitz.

An op-ed by San Jose State University President Mary A. Papazian published in the October 29 edition of the Sacramento Bee asserts that “the liberal arts must remain a vital part of higher education for the sake of the future of our students, our economy, and our society.”

Drawing largely on her academic background and expertise on the English Renaissance era, Papazian writes that “Just as the Renaissance opened mankind’s eyes to the reality that we do not sit at the center of the universe, today’s technology age has expanded our capabilities beyond the imaginations of only decades ago.” She goes on to note how Renaissance figures such as John Donne and Leonardo di Vinci exemplified many of the humanist principles lacking in today’s technology innovators.

Papazian said the messages conveyed in her op-ed piece are more vital than ever, particularly given the perils of technology and social media that have manifested in attacks on elections and the democratic process.

“It is vital that we understand the true impact of the technology-driven world in which we now live,” she said. “We need to be able to guard our global society against the dangers of this digital age. How we ensure that the next generation interacts more responsibility with technology than we have done this far is critical, and refocusing on the talents of humanists and liberal arts is an excellent place to start.”

In July, Papazian delivered a well-received speech at the Council of Graduate Schools Summer Workshop titled “Humanities for the 21st Century: Innovation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” There, she pointed out that “the hard skills learned from STEM programs are essential, but employers actually are desperate for candidates who have balanced their personal portfolios with both digital capabilities and human understanding.”

The partnering of STEM disciplines with the liberal arts, she asserted, can lead to true academic impact at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

“Students will work in groups all their professional lives, and they must be able to collaborate effectively with people from a broad array of backgrounds and working styles,” said Papazian. “They must be able to communicate in a variety of ways, using digital tools that we know are evolving with stunning rapidity. And they will be required to be creative and confident.

“Where better to learn all of this than in our labs and studios on our campuses? Where better to learn the capacity for these things than in our classrooms and our community-based projects?” she asks.

Developing the tools and the ability to talk about ethics, unconscious bias and the complexity of emotions within individuals and cultures, Papazian said, can help students recognize the choices that lead to collaboration rather than conflict.

“The liberal arts need to be a vital part of the education spectrum if we are to have any hope of addressing the problems we are seeing and reading about on almost a daily basis,” she said.

“Our challenge—and our opportunity—is to seize the moment to influence and shape history meaningfully in this, our present Renaissance.”

 

National Engineers Week: SJSU Teaches Top Tech Trends

National Engineers Week is February 17-23, with more than 70 engineering, education and cultural societies and more than 50 corporations and government agencies involved in events and activities to celebrate the profession and promote STEM education around the nation. Ranked #3 in the nation among public engineering programs offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees, according to U.S. News & World Report 2019, and a top contributor of talent to Silicon Valley, San Jose State University will be celebrating the faculty, students and programs that make up our Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering in a series of stories on our Newsroom and social media channels. The College of Engineering offers 13 engineering disciplines with 7,400 students enrolled and works closely with its Engineering Industry Advisory Council to ensure the curriculum and learning experiences offered to its students align with workforce needs.

Ahmed Banafa Photo by David Schmitz

Ahmed Banafa
Photo by David Schmitz

Teaching the Top Trends in Technology

Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering Professor Ahmed Banafa, who was recently ranked by LinkedIn as the number one voice to follow in technology, has identified four hot tech trends for 2019. For anyone who uses a fitness tracker, smart phone, email or other applications, asks Alexa or Google Home what the weather will be like today, or accesses public records, these hot trends have potential to impact all these devices and technologies.

An image depicts the hot tech trends of 2019: Internet of Things, Blockchain, AI, and Cybersecurity. Infographic courtesy of Ahmed Banafa.

An image depicts the hot tech trends of 2019: Internet of Things, Blockchain, AI, and Cybersecurity. Infographic courtesy of Ahmed Banafa.

The trends include the Internet of Things, Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence and Cybersecurity, or as Banafa has dubbed them “IBAC.” SJSU students are learning about these cutting edge technologies in their classrooms, with students and faculty engaged in research in each area.

“SJSU is at the leading edge in all these trends,” Banafa said. “We have classes covering all of them. We teach IoT and we have an excellent lab for that class. I teach the Blockchain class and I show the students how to tap into and use the blockchain network as well as how to create their own cryptocurrency.”

Banafa shares why each area is a boon.

“IoT is what you see now in Alexa, Siri and Google Assistant,” he said. “They are the hubs of IoT future devices and there is a war between the mentioned companies to dominate this market of $1.7 trillion.”

In December, he shared his top predictions for IoT in the coming year. Banafa noted that the number of devices using IoT technology is likely to increase to 3.6 billion that are actively connected to the Internet and used for daily tasks, with their ability to collect data expanding as 5G technology is introduced. He noted as well that digital transformations in industries such as manufacturing and healthcare have tremendous  impact to improve either production performance and patient care, respectively.

In a similar post last September, Banafa shared his predictions for emerging blockchain technology, one of the newer topics covered at SJSU, as providing security a new perspective where human logic is involved at the top of encryption.

“I am really proud of SJSU for covering all the areas mentioned in IBAC with the last piece of the puzzle, Blockchain,” Banafa said. “Few universities in the world teach it. We are in good company with Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford and Berkeley.”

AI continues to gain traction, he said, with the development of “smart devices” including speakers, homes and now cities.

Cybersecurity remains a critical issue, one that is being tackled on multiple fronts through SJSU’s interdisciplinary Silicon Valley Big Data and Cybersecurity Center.

“Just read the news and you will see that we have daily breaches,” he said, noting a recent Marriott Hotels breach that impacted up to 500 million guests along with a Facebook breach that exposed 50 million accounts.

The college has more than 400 faculty members who teach in its 13 departments, many who are engaged in research or work in industries that keep them up to date on the latest trends in engineering, and the program offers interdisciplinary service learning experiences for students.

“Our engineering students at SJSU are positioned better, perhaps, than any other public university in the country to quickly adapt to the newest needs of a rapidly evolving technology market,” said Sheryl Ehrman, dean of the College of Engineering. “Our hands-on curriculum focuses on strong fundamentals to enable development of critical thinking skills that will serve students throughout their career. They can choose elective courses in emerging areas such as Blockchain and AI/machine-learning. Student projects often involve other emerging areas such as IoT, alternative transportation, nanomedicine, micro-robotics and cybersecurity.”