The M.A. Child and Adolescent Development Program Supports its Students from Day One

Sara Black and Cheyenne Grant are in the midst of completing their M.A. Child and Adolescent Development program (CHAD) degree at San José State University (SJSU) and expect to graduate in Spring 2024. We reached out to Sara and Cheyenne to learn more about their experience in the program and why they choose SJSU to pursue their CHAD degree.

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Sara Black – 24′ M.A., Child and Adolescent Development

Sara’s desire to pursue a CHAD degree stemmed from wanting to fortify her competency when she enters the job market. She spoke to me about how the CHAD  program has been preparing her: “I am learning so much and I am super engaged in the content being taught. Both my professors and my cohort have been very supportive and fun to learn with. I couldn’t ask for a better academic environment.”

Sara said there were various reasons for selecting SJSU among other universities. Proximity to family was important, which is why Sara decided to look in her own backyard and chose SJSU. This felt like the right decision for Sara because she felt like belonged in the program since day one, “SJSU stood out to me as an institution that takes pride in its students and wants to support them in every way. When I got my acceptance letter, it was personalized, which told me that the graduate coordinator took the time to write a welcoming letter to every applicant that was accepted to the program. This made me excited to join the CHAD program at SJSU because I felt that I would be seen and recognized not only as a student, but as a person. This program gave me a sense of belonging before I even stepped foot on campus, which I really valued in my decision-making.”

Sara hopes to become a Certified Child Life Specialist (CCLS) after graduation where she will work with children and families in hospitals to prepare them for procedures, provide therapeutic play, and to overall decrease their experienced stress. Her advice for prospective students is to “build relationships with others in the field (i.e. professors, students, staff). This really helps when you want to learn more about working in the field of child development, and having a professional support system you can lean on.” Sara ended by highlighting how supportive and kind the professors have been in the first year of the program.

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Cheyenne Grant – 24′ M.A., Child and Adolescent Development

For Cheyenne Grant, her desire to pursue a CHAD degree stemmed from her undergraduate education. Her passion in her undergraduate project “The Influence of Authoritarian Parenting on the Student-Teacher Relationship,” is what ignited her desire to attend graduate school. The CHAD program at SJSU stood out to Cheyenne because it was in line with her interests and because of SJSU Professor, Dr. Nadia Sorkhab’s work on parental influences on development.

The CHAD program provided Cheyenne numerous research, academia, and community engagement opportunities. Cheyenne worked for the Center for District Innovation and Leadership in Early Education (DIAL-EE) to review the visibility of California’s universal preschool program. She also worked as a Project Assistant with SJSU’s Healthy Development Community Clinic under Dr. Cara Maffini where she hosted community events and disseminated health information.

On how SJSU has transformed her professional and personal life, Cheyenne says, “I am genuinely surprised and elated by the changes I’ve seen in my life, both personally and professionally. This program unexpectedly initiated a deeper exploration of my identity, which has greatly reframed how I see myself. As a young professional, I was able to develop a supportive network with my professors and peers that felt empowering, impactful, and educational.”

The CHAD program at SJSU is providing a well-rounded education and Cheyenne and Sara are a testament to that. We can’t wait to see them make a difference in their communities.

Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholar 2023-2024

Congratulations to Alfonso Ayala, outstanding Sally Casanova Pre-Doctoral Scholar recipient for the 2023-2024 year. Alfonso shared how he feels to be selected, highlights from his program, and how SJSU has shaped his graduate education.

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Alfonso Ayala | 24′ M.A., Chicana and Chicano Studies

My name is Alfonso Ayala III, and I am a graduate student in the Chicana and Chicano Studies program. I started taking classes through Open University in Fall 2021; I am currently starting my final year in the program, and plan to graduate Spring 2024!

Being selected as a Sally Casanova Scholarship recipient is a tremendous honor. I started my journey back to graduate school because I knew that I wanted to continue on and pursue a Ph.D.; having access to funding and support that will help me realize my dream is something I am incredibly grateful for. I also believe that being awarded this scholarship is a testament to the community that I have around me. I struggled for a long time with drug addiction and thankfully, I am now sober. My sober community has been instrumental on my journey back to school, and throughout. And throughout the application process, I had a great friend, Marlene Andrade (2022-2023 recipient of the scholarship!) provide immense support and encouragement.

I have been fortunate enough to participate in a few research experiences since I’ve been at SJSU. As part of my Policy Analysis and the Chicana/o Community course, utilizing autohistoria and interviews with research participants, I conducted a small ethnographic study of Latinx teacher recruiters and the way that their racialized identity impacts their work of diversifying the teacher workforce. In Spring of 2022, I presented my research at the California Chapter of the National Association for Multicultural Education and also at the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies Annual Conference. This past academic year, I have been working on a research project under the guidance of Dr. Carrie Sampson at Arizona State University, in which we completed a critical discourse analysis of media coverage of school board decisions on mask mandates, school police, and critical race theory. This research was part of a Presidential Session at the American Education Research Association Annual Meeting in April. My current research interests lie at the intersections of Chicana/o Studies, Ethnic Studies, American Studies, and Gender and Sexuality Studies. I am interested in Chicanx sobriety, identity, and spirituality; I am also interested in how the journey of sobriety impacts Chicanx conceptions of identity and spirituality. For my Master’s project, I am primarily using autohistoria and critical analysis of recovery literature, though I hope to include other methods such as oral history and testimonio in future work.

SJSU has shaped my graduate experience in ways I could have never imagined. As I mentioned before, I knew I wanted to earn a PhD, but there was no way I could have ever imagined the ways that my SJSU experience could have prepared me for the journey of applying for doctoral programs. Starting from my very first course through Open University with Dra. Vega, her humanizing classroom made it clear to me that the Chicana and Chicano Studies department was where I belonged. Dra. Vega has been a fierce advocate and champion of mine from the beginning; it was her guidance that encouraged me to submit my first conference proposal! Dr. Ramirez (aka Dr. Johnny) has stressed the importance of applied praxis in every class he teaches; he gets us to think beyond just the problem and dream up possible solutions. Dr. Curry has pushed my thinking in ways I could have never imagined; she has helped me become a deliberate scholar who thinks critically about what scholars are arguing, and also about my own beliefs and assumptions. And, of course, we can’t do this alone–my amazing classmates (shout out especially to Marlene, Annette, and Naomie!) have helped me stay committed. Late night study sessions, peer edits, tons of laughs. I can’t say enough good things about the faculty and students in our department.

Ten Tips to Succeed in Grad School

Graduate school is an adventure. In grad school, you learn and grow, discover new skills and make long lasting connections. Whether you’re a new or returning student, check out our list of top tips to make sure you make the best of your graduate education. 


Schedule and organize

You will be busy – to stay on top of everything and not overwhelm yourself, it’s best to stay organized. Figure out a system that works the best for you and follow it. 

Find time to go outside 

Classes, studying and working on your research will take a lot of time and keep you inside. Make sure to give yourself some time to go outside, enjoy nature and get some exercise. Looking for inspiration on where to go? Check out our 5 Best Outdoorsy Locations Near SJSU.

Take advantage of the school resources  

Everybody needs a bit of support sometimes – don’t hesitate to ask for help! SJSU is on your side no matter what and has many resources available to help you succeed. 

Find your favorite study spots

There are so many on campus locations to choose from. Do you prefer a quiet nook in the library or a busy cafe? This author’s favorite spot is the top floor of a Library – quiet and comfy, while offering amazing views of the campus.

Make copies 

Some students prefer to read class assignments on a paper copy vs on screen. If that’s you, make copies of important documents in your first couple weeks of school to have them ready.  

Have a good work setup at home 

Make sure you have a good setup – a comfortable workspace, ideally with limited distractions. 

Refresh your writing skills

Graduate school requires a lot of writing. If you feel nervous about this, refresh your writing skills by visiting the Writing Center and attend a tutoring session or one of their writing workshops. 

Build connections 

A big part of graduate education is networking – building connections in your professional and private life. You will meet so many amazing people at SJSU! Not sure where to start? Check out the student organizations. 

Take care of your mental health

Mental Health is a key to success. Take care of it and don’t let the stress get to you. Need some help? SJSU CAPS has got you covered. 

Last, have fun!

Enjoy your time at graduate school! All you need to do is take care of yourself and stay on top of your tasks – and you will have a great time. 

M.S. Kinesiology Students in the Fast-growing World of Sports Management

The M.S. Kinesiology program at San Jose State University (SJSU) allows graduate students to gain skills in a variety of areas and get hands-on research experience within their interest.

We connected with two graduate students in the M.S. Kinesiology program, Sports Management concentration, and they both highlighted SJSU’s premier Silicon Valley location, the resources SJSU and their program provides, as well as the outstanding faculty. Dhwanil Shah and Ivanna Anderson-Villela are graduating this upcoming Spring 2024 and they already have skills and relevant career experience to add to their resume,

Research & Diversity and Equity

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Dhwanil Shah | ’24 M.S., Kinesiology

Dhwanil and Ivanna both spoke about the graduate student research support they received from their program and the various leadership opportunities they took on while in their program. Dhwanil worked on a research project in Sports Psychology this past April, “I had an opportunity to work on and present on the importance of teaching diversity, equity and inclusion in youth sports at a Sports Psychology conference in Long Beach.” Dhawanil said it was the faculty’s support and guidance that allowed him to develop his intellect for the research field.

Ivanna is particularly interested in the research of Sports Ecology, which will be the focus of her upcoming thesis. She told us, “I have brought to the attention of professors and classmates the importance of sport ecology and how it is a fundamental subdiscipline of sport management, motivating me to continue to research this area.” Ivanna is currently a graduate research assistant on diversity, equity and inclusion in STEM graduate education and athletic mentoring. After graduation, Ivanna plans to pursue a Doctor of Philosophy degree. It was the university’s and program’s exposure to sports marketing and analytical methods that allowed her to find a new passion for research and continue her education.

Belonging and Community at SJSU

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Ivanna Anderson-Villela | ’24 M.S., Kinesiology

From joining clubs to bowling at the student center SJSU offers graduate students the opportunity to feel right at home. There is always something for everyone.

Dhwanil spoke to us about his passion for Cricket and how it led him to create a Spartan Cricket club, “the club provides students an opportunity to learn and play the sport of cricket on campus – cricket is an extremely popular sport among the commonwealth countries and the club provides a sense of belonging in a community with a common passion.”  Finding a community and connecting with peers was what instilled a sense of belonging for Dhwanil.

Faculty Support

Both Dhwanil and Ivanna shared how the Kinesiology faculty’s supportiveness allowed them to build an impactful education at SJSU. 

Ivanna highlighted the attention and support she receives from faculty, “the faculty in the sport management program truly care about the students and do an incredible job developing students academically and professionally. Connecting with them (faculty) will allow them to guide and help you succeed.”

Dhwanil said that the faculty created a sense of belonging to him, “The Kinesiology faculty has been very helpful and welcoming since day one and I am grateful for them in making it a smooth transition for me.”

On Why They Chose SJSU

There are many reasons why graduate students choose SJSU. Our surveys indicate that students may choose us because of the uniqueness of programs, the lower cost compared to other universities, and the premier Silicon Valley location that offers connection opportunities across the Bay Area.

For Dhwanil, we see these reflected in his own reasoning for choosing SJSU, “San José State University’s location played a major role in my decision, located in the heart of Silicon Valley and in the state of California – a frontrunner in sports and home to many professional sports franchises. Having previously worked for over 5 years in amateur and semi-professional sports, I felt it was the right moment to take the next step in my career. And the Sport Management graduate program appealed the most to me as it provided the perfect opportunity to further develop and sublimate my personality and to grow my knowledge in the field.”

Ivanna highlighted SJSU’s social justice and equity in the sports management world,  “I chose SJSU because it provides the best education possible for students to be prepared for a successful career in the sports industry, healthcare

settings, academia, and other establishments. This university also instills a sense of professionalism and commitment toward social justice, equity, and respect in sports and the world. I knew SJSU would help me achieve the educational objectives offered such as having the capacity to expose myself to the sports industry while using analytical methods in research. During my time at SJSU, my career path has changed for the better.”

Both Ivanna and Dhwanil feel ready to continue their professional journey or go onto a Ph.D. after graduation because of the support, resources, research and experiences that both their program and SJSU offered them. We cannot wait to see where their graduate education at SJSU will take them and how they will transform their communities!

Dr. Hector and Catalina Garcia Graduate Endowed Scholarship 2023-2024 Recipient

Vanessa Segura-Casillas is the 2023-2024 Dr. Hector and Catalina Garcia Graduate Endowed Scholarship recipient. Congratulations!! Read why she is honored to receive this scholarship.

Vanessa Segura-Casillas | ’24 M.A., Counseling & Guidance

Vanessa smiling,

“It’s an honor to be a recipient of this scholarship and to be recognized for my love and commitment to serving my community. I will continue to positively impact Hispanic and underserved communities by supporting students in their academic journeys. As a future school counselor, I strive to empower Hispanic youth in following their aspirations and pursuing higher education despite their obstacles. Choosing to pursue my M.A. in Counseling & Guidance at SJSU has been a wonderful experience. The knowledge I have gained and the connections I’ve made are immeasurable. Having opportunities like these to apply to scholarships that recognize the hard work and dedication of SJSU students is how we can get closer to bridging the equity gap in higher education.”