SJSU’s HELM Program: Empowering Voices, Cultivating Leaders

For Lorena Martinez-Carrasco, Behin Noormanesh, and Chris Changras, the Higher Education Leadership (HELM) master’s program at San José State University (SJSU) has been more than just an academic endeavor—it has been a transformative journey towards empowerment and leadership. 

Lorena smiling.

Lorena Martinez-Carrasco – 23′ M.A. Higher Education Leadership

Lorena Martinez-Carrasco: Finding Voice and Belonging

Lorena chose to pursue a HELM master’s degree for one reason: “to prove to myself that regardless of obstacles, finances, and tribulations, I was going to obtain that degree to further myself and get ahead. I have worked for the district for 20+ years and realized that I needed a master’s to secure myself, find a meaningful career, and also for a transformation.”

The HELM program has given Lorena a space of belonging and has allowed her to think critically. It has given her the confidence she needed, stating, “The HELM program has been a place where I felt I was accepted, which allowed me to have a voice for the first time. The program is tailored with specialized and compacted courses and the professors offer a welcoming peer-to-peer safe environment, which allowed me to focus, prioritize, and facilitate. The curriculum was catered to helping me with my capstone and eased my way through the research process.”

Lorena shared how the exceptional professors at SJSU and her cohort have enriched her learning, supported her throughout the program, and led her to success, saying, “with my super supportive, genuinely caring cohort and a power force that is hard to dismantle, we together have a powerful stance. The instructors whom I find phenomenal are those who served, challenged, and who represented tactfully. While I was in the program, they were very committed, and they did so in aiding me towards my success.”

Lorena currently works part-time with an adult’s program through the community education department for Mission College and told us how the HELM program has given her the confidence she needed to teach efficiently and effectively. She will continue to use the skills and tools the HELM program has given her in future positions, saying, “My hope is to lead in management, in a program that I will help facilitate those who are marginalized and where I can make a significant difference. I find that I am my best version of myself when I am able to stand up to those barriers that are placed to shut individuals from advancing.”

Behin Noormanesh: Advocating for Equity and Inclusion

HELM’s core focus on equity and justice is what attracted Behin to the program. She says, “The HELM program has played a pivotal role in shaping my ability to make a significant impact in my field. Through the program, I gained a deep understanding of equity and justice issues within higher education and acquired the tools and skills necessary to address these challenges effectively. For individuals like me who are passionate about effecting positive change but require guidance on where and how to start, this program is a beacon of light.”

The program has instilled a deep commitment to these values in Behin’s professional life, allowing her to become an effective leader in her current leadership role. She states, “The HELM program helped me commit to equity in my new leadership role. The program has allowed me to foster positive change and promote fairness in higher education. Even though I graduated, I’m still learning and adapting to keep up with the best ways to promote fairness.”

Chris Changras – Empowering Leadership and Advocacy

Chris has seamlessly integrated the tools, voice, and values instilled by the HELM program into her role within higher education administration. She tells us, “HELM has allowed me to transition into a leadership role within a new university and within a new department. It has provided me with the resources, connections, and confidence to be a successful contributor and thought leader for my division.”

Chris ends by telling us her hopes for the future, saying, “My impact I hope will be with the daily interactions I have with managers as we work together to make each of their staff successful contributors as well as equity-conscious university citizens.”

Lorena, Behin, and Chris’ stories exemplify the profound impact of SJSU’s HELM program in shaping leaders. Through supportive communities, innovative curriculum, and dedicated faculty, the program empowers individuals to find their voice, advocate for change, and lead with integrity and compassion.

Comments are closed.