October 2016 Newsletter: Provost Update – Our Differences Make Us Strong

Fusion Network's "As American As" national campus tour at San Jose State University in San Jose, CA, on Thursday, October 6, 2016. (Photo: Christina Olivas/San Jose State University)

Fusion Network’s “As American As” national campus tour at San Jose State University in San Jose, CA, on Thursday, October 6, 2016. (Photo: Christina Olivas/San Jose State University)

During homecoming week, many of you may have seen an interactive exhibit outside the Student Union on the Seventh Street Paseo. The walls of the “As American As…” display, sponsored by the Office of Diversity,Equity and Inclusion, depicted photographs of many people from different backgrounds and described them all as American. The larger-than-life piece created a maze of sorts in the middle of our campus for students, staff, faculty and community members to walk through as they considered how the portraits displayed disparities while the words reinforced their similarities.

When students, staff, faculty and members of the public engage at San Jose State University, they all become Spartans. We are strong because of our differences, and we are part of a diverse community that is striving to create a welcoming and inclusive environment for all. I am pleased to have our new Chief Diversity Officer Kathy Wong(Lau), who oversees the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, as a partner in our ongoing efforts. She has already begun to lead discussions around tough issues such as sexual harassment and sexual assault, hate speech versus freedom of speech and how to foster cognitive empathy so that people can have a difference of opinion while still understanding the perspectives of others.

As Provost, I am proud to be part of a multi-faceted campus community. SJSU was ranked No.14 among the most ethnically and racially diverse four-year public universities in the United States and No. 1 for highest international student enrollment at a master’s granting university by the Chronicle of Higher Education. Our diversity makes us strong, and we need to leverage that strength as we improve student success. We are making strides with underrepresented minority students through our African American andLatinx/Chicanx Student Success Task Forces. Our identity-based resources such as the PRIDE Center, the MOSAIC Multicultural Center, Military and Veteran Student Services and others have a centralized space in the newly renovated Student Union. We are devoting funding this year to establish an Immigrant Welcome Center that will support our undocumented students.

But we still have work to do to make meaningful changes in our graduation rates and to eliminate the achievement gap between underrepresented minority students and their peers by 2025. Research has shown that underrepresented students perform better in courses taught by diverse faculty for a variety of reasons including relevancy of experiences and perspectives in translating conceptual ideas, inclusion in curricular content at macro and micro levels, higher use of interactive pedagogies, role-modeling and approachability. As with many public universities, our faculty does not reflect the perspectives, experiences, and same diverse proportions that make up our student body. I am working closely with Dr. Wong(Lau) to identify immediate measures and to create a long-term plan to ensure we recruit the best candidates from a diversified pool of applicants and build capacity amongst all of our faculty to educate all of our students.

Dr. Wong(Lau) along with Shawn Spano, hosted the first “Conversation on Campus Climate” in September. I encourage you to attend the second “Conversation on Campus Climate” on Nov. 21, from 10 a.m. to noon, in the Diaz Compean Student Union Theater, when participants will help identify actions we need to take to make our campus more inclusive and welcoming. If you are unable to attend in person, share your insights with her via email to diversityoffice@sjsu.edu.

Other events include The Peter Lee Memorial Lecture Series on Nov. 7, from noon to 1:15 p.m., in the Student Union Theater, with a lecture by Dr. Janet Bennett, executive director of the Intercultural Communications Institute on “Intersecting Pathways: Global Diversity and Inclusion”; Faculty Intergroup Dialogue Facilitation and Inclusive Pedagogy Institute on Dec. 2, (location and time to be determined); and through Dec. 1 the “Photovoice Exhibit on Anti-Semitism and Islamaphobia” will be on exhibit at the MLK library. This exhibit features the photonarrative work of Ed Mamary, a professor in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts Department of Health Science and Recreation.

We are all partners in creating a more welcoming and inclusive environment on our campus. I look forward to continuing our work together this year.

Andy Feinstein
Provost and VP for Academic Affairs

Associate Professor Shares Insight on Campus Protests in Op-Ed

Magdalena Barrera

Magdalena Barrera

San Jose State University Associate Professor of Mexican American Studies Magdalena Barrera co-authored an op-ed “Renewing Alliances in Troubled Times” that was published this week in Inside Higher Ed, a national media outlet focused on issues facing colleges and universities.

Along with a colleague from Oberlin College, Shelly Lee, Barrera wrote about the issue with simplistic media coverage of campus protests.

“We argue that viewing all undergraduates as privileged ‘special snowflakes’ making unreasonable demands elides the racial and socioeconomic diversity of students and campuses, as well as historic inequities in higher education that need to be addressed.”

Barrera is the minor advisor for Mexican American Studies and is a Faculty-In-Residence for Diversifying the Faculty for 2016-17.

April Newsletter: Provost Update – SJSU Celebrates Diversity and Promotes Inclusion

University settings bring together people from many different backgrounds in a collaborative environment. This is especially true at SJSU, where we have one of the most diverse campuses in the nation. This month’s newsletter highlights the many ways our life experiences influence our interactions, creating a rich climate for innovation and learning for all members of the SJSU community.

For the past two years, I have been privileged to serve as co-chair of the President’s Commission on Diversity. We have made strides in fostering a dialogue around diversity and inclusion, most recently in April when we held a discussion on the 2015 Campus Climate Survey. Students, staff and faculty members were invited to a presentation on the survey results and then provided with an opportunity to share their feedback in focus groups, while also expressing thoughts on moving toward a more inclusive community. This month also marks the appointment of the first-ever SJSU chief diversity officer, Dr. Kathleen Wong(Lau). She will lead the Office of Diversity and Inclusive Excellence. I invite you to join us in finding ways to advance our efforts together.

As provost, I am especially proud of the African American and Chican@/Latin@ Student Success task forces, which have been working hard for more than two years to build a sense of community for underrepresented minority students. The task force members have hosted a multitude of activities, such as the Adelante study breaks and the Essence of Blackness cultural celebration. These task forces began as part of Academic Affairs, but are now moving to Student Affairs where they will be managed by the new AVP for Retention and Transition Services. I remain committed to these efforts and this realignment will allow us to more effectively support student success priorities across divisions. I would like to take this opportunity to thank the staff and faculty members who have served on the task forces, and encourage all of you to join this collaborative effort to connect students to the campus in meaningful ways.

In Academic Affairs, we have also been building more opportunities for students to engage in international experiences through faculty-led programs, online exchanges in on-campus classes and research projects with overseas partners. We recognize the growing relevance of global citizenship in educating college students. Global citizenship encompasses an ability to work with people from around the world, but it also creates empathy between people with different backgrounds, experiences and histories. I encourage you to learn more about how we can provide students with these opportunities by connecting with colleagues in the College of International and Extended Studies.

Andy Feinstein
Provost and VP for Academic Affairs

Share Thoughts on Campus Climate Survey

The President’s Commission on Diversity and Associated Students are hosting Conversations on Campus Climate on Monday, April 11, from 10 a.m. to noon, in the Student Union Theater.

They are looking forward to hearing feedback on the campus climate survey results from students, staff and faculty as well as thoughts on how SJSU can move forward toward a more inclusive community.

The event will include facilitated dialogues to allow everyone the opportunity to reflect on the campus climate survey results, as well as share their experiences and vision for an inclusive university community, and what SJSU needs to do to get there.

Please come and be part of framing our direction towards inclusive excellence in the Conversation on Campus Climate.


October newsletter: SJSU Salzburg Scholars and Fellows change the campus and the world we live in

Claire Tsai, left, a 2015-16 SJSU Salzburg Scholar is one of 18 students who attended the summer program in Austria. She and the other scholars are actively engaged in promoting global citizenship. Photo courtesy of Salzburg Global Seminars.

Claire Tsai, left, a 2015-16 SJSU Salzburg Scholar is one of 18 students who attended the summer program in Austria. She and the other scholars are actively engaged in promoting global citizenship.
Photo courtesy of Salzburg Global Seminars.

Claire Tsai, ’16 Art History and Visual Culture, is only halfway through her time as an SJSU Salzburg Scholar, but she is already describing the experience as transformative.

“One main point for me is that I saw more clearly how dangerous it is to keep a single framework for understanding the world,” Tsai said.

Each year, the SJSU Salzburg Program coordinators select students to be scholars and faculty or administrators to be fellows for an 18-month period, with the number selected each year varying. In 10 years, 261 Spartans have participated, with many extending their involvement beyond their 18-month commitment, according to Dr. William Reckmeyer, the program director and a co-founder. The goal for students, faculty and administrators is that through the program not only are they transformed on an individual level, but that they have an institutional impact on improving global citizenship when they return to campus.

As a scholar, Tsai participated in a semester-long course on global studies last spring before attending the week-long Global Citizenship Program in Austria, now known as the Global Citizenship Alliance. She will be working with the other scholars and fellows to pursue projects that promote global citizenship, though she said the group is still winnowing down ideas for this year.

Blanca Sanchez-Cruz, the director of the MESA Engineering Program and assistant director of the Engineering Student Success Center, is a Fellow this year.

She said she was encouraging engineering students to apply when they suggested she should apply to be a fellow.

“It was a confirmation or validation of my thought about the need for more intentional and systematic efforts to globalize curriculum and bridge across existing efforts on campus,” she said of the summer session, via email. “In the context of the MESA Engineering Program, I work with educationally disadvantaged students, who because of time, finances or misconceptions, are often the most likely to hesitate to get involved or are at risk of being left out.”

Jessy Goodman, a lecturer in the College of Humanities and the Arts and the College of Social Sciences, has a unique perspective on the program as she has participated as a scholar and a fellow.

“It changed the course of my life,” she said, noting that she made connections through the program that led her to taking a lecturer position upon graduation. “It opened up a lot of ways of thinking.”

Goodman participated as a Scholar when she was an MFA student, taught the global studies course last spring to the latest batch of scholars and is a fellow this year.

“I got a ton of great ideas and tools to use,” she said, of incorporating concepts of global citizenship into her composition classes. “My students are so much more engaged with the material.”