It is hard to believe we are nearing the end of February—the beginning of this semester has just flown by. There is much to do in terms of sharing our story and advocating for our university, while working to connect with many of you on campus. I had the pleasure of engaging with students at the Chicanx/Latinx Student Success Center Spring Welcome February 5, interacting with university stakeholders at the Strategic Planning Presentation and Community Conversation February 9, and seeing many of you at other events earlier this year. Before we get any further into this term, I would like to share recent news, updates and notes on upcoming events.
Enhancing Campus Security
First, I am sure campus safety is on all of our minds in light of recent events in Florida. A public university like ours is defined to a great extent by a sense of trust. We open our doors and our hearts to one another to create a place that is safe—physically, emotionally and intellectually—so that we may share and grow as individuals and as a community. But this distinction can make us, as we see with each incident on our campus or elsewhere, quite vulnerable.
I most certainly understand that it is the responsibility of campus leaders to do all we can to keep you safe. We are fortunate to have the University Police Department and its more than 25 sworn officers serving San Jose State. UPD recently installed, throughout campus, some of the most advanced security cameras available. Using this technology, our officers were able quickly to find and arrest an alleged robbery suspect in January.
The Behavioral Intervention Team is another important resource. This collaborative team seeks to identify and assist individuals who may pose a danger to themselves or others. The team very intentionally includes members from all parts of campus to make it clear that we are seeking input and assistance from everyone.
In addition to all of these efforts, we always will need your help. We need your eyes and ears, your quick thinking and your action. As I mentioned in my February 15 message to campus, we want to hear from you should you ever become fearful that someone in our community may hurt themselves or others. Similarly, let us know should you ever become concerned about something you see online (for example, something violent posted on social media).
The Red Folder reference guide is an icon on the desktop of most university computers and is the best source of information on who to call depending on the situation at hand. If the concern is immediate or you feel a threat or crime is imminent, call UPD at 408-924-2222 or dial 911 from a campus phone.
Remembering Professor Kate Sullivan
While I have much good news to share this month, including the momentous opening of new student centers, upcoming events with elite visitors to our university, and updates on generous gifts that support our programs, I also have some sad news.
In late January, we lost a devoted professor, Dr. Kate Sullivan, who passed away due to complications from a heart attack. Kate helped to found the Department of Hospitality Management and taught at San Jose State for nearly 30 years. Our condolences are with her son, family members, colleagues and students. A Celebration of Life will be held at 3 p.m. March 5 in the Diaz Compean Student Union Theater. There will be a short program to remember her followed by a reception. The campus community is invited.
Kate was a dedicated teacher who was admired by her students, and she mentored many graduates as they launched their hospitality and tourism careers, always willing to provide a positive reference with her many industry contacts. Kate’s legacy includes her work to initiate hospitality programs overseas in Dubai and Vietnam in order to provide our students a global experience.
I was able to see Kate interact with her students when my husband Dennis and I attended an event hosted by two of her classes. The biannual Beers Around the World Tradeshow that Kate developed was a partnership between her beer appreciation and her conference, convention and event planning classes. Kate created the concept to give students real-world experience, in the context of a beverage tasting event. Although students were in charge, she was always there, with a smile for everyone in the room.
Highlighting Black History
February is Black History Month, and we have had a full slate of activities that celebrate the diversity of our students while acknowledging the challenges we still face. Enlightening visitors included author Natalie Baszile, entertainer W. Kamau Bell and a group of student photographers from New York.
I encourage all of you to visit the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library’s Jennifer and Philip DiNapoli Gallery to view “Harlem Reimagined.” On display through the end of March, these remarkable photos are the work of students and alumni from San Jose State and three San Jose and New York high schools, brought together by SJSU Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications Michael Cheers.
These young photographers followed in the footsteps of famed photographer James Van Der Zee, who leveraged his skills and vantage point within the Harlem community more than a century ago to capture the community’s rich cultural life. The group focused on changes that are underway today in Harlem, as a new generation of residents settles in, bringing gentrification to parks and streets bearing the names of black luminaries such as Harriet Tubman, Duke Ellington and Dr. King.
In more ways than one, the project came full circle when the students from New York traveled to San Jose for the exhibit’s opening. I had the pleasure of attending the event and meeting many of the students and instructors who were involved in this unique project. Having walked these same streets myself while I lived and worked on the East Coast, I was genuinely inspired by the images, which are posted without credits to emphasize that their work was a collaborative effort.
Setting Goals Through Strategic Planning
Speaking of collaborative efforts, we are well on our way to having a new strategic plan to guide our university through the next 10 years. As I said when we started this journey together at our kick-off event in September, whatever we spend our days doing—teaching, managing, coaching, building, communicating, serving—the future of our university depends on our collective openness to dreaming. And planning.
On February 9, the Strategic Planning Steering Committee presented the results of our collective dreaming in the form of the five draft goals. I appreciate all the students, staff, faculty, alumni, and community members who shared their hopes for the future of our university, and who were candid about the challenges we face. We heard many voices at our campus and community conversations last fall that helped us to define areas of focus that will allow us to grow as a world-class public university while remaining relevant and impactful in our community.
Thank you to the Strategic Planning Steering Committee co-chairs Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Andy Feinstein and Stefan Frazier, chair of the Academic Senate, and the rest of the committee members for their efforts in designing an inclusive process. The work continues this spring, with steering committee members leading task forces that include students, staff, faculty, administrators and community members, as well as representatives from across our divisions.
The task forces will develop action items that will move forward each of our draft goals: Educate for Engagement and Innovation; Academic Excellence and Leadership; Thriving Quality of Life; Connect, Engage, Contribute; and Campus Development and Sustainability. At the end of this semester, the Strategic Planning Steering Committee will be ready to present a plan for us to evaluate. I encourage all of you to learn more and provide input online.
Visiting the State Capitol
While our Strategic Plan will encompass many factors, there is one in particular that is of great interest to our elected officials, and that is workforce preparation. I was one of four campus presidents recently invited by the California State University Office of Advocacy and State Relations to participate in a luncheon with several key state senators, and then to make a presentation to legislative staff members in the Capitol.
I was asked to focus my presentation on engineering and healthcare, both major drivers of the California economy. In our roundtable discussion and the presentation to legislative staff, I was pleased to share statistics showing our impact on the region and throughout California and to highlight many innovative programs and partnerships developed by faculty members with industry connections in emerging fields of study.
These programs include our Microscale Process Engineering Laboratory, where students are learning to design, among other things, tiny devices that could be implanted inside the body to improve health outcomes, and our doctorate of nursing practice, through which we provide professional development opportunities for clinicians such as alumna Mercy Egbujor, who delivers healthcare to San Jose’s homeless.
The presentation was well received, and I would like to thank the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering and the College of Applied Sciences and the Arts for their help developing supporting materials. Many legislative staff members were intrigued and wanted to learn more about how to support student success and engagement.
Connecting with Alumni
Student success extends well beyond the day our students graduate with their degrees, so I am always pleased to connect with our alumni. I recently attended a luncheon with the Saratoga Rotary Club. It was such a warm and welcoming group! Although I delivered formal remarks, it was not long before we were simply talking about the many connections between San Jose State and this group of civic leaders. Many attended SJSU, but they were especially proud to tell me about one outstanding alumnus.
Are you familiar with the story of Benny Pierce? Raised in Los Gatos, he attended college and was a quarterback at San Jose State. His teammates included a name you might recognize, legendary 49ers Coach Bill Walsh. Pierce went on to a very long career teaching and serving as Saratoga High School’s head football coach, leading the team through 31 winning seasons. Today, the high school’s football field bears his name.
But what really caught my attention was how Mr. Pierce achieved so many victories. As I later learned while reading a profile in the school paper, he stressed that every single player, even those on the practice squad, contributed to victories. I hear this time and again from great coaches: teamwork leads to lasting success.
Planning to Attend the Student Success Symposium?
Speaking of teamwork, I encourage you to attend our inaugural Student Success Symposium March 15, from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., in the Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom. The day will feature a strong line up of national educational leaders who will discuss best practices and innovative ways to increase graduation rates, close the equity gap, and provide an excellent educational experience for all students. Please RSVP online by March 9.
Confirmed guest speakers include UCLA Professor of Education Sylvia Hurtado, who has been involved with the Higher Education Research Institute; George D. Kuh, the creator of the National Survey of Student Engagement and a promoter of high-impact practices; and Timothy Renick, vice provost and vice president for Enrollment Management and Student Success at Georgia State University, which has made great progress with its equity gap.
These speakers will provide new perspectives on supporting students that I hope will help us in creating action items to achieve our own goals.
Welcoming Three New Student Success Center Directors
I also am pleased to share that we have made one momentous stride in the realm of student success—we opened three new student centers, and all have terrific new leaders. On February 14, I joined a reception celebrating these appointments.
Lilly Pinedo Gangai has already planned many activities this spring for the Chicanx/Latinx Student Success Center. She has 12 years of experience in higher education and most recently worked as an academic advisor in our Academic Advising and Retention Services Office.
Paula Powell has nearly 21 years of experience and was the founding director of the University of California, Santa Cruz African-American Student Life Resource Center. As the newly appointed director of our African American/Black Student Success Center, she is committed to student achievement and inclusion.
Ana Navarrete Avina joins the UndocuSpartan Resource Center from the College of Humanities and the Arts Student Success Center, where she was an academic advisor. She is a passionate advocate for immigrant rights and will serve our undocumented students well.
Recognizing Our Promise: Gifts to the University
These new centers are made possible in part by the foresight and generosity of those who see our promise. Last February, we announced that South Bay philanthropist Lupe Diaz Compean had made a $15 million gift commitment to the Student Union. In August, we announced that business leaders Gloria and Michael Chiang had made a $2.5 million gift commitment to the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.
Then, on February 7, we announced that alumni Larry and Dierdre Solari have made a $5 million gift commitment to support football personnel and facilities. I have had the pleasure of meeting the Solaris, and I was struck by their appreciation for what athletics brings to young lives.
Larry sees the value of intercollegiate athletics through the prism of his own experience as a young man who loved playing baseball, as well as a businessman who worked his way up to president of the Owens-Corning Fiberglass building materials group. “As an athlete, you learn discipline, you learn to work hard, you learn by practicing and staying with it,” he says. “In the business world, hard work, dedication, and commitment to your company will lead to better things for you and better things for the company.”
Many of our graduates share the Solaris’ story: hard work—intelligently applied—changes lives. Now the Solaris would like to pay it forward. Keep in mind that this is about far more than one program. “I really believe that a strong football program enhances the reputation of the university. It makes more people aware of who we are,” Mr. Solari says. His challenge to other alumni? “Embrace and support the university.”
Embrace. That’s a strong word, and it is in reference to the entire university. Make no mistake about this; while these gifts fund specific needs, they also serve as a reminder of San Jose State’s tremendous impact. And they are a call to action to our many alumni and friends to invest in our university so that we can continue to fulfill our mission as an innovative, student centered, transformational institution that is making a difference.
Insights Speaker Series: Condoleezza Rice
Another recent gift to the university is funding a new speaker series. Underwritten by the Valley Foundation, the Insights series will include a variety of perspectives on economics, business and international affairs. Our first event will feature Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of State (2005-2009). Students (with Tower ID) may claim a free ticket at the Event Center Box Office. Tickets for faculty, staff, alumni and community members are available via Ticketmaster.
Recognizing Women of Excellence Mentors
We also are fortunate this spring to be piloting a new mentor program for student-athletes on the Spartan Women’s Basketball team. “Women of Excellence” pairs each player with a mentor for one-on-one interactions off the court. I had the pleasure of meeting some of these mentors on February 10 at the Spartan game against Colorado State University. These mentors truly excel in their fields and areas of expertise, and they include leaders from our community and our university. I know they will inspire our student-athletes to find their own path to greatness beyond basketball, and I hope this connection will motivate our students to affect positive changes in their communities after graduation. I look forward to watching the relationship between the players and mentors grow this semester.
I appreciate the work Athletics has done to create this program, including Women’s Basketball Head Coach Jamie Craighead and Athletics Director Marie Tuite. Thank you as well to those who are serving as mentors this season.
We had a terrific turnout of Spartans for our Football Signing Celebration in the Diaz Compean Student Union on February 7. The ballroom was buzzing as Coach Brennan and his staff described the young men joining our football program in 2018. Everything you want to know is available here.
Congratulations to seniors Cambree Harbaugh, the 2018 Mountain West champion in the women’s indoor long jump, and Nicole Iloanya, the second-place finisher in the women’s triple jump and new school record holder in the event. When we started the women’s track and field program in 2013, Cambree and Nicole were two of our first three scholarship student-athletes in the sport!
Our women’s swimming and diving team is sending eight swimmers and three divers to post-season competition in early March. At the Mountain West Championships, senior Colleen Humel was second in the 200 backstroke and Junior Brenna Bushey was second in the 100 butterfly.
And, finally, junior Ryan Welage was named to the College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-District VIII team as one of the top five men’s basketball student-athletes in eight Western states and all of Canada this season. Ryan is a kinesiology major, 2017 SJSU Dean’s Scholar honoree and among the top-100 NCAA Division I players in scoring average. Ryan had a 4.0 GPA last fall.
As you can see, February has been a busy month and the rest of the semester promises to be just as full of activities and opportunities. I hope to see you at our upcoming events and I look forward to continuing our work together, providing excellent educational experiences for all of our students.