SJSU receives First in the World grant

A student works in a chemical engineering lab at SJSU. Photo by Bob Bains.

A student works in a chemical engineering lab at SJSU.
Photo by Bob Bains.

San Jose State University is one of 17 colleges and universities in the nation to receive a First in the World grant from the United States Department of Education.

The $3 million grant will support the university-wide priority of improving student success. The grant proposal focused on strengthening foundational science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) classes to improve retention and graduation rates with an emphasis on high-impact practices such as training faculty on active learning and flipped classrooms.

SJSU’s grant application was selected from more than 300 submissions nationwide for a share of the $60 million.

“We all know that innovation can take many forms and as a key part of the Administration’s goal to promote college access and affordability, the First in the World program aims to support a wide range of innovation to improve student success,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, in a press release. “We are pleased to support these educational leaders who are driving exciting innovations to achieve those goals.”

The grant will be administered through the SJSU Research Foundation with Provost Andy Feinstein serving as the principal investigator working collaboratively with faculty in STEM disciplines.

The competition this year solicited applications in focus areas that included improving teaching and learning, improving student support services, developing and using new assessments of learning and improving success in developmental education. The 17 recipients are from 14 states, including CSU Los Angeles.

Faculty notes: Publications, performances and more

A roundup of Faculty news from September 2015

Submitted by Kat Meads

Professor Emeritus Mike Foster, Moss Landing Marine Laboratories, co-authored The Biology and Ecology of Giant Kelp Forests (University of California Press, 2015), a scholarly review and synthesis of research on the largest of seaweeds. Ranging from Darwin’s early observations to contemporary research, the book provides a historical perspective on the evolution, biogeography, biology and physiology of giant kelp.

Lecturer Leah Griesmann, Department of English and Comparative Literature, was awarded a 2015-2016 artist’s residency at the historic Swatch Art Peace Hotel in Shanghai. Artists in the fields of photography, music, filmmaking, writing, dance, painting and conceptual art are invited to stay and work in one of 18 apartments for a period of three to six months. In return, artists leave a “trace” of their experience for the hotel’s virtual museum.

Director Sandra Hirsh, School of Information, was guest speaker at the inaugural book club meeting of the Silicon Valley chapter of the Special Libraries Association. Editor of Information Services Today: An Introduction (Rowman & Littlefield, 2015), Hirsh’s textbook brings together 39 essays that detail the role of library and information professionals today.

Associate Professor Resa Kelly, Department of Chemistry, and Professor Ellen Metzger, Department of Geology and Science Education, co-authored “A Case Study of Teachers’ Understanding of Sustainability,” an article that will appear in Improving K-12 STEM Education Outcomes through Technological Integration, the latest title in IGI Global’s book series addressing advances in early childhood and K-12 education.

Professor Jason Laker, Department of Counselor Education, recognized expert on community, identity and diversity issues, was keynote speaker for the annual Diversity Festival, hosted by the College of Communication and Information at the University of Tennessee – Knoxville, September 28 through October 1. A Salzburg Fellow, Dr. Laker co-edited Citizenship, Democracy and Higher Education in Europe, Canada and the USA  (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) and previously served as SJSU’s vice president for Student Affairs.

Professor Gus Lease, School of Music and Dance, is celebrating his 66th year of teaching at SJSU. “I’m 92 years and nine months,” he told the Daily Democrat in September. “I put it like a little kid, because in many ways a kid is what I am.” Lease came to campus in 1950, organized glee clubs for men and women, produced the first on-campus Broadway show (Kiss Me, Kate) and had his own KSJO pop radio program, “Gus Lease Sings.” The former chair of the music department, he currently teaches music appreciation. Read more online.

Professor Galen Lemmon, School of Music and Dance, principal percussionist for the Cabrillo Music Festival Orchestra, once again assembled all necessary percussion instruments and “implements” for the 2015 Cabrillo Fest, held in August. This year, the 53-year-old festival required 66 different percussion instruments, including tuned cowbells from Germany. Lemmon has been collecting percussion instruments since he was an undergrad at SJSU. Read an article in the Mercury News.

Professor Aaron Lington, School of Music and Dance, a Grammy-winning baritone saxophonist whose musicianship the San Jose Mercury News describes as “revelatory,” performed at a sold-out concert co-sponsored by San Jose Jazz and the Lick Observatory this summer. His group, the Premier Saxophone Quartet, will open Noe Valley Chamber Music’s 23rd season in October with a recital at St. Mark’s Lutheran Church in San Francisco.

Lecturer Judi Morrill, Department of Nutrition, Food Science and Packaging, recently published “A happier Happy Meal” in the San Jose Mercury News, an opinion piece that addresses the issues of genetically modified foods and the “complicated” science of biotechnology.

Santa Clara County’s first poet laureate, Professor Emeritus Nils Peterson, Department of English and Comparative Literature, was one of three poets who helped celebrate the art of painter Richard Diebenkorn at a Sonoma Valley Museum of Art event. The author of five poetry collections, Peterson’s most recent book is A Walk to the Center of Things (Robertson Publishing).

Lecturer Edward Webb, Department of Accounting and Finance, was tapped to lead the consulting practice group at Burge Pilger Mayer, one of the largest accounting and consulting firms in California. Since 2013, he has served as managing director of the company’s transaction advisory services team. He also sits on the board of the San Jose Sports Hall of Fame.

Grants: Green Ninja Project receives $1.1 million from NSF

A grant will fund the Green Ninja Film Academy.

A grant will fund the Green Ninja Film Academy.

An interdisciplinary research team from San Jose State has been awarded $1.1 million from the National Science Foundation to design and implement the “Green Ninja Film Academy (GENIE),” an intervention that leverages well-established research on motivation to encourage student interest and engagement in the STEM-related field of climate change.

The project is aimed at scientifically-underserved middle school students who will be guided through a structured storytelling and filmmaking experience that builds competencies in science, engineering design, media technology and communications. During the three-year project, 60 teachers and at least 2,000 students will directly participate in the GENIE project, with additional participation from parents, friends, and teachers who attend the Green Ninja Film Festival. GENIE is also designed around helping teachers prepare to implement the Common Core and Next Generation Science standards using climate change as a context.

The project builds on the established Green Ninja Project, an SJSU initiative that develops media to inspire student interest in science and the environment. The principal investigators of the NSF grant are SJSU professors Eugene Cordero (Meteorology and Climate Science), David Chai (Animation/Illustration), Ellen Metzger (Geology and Science Ed), Grinell Smith (Elementary Education) and Elizabeth Walsh (Meteorology and Climate Science and Science Education).  More information about the project can be found at