From the President’s Blog: “Our Growing Reputation As Silicon Valley’s Public Graduate School”

Did you see us in President Papazian’s blog post yesterday? CGS may be just a few years old, but we’ve been busy building support, programming, and resources for our 8,000+ graduate students and counting.

Visit this link to read more about recent highlights from the College of Graduate Studies and see what we’re doing to build our reputation as Silicon Valley’s public graduate school.

SJSU Launches New Combined Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees

We’re excited to see the new Spartan Accelerated Graduate Education (SAGE) programs getting recognition from the SJSU Newsroom!

SAGE programs allow students to pursue two degrees simultaneously by earning graduate credit while in their junior and/or senior year. Visit the article to hear more from our CGS leadership on the significance of these programs.

Alumni Update: Sameer Saran Leads ParkStash to Success Amidst Pandemic

Since his 2018 graduation, computer engineering alumnus Sameer Saran has kept busy growing his company, ParkStash: “the AirBnb of parking.” You may have seen Saran on virtual alumni panels last year, where he shared his best advice for engaging with campus and the Silicon Valley resources available to most graduate students. We caught up with Saran recently to hear about his business.

Sameer Saran headshot

Sameer Saran, ’18 MS Computer Engineering

“COVID did hit us badly (as it did a lot of organizations and people), but we have kept on going and building over the last 18 months both in terms of adapting our business model and making lots of innovative pivots in our product,” Saran says.

“One of the big updates is that we have signed a contract and are now the Official Parking App for Woodward Dream Cruise – presented by Ford, this is one of the world’s largest one-day automotive events, drawing 1.5 million people and 40,000 classic cars each year from around the globe. We have published a detailed article regarding this partnership. We also locked another partnership with Suburban Mobility Authority for Regional Transportation (SMART) – Southeast Michigan’s only regional public transportation, to offer a seamless park and ride experience for visitors of Woodward Dream Cruise. You can read about our partnership with SMART in this article.

“By understanding the change in market due to COVID better over the last 18 months and building new modules in our application, we are now engaging in communications with cities, towns and municipalities. Some of the new modules that we have developed include: 

  • Enterprise Dashboard – Provides one platform for transporting and parking departments to keep track of revenue, make data driven decisions, improve operational efficiency and provides sleek analytics solutions;
  • E-permits – Ability to assign and reserve residential, visitor, employee, business parking permits – used by entities like cities, universities and apartment complexes;
  • Interactive Citation Map – Provides detailed citation analytics to managers on [a] dashboard;
  • EV – Pay, park and charge your EV via ParkStash. Provides charge % to enforcement officers utilizing EV’s, enabling notification of when the vehicle is ready to pick up.”

Saran says that ParkStash is getting ready to make another large announcement about a new city partnership. We can’t wait to see what more is around the corner for this SJSU alumnus who exemplifies the outstanding entrepreneurship qualities of many graduate student Spartans. Congratulations, Sameer Saran!

New Article Highlights Graduate Student Applications of Data Analytics to Community Resource Allocation

We are thrilled to see this new story from the SJSU Newsroom, “SJSU Students Use Data to Help Serve City’s Most Vulnerable Communities.” Congratulations to Saritha Podali, ’22 MS Data Analytics, and Fengling Zhou, ’22 MS Data Analytics, on their innovative work using data to illuminate resource needs across communities.

Announcing the 2021 Bertha Kalm Award Recipients

The College of Graduate Studies is delighted to present six graduate students with the 2021 Bertha Kalm Award.

“There were an unprecedented number of outstanding student nominees this year,” says Associate Dean of Inclusive Student Success Dr. Amy Leisenring, “[but] the committee was particularly impressed by [these] applicants. Huy Le Is committed to addressing educational disparities as a counselor faculty in a community college setting and as a dance therapist. Taylor Zavala is dedicated to helping trafficking survivors as a professional social worker. Jo’Leysha Cotton’s work involves housing advocacy, using a research-based city planning approach to modify zoning codes. Katherine Reyes is focused on advancing health equity through work in the public sector in Santa Clara county. Nicole Calande is interested in developing community arts programming, especially for those who may be searching for ways to express their voice. Mitchell Hawkins is committed to working on human rights and social justice issues through the lens of medical sociology.”

In the spirit of Bertha Kalm herself, who established this scholarship in 1995, we asked our students, “What defines your passion to make a difference?”

Nicole Calande | MFA Creative Writing 

Nicole Calande

“As a queer writer, I’ve often been concerned with voices on the margins. Going back to school to get my MFA in creative writing was as much about being connected to diverse peer writers and artists as it was about finding my own voice. With my previous experiences in independent podcasting and book publishing, I’ve seen the potential to shift power and resources towards underrepresented voices and artists. I hope to continue this passion through creating platforms that directly serve artists and community members in a variety of ways—always with accessibility and empowerment in mind. This year, being involved with Reed Magazine and the CLA will allow me to get the leadership experience in community arts programming that I hope to implement on my own after graduation.”

Michell Hawkins

Mitchell Hawkins | MS Occupational Therapy

“I think what has contributed the most to the passion I have to make a difference is simply having my eyes opened to the suffering of others and the injustices they face. What started with me taking a single Sociology course on race and ethnic relations has transitioned my entire way of viewing the world and my place in it. I have always wanted to help people and make a difference in the lives of others, which is the main reason that I am currently pursuing my Master’s in Occupational Therapy. But after taking that Sociology course, I am aware of the daily injustices people face that I can not ignore. I feel empathy for all of those suffering, and I believe that it is my responsibility to help as many people as I can for as long as I can. It is no longer my goal to seek to help only individuals but to seek social justice for all of those who need it. This scholarship will help me as I push to pursue a Ph.D. in Sociology. With that degree that I hope to use to create change and impact our [country’s] healthcare system to better serve those that it currently neglects and to serve those that it currently ignores. Everyone deserves an equal opportunity for a happy life and we have the power to help make that a reality.”

Katherine Reyes | Master of Public Health and Recreation (MPH)

Kathy Reyes

“As a graduate student and public health worker, I am guided by my personal experiences as someone who was incarcerated as a young person. I am resourced by those who have paved the way for generations before me, fighting for the rights of Black, Indigenous, disabled, immigrants, women, trans people, and other oppressed groups. I believe public health as a field has an important role and responsibility to support marginalized communities in our fight for dignity and liberation. Specifically, I believe that racial justice is central to public health and envision a world where public health is a leader in addressing structural racism through bold action such as divesting from carceral solutions and investing in community-centric efforts like housing and healthcare for everyone and universal basic income.”

Jo’Leysha Cotton

Jo’Leysha Cotton | Master of Urban Planning (MUP)

“The impetus for my passion to make a difference is because someone before me had the courage to make a difference, so I could live a more fruitful life. In particular, these people include my enslaved ancestors, civil right leaders, community activists, community members, and my parents and other family members. Making a difference is not always easy, the best way to pay homage to our ancestors is to pay it forward to generations following us.”

Huy Le | MS Counselor Education

“My greatest passion for making a difference in the world stems from my educational experience toward higher education. As a first-generation, low-income Vietnamese American man, I grew up in a single-parent household where I, as the eldest son, had the sole responsibility of taking care of my family while my mother, a Vietnamese immigrant, worked incredibly hard to make ends meet to put food on our table and keep a roof over our heads. Although I successfully became the first in my family to graduate from college, my journey toward achieving this goal was not easy due to my low socioeconomic background and not having the navigational assistance to steer me toward higher education. Through my own educational journey and my work as a Counselor Intern at West Valley College in EOPS, I realized that students like me are often challenged with attaining their educational goals due to various circumstances that make it difficult for them to do so. In fact, achieving my educational goals of transferring to a 4-year university and earning a college degree was something that I initially thought was out of reach for someone like me.

Huy Le

“As a future community college counselor, I am keenly determined to decrease these unequal, recurring rates by closing the achievement gap among first-generation, low-income college students from diverse backgrounds so that they can attain their educational goals. I strive to use my education to provide opportunities for college students from underserved communities to help them achieve their dreams and aspirations through higher education, ultimately fueling my passion and drive to continue making a difference for humanity and in the world entirely.”

Taylor Zavala | Master of Social Work (MSW)

“It is my passion to see others succeed and live a life that is authentically theirs that drives me to make a difference. Witnessing the special moments when someone is at their best are truly touching. It is in these moments that anything is possible. That is what I want for everyone in this world to be able to experience: moments of

Taylor Zavala

endless hope, peaceful contentment, and unbridled joy. While working with youth in schools, the LGBTQ+ community, and juvenile detention facilities alongside adults suffering from mental health issues, substance misuse, and experiencing domestic violence, sexual assault, and human trafficking, I have learned that humans are extremely resilient. We are able to traverse the most debilitating and frightening corners of existence and still find hope, a reason to get out of bed to show up for ourselves as we strive for a better life. I know I am one person, and I may not always make a difference, however, if there is a chance I can possibly help one of these individuals get to a place in their lives where they are self-sufficient and free from abuse, then I will continue providing support by showing up however I am needed. We all deserve to feel safe, heard, understood, and loved. As I work toward receiving my Master’s in Social Work at San Jose State University, I know I am learning the tools I need to help others feel exactly that. It is time we all live authentically. It is my passion to help others learn how so they can shine!”