SJSU Clinical Lab Scientist Training Program Expands in a Crisis

A professor in a lab coat watches her student conduct research in a lab.

Photo: Robert Bain / San José State University.

Waiting on medical test results can be unpleasant, and the expansion of San José State’s Clinical Laboratory Scientist Training program could reduce those painful wait times. By building new hospital partnerships, the program serves as a crucial component in California’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

From Bakersfield to Chico, from Oroville to Newport Beach—across the state, 38 hospitals,  laboratories and medical centers are now state-approved SJSU affiliates, partnering with the university to train clinical laboratory scientists and get them to work where they are desperately needed.

“California has a shortage of clinical laboratory scientists,” said Michael Bowling, director of the Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) and Clinical Genetic Molecular Biology Scientist (CGMBS) Training programs. “People are coming to us.”

SJSU is the largest training program in California in number of hospital affiliates, many of which serve rural populations. At those affiliates, the CLS trainees take SJSU coursework remotely and train in laboratories throughout the state. Within one year, they can earn a state CLS license and get to work, easing the laboratory staffing crisis.

A student in a lab coat and goggles dispenses liquid into a test tube.

Photo: Robert Bain / San José State University.

CLSs examine the sample taken at your medical facility after you have blood drawn, for example. “They’re the ones running the tests. They are licensed by the State of California to perform the highest complexity testing,” said Bowling. That might mean differentiating types of cancer cells or identifying COVID-19.

Together, Bowling and longtime program coordinator Sharlene Washington run the program. “We send 50 licensed CLSs into the workforce every year,” Bowling said, “which is especially important when qualified hospital professionals are needed more than ever.” Since Bowling began as program director in 2018, the program has added five new affiliates—which means arranging contracts, insurance, state approval and many other complex, time-intensive challenges. “We’re really proud of that,” he said.

Students who are accepted to the program do their SJSU coursework remotely on Mondays, then train the rest of the week on site at their local affiliate laboratory or medical center. Such locations include Adventist Health Bakersfield, Natividad Medical Center in Salinas, El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San José. Bowling said the course instructors are also practicing clinical laboratory scientists from all over the Bay Area, experts in the latest techniques and methods.

Each six-month cycle the SJSU program receives about 140 applications. A cohort of about 25 accepted students will then study and train for 52 consecutive weeks to meet State of California requirements. Students who complete the graduate level program may then obtain national certification from the American Society for Clinical Pathology and a California Clinical Laboratory Scientist license.

“It’s quite rigorous,” Bowling said. To become licensed, CLS trainees must master every laboratory in the hospital—microbiology, hematology, chemistry, immunology. “They’ll have a basic competency to perform any of the tests a doctor may order,” he said.

At orientation, Bowling tells new CLS trainees, “If you love working in a laboratory, if you love science—that’s enough, as it is. But it’s such a bonus that we get to help people too. And with starting salaries of $50 an hour, CLS is a good career choice.”

“What’s unique about our program is that we have a lot of remote affiliates,” Bowling said. “Hospitals all over the state have staffing shortages, so it is appealing to both urban and rural hospitals that students can take classes online while training anywhere in the state. Hospital administrators are reaching out to us to train more students right now during this crisis.” The result? More opportunities for students, more university revenue, and training more clinical laboratory scientists for the workforce.

Bowling said the CLS program was scaling up while other programs, hindered by the pandemic and campus closures, had suspended training. “We are still trucking along and actually expanding during the COVID-19 crisis,” he said. “Our students are working with our hospital affiliates’ doctors and other laboratory professionals to get patients diagnosed and treated, and it is very rewarding to be part of this great work.”

Urban and Regional Planning Department Chair to Lead a National Professional Organization

Laxmi Ramasubramanian in a black blazer and white top smiling.

Photo: Robert Bain / San José State University.

Professor Laxmi Ramasubramanian, chair of the SJSU Department of Urban and Regional Planning, was elected vice president and president-elect of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP).

ACSP, a consortium of more than 100 university departments and programs offering planning degrees, is a scholarly association dedicated “to promoting the field of planning as a diverse global community that works collectively toward healthy, equitable and sustainable neighborhoods, cities and regions,” according to its website.

Ramasubramanian described taking an ACSP leadership position as a “personal calling.” She said she felt now was a good time to help shape how planning professionals do their work because the current era demanded more active promotion of the values she teaches her students to keep forefront.

“My area of research is participatory planning,” Ramasubramanian explained. “I use every opportunity, whether in service, teaching or research, to think about process issues. Planning is about thinking about the future. To me, the governing board of the planning association should reflect the ethos of the field: Our processes should be transparent, accountable, participatory, engaged—all the things we want our public planners to do.”

Ramasubramanian said once the thought of contributing to her profession’s national leadership entered her head, she could not dismiss it. “I’ve been thinking this summer about the national mood,” she said, “which has refocused our attention to inequality in city after city, community after community. So I was struggling with this as an individual. And often I find that I need to be with other people to make change.”

Ramasubramanian said important structural changes could rarely be made by individuals alone, but only in concert with others. “We can’t do what we need to do by ourselves, and we shouldn’t try to do it by ourselves. How can we work in partnership with groups of people to create the kind of transformation they’re aspiring for?” Mulling that over led her to seek her new leadership position.

Ramasubramanian will serve as vice president through 2021, after which she advances automatically to president for the term 2021-2023.

“My goal is to spend this year really listening to the interest groups that are part of our association and who share the same anxieties and fears and mood that is going on around the country,” she said.

A professional organization undergoes the same struggles happening outside it, she said. Ramasubramanian said her role would be to actively support planning faculty and students who are Black, indigenous or people of color through both policy and action. “We’re a good organization,” she said. “We’ve always said the words. An academic organization with our heart in the right place. But that’s not enough right now. That’s what the world is telling us: It’s not enough.”

As a public university, SJSU is accountable to a wide range of people. “At public universities we have a teaching mission,” she said. “We are preparing planning professionals who go out in the world and solve the difficult problems of climate change and environmental degradation, build resilient and inclusive communities, fix our transportation problems. So I’m really proud of the work that universities like ours do.” Ramasubramanian said she hoped to represent the voices of public universities in the ACSP governing board. You have to have diverse points of view in the room to change the conversation.”

SJSU offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in geography and an accredited master’s of urban planning degree—the only programs of their kind in Silicon Valley. The department’s diverse student population includes working students who prefer to attend the program on a part-time basis—a rare opportunity, given that few fully accredited master’s in urban planning programs offer graduate students an entirely part-time option. Emphasizing experiential learning and career preparation, the department’s faculty members teach about architecture, communication, economics, history, public policy, and sociology. Through public service projects, students assist local communities in addressing topical planning issues. SJSU has excelled in the field of urban planning since 1970.

College of Social Sciences Dean Walter Jacobs said, “Laxmi was outstanding in her first year as the chair of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, so I was not surprised to learn that she was selected as vice president of a national organization. I have absolutely no doubts about her ability to thrive as the vice president and then president of ACSP while she continues to excel as a department chair.”

Ramasubramanian said she saw this step as part and parcel of the university’s larger mission. “I’ve chosen a narrow pathway to have an impact—trying to serve my peers in the academy, a membership organization of university people—but the work that we do, the professors, is hugely important because we impact young people,” she said. “One reason I’m at San José State is that here we can see so clearly how education is the pathway to transformation. The education you receive at SJSU prepares you to move in your career, your life, to move your family and your community to the next aspirational goals you set for yourself, whatever they may be.”

COVID-19 Playing Major Role in SJSU’s 2020-2021 Fiscal Year Budget

The university is leveraging reserves in effort to prevent layoffs and continue Transformation 2030 strategic plan.

 

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, San José State University (SJSU) is in the process of releasing its budget for the current academic year. SJSU is scheduled to release its budget for the current academic year by the end of September.

With the California State University (CSU) system facing a $299 million budget reduction from the state of California due to COVID-19’s impact on the state’s overall budget, SJSU’s $377 million budget — down $26 million from last year — has been affected significantly by the state’s reductions and the economic impact of the pandemic. 

SJSU estimates a financial shortfall of more than $92 million from lost revenue and COVID-related expenses tied to the state’s budget reduction and university-specific revenue streams, most notably housing, which accounts for nearly half of the university-specific losses, parking, dining, concerts and events, athletics revenues and international student enrollment. Although SJSU’s total enrollment number is on track to mirror the 2019-2020 academic year, the loss of an estimated 500 international and out of state students this fall factors into the revenue reduction.

“On top of being a major health concern, the pandemic has created a financial impact on higher education that will hurt universities like SJSU for some time to come,” said President Mary A. Papazian. “The recovery from this will be long and arduous. I have and will continue to call upon Congress and others to support institutions like SJSU to ensure a well-educated workforce vital for our state’s future.”

The projected deficit is nearly six times the original estimate of $16 million in losses the university estimated during the spring semester after the county’s shelter-in-place order went into effect March 16. The federal government’s CARES Act, distributed in April, provided more than $30 million to SJSU, with nearly half of it earmarked and distributed as direct student aid. The remaining $16 million funded faculty training through the SJSU Teach Online Summer Certificate Program, enabled the purchase of much needed student and faculty IT equipment, and provided some relief to enterprises, including housing and parking services. The remaining funds from the CARES Act were used to support COVID-related infrastructure expenses, such as cleaning supplies and other uses by Facilities Development and Operations, and expenditures in Academic Affairs.

Options for this year and beyond

In July 2020, CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White shared a message emphasizing that the financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt by the CSU for at least the next three years. Chancellor White described the CSU’s plan to reduce expenses, including instituting a systemwide hiring slowdown, halting most travel for all campuses and the Chancellor’s Office, and the consideration of a furlough program beginning in the 2021-2022 fiscal year. Chancellor White has delegated to each campus president the responsibility and accountability for implementing local campus layoff plans, as determined by the campus and consistent with applicable collective bargaining agreements. 

“Layoffs are the least preferred option for SJSU, and we continue to look at the budget to find creative solutions to the looming financial challenges we face,” Papazian said. “We are committed to exhausting all avenues before resorting to layoffs. We will continue to find ways to ensure the university can maintain courses and services for students and keep our faculty and staff employed in the midst of a global crisis.”

While SJSU has continued to hire faculty and key strategic positions, the university has significantly slowed hiring and backfilling positions, resulting in budget savings.

Despite the expected financial shortfall over the next three years, SJSU is committed to continuing the work necessary to achieve goals of the Transformation 2030 strategic plan — including graduation rate increases, tenure-track faculty hiring and start-up, research growth, safety and growth of graduate studies. 

“Despite what feels like insurmountable challenges, we will continue the progress we have already made toward these vital goals for the growth of San José State University,” said Vice President of Finance and Administration and Chief Financial Officer Charlie Faas. 

In his July message, Chancellor White also wrote that use of reserves will be vital to protecting our institutions from financial exigency over the next three years. Campuses and the Chancellor’s Office will be measured in drawing on these funds to ensure they do not “zero out” their reserves. Funds from reserves intended for a specific need or priority will only be used to fund those particular areas.

Drawing from reserves

SJSU will utilize a significant portion of its reserves — currently $161 million from the general fund and enterprise reserves which amount to a little less than five months of funding to support all university operations. Given the long-term impacts of COVID-19, SJSU looks to draw on about 60 percent of its reserves in the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The remaining reserves will be largely expended in the next two fiscal years.

SJSU is also working closely with its auxiliary organizations to determine how they can best partner with the university. The university is prepared for several years where the state budget could be significantly decreased and additional state funding is not available. 

“Getting through the pandemic and its lasting financial impact will be a team effort, and potential support from divisions, enterprises and auxiliaries will allow SJSU to continue to adapt in crucial areas across campus and emerge from the pandemic on solid ground,” said Faas. “Together, we will continue to fulfill our academic mission and support graduation initiatives that have made San José State University a world-class institution that is the most transformative university in the country.”

Some of SJSU’s COVID-19 Heroes

Photo: Robert Bain/San José State University

San José State alumni, students and faculty members have risen to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many alumni are frontline workers, government leaders and decision-makers managing and taking care of essential and emergency services.

Also tending to the community are current students and faculty–contributing valuable resources, raising awareness, generating funds and displaying creative ingenuity in addressing social and healthcare needs. As fall semester begins, SJSU recognizes some of the valiant efforts of these Spartans working tirelessly to keep the community safe and healthy.

Frontline Workers and Government Leaders

Christina Salvatier, ’19 MPA, is the CFO of the Valley Medical Foundation, and created the management systems for receiving, acknowledging, sorting, warehousing and issuing thousands of masks, gowns and related equipment.

Brandi Childress, ’08 MS Transportation Management, is the pubic information officer for VTA, developing COVID-19 messaging for its internal employees and for passengers, in collaboration with the Santa Clara County Health Department.

James Griffith, ’15 MPA, is the advanced planning lead in the State Operations Center (SOC) in Sacramento, managing the projections of resource needs for the management of COVID-19 response statewide.

Julie Nagasako, ’12 MPA, is a manager in the Office of the Secretary, California Department of Health, coordinating the department’s work on the medical issues.

Robert Sapien, ’95 Bachelors Political Science/Public Administration, chief of the San José Fire Department (SJFD), and current MPA student Reggie Williams, SJFD assistant chief, are leading the daily emergency medical response to the San José community.

Robert Herrera, ’18 MPA, San José Fire Department Battalion Chief supervises firefighters/EMTs in a number of stations.

Curtis Jacobson, ’19 MPA, is the chief of the Fremont Fire Department.

David Swing, ’08 MPA, has been appointed as the chief of the Pleasanton Police Department. Joseph Perez, ’18 MPA, is a corporal in the Watsonville Police Department.

Current MPA student Katy Nomura is the assistant to the City Manager in Cupertino and in charge of its emergency management programs, and Genevieve Yip, ’20 MPA,  is part of the city of Santa Clara emergency response.

Council member, District 7 Maya Esparza, ’11 MPA, and Council member, District 2 Sergio Jimenez, ’08 Political Science are members of the San José City Council, developing important legislation to protect our most vulnerable community members from evictions during the COVID-19 crisis.

Sergio Jimenez also oversees the work force that prepares food for distribution to the community impacted by COVID at Sacred Heart.

Kira Valenta, ’18 MPA, and Christopher Hoem, ’18 MPA, are aides to Mike Wasserman, Vice President, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. Lakeisha Bryant and Galen Boggs, ’21 MPA, are aides to Member of Congress (CA-17) Ro Khanna.

Current MPA student Galen Boggs is a National Guard officer who has been on active duty setting up COVID-19 facilities, including temporary hospitals

Current MPA student Viviane Nguyen and Patrick Cordova, MPA ’20 are working in the city of San José Emergency Operations Center team.

Current MPA student Maria Rodriguez is the Food Unit Lead for the Santa Clara County Emergency Operations Center.

Current MPA student Rob Wayman is running the 200-person quarantine facility for Stanford University students from out of Santa Clara County.

Current MPA student Darius Brown supervises a City of San José Community Center shelter for homeless people to enable them to shelter in place from Covid.

Daniela E. Torres, ’12 MPH, is responsible for all health information, health education, and health data collection in California’s public and charter schools which serves over 6.2 million students. She works very closely with the California Department of Public Health and CDC’s surveillance unit on multiple health topics.

Faculty and Frontline Students and Interns

SJSU Dietetic interns worked with Pajaro Valley Unified School District, Institute of Child Nutrition, Santa Clara County Senior Nutrition Program to make meals accessible to K – 12 students. They also helped centers to develop online training and marketing materials for K – 12 school lunch and child care programs, including topics related to nutrition, exercise, and recipes for staying at home.

Interns also worked on disaster menu and food supply planning at skilled nursing facilities. Many of SJSU’s internship sites/hospitals are now implementing these new guidelines in caring for affected patients.

For aspiring Registered Dietitians enrolled in NUFS 110B, Medical Nutrition Therapy, in Spring 2020, Associate Professor of Nutrition, Food Science & Packaging, Kasuen Mauldin, guest lectured on the topic of nutrition support and shared recent guidelines released by the American Society of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN) about nutrition therapy for Covid-19 patients. The guidelines focus on providing optimal nutrition (along with potential novel nutrient recommendations) to patients with severe respiratory syndrome while minimizing healthcare provider exposure.

As part of an IBM competition, Master of Information Science students under the leadership of Yu Chen, assistant professor in the School of Information Systems and Technology, created technology-based social solutions to COVID-19. Divided into virtual teams, students designed various apps to address the problems people are facing during this pandemic, such as generating recipes based on photos of ingredients in the pantry, measuring the intensity of symptoms when they’re sick, generating analysis by scanning key words in tweets employing IBM’s Personality Insights, etc.

PPE Donations

Faculty members and students in the industrial design department worked on 3-D printers in SJSU’s Calvin Seid Innovation Lab to make test kit swabs and badly needed ventilator parts for frontline medical staff.

The College of Science’s biology department staff have contributed 56 cases of gloves, plus a smaller supply of N95 and surgical masks to Valley Medical Foundation.

Valley Foundation School of Nursing donated personal protective equipment (gowns, gloves, masks) to a local hospital.

San José State’s athletics department partnered with Sacred Heart Community Service and Family Supportive Housing on the Heart for San José initiative to help the community cope. From sales of Heart for San José merchandise, $800 and 451 masks have been donated.

Creative Entrepreneurs

When extreme shortages of masks for healthcare workers  dominated the COVID-19 news headlines in March, Nitin Agrawal and his team formed a group called “The Free Maskeeteers.” The group raised more than $14,000, brought together 240 volunteers, including seamsters, drivers, website developers, and project and operation staff members to deliver more than 3,500 high-quality, hospital-grade, hand-sewn masks, 6,000 surgical masks and 3,400 KN95 masks to more than 70 hospitals, clinics, nursing centers and other facilities.

Occupational therapy graduate student Rebecca Farrell and her husband created a website called Bay Area Masks, which helps coordinate mask sewers with healthcare professionals and other individuals in the community.

San José State Football Head Coach Brent Brennan, Stanford University Football Coach David Shaw and University of California Football Coach Justin Wilcox came together for a video that highlights the importance of washing hands and practicing safe social distancing. San José State Football’s Director of Digital Communications Cam Radford edited the video.

Jobelle Abellera Named 2020-2021 CSU Trustee Scholar

Jobelle Abellera, ’21 Computer Science

Photo courtesy of Jobelle Abellera, ’21 Computer Science

The California State University has selected Jobelle Abellera, ’21 Computer Science, for the CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement for the 2020-2021 academic year.

San José State student Abellera earned the prestigious Trustee William Hauck and Padget Kaiser Scholar award as a result of her superior academic performance, exemplary community service and personal accomplishments. A portrait of fortitude, Abellera earned this award overcoming considerable physical and financial adversities.

Growing up in the Bay Area in a low-income household, Abellera didn’t have access to the “cool things that everyone had.” However, during elementary school, she found something that excites her even today: her parents’ old computer. Toying with the computer and playing video games soon became a source of inspiration. Abellera came to appreciate the stories, characters, music, coded graphics, and all the defining elements of these games. “I like playing online games. I used to have a PlayStation during my elementary school years. I used to play on that until my dad gave it away,” she said.

Her parents instilled in her the value of education early on. She quotes her father: “Go to college, get a degree and you will have a career and you will have a good life.” Abellera took the advice by heart and always made an effort to stay on course.

When Abellera was in middle school she was diagnosed with scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine, that left her in acute pain. “I wore a back brace during the first two years of my middle school, and did therapeutic back exercises to correct my spine,” she said. It was during this time that her self-esteem dipped  and she became reclusive. Abellera felt she didn’t “fit in” with the braces sticking out her clothes. The efforts yielded insufficient results as the curvature worsened, and she was forced to undergo back surgery. “I have a metal rod on my back, and most people don’t know that about me,” she said.

“I was out of school for two months after surgery. I was just getting homeschooled and was trying to keep up even though I was sitting at home in bed with a sore back,” she said. With support from friends and family, Abellera came out of the most difficult phase of her life.

The summer after she graduated high school brought in new challenges. Abellera got evicted from a Sunnyvale mobile home community after the landlord decided to sell off the land. She now lives in a suburban town an hour away from San José State.

Her work ethic has always served her well. “I’ve never turned in an assignment late,” she said. Abellera has been an honor student throughout her life. At San José State, she received the Dean’s Scholar and President’s Scholar awards for maintaining a high GPA. Abellera has been saving up all the scholarship money that she has been awarded throughout her life, not just for her education but also for her two younger siblings to use for school.

At the core of her life-long struggle lies a desire to help the underprivileged. Abellera wants to inspire children to be more tech-savvy. In the past, she has taught kids how to code and volunteered at local high schools to raise awareness around tech. “I want to introduce the benefits of technology to people in more rural areas such as where I live now,” she said. “So everyone can work more efficiently and see how technology can build jobs and futures for people.”

Abellera sees education beyond tests and grades. She encourages people to apply skills they have learned to make a difference. Abellera’s dream is to create her own video game someday. “The underlying factor in why I ended up taking computer science was my love for video games and the way they are created,” she said. “I hope to create an artistically original message that’ll inspire future generations to try to get out there and create their own things as well.”

$3M Grant from the Koret Foundation Benefits Students

The Koret Foundation’s focus on higher education aligns with the goals of SJSU’s Transformation 2030 strategic plan, enabling the university to invest in ways to optimize student success. Photo: David Schmitz / San José State University

San José, Calif. — San José State University is pleased to announce that it has received a $3 million grant from the Koret Foundation. The grant aims to directly benefit students by providing scholarships, career preparation resources, and other services.

“It is only through generous, sustained investments from organizations such as the Koret Foundation that we can engage and educate more students and meet our Transformation 2030 strategic plan goals,” said SJSU President Mary A. Papazian. “The foundation’s priorities in higher education align perfectly with our own, making them an ideal partner. I cannot thank them enough.”

The grant comes at a critical time, as higher education institutions grapple with funding and organizational challenges due to the global COVID-19 health pandemic. In addition to SJSU, 11 other Bay Area colleges and universities have received funding totaling $50 million.

The five-year grant aims to directly benefit students by providing scholarships, career preparation resources, and other services. Photo: Robert Bain / San José State University

“Investing in the next generation of talent, innovation and leadership is critical in order to ensure that all students, including the disadvantaged, have the opportunity to lead productive and successful lives,” said Michael J. Boskin, president of the Koret Foundation.

For SJSU, the five-year grant is significant. The Koret Foundation’s focus on higher education aligns with the goals of SJSU’s Transformation 2030 strategic plan, enabling the university to invest in ways to optimize student success.

“Koret’s Higher Education Initiative seeks to support key academic institutions in the Bay Area and fund programs that can spark new thinking, facilitate partnerships, and contribute to student success.” Boskin said.

Five Grant Elements

During a meeting with Boskin in late 2019, Papazian proposed key student needs, which have translated into the grant’s five elements.

The Koret Scholars Program will allow SJSU to continue awarding scholarships to eligible full-time undergraduate students served by SJSU’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) or the Military and Veteran Student Services Office.

The Veterans’ Services Expansion funding will be used to support the design and implementation of expanded programming for SJSU veterans in specific focus areas: career readiness, healthy living, women veterans support, and building community.

The Navigating College-to-Career Success funding will be used to integrate proven education-to-career tools and to engage experts to integrate these resources into existing campus services.

The Diversifying STEM Pipeline Project funding will be used to build upon proven and existing service delivery methods to pilot activities focused on diversifying the STEM pipeline through two avenues: training of teachers who support high school students and offering exceptional hands-on STEM learning experiences.

The Capital Resources for 21st-Century Learning funding will be used to purchase specific items for use by SJSU students with the goal of helping to optimize student success, improve completion rates, and bolster career advancement opportunities.


About San José State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study—offered through its nine colleges. With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing 10,000 graduates to the workforce. The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 280,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

About the Koret Foundation

The Koret Foundation is committed to strengthening the Bay Area and supporting the Jewish community in the U.S. and Israel through strategic grantmaking to outstanding organizations. Grounded in historical Jewish principles and traditions, and dedicated to humanitarian values, the foundation is committed to innovation, testing new ideas, and serving as a catalyst by bringing people and organizations together to help solve societal and systemic problems of common concern. Learn more about the Koret Foundation and its grantees at koret.org.

SJSU One of the Best in the West in Newest U.S. News Rankings

College of Engineering remains #3 in the nation among public universities, and university ranks top 3 in Social Mobility, top 10 in Undergraduate Teaching in the West

San José State University’s impressive showing in recent top colleges and universities rankings continued Monday with the release of the 2021 U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges rankings.

Fifteen states make up the U.S. News and World Report’s West region. In regional rankings SJSU’s rankings shine in these key areas:

  • #3 in Top Performers in Social Mobility
  • #7 in Top Public Schools
  • #8 in Most Innovative School
  • #10 in Best Undergraduate Teaching
  • #14 in Best Colleges for Veterans
  • #22 in Best Regional University

“As the reputation of San José State continues to grow nationally, students and families are coming to the realization that a Spartan education is one worth pursuing, even in—perhaps especially in—challenging times,” said President Mary A. Papazian.

“These latest rankings are a tribute to the exceptional faculty, staff and others here on our campus whose dedication and hard work are matched only by their strong commitment to learning and discovery across a wide span of disciplines,” said Papazian. “Their devotion to our students’ personal and academic growth is the engine that powers our university’s promise and mission.”

Nationally, SJSU’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering again ranked #3 among public universities — and #17 overall — in Best Undergraduate Engineering Program – Non-Doctorate.

“We are honored to be recognized again as one of the top engineering programs in the country by U.S. News & World Report,” Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering Dean Sheryl Ehrman said. “As the largest supplier of engineering talent to Silicon Valley, we remain committed to deliver hands-on learning — safely, even during the pandemic — from experienced and engaged faculty.” 

U.S. News and World Report’s rankings focus on academic excellence, with institutions ranked on 17 measures of academic quality, including graduation and retention rates, social mobility and undergraduate academic reputation.

These rankings come on the heels of SJSU being named the #1 Most Transformative College in the nation by Money. The university also rose 80 spots from last year’s rankings to rank #24 on Money’s list of Best Colleges.

SJSU Establishes the Nation’s Largest Academic Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center

Largest Cluster Hire of Wildfire Scientists at a University

Photo: Robert Bain/San José State University

San José State University has established the largest academic Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center (WIRC) in the United States with five new tenure-track faculty members and millions of dollars in new technology. The purpose of the new center is to serve as the leading institution in California, providing modern, state-of-knowledge on wildfire science and management.

“In just the past few years, wildfires have scorched California’s landscape, burning millions of acres, injuring and killing hundreds of people and causing billions of dollars in damages. Dealing with this challenge requires interdisciplinary solutions,” said College of Science Dean Michael Kaufman. “The advanced wildfire research enabled by this new center is needed now more than ever before.”

WIRC is housed in the College of Science and will work through an interdisciplinary model with the College of Social Sciences and the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering. WIRC’s new integrated and interdisciplinary academic team specialize in the following areas:

  • Fire Ecology (Biology)
  • Fire and Fluid Dynamics (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Wildfire Behavior Modeling and Wildfire Meteorology (Meteorology)
  • Wildfire Remote Sensing (Meteorology)
  • Wildfire Management and Policy (Environmental Studies)

Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science and Director of the Fire Weather Research Lab Craig Clements will serve as director of the new Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center. Four newly hired tenure-track faculty members join him in wildfire science and management:

Adam Kochanski

Assistant Professor of Wildfire Meteorology

His research interests include fire-atmosphere interactions, including air quality impacts of wildland fires. He is an international leader in wildfire modeling with extensive experience in running numerical simulations of fire, smoke and regional climate on high-performance computing platforms.

Amanda M. Stasiewicz

Assistant Professor of Wildfire Management in the Department of Environmental Studies

Her research focuses on the human dimensions of wildfire, community adaptation to wildfire risk in the wildland-urban interface, and citizen-agency conflict and cooperation during wildfire preparation, prevention and wildfire response (e.g., suppression, evacuation).

Ali Tohidi

Assistant Professor of Fire and Fluid Dynamics in the Department of Mechanical Engineering

His research interests are at the nexus of experimental, data-driven and mathematical modeling of nonlinear spatiotemporal processes across different scales. His current research focus is understanding wildfire spread mechanisms, including firebrand (ember) generation, transport and spot fire ignition, as well as applications of data-driven methods in physics-based models.

Kate Wilkin

Assistant Professor of Fire Ecology in the Department of Biological Sciences

She has nearly 20 years of experience in natural resource management, outreach and research. Her research focuses on living sustainability in fire-prone ecosystems: wildfire recovery of communities and natural lands, prescribed fire on private lands and wildfire mitigation, including fire-resistant homes, defensible space and fuel treatments.

A fifth tenure-track faculty member in wildfire remote sensing with expertise in monitoring wildfire behavior and developing novel airborne remote sensing technologies will join the team in January 2021.

These new faculty members will join three other faculty members at SJSU:

Craig Clements

Director of the WIRC and Fire Weather Research Laboratory and Professor of Meteorology

He has more than 20 years of experience designing meteorological and wildfire field experiments. His research aims to better understand the complexities of fire weather in mountain areas, including extreme fire behavior in canyons and wildfire plume dynamics. His work has pioneered the deployment of novel observation systems to wildfire incidents to study fire weather phenomena.

Patrick Brown

Assistant Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science

He is a climate scientist who conducts research on weather and climate and how they interact with society. He currently conducts research on the relationship between climate and wildfire risk.

Mike Voss

Staff Meteorologist and Technician; Lecturer in the Meteorology and Climate Science Department

He has more than 25 years of experience forecasting California weather, focusing on fire weather and extreme weather events.

“San José State is bringing together some of the top academic experts in the world who have extensive experience in wildfire science, management, climate and meteorological research,” said Clements. “This is truly a world-class group that is passionate about advancing wildfire science.”

The WIRC will employ an advanced, next-generation, wildfire-atmosphere forecasting system and a suite of mobile assets to conduct research in the field. These assets include two customized trucks equipped with Doppler radar and one truck equipped with Doppler LiDAR. These are the only mobile fire weather units in the United States. They are also the only fire weather research units in the nation qualified to go behind fire lines.

“These new technologies will strengthen the prediction, monitoring and management of wildfire throughout California,” said Clements.

“San José State University’s initial investment in the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center demonstrates our commitment to advancing wildfire research and to the state of California as it faces one of the most pressing problems the 21st century,” said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Vincent J. Del Casino Jr. “I am confident there is more to come.”