September 2016 Newsletter: Provost Update – Creating a Culture of Success

Over the summer, I had the pleasure of meeting many of our incoming students and their parents at orientation sessions. The students were full of excitement, mixed with a little nervousness, at starting a new chapter in their lives at San Jose State University. I talked with many of these Spartans and their families; the overwhelming emotion they expressed is optimism about their future.

Our new Spartans and their families shared with VP for Student Affairs Reggie Blaylock and me at orientation that they want to complete their degrees in four years for first-time students and two years for transfer students. They believe they can do it. Reggie and I believe they can do it, too. We are committed to doing everything we can to ensure they succeed at San Jose State — and we need you to join us in supporting our students to attain their goals.

SJSU’s Four Pillars of Student Success: College Readiness, Advising, Student Engagement and Clearing Bottlenecks will continue to lead our campus-wide efforts to make meaningful improvements around student success. As our Academic Senate Chair Michael Kimbarow said at the President’s Welcome Address in August, we are tearing down the walls between divisions and using our four pillars to support all students. Academic Affairs and Student Affairs staff and faculty are working together in unprecedented ways to connect students with resources while helping them build meaningful relationships. Our other divisions — University Advancement, Administration and Finance, and Athletics — are also working closely with us in creating a culture of success at SJSU.

We welcome the leadership of our new President Mary Papazian, who is committed to improving graduation and retention rates while also enhancing the student experience at SJSU. She brings with her a strong background in developing strategies to lead our efforts. She is supportive of the work we have undertaken and I am confident she will provide enthusiastic vision as we move forward.

I am especially looking forward to co-hosting a Student Success Summit with Assemblymember Evan Low on Sept. 30 to explore ways we can work with our K-12 and community college partners, and legislative leaders, to improve graduation and retention rates. While most of the day’s events will be closed to the public, the general campus is invited to hear Martha Kanter, former under secretary of the U.S. Department of Education and a former chancellor of the Foothill-DeAnza Community College District, give a keynote speech from 8 to 9 a.m. in Student Union Room 1.

Through our partnership with Student Affairs, we have launched a few exciting initiatives this year including the Spartan Scholars Program, a new mentor community and a Faculty-In-Residence program. We are continuing the Coffee with a Professor program that allows students to have informal interactions with faculty. In addition, Stacy Gleixner, interim AVP for Student Academic Success, and Amy Strage, AVP for Faculty Development and director of the Center for Faculty Development, are sharing weekly tips on how faculty can easily incorporate high-impact practices into courses.

I am also looking for ways to engage with students, staff and faculty members throughout the year. Reggie and I spent the first home football game with the Spartan Squad students who shouted their school spirit. I will attend many more Athletics events this semester and would love to see you all there. I’ve enjoyed meeting Spartans at many welcome back events in recent weeks, including those hosted by the Chicanx/Latinx Student Success Task Force and the African American Student Success Task Force. I also would like to coordinate monthly disc golf games for students, staff and faculty members who know the sport to compete with me in a friendly face off. If you are interested and know the basics of disc golf, send me an email at

As we continue in our fall semester, please remember that we are all responsible for helping our students succeed – in and out of the classroom. I appreciate having all of you as partners in this vitally important work.

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