A Deep Dive in Five With Marc d’Alarcao

by | Sep 9, 2022 | Leadership

Marc d’Alarcao, dean of SJSU’s College of Graduate Studies at the 2022 Grad Slam.

In his recent Fall Welcome address, San José State University’s Interim President Steve Perez called attention to a 15% increase in graduate student applications in fall 2022. Prompted by this impressive figure, Director of Executive Communications Mike Janes of the SJSU NewsCenter team recently talked with the dean of SJSU’s College of Graduate Studies, Marc d’Alarcao, for our first “Deep Dive in Five” Q&A.

1. To what do you attribute the 15% increase in graduate student applications in fall 2022?

Marc d’Alarcao: The increase has occurred largely in our international applications. For fall 2022, we saw a 48% increase in the number of international students applying to SJSU graduate programs. I think part of this is due to pent-up demand remaining from the pandemic, when people were not willing or able to travel, especially overseas. But I think the increase is also due to our growing reputation in graduate education. For example, our engineering graduate programs have been flourishing and drawing increasing interest, as can be seen by a couple of interesting facts: Of all of the engineering master’s degrees awarded annually from [California State Universities], almost half of them are awarded at SJSU!

Furthermore, about 2% of the engineering master’s degrees in the United States each year are being awarded by SJSU. As you can see, our quality engineering graduate programs are having a national impact.

2. Have you been successful in reaching your goal of engaging graduate students in the enhancement of research, scholarship and creativity activity at SJSU?

MD: We are definitely making great progress in expanding our research and scholarly activity at the university. One measure is our annual research expenditures, which in 2021 were $62 million, an increase of 32% over the previous year and placing us in second place among the CSUs, and in the top 200 of universities in the U.S. Another measure is the expansion of our research-focused programs and institutes at SJSU. A great recent example is the launch of the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center at SJSU, capitalizing on our faculty’s world leadership in wildfire science.

But I have to be clear that credit for these developments lies with our outstanding and innovative faculty and students who are writing the grant proposals, making the discoveries and publishing the papers. Our role in the College of Graduate Studies is to partner with other university units, such as the Division of Research and Innovation, to support these faculty and their student collaborators.

I think what we are seeing with these recent research accomplishments is that the constellation of our quality faculty, students and university support structures working together is beginning to pay off.

3. Given that the annual Grad Slam competition is one of the most visible endeavors at SJSU and for the CSUs, what might we anticipate for this competition next year?

MD: Yes, the Grad Slam is a great event and a personal favorite of mine. For those who may be unfamiliar with Grad Slam, the event features graduate students presenting their research or creative work in three minutes, with one slide as a visual aid. The students compete for cash prizes and bragging rights, including going on to represent SJSU at the CSU-wide Grad Slam (launched in 2021 with SJSU as the inaugural host!) and other regional or national competitions. Grad Slam emphasizes the communication skills of the presenters; it’s not a research competition, it’s a research communication competition. It is profoundly beneficial to the participating graduate students as a professional development activity, since the ability to succinctly and enthusiastically present your work to a lay audience is valuable in almost every career path.

It is also a great way for the university to showcase the phenomenal research being done on campus and the talented grad students presenting it to a broad audience.

The next Grad Slam will be held on Tuesday, April 25, 2023, and will be held live, on campus, but with a live-stream also to reach a wider audience. Watch for more information and details later this year!

4. Now that the College seems well-established and on its way to becoming Silicon Valley’s Public Graduate School, what are some of your new short- and long-term goals?

MD: First and foremost is to continue to expand service and support for our graduate students. We have a new graduate center on the drawing board. This would be a single point of contact where graduate students can go to get their needs met, whether they be academic, wellness, financial, etc. We don’t want students to have to search the campus to get help or to find graduate student-focused programming. Another major goal for this year is to enhance our relationships with the companies in Silicon Valley. Many of our graduates go on to careers in these companies, and many of our faculty and their graduate students already have research collaborations with people in these companies.

But I think there is an opportunity to broaden the relationships, so that we can learn more from our corporate neighbors about what they envision for the graduate education of their future workforce, and they can learn about ways they can help assure that future.

5. Are there any new graduate programs or initiatives that we should know about?

MD: Yes, graduate education at SJSU is growing in both size and scope. We have a new doctorate of occupational therapy (OTD) program that will be accepting its first class of students in 2023. We have new master’s degrees too, including a Master of Design (MDes) beginning in fall 2023 with specializations in experience design and animation, and a new Master of Arts (MA) in Higher Education Leadership that is at the vanguard of our Lurie College of Education’s efforts to expand the educational opportunities for higher education professionals. 

We are also expanding our graduate certificates that are designed for people who want focused graduate-level education in specific areas without necessarily wanting to complete a master’s degree. For example, last semester we launched an Advanced Communication(s) and Research Methods certificate that prepares people for oral and written communications while also introducing the basics of research. We think that this particular set of skills will be very valuable across a wide range of career paths.

There are more exciting programs in the pipeline that we will be announcing in the next year, and I am thrilled that SJSU is acting nimbly to meet the graduate education needs of the people of California.