CASA students get in the holiday spirit

Members of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts Student Affairs Committee got into the holiday spirit before Thanksgiving when they decorated a tree for Christmas in the Park. The community trees will be on display at downtown San Jose’s Christmas in the Park through Jan. 1.

Members of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts' Student Affairs community decorated a tree for Christmas in the Park.

Members of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts’ Student Affairs community decorated a tree for Christmas in the Park.

Christie Martinez, the president of the 2014-15 Student Affairs committee, said the group came up with the idea as a way to be social with other departments and within the committee – one representative is assigned to serve each year from each of the 11 departments and schools in CASA.

Some of the volunteers who helped to decorate the tree included: Claudia Gonzalez, of Health Science and Recreation, Martinez, of Justice Studies, Valerie Ruiz, of Kinesiology, Rebecca Robinson, of the Valley Foundation School of Nursing, Becky Ringer, of Nutrition, Food Science and Packaging, Sara Wykoff, of Occupational Therapy, OT Professor Gigi Smith, and David Hoffman, of Social Work.

The tree is one of many decorated by community groups for the annual Christmas in the Park event, which is open and free to the public from the end of November through Jan. 1.

“We all decided at our committee meeting that our tree would represent all 11 departments within the college,” Martinez said, via email.

Each committee member was asked to collect or make ornaments that represent the students or staff of the department. Many of the decorations include the name or abbreviation for the department, with some coming up with unique ideas such as a tree skirt made of copies of the Spartan Daily to represent the School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

“My favorite part was trying to find ideas to make the ornaments and also asking for my department’s help with ideas,” Martinez said.

Wykoff said her favorite part was seeing how unique each tree looked.

“Ours is so neat because of the variety of programs that it represents,” she said.

Martinez said she was planning to bring her children to see the tree she and other students decorated, which is located in space 449, across from the Fairmont Hotel.

“I want them to know that there is a lot more than just classes and homework at SJSU,” she said.

Wykoff said many of her classmates plan to go every year and even more plan to trek downtown to see the tree this year.

“Sometimes it seems that people are always so busy that the holidays are less of value, but Christmas in the Park is a reminder that there are still people out there that still value the holidays,” Martinez said.

Records Clearance Project continues to change lives

Norma Burns recalls in detail the day she had her first appointment with San José State University Justice Studies students from the Records Clearance Project in 2011 for a speed screening.

“I went in there and there was another lady there as well,” Burns said, adding that when the student volunteer walked away to consult an attorney, the young woman started crying. “I went over and I was consoling the woman. She was like, ‘My rap sheet is so long, I’m not going to be able to get my record expunged.’ I told her she had already made the first step because she had come here.”

Since 2008, Record Clearance Project students and volunteers have provided 32,000 hours of service. According to the team’s estimates the market value of RCP services is 10 times the actual cost to run the program.

Heritage Society Luncheon Presentation

In October, Project Director Peggy Stevenson, Lisseth Castillo-Valencia, a project coordinator and Burns presented an update on the project at the SJSU University Advancement’s annual Heritage Society Luncheon at Flames Eatery and Banquet, with donors who have made a planned gift to the university in attendance.

During the presentation, the team informed attendees that one in four adults in California has an arrest or conviction record, which can interfere in their ability to get employment, housing, student loans, public benefits and in other intangible ways such as causing low self-esteem.

The Records Clearance Project coordinators work to inform people that California law allows the court to dismiss, or expunge, many criminal convictions and helps some residents work through the process.

“Speaking from personal experience, I have helped clear the records for six people and I have had sleepless nights,” Castillo-Valencia said, who took the classes as a student. “I have worked 40 to 50 hours a week on putting together the petitions, but it wasn’t hard to dedicate that much time because we know how important this was to my clients that the amount of hours I put in didn’t matter as long as I did the best job to prepare the petitions for court so the judge could see what we have seen in our clients.”

Tina Daniels, the director of Planned Giving for University Advancement, said she received “wonderful, complimentary and positive comments about the Records Clearance Project, as most of those in attendance were unaware of it.”

Last year, students assisted 214 people with writing petitions to have their records cleared of convictions or to have eligible felonies reduced to misdemeanors. The students attended the most recent RCP hearing on Nov. 18, when a judged listened to RCP petitions in a special court session.

Not including the most recent session, judges have heard 699 cases filed on behalf of 226 people since the start of the program, with 99 percent of the convictions expunged and 94 percent of eligible felonies reduced to misdemeanors.

A personal history

In 2011, Burns was one of those people to have her record successfully expunged, when she started working as a volunteer to help others through the process. She was hired in Feb. 2014 to work as a mentor with the clients of the program and she is open about her checkered past.

Burns’ first experience at SJSU was as a homeless teenager, when she would sleep in booths at the Student Union that were available for reservation by students.

“They used to have a radio station there and there was a deejay at the time who would let me know which booths were available and I used to go there to sleep,” she said.

Burns, now 55, said she was a functioning crack addict for years who managed to stay employed. She and her 10-year-old daughter would stay in her car or sometimes in the attic of someone they knew. Her son had chosen to live with his father rather than with her.

“I was just bouncing from place to place and didn’t have a sense of direction,” she said.

She was arrested three times on different charges, including fraud and assault. She was court ordered to undergo an anger management program. When she did not complete it, she was arrested on a bench warrant.

She was sentenced to a year in jail and completed eight months of her sentence. When she got out in 2004, she said she was prepared to change her life.

“I just fell on my knees and prayed to God to make me a better person,” she said. “I can’t do this anymore.”

Since then, Burns said she has stayed off drugs and out of trouble with the law. She was able to get a job and a place to live. When she heard about the Records Clearance Project, she decided to try to get her record expunged.

“So many doors have opened for me,” she said, since clearing her record. “It’s like I have a better job and a better place to live. My confidence is like out of this atmosphere. I believe so much in others and believe in change.”

Burns said the cost alone would have kept her from completing the expungement process on her own, as the average is $1,000 for filing paperwork with an attorney’s assistance.

“My metaphor for Peggy is like when you throw a pebble in water and it makes rings that get bigger and bigger,” Burns said. “She’s like a rolling stone rolling down a hill of snow that gathers more momentum. It is such a learning experience and teaches so much.”

Student impact

Yevgeniy Mayba, currently a master’s student in Justice Studies, initially signed up for the two-course Records Clearance Project, JS 140 and JS 141 as an undergraduate because “it appeared to be an easy way to obtain credits for two classes while also getting the internship requirement out of the way,” he said via email.

“During the first two meetings of the JS 140 class, however, I came to see that this would be more than just a couple of classes,” he said. “Peggy repeatedly stressed the commitment that would be required to participate in the project and the seriousness of dealing with people’s lives and hopes.”

Mayba said the hardest part of the class was working with a partner.

“As we all have different writing styles and opinions on what is important and should be included in the petition, writing petitions as a team was challenged,” he said. “We had to adapt to one another and learn to compromise, as well as to not be afraid to criticize each other and to be able to receive constructive criticism with grace.”

Mayba said he wants to pursue a career with prisoner reentry or inner city youth in the future.

“The most rewarding part of working with the Records Clearance Project was the realization that I was making a difference in people’s lives,” Mayba said. “Being able to help people get a fresh start in their lives and seeing tears of joy in their eyes was the greatest reward anyone could ask for.”

Another student, Rochelle Rotea, created a Facebook page to help promote the work of the RCP and has also created a crowd-funding campaign through Crowdrise. Visit the facebook page at: Visit the Crowdrise campaign page at:

Donors, partners keep project going

Since its inception in 2008, the Records Clearance Project has been supported by community partnerships, support from the County of Santa Clara and donations of money or in-kind support from foundations, individual donors and law firms.

Some of the contributors include:

The County of Santa Clara

The Castellano Family Foundation
Google Donations for Doers (for volunteer hours of Shaun Warren)

Jewish Community Federation

Philanthropic Ventures Foundation
The Skoll Fund
The Health Trust

Law Firms
Goldstein, Demchak, Baller, Borgen & Dardarian Foundation
Kazan, McClain, Satterly & Greenwood Foundation
Morrison & Foerster Foundation
Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld LLP
Rossi, Hamerslough, Reischl & Chuck
Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati Foundation

Yvette Boddie

Yvonne and Alvin Gimbal
Amanda Hawes
Christopher Ho

Cheri Houle
David and Bette Loomis
Brian James
Jocelyn Larkin
Yulanda Lincoln
Maria Marroquin
William McAlister
Faye McNair-Knox
Paul McNamara
Lorrence and Beverly Otter
Kate Pohl
Anna Ranieri
Irene Resler
Jorge and Rochelle Rotea
Doris Rose Inda
David and Muriel Rosenthal
Susan Rothschild
Alice Smith
Richard Thesing
Martha and Jerry Uelmen

John Wagers

Judith William

Stewart Wobber

Janet and Mark Zimmerman


Community Partners
Ascent Employment Program Inc.
Bay Area Maranatha Christian Center
Catholic Charities of Santa Clara County
Family and Children Services


Salvation Army
South Hills Community Church


SJSU Partners
Andy Trembley, David Kessler, and the SJSU Tech Team
The SJSU School of Social Work and Prof. Gil Villagran

Tony Korshund, Michelle Randle, and all of the CASA Success Center Staff

Emeritus and Retired Faculty lunch with current CASA affiliates

The College of Applied Sciences and Arts hosted its annual Emeritus and Retired Faculty Luncheon Oct. 29, at Flames Eatery and Banquet.
Emeritus and Retired

Faculty were invited to join Assistant Chair of Kinesiology Shirley Reekie and Associate Dean Greg Payne for a tour of some of the newly completed construction on campus. About a half dozen faculty members participated in the tour of the newly renovated Yoshihiro Uchida Hall and the new Student Union.

“This is one of our favorite events to host each year because it gives us a chance to catch you up on what has been going on in CASA and around campus and also for us to hear what you’ve done this past year,” said Interim Dean Alice Hines in her welcome.

The highlight of the program included three College of Applied Sciences and Arts students who attended summer study abroad programs who shared how the experience left a strong impression on them. The students speakers included Aly Mauro, an Occupational Therapy student, Mia Gonzalez, a Journalism and Mass Communications student and Michael Celso, a Social Work student. The students each received the Helen L. Stevens Faculty-Led Program Scholarship, helping to off-set $500 of the cost of the summer programs. The College is currently working to develop more scholarships to support study abroad opportunities for students.

Emeritus and retired faculty from seven CASA departments, including some that have merged with other departments, attended the luncheon with current faculty from nine of the departments offering updates on their activities. The attendees included a former dean and emeritus faculty member, Robert Moore, who taught in the Division of Technology. Moore, who is in his mid-90s, said he recalled hiring Helen Ross Mico, a retired Health Science professor in attendance, and Lee Walton, a retired kinesiology professor in attendance.

Justice Studies hosts debate on mass incarceration today

The College of Applied Sciences and Arts Justice Studies department will host the Fall 2014 Ann Lucas Lecture in Law & Justice at San José State University Nov. 13, from 4-6 p.m. in Yoshihiro Uchida Hall 124.

The lecture today will feature a debate on Jonathan Simon’s recently published book “Mass Incarceration on Trial: A Remarkable Court Decision and the Future of Prisons in America.”

The debate panel will include Simon, a professor at the University of California, Berkeley, Elliott Currie, of UC Irvine,  Mohamed Shehk, the national media and communications director of Critical Resistance, and Edith Kinney, an SJSU Justice Studies professor.

In his book, Simon argues against the system of mass incarceration that he says relies on “racist gangs, lockdowns, and Supermax-style segregation units to maintain a tenuous order.” His book discusses how the 2011 Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Plata could transform the prison system and Simon presents the opportunity to “replace mass incarceration with a system anchored in the preservation of human dignity.”

The lecture is free and open to the public.

For more on the event, view the flier here (PDF): Mass Incarceration on Trial flyer

Alumni Assoc. honors CASA students with scholarships

The College of Applied Sciences and Arts was well represented Sept. 16 at the San José State University Alumni Association Scholarship Reception. Of the dozens of honorees who were recognized at the event, seven hail from CASA majors.

CASA Associate Dean Greg Payne attended the celebration and had the honor of introducing the two students selected to receive the Alumni Association Dean’s Scholarship for Applied Sciences and Arts. David Elliott, a

David Elliott received the College of Applied Sciences and Arts Alumni Association Dean's Scholarship for 2014-15.

David Elliott received the College of Applied Sciences and Arts Alumni Association Dean’s Scholarship for 2014-15.

Social Work major, said he hopes to continue his studies in the Master of Social Work program, according to a bio provided by the Alumni Association. He has an upcoming internship with Unity Care, a nonprofit focused on youth and family development, to provide services to foster youth with behavioral and emotional problems. In the past, he has gained crisis intervention and facility management experience, including at Foothill College where he supported students working in the Pass the Torch program.

On the Alumni Association website, he said, “It is an honor and a privilege to be selected to receive the Alumni Association Deans’ Scholarship. Maintaining a balance between school, work and family can be challenging. I can be certain now that I will continue my education by working towards a MSW at SJSU. My wife, Theresa, and I have recently been gifted with a beautiful son, and financially we are working very hard to provide for our family. This scholarship has renewed my excitement about working towards an advanced degree. We are grateful and will continue our personal efforts to serve our community.”

Michelle Mussett received the College of Applied Sciences and Arts Alumni Association Dean's Scholarship for 2014-15.

Michelle Mussett received the College of Applied Sciences and Arts Alumni Association Dean’s Scholarship for 2014-15.

Michelle Mussett, a graduate student in Social Work, also received the Dean’s Scholarship. She has interned with the Record Clearance Project, a program in the Justice Studies department that helps eligible people clear their criminal records, and she also volunteers at the library advising clients in a free weekly program, according to the Alumni Association website. Prior to enrolling in her master’s program at SJSU, Mussett served in the Peace Corps in Benin, in West Africa, where she developed training materials and education programs to address gender and health issues. She is an intern at the CSU Monterey Bay Campus Health Center.

On the Alumni Association website, she said,  “I’m so excited about receiving the Alumni Association Dean’s Scholarship, because it will allow me to concentrate on my passion – my upcoming internship work as a therapist at the California State University, Monterey Bay campus health center. The internship requires a three-day a week commitment, and my full time classes require another two. This scholarship makes it possible for me to pursue my academic and professional goals without having to also take part-time work to cover living expenses. This is crucial at this time in my study, as my final year also includes a year-long thesis project. This scholarship makes it possible for me to put my best work into my final year internship and academics, allowing me to absorb as much as I can from these incredible opportunities.”

Gina Guglielmoni was awarded the Phyllis and Alan Simpkins Leadership Award to pursue a graduate degree in kinesiology so she can start a career helping athletes rehabilitate sports-related injuries with treatments their school or general practitioner do not provide, according to her bio. She volunteered as a trainer’s assistant and manager for the football and softball teams at El Camino High School as well as with groups supporting disabled veterans and at St. Veronica Parish. She noted that she comes from a family of Spartans.

“Being a third generation Spartan means a lot to me and my family as well as receiving the Alan and Phyllis Simpkins Alumni Leadership Award. Six of my family members are alumni of San José State and are part of the large group that makes this scholarship possible. The scholarship will aid in achieving my ultimate dream of obtaining a masters degree in Kinesiology (Athletic Training) and start a career as an Athletic Trainer.”

Three CASA students received the Santa Cruz Area Chapter Scholarships, including Nutritional Science student Anna Sramek, Nursing student Kelly McGuckin and Social work student Nancy Zuniga. Cuong Truong, a nursing major, received the San Jose Woman’s Club Scholarship. For more on these honorees, visit the Alumni Association website at