Coffee, Pizza With the President Offer Members of the Campus Community Opportunities for Discussion, Conversation

President Papazian talks with staff members at a "Coffee with the President" event.

SJSU president Mary Papazian participates in a coffee with staff on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (Photo: Jim Gensheimer)

A spate of new initiatives launched by President Mary A. Papazian recently are designed to give members of the campus community more frequent opportunities to engage with the Office of the President in an informal, personal atmosphere that allows for open conversation and a free flow of ideas and concerns.

“Coffee with the President” was conceived as a way for SJSU staff and faculty members to visit with President Papazian over a cup of java. Administration and Finance, IT, and University Personnel were the first units to join the president, and other groups will soon see invitations of their own in their inboxes.

“Most of the SJSU staff doesn’t get a chance to meet and talk with the president in a small, intimate setting like this,” said Harish Chandler, senior programmer and analyst in the Information Technology division who attended the first “Coffee with the President” event. “It provided an opportunity for staff members to do exactly that.”

Chandler said he was able to talk one-on-one with Papazian near the end of the event, so he discussed with her issues such as phone and laptop charging stations for students, the university’s green initiative and possible changes to campus dining and food options.

Tony Cefalu, who works in the University Police parking services group, was equally enthusiastic.

“I had a great time,” he said. “It was wonderful to mingle, socialize, chat, laugh with others and meet the president. I loved it.”

The president herself said the venue offered a different environment than many of the administrative meetings she attends.

“I think I probably get more out of this than the staff members,” said Papazian. “Meeting with university staff members in a relaxed, social setting gives me a welcomed chance to listen directly without any managerial or supervisory filters that staff members might sometimes encounter.”

Another recent outreach event—this one involving pizza, a staple among college students—was similar in nature. “Pizza with the President” gave students an opportunity to talk with their university president about issues important to them. Indeed, issues such as parking and student housing were discussed, while the venue also offered Papazian a chance herself to point out to students some of the positive developments taking place around campus such as the new Spartan Recreation and Aquatic Center, the Spartan Food Pantry and recent successes with SJSU’s football team and other athletics programs. Initiated by previous Associated Students President Ariadna Manzo, the event provided such an important opportunity for the president to hear directly from students that at the start of this academic year she looked for an opportunity to host the event again.

President Papazian and AS President Branden Parent talk to students at a "Pizza with the President" event.

Mary Papazian, San José State University president, takes questions from students at a pizza with the president event at Village 2 Nov. 13, 2019. (Photo: Jim Gensheimer)

Lisa Millora, the president’s chief of staff, said other plans have moved forward to host office hours during which members of the campus community can sign up for individual meetings with the president. There may even be an opportunity next year to participate in a reading group with the president and other members of the community.

When she arrived last January, Millora explained, some members of the campus community wanted opportunities to meet and chat with the president in a more informal setting.

“The president and I talked about what we could do to create such opportunities and the result was this new set of initiatives,” said Millora.

“The coffees and office hours are intended to provide all members of the community the chance to talk with the president about things that are important to them,” Millora said. “The president cares deeply about members of the campus community, so we will continue to explore different ways to ensure that they feel the president is fully and consistently engaged with them.”