November 2017 Newsletter: Cilker Conference and Scholarship Promotes Arts in Education

Photo: Luisa Morco San Jose State University students and community members participate in the 2017 Marion Cilker Conference for the Arts in Education in a session where they learn to incorporate music into class lessons.

Photo: Luisa Morco
San Jose State University students and community members participate in the 2017 Marion Cilker Conference for the Arts in Education in a session where they learn to incorporate music into class lessons.

By Melissa Anderson

Marion Cilker, a 1939 alumna of the College of Humanities and the Arts, had a lifelong passion for arts in education that she wanted to share with future generations of teachers. 70 years after her own degree completion, she donated to the Connie L. Lurie College of Education to establish a scholarship and conference to foster the same ideals in prospective and current educators.

Cilker was both an artist and an educator who worked at Turlock High School in California’s central valley for many years – teaching stagecraft and art. But her love of the arts was born long before that, even before she attended what was then known as San Jose State College. She discovered art in high school, and it led her to her college major, a career and travels around the world, including a first trip to Europe after high school to see art masterpieces.

Sarah Henderson, ’18 Child and Adolescent Development MA, is one of three recipients of the Marion Cilker Scholarship for Infusing Art into Education, who shares the same passion for arts in education as Cilker.

“I applied (for the scholarship) because my research interests involve arts in education and arts as a means for higher positive outcomes for children in schools,” she said, noting that the scholarship is helping her complete her education as well as prepare for her future goal to continue research in that area. “I would like to obtain a PhD, possibly become a professor, and work in advocacy with nonprofits or policy-influencing organizations in order to shift public perception on the arts.

Katelyn Palmer, who will complete her single-subject credential in spring 2018 for teaching art, is another of the scholarship recipients. After she graduates, she hopes to get a position as an art teacher at a high school or middle school with a high special-needs population.

“I think making art collaboratively can be synonymous with making connections so I hope to give students more tools to communicate and advocate for themselves and others which they can learn inside the classroom community and bring out into the world,” she said.

Henderson and Palmer both volunteered at the 2017 Marion Cilker Conference for the Arts in Education, co-sponsored by the College of Education and the Santa Clara County Office of Education. The Nov. 3-4 conference brought together students, teachers and parents with local artists and arts organizations to share the joy of teaching through the arts. The conference included a half-day session on Nov. 3 that was free for SJSU students with about 200 in attendance and a half-day session on Nov. 4 for teachers, parents, administrators and interested community members. About 80 people participated in the Saturday sessions held at the San Jose Museum of Art, the Children’s Discovery Museum, Movimiento do Arte y Cultura Latino Americana (MACLA), San Jose Museum of Quilts and Textiles, and Works/San Jose where artists and arts organizations gave presentations and planned activities.

“The best part of participating was attending sessions and exploring the Children’s Discovery Museum,” Henderson said.

She led a group of attendees to presentations and participated in activities on Saturday that included creating a nature journal and creating instruments out of recycled objects as well as writing lyrics to the tune of any children’s song.

Palmer met with presenters and on Saturday participated in a workshop called “String it Up Recyclable Art.”

“I loved getting to interact with teachers who are at different points in their careers,” she said. “I talked to a lot of teachers about why they were attending the conference and they talked about how much they valued art which gets me really excited to be in a school and collaborate with teachers in other subject areas.”

Henderson agreed that the artistic activities benefit students well beyond art class.

“The developmental outcomes for children who have consistent education in a variety of arts (music, fine art, sculpture, sewing, theatre, dance) are much higher than for those who do not,” Henderson said, noting that arts education requirements across the nation are inconsistent. “We are robbing our children of access to creative thinking and self-expression by cutting arts programs and undervaluing the importance of the arts.”

During welcome remarks at the Friday morning session, SJSU President Mary Papazian shared her own thoughts about arts in education.

“The arts open up a world of creativity and curiosity, of innovation and collaboration,” Papazian said. “I want this to expand. I am encouraging our campus community to see all academic disciplines as complementary—humanities and the arts; the sciences and technology; social sciences and business; health and other applied disciplines. It is at these intersections where magic happens.”

Henderson reiterated that thought.

“It is important to understand that no field can exist without the arts—engineers need to use CAD software to imagine their creations; programmers need to work with designers to create an attractive product; all companies need advertisers to sell their products using imagery,” she said.

Students Form Connections to Professors and Curriculum in Humanities Honors

By Melissa Anderson

Professor James Lindahl, philosophy and humanities, lectures on Greek philosophers to a class of Humanities Honors program students. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Professor James Lindahl, philosophy and humanities, lectures on Greek philosophers to a class of Humanities Honors program students. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

Alisala Nunes, a first-year student, initially wanted to attend a liberal arts school. But when she discovered she could pursue a degree in civil engineering at San Jose State University’s top-ranked Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering and apply for the Humanities Honors program, it seemed like a win-win.

“It was a nice surprise that SJSU had a program like this,” she said.

The Humanities Honors program was founded in 1954 by four professors who combined history, literature, arts and philosophy education into a four-semester program that fulfills many GE requirements while also providing a learning community for students. The students stay together as a cohort for four semesters.

“I’ve made a few friends in my seminar,” Nunes said. “Most friends are from my living situation or major, so it’s nice to have a switch to talk to people who are interested in other things.”

For Nunes, she said the Humanities Honors Program has already begun to teach her the analytic and communication skills she will need for engineering, where she sees the ability to work as team member to be essential.

“I leave every lecture with new ideas and see the interconnectivity of disciplines,” she said. “I see how art, religion, law and culture tie together.”

Professor Cynthia Rostankowski, the coordinator of the program, said the majority of students who enter the program are from non-Humanities majors, such as business, psychology, economics, computer science and others. She noted that the qualifications for the program are within reach of many students, with a requirement that they have a 3.0 unweighted GPA and 550 on the SAT reading/writing section (students can also qualify with select other entrance exams or a 3+ on an AP English exam.)

“A lot of people think it is just for high-achieving students,” Rostankowski said. “But it’s really to help students learn how to learn.”

Through the program, students attend a lecture class that is team taught by four professors and then break out into smaller groups for seminar sessions.
Carmel Weiler, a graduate student in philosophy and Rostankowski’s teaching assistant, said she joined the program as an undergraduate. Even though she had to stop out for personal reasons, she said being part of the program helped her resolve to return to her education years later. During her time away from her studies, she kept all her books; they benefited her as she tutored neighborhood kids.

“The program stressed how to write well, and that will help me in the research phase,” she said, as she continues to work on her master’s and plans to pursue a doctorate.

In 2014, the department began offering an Advanced Honors Program that works on the same principles, completing SJSU Studies areas R, S and V. It is a two-semester program that is team-taught and provides a cohort for upper division students who have successfully completed the WST, including incoming transfer students.

Isaiah McNair-Wilson, a transfer student who will be graduating in 2017, said he joined the Advanced Honors Program as he thought it would be “fun to take eclectic classes.”

As a business major with an emphasis in marketing, he said he made many friends in Advanced Honors and has learned a lot about writing. The skills have already helped him as he pens cover letters for his job search.

“The classes teach critical thinking,” he said. “You need humanities courses no matter what field you are in so you understand the environmental and socioeconomic impacts of what you do.”

In addition to the skills and knowledge students gain in the classroom, Rostankowski said the programs also provide mentoring and advising for students.

“At orientation, I ask students if they have heard of the sport of curling,” she said, describing how players move a stone across a sheet of ice. “There is one position called a sweeper who skates backward to clear a path so the stone can slide smoothly to where it is intended to go. I see my work as doing that for students.  We need to do what we can to assist students to find their path and thrive.”

2017-18 Humanities Honors Instructors:
Tova Cooper, Humanities
James Lindahl, Philosophy & Humanities
David Mesher, English & Humanities
Johanna Movassat, Art History & Humanities
Kenneth Peter, Political Science & Humanities
Cynthia Rostankowski, Humanities
Jennifer Rycenga, Humanities
Gregory Smay, Humanities
Andrew Wood, Communication Studies & Humanities

2017-18 Advanced Honors Instructors:
James Lindahl
Cynthia Rostankowski

May 2017 Newsletter: Student Researchers Place at CSU-wide Competition in April

Photo: James Tensuan From left, Jeland Palicte, Bryan Dang and Professor Colleen O'Leary-Kelley, explore virtual reality as a teaching tool for nursing simulations. The students competed at the CSU Student Research Competition in April, along with eight other Spartans.

Photo: James Tensuan
From left, Jeland Palicte, Bryan Dang and Professor Colleen O’Leary-Kelley, explore virtual reality as a teaching tool for nursing simulations. The students competed at the CSU Student Research Competition in April, along with eight other Spartans.

By David Goll

On April 28 and 29, 10 Spartans represented San Jose State University at the 31st Annual California State University Student Research Competition at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Of the eight projects presented, two students received second place honors: Ryan T. Scott, who competed in the graduate-level category of biological and agricultural sciences and Mary Ryan, who competed in the graduate-level category of humanities and letters.

Scott worked on his project with his faculty mentor Peggy Plato, a kinesiology professor in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts. He studied how zoledronate, a drug given to prevent bone loss, prevents simulated weightlessness-induced bone loss while blunting the efficacy of a mechanical loading countermeasure. Ryan worked on her project with faculty mentor Daniel Silverman, an associate professor of linguistics and language, in the College of Humanities and the Arts. She compared data of Western Andalusian and Castilian Spanish speakers to explain lenition in the language, a type of sound change that alters consonants to make them sound more vowel like. The winners from all 23 CSU campuses are recognized online.

The students who competed at the CSU level first participated in SJSU’s Research Competition on March 1 and 2. They were recognized along with other students involved in a diverse cross section of research, scholarship and creative activities (RSCA) at SJSU’s 38th Annual Student Research Forum on April 5. The event showcased the wide variety of RSCA in which students are engaged. Some are searching for solutions to streamline and lower the cost of training health care workers while others are working to combine artistic andacademic passions by transforming an elaborate art form from 17th-century France to come alive in modern times.

“I was ecstatic when I heard I was among the (SJSU) finalists,” said Sarah Lysgaard, a graduate student in art history, at the forum on April 5. “Honestly, I couldn’t believe it. Public speaking has not been one of my strong points.”

Lysgaard’s three-year project, titled “Ballet de la Nuit: Staging the Absolute Monarchy of Louis XIV,” highlights one of the extravagant, 12-hour theatrical spectacles incorporating music, dance and poetry of centuries ago.

“I researched the meaning of these productions in the 17th century, but also how they still have an impact on our arts today, and the world in general,” Lysgaard said. “They set the ground rules and structures for fashion, the arts and government still in use today.”

Gilles Muller, SJSU’s associate dean of research, oversees the SJSU competition. Each of the seven colleges can select up to four individual or team projects to compete. This year, entries came from five colleges: the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering, the College of Humanities and the Arts, the College of Science and the College of Social Sciences.

Viewing of the research competition was open to faculty, friends and relatives of student researchers, along with the judges. Muller hopes to expand access to attend the competition more broadly next year.

“We want our student research to be a celebration of their work,” said Muller, who arrived as a professor in the SJSU Department of Chemistry in 2004. “And we want a broad and diverse range of research projects.”

Another student research project has great commercial potential, according to Colleen O’Leary-Kelley, SJSU professor of nursing and Clinical Simulation coordinator for the School of Nursing. She served as the faculty mentor for two December graduates, Bryan Dang and Jeland Palicte, whose project was titled, “Virtual Reality in Simulation Training: a Comparative Study for Heightening Learning Immersion to Increase University Bandwidth.”

Still students at the time, Dang and Palicte plunged into the project, theorizing virtual reality cameras could provide a cheaper way to provide training for student nurses. Most schools today rely on high-fidelity patient simulation, or computerized manikins that simulate human patients. Training occurs not only for the students tending to the manikin, but for those offsite who can observe through television cameras.

“They can birth babies, wet the bed, do almost everything a human can do,” Dang said. “Except jump out of bed.”

However, the manikins are also expensive, ranging in price from $30,000 to $120,000 each, Dang said.

Dang and Palicte’s project revealed some improvement in training when virtual reality cameras are used at bedside instead of a TV. It allows “an unlimited number of students to be able to observe in real time, kind of like having Google Earth,” he said.

Further research will be necessary to establish VR’s superiority as a training tool.

See the full list of finalists online.

May 2017 Newsletter: Peer Connections Provides Resources and Support

Photo: James Tensuan Junior Film student Heriberto Zavala works in Peer Connections, a support service that provides peer mentoring, peer tutoring and supplemental instruction.

Photo: James Tensuan
Junior Film student Heriberto Zavala works in Peer Connections, a support service that provides peer mentoring, peer tutoring and supplemental instruction.

By David Goll

Peer Connections, a program offering holistic academic support to students, is playing an integral role in efforts to improve the rate of student success at San Jose State University.

Deanna Peck, Peer Connections director, is hopeful about expanding and enhancing their services in coming years. Having been hired to improve and expand the program five years ago, Peck has seen the number of tutors, mentors and supplemental instruction leaders increase from 25 two years ago to 60 this spring. That could double to 120 by fall with more funding.

The services are aimed at helping students not only survive but also thrive throughout their college experience, especially in difficult classes with high-failure rates or first-year classes through which students are learning what it means to be a Spartan. University officials expect Peer Connections will provide significant support as part of the Clearing Bottlenecks initiative — one of SJSU’s Four Pillars of Student Success adopted by the university to improve the student experience while also keeping students on track to graduate in four years for first-time freshmen or two years for transfer students. Currently, the average time is 5.2 years for first-time freshmen.

Peck said tutors generally work with students on class content, while mentors focus on assisting students with study strategies, time and stress management issues. Supplemental instructional leaders are assigned to facilitate study sessions for classes with high failure rates.

“San Jose State’s current emphasis on peer education and leadership is exemplary,” Peck said. “It’s an exciting time for the program.”

Tutors and mentors who work in classrooms or the spacious study area inside the Student Services Center earn more than minimum wage and average 9 to 12 hours a week on the job.

Lauren Cordova, a peer mentor, behavior science major and one of this year’s outstanding graduating senior recipients, said she works with many student athletes grappling with time and stress management issues. Michael Fashola, a chemistry major and peer tutor, said he fields many questions from students in chemistry classes about specific problems from lectures or homework. Sonnan Naeem, a peer tutor and anthropology major, said he finds satisfaction guiding fellow students as they work through some of the same problems he had earlier in his academic career.

Having already dropped a physics class at Ohlone College in Fremont, student Haider Syed said he knew when he transferred to SJSU in fall 2014 he would need help from tutors for such classes as physics and calculus. The former engineering major found Peer Connections online his first semester, but also saw presentations about it in classes.

“About a month into my first semester, I started using tutors,” Syed said, adding he has continued to do so off and on. “One semester, I had help from four tutors for three courses.”

Though Syed switched his major to business, he still uses tutors two hours a week.

“The tutors are there to help me,” he said. “I make a note of a problem I have during a class and discuss it with them. I bring my textbooks if I have a homework problem I don’t understand. I can pass these classes on my own, but I feel tutors have helped me get higher grades.

Ingrid Salazar, a junior majoring in environmental studies who transferred to SJSU last fall, brings homework to the Student Services Center an hour before an appointment with a tutor.

“It provides a nice, quiet area to study,” Salazar said. “The free breakfast is nice, too.”

She learned about Peer Connections from a classmate. Several weeks into the fall semester Salazar said she wasn’t faring well in pre-calculus. Vowing not to fail a class, she started working with tutor Jacky Cheng, a chemical engineering student.

“He helped me quite a bit,” Salazar said. “He took things slowly and deliberately, going step by step. I needed that.”

Salazar noted she felt overwhelmed at times in her class.

“I kind of felt like I was drowning,” she said. “Jacky was very calm in his approach. He provided me a lifeline in that class.”

She’s working with him again this semester after struggling with a chemistry class. Salazar said the help she has received from tutors will assist her in graduating on time. She hopes to join the Peace Corps.

Another student who frequently visits Peer Connections to study and improve his skills and gain confidence is Martin Tran, a junior majoring in Creative Arts. He heard about the program on a campus tour. Like Syed and Salazar, he has worked with tutors, but also mentors.

“This is a great place for me because I’m able to get help on assignments,” Tran said, adding he receives assistance on study skills to prepare to take upper division courses as a disabled student.

“We reflect on assignments, we attempt to solve problems together, we communicate often via email. Tutors prepared me well when I took the writing skills test to get into upper division (courses) and meet a graduation requirement.”

University officials allocated $2.8 million for clearing bottlenecks during the 2016-17 and 2017-18 academic years – classes that have long wait lists that are a prerequisite to make progress toward degree as well as courses with high-failure rates.

It may already be bearing fruit. The number of units taken by both the overall student body and among new students has seen a slight uptick, according to Dr. Stacy Gleixner, SJSU’s interim associate vice president for Studen t and Faculty Success.

“We’re focused on providing greater access to classes and improving student performance in high-failure rate classes,” Gleixner said.

According to university statistics, the average unit load (AUL) for all SJSU undergrads last fall was 12.7 units, compared to 12.4 for the fall 2015 semester. Students who attempted to take a full semester load of 15 units increased significantly last fall compared to a year before: from 18 percent to 33 percent among freshman, 28 percent to 36 percent among sophomores, 28 percent to 31 percent among juniors and 29 percent to 31 percent among seniors. Among new transfer students at SJSU, it increased from 14 percent to 20 percent.

A 2015 study by the Public Policy Institute of California spurred action on this issue not only by SJSU and California State University leaders but by members of the state legislature. It predicted a shortage of a million workers with bachelor’s degrees by 2025, and another deficit of 500,000 workers with at least some college course work.

High-failure rate classes exist in every college. Sometimes high failure rates in classes can be an issue of technology, while at other times, students struggle because they lack the proper background and prerequisites to succeed in a difficult course, Gleixner said. Her team is working to increase awareness of the tutoring, mentoring and supplemental instruction services offered by Peer Connections while seeking out additional funding to expand services.

May 2017 Newsletter: High Achievers Recognized at 2017 Honors Convocation

Photo: James Tensuan Kinalani Hoe poses with her certificate at the 2017 Honors Convocation, where more than 4,300 students were recognized for achieving GPAs of 3.65 or higher.

Photo: James Tensuan
Kinalani Hoe poses with her certificate at the 2017 Honors Convocation, where more than 4,300 students were recognized for achieving GPAs of 3.65 or higher.

By Barry Zepel

San Jose State University recognized the outstanding academic achievements of 4,338 students, a record number, at its 55th Annual Honors Convocation on April 28.  A capacity crowd – including family, friends, faculty and staff members – filled the Events Center, to hear words of encouragement and inspiration.

Some of those words came from Persis Karim, honored as the university’s2017 Outstanding Professor and keynote speaker for the evening.

“Please don’t underestimate the power you have to affect this world and to affect and change the lives of other people,” said Karim, professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature in the College of Humanities and the Arts.

Karim, also the founding director of Persian Studies, directed her comments to the 430 President’s Scholars and 3,908 Dean’s Scholars from all colleges on campus. President’s Scholars are undergraduate students who have earned a 4.0 grade point average in at least two contiguous semesters of the three prior to the honors convocation. Dean’s Scholars are undergrads earning at least a 3.65 GPA in at least two contiguous semesters of the past three.

Among the honored students were 62 Spartan student-athletes, also a record total, with six earning President’s Scholar recognition. It was the third year in a row that a record number of students involved in Intercollegiate Athletics achieved the rank of Dean’s or President’s Scholars.

“Teaching is a two-way street,” Karim said. “Your journey here shapes and influences us, your professors. I pride myself on being a teacher who seeks to make an engaging and meaningful classroom experience where I set a high premium on students’ free expression and their ability to discover and articulate their voices.”

Many of the 2016-2017 scholars were proud to share how San Jose State affected their lives and to name educators who especially helped them on their successful paths.

Anna Adaska, President’s Scholar and dance major from the College of Humanities and the Arts, said “an experience that shaped who I am today would be my first performance with SJSU’s contemporary performing company, University Dance Theater. Our director, Raphael Boumalia, changed the way I viewed performing permanently… After speaking with Professor Boumalia, I viewed performing as an experience that is shared by the audience and performer, in which the performer’s only obligation is to share their art honestly.”

Eulises Valdovinos, President’s Scholar and industrial & systems engineering major from the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering, said being recognized by SJSU “is not only a huge honor, it is also a constant reminder that my family members’ sacrifices as well as the struggles of previous generations who fought for my education have not been in vain. Blanca Sanchez-Cruz (assistant director for student support programs for the SJSU Engineering Student Success Center) contributed so much to my success as a student, and even as I entered the professional world.”

Sanchez-Cruz hired Valdovinos as a peer advisor for the Mesa Engineering Program (MEP), a program that aims to support educationally disadvantaged and first-generation students in attaining four-year degrees in engineering.

“I learned how hard she works to make sure there are opportunities available for our students,” he said.

Wendy Adhearn, Dean’s Scholar and kinesiology major from the College of Applied Sciences and Arts, noted that she has learned a lot from all her professors.

“But in my second semester at SJSU, Dr. Bethany Shifflett gave me an opportunity to really challenge myself and to interact with other kinesiology students and professionals at the Western Society for Kinesiology and Wellness Conference in Reno, Nevada,” she said. “There I was able to present a critique of research that interested me and I received invaluable feedback and encouragement.”

Greg Lucio, Dean’s Scholar and a child and adolescent development major from the Connie L. Lurie College of Education, appreciates that he “has been fortunate to be enrolled in two classes with Professor John Jabagchourin.”

Lucio noted that his professor’s passion for teaching makes learning fun and easy.

“He makes lessons relatable to his students and has inspired me to use the theories and research that we discuss in an international way when working with children,” Lucio said. “It has given me a great understanding of how to work more efficiently with children.”

In addition to Karim, three other San Jose State faculty members were recognized at the Honors Convocation:  Brian Belet, professor of music and an accomplished composer, as 2017 President’s Scholar; Chris Cox, lecturer in sociology and interdisciplinary social sciences, as 2017 Outstanding Lecturer; and Lui Lam, physics professor, as 2017 Distinguished Service Award winner.

Learn more about more of this year’s San Jose State scholars, as well as recent history about Honors Convocation, online.