September 2018 Newsletter: Provost Update – A New Year Full of Opportunities

Dear University Community,

Welcome back! I am pleased to be starting an exciting year with all of you at San Jose State University. We begin this new academic year with nearly 36,000 regular and special session students, a cohort of 65 tenure/tenure-track new faculty and many exciting opportunities to advance our research, scholarship and creative activities, and our student success mission.

In these early weeks, I have immersed myself in getting to know about all of you at events such as the faculty-in-residence and faculty fellows reception; a new faculty reception; and the 15th Anniversary of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, among other gatherings. I have also shared a bit about myself. As I said during a marathon of college welcomes on Aug. 20, I have 45 years of experience in higher education dating back to my time as a teaching fellow at New York University. It has been an honor to have had such a long career in the academy, with much of my time spent as a professor of Public Health and administrator at Montclair State University.

These have been rich experiences balancing teaching, research on women’s health issues and administrative work at a public university not unlike San Jose State, and it has been gratifying. When I first visited SJSU last year as a consultant for then-Provost Andy Feinstein, the exemplary record of scholarly accomplishment by faculty and students here impressed me. Early fall events on campus afforded an opportunity to more deeply understand who the faculty are at San Jose State, and,  it was invigorating to meet so many faculty and staff firsthand.

This fall continues with many more events, including the University Scholars Series that highlights the extraordinary work of our faculty, starting with Associate Professor Aaron Romanowsky from the Department of Physics and Astronomy on Sept. 26, at noon, in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, Room 225/229. See the full schedule online.

We also begin the academic year with one of our own recognized with the California State University Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award. Margaret “Peggy” Stevenson founded the Record Clearance Project, a program that provides SJSU students an opportunity to work within the justice system while providing community service. These students help those with a criminal conviction expunge their records so they can have a new lease on life. Read more online.

As I shared with faculty in a memo on Sept. 4, we are launching a new Research, Scholarship and Creative Activity (RSCA) Reassigned Time program in January. It will redefine what it looks like to be a teacher-scholar at San Jose State. This program builds on a three-year project started by former Provost Feinstein to understand and develop a means through which RSCA for faculty may be equitably and fully supported by the university, and used as a way to advance the professional work of our faculty.

We recognize three broad areas of faculty endeavor – teaching, scholarship and service – and faculty are expected to be active in each area. Scholarship is a core activity for all faculty members, and scholar/artists are critically important for student development and engagement in the wider academic community. I look forward to working with college deans to implement this new program for tenured and tenure track faculty to help them succeed with their RSCA agendas while also providing our students with conceptual skills that prepare them for careers and a future we can only begin to imagine.

Let’s have a great semester!


Joan C. Ficke
Interim Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

January 2018 Newsletter: Provost Update – Student Achievements are Our Success

Welcome back! I am looking forward to an exciting spring semester as we continue to create a strategic plan that will take us through the next decade. As co-chair of the Strategic Planning Steering Committee with Stefan Frazier (Academic Senate Chair), I appreciate all the input that has been shared in the community conversations and online surveys.Students, staff, faculty, alumni, elected officials, advisory board members and other campus stakeholders all noted our strengths—the excellence of our academic programs, our welcoming community, an immense school spirit, our diversity, and the university’s location in San Jose—as well as our potential. I agree with you that our greatest asset is our people.

As we start a new year and renew the university’s commitment to student success, I am pleased to share examples of how students thrive with our support. We have students who present their research at national conferences, who have engaged in innovative product development that wows industry leaders, and who are shedding light on social issues such as homelessness and illiteracy.

SJSU students and Professor Fred Barez display a made-from-scratch vehicle at the SV Auto ShowThe students featured this month come from a variety of majors, colleges and they have diverse backgrounds, but they all have one factor in common—they have forged connections with faculty, staff or administrators who guide them along the way to their achievements.

In fact, we can all help students in big and small ways. As an example, last fall we asked faculty to be sure to submit their course material and textbook requests on time to the Spartan Bookstore so that students would be able to attain required materials by the first day of class. We increased on-time submissions from 46 percent for spring 2017 to 98 percent for this semester. Thank you for making this small change to benefit our students!

I encourage staff and faculty to attend the inaugural Student Success Symposium on March 15, where leaders from other institutions will share the ways they have been successful in supporting students. Look for a save-the-date soon.

I also would like to invite everyone to join the Strategic Planning Steering Committee on the next step of our journey on February 9, from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., in the Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom. The committee will share the draft goal areas that came out of the many fall sessions, followed by a community conversation with lunch. Visit the strategic Planning Website to RSVP for the event and to view a summary of the fall input.

I hope you will be able to join me at our Third Annual Interdivisional Competition on February 10 as well. Enjoy an afternoon of free food, pre-game activities, fun and a friendly competition with our colleagues across campus as the Spartan Women’s Basketball team takes on the Colorado State Rams. RSVP by Feb 2.

With such a busy semester ahead, I am pleased to announce the launch of a new Academic Affairs Activities page on the Office of the Provost website. The page features informational items from the units and colleges within our division such as grant application deadlines, changes to policy, upcoming events and more.

I look forward to working with all of you as we continue to develop a strategic plan and advance support of students. I know we all have an incredible semester ahead of us!

Andy Feinstein
Provost and Senior VP for Academic Affairs

November Newsletter 2017: Provost Update – Countless Reasons to be Thankful

As we return from Thanksgiving break – refreshed and ready for the final weeks of the fall term – I want to take a moment to express gratitude for our students, staff, faculty and alumni. One of my favorite duties as provost and senior vice president for academic affairs is working with inspirational colleagues who are dedicated, hardworking and generous.

Provost Andy Feinstein and the Academic Affairs Leadership team host an appreciation breakfast to say thanks to the 500+ staff members who support faculty and students in the division. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Provost Andy Feinstein and the Academic Affairs Leadership team host an appreciation breakfast to say thanks to the 500+ staff members who support faculty and students in the division. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

Earlier this month, I hosted the Academic Affairs Staff Appreciation Breakfast with the division’s leadership team – a great opportunity to see our staff members come together and to hear from their supervisors about the great work they do each day. This year, we invited peers to share positive stories about their colleagues. The shout-outs, as we called them, highlighted the many great things I see in our hardworking staff – greeting students with grace and enthusiasm; going the extra mile; acting with patience and good humor; seeking ways to help colleagues.

I also had the honor of recognizing some of our longest-serving employees at the 50th Spartan Service Celebration, where 116 Spartan staff members were recognized for service milestones. I was moved by videos during which honorees shared personal memories.

An especially poignant story was Jack Harding’s. Jack began working as a lab technician 35 years ago in the aeronautics department (now Aviation and Technology) and since has moved on to become a telecommunications network analyst in IT.

Jack’s two sons grew up on our campus, regularly attending football games and campus events. Both eventually enrolled here as college students. His oldest son, Jack Jr., joined the Marines after graduation, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. He was welcomed back to the campus in 2011 when Jack Sr. and his wife were invited to present his lieutenant stripes in a stirring ceremony.

All of our staff – whether they have served SJSU for months, or decades – deserve our support. That includes professional development opportunities; I am pleased that we have the resources this year to again offer the Staff Professional Development Grant Program. These stipends allow staff members to develop skills that can enhance their capacity to serve our students. We have approved 229 proposals to date, and hope to issue another call for applications in early spring.

Many members of our campus community “pay it forward” by helping those following in their path. This includes our Emeritus and Retired Faculty Association (ERFA), which created a research, scholarship and creative activities (RSCA) grant program to help current faculty members advance their professional growth. Last year’s recipients included Anthropology Department Assistant Professor AJ Faas and School of Social Work Assistant Professor Nicole Dubus.

Another reason for gratitude is the many alumni whose financial support helps current and future students achieve their goals. A generous gift from Marion Cilker, ’39, established a scholarship for students interested in infusing arts into education and funded an annual conference. While Ms. Cilker passed away in 2012, her generosity lives on, supporting current and aspiring teachers seeking ways to incorporate art into diverse curricula for K-12 students.

Students also are benefiting from strategic collaborations. A partnership with nonprofit Braven Bay Area fueled a program for first-generation, underrepresented minority students that connects them with community mentors at high-tech companies and nonprofits and develops personal skills for future career searches.

These are just some of the people, programs and connections that are empowering us to power student success. In this season of gratitude, I’m especially mindful of your remarkable contributions. Thank you!

Academic Affairs Celebrates Staff Contributions

On Nov. 9, the Academic Affairs Leadership Team showed their gratitude for the nearly 500 dedicated staff members in the division who support students, faculty and administrators at the annual Academic Affairs Division Staff Appreciation Breakfast.

“I want to personally express my gratitude for your year-round commitment to supporting our division,” said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Andy Feinstein, noting that some staff members provide positive touchpoints for students while others have important behind-the-scenes roles. “All of you have an important hand in the success of our students and the university on a daily basis. You are integral to the quality of life on our campus and I thank each and every one of you.”

At the breakfast, each of the college deans and unit heads took a turn sharing a personal thank you to their employees. The festivities included drawings for gift baskets – one per college or unit – as well as other prizes.

This year, staff members were asked to share their own “shouts outs” to coworkers for doing exemplary work. The dozens of comments exemplified the characteristics and actions that make Spartan staff members so great: they greet students with grace and enthusiasm; they go the extra mile; they are patient and funny; they are team players.

Entertainment this year again included a photo booth where coworkers took silly snapshots with props (photos can be viewed online) and Grupo Folklorico Luna y Sol de San Jose State, a group of SJSU students who perform traditional Mexican dances. See more photos from the event online.

October 2017 Newsletter: Provost Update – Greatness Happens When Disciplines Intersect

While Halloween is still a day away, I had the pleasure of celebrating early this month at McKinley Elementary School during the 10th Annual Safe and Green Halloween Festival. The yearly event hosted by SJSU’s CommUniverCity and the city of San Jose brings together neighborhood children and families for an afternoon of fun while also teaching them about sustainability and healthy living. SJSU students and faculty from the health science, business and environmental studies programs worked with dozens of officials to make the event a success.

As economist Robert J. Shiller once said, “In the longer run and for wide-reaching issues, more creative solutions tend to come from imaginative interdisciplinary collaboration.” We take this to heart at our university. The October event is just one example of the multi-disciplinary learning opportunities we provide for our students. Through these experiences, they are prepared for a world that increasingly requires collaboration on interdisciplinary teams. Whether our students pursue careers in the arts, sciences, technology, business, healthcare, the public sector or nonprofits, they will be prepared for the kind of thoughtful interactions that can lead to groundbreaking developments.

We have a long history of taking an interdisciplinary approach to education, as with our Humanities Honors Program founded in 1954. The program appeals to students from a variety of majors who understand that a strong foundation in communication and critical thinking will benefit them – in engineering, business, psychology or any one of a multitude of majors. In another unique course, students enrolled in a Global Climate Change benefit from natural science, environmental studies and communications perspectives in a team-taught course that highlights how climate scientists and advocates need to find an effective way to communicate to the public.

Our university is a rich environment for people with different skill sets and interests to connect, and sometimes this intersection of passions happen within one individual. This is surely the case for Chemistry Professor Bradley Stone who recently won an award for a weekly jazz music program and for Professor Gordon Douglas whose teaching and research explores the connection between urban political-economy, community studies and the cultures of planning and design.

As we continue to focus on student success, I am excited to explore more ways we can foster interdisciplinary learning, teaching and research on our campus.

Happy Halloween!