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.

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!”

Sally Casanova Scholars 2020-2021

Three SJSU graduate students were named Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholars for the 2020-2021 year. Congratulations to these outstanding scholarship recipients! 

Nicole Coates | Graduate Student, Interdisciplinary Studies

Nicole Coates Headshot

Nicole Coates

“I started graduate school at SJSU in Fall 2019 and am in the Interdisciplinary Studies program, where I created my own coursework which is centered around psychology, philosophy and statistics. Being chosen as a 2020-2021 Sally Casanova scholar is incredibly exciting because I feel more confident in applying to PhD programs this Fall. Although being a first-generation woman and minority student in higher education has brought about challenges and doubt, I am thankful that SJSU has fostered my research interests and allowed me to create community. My goal in obtaining my PhD is to contribute to the field of cognitive science through a diverse lens. I’m not only passionate about the field itself, I am passionate about diversifying it and empowering others like me to get their ideas heard.”

Mike McFarlin | Graduate Student, Ecology and Evolution

Mike McFarlin Headshot

Michael McFarlin

“I began my graduate studies in Ecology and Evolution at San Jose State University in the spring of 2018. A highlight for me while I have been a student at San Jose has been the wide range of experiences that have been available to me. I have been able to collaborate with international researchers during my research, take courses at SJSU and other institutions, and work with undergraduate students in laboratory courses. It is an honor to have been chosen as a 2020-2021 Sally Casanova scholar and I look forward to the opportunities and connections it will afford me as I pursue doctoral studies. In my future research, I am interested in investigating the connections between larger organisms within ecosystems, their microbiomes, and the environmental microbiota that are so critical to maintaining the healthy ecosystem functioning that we rely on. Increasing human development is endangering many species though it is still unclear what impacts the loss of larger species could have on the structure of microbial communities. During a PhD, I would also like to continue to teach undergraduate courses and mentor students in research and analysis. Teaching at SJSU has been fulfilling and energizing. It has helped me within my own research and I would be honored to continue working with younger scientists during my studies.”

Jai Mica Vaca | Graduate Student, Justice Studies

Jai Mica Vaca Student Photo

Jai Mica Vaca

“I began my graduate studies/program Fall 2019 and plan on graduating Spring 2021. I am currently researching/exploring how legal status affects SJSU Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) students’ mental health and academic success. More specifically, the impacts of legal limbo, which results in toxic uncertainty. The program so far has been great, the professors have been amazing. The Justice Studies department faculty have given me the tools and training needed to start my research project. My ultimate goal is to obtain my Phd and become a professor. My research interests are immigration, criminalization of undocumented people, social justice, mental health and DACA. It is truly an honor to be chosen as a 2020-2021 Sally Casanova scholar. As a first generation college student this program will provide the assistance needed to achieve my career goal.”