SJSU Faculty Members Lauded for Exceptional Achievements, Scholarship, Longevity

by | Apr 1, 2022 | Awards and Achievements

The Faculty Service Recognition event is San José State’s annual celebration of remarkable teaching, scholarship and service by faculty, including longevity of years dedicated to the university. 

To recognize and honor the exemplary and enduring achievements of its faculty members, San José State University is hosting its 23rd Annual Faculty Service Recognition Event with a week-long virtual celebration from April 4–7.

Faculty members with 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 years of service will take center stage for much of the week, with featured videos each day that show what they love most about SJSU.

In keeping with tradition, four distinguished faculty members will be honored for noteworthy achievement in teaching, scholarship and service. In addition, faculty who have 40 years of service to SJSU are also celebrated this year.

“SJSU’s elite faculty is in a class of its own,” said Interim President Steve Perez. “Our service award recipients and four special honorees have all demonstrated a devotion to their students’ academic and personal success. Seeing these exceptional teachers and scholars recognized in this fashion makes me proud to be a Spartan.”

The four 2022 Faculty Award recipients are: 

  • President’s Scholar Scott Shaffer, Department of Biological Sciences
  • Outstanding Professor David Chai, Animation and Illustration 
  • Outstanding Lecturer LeAnne Teruya, Department of Geology
  • Distinguished Service Scott Myers-Lipton, Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences

President’s Scholar: Scott Shaffer

Professor Scott Shaffer laying down very close to a seagull.

Professor Scott Shaffer

For consistently demonstrating an outstanding level of productivity and representing San José State so well while doing so, Professor Scott Shaffer is this year’s President’s Scholar recipient.

The President’s Scholar Award recognizes established scholars or artists who have achieved national or international recognition based on the quality of their scholarship, performance or creative activities.

Shaffer, wrote his nominators, has conducted a large and important body of research in the field of ecology, generating widespread recognition and respect from his peers. Research collaborations, invitations to give oral presentations at universities and conferences, funding from government agencies, and fieldwork at sites throughout the world have been part of his body of work.

In addition, he has consistently published in the most well-respected academic journals, including Nature, Nature Ecology & Evolution, Nature Communications, Nature Climate Change, and Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Shaffer’s work is critical to conservation efforts to protect many different birds and other animals — and their global ecosystems. By any metric commonly applied in the scientific field, his scholarly accomplishments are astounding.

Shaffer has published 86 collaborative research articles, 61 during his time here at SJSU. Many of them include student authors, showing his commitment to training the next generation of scientists.

He has funded this work with 19 grants since 2009, 12 of which are from government agencies as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service as well as research foundations and nonprofits like the North Pacific Research Board, the National Geographic Society, and the Pacific Islands Climate Change Cooperative.

Shaffer has led or performed fieldwork throughout the world, including California, Hawaii, Alaska, Palmyra Atoll, Mexico, Bermuda, Norway, New Zealand, the Indian Ocean, and Antarctica. He has also given 25 invited oral presentations at different institutions and conferences, greatly enhancing SJSU’s reputation in research. He has also collaborated with groups from many prestigious universities, including Stanford and University of California Santa Cruz.

“It’s a great honor to receive this recognition,” said Shaffer. “I truly enjoy my profession as a teacher, mentor and scholar, especially when I get to visit amazing locations to conduct research.”

Outstanding Professor: David Chai

Professor David Chai leaning forward holding up the peace sign with both hands with a group of people behind him also throwing up the peace sign.

Professor David Chai

SJSU’s Outstanding Professor award  recognizes a faculty member for overall excellence in their academic assignment. David Chai in the Animation and Illustration program was selected due to his creativity, well-organized work ethic, and engaging personality and teaching style.

Chai joined the university as a faculty member in 2004 but was no stranger to SJSU, having earned a BS in Animation / Illustration in 1995 and an MS in the program in 1999. 

Chai manages one of the most vibrant and successful animation and illustration programs anywhere, with more than 400 majors and recognized as one of the top of its kind.

His commitment to students dates back to his own student days as one of the founding officers of the SJSU animation club, the Shrunkenheadman. This whimsical name was chosen to remind its members to be humble, meaning: No big heads, and be supportive of each other. The club is still going strong 27 years later.

Nearly every summer, Chai assembles a crew of mostly students to work on a short film, giving them a chance to learn what it’s like working in an animation pipeline, from concept, character designs, animation and voice acting to post-production. He’s had many of his films selected by major festivals, including Sundance.

Many SJSU students taught and mentored by Chai have gone on to successful industry careers. Storyboard artists, art directors, animators and other creative professionals are now enjoying strong careers thanks to the work Chai put in with them, the ultimate tribute to his teaching career.

“As a professor who is constantly amazed by the awesomeness of our faculty and staff at SJSU, it’s truly humbling to be awarded this honor,” said Chai. “I just hope it will finally stop my students from pushing me around in the hallways,” he quipped. 

Outstanding Lecturer: LeAnne Teruya

LeAnne Teruya balancing stacked rocks on her head.

Lecturer LeAnne Teruya

LeAnne Teruya, from the Department of Geology, is the Outstanding Lecturer award winner. The award recognizes a lecturer who has a record of excellence in facilitating student learning, demonstrated extraordinary commitment to students and made unique contributions to San José State.

Teruya has served as a lecturer since 2006, after earning an MS from SJSU in 2005. She primarily teaches lower-division courses, focusing on Geology for Engineers and the Geology of California.

As noted by her nominators, Teruya’s student evaluations are consistently exceptional. Students, they wrote, appreciate her creative use of in-class activities and her unique ability to keep them interested and engaged.

Teruya created new virtual and augmented reality curricular materials featuring field trips of various geological sites, including downtown San José. She leads a CommUniverCity service learning project in two local elementary schools titled Geology Rocks! and, most recently, she’s focused on creating more equitable, inclusive and anti-racist classroom environments.

Teruya serves as Co-Director of the Bay Area Environmental STEM Institute and as a Geology Docent Trainer with the Mid-Peninsula Open Space Ranger District. She also maintains an active research program, with several field work projects and regular abstracts and publications.

“Every day is an award day for me because I get to work with awesome students who inspire me by their lives, their hard work and desire to learn,” said Teruya

“They inspire me to be creative in presenting difficult material, and it is so much fun to find new ways for them to learn old material! I get to be a ‘geovangelist’ — both inside and outside the classroom — through outreach, professional development workshops and other opportunities and work in a department that supports all my teaching efforts, even the crazy ones. So the Outstanding Lecturer Award, to me, is the culmination of all of this.”

Distinguished Service: Scott Myers-Lipton

Professor Scott Myers-Lipton lecturing a class.

Professor Scott Myers-Lipton

Professor Scott Myers-Lipton, from the Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, is the Distinguished Service Award recipient. The award recognizes exemplary service and leadership contributions to the university and the community or profession that brings credit to San José State.

Myers-Lipton has a long history of service to the SJSU community and beyond. Setting a high standard for public engagement and discourse, his nominators wrote, he forges opportunities for students to exercise leadership in and through civic engagement on important issues.

Scott’s work as a teacher-scholar blends research, teaching and leadership with a personal care for others. He serves as a mentor to the university’s Student Homeless Alliance and has worked with students and university leadership to develop concrete solutions to help unhoused students.

Previously, as a mentor to the Campus Alliance for Economic Justice, Myers-Lipton and his students led the successful Measure D campaign, which raised San José’s minimum wage to $15 per hour.

His work also helps SJSU students acquire the tools, confidence and resources for helping society and improving the lives of others. In the words of one colleague, his action-based pedagogy engages students in service to the community, essentially learning to “put democracy into action.”

Another community member commented on Myers-Lipton’s role in the honorary doctorates being awarded to former Olympic athletes and social activists Tommie Smith and John Carlos, who are depicted in a statue that is a focal point on SJSU’s campus. Its presence is central to the notion that San José State is an institution that embraces social justice and equity.

He advocated for the statues through fundraising efforts and by working with other faculty, staff, students and community members to foster support.

“While I am honored to receive this award, more significantly, it is a recognition of the important role public intellectuals play in society,” said Myers-Lipton.

“A public intellectual does their best to use and apply the knowledge of their academic discipline, in my case, sociology, not only to their classroom and scholarship, but also to the campus and larger community. It is wonderful that San José State University recognizes the importance of such work.”