Introducing the 2022-2023 Faculty Award Winners

by | Mar 28, 2023 | Awards and Achievements

The 2022-2023 faculty award winners include: President’s Scholar Aaron Romanowsky (top left); Outstanding Professor Cassandra Paul (top right); Outstanding Lecturer Kevin Roe (bottom right); and Distinguished Service Award winner Ravisha Mathur (bottom left). Photos by Jim Gensheimer and Robert C. Bain.

Every spring, San José State recognizes four distinguished faculty members for noteworthy achievements in teaching, scholarship and service. This year’s winners represent the College of Science, the Connie L. Lurie College of Education and the College of Health and Human Sciences:

This impressive group will be honored at the 24th Annual Faculty Service Recognition and Awards Luncheon on Wednesday, April 5 from 11:45 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. in the Student Union Ballroom. Faculty members with milestone anniversaries spanning 15 to 45 years of service will also be honored. In addition, legendary Spartan judo coach Yoshihiro Uchida, ’47 Biological Sciences, ’04 Honorary Doctorate, who celebrates his 103rd birthday on April 1, will be recognized for his 75 years of service at SJSU. 

View more information on ticket sales and this event. Doors open at 11:15 a.m.

2022-2023 President’s Scholar: Aaron Romanowsky

President's Scholar Aaron Romanowsky.

President’s Scholar Aaron Romanowsky. Photo: Jim Gensheimer

When San José State University Physics and Astronomy Professor Aaron Romanowsky observes the night sky, he sees so much more than stars. He sees possibility. 

“Astronomy is in a golden age with a lot of new discoveries,” he said. “There’s still a lot unknown — known unknowns and unknown unknowns. A career in astrophysics has provided ways to creatively expand the boundaries of what is known and to share these discoveries with students and the wider world.”

Speaking of discoveries: Romanowsky has published more than 200 papers in high-impact journals, including eight papers in “Nature,” “Science,” and “Nature Astronomy.” In 2016, he was selected by the Research Corporation for Science Advancement as a Cottrell Scholar, representing the best teacher-scholars nationwide in physics, astronomy, and chemistry — currently the only CSU recipient of this award in astronomy since its inception in 1994.

This spring, Romanowsky will accept the 2022-2023 President’s Scholar Award in recognition of his impressive research track record and evidence of expertise. 

“In the 10 years since arriving at SJSU, Prof. Romanowsky has established a highly successful research program and international reputation in astrophysics, covering topics including dark matter, galaxy formation, star clusters and black holes,” writes Physics and Astronomy Department Chair and 2000-2001 President’s Scholar Alejandro Garcia in his nomination letter. “He is a world-leading pioneer and expert in galactic angular momentum and in ultra-diffuse galaxies.”

In addition to his ever-growing list of publications, Romanowsky is co-director of Cal-Bridge, a statewide program that supports CSU undergraduates in pursuing PhDs in STEM. Spartans can access faculty mentors, professional development workshops, summer research opportunities and apply for up to $15,000 a year in scholarships. 

Romanowsky hopes to demonstrate the endless career and research opportunities for students in physics and astronomy. Space represents “a fresh new world of things that haven’t been discovered yet,” he said. These include fundamental questions, such as what makes up the universe? And where do our elements originate?

“There is a mathematical order to nature that is empowering to understand,” he added. “Looking into outer space, feeling the awesome grandeur and scale of it, is really special.”

The President’s Scholar Award recognizes a faculty member who has achieved widespread recognition based on the quality of scholarship, performance or creative activities. Romanowsky will be honored on April 5 at the 24th annual Faculty Service Recognition Luncheon

2022-2023 Outstanding Professor: Cassandra Paul

Outstanding Professor Cassandra Paul.

Outstanding Professor Cassandra Paul. Photo: Jim Gensheimer

When Cassandra Paul was earning her PhD in physics and astronomy, she spent many late nights with the stars. Though space captured her imagination, she realized her love for collecting and analyzing data wasn’t enough. She missed engaging with students — breaking down ideas, challenging them to bring their experiences and ideas to the table.

Now an associate professor with dual appointments in San José State’s Science Education and Physics and Astronomy Departments and recipient of the 2022-2023 Outstanding Professor award, Paul is a fierce advocate for making science accessible. 

“I was someone who struggled a lot through school at all levels — I was not an A student,” said Paul. “I was the most engaged in classes where there was a lot of active learning. It became my mission to make science accessible to my students in the same way.”

Equity is a major component in Paul’s research and teaching philosophy. She has partnered with College of Science faculty Tammie Visintainer, Resa Kelly and Katherine Wilkinson and Associate Dean of the Connie L. Lurie College of Education Marcos Pizzaro to work with faculty and adopt asset-based instruction across their departments.

“Instead of thinking about, where are our students’ deficits? We think about what a rich variety of things our students bring into the classroom,” she says. “How can we leverage that to better serve our students? We have to think beyond averages to ask, what do our students know? What can they show us by the end of a course?”    

One of the ways Paul addresses these questions is to work with learning assistants (LAs), undergraduate student-educators who facilitate active learning through group discussions in courses they have previously taken. As the principal investigator on an inter-CSU grant project entitled “Agents of Change: Faculty-Learning Assistant Partnerships Supporting Active, Engaging, Equitable Learning Environments,” Paul is collecting data on the benefits of collaborating with LAs in science courses. 

For students like Aeowynn Coakely, ’21 Biological Sciences, serving as an LA with Paul’s guidance became a life-changing opportunity.

“When I transferred to SJSU, I was initially overwhelmed,” wrote Coakley in her nomination letter for the Outstanding Professor award. “Dr. Paul nurtured the potential she saw in me … [and] provided an immeasurable opportunity for personal and professional development.” 

Paul will be honored on April 5 at the 24th annual Faculty Service Recognition Luncheon. The Outstanding Professor Award recognizes a professor for excellence in teaching effectiveness and service to the San José State campus community.

2022-2023 Outsanding Lecturer: Kevin Roe

Outstanding Lecturer Kevin Roe.

Outstanding Lecturer Kevin Roe. Photo: Robert C. Bain

When it became clear that the COVID-19 pandemic disproportionately impacted marginalized communities, San José State Public Health and Recreation Lecturer Kevin Roe, ’03 MPH, experienced a chilly reminder of the HIV/AIDS pandemic that transformed communities — including his own — in the 1980s and 1990s. 

As a young man who came of age in San Francisco at the height of the AIDS pandemic, Roe experienced the dual grief of witnessing friends and colleagues suffer from the disease, as well as the long-term impact of the federal government’s response on affected communities. For 25 years, he worked and volunteered for public health organizations in areas including anti-gay violence, HIV prevention community planning, and gay men’s sexual and community health. In 2011, he pivoted his energy into teaching at San José State.

“One thing the COVID-19 pandemic showed me is that young people of today have little to no understanding of what the HIV pandemic was like,” he said. “I saw a real need to connect the dots for people — to show what it was like for the communities that were affected, how it capitalized on existing disparities and how the government’s lack of response furthered those disparities.”

Roe will be recognized as the 2022-2023 Outstanding Lecturer this spring in recognition of his years of service in the Public Health and Recreation Department, as well as his commitment to student organizations such as the Pre-Physicians Assistants Society and the Queer Public Health and Recreation Collaborative.

“It became important for me to engage with students regularly and be open about my past because I had direct experience as a college student myself, living through scary times, and I had few faculty who I could talk to about it,” he added. “I could share my experiences as a gay, HIV+ man, and the experiences of my community in that other, really scary time.”

The pandemic reinforced his message to students that they complete their degrees because their talent and creativity is necessary to create change. 

“It’s important to me to tell young people that you have power. You have a voice,” he said. “You are important. You may have been told that you’re not, but you are more so than you know.”

Roe will be honored on April 5 at the 24th annual Faculty Service Recognition Luncheon. The Outstanding Lecturer Award recognizes a lecturer for excellence in teaching effectiveness and service to the San José State campus community.

2022-2023 Distinguished Service Award: Ravisha Mathur

Distinguished Service Award winner Ravisha Mathur.

Distinguished Service Award winner Ravisha Mathur. Photo: Jim Gensheimer

In March 2020, Ravisha Mathur faced a unique challenge. As chair of San José State University’s Academic Senate, the 56-person governing body that collaborates with the university president, presidential cabinet, student leadership and stakeholders across the campus community, she had to serve as a driving force in helping SJSU pivot to an entirely online environment. 

“She had to move the Senate, an in-person 100-year-old institution, to a completely online format in a matter of a month,” writes Senate Administrator Eva Joice, ’07 Criminal Justice Administration, in her nomination letter for the 2022-2023 Distinguished Service Award, which Mathur will accept on April 5 at the Faculty Service Recognition Luncheon.

“At the same time, the senate office was being relocated to Clark Hall and the senate website was being migrated to a new format. Ravisha handled these monumental tasks effortlessly.”

Hired as a faculty member in the Connie L. Lurie College of Education’s Child and Adolescent Development Department in 2002, Mathur has always focused on mentorship and teaching, leadership, and evaluation and assessment. Though the obstacles posed by the pandemic felt daunting, Mathur remained committed to establishing and maintaining an inclusive, accessible environment for faculty, staff and students alike. 

That included everything from safeguarding online classes and meetings from “zoom-bombings;” updating university policies for the digital era; moderating one of Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Vincent Del Casino, Jr.’s first town halls during the beginning of the pandemic, and hosting online staff socials.

Though her collaborative nature served the university well during the pandemic, she has long emphasized creating inclusive spaces on campus in her classes, as well as her department. When she was appointed chair of the Child and Adolescent Development Department in 2018, she “transformed the culture of our department to establish a sense of belonging among all our students and faculty,” writes current chair Emily Slusser. 

“Service is embedded in everything that we do at San José State,” Mathur said. “We embed it in our classrooms, our teaching, our research, and it’s embedded in our community value ethic. We want to work not just for ourselves, but for the generations that are coming up behind us. We strengthen ourselves by building that capacity.” 

The Distinguished Service Award recognizes a faculty member for exemplary service in a leadership capacity to the university and/or community or profession that brings credit to San José State University. Mathur will be honored on April 5 at the 24th annual Faculty Service Recognition Luncheon.