Congrats to our Fall 2022 Graduates
This month, San José State University will welcome the families, friends and supporters of nearly 5,000 Spartans for its annual fall commencement ceremonies. Each graduate will share the experience of walking across the stage and crossing “complete my degree” off their bucket lists, having endured — and persevered through — the COVID-19 pandemic while pursuing their studies.
Over the course of December 15 and 16, five ceremonies will be held in person at the Provident Credit Union Event Center and via livestream for those who are unable to attend in person. Interim President Steve Perez, Provost Vincent Del Casino, Jr., college deans and other university administrators will preside over the events.
“It is a pleasure to celebrate the amazing achievements of our 2022 summer and fall graduates,” said Perez. “They have overcome many challenges in pursuit of their college degree during their time here — especially in the last few years — and through determination, hard work and talent, they’ve done it! I am so proud to congratulate them. It’s a great day to be a Spartan!”
Every Spartan graduate has a story to tell about the path they took to obtaining their degree. Here are a few of them:
As a single parent, Nicole Guerrero, ’22 Communication Studies, balanced parenthood of her daughter Ava and full-time work while pursuing her bachelor’s degree. In the midst of the pandemic, she was also hospitalized with COVID-19 for five days and, through it all, came away with a positive mindset. “I learned that the only limits we have are those we put on ourselves,” said Guerrero. “Life will always have its challenges, but what counts is how we come back from them.”
She is now putting the skills she developed at SJSU to work as a volunteer for San Jose National Little League and is excited to gain more experience in her field. Guerrero is also planning to go to graduate school, create a podcast and start her own business. “I now feel confident in pursuing a career in communication,” she shared.
Born and raised in Malaysia, Mohammad Fadzrill Aliff Bin Fadzhairi, ’22 Engineering Technology, Manufacturing Systems, came to California to continue his higher education. He chose to transfer to SJSU from Diablo Valley College specifically for the engineering technology program and to prepare for a career in manufacturing. While at SJSU, Fadzhairi served as a global leader with SJSU’s International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS). The ISSS supports international students, like himself, from their first days at SJSU all the way through graduation.
“I have always been passionate about bringing international students together and ensuring they have the best experience while studying in the U.S.,” he said. “It has been fantastic getting to work in a diverse team with people worldwide, contributing exciting ideas and giving various perspectives.”
After SJSU, Fadzhairi is ready to start his career, learn more about the manufacturing industry and eventually become a “leader in battery and robotics technology.”
Geneva Cisneros Ortega Walls, ’22 Political Science, is a first-generation college student from a family of 10. Her path to her bachelor’s degree started at De Anza College in Cupertino, where she received her paralegal degree before transferring to SJSU in 2019. She said the experience taught her that it’s never too late to attend school in order to better yourself and your future.
Studying politics at San José State not only gave her a better understanding of democracy and freedom, which she realized she had taken for granted, but also of other cultures. “It taught me patience and empathy for others,” she said. “I am a better person today because of my education from SJSU.”
Walls is planning to travel abroad following graduation but wants to volunteer her paralegal skills to help her community and eventually pursue her master’s degree.
Vanessa Lizette Albanez, ’22 Business Administration, Entrepreneurship, is open about her struggle with anxiety and depression during her time at SJSU. In 2021, she lost her boyfriend of three years in a tragic accident they experienced together, and she lost an uncle to COVID-19. “While the losses made it extremely difficult to attend school to the point where I almost discontinued my education, I didn’t,” she shared.
Despite these challenges, Albanez made dean’s scholar list, won third place in the Silicon Valley Business Plan Competition, was an awardee of the Gino Blefari scholarship, and partnered with a mentor at the new Silicon Valley Business Development Center. “SJSU helped me discover my strength and capabilities despite any unfortunate events,” she said. “Now, whenever I fall, I know I can get back up. The impact faculty has had on my life is tremendous and will forever hold a special place in my heart. SJSU helped me discover that I am meant to be an entrepreneur.”
Albanez is currently working on opening Fearless Physiques, a women’s gym with a safe and supportive environment, which she hopes to open by the middle of next year.
Prathamesh Rathi, ’22 MS Engineering Management, is looking back fondly at his last two years at SJSU as he readies himself for commencement. The program “helped me learn new skills and become industrially knowledgeable,” he recalled. “Moreover, the most crucial traits I learned are time and finance management — and how to think broadly to solve critical problems.”
After graduation, Rathi is looking to join a startup to continue developing his skills in his field. He credited his professors for providing the guidance he needed to build “enough confidence to deal with the corporate world.”
As an immigrant whose first and main language was Chinese, Shuting Kong, ’22 MA Teaching, felt challenged coming to SJSU for her master’s in education, yet is quick to say how it changed her life. “The program allowed me to learn how the education system works in California,” said Kong. “I got a chance to network with the brightest minds in public education and teach in two new amazing public schools because of SJSU.” She feels immensely grateful for the opportunities and experiences the program offered.
Now that she’s tackled one of her goals, Kong said she wants to become a public high school teacher in the Bay Area.
Ana Arevalo, ’22 MLIS, and Karen Quest, ’22 MLIS, will both be graduating with their master’s in library and information science this December. They both see the power libraries have particularly for underrepresented communities — and how librarianship is rooted in values of access, diversity, public good, service and sustainability. These are just a few of the reasons they chose to pursue a path to becoming librarians and change agents for the patrons libraries serve.
“The MLIS degree will open the doors to a career I never knew existed, and I will be able to advocate for marginalized and underserved communities,” said Arevalo, who hopes to become a children’s librarian near her home in southern California.
A former comedian and performance artist, Quest came to SJSU after being out of school for over 35 years. The MLIS degree will help her reinvent her career to outreach library services, which she would like to be based in rural communities that lack access to physical library spaces. Read more about them in Washington Square: The Magazine.
“My journey (as well as so many fellow students’) is truly a story of against all odds,” Quest reflected. “Everyone has incredible struggles, and yet, they succeed in this very intense program. I’d call it a lot of hard work with support from so many people and some kind of miracle.”
Editor’s note: These additional stories were added following the publication of this article.
Laksh Thakkar, ’22 MS Electrical Engineering
During his time at SJSU, Thakkar found himself pushing beyond his own boundaries due to the challenging and quality coursework with a newfound confidence. He also polished his stage presence while gaining new confidence speaking in front of groups — thanks to his role as a graduate teaching associate for the Electrical Engineering Department. Thakkar will be starting in a full-time role as logic design engineer at Intel Corporation in February.
Sandra Santos-Cruz, ’22 Journalism
A single mother, Santos-Cruz returned to school to complete her bachelor’s degree at San José State during the COVID-19 pandemic. Determined to meet her goal, she worked full time (sometimes multiple jobs), took an overload of courses each semester, and commuted from Salinas once classes resumed on campus. Her hard work paid off with an internship at News-Press & Gazette Company, which recently led to an offer to become a full-time reporter and anchor for Telemundo 23. “This accomplishment is for my son, for my parents, and for a better future that I had always wanted,” she said.
Isaiah Palomino, ’22 Kinesiology
Palomino is proud to be completing his undergraduate degree while dealing with epilepsy. He says SJSU encouraged him to become more open and less shy, which, in turn, helped him make new friends and try new things. After graduation, Palomino plans to apply for doctoral programs in physical therapy.
Kelly Leija Ortega, ’22 Biological Sciences
Though the loss of loved ones marked her last year at San José State, Ortega made it her priority to finish strong. A transfer student to SJSU, she found her experience allowed her to make strong friendships and an even stronger resume. Ortega credits her professors with the help and support she needed to apply and be accepted to a rigorous summer program at Stanford University School of Medicine. Following graduation, she plans to work as a medical scribe at Stanford Health Care while studying for the MCAT exam.