SJSU Senior Hannah Bittar Earns 2021 CSU Trustee Award for Outstanding Achievement

SJSU senior and CSU Trustee Award Winner Hannah Bittar, '22 biology

SJSU senior Hannah Bittar is a student leader and nonprofit co-founder, who is galvanized to achieve her higher education goals while helping lift up others.

Last month, San José State University’s Hannah Bittar, ’22 Biology, was awarded California State University’s (CSU) 2021 Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement — the CSU’s highest accolade for student achievement.

Bittar, who is pre-med and studying molecular biology, is among 23 honorees recognized, one from each CSU campus. Each awardee — many of them first-generation college students — also receives a donor-funded scholarship* with their award.

“These 23 scholars wonderfully exemplify the ideals of the California State University,” said CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro. “Every year, and especially this year, our Trustees’ Award honorees demonstrate resilience, tenacity and resolve — together with a keen intellect — while making an indelible, positive impact on their families and their communities. They are truly an
inspiration.”

Upon graduating from high school, Bittar faced multiple personal challenges that nearly derailed her goal of attending college. But once she arrived at SJSU, she thrived, balancing work and school, and finding inspiration in giving back to others.

Her passion for making connections with her community, however, started well before she came to San José State. When she was just 17, Bittar co-founded her own nonprofit organization, J&H New Beginnings, which creates care packages and distributes them to residentially challenged people in her community. She also volunteers with a crisis helpline and at Stanford Medicine Valley Care Hospital.

So, what does Bittar say about receiving this recognition and what fuels her?

Hannah Bittar (HB): Receiving the 2021 Trustees’ Award means that all my hard work is paying off and being recognized, that all the obstacles and hardships I encountered and overcame were worth it and are finally paying off. And I am able to continue persevering and working toward my education and goals.

Besides this award, what are some of the major accomplishments you had at SJSU?

HB: Some of the major milestones I have had at SJSU include my recent Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader job at SJSU’s Peer Connections. This is a big accomplishment for me because, for a couple of years now, I had been on the lookout for a tutoring job or something similar. Now that I have been an SI Leader for a full semester, I can proudly say that I have learned so many valuable lessons and formed numerous amazing connections.

What are the most valuable lessons have you learned from your experience at SJSU?

HB: Some of the most valuable lessons I have learned from my experience at SJSU revolve around teamwork, networking and friendships. A lot of my SI Leader job revolves around teamwork; hosting sessions for my students requires a lot of planning on my end as well as meeting with my peer leaders and supervisors to compare work and ask questions. I also learned the importance of networking and forming friendships, which greatly contribute to my overall happiness and balance in my personal and professional life.

What has the experience of co-founding your nonprofit been like?

HB: It has been a lovely experience giving back to those in need within my community and neighboring communities. Being a founder of this organization has reinforced the incredible value of humanitarian work for me. I cannot put into words how fulfilling it feels to assemble care packages and distribute them to people in need; it is definitely one of my favorite experiences of my life.

What are your career goals and next steps after graduation?

HB: I recently took my MCAT exam. My next step consists of applying to medical school this upcoming spring, which makes me excited and nervous! My ultimate goal is to get accepted into a California medical school and, four years later, get accepted into my dream residency. I would love to specialize in dermatology or obstetrics/gynecology. I’m looking forward to the journey!

How has being a student at San José State transformed your life?

HB: I have gained insight with so many programs, clubs and internships. Additionally, I have met and formed so many valuable connections with fellow students in my classes and in the Peer Connections department. I would not have the friends, connections and opportunities I currently have if it weren’t for SJSU!

 

*The award and scholarships are made possible by founding leaders from the William Randolph Hearst Foundation and Trustee Emeritus Ali C. Raz; in partnership with CSU Trustees, CSU Foundation board members and private donors.

Braven Releases Annual Impact Report Highlighting SJSU Student Fellows’ Outcomes

Nonprofit Braven is built on the premise that when students who have not had the benefits of affluent circumstances are provided the same level of support and opportunities, they will excel. The proof is in their new 2020–2021 Annual Impact Report — a testament to the power of Braven’s model and what can happen when you give these students the tools they need to maximize their potential.

“The co-development of the UNVS 101 Leadership and Career Accelerator course by business, engineering and science faculty jointly with Braven staff has provided a valuable opportunity for all students at San José State University, both undergraduate and graduate, to build important leadership and career-readiness skills in a structured curriculum, with support from fellow students, faculty and industry coaches,” said Thalia Anagnos, vice provost of undergraduate education at SJSU.

Braven’s program is designed to complement the work of career services by scaffolding for students as they learn and master key leadership, career and life skills in two phases: The first is a semester-long, for-credit Accelerator course — UNVS 101 at SJSU — bolstered by coaches and fueled by the community that arises in the cohorts of student “Fellows.” The second allows Fellows to access a “post-course experience,” including one-on-one mentoring and career-building activities that continue beyond college graduation to help ensure their career success.

“We hear from Fellows time and time again that Braven is a reliable support system and like a family,” said Diana Phuong, executive director for Braven Bay Area. “What’s more, the ongoing support students receive from Braven through graduation helps them navigate the challenges that college students, particularly those who are first-generation, often face, whether through advice about their job search, helping to perfect their portfolio, or other ways.”

Gabriel Miranda, who was a spring 2020 Fellow and now an area manager at Amazon says, “Braven helped me learn what I needed to do to be on my path to a successful career and unlocked so many doors for me. Who would’ve thought a boy raised by two immigrant grandmothers from Korea and Mexico would be able to graduate from college and change the lives of his family.”

The “secret sauce” of Braven’s programming is the involvement of more than 75 employer partners, including Adobe, Linkedin and the NBA Foundation, whose employee volunteers gain as much, or more than, they give while serving as the Leadership Coaches. The experience offers them the opportunity to develop themselves by leading diverse teams and motivating promising young professionals — transferable skills that meet their own professional goals.

Employers benefit by the investment made in their own existing workforce as well as by supporting the Fellows through internships and often post-graduation jobs. Partnership in this case is both a retaining tool and a recruitment pipeline.

Some employer partners have also found deeper impact from their support of Braven, especially through the pandemic. Meg Garlinghouse, ‍head of social impact at Linkedin, said that “in a time of deep uncertainty, partnering with Braven has been a concrete way to be part of the movement for racial and economic justice.”

Since starting out with San José State University as its founding partner in higher education in 2014, Braven has expanded its programming via independent college success organizations. Now through BravenX in Chicago and Braven Online, which is nationwide, students involved with these groups can receive a financial stipend to obtain a similar experience outside of the traditional academic model.

SJSU and Braven Impact Report

Former Fellows Esteban Barrios, ’20 Physics, and Cynthia Fernandez-Rios, ’21 Business, both successfully launched their careers after graduation with the skills and support they gained by taking part in SJSU’s partner-program with nonprofit Braven.

Highlights of the 2021 Impact Report

  • 69% of Braven Fellows who identify as female obtained what Braven refers to as “a quality first economic opportunity”* after college, outpacing 62% of Fellows who identify as male.
  • Female Fellows also outpaced male peers at public four-year universities (56% obtained strong first jobs) and peers nationwide (60%).
  • Across races, Braven Fellows surpassed their counterparts at four-year public universities nationally by 15% or more in obtaining quality economic opportunities.
  • SJSU Braven graduates were 7% more likely to have at least one internship — mostly completed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic — during college compared to students at four-year public universities nationally.
  • 87% of Fellows report that they have expanded their networks to include people with diverse careers and career interests after Braven, and 91% credit Braven’s program to helping them develop or strengthen skills necessary to pursue their goals, according to a study from the Search Institute and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • This year, SJSU supported 324 new fellows on their path to economic mobility.

*Either enrollment in a graduate program or a full-time “strong first job” that requires a college degree and offers a competitive salary, benefits, professional development and pathways to advancement.

See how Braven is helping SJSU students grow their social capital.

SJSU Takes Gold in Sustainability, Top 6% Nationwide

Fountain

Chavez Fountain at San José State. SJSU was one of the first users of recycled water on the South Bay Water Recycling system and continues to transition services to the system. Photo: David Schmitz

San José State University has quickly become a model campus for sustainable practices in higher education — ranking in the top 6% nationally for sustainability and Gold in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ (STARS).

STARS is a “transparent, self-reporting” program colleges and universities can utilize to measure their sustainability performance developed by the Association of Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). According to AASHE, by participating in STARS, “institutions can earn points toward a STARS Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum Rating, or earn the STARS Reporter designation” which represent significant sustainability leadership.

San José State is one of 1,035 institutions registered to use the STARS Reporting Tool, of which just 674 have earned a STARS rating.

We asked Bill DeVincenzi, faculty-in-residence for sustainability at SJSU, and Debbie Andres, ’07 Chemical Engineering, senior utilities and sustainability analyst for SJSU’s Office of Sustainability, to help us understand what the significance of the STARS rating means for SJSU and how sustainability is incorporated into programming and other activities on campus.

The GOLD rating is the second highest ranking in the STARS reporting system, marking a significant level of sustainability leadership. What is the significance of this ranking for San José State?

Bill DeVincenzi (BD): The STARS rating and ranking system provides a measurement of the effectiveness of our sustainability programs at SJSU. The ratings cover all aspects of sustainability, including academics as well as operations. Providing students and the local community with an education about sustainable practices is a strong objective of our university.

Debbie Andres (DA): We have strived to be a leader in sustainability since we were one of the first universities to establish a Department of Environmental Studies in 1970 and one of the first organizations to begin using recycled water in our central plant in the 1980s. We have always prided ourselves on our progressive and strategic efforts in sustainability, and the ranking validates the work we have been doing for decades.

Can you help us understand what “sustainability” means in regards to this ranking (i.e., what are the factors that we are reporting on and why do those matter)?

BD: In academics, we report the extent to which sustainability concepts are included in all academic courses. For example, we have 399 sustainability related or focused courses in 50 of the 64 total academic departments across SJSU.

DA: The reporting and subsequent ranking show a comprehensive and holistic view of every aspect of our campus and how sustainability is incorporated into each, such as research activities, faculty that are involved in sustainability related projects, and sustainability focused research centers.

This also includes operations, or non-academic functions, from campus grounds and buildings to procurement, dining and investments. One example is the solar panels installed at South Campus that provide all the power to those facilities. We also recently installed electric charging stations in parking lots and have more planned for the new South Campus parking garage.

How do we compare to our peer institutions in terms of sustainability?

BD: SJSU compares very favorably with peer institutions. Our Gold rating and ranking 60th out of 1,035 universities and colleges worldwide says we are doing a great job. However, there is a lot of room for improvement, and we are working diligently to make that happen.

How long has SJSU been reporting in this system, and how would you describe our progress toward becoming more sustainable in the time we’ve been a part of it?

DA: We were one of the first universities to submit a STARS report in 2011, and we have submitted recertification every three years since. We started with a Silver ranking and reached Gold with our last two submissions.

Our progress reflects our efforts in two ways: First, sustainability is getting increasingly incorporated into our curriculum and operations. Second, we are improving our self-auditing process to accurately reflect all our activities on campus.

How has participation in this program impacted sustainability practices and/or programming at SJSU?

BD: By tracking our standings in the STARS reports, we are able to determine our strengths and weaknesses relative to sustainability. This has allowed us to identify those areas of weakness and design programs and practices that have improved our offerings to students and the community at large.

What are some things that any of our community members could do to contribute to our sustainability while on campus?

DA: Minimize waste, use recycling bins, eliminate single use plastics, recognize and reduce energy usage. Faculty and staff could also get workspaces Green Office certified.

Advancing Quality and Student Success at SJSU

Paseo walkway on SJSU's campus

SJSU’s campus is alive with activity as students bustle along one of its main walkways, the Paseo de César E. Chávez.

What to know about SJSU’s 2021 WSCUC accreditation review.

More than 36,000 students are enrolled at San José State University. How do we hold ourselves accountable to them and the rest of our community in achieving our mission? The answer starts with SJSU’s commitment to ensuring students succeed and includes an accreditation, which is an independent, third-party evaluation process.

This fall, San José State will begin its next review of our accreditation by the WASC Senior College and University Commission* (WSCUC), the regional accreditation body for universities in California, Hawaii and American territories in the Pacific.

What does WSCUC accreditation mean for SJSU?

Put simply: WSCUC accreditation is our university’s report card of our academic quality and educational effectiveness. In other words: How do we define and assess student learning, and how are we ensuring we are delivering a high quality, effective, equitable and sustainable educational experience?

SJSU’s WSCUC Accreditation Liaison Officer Junelyn Peeples, who is also vice provost for institutional effectiveness and strategic analytics, explained the goal for accreditation “is to help higher education institutions evaluate the efficacy of their educational delivery and its impact on student success.”

Furthermore, WSCUC’s approach to accreditation, she added, “aids institutions in developing and sustaining effective educational programs and assures the educational community and the general public that an accredited institution has met high standards of quality and effectiveness.”

Every regional accrediting body has core competencies that its institutions must uphold, such as oral and written communication, information literacy and quantitative reasoning. WSCUC’s particular set of core competencies has been developed considering what the public would expect a global citizen to look like upon graduating at any given higher education institution.

Accreditation is also periodically reaffirmed by the WSCUC to allow the university to review and reflect on how it’s doing in relation to standards set for the colleges and universities in our region.

Read more about SJSU’s accreditation history.

Why is it important to SJSU?

“The accreditation process provides us a way to make an evaluation of what we’re doing and determine our direction moving forward: where we’re going to direct our attention, where we’re doing really well, and where we may need to readjust what we’re doing,” said Pam Richardson, professor of occupational therapy and faculty chair of SJSU’s accreditation review committee.

Accreditation is also tied to federal funding and impacts schools and colleges within our university — they would not be able to have accreditation of their professional programs if the university was not accredited.

“WSCUC focuses its attention on how we deliver curriculum and our support services to our students, particularly how students are able to demonstrate their learning,” added Peeples.

“And they do it very collaboratively, so we really engage in the process. For example, if there are major changes in the expectations of what institutions need to deliver, universities are part of the conversation about how to meaningfully focus our attention to make those adjustments.”

“I think [WSCUC] is very forward looking,” said Thalia Anagnos, vice provost for undergraduate education and member of SJSU’s accreditation review steering committee. “They see trends happening at the national level, and then create guidelines to help us stay up-to-date with them. Requiring meaningful assessment practices is a good example of how WSCUC has helped us maintain our accountability to the public and also our own students.”

What is the process of accreditation like for SJSU?

SJSU’s last accreditation reaffirmation was in 2015. Over the last 18 months, SJSU conducted a self study of its activities that involved eight components, including progress on the recommendations from WSCUC’s prior report and follow-up special visit in 2017.

A team of independent evaluators from other universities, including one from another California State University, will review SJSU’s self-study later this fall and then meet with representatives from the university for clarity on any questions they have before they make a campus visit in early spring 2022.

During our site visit, the team of evaluators will meet with the president, provost, chief financial officer as well as students, administrators, faculty and other stakeholder groups from the SJSU community over the course of three days.

The external review team then provides their recommendations about SJSU to WSCUC. WSCUC will determine whether we receive a 10-year or shorter term of accreditation and/or a special visit in a few years, in which case SJSU will work to address any outstanding issues that were noted by the reviewers.

Take a deeper dive into SJSU’s accreditation process.

What is important to note about SJSU’s 2021 self study?

As someone who has experience as a peer reviewer for other institutions’ accreditation, Peeples was energized when she reviewed SJSU’s self-study report.

“I’m really proud that San José State has focused on general education, and the work that we’re doing most institutions don’t tackle because it is such a heavy lift to assess, and this is one of the foundational pieces of how we demonstrate our educational effectiveness,” she said.

“We also are taking a holistic, comprehensive advising approach,” which she explains is reflective of our focus on student success.

“The report also does a nice job of linking our Transformation 2030 strategic plan to our initiatives supporting student success,” added Richardson.

SJSU has also worked to address leadership, campus climate as well as social injustice, equity and inclusion, which came up as recommendations in the last self study. Both Richardson and Peeples recognize progress in these areas, but they also acknowledge more work is still needed.

The true measure of San José State’s education as an accredited institution is that students are graduating with a degree for which they can competently identify the skills, knowledge and understanding of that subject matter in a meaningful way, and that they did it in a timely manner.

What else should the SJSU community know about this process?

Of particular note, explained Anagnos, is that this report was put together by several stakeholders at SJSU from every single division and area of the university — including a 25-member, faculty-led accreditation committee.

“Accreditation is really a collaborative effort, and we’ve been working on it for almost two years,” she added. “By having this kind of self reflection and cross-divisional discussion, we learned a lot about each other, and that’s a really important piece of the process.”

Peeples emphasized the opportunity this gives our community to take a step back and assess not only how we help students but also in what ways we may influence the impact our alumni make once they graduate. “As alumni of San José State University and global citizens, they bring something with them to the world that helps change it, and this is our chance to tell that story and how we make it happen.”

SJSU’s self study is available to view online. Coming soon, student, faculty and staff forums will be held for the community to respond and ask questions about the report and the process.


About WASC

*WASC was created in the early 1960s to “promote the development and accreditation of higher education in the western region of the United States.” Today, WASC accredits public and private higher education institutions throughout California, Hawaii, the Pacific and around the world and is recognized as an accrediting body by the US Department of Education and by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

“On 9/11, I was a NYPD Captain”; UPD Captain Belcastro Reflects 20 Years Later

San José State University Police Department (UPD) Captain Frank Belcastro can tell you in a heartbeat where he was and what he was doing on September 11, 2001. Back then, he was a NYPD Captain about to start his regular shift for the day. Then everything changed.

A picture of Captain Frank Belcastro in NYPD gear

San José State University Police Department Captain Frank Belcastro was a member of the New York Police Department and led the response following the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Now that two decades have passed since the life-altering terrorist attacks, Belcastro shared what it was like to be a first responder in this unprecedented situation that had worldwide impact. We captured the moments that still stand out to him today, and what he would like Spartans who did not experience these tragic events to understand.

Tell us about the events as they unfolded for you on that fateful day.

Captain Frank Belcastro (FB): On Sept. 11, 2001, I was a NYPD Captain, Commanding Officer of a Borough Task Force. My unit was charged with daily tasks such as crime reduction, auto crime and graffiti investigations, evidence collection, traffic enforcement, speed enforcement, DUI patrol, COBRA (Chemical, Biological, Radiological Action Team), Truant Team/school patrol and major incident response throughout the city.

On the day of 9/11, I was scheduled to work a 4×12 shift. But, as was my regular routine, I called my office to see if anything was going on. I learned that we were on alert for mobilization because a plane had hit the World Trade Center. 

At that time the thinking was “it was an accident.” I told them that I was going to come in and gave instructions on the personnel and equipment that I wanted for our response. A short time later, I called back because I wanted to change the equipment and add personnel. As I was talking, a second plane hit. 

I knew then it was a terrorist attack. I told them to get everyone ready, and I was on my way. When I arrived, the duty captain had directed my unit, officers from three precincts, vehicles, equipment and firefighters onto a waiting ferry. When I arrived, I assumed command, and we proceeded towards Manhattan. 

When we were about two thirds of the way over, the first tower collapsed. The ferry captain stopped the ferry due to dust and debris blocking visibility of the ferry terminal. I tried to arrange an alternate dock or smaller ferries. However, nothing would work. At that point, the police dispatcher radioed that I was directed to return to base. 

But, people needed help, I was not turning around. 

I was the field commander. I radioed the dispatcher; my call: We were going into Whitehall (the Manhattan Ferry terminal). I then directed the ferry captain to take us in.

When we exited the ferry in Manhattan, the second tower collapsed. Dust and debris filled the air. I couldn’t see the hood of my patrol car. Thousands of people were running in the street, away from the devastation. You could see the fear in their faces. The primary mobilization point was not reachable. I then directed that we respond to the secondary mobilization point. 

We were eventually assigned to patrol the World Trade Center area. We searched the area, including train stations, looking for people who needed help. As we patrolled, World Trade Center #7 became very unstable. A Police Chief advised me to pull my unit back because the collapse of it was imminent. As we pulled back, the building collapsed.

One of my young officers had a brother who was a firefighter. He was missing and unaccounted for. To protect my officer, because he was distraught, I brought him into the Patrol Officers Benevolent Association Offices, several blocks from Ground Zero, and asked the trustee to keep him there. 

When building 7 collapsed, the officer called me over the radio asking for help. He had left the PBA office to look for his brother. I formed search teams, and we found him. I assigned an officer to take him home and stay with the family. His firefighter brother is the youngest firefighter to die in the line of duty, at just 20 years old.

One of my vivid memories is the eerie silence as we patrolled into the evening. The dust and debris was falling like a heavy snowstorm. Ash was piled deep on the streets and sidewalks. We were not equipped with masks. I remember the air was thick with ash and debris, including fiberglass. I rubbed my eyes due to the irritation and had abrasions under my eyes from the fiberglass and other abrasive debris. When we were relieved in the early morning hours of 9/12, we were covered in ash.

In the days after 9/11, for that first week, I was in command of Ground Zero security and recovery. My unit was charged with providing security there and for safeguarding human remains. When human remains were recovered, we took custody and delivered them to a morgue trailer, documenting the recovery. 

At one point, a firefighter’s body was recovered. I gathered my unit. We stood at attention and rendered a hand salute as his body was escorted by his fellow firefighters.

My assignment posed many challenges. There were attempts by members of the media and other persons to access the dig site. One of the hardest things for me was when officers I had worked with handed me their phone number and asked me to call them if I found their brother. I knew the reality of our operation at that time. 

Another challenge was that we were working under the threat of the possible collapse of the Deutsche Bank, which was heavily damaged. We had to evacuate on several occasions when movement was detected. On one such occasion, I was notified to evacuate all personnel because city engineers had detected that the Deutsche Bank had shifted. They believed that the building was going to collapse. I directed everyone to evacuate. 

However, a fire chief and his men refused to leave. The chief told me he was not going to evacuate. I told him that I understood what he was saying and that if he wanted to stay, I would stay with him and his men. But, I said, “I want to ask you one question, and after that, if you want to stay, we will stay.” 

I said, “You and I know the reality of what we are doing here,” and I pointed to his men. “They are alive. Is what we are doing here worth their lives? If you say yes, I will stay with you.” 

He agreed to evacuate. 

What do you remember most about September 11, 2001? 

FB: I remember that 9/11 started out as a beautiful day that became a nightmare. I will never forget the uncommon valor of the police officers and firefighters who ran into those towers to save others. Many never returned to their families.They sacrificed their lives to save others, complete strangers. Police officers and firefighters ran towards the danger while thousands fled in panic and fear. 

Our mission was clear — save lives.

I will also always recall the ash and debris raining down like a heavy snowstorm. And, the deafening silence of a deserted city as we patrolled into the night.

I will never forget the thousands of innocent persons slaughtered in a heinous attack and the selfless sacrifice of the first responders.

As a first responder in that type of unprecedented situation, how much of your response is predicated on your training versus reacting on instincts? 

FB: We are well trained, and our training helps us to react. But training cannot prepare you for everything. Your instincts are a big part. As a leader, you have to look at the big picture and make split second decisions based on experience, training and instinct. The burden of leadership is great. You are making decisions that will not only impact you but will affect everyone under your command.

As you reflect back on 20 years since the Twin Towers fell, including the nation’s united response in the days and weeks after the attack, what stands out to you most? 

FB: In the 20 years since the attack, I see that our nation is fractured. After the attack, we were united in our grief, our anger and our determination to rise from the ash. We were one people. If anything positive could come out of that infamous day, it was the unity of New Yorkers and the nation. We came together as human beings, united in our grief, working together. 

Many of SJSU’s students were born after September 11, 2021. What do you think would be most important for them to understand about that day as someone who lived through it firsthand? 

FB: I think the most important thing for our students to understand is the selfless sacrifice of the first responders. They saw people who needed help and ran toward danger. It is also important to understand that first responders are still losing their lives due to the toxins we breathed on that infamous day and the days after. To this date, more than 200 NYPD officers have succumbed to cancers caused by those toxins.

What does it mean to you to be one of several Spartans (including Captain Jason Dahl, ’80 Aeronautics Operations, who piloted United Flight 93, and Meta Mereday, ’84 Advertising) whose heroic actions saved lives on this tragic day in American history? 

FB: I am humbled to be among such an elite group. I also feel guilty about being recognized with these heroes. I survived when so many died, and that guilt will always be with me. 

Belcastro started with SJSU’s UPD in June 2008, as the Special Operations Lieutenant, in charge of Emergency Preparedness and Library Security. He was promoted to Captain at UPD in 2011.

SJSU Launches New Combined Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees

This fall, San José State University introduced a new opportunity for undergraduate students — an accelerated track to earning a bachelor’s and a master’s degree at the same time.

The new Spartan Accelerated Graduate Education (SAGE) Programs allow students to pursue the two degrees simultaneously by earning graduate credit while in their junior and/or senior year. This reduces the number of semesters required for completion of a master’s degree and saves students time and money in the process.

Students may apply to become SAGE Scholars once they complete half of their undergraduate coursework or 60 credits. Currently, SJSU has announced 11 of these combined bachelor’s and master’s programs: 10 beginning in fall (three in engineering and seven in education) and one additional program, biomedical engineering, starting in spring 2022.

“We’re providing a smooth pathway for students to transition from undergraduate to graduate education and the ultimate goal of achieving both degrees,” said Marc d’Alarcao, dean of the College of Graduate Studies.

The SAGE programs also eliminate the need for students to apply for graduate programs — a sometimes lengthy process that includes costly application fees and GRE/GMAT tests, which add additional time to prepare for and take when required.

“A big advantage of [SAGE Programs] is that we could be breaking down some of the barriers in place that are just enough to keep a student from considering this graduate degree,” said Thalia Anagnos, vice provost of undergraduate education. “This opportunity ultimately will help them achieve higher goals than they might have if they just earned an undergraduate degree.”

Susan Verducci, a professor and advisor who helps departments who prepare teachers create these programs, expressed similar thoughts: “SAGE programs are designed to reduce hurdles to graduate studies, including an advisor-supported transition between undergraduate and graduate work and a decrease in the time it takes to earn a master’s degree.”

“When you think about applying for almost any graduate program through the regular channels, you need to plan three to six months to a year in advance,” added Anagnos. “Students can complete the [SAGE application] process relatively quickly, making the decision to pursue a graduate degree easier for them.”

The seven SAGE programs in education also provide the opportunity for students to concurrently satisfy the requirements needed for a teaching credential. According to d’Alarcao, this could benefit new teachers by boosting their starting salaries.

“Getting a credential, which they need in order to teach, and a master’s degree at the same time may help them get a higher salary when they’re starting out, which is a value proposition that students will likely appreciate,” he explained.

The SAGE Programs have been designed to be as easy for students to navigate as possible. Each individual program has its own useful roadmap, outlining the required courses and the order in which they need to be taken for a successful transition between undergraduate and graduate status. This is especially important because students begin their graduate work while they are still technically undergraduates.

“SAGE programs can be highly valuable for students who know early on that they want to earn a master’s in their field of study,” adds Verducci. “The programs provide students with an integrative and cohesive educational experience toward their professional goals by allowing them to take carefully sequenced master’s-level courses as undergraduates.”

Behind the scenes of the SAGE Programs is Jeffrey Honda, associate dean of graduate programs. He’s been working with departments across campus to build the program sequences during the pandemic. The programs go through vigorous approvals from department to college to university committees, and eventually the California State University’s chancellor’s office, before they are given the green light.

According to Honda, there are a number of other colleges at SJSU that are interested in offering their own SAGE Programs to students. The next ones could be from the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, he explained. Four of them are currently under review by Honda and their stakeholders.

In 2019, the College of Graduate Studies launched with a mission to develop a variety of new, independent programs, including expanding doctoral program offerings and now the SAGE Programs, which are providing additional pathways to graduate education for students.

Dean d’Alarcao is excited by the potential of the SAGE Programs and what they can do for students. “This is part of a constellation of things that we’re doing to overall strengthen the access to graduate education,” he said.

“I hope we will continue to get additional SAGE Programs developed, so we have a broad menu of these opportunities in a lot of different disciplinary areas. By virtue of having these programs, I believe more of our undergraduates will seek that graduate degree before going into the workforce.”

That is something all Spartans can be proud of.

See the SAGE Program flyer for more information.

What’s New at SJSU: Updates to Campus Services, Events and Resources

Students walking through the SJSU gates on campus.

The Spartan community is back on campus for the first time in a year and a half, and the campus looks a bit different, including several changes made to facilities. Here’s a preview of what to expect this fall.

Air Filtration

San José State optimized building ventilation systems to maximize outside air intake (fresh air) and installed MERV 13 filters to filter re-circulated air and remove as many aerosol particles (i.e. very small particles containing the virus) as possible, in accordance with EPA recommendations for indoor public spaces.

In places that have been determined to have poor ventilation or have a use case scenario that would warrant increased ventilation beyond what the building system could provide, SJSU will deploy a portable air filtering HEPA unit.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library

As of Aug. 2, all floors of King library are open to the SJSU community. To access the study spaces and research collections on floors six through eight, you will need your Tower ID.

Hammer Theatre

The beloved Hammer Theatre is welcoming back patrons this fall with a full list of exciting in-person performances. Visit the Hammer Theatre website for more information on these performances and what you need to know regarding COVID-19 safety protocols before you attend a show.

Sustainability

There are now solar panels and 50 EV charging stations at the South Campus Park & Ride; 25 of them have dual charging capability. There are currently eight to 10 charging stations on main campus that were installed this summer with four-hour maximum use.

Solar panels were also added to provide electrical power to the CEFCU Stadium area, lightening our carbon footprint while providing some shade during events.

Dining

Panda Express in the Student Union has upgraded their wok station to speed up orders. In addition, you can now place your order and schedule a pickup through the Boost app to save time when you’re on the go.

San José State is introducing Burger 408, its first “ghost kitchen,” featuring delicious burgers, fries and sides, fried chicken sandwiches and tenders, and more. All orders are made through the Boost app and picked up at the window at the Student Union.

In spring of 2022, Halal Shack will replace Steak and Shake and will offer authentic and delicious Halal food for the entire community.

Athletics

SJSU opened the new South Campus Multi-Level Parking Structure and Sports Field Facility, including a 2-acre recreation field with a state-of-the-art synthetic playing surface and art honoring the “Speed City” athletes and track and field coach Bill Winter. The four-level, 1,500-stall parking structure overlooks the new field, which features a dedicated public walkway around the perimeter.

Fans planning to cheer on the 2020 Mountain West champion Spartan football team will notice a new state-of-the-art scoreboard at CEFCU Stadium. Don’t miss the first home game on Saturday, Aug. 28, against Southern Utah.

Health and Well-being

YOU@SJSU is a wellness learning and resource tool for students, including tips and tools for everything from mental and physical health to friendships and finding balance. Students can also set personalized goals and track their progress in achieving them with interactive support included in the app.

SJSU Cares will open a new space (anticipated in fall) on the first floor of Clark Hall. Students can receive the confidential support to address basic needs through individual meetings with case managers, on-site connections to partner agencies that support self-sufficiency, and workshops.

The Office of Sustainability and SJSU Cares have partnered to establish the Clothes Closet, a new resource for SJSU students providing a steady source of gently worn clothing and new essential items such as underwear and socks. It is also tentatively scheduled to open in fall.

Technology and Cybersecurity

Outdoor WiFi will blanket almost all of the SJSU campus in WiFi 6, the latest standard for stable, reliable wireless broadband connectivity. This will activate more spaces around campus for learning and studying.

A new SJSU Events Calendar is mobile friendly, more visible and plugged into social media, allowing events to be searchable via hashtags and listings to be populated directly into Google Calendar and Outlook. The “I’m interested” feature provides logged-in users with recommendations for upcoming events based on ones they’ve already attended.

Fall Welcome From President Mary Papazian

President Mary Papazian

Editor’s Note: The following message was sent to the SJSU campus community on Thursday, August 19.

Dear campus community,

I am delighted to welcome SJSU’s students, faculty and staff to the fall semester and the 2021-2022 academic year. And, after operating in a mostly virtual environment for nearly a year-and-a-half, I am especially pleased to welcome many of you back to campus.

I know the City of San José and our downtown community echo those sentiments and also look forward to the vibrancy and energy that our campus community brings to the city.

While many of us share in the excitement and enthusiasm surrounding the return to campus, I know there remains anxiety for others, particularly with the emergence of the Delta variant. We are still in the midst of a public health crisis, so as we do repopulate our campus, I want to assure everyone that we will continue to remain vigilant and flexible with our policy guidance, with the health and safety of our campus community remaining our highest priority. Continue to wear a mask, get vaccinated before the September 30 deadline, and visit the Health Advisories website for the latest COVID-19 information and FAQs.

I very much appreciate how nimble our campus community has been throughout this period, and I am confident that we will continue to navigate the changing environment with kindness, understanding, and a caring attitude that focuses on the health and safety of all members of our community. We truly are in this together.


In lieu of a traditional, in-person Fall Welcome address this semester, I instead invite you to view a series of short video messages I have prepared, each of which touches on various aspects of the upcoming academic year. You can also read the complete Fall Welcome address on my blog site.

I would also encourage you to watch the brief video messages provided by our Academic Senate Chair, Alison McKee, and our Associated Students President, Anoop Kaur. I appreciate that they took the time to record their own special message for our campus community, and I know they will each bring value this year in their respective roles.

Our SJSU Together campaign features an astounding variety of “welcome back” activities for our campus community this fall, so I hope you will take advantage of some of the many opportunities to reconnect with your peers, colleagues and classmates.

As we begin the Fall 2021 semester and new academic year, let us all be reminded that there is a reason—many of them, in fact—why San José State University was ranked by Money magazine last year as the #1 Most Transformative University in the nation.

As I note in my full Fall Welcome, rankings are wonderful, and it is always nice to be recognized.

But we know who we are. We are Spartans, and we transform lives. It really is that simple.

Welcome back to campus, everyone. I hope you have a rewarding semester!

Sincerely,

Dr. Mary A. Papazian
President

SJSU Welcomes Spartan Community Back With SJSU Together Campaign


After nearly 17 months of remote learning and telecommuting during the COVID-19 pandemic, San José State University is preparing for the return of students, faculty and staff to the campus this month.

As part of the SJSU Together campaign, a wide variety of activities and events are planned to celebrate the community and invoke a sense of pride. Spartans can also expect to see a host of new and upgraded facilities and resources on campus that took place over the last year and a half.

Here are a few of the ways San José State is gearing up for the start of the new academic year.

Celebrating Faculty and Staff

Aug. 9 through Aug. 25

San José State’s faculty and staff have worked tirelessly to ensure the campus kept moving forward during this unprecedented year. Now, some will be returning after more than a year away, while others will be setting foot at 1 Washington Square for the first time.

That’s why SJSU has organized activities to honor its employees, including outdoor yoga, group walks around campus, social gatherings outside with new and familiar colleagues and much more.

Events to note:
Aug. 11, 3:45 – 5 p.m. New Employee Social, Bell/Rose Garden
Faculty and staff who joined SJSU since Mar. 17, 2020, can meet colleagues in person and connect.

Aug. 25, 3 – 4 p.m. | Faculty and Staff Social, Bell/Rose Garden


Weeks of Welcome (WOW)

Aug. 16 – Sept. 22, times and activities vary

At the start of each academic year, SJSU organizes campus-wide programming spanning the first five to six weeks of instruction. The goal is to welcome returning students and greet and support new students in their transition to the Spartan community.

Students have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of events and activities in areas including academics, wellness, social justice*, career, Spartan spirit, social/community building and campus resources. Programming this year will be a mix of hybrid, fully online and in person.

*Social justice activities refer to those that promote students’ development or self advocacy and voice and engage in topics around social justice and community transformation.

Events to note:
Aug. 16, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. | New Student Convocation, virtual
SJSU’s formal welcome of our new Spartans and their parents, family members and/or supporters.

Aug. 19, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. | Weeks of Welcome Kick-Off, 7th St. Plaza
Pick up your schedule for all Weeks of Welcome events and enjoy snacks, music and SJSU giveaways.

Aug. 23, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. | Weeks of Welcome Kick-Off, Tower Lawn

Aug. 24, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. | Weeks of Welcome Kick-Off, Housing Quad


SJSU Loves SJ

ongoing

The SJSU Loves SJ initiative is a partnership between San José State and Visit San Jose, the Downtown Association, Japantown Business Association, and San José City Hall to help increase students’ connection with and appreciation of the culture of San Jose’s vibrant surrounding community. The university plays an important role in the economic vitality of downtown San Jose, and there are many local venues and landmarks students, faculty and staff can explore just steps from campus.

Events to note:
Aug. 19, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. | Student welcome event, Swenson Gate on 4th Street and the Paseo de San Antonio
Student social event on the first day of classes, includes snacks and giveaways from local businesses.

Aug. 19 – 20, dusk – 10 p.m. | Lighting of City Hall Tower and Rotunda, 200 E. Santa Clara St.
San Jose’s City Hall plaza will be lit up with SJSU’s blue and gold colors at dusk.

Aug. 23, 9 a.m. | SJSU flag raising at City Hall
Marks the return of the SJSU community to downtown and celebrates our partnership with the city.


(Re)Discover SJSU

ongoing

Now in its second year, (Re)Discover SJSU is a digital campaign that invites the San José State community to utilize their informational website and social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram and YouTube) to learn about and share campus programs, services and events.
The dashboard updates regularly throughout the academic year with new opportunities to explore and engage with the campus community.


New Campus Facilities and Services

In addition to welcome festivities, here are a few of the new things to expect on campus this year.

Landscape

Behind the scenes, university personnel have been planning ahead to ensure Spartans, many of whom have yet to set foot on campus, feel properly welcomed to SJSU. This includes banners decorated with colorful art and the SJSU logo — some featuring the word “welcome” stated in multiple languages — hanging along the pedestrian paseos spanning the length of campus.

Health and Well-being

YOU@SJSU is a wellness learning and resource tool that provides students with tips and tools for everything from mental and physical health to friendships and finding balance. Students can also set personalized goals and track their progress in achieving them with interactive support included in the app.

SJSUCares will open a new space (anticipated in fall) in Clark Hall. Students can receive the confidential support to address basic needs through individual meetings with case managers, on-site connections to partner agencies that support self-sufficiency, and workshops.

The Office of Sustainability and SJSU Cares also partnered to establish the Clothes Closet, a new resource for SJSU students providing a steady source of gently worn clothing and new essential items such as underwear and socks. It is tentatively scheduled to also open in fall.

Technology and Cybersecurity

Outdoor WiFi will blanket almost all of the SJSU campus in WiFi 6, the latest standard for stable, reliable wireless broadband connectivity that can host far more devices than previous standards. This will activate more spaces around campus for learning and studying, as well enabling a future strategy for an IoT-based Smart Campus.

A new SJSU Events Calendar is mobile friendly, more visible and plugged into social media, allowing events to be searchable via hashtags and listings to be populated directly into Google Calendar and Outlook. The “I’m interested” feature provides logged-in users with recommendations for upcoming events based on ones they’ve already attended.

Duo Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is now live for all SJSU accounts. MFA significantly reduces the potential impact from ransomware and phishing attacks.

SJSU partnered with industry-leading software security companies to give our campus population free access to security software for their home devices.

Athletics

SJSU welcomes the new South Campus Multilevel Parking Structure and Sports Field Facility, including a 2-acre recreation field and art honoring the “Speed City” athletes and their famed track and field coach Bill Winter. The four-level, 1,500 stall parking structure overlooks the new field. The field itself is a state-of-the-art synthetic playing surface and features a dedicated public walkway encircling its perimeter.

Fans planning to cheer on the 2020 Mountain West champion Spartan football team will notice a new state-of-the-art scoreboard at CEFCU Stadium. The first home game is Saturday, Aug. 28, against Southern Utah.

Facilities

There are now solar panels and 50 EV charging stations at the South Campus Park & Ride; 25 of them have dual charging capability. There are currently eight to 10 charging stations on main campus that were installed this summer with four hour maximum use.

Solar panels were added to provide electrical power to the CEFCU Stadium area, lightening our carbon footprint while providing some shade as well.

Panda Express in the Student Union has an upgraded wok station to speed up orders. In addition, you can now place your order and schedule pickup times through the Boost app to save time.

San José State is introducing Burger 408, its first “ghost kitchen,” featuring delicious burgers, fries and sides, sauces, fried chicken sandwiches and tenders. All orders are made through the Boost app and picked up at the window at the Student Union.

In spring of 2022, Halal Shack will replace Steak and Shake and will offer authentic and delicious Halal food for the entire community.

SJSU Announces New Partnership With Manchester Metropolitan University

San José State announced an exciting partnership to offer the Gateway PhD program with Manchester Metropolitan University (Manchester Met) in Manchester, England. This innovative international doctoral degree program prepares individuals for research, faculty and leadership positions in the library and information science field.

The partnership allows doctoral students to virtually attend Manchester Met and learn from the instruction and mentorship from faculty members at both universities — with the opportunity to attend an annual weeklong research workshop held in San José. The convenience of this primarily online program also allows information professionals and academics to earn their PhD degree from Manchester Met, without having to relocate to England or disrupt their current careers.

“SJSU appreciates the hard work that went into forming this unique, innovative, global partnership and is committed to ensuring the success of this program,” said President Mary Papazian. “And we’re looking forward to working with our partner, Manchester Metropolitan University, to launch and support the program.”

The School of Information (iSchool), housed within SJSU’s College of Professional and Global Education, will provide the entry or “gateway” to the PhD in Library and Information Management that will be conferred by MMU. The iSchool faculty will serve as associate supervisors and provide coordination of the program.

“Our college’s mission is to provide access to relevant, high-quality educational programs,” said Ruth Huard, dean of the College of Professional and Global Education. “It is exciting to know that through this Gateway PhD program, we are creating a solid pathway for future scholars in the information field who have a global perspective.”

This partnership is well aligned with the research and global focus of San José State, including the launch of new doctoral programs like the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, which graduated its first cohort earlier this year.

At the official launch event with leaders from both institutions, Professor Jenny Watling, pro vice chancellor international for Manchester Met, described the opportunity for MMU to “grow and diversify their global community” and build “academic relationships that will bring innumerable benefits to both institutions,” including support for achieving each other’s research ambitions.

Sandra Hirsh, associate dean of academics for SJSU’s College of Professional and Global Education, expressed similar sentiments and excitement about how this international partnership highlights the strengths of the two universities.

“This is a unique opportunity for doctoral students to benefit from the expertise of faculty at two institutions and consider research from a global perspective,” she explained. “I am also excited about the opportunities for our faculty to engage in collaborative research with international colleagues.”

The Gateway PhD program was previously offered through a partnership between San José State and Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, from 2008 to 2021. Alumni of the program have received numerous awards and honors for their original research.

San José State and Manchester Met have also worked together before: SJSU’s Department of Communication Studies and Manchester Met’s department of art and performance collaborated this past year on joint student projects, which culminated in the creation of short films. This collaboration helped formalize the relationship between SJSU and Manchester Met, further enhancing the synergies between the two universities.

“I am confident our students will take full advantage of this opportunity [of the Gateway PhD program] to engage in original research alongside their peers and expert faculty — and bring much needed insight to this unprecedented digital and information era,” expressed Huard.

Economic Outlook is Bright for California, Nationwide

California’s economy is raging back strong from the pandemic according to a California Outlook report from Beacon Economics, an independent economic research and consulting firm. The United States is experiencing a similar trend — all signs point to a return to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity by the end of 2021.

San José State University’s Center for Banking and Financial Services hosted its annual Economic Summit this week, including a panel discussion with Christopher Thornberg, a founding Partner of Beacon Economics, and Congressman Ro Khanna, which was moderated by Jay Ross, attorney at Hopkins & Carley.

Khanna represents California’s 17th Congressional District and serves on a number of House committees, including Agriculture, Armed Services, and Oversight and Reform, in which he chairs the Environmental Subcommittee.

Khanna spoke on his three areas of focus for economic recovery: clean technology and tackling climate change, equity in a digital economy, and empowerment of “essential” workers — physical laborers and those in in-person, service industries — “who make our economy run.”

Khanna sees collaboration with academic institutions and the private sector as key to each of these areas. He cited SJSU as a “model public university,” including in its “extraordinary partnerships with the private sector and government” and believes the university is a “pillar of the Silicon Valley economy.”

Beacon Economics’ recent economic and social impact report confirms Khanna’s position. The report shows that San José State generates $1.6 billion in labor in California, with nearly half in Santa Clara County alone; $606.9 in tax revenue that benefits local, state and federal governments; and $4.1 billion in economic impact statewide.

In addition, Beacon found SJSU undergraduates typically graduate with less than half the average debt of California college graduates, and are then recruited by some of the world’s biggest tech companies in Silicon Valley.

According to Lucas College and Graduate School of Business Dean Dan Moshavi, “The demand for a San José State and a Cal State education is very high.”

“But what is most critical for today’s students, especially those at SJSU, is developing ‘soft skills,’” Moshavi explained, which relate to how we work.

“One of the things we’re working on in the College of Business is career and professional readiness,” said Moshavi. “Forty-two percent of our students are first-generation students. A lot of them have not had exposure to what professional life looks like, especially in Silicon Valley. Part of what we do is prepare those students in the soft skills, in understanding what it means to walk into a professional environment and engage. That’s a high priority for us.”

This is all great news for current students who are preparing to enter the workforce — and an economy that is still in recovery.

Beacon has long partnered with San José State to provide the economic forecast at the annual summit. As Moshavi introduced Thornberg for his presentation at the event, he praised their work, saying: “Beacon has grown, as many of you have watched at this event over the years, to be one of the most respected economic forecasting firms in the state.”

Key insights for navigating a post-COVID economy

Thornberg provided a comprehensive forecast of the local, state and national economy. The annual analysis is key for Silicon Valley businesses, who can use the relevant information from his report to guide decision-making.

He described four key themes related to economic recovery that can be taken from the pandemic:

  1. Although we’ve experienced a “tragic natural disaster,” history shows that these events do not have lasting impacts on economies — a “quicker-than-normal” recovery from COVID-19 was almost guaranteed.
  2. The United States’ fiscal and monetary policies during the pandemic created a “rocketship recovery,” which means the economy will be overheated for the next couple of years, carrying risks of inflation, higher interest rates and high public debt.
  3. The recovery is “accelerating underlying trends” that were already happening pre-pandemic.
    The housing situation is stable. It’s not about pricing or a “bubble” — yet — it’s about supply of available housing for those who want it.
  4. Thornberg said this is a very different business cycle that what the U.S. experienced in 2008 in regards to the pre-recession economy (subprime lending level during the Great Recession versus a healthy economy in 2020), consumer finances (low vs. high savings rates) and underlying drivers of the recession itself (demand shock vs. supply shock).

“This [time of the COVID-19 pandemic] was the deepest recession in history and also the shortest recession in history,” said Thornberg.

Unfortunately, there is still evidence of distress in the economy because the recovery is unbalanced. For example, services are lagging behind while durable and non-durable goods are way above trend.

San Francisco, he said, is about 35 percent down from where they were pre-pandemic because of their reliance on tourism and business-related travel, while San Jose remained relatively stable.

Goods trade is hot, but supply is slow because of the extraordinary demand we are experiencing at the moment.

Overall, national profits are up, along with corporate profits; tech employment is also up, which is great news for Silicon Valley.

Restaurants, hotels, airlines and entertainment are still struggling to get back; they couldn’t rebound until the vaccine rollout and the virus was under control. Yet, travel is currently picking up, and pent up demand for it is at an all-time high — Thornberg suggested buying tickets and planning your travel for the rest of the year now, as prices are expected to continue to rise.

There is a supply crisis in housing in California. Thornberg explained that middle-income people in the state are tired of being outbid for homes and are migrating to other areas where they can find houses without as much competition. With interest rates low and mortgage rates down, we’re seeing a “panic buying market,” not a “bubble” as with the previous recession.

Commercial real estate is still slow; suburban retail in particular has been impacted because of online shopping.

The labor market is “way behind in recovery,” despite employers adding 850,000 workers in June, the largest gain in 10 months. Thornberg explained the reason is a shortage of labor supply, meaning there are a tremendous amount of jobs available but not enough people to fill them.

This is due to a few factors: Some unemployed workers were temporarily laid off and are waiting for their jobs to come back, some are still using their unemployment benefits, and others have money in the bank and are comfortable with waiting for the “right” jobs, which Thornberg described as ones that will lead to better opportunities down the road.

In addition, a great deal of people retired during the pandemic, many of them seniors, and voluntary quits are at an all-time high.

Overall, Thornberg advised the tight labor market is here to stay, and this shortage of labor supply will continue. The answer: Businesses must consider how to retool in order to compensate for the labor shortage long term.

In short, parts of the economy are still struggling, but the strong growth we are experiencing will provide relief. Thornberg stressed the importance of refraining from referring to everything as a crisis, in favor of looking toward the future — now.

“We need to think about the generations coming behind us, whether we’re talking about climate change, whether we’re talking about housing supply, whether we’re talking about the basic issue of the fiscal deficit. We need to go back to thinking about tomorrow.”

For more economic insights see Christopher Thornberg’s full presentation or register here to view the full webinar.

SJSU Civic Action Fellowship Recognized By California’s Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday

California’s Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday

Photo: James Gensheimer

The fellowship serves as a model for Governor Newsom’s proposed new #CaliforniansForAll College Service Program.

Josh Fryday, chief service officer for the state of California and head of the California Volunteers program within the Office of the Governor, visited San José State on May 28 to meet with a small group of SJSU’s Civic Action Fellows. The student-fellows are part of the university’s inaugural cohort of the Civic Action Fellowship, a national service partnership between the California Volunteers, AmeriCorps and a coalition of public and private universities.

Last year, San José State’s Center for Community Learning and Leadership (CCLL) was awarded more than $500,000 in grant funding to launch and implement the inaugural program, which helps 44 students pay for college while providing local after-school programs with STEM education and computer programming for underserved third- and sixth-grade youth.

Unfortunately, university restrictions and school closings during the COVID-19 pandemic required program leadership to quickly pivot their programming completely from in-person to virtual.

“In response, current Civic Action Fellows created unplugged project kits that they used to teach core concepts related to computer science and programming,” said Andrea Tully, CCLL’s assistant director and program director and co-primary investigator of the Civic Action Fellowship.

The original, handmade kits contained everything the young students needed to complete the activities on their own and offline. Fellows supplemented their weekly lessons using digital platforms “to collaborate with the youth to create and debug games using the Scratch programming language,” Tully added.

Despite the odds of reimagining programming practically overnight, the outcomes of the first Civic Action Fellowship at San José State were remarkable, particularly in how effective the students were at engaging the youth with fun, educational activities — and much needed one-on-one connection.

Outside of their families, the fellows were often the only social interaction many of the children had with other adults during the pandemic.

“The fellows worked as a team to adapt to learning and serving while sheltering in place, fostering what will likely be lifelong friendships with their peers and a sense of pride being a member of the SJSU Civic Action Fellowship during unprecedented times,” said Tully.

Fryday’s visit was an immense honor for SJSU; he and other staff members at California Volunteers are thrilled with the results of the CCLL’s work with the C.A. Fellowship program, which has been awarded a second year of funding for 2021.

“Higher education and public service is a natural partnership, and the program at San José State University is a model program for the entire state. The Civic Action Fellowship supports commitment to public service, and addresses challenges all Californians face — particularly in historically underserved communities,” said Fryday.

“Calling on young people to serve their communities is an investment in the future of California. Helping those students pay for college and find meaningful employment upon graduation will ensure its continued success in bettering their lives, and the lives of those around them,” he continued.

San José State’s C.A. fellowship has a nearly 100 percent retention rate. As they recruit for the upcoming academic year, nearly half of the original fellows have already applied for the second cohort, which speaks volumes about the experience it offers both fellows and its young participants.

Four Civic Action Fellows speak with Josh Fryday

(L-R) Kelli Sexton, Chris Padua and Ian Chavez, Josh Fryday, and Cielo Pano Photo: James Gensheimer

Cielo Pano, ’24 Applied Nutrition and Sciences, said being a Civic Action Fellow helped her develop essential skills that benefit her as both a student and a mentor. “I’m now a more resilient and goal-oriented person with better time management skills”

“The opportunity to meet the current Chief Service Officer of California helped us appreciate the roots of our efforts and involvement in the fellowship — and why our time and service in the program is important,” she added.

“Being a fellow during the pandemic was quite intensive, but providing entertainment and information for youth during this once in a century epidemic was really impactful,” said Ian Chavez, ’23 Computer Science. “It helps you realize how much small actions can influence the world.”

Chavez also appreciated Fryday’s visit to SJSU. “Meeting Mr. Fryday meant a lot,” he said. “I always felt that my work in the fellowship was important, but having such a prominent figure sit down and talk with us about the program was a great experience.”

Christopher Padua,’23 Forensic Science, also greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet Fryday and share his thoughts on the experience. One of the things Padua told him was: “Without this program, these young kids with so much potential may not have otherwise been introduced to these computer skills or learn that they could even do coding at all.”

Setting an example for others to thrive

The Civic Action Fellowship pilot program set a concrete example for California Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed #CaliforniansForAll College Service Program, which, similar to the C.A. Fellowship, will help eliminate financial hardship of college for students in need.

The Governor’s May budget revision includes $285.2 million in one-time funds to establish the program in collaboration with the University of California, California State University, California Community Colleges, and private California university systems.

“The #CaliforniansForAll College Program is a historic proposed investment in service from Governor Gavin Newsom. It will create debt-free college pathways for low-income students, tackle our greatest challenges, inspire a new generation to serve, and unite our communities,” said Fryday.

According to the budget summary, the #CaliforniansForAll program creates 12,500 part-time service opportunities for college students interested in addressing urgent matters related to education, healthcare, and climate and disaster response, among others. It offers both a stipend and scholarship for eligible participants.

“This program will help California’s communities tackle critical issues focused on climate action, tutoring and mentoring, and other critical areas of COVID-19 recovery, like food insecurity,” Fryday added.

San José State’s Civic Action Fellows’ specific service efforts are developed collaboratively with partners, which include Title 1 after school programs within Campbell Union School District (CUSD) Expanded Learning Programs, Sunday Friends, and Third Street Community Center, and are responsive to community needs. Thus, the experience results in meaningful progress toward achieving shared goals within the community.

“The Civic Action Fellowship truly enacts SJSU’s commitment to integrating service to the community with academic learning experiences,” said Elena Klaw, psychology professor, CCLL director and primary investigator of the Civic Action Fellowship.

“We are proud of the service that Fellows have provided toward advancing equity in STEM, providing public health education, and learning and growing as students and emerging leaders.”

SJSU Hosts In-Person Photo Experience to Celebrate the Class of 2021

From May 26 to May 28, San José State welcomed students from the class of 2021 and members of their families to campus to celebrate their graduation with an in-person photo experience. The graduates were also recognized through a virtual recognition event held by the university and recognition websites created by SJSU’s individual colleges.

“What a great week it’s been at #SJSU, celebrating our #SJSU21 graduates!” President Mary Papazian tweeted on the 28th. “This class is undoubtedly one of the most resilient and dedicated cohorts ever. We will remember them for the challenges they’ve overcome and the positive imprint they will leave. Well done!”

As state restrictions ease for large gatherings, SJSU will invite both the class of 2020 and the class of 2021 back to campus for a safe in-person commencement.

Whether you were able to watch the livestream from the campus or missed the events, check out this visual recap of the campus events below.


All photography is by Robert C. Bain, university photographer.

Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021

SJSU’s Thalia Anagnos Named a YWCA Tribute to Women Honoree

Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Thalia Anagnos.

Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Thalia Anagnos in action in the classroom. Photo: David Schmitz

Thalia Anagnos, San José State University’s vice provost for undergraduate education, has been named a Tribute to Women Award winner by the YWCA Golden Gate Silicon Valley.

Anagnos is part of a select group of more than 40 emerging and executive women honorees who were celebrated at their 37th annual awards ceremony in May. The recipients, according to the YWCA’s recent press release, “have excelled in their fields and have made significant contributions to Silicon Valley through their dedication and leadership.”

“We’re so excited to recognize the 43 honorees who have been selected to receive the Tribute to Women Award this year,” said Adriana Caldera Boroffice, Interim CEO, YWCA Golden Gate Silicon Valley.

Borroffice added that celebrating these women this year is particularly special, in light of the distinct challenges “women — especially mothers, senior-level and BIPOC women — have been experiencing” during COVID-19 and the “fortitude and resilience” they showed through it all.

The Tribute to Women Awards has recognized more than 1,400 women for their remarkable achievements at work and in their communities.

“Thalia’s passion, work and impact over the years provide a model for women leaders in higher education, whose obligation is to pay it forward for upcoming generations,” said President Mary Papazian. “Working quietly and behind the scenes, she has been instrumental in the education, training and success of countless California students, many of whom have gone on to add their own valuable contributions to our communities. I can think of no one more deserving than Thalia for this year’s YWCA Tribute to Women Award.”

“I was really honored that the president nominated me,” said Anagnos. “YWCA organized a meet-and-greet with some of the other women who were nominated, and we had a lot of commonalities in terms of professional experiences and volunteer activities; it was fun to connect with them and talk about their paths, too.”

Anagnos started at San José State as a general education advisor and assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering and taught for more than 30 years before her transition to administration. Over time, she has been involved with numerous committees and held a variety of other roles, including chair of the civil and environmental engineering department, SJSU’s first director of assessment, associate vice president of graduate and undergraduate programs and, currently, as vice provost for undergraduate education.

Presently, she oversees curriculum development and assessment of general education and undergraduate programs, as well as SJSU’s articulation agreements with the state of California’s community college system. She also supervises the university’s accreditation, academic program catalog, academic scheduling and e-advising, and coordinates some student success programs.

“Being a member of SJSU all these years has been really fun because of the variety of opportunities that working at a university provides such as research, teaching, working with the community, collaborating with other universities and mentoring students and colleagues,” said Anagnos.

The strong roots she’s built at the university over time have made all the difference in the impact she’s been able to make in leadership and directly with students.

“Having those relationships with people across campus has helped me to do the work I need to do — and learn what I need to know to help me change and grow,” she added.

Read the full story of Anagnos’ impact on SJSU here.

New “21@2021” Virtual Exhibit Elevates an Ancient Chinese Artform to a New Realm

21@2021 Virtual Exhibit

What do the ancient art of Chinese brush painting and virtual reality have in common? Hint: It’s not their age.

SJSU’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Library’s new “21@2021” virtual exhibit showcases the more than 6,000-year-old art of Chinese painting done on colorful lanterns — including a virtual reality (VR) experience that puts guests literally in touch with the artwork — in celebration of Asian Pacific Heritage Month.

As one of the oldest styles of painting in the world, Chinese brush painting is considered a living art. Its themes typically reflect serenity and peace and easily lend themselves to contemporary execution for modern day artists and enthusiasts.

The exhibition highlights the artwork of three generations of the Chan Lim family, who have been pioneering new media, styles and techniques that integrate Western art with the Chinese brush style in the United States and around the world for more than half a century.

Unlike Western brushes, the Chinese brush features a handle made of bamboo and topped with animal hair used for making meticulous strokes on rice paper — which is also very difficult to correct if mistakes are made. The finished works are then stretched and mounted on thicker paper to make them stronger and often attached to scrolls, or in this case lanterns, for hanging.

The driving force behind “21@2021” is Lucas College and Graduate School of Business faculty member Bobbi Makani-Lim, PhD, who contributed to and curated the exhibit along with her husband Felix Chan Lim, PhD, a faculty member of Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program who works in the Silicon Valley semiconductor industry. The pair also co-teach a course about the tradition of Chinese brush painting at Stanford.

Art binds the family together

As Makani-Lim describes, it is a common language among them: “When you talk about Chinese brush painting, everyone understands this is what we do as a family.”

Pre-COVID-19, the family would put on exhibits of their work around the world, including Japan, Taiwan, Philippines and China; in shopping malls in Asia, thousands would attend to view the 300-400 works of art in a given show. The Chan Lim family currently has artworks on exhibit at the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport.

They held their first art exhibition at San José State in 2018. In addition to the Chinese brush, they displayed oil and acrylic paintings, Chinese fans as well as ceramics. The show was so well received, they decided to return for the 20th anniversary of the Chan Lim family’s artistic collaborations in 2020, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

The family had already begun shipping lanterns from overseas to contribute to what had originally been planned as an in-person exhibit. They pivoted quickly and came up with a new gameplan: a digital experience that would include a virtual reality component.

“The digital format allows our guests to have a feeling of being in a natural exhibit, and if they have VR goggles, they can go in and actually play with some of the lanterns,” said Makani-Lim.

“VR isn’t just for gaming, it can be for art exhibits,” too, she added.

Taking art to the next level

For the King Library, “It is the first example of an interactive VR experience,” says Lesley Seacrist, the library’s ‎project and communications manager. “That means multiple users can be in the same room at the same time and can interact with each other. It’s like being in an actual museum.”

All visitors can enter seven different themed “rooms” and use their keyboard to navigate around and view the hanging lanterns and paintings on the virtual walls. There are also slide shows that play in the background that describe the themes and their popularity in Chinese painting.

More than 500 hours of human and computer time went into creating the virtual reality piece, including setting the scenes, rendering the lanterns, and developing digital galleries for the artwork, according to Jon Oakes, the library’s technology labs coordinator. They had to take photos and videos of the more than 70 lanterns to capture every angle, horizontal and vertical, over several weeks.

With VR goggles, guests can reach out and touch the lanterns, a feature that would not normally be possible in a physical environment because of their delicate nature.

Sharing culture and tradition

It’s been over a year since students, faculty, staff and community members have been able to freely wander the halls of the King Library’s fifth floor, where “21@2021” would have been held.

The fifth floor is also where the Africana, Asian American, Chicano, and Native American Studies Center’s (AAACNA) collections of art, artifacts, books, resources and other documents of cultural heritage are housed. Among the goals of the center is to provide a gathering space for SJSU and community members that promotes and supports programming that celebrates historically underrepresented groups.

“We are bringing a very traditional art into a very modern sort of space,” said Kathryn Blackmer Reyes, librarian and director of the AAACNA center and curator of its multifaceted collections. To her, it’s an exciting space — a gallery of art and culture — with a lot of room and potential for creativity and technology to come together.

“I think what’s so beautiful is that we are exhibiting this very traditional art with contemporary artists, and to bring it to students and communities who don’t necessarily know [Chinese brush painting], it’s exciting that we are incorporating people into the art in a very innovative format,” she added.

Ultimately, postponing the exhibit brought the opportunity to reimagine how visitors can experience the art into a new realm of virtual reality — one that allows them to experience art in a tangible way again, interacting with others while remaining in the comfort of their own spaces.

“We’re hoping we’re able to reach different generations and help them get that feeling that this art is thousands of years old,” said Makani-Lim. “We’ve got to keep it going, so it doesn’t end up like another one of those things that you just read about but no longer exists,” she added.

“Usually for younger generations, Chinese painting is not something that they like to do, but because you’re adding technology, now you’re doing something different, enticing them to look at the art another way,” said Lim.

Learn more and view the “21@2021″ virtual exhibit, including a recording of a recent special talk about Chinese culture and brush painting, and demonstrations from exhibition artists and of the virtual reality experience.
 

A Remarkable Achievement: SJSU Celebrates the Graduating Class of 2021

Celebrating our 2021 Graduates with portraits of grads in the background.

We’re thrilled to congratulate our graduating class of 2021, who have shown incredible resilience, determination and grit during the COVID-19 pandemic, which spanned more than a year of their college experience.

Here are some of our extraordinary soon-to-be graduates, as shared by SJSU faculty from across disciplines, in alphabetical order: Robby Abarca, ’21 Communicative Disorders and Sciences; Diego Almaraz, ‘21 Industrial Design; Joshua Bevis, ‘21 Mechanical Engineering; Aliza Bolliger, ’21 Public Relations; Briena Brown, ’21 Sociology; Marc Aaron Casupanan, ’21 Graphic Design; Sabrina Cervantes, ’21 Justice Studies; Anie de la Rosa Clark, ’21 Master of Business Administration; Nicole Coates, ’21 MS Interdisciplinary Studies; Rachel Crawford, ’21 MFA Creative Writing; Briettny Curtner, ’21 MA Education, Counseling and Student Personnel; Zobeida Delgadillo, ‘21 Political Science; Zoe Dolak, ’21 Public Relations; Adam Elwailly, ’21 Electrical Engineering; Mateo Garcia De la Quintana, ’21 Advertising; Lydon George, Master in Urban Planning; Olivia Gerber, ’21 Political Science and Journalism; Anna Harvey, ’21 MS Transportation Management; Fatima Hassan, ‘21 Psychology; Bianca Hernandez, ’21 MA Sociology; Shruthi Kamath, ’21 Psychology; Jacob Lapinsky, ’21 History and Social Sciences; Vanndy Loth-Kumar, ’21 Doctor of Nursing Practice; Ben Newsome, ’21 MA History; Sabina Patel, ’21 Psychology; Steven Peck, ’21 Political Science; Andrea Perez, ‘21 Advertising; Abril Perez-Gonzaga, ‘21 Anthropology; Naromy Ramirez, ’21 MA Education, Special Education; Nick Randle, ’21 Graphic Design; Jasmine Marie Reyes, ’21 Music, Performance; Ralph Robinson, ’21 Master in Urban Planning; Leilani Saelaw, ’21 Kinesiology; Marc Adrian Narvadez Santos, ’21 English; Sabrina Shell, ‘21 Industrial Design; Kristina Smith, ’21 Child and Adolescent Development and Psychology; Juan Carlos Soliz, ’21 Behavioral Science; Ty Supreme, ’21 Microbiology; Amber Renee Sylva, ’21 MA English; Alice Tsvinev, ’21 Psychology; Narayani Tyagi, ’21 MS Physics; Brianna Misaki Williams, ’21 Philosophy; Neng Xiong, ’21 MA Education, Curriculum and Instruction; and William Yi, ’21 Public Relations.

In their words, they describe the important milestones reached and lessons learned while at San José State, the key takeaways gained from attending college during a pandemic, their next steps — and the transformative impact SJSU had on their lives.

Many of them are on a path to become future leaders and educators, law enforcement and urban planners, clinicians in healthcare and practitioners of art and research. Some are the first in their families to attend college, others are parents setting an example for their children to follow — all of them are shining examples of what it means to be a Spartan.

“Throughout my career, this has always been the most important and revered time on the academic calendar,” said President Mary A. Papazian. “It is the moment that officially affirms the completion of a milestone that forever will impact our students’ lives, and the lives of future generations. All of us at San José State share in the joy and excitement felt by our spring graduates, and I am delighted to welcome them into the Spartan alumni family.”

Graduates will be celebrated at the end of the semester with a custom recognition website, one for each college, and also have the opportunity to be individually recognized at a socially distant, in-person walkthrough photo experience on campus May 26-28. All of this will begin with a livestreamed virtual kick-off event hosted by the president and provost on Wednesday, May 26.


Bobby Abarca.

Robby Abarca (he/him/his), ’21 Communicative Disorders and Sciences

Milestones at SJSU:
One of my major accomplishments at SJSU was being accepted into the undergraduate speech clinic within the Communicative Disorders and Sciences department. This experience solidified my decision to become a speech-language pathologist.

I got to work alongside great student clinicians and under a supervisor that provided us with many opportunities to grow. I learned so much about producing sessions that obtained goals in an ethical manner. I believe that it prepared me for my future in graduate school.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I am actually capable of online learning! I was extremely scared of the transition to online classes, but it ended up being better than I had expected. Our professors and other faculty members were constantly providing us with encouragement and were overall understanding of the new transition.

The biggest takeaway is that it prepared me for the totally unexpected. COVID-19 had such a huge impact on all of us, but we continued to persevere.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
By far, one of the most valuable lessons I have learned at SJSU is that it is really true when people say, “When one door closes, another opens.” I am the type of person who had their entire life planned out since the sixth grade, but everything changed when I stepped foot at SJSU.

It is fine if anyone is feeling lost or confused about what to do next; just know that your journey is not over! SJSU has bountiful resources and experiences that are capable of changing your entire life!

Career goals/next steps:
I am on to my next journey of furthering my education at graduate school! The end goal is to become a speech-language pathologist providing services to those who are in need. I hope to someday return as a professor, so I am able to provide future generations with the same knowledge and resources that were once given to me as a student.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU has transformed my life for the better. I am leaving with so many memories, friends and influential advice from my professors that have made me into the person I am today.

I honestly do not know what I would be doing if I did not attend this university. SJSU has prepared me to become a better clinician, researcher and partner to others. College definitely goes by very fast, but the memories I have will last a lifetime!


Diego Almaraz.

Diego Almaraz (he/him/his), ’21 Industrial Design

Milestones at SJSU:
After being in Industrial Design for a few years, I thought it would be beneficial for us students to have exposure and networking opportunities within the Bay Area design community. I became the president of the major, and I was able to achieve these goals by having several trips to firms, guest speakers, local design events, and appearing in a design magazine.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Out of the several things learned during virtual classes, the biggest takeaway is learning how to effectively work in a remote team. Being able to figure out how to keep all our information universally accessible between us over a cloud was key to our success. This will make that transition easier into remote working and will open more doors in the future to allow for working with different people all over the world.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lesson that I have learned over my time at SJSU is how to work together in a culturally diverse team. Design being a universal language, it helped to create clear communication between our culturally diverse team, which made it a lot easier for us to work in unison without leaving anyone out.

Career goals/next steps:
My ultimate career goal is to open a design firm later down the line. Being able to work in a wide range of different industries — such as footwear, electronics, services and charity — and making a meaningful impact sounds like something I would enjoy doing every day. When working in so many different fields, you are constantly learning new things every day which is my favorite aspect of working in design.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
Out of the many ways that SJSU has transformed me, the most notable is how it got me to break out of my shell. Going into the design, a very social major, had a large role in that transformation because we are always together on campus working hard and building each other up. Ultimately, they made me feel comfortable to be myself, speak my mind and take initiative.


Joshua Bevis.

Joshua Bevis (he/him/his), ’21 Mechanical Engineering

Milestones at SJSU:
I received the 2021 Scott T. Axline Memorial Student Award for Excellence in Service, was hired as an instructional student assistant for the Mechanical Engineering department in 2019, was a Dean’s List Scholar in 2018, and received the Silicon Valley Engineering Scholarship in 2016.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
My experience with COVID-19 was different than most students at SJSU, as I proctored a lab during the heat of the pandemic. For me, the most important takeaway from this experience was the importance of flexibility and adaptability. Shifting curriculums, lab designs and classroom protocols to fit the requirements of the pandemic was as much of a learning opportunity as a challenge — an opportunity to test my abilities to adapt to changing requirements and uncertainty.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
My experience at SJSU was one of constant learning and growth. I went from academic probation to a Dean’s List student within a year’s time, and through that process, I learned perseverance and determination in a trial-by-fire situation. I discovered the personal discipline and life habits required to not only succeed but also excel in my passions and efforts. I also gained a wealth of experience in my engineering courses and labs which have opened the door to my career and future.

Career goals/next steps:
I will be starting at Keysight Technologies as a manufacturing process engineer in June, furthering my interest and passion for mechatronics and metrology.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU has given me the tools, knowledge and experiences to excel in the industry and among my peers and build a better life for myself and my loved ones. The lessons learned and experiences gained here have helped shape the person I am and the impact I will have on my community. SJSU was ranked #1 Most Transformative University in the nation for a reason, and I have truly experienced and benefited from that as I transition into the next season of life.


Aliza Bolliger.

Aliza Bolliger (she/her/hers), ’21 Public Relations

Milestones at SJSU:
I succeeded at challenging myself to get almost all A’s while at SJSU (only one B), which allowed me to receive Dean’s Scholar and President’s Scholar recognitions. I am also headed in the direction of summa cum laude, though I will be ecstatic just to receive my degree.

Aside from the grades, I found a major and direction I want to take for a career, which was a choice that took a lot of years to make. I also got to experience my major in a real way through my internship, and I successfully led two accounts.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
One takeaway from attending college during the pandemic is the incredible importance of being a community and keeping each other safe. We have had to become (and successfully did so in most ways) adaptable in order to protect our communities during this unprecedented time. But it also has shown me how important personal connections are to me, especially after they’re gone or different from what they were before.

Another takeaway, which I noticed both in myself and in those around me, is how resilient we are even when things are tough. Dealing with a pandemic, college, work and life in general is a tall order, and we are still working through it, but together.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I learned through my SJSU experiences that I am stronger than I thought, and I can survive even the hardest of tasks, assignments and moments. There have been periods of time pre-COVID and during that have certainly tested a growing, young adult and budding professional, all while tackling anxiety, but I got through — and I exceeded expectations. I have gained such valuable skills, wisdom and education in my courses, but I was also given the truth of my personal determination.

Career goals/next steps:
I want to hold an internship after graduating, specifically a Disney Professional Internship. My dream is to be a Disney PR professional, but I would be excited to join another company where I could show my passion and support while flexing the skills I’ve gained at San José State University.

I ultimately look forward to opportunities to continue learning on my own and growing both personally and professionally — and maybe land that dream job one day.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
Aside from the obvious of being the place where I earned my degree, SJSU has been a unique and enriching experience both on and off campus. I wasn’t sure what State would be like after being a long-term community college student, but it transformed me more into the person who I want to be and allowed me to take the next giant steps in my life.


Briena Brown.

Briena Brown (she/her/hers), ’21 Sociology

Milestones at SJSU:
I had the honor of representing the Student Homeless Alliance (SHA) at a united press conference with SJSU’s administration to announce the implementation of SHA’s solutions to provide more resources for homeless students on campus (emergency beds, grants, SJSUCares on-campus location, etc.).

Besides being a community organizer and artistic activist, I also supported the SJSU Human Rights Institute through my involvement in the Silicon Valley Pain Index.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I have learned what I’m actually capable of during this pandemic. Being a college student during a pandemic can be difficult, but I have taught myself that I can do hard things, and I am so much stronger than I ever thought I was.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
SJSU has taught me that if the thought of doing something excites and scares you, it probably means that you should do it! When I reflect on my college experience, I only remember the opportunities/moments that I originally was so hesitant about before doing it.

Career goals/next steps:
I want to end up in a profession that helps those around me. I hope to break glass ceilings with my presence and provide support to those who need it, whether that’s on a national or local level.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU has taught me to be brave and to stand up for what I believe in. I have learned to accept myself for who I am and to work hard in absolutely everything that I do.


Marc Casupanan.

Marc Aaron Casupanan (he/him/his), ’21 Graphic Design

Milestones at SJSU:
A major accomplishment for me at SJSU was getting into the BFA Graphic Design program. To be able to do something I love, such as design, in an environment that pushes me to do my best — it has been a great opportunity and is an accomplishment for me personally.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I think the key takeaways from the online learning environment during the pandemic is the importance of connections and keeping in touch with others. An aspect that I didn’t realize I’d miss was interacting with classmates and peers. Peers kept me motivated while we were taking classes in-person, so to adjust to remote learning, reaching out to others and maintaining friendships become important. I find that having these relationships help motivate me to continue working towards better results.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lesson I learned at SJSU is that while self motivation is a great quality when it comes to accomplishing a task, being surrounded by a great group of people who push you, as well, is even better.

Career goals/next steps:
My next step is to pursue my passion in design, ideally working on a small team at first to get some experience working closely with others. I think for me, personally, I’d benefit within small groups because the communication aspect of the team is similar to what I’m used to from school experience.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has definitely given me numerous opportunities with the BFA Graphic Design program, being the NEO Design Club president, and working as a student assistant for the King Library. I’ve opened up a lot, and I value the chances and memories that have come from my time here at SJSU.


Sabrina Cervantes.

Sabrina Cervantes (she/her/hers), ’21 Justice Studies

Milestones at SJSU:
Academically, my proudest accomplishments are being named a Dean’s Scholar my first semester at SJSU, and being named a President’s Scholar the following two semesters. Also, during my internship with SJSU’s Record Clearance Project (RCP), I was offered a position as a staff assistant. Nothing is more rewarding than the work I get to do with this program.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The key takeaways I learned while attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic are to be disciplined and stay positive. While 2020 was a difficult year for everyone, some more than others, we students had to stay focused, disciplined and get used to the new normal, which was online learning.

Rather than dwell on what I was missing, I focused on the positives. The connections I have made with faculty, staff, students and RCP clients through a computer screen has been the greatest blessing in the most challenging year.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lesson I learned at SJSU is that I am capable of more than I think. I have met so many amazing people, peers and faculty, who have accomplished so much despite where they come from. It is easy to say, “I’m not qualified,” or “I’m not good enough,” and not even try. However, it takes courage to put yourself out there and accomplish something great.

Career goals/next steps:
My next steps would be to begin a career as a probation officer. I would like to go back to school after a few years to either get my master’s and become an educator or go to law school. I would like to get some experience in different fields and see what I’m most passionate about.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU has transformed my life by showing me that there are so many options out there. The Record Clearance Project has given me the opportunity to meet people from diverse backgrounds and learn many different skills that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

There is no doubt that my experience at SJSU has transformed me as a person and given me a very unique set of skills and experiences that will help me throughout my career.


Anie Clark.

Anie de la Rosa Clark (she/her/hers), ’21 Master of Business Administration

Milestones at SJSU:
A major milestone for me was to discover my competitive skills and take advantage of all opportunities the MBA offered. I participated in the Heritage Bank Certificate Analyst and took first place along with three talented undergraduate business students.

I became the first-ever MBA Hispanic Advisor with Centro Community Partners Advanced Entrepreneurs Program, setting course for future MBAs to get involved too. I managed to participate in an unpaid part-time internship at a robotics startup, and in our marketing class simulation project, my team set a new record in the simulation program for highest score since the simulation was introduced.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I could not think of a better way to spend my evenings and weekends than to spend them in MBA studies and assignments during the COVID-19 pandemic. This shifted my focus away from the pandemic, as I was so busy with readings, classes and projects.

I also appreciated interacting with classmates in similar circumstances and exchanging ideas about the unusual events that forced us to think differently. We cheered on each other. We connected with each other. We learned new ways of learning together, and we found new ways of planning, envisioning and executing ideas and strategies.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Everyone in the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business is genuinely invested in making every student’s career successful. Full disclosure, part of my interest in pursuing an MBA at SJSU is that I am a full-time SJSU employee; I wanted to know the SJSU product.

I uncovered the gem we refer to as the best public university in Silicon Valley. As I continue my work with SJSU donors, I feel reassured to share my story, knowing that everyone at SJSU is invested in educating the leaders of tomorrow and developing better citizens, thoughtful colleagues and stronger communities.

Career goals/next steps:
I launched my consulting firm and have been in a soft launch since 2019 refining my idea and putting in place my business plan. For now, I plan to continue working on it part time and continue my focus helping entrepreneurs launch their business.

My goal is to help entrepreneurs take action on their plans and launch, iterate and continue. I call this “actionate their planning” because a plan will not prove whether it works or not until action starts. And I plan to continue my career in philanthropy as it directly relates to my main three motivators: help others, support education and do what makes us happy.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
As a results-oriented person, I transformed my approach to face situations and address challenges by building more awareness of my people-oriented skills.


Nicole Coates.

Nicole Coates (she/her/hers), ’21 MS Interdisciplinary Studies

Milestones at SJSU:
I received the CSU Sally Casanova Scholar award, which helped me in applying to PhD programs this past year. I was able to apply to 15 programs, and I have been admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pursue my PhD in brain and cognitive sciences this fall!

I also was able to maintain a high GPA at SJSU, which was another goal of mine, in order to demonstrate to PhD programs I have what it takes to pursue graduate-level work.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
This past year has taught me to be patient in a time when everything seems uncertain, and to be understanding during a time when everyone is going through hardship. While socializing was nonexistent (in-person anyway), I was reminded of the importance and need for humans to be the social animals we are and reminded of how much I cherish my family, friends and colleagues.

Most valuable lesson I learned from SJSU:
First, office hours are necessary for not only retaining information learned in a class but also making long-lasting connections that will be helpful and wonderful to have as you advance in your career.

Second, the ability to collaborate is critical, as you can learn so much from your colleagues as well as produce work that is incredibly interesting and multifaceted.

Third, don’t be afraid to express interest in someone’s work! Chances are not only are they happy you are interested, but they will also offer ways in which you can collaborate with them.

Career goals/next steps:
I will be pursuing my PhD at MIT this fall in order to study developmental psychology and cognitive science. Aside from research, I will mentor undergraduates and be involved in diversity and inclusivity efforts in higher education.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State allowed me to pursue my interests that didn’t fit into one master’s program. Because of that, I have been able to collaborate with faculty from many departments as well as become a more creative and critical thinker.

Although the Interdisciplinary Studies program can be rather lonely (there’s no cohort or department that you belong to), faculty and students welcomed me with open arms. SJSU made me feel like I belonged, both as a student and as a young woman of color entering the world of academia.


Rachel A. Crawford.

Rachel Crawford (she/her/hers), ’21 MFA Creative Writing

Milestones at SJSU:
While at SJSU, I won the Dorrit A. Sibley Writing Scholarship Award for excellence in poetry in 2019 and 2020. I also won the Academy of American Poets Virginia de Araujo Prize, which led to the publishing of my poem “Visiting Side B” on the Academy’s website. I won the James Phelan Award for metrical verse in 2020, and my poem “Pleasants Valley Road, Cantelow Road, September 2020” was chosen as an award winner for SJSU’s Pandemic Pandemonium event.

My first major publication occurred during the spring of 2020 in New South Journal, and I have a poem, “The Snow Cone,” forthcoming in Reed Magazine’s first ever chapbook. I also worked with a group of Teaching Associates and Dr. Ryan Skinnell on writing a chapter that will be published in Threshold Conscripts: Rhetoric and Composition TAships.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
All people have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic in their own ways, and the things I learned the most are to have compassion for others and their circumstances and to show grace as much as possible.

I also learned how important it is to have patience for others, especially students who have family and work responsibilities outside of taking classes. While it was important for me to learn my own coursework and to teach writing skills to my students, it was also really important for me to pass on the value of having resilience and perseverance during difficult times.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
SJSU has so much to offer students in terms of resources and campus events, but it is up to each individual student how much to participate. When I attended SJSU as an undergrad, I did not participate much. In fact, I am embarrassed by the kind of student I was. However, attending SJSU as a graduate student 12 years later, I wanted my experience to be different.

I remember hearing a speech on the welcoming day for graduate students, and the speaker said to take advantage of everything in the program — read everything, attend every class, go to events and engage deeply in learning. I was inspired, and I did my best to live up to that advice.

Because of that, I graduate from the MFA program with a greater depth of knowledge and appreciation for everything I learned and everyone I encountered along my journey.

Career goals/next steps:
Next year, I will work at SJSU as a first-year writing instructor and as a supervisor for English phase II and III student teachers in the single-subject credential program. I will also continue to refine my poetry manuscript to send out for publication.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
I came to SJSU and found a community of writers and thinkers who welcomed and encouraged me. Many of the professors on campus have been my greatest mentors and supporters, and they showed me how to push the boundaries of my writing and my teaching.

Although I have always valued my family, going through this program taught me how much I truly depend on them, and for all of their help and encouragement, I am forever grateful. I feel so incredibly blessed to have attended the MFA program at SJSU, and I look forward to continuing my work there as a supervisor and first-year writing instructor.


Briettny Curtner.

Briettny Curtner (she/her/hers),’18 Psychology, ’21 MA Education, Counseling and Student Personnel

Milestones at SJSU:

  • Being a part of Faces of Learning, an arts-based research initiative hosted by Lurie College
  • Serving as an intern within the Residential Life Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage as part of the Association of College and University Housing Officers – International Housing Internship Program
  • Funding my thesis, “Misogynoir: Undergraduate Experiences by Black Women,” with the Graduate Equity Fellowship
  • Creating and facilitating 12 workshops focused on academic success, well-being and career planning workshops as a graduate assistant for Lurie College Success Center
  • Fostering awareness and coordinating initiatives relating to the Garret Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant as community mental health coordinator role with Counseling and Psychological Services at SJSU

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I learned the value of being proactive. I do not believe I would have moved to another state during this pandemic to begin my career before completing my master’s degree if I was not proactive.

Additionally, I was starting to review position descriptions that were interesting as well as intimidating while my imposter syndrome kicked in. However, by preparing for all that I could control, I learned how to prevent COVID-19 from becoming a hindrance as my career began.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I have been with SJSU since 2014 as an undergraduate student, student employee, full-time employee and now a graduate student months away from commencement. I have learned many lessons during the seven years that I have spent with SJSU. The most impactful is the value of authenticity.

My educational background is within psychology and educational counseling, which I have used to support college students, and the rapport that can be built is priceless when it is genuine and authentic. I believe that representation is powerful, and my presence within Student Affairs, I hope, shows to others that pursuing this field is possible — regardless of a pandemic.

Authenticity in all that you do will go a long way.

Career goals/next steps:
I am four months into my new role with Utah Valley University, and my goals are to create a path towards success for students that is realistic and feasible for them. I aim to continue to learn more about the student population I now serve, adventure every weekend to somewhere new, and enjoy cuisines from places I have never heard of until moving to Lehi, Utah!

Simply put, my next steps are to be present in my new role because it is exactly the type of work I went to school for. Now, I can thrive in my new environment rather than work to survive as I did during my collegiate experiences.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
I first started with SJSU at 17 years old and am now graduating for the second time at 24 years old. San José State has provided opportunities for me to grow personally and professionally.
From within the residence halls to inside a classroom, I sought out leadership experiences that challenged me and contributed to a resume that has served me well.

Additionally, through my master’s program, I was able to facilitate research. After two years, my thesis is complete, and it would not have happened without the support of my committee chair Dr. Jason Laker and committee members Drs. Angela Birts and Lorri Capizzi.

All in all, during my time with SJSU, I learned what I enjoyed in life, what careers were of interest, and what I will continue to aspire to accomplish.


Zobeida Delgadillo.

Zobeida Delgadillo (she/her/hers), ‘21 Political Science

Milestones at SJSU:
It has been both an honor and a privilege to have served as Associated Students president and chief executive officer as well as Associated Students director of legislative affairs. Additionally, as a governing member of the California State Student Association, I’ve advocated for obtaining more state funding for the CSU system, supporting basic needs initiatives, providing funding to resources and departments and promoting student participation in the governance of the CSU system.

Other roles that have allowed me to continue my pursuit of life-long learning, personal growth and inclusion: a senator on the Academic Senate, a board member on the Student Union, a member of the Athletics Board, an orientation leader for New Student and Family Programs, and a member of Alpha Omicron Pi.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I’ve learned that learning is a two-way street. Despite being in a virtual setting, I’ve continued to allow myself to share my personal experiences and learn from others, which has given me new perspectives and enriched my college experience.

I’ve also learned ways to be more adaptable and flexible, both in academic productivity and my personal development. I would advise students to not feel constrained by the lack of in-person engagement in a virtual setting. In a campus filled with cultural diversity, your individuality is extremely respected and valued, so no matter your interests, chances are there’s a place for you.

As Spartans, you are in the place where Olympic winners, entrepreneurs and trailblazers in society once stood. Challenge yourself. Absorb everything. And above all, enjoy and trust the process!

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
My experience as SJSU and various leadership roles have taught me the importance of intersectionality, equity and transparency. Initiative and innovation are key to my principles, as my time at SJSU taught me to capitalize on my strengths and find my voice.

My authenticity has taught me to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, which means having the courage to drive innovation, engagement and advocacy. This form of confidence has further contributed to my resilience and commitment to the communities I belong to.

Career goals/next steps:
I will be attending graduate school immediately after undergrad. I’m still undecided of where I’ll attend, but I recently received admission and a scholarship to the University of San Francisco for a MA in sports management.

I hope to pursue a career in the sports industry and one day become an executive in Major League Baseball. Regardless, I will continue to be a life-long advocate for access and equality for women not only in athletics but in all sectors of society.

How has SJSU transformed your life?:
As a first-generation student and a San José native, I’ve been transformed by SJSU in ways I never imagined. I keep close to me this quote by James Baldwin: “The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it.” It reminds me to always have vision, dedication and strategy everywhere I go, even if it means occupying spaces that traditionally have not been meant for me.

My community at SJSU has given me utmost guidance, clarity and an outstanding support system, to which I credit my success in and outside the classroom. As I move forward, I believe that my personal and professional experiences at SJSU have laid the foundation for me to continue creating transformative change in my career and community.



Zoe Dolak (she/her/hers), ’21 Public Relations

Milestones at SJSU:
My time at San José State has been filled with so many unique experiences and opportunities.
One of my biggest accomplishments at San José State was working alongside the Journalism and Mass Communications [school] and the Dwight Bentel Hall agency team to virtually honor Dr. Anthony Fauci with the William Randolph Hearst Award for excellence in mass communications. We were able to bring one of 2020’s biggest figures onto campus and bring recognition to the school and everything that Dr. Anthony Fauci has done.

I’m also proud to have led a month-long campaign and case study about civil discourse in America for the Public Relations Student Society of America

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending college during the pandemic was difficult, but I learned that I’m capable of taking on challenges and creating change no matter the circumstance. In every situation, there’s always still opportunity.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I’ve learned a lot of lessons at San José State, and I think one of the biggest ones was learning how to follow my heart. Everyone always says that there’s something you “need” to be doing or a point you “should” be at in life. But I found that listening to myself and following my own path has taught me the most.

Career goals/next steps:
Once I graduate from San José State, I plan to further the message of sustainability and climate equity in California and the United States by doing communications work with the company CALSTART. Helping to uplift other voices and empower future generations is always going to be my number one goal.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my professional life, but it also has transformed my cultural and societal views. Going to this school took me from being a young high-schooler who didn’t really know what she wanted to do in life to being a leader, a thinker and someone who has three times the amount of confidence in themselves. I am forever grateful for the opportunities the school has given me to learn how to grow and thrive every single day. Spartan up!


Adam Elwailly.

Adam Elwailly (he/him/his), ’21 Electrical Engineering

Milestones at SJSU:
One of my research papers was accepted to a peer-reviewed academic journal in the field of semiconductor electronics. I’m very pleased with this accomplishment, as the months of hard work that preceded submitting the manuscript led me to discover a passion for research, which informed my decision to pursue a PhD after graduation from San José State.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending classes during the COVID-19 pandemic taught me a great deal about focus. When classes moved online, I learned rather quickly that it is all too easy to become distracted and disengaged without clear structure and a few self-imposed rules to keep me focused. I hope to carry this self-discipline forward throughout the rest of my time as a student and into my career.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
My experience at San José State taught me that opportunities are rarely unavailable. One of the keys to success is learning to recognize where opportunities exist, even where they may be hidden, and being willing to take them, even when they may be difficult. The pursuit of opportunity is always worth it.

Career goals/next steps:
This fall, I will be attending the electrical engineering PhD program at Stanford University, where I will pursue research in nanoelectronics or power semiconductor devices. It is my hope that this path leads me to a rich career in electronics research.

I may ultimately pursue a university professorship, as academia lies squarely within this framework for my future endeavors.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State provided me with more opportunities than I could ever have taken. In addition to laying a foundation for a career in electronics research, being a student at San José State taught me valuable fundamental skills that will be useful in any of my future pursuits.
As I graduate, my most significant takeaway about San José State is that, through their interactions with their instructors and with each other, students here can find support for any interest or career path.


Mateo Garcia De la Quintana.

Mateo Garcia De la Quintana (he/him/his), ’21 Advertising

Milestones at SJSU:
My sophomore year, I started in my first graphic design position for CommUniverCity under John Delacruz. As a junior, I served as the creative director of the Spartan Ad Club, an advertising/marketing assistant for the Spartan Recreation and Aquatic Center (a role I continued as a senior), a student art director at DBH Communications Agency on campus, and an Adobe Ambassador, which I also held my senior year.

Both my sophomore and junior years, I interned for SJSU Up&Up Festivals. My senior year, I was co-president of the Spartan Ad Club, the social media director for Something Nice Company, and a freelance product photographer.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Opportunities are everywhere — especially online now! It was an amazing opportunity to understand myself away from campus while still at school.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lesson I learned is that you will receive just as much as you put in. Life is not always in the classroom — there is so much more to discover and learn from clubs, people and professors that you can’t always find in the classroom. Do not be afraid to take that extra step to improve yourself.

Career goals/next steps:
I just want my next step to be something I am passionate about and want to do — something that makes me say, “Yes; I am excited to do this.” I would love to continue working in social media and product photography. I am glad I will have an amazing background from SJSU to help me move forward in my career. SJSU has been recognized by so many companies, and they know the students that come out of here are going to be great.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my life drastically. I learned a lot that will transform me into the person I want to be, and I owe it to my professors and peers that shaped me.

But most importantly, I lost a lot, whether it was through assignments, jobs, relationships or a competition. That is something I value, because it made me learn things about myself, and it made me want to do better. I am always a better version of myself than I was yesterday.


Lydon George.

Lydon George (he/him/his), ‘21 Master in Urban Planning

Milestones at SJSU:
Through leadership roles with our two urban planning student organizations (TRANSITion and Urban Planning Coalition), I have been able to help coordinate numerous events and initiatives to engage students and the community with issues in planning.

I have contributed to published public transportation research through the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) and worked as an intern for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority . Lastly, I am on my way to having earned a master’s degree in urban planning; I think that is pretty noteworthy in itself.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic has very clearly highlighted the importance of community, relationships and in-person interactions to one’s success not only as a student but also as a healthy, happy person.

We have been hardwired to move about, place ourselves in different settings to do different things, and to interact with different people, not fully appreciating how much is communicated or experienced in the process. It took a collective, proactive approach to build up and maintain my SJSU community and ensure that we were able to support each other through this rigorous academic program, and in life in general.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I learned that true progress in academic thought and real-world problem solving is born from the collective mind. Often in the “real” world, we do not have the opportunity to spend time with people who are very different from us and are unable to truly understand the value of their different perspectives.

The Master in Urban Planning (MUP) program at SJSU is a microcosm of the beautiful diversity we see across the Bay Area, connecting students from all types of ethnic, social and academic backgrounds. Each of these people brings unique experiences, insights and knowledge to our field that are crucial for addressing issues of urban planning. As we move onto professional endeavors, it is important to remember the value in actively breaking down social and racial barriers to promote diverse voices.

Career goals/next steps:
Oh, you mean I can’t just be in classes forever? OK, in that case, I will actively seek employment in the public sector to further community/cultural enrichment and racial/social equity within systemic planning processes.

I will continue to conduct academic research with my research team at MTI and pursue other opportunities to become more involved with community-based planning initiatives. I might even read a book for fun.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
Immediately, my connection to SJSU and the MUP program gave me the institutional support to connect with various, planning-related professionals in a credible, real way. SJSU has provided the education, academic/professional opportunities and personal connections to facilitate my professional aspirations.

As well, my experience at SJSU has enabled me to academically frame and address critical issues we face on a day-to-day basis, such as access to housing and jobs, racism and environmental preservation, and it has empowered me to push for progress on a systemic level.


Olivia Gerber.

Olivia Gerber (she/her/hers), ’21 Political Science and Journalism

Milestones at SJSU:
I have had the pleasure of holding a variety of leadership positions at SJSU, including serving as a resident advisor, the Panhellenic Council president, and managing editor of the Spartan Daily. I also had the opportunity to complete the Advanced Humanities Honors program and work as a student intern for Students for Quality Education with the California Faculty Association.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending college during the pandemic has taught me that adaptability and a strong support system can go a long way and that it’s OK to struggle and lean on those around you.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lessons I have learned at SJSU are the only way to know is to try — quite literally get involved in everything and anything that interests you. It’s OK to feel nervous, but don’t take yourself out of the game before it’s even started.

Career goals/next steps:
Much like my time at SJSU, my next steps are wherever the wind takes me. My goals range from investigative reporting for a news publication to traveling the world as a diplomat and everything in between.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed me into a curious and confident person. I am so grateful for the diverse experiences and vibrant instructors I have had at SJSU, and I feel so ready to take on the world.


Anna Harvey.

Anna Harvey (she/her/hers), ’21 MS Transportation Management

Milestones at SJSU:
Switched jobs and semi-successfully parented my 4-year-old daughter — both with lots of love, help and advice from family, friends and mentors!

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Ask for and admit to needing help; your support network is waiting to step in, but they can’t read your mind.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Every class and every classmate is an opportunity to learn something new.

Career goals/next steps:
I’d like to continue working towards leadership roles in transportation organizations.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
I honestly never anticipated returning to school after earning my undergraduate degree. SJSU’s Minetta Transportation Institute and the MS in Transportation Management program allowed me to do so as the full-time working mom of a toddler.

I really applied myself to show my daughter what can be accomplished in even the busiest seasons of life. This experience has strengthened my conviction in my goals and given me the opportunity to meet many other awesome people who are all engaged in addressing similar professional and societal challenges.


Fatima Hassan.

Fatima Hassan (she/her/hers), ‘21 Psychology

Milestones at SJSU:
I have always been a mental health advocate, and I was delighted to continue doing this even as a student, thanks to the Mental Health Ambassadors program at SJSU. As a Mental Health Ambassador (MHA), all the outreach work I and the other MHAs have been doing has helped many SJSU students access and learn about the mental health services available at SJSU.

I’m also on my way to finish my degree in three years, and I was able to do this while maintaining my GPA (and sanity) and the transition to online classes due to the pandemic.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Adaptability is the key to achieving anything during unprecedented times. Not everything in life is going to work out the way you intended, especially when it comes to college. The key is to learn to adapt to unexpected situations, being resourceful and using the lessons you learn along the way for personal growth.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I have attended a lot of online events at SJSU and met some amazing people that I have learned a lot from. This taught me the importance of networking and connecting with others. Doing this has not only put me out of my comfort zone, but it has also helped me get exposed to diverse perspectives on life and meet some amazing individuals from various backgrounds.

Career goals/next steps:
The goal is to enroll in a master’s program and become a mental health counselor who serves underrepresented communities, especially immigrants/refugees. Eventually, I would like to get my doctorate and start my research as well as teaching career.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has offered me so many opportunities to learn and grow in ways I never imagined. My experiences at SJSU have pushed me to do better and achieve more than I thought I was capable of. I have met the most amazing professors who have helped me with my career goals and aspirations. I will miss the Spartan community, and I will cherish connections I have made here forever.


Bianca Hernandez.

Bianca Hernandez (she/her/ella/hers), ’21 MA Sociology

Milestones at SJSU:
A major accomplishment I had at SJSU is being the first in my family to attend and graduate from a higher education institution, and now in a few weeks, I will do it again with my master’s degree from SJSU, as well.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
No matter what is going on, I can do it. Maybe it won’t look or feel the same (Zoom meetings, no in- person meeting, social distancing), but I can still get it done.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
There will always be people around me, whether they’re teachers, advisors, co-workers or new friends, supporting and cheering me on in my educational goals.

Career goals/next steps:?
One of my ultimate career goals is to work in the community college system. It is where I learned about sociology, and I ultimately want to help other students like me navigating the higher education system.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my life by giving me so many new opportunities that will help me in my future career, and even in my last semester here, it keeps on opening new doors for me.


Shruthi Kamath.

Shruthi Kamath (she/her/hers), ’21 Psychology

Milestones at SJSU:
I am humbled to share that I will be graduating cum laude from San José State University with honors in psychology. To recognize my academic and leadership achievements, I have been awarded the President’s Scholar Award, Dean’s Scholar Award and the A.S. 55 Award.

In addition, during my freshman and sophomore years at SJSU, I was a part of the Humanities Undergraduate Honors program. Furthermore, in fall 2020, I was recognized with my team as a finalist for the Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge for our innovation of SPAR — a safety companion app exclusive to San José State University.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic has better prepared me for known and unknown circumstances. Along with my peers, I have learned to rise above and recognize my resiliency. I will be sure to embrace the future and take nothing and no one for granted.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
One of the most valuable lessons I have learned from my experiences at SJSU is that
when networking and creating the brand you want to portray, it is most important to be
genuine and authentic in order to make a lasting impression.

Also, being proactive, asking for help, and getting involved in student organizations has encouraged me to see that the world is at your doorstep, and stepping out of your comfort zone is the perfect way to explore those new areas and expand your perspective. Essentially, being open to taking risks is key, so you honor your desires and are willing to put yourself out there.

Career goals/next steps:
Following my graduation at SJSU, I look forward to starting my career in program
management within the tech industry. After a few years of work experience, I hope to
further my studies by pursuing a master’s in business analytics.

My interests lie at the intersection of business, technology and innovation, with a strong passion for women’s empowerment, entrepreneurship and professional development. My ultimate goal is to use my skills and knowledge while working with others to make a meaningful impact in the community around me.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State University has transformed my life through the plethora of exceptional
opportunities that have opened doors for me. Throughout the past four years, I have been
able to foster my professional interests and pursue my creative passions through my
involvement in SJSU Women in Business and Carr Lab Investigating Memory
and the Brain (CLIMB).

I have had the ability to thrive as a professional while being surrounded
by a values-driven community filled with creative, dynamic and resilient leaders.


Jacob Lapinsky.

Jacob Lapinsky (he/him/his), ’21 History and Social Science

Milestones at SJSU:
As a first-generation, low-income college student from a single mother household, I️ am the first person in my family to receive a college degree — in four years, on my own. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work for San José State’s Educational Opportunity Program, as the EOP Workshop Coordinator and an I Can I Will Mentor, while attending school full-time. I️ will be graduating with a 3.7 cumulative GPA as a double major.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I learned that things change, and those who actively work to adapt to the circumstances will succeed. Moving to remote learning left significant time for introspective thinking and to explore what I ️value — my place in the world.

From a historical perspective, we have seen pandemics similar or worse to the likes of what we are experiencing today. With books like The Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe and The Plague by Albert Camus that I have read in SJSU history courses, it is clear that this is a feature of the human experience, so this has been a historic time to attend college.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lesson I️ have learned from my time at SJSU has come from my Sociology of Education Professor, Dr. Yolanda Wiggins. She opened her class with a quote by Toni Morrison:

“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.’’

I️ hope to carry that spirit to enable my future students with the tools they need to free themselves.

Career goals/next steps:
I️ plan to attend the teacher education program at SJSU and achieve an MA in teaching with a teaching credential in social sciences or ethnic studies. I️ hope to teach history, social sciences or ethnic studies at a high school in the Bay Area. I️ am committed to helping to serve historically underserved and disadvantaged communities in the fight against the opportunity gap plaguing education today.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU has transformed my life by giving me the opportunity to pursue a career that I️ am truly passionate about. My life has truly been transformed with the instruction and knowledge accrued over these four years and have made me into a person capable of thinking deeply and critically — and teaching others passionately — as well as being a proper historian.

SJSU has given me the opportunity to live a life that is not full of struggle and strife, and the tools that I️ needed to “free myself,” as Toni Morrison says. I️ owe so much to the EOP program at SJSU, and I️ am eternally grateful for my time spent working for/being a member of the program.


Vanndy Loth.

Vanndy Loth-Kumar (she/her/hers), ’12 Nursing, ’15 Master of Public Health, ’21 Doctor of Nursing Practice

Milestones at SJSU:
I was privileged to complete my Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN), a Master of Public Health (MPH), and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) through SJSU. I am appreciative of my internship experiences on projects related to promoting intimate-partner violence awareness as well as evaluating program outcomes in mental health.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I have two main takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first is that learning and personal growth can still occur during a pandemic. The second is that faculty and peers are vital in making any academic experience meaningful.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I was able to participate in memorable internships and clinical experiences through SJSU. I was able to learn the value in the voices of the people within the community. This allowed me to gain the skills I needed for patient advocacy.

Career goals/next steps:
After graduation, my next steps include taking on a lead position with a nonprofit organization to support the integration between mental health and primary care services. My goal is to be able to provide timely access for patients who may benefit from quality mental health services.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
As a first-generation college student of Cambodian refugees, I did not intend to pursue graduate studies. SJSU changed my life by exposing me to the possibilities available with higher learning. SJSU also helped set me along a path towards supporting my community.


Ben Newsome.

Ben Newsome (he/him/his), ’21 MA History

Milestones at SJSU:
There were a couple of major accomplishments I achieved during my time at SJSU. The first was passing the cumulative exam for my program. The exam was rather stressful considering that it covered U.S. history from 1865 to the present and was timed. It was a relief to finish it and pass it on my first attempt. The second milestone that was particularly important to me was maintaining a 4.0 GPA for the entire time I was in the History graduate program.

There were several times when I worried that I would come up short, but thanks to my fellow classmates and the help I received from our wonderful history professors here at SJSU, I was able to reach my goal.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending college during the pandemic was tough. I learned that it takes even more personal responsibility to stay on top of assignments and your classes. I think it is important to practice self care and find ways to give yourself a break, especially when you are spending all day on Zoom.

I also felt that it was important to stay in touch with my classmates and co-workers at Peer Connections in order to maintain a sense of community. Having that connection to the school community really helped me get through the difficult days during the pandemic.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I have learned that sometimes the hardest thing about accomplishing your goals is staying determined and positive no matter what obstacles you face. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and reach out to friends and classmates that are there with you. They are often the most valuable asset you have.

Overall, I learned that if you show up, do the work and aren’t afraid to take chances, you can get through just about anything.

Career goals/next steps:
My career goal is to get a job teaching at a community college. My next step is to look for adjunct work as a history instructor or possibly a teaching job at the high school level. I think it is important to stay open and embrace whatever opportunities come my way.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has reminded me of what I am capable of and has opened the door to numerous opportunities for me to not only grow my career but also grow as a person.

The experience has given me a new perspective on what continuing your education can do for you at any age. I know now that no matter what happens in my life, no one can take away my experiences and what I have accomplished during my time at SJSU.


Sabina Patel.

Sabina Patel (she/her/hers), ’21 Psychology

Milestones at SJSU:
My major milestones have been presenting research at conferences such as Western Psychological Association, Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and the Spartan Psychological Association Research Conference, as well as repeatedly performing at a high level academically.

I developed my interpersonal skills through my experience as vice president of Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology, and president of Order of Omega, a Greek honor society.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic taught me the value of creating a good relationship with my professors early in the semester. Having that foundation along with strong organizational skills, allowed me to feel confident in my ability to manage school through these trying times.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
My experience at SJSU taught me the importance of saying yes and no to opportunities that arise. I learned when to set limits for myself while developing my skill sets. Having a strong support system helped me through challenges that I faced both academically and personally.

Career goals/next steps:
I will be pursuing a PhD in human factors and behavioral neurobiology with a primary focus of technology within the health-care field.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has taught me to be confident in my skill sets academically and professionally. I learned that self care should be used as something that supports your growth and should not be used as just a reward for hard work.


Steven Peck.

Steven Peck (he/him/his), ’21 Political Science

Milestones at SJSU:
Academically, I have had the honor of being a President’s and Dean’s Scholar during my time at SJSU. I also take pride in the various research projects I have taken on in my political science courses.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Being adaptive is probably the biggest takeaway I have from this online learning experience.
There is so much uncertainty in life — taking obstacles in stride and working to overcome them
is essential.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Making connections is key. I have been able to learn and gain so much from the relationships that I have built at SJSU. Without them, I’m not certain where I would be right now.

Career goals/next steps?
After I graduate, I intend to continue my efforts in preserving and sharing the history of Silicon
Valley’s LGBTQ community. In terms of my career, it is my goal that my work is centered around bettering our communities.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
Through my experiences at SJSU, I have been transformed into a driven and dedicated
individual. It is hard to imagine where I would be without all the people and opportunities SJSU
has provided me. I am forever grateful.


Andrea Perez.

Andrea Perez (she/her/hers), ‘21 Advertising

Milestones at SJSU:
I never imagined how much I would accomplish in four years. I completed the Humanities Honors program and was treasurer and co-president of the Spartan Advertising Club. I served as an Adobe Ambassador and participated in the National Student Advertising Competition by the American Advertising Federation — winning an ADDY.

My senior year, I was a board member of the Inaugural Student Advisory Committee for the American Advertising Federation. I have received scholarships from the Journalism and Mass Communications department, and I have been on the Dean’s Scholar list five times.

I also worked with Academic Technology as a media production student assistant and recently became the social media manager for the Center for Faculty Development.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
One of the most important lessons I learned while transitioning to an online college experience was to take advantage of every opportunity I was offered. Even if it seems like there isn’t enough time to get everything done, or it’s an opportunity that might be out of your comfort zone, you aren’t alone — others are feeling that way too. You will end up getting so much more out of college than just going to class and taking notes.

That being said, there are times when we have to recognize there’s too much on our plate. Sometimes it’s difficult to decide to turn something down, but being clear about your intentions will bring new opportunities later on.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
It’s important to not compare your college experience with others. I spent too much time worrying I was behind or not doing enough. Now, at the end of my college experience, I am finally processing all I have done and am proud of myself for it.

Career goals/next steps:
As a management track advertising student who has worked primarily with creative track students, I’ve noticed there’s a sense of separation and lack of communication between the two areas. I want to serve as a bridge, particularly on the production side in development.

Some of the best advice I received during an agency tour was that management has to think like a creative and vice versa for a campaign to be successful. The two areas should work together and work to everyone’s strengths. I aim to begin in a creative operations position at an agency and go from there.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
The most transformative aspect of my time at SJSU was building strong relationships with the faculty and staff. If it weren’t for their recommendations, I wouldn’t hold a position on a national board or have earned a job closely related to the field I would like to enter after graduation.

Their trust and belief in me has enabled me to do more than I could have imagined.


Abril Perez-Gonzaga.

Abril Perez-Gonzaga (she/her/hers), ‘21 Anthropology

Milestones at SJSU:
A major milestone for me was getting into the McNair Scholars Program and having the opportunity to publish an article. I have also been recognized for my extensive volunteer work with the César E. Chávez Community Action Center.

My favorite accomplishment so far has been working with my professors to help contribute to research in anthropology.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic during my college experience was particularly hard, but I learned that pivoting was crucial. I had to be resourceful and make the most out of my situation while balancing online classes.

I learned that fear was not an option, so I used my discomfort as motivation to adapt.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I have learned to question and criticize everything. Diversity and listening to perspectives that are different from mine have also enriched my experience.

Career goals/next steps:
My next steps are to take a gap year to gain experience in the field of anthropology or archaeology and then apply to PhD programs. I hope to attend Columbia University and become a professor.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my life through interactions with my professors. The enthusiasm in lectures and the devotion to students are what stood out to me. I left class every day thinking I knew it all only to have my mind blown again the next day. I am now able to think without constraint or limits and look forward to sharing my innovations with others.



Naromy Ramirez (she/her/hers), ’21 MA Education, Special Education

My name is Naromy Ramirez. My pronouns are she/her/hers. My major here at San José State is special education.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
One of the key takeaways that I’ve learned from attending college during this COVID-19 pandemic was just my ability of being able to be flexible in the locations where I study. I normally would go to the library, where I need some peace and quiet.

I knew that during this pandemic it was going to be difficult for me, given that there’s toddlers and infants at my house and with all that crying, it was going to make it impossible for me to study inside my home. So I was flexible enough to wake up earlier, six in the morning, and make a table for me outside in my yard. Six in the morning, put on some layers and get to work, do my assignments, study for my exams.

So that is one of the key takeaways that I’ve learned, is just being able, having to be flexible in order to complete my master’s program. I’m getting my master’s in special education and as a teacher I’ve learned that I need to be flexible, so this COVID pandemic actually really helped me learn that lesson that I needed to.

Career goals/next steps:
My career goals, my next steps is finding a job in teaching, and currently I’m applying to a couple different jobs. I am thinking of taking a job in a therapeutic setting STC classroom.

San José State has transformed my life.


Nick Randle.

Nick Randle (he/him/his), ’21 Graphic Design

Milestones at SJSU:
One major milestone I had at SJSU was being accepted into the BFA graphic design program. Since I transferred to SJSU from a junior college, I wanted to further my design education in the BFA. In the program, you learn how to have fun even in the most stressful of times.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I learned the importance of community. The BFA is a tight-knit group and during in-person class, we would often work together in our classroom and motivate one another. However, since the pandemic started, everyone is alone at home. I find it critical to keep in close contact with my classmates and chat over Zoom or voice-call to keep the camaraderie going.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
While at SJSU I learned two valuable lessons. The first is to accept that every project you do will not be perfect and that making mistakes is actually beneficial to learning. Second, do not feel like you have to know everything. Stay curious and always be receptive to new information and viewpoints.

Career goals/next steps:
After I graduate, I hope to pursue a career in graphic design either at a branding agency or tech company.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
At San José State, I really grew as a person and opened myself up to new people and experiences. I have also made deep friendships that I hope to continue after graduation.


Jasmine Reyes.

Jasmine Marie Reyes (she/her/hers), ’21 Music, Performance

Milestones at SJSU:
In the spring 2019 semester, I was in the SJSU School of Music and Dance department-wide production of Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass.” It was so different from other performances I’ve done — very artistic. I was also able to put on a successful junior recital last July during the pandemic!

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
If I really want to do something, I can’t rely on people to tell me to do it. I found myself very dependent on my professors and instructors for motivation (mostly for performance deadlines). Because I didn’t have frequent communication with them when we shut down, I really had to push myself to get work done. The discipline I grew helped me put on my junior recital after being unmotivated to practice my music for months!

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
There are so many narratives going on around me, and most of them only show one perspective of a story. I learned to do more research on my own, which consisted of looking at sources that hold various viewpoints/biases. This helped me learn things and make decisions about the world for myself, not just from social media and the news around me.

Career goals/next steps:
I will continue to train in musical theater and opera performance with private instructors and through various programs. I hope more countries become open to American travelers so I can do young artist programs in countries like Italy, Austria and France! I will also continue to teach my private voice students and build my studio.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has helped me see the world from a different view. Because the student body is so diverse, it’s full of people with various backgrounds and stories. (I was raised in an affluent neighborhood in the suburbs, which can be a social bubble.)

Music has the tendency to reflect the times (politics, issues, the world in general), and I have the privilege to reflect these stories through songs I perform and write myself. I’m grateful to my professors and instructors for helping me find my voice.


Ralph Robinson.

Ralph Robinson (he/him/his), ’21 Master in Urban Planning

Milestones at SJSU:
Preparing a robust community assessment of Eastside San José neighborhoods was the highlight of my time in the Master of Urban Planning program. I got to work directly with some tremendous residents and staff from local organizations, who taught me so much about the incredible history and culture of their community. The entire experience gave me a deeper appreciation for both the neighborhoods I worked in and the city of San José in general.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The lesson of this past year, and any challenging times I’ve encountered, is to just keep going. You have to do the best you can with what’s in front of you and find a way to get something out of every day. Stick to that and in time you’ll find yourself in a lot better spot than you were before.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I was so fortunate to learn from the wealth of personal and professional experiences my professors and classmates brought to the program. It was such an asset to be surrounded by people who well represented the diverse perspectives and backgrounds I will encounter throughout my career in planning.

Career goals/next steps:
I have long sought to work for the public good and to help create communities that are sustainable, equitable and, ultimately, better for people. My passion for place-making and effecting positive change in human environments is what inspired me to pursue a degree in urban planning. My ultimate goal is to play a role in creating places that best provide the mental, physical and social benefits that people and communities need.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State gave me the chance to pursue an opportunity I long wanted, but which I didn’t even think was still available to me. It opened back up a door that I worried had already closed. I will always be immensely grateful for everything SJSU has done for me.



Leilani Saelaw (she/her/hers), ’21 Kinesiology

Milestones at SJSU:
During my time here at San José State University, I was able to be featured in two Spartan Daily articles and two conferences where I was able to share my research and interests on adapted sports for athletes with disabilities. Through my research, I was able to win two awards: third place for best overall video and first place for most views and likes on Youtube.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending college through the COVID-19 pandemic taught me not to take education for granted. I also learned that I still had a voice — even though it was through a screen.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Some of the most valuable lessons I learned here at San José State were not to be afraid to ask for help and to make an effort to stay connected with your community. That could mean colleagues, peers, clubs — any of them, because they definitely will have an impact on your future.

Career goals/next steps:
My next steps after graduation is to get my master’s in occupational therapy and to continue my advocacy and research for adapted sports.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State University transformed my life. Here, I was introduced to many teachers, colleagues and peers that helped me get one step closer to my ultimate goal of becoming an occupational therapist. Also San José State University gave me a lot of opportunities to succeed and build a professional profile for myself.


Marc Santos.

Marc Adrian Narvadez Santos (he/him/his), ’21 English

Milestones at SJSU:
A major milestone during my collegiate academic career was participating in the Humanities Honors Program, in which an excellent team of professors instructed me and my cohort to connect, articulate and apply ancient, pivotal texts to the present day. I devoted three years to that program, and I cherish each lecture for making me into a more cosmopolitan scholar.

I want to recognize, celebrate and appreciate one of my favorite professors, Dr. Nancy Stork, who challenged yet improved my skills as a scholarly writer. She mentored and guided me in an independent study of advanced grammar in which I produced a 25-page research paper on verbs.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A key takeaway from that experience is learning how to control the space around me. Because all events — school, work and social relationships — were compounded into a single household and single computer screen, I needed to set boundaries for self-care and fending against digital fatigue. I had become desensitized to time and a monotonous, daily routine, which caused the days to blend in together.

Setting calendars and daily reminders helped ground me in finding critical moments to reorient myself, hydrate and breathe.

Career goals/next steps:
My next steps post-graduation are applying for graduate school to pursue my master’s degree in English education and my doctorate in English literary theory. My career goal is to become a professor — one who inspires undergraduate students to love literature from Shakespearean plays to texts from Romanticism.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
Before arriving at San José State, I was afraid and doubtful since I am first in my family to attend a university in the United States. But the San José State community welcomed me and assuaged my anxieties.

San José State transformed my life by being the first step in my pathway to becoming a professor. The Humanities and English faculty are amazing to learn from, and they helped me discover my passion for scholarly research.

By being part of the SJSU community, I cultivated long-lasting connections and friendships with fellow scholars.


Sabrina Shell.

Sabrina Shell (she/her/hers), ‘21 Industrial Design

Milestones at SJSU:
One of my memorable accomplishments is passing my first-year portfolio review for the Industrial Design program. It was a challenging and demanding year, but I was so proud that I could continue growing and learning in the program.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Stay on top of things and accomplish my assignments; write down my schedule or a list of things I would like to achieve every day. Being able to cross items off my daily list helped me stay on top of my work.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Hard work always pays off. If your skills are lacking in something, keep working at it and give it everything. You will show others and yourself how much you have improved.

Career goals/next steps:
My career goal is to find a design company that designs products that have meaning and improve people’s lives. I would love to be in an environment where I can grow and always continue to learn as a designer.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has positively transformed my life. I am thankful for the knowledge and skills I gained in the last four years. I am most grateful for all the memories I have made and the friendships; I know I will never forget my experience at San José State.


Kristina Smith.

Kristina Smith (she/her/hers), ’21 Child and Adolescent Development and Psychology

Milestones at SJSU:
An accomplishment I had at SJSU would be graduating in four years as a double major. Another accomplishment would be getting a job working with juvenile delinquents and youths who struggle with mental illnesses.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic has given me the opportunity of connecting and networking. As soon as everything transitioned to Zoom, I found myself talking to my advisors and professors more than I did when we were in person. This helped me gain stronger relationships with my professors and mentors. Through reaching out, I was given an opportunity to be a research assistant and have been given great career advice.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lessons I have learned from my experience at SJSU is to network and ask questions.

Career goals/next steps:
My career goal is to become a clinical psychologist. I am wanting to work with children and adolescents who have experienced trauma. Within this, I am also planning to conduct research. My next steps consist of me gaining more research experience then applying to a doctoral program.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my life by giving me the opportunity to find myself as an adult and figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life.


Juan Carlos Soliz.

Juan Carlos Soliz (he/him/his), ’21 Behavioral Science

Milestones at SJSU:
It is a great honor to graduate from SJSU with a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science. I’m the first one (of 12 siblings) in my family to graduate after taking a break due to medical reasons. It was also an honor to go back to college around the same time my daughter started attending SJSU, as I want to be a role model for her.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Regardless of the critical circumstances we all are in, education was my number one priority, and this time there is nothing that will stop me from accomplishing my goal. I have plans to become a social worker and provide my community with any vital information they might need.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I have learned that no matter the setbacks, either at a professional or personal level, getting a higher education is something that will provide me with the essential tools to work with my community, who is part of my family. As such, it is my responsibility to provide an exceptional type of work.

Career goals/next steps:
My career goals are to work in the Department of Social Services as a social worker for the California In-Home Supportive Services program. I also will continue to volunteer for Sacred Heart Community Center as our community needs to receive proper information and services.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
Attending SJSU has provided me with the knowledge and guidance to expand my willingness to help the Hispanic/Latino community. Obtaining a degree in behavioral science will expand my opportunities within the Social Services department. I will be able to assist the most vulnerable people in the county.


Ty Supreme.

Ty Supreme (she/her/hers), ’21 Microbiology

Milestones at SJSU:
I think one of my biggest milestones at San José State has been the realization that my passion lies in the sciences. I came to San Jose Staté as a justice studies major, and I was able to utilize many of the opportunities the school had to offer in order to change my major to something I am truly passionate about.

Throughout my time at SJSU, I’ve been a President’s Scholar (2017-2018) and a Dean’s Scholar (2018-current). I’ve been able to maintain a GPA above 3.85 my whole academic career while playing Division 1 sports and will most likely graduate summa cum laude.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I think the biggest takeaway I’ve learned from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic is how resilient we college students really are. Many students throughout this pandemic have had to adapt like no one ever has before. Learning completely online was a change for everyone, teachers included, and everyone really tried their best to make the transition as easy as they could.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I think my time at SJSU as a Division 1 athlete and a STEM major has really taught me that anything is possible if you really commit to it. There will be so many times where you don’t want to stay up late studying or don’t want to go to practice, but all of those little sacrifices are investments into your future.

Lastly, just make the most of every opportunity you’re given because you don’t want to leave college wishing you did things differently.

Career goals/next steps:
I am fortunate enough to have been accepted into the graduate program at the University of Toronto (the top university in Canada) for molecular genetics, where I intend to pursue my master’s then PhD.

My ultimate career goal is to make meaningful contributions in the fields of microbiology and immunology with a focus in the study, defense and treatment of infectious human diseases. I hope to secure a challenging position in a reputable organization or continue fundamental research by becoming a professor and mentoring young scientists.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
I think SJSU has helped me grow into the person that I am today. Looking back at freshman year, I would have never imagined that I would be graduating from a STEM program with plans to do a PhD degree.

There have been highs and there have been lows during my past four years here, but I would have never learned some of the lessons I needed to be taught if I had not decided to attend San José State, and for that I am truly grateful.


Amber Sylva.

Amber Renee Sylva (she/her/hers),’18 English, ’21 MA English

Milestones at SJSU:
During my time in the graduate program, through a competitive hiring process, I received a graduate assistant position as well as a teaching associate faculty position. I was also hired as a lead TA for all disciplines and a reader for the college’s accreditation process through critical thinking assessments.

I presented my research at two conferences, co-authored “Teaching Teaching as a Process: San Jose State University’s TA Program and the Development of Pedagogical Thinking” for Threshold Conscripts: Rhetoric and Composition TAships, and contributed work to “An Annotated Bibliography of Global and Non-Western: Sources for Comparative Rhetorical Studies” for Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society.

In addition, I am the president of Graduate Resources and Academic Development for English Studies (GRADES) as well as co-VP of The Young Rhetoricians’ Conference.

Although my aforementioned accomplishments are worth noting, my biggest achievement is successfully completing graduate school while raising my family and illustrating grit and perseverance to my three daughters: Bailey (15), Aubrey (11) and Chloey (10).

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
One of the key takeaways that I have learned while attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic is to press in when it seems unbearable. Also, to grant me, my children and my students grace; for illustrating empathy, kindness and compassion to ourselves and others is where learning starts.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Three of the most valuable lessons that I have learned from my experience at SJSU are to: build strong relationships with the professors because they are great mentors; graduate school and life is better with a cohort; lastly, believe in yourself.

Career goals/next steps:
I am applying to local community colleges for fall 2021 teaching positions. I plan on continuing my research in pedagogical methods, rhetoric and composition, and American literature. In the future, I will be applying to doctoral programs.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State University has transformed my life in copious ways from academic to personal, but the most notable reflect in my ways of being more empathic, compassionate and encouraging toward others.


Alice Tsvinev.

Alice Tsvinev (she/her/hers), ’21 Psychology

Milestones at SJSU:
Engaging with and hearing experiences of older peers in a research lab, successfully maintaining GPA while working two jobs, finding the career right path with resources from SJSU.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Appreciating the moments we often take for granted because, as we’ve seen, events like this can impact our social life as well as academics. Another takeaway I’ve learned is to use every opportunity given to me, and I’ve done that during the COVID college shift by really focusing on schoolwork and my personal and intellectual growth.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
To always seek guidance and a mentor: It’s always best to learn from the mistakes and benefits from someone else’s journey to see how they may impact your future decisions.

Career goals/next steps:
I hope to attend graduate school to obtain a PhD in psychology and work towards becoming a professor while conducting my own research in behavioral and cognitive psychology.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU has given me the opportunity to stay close to friends and family while still experiencing a new and diverse academic and social environment. I met many wonderful peers and mentors that have encouraged me to continue pursuing my passions.


Narayani Tyagi.

Narayani Tyagi (she/her/hers), ’21 MS Physics

Milestones at SJSU:
I’d consider my major milestone to be my research projects. Another milestone I’m proud of is the Outstanding Graduate TA award that I received for spring 2020, which was one of the most grueling semesters for all of us.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
My key takeaways were health first (mental and physical, and yes, they both need equal care), patience (it can take you a long way) and using the resources that are available to you! There are so many resources that can help us a lot, but most of us might not be aware of them.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
SJSU taught me the difference between a leader and a boss. Even in a classroom setting, having a caring and approachable mentor/professor can work wonders that a strict disciplinarian could never imagine. This applies to all facets of life, and I’m glad to have had this experience.

Career goals/next steps:
The most natural career goal for me is to stay within academia and collaborate with the most brilliant minds around the world; therefore, my next step toward this goal is to start on my PhD in the fall of 2021.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU gave me more than knowledge. I found beautiful friendships here, which I know I will cherish throughout my life. I felt heard and seen by my mentors, which boosted my confidence and helped me realize the value of teacher-student interactions. In turn, it helped me set a similar example as a lab instructor for my students. I shall forever be grateful for SJSU for helping me see myself more clearly than I ever had before.


Brianna Williams.

Brianna Misaki Williams (she/her/hers), ’21 Philosophy

Milestones at SJSU:
My accomplishments are due in no small part to my involvement with Women in Business at SJSU, a pre-professional organization. The workshops and speaking engagements prepared me to enter the legal workfield at 19. I worked in business litigation and immigration for two years, and now I am a legal intern at the invaluable Record Clearance Project law clinic here at SJSU.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic was trying for many students. While I sympathize for those who have been impacted negatively, there were many new opportunities that arose as a direct result from sheltering-in-place: Commuter students were afforded more time to invest in other endeavors, the classroom become more accessible, and the forced integration of technology into almost all other aspects of our lives can be convenient even after we finish sheltering.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The structure of learning at SJSU makes degree acquisition possible while working part-time, or even full-time hours. I, like many others, had to work during undergrad in order to support myself.

During this time, I was also committed to my role as president of the Women in Business [student organization] and still managed to enjoy and complete the coursework and be named a President’s Scholar. Your time is what you make of it.

Career goals/next steps:
I will be applying to law school in the fall of 2021. My work at the Record Clearance Project has instilled in me a desire to elevate marginalized communities. A career in law practice will be fulfilling and meaningful.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
My undergraduate experience at SJSU has allowed me to discover what it is that I enjoy and what it is that I am skilled at. I will forever be grateful for the professors who have been flexible and patient with me.

I will cherish and maintain the friendships I’ve formed along the way. I will be sure to give back to the SJSU community when the opportunity arises.


Neng Xiong.

Neng Xiong (she/her/hers), ’20 Child and Adolescent Development, ’21 MA Education, Curriculum and Instruction

Milestones at SJSU:
Since I did both my undergraduate and graduate degree at SJSU, and I had amazing opportunities to study abroad in South Korea, host one of the first Hmong cultural showcases with the Hmong Student Association, and learn from Dr. Kim Tsai as a student research assistant.

Currently, I am a resident teacher with the SEAL/OGSD/SJSU teacher residency program. I love teaching my students every day and growing as a teacher through the program!

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I’ve learned about the importance of a good support system from friends, family, colleagues and faculty. As attending college during a pandemic can feel emotionally and academically defeating and isolating, having people you can turn to for support during these difficult times can make the experience easier.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
As the saying goes, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” There were so many personal, academic and professional development opportunities presented to me while at San José State, such as becoming a Global Leader, that I learned to take advantage of as many of them as I could.

The other most important thing I have learned is that my voice matters. The power lies in the stories we hold, and I am happy I am able to share my story as a first-generation, Hmong womxn graduate student.

Career goals/next steps:
My next step is to teach in underserved elementary schools and use culturally sustaining pedagogy across all classrooms!

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my life because I think more critically about the world I live in now. I have also challenged myself to go beyond my boundaries and become more involved in my communities.



William Yi (he/him/his), ’21 Public Relations

Milestones at SJSU:
My writing greatly improved because I was refined and tested by my major professors. It may not be perfect or the best, but I’m glad they were harsh because I needed to hear the truth and improve from there.

I saw this achievement as a major milestone for my career! I don’t have a lot of professional experience so I didn’t know how to gauge if my school work or understanding of PR was good. I was proud to be nominated by my professors because this gave me reassurance that I am on the right track.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The smallest things matter; pay attention to the details because it all adds up to be important in the long run. People appreciate the little things and will remember you for going the extra mile. Don’t cut corners!

Communities and mental breaks are important to have. Having a community around you will support and encourage you to be your best self! Also, take a break from everything and just HAVE FUN! You need to relax and destress — otherwise, you’re just going to dread the next day.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Go out on a limb — meaning, be more vulnerable! We’re young adults and have our whole lives ahead of us, so why should you stay in a bubble? See new places, try new things and make new friends. You might regret it later on in life, so take this chance now because you might lose it!

Lastly, it’s OK to make mistakes and it’s OK to mess up! I was always putting myself down for my past and current mistakes, but these mistakes helped me to grow and transformed me to embrace my shortcomings, and it’s better to mess up now than later!

Career goals/next steps:
My next step is to find a job! I want to gain the necessary skills needed to be a public relations professional. I want to have a career that helps many lives through storytelling. I don’t know which industry I want to go into but overall, “I want to understand every aspect with research, timeliness, empathy and honesty. I hope to know and share your story.” This is on my LinkedIn, and essentially this is how I want to tackle every challenge that comes my way.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my whole direction in life. I came to SJSU for accounting but I’m going to leave with a major in public relations. This was only possible because I went to SJSU and found a community here that encouraged me to find a different major that fit my personality.

SJSU was the best decision because I found my community, major, and passion. As a high-schooler, I didn’t see the need to go to college, but after coming to SJSU, I hope everyone attends this school. Go Spartans!

San José State University Hosts First CSU-Wide Grad Slam

California State University Grad Slam 2021

Graduate students often invest years of their lives working on focused, in-depth research in their field. Ultimately, they must successfully defend their conclusions to a select committee of faculty advisors with expertise in that area of study.

Now, imagine what it would be like to distill the key ideas of that yearlong research into a presentation that is accessible and interesting for everyone — and do it in three minutes or less.

That’s exactly what graduate students from across 12 California State University (CSU) campuses will do in the first-ever CSU Grad Slam on May 6, hosted by San José State.

Grad Slam is a fast-paced, dynamic competition in which graduate students across all fields face off for the top short presentation of research. The event offers the opportunity for up-and-coming student-researchers to showcase their scholarship and creativity, while challenging them to effectively convey their work in three-minute snackable sound bites to a non-specialist audience.

The system-wide event is a collaborative effort across many of the CSU campuses. Those participating include: Bakersfield, Chico, Dominguez Hills, Fresno, Fullerton, Long Beach, Los Angeles, Northridge, Sacramento, San José, San Francisco, and Sonoma State.

As the founding university of the CSU system and its leadership in graduate education, San José State is a natural fit to host the inaugural competition. SJSU held its first Grad Slam in 2019, a few short months after the university’s launch of the College of Graduate Studies that January.

The main event

According to SJSU’s College of Graduate Studies Dean Marc d’Alarcao, the creation of this year’s CSU-wide competition encouraged a number of the other CSUs to create their own Grad Slam, from which they will send their top two winners to the system event.

A total of 21 participants from across the 12 campuses will present their research in this year’s livestream virtual competition. San José State is sending its top two winners from the SJSU Grad Slam, which occurred on April 29: Guadalupe “Lupe” Franco (first place) from the MS Environmental Studies program and Remie Gail Mandawe (second place) from the MS Physiology program.

Lupe Franco and Remie Gail Mandawe.

(L-R) SJSU 2021 Grad Slam Winners Lupe Franco and Remie Gail Mandawe.

Franco’s presentation, “Wicked Problems: Understanding How Cities and Counties in California are Tackling Climate Change and Homelessness, emphasizes the need for jurisdictions and planners to “create equitable and just strategies that include the voices of unhoused populations and gain them the access to basic resources needed to protect them from climate change.”

Mandawe’s presentation, “Targeting the Source of our Sixth Sense Using Blue Light” explores how to target and isolate gamma motor neurons in the brain using blue light and better understand why motor dysfunction and motor neuron diseases like amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, occur.

The CSU Grad Slam will start with preliminary rounds in the morning, in which small groups of the competitors will present live in three “rooms” over Zoom to panels of three judges. The top-scoring students from each room will advance to the afternoon round for the chance to win one of three cash prizes: first place, second place and the People’s Choice award.

The public can watch the event online and vote on the People’s Choice award in real time during the final segment of the program. Three different judges will score the afternoon’s competitors.

Although there will ultimately be only three winners, everyone who participates gains tremendous benefits from the process. Not only are the graduate students able to develop vital research communication and presentation skills, they can engage with and be inspired by other emerging researchers.

“I think it is beneficial to the graduate students to feel appreciated and have the opportunity to see what their colleagues are doing in a concise and interesting way,” said d’Alarcao.

“It’s invigorating to realize that you’re part of an intellectual community that has all of these different things happening, and that’s really positive for the participants.”

Register today to see CSU’s top graduate student research.

Mother-Daughter Duo Named to San José State Honor Roll

The college experience throughout 2020-21 was anything but typical, but what makes the past academic year that much more unique is Yaneth Gutierrez and her daughter Eunice Romero — who were both recently named Dean’s Scholars in recognition of their academic excellence during the year.

Yaneth Gutierrez and her daughter Eunice Romero.

(L-R) Mother and daughter duo: Yaneth Gutierrez and Eunice Romero.

“My mother played a huge role towards me becoming a Dean Scholar,” says Romero. “It was her constant motivation and determination that really inspired me to push through the semester with great accomplishments.”

“It is truly an honor to continue achieving our educational goals alongside one another,” she added. “I am extremely excited for what the future holds for the both of us.”

Twice a year, SJSU honors undergraduate students’ outstanding academic achievements by including them in the Semester Honor Roll. The Honor Roll includes two special designations, Dean’s Scholars and President’s Scholars, which are reflected on the student’s transcript in recognition of their accomplishment.

To become a Dean’s Scholar, students must earn an SJSU GPA of 3.65 or higher for the spring and/or fall semester. President’s Scholars must achieve a 4.0 GPA for the spring and/or fall semester.

It’s not every day that a mother-daughter duo has the opportunity to share this type of accomplishment, and it’s not the first time they’ve marked a milestone together in their education. In 2018, they shared a memorable moment when graduating together from De Anza College in Cupertino.

Yaneth Gutierrez credits her daughter as her source of inspiration, even more so during the COVID-era when she struggled to concentrate and keep up with her coursework.

“By giving up easily I would be sending a wrong message to my daughter,” said Gutierrez.

“I wanted her to see that even during difficult times, we can still succeed, but only if we believe in ourselves and the changes we can make amongst us and our communities.”

Eunice Romero and Yaneth Gutierrez

Eunice Romero and Yaneth Gutierrez in regalia at their 2018 graduation ceremony from De Anza College.

In addition to the transition to remote learning, the past year was full of chaotic events and stressful challenges for Gutierrez and Romero. Gutierrez praises her SJSU professors not only for helping make learning enjoyable during these hard times but also challenging her to think beyond the problems our society faces.

And when Gutierrez faced unforeseen personal tragedy during the pandemic, her professors provided an outpouring of support. “My father lost his battle to COVID-19 on February 3, and [SJSU faculty] supported me, checked on me and encouraged me to do my best.”

Gutierrez will graduate this spring with a BA in Political Science. Romero is currently working toward a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration and helping her father expand his welding company — which she plans to one day take over.

“[At SJSU] I have discovered an interest in entrepreneurship, and I have plans to pursue other business opportunities because I now have the necessary building blocks to pursue my career goals,” expressed Romero.

After graduation, Gutierrez plans to pursue law school, so she can help those who can’t afford legal representation.

“To me, a degree has no worth if it is not used for the betterment of everyone,” said Gutierrez. “My mother taught me that it is important to care for all, not just for a few.”

Honoring academic success

This year, SJSU students proved not even a pandemic can dampen their dedication to their academic scholarship. More than 7,900 students earned Dean’s Scholars designations and over 2,700 were named President’s Scholars — the largest number for both groups in the university’s history.

On April 23, the university hosted its 59th Annual Honors Convocation ceremony to acknowledge those undergraduates who earned the distinction of President’s Scholars. The event was canceled in 2020 due to the outbreak of COVID-19 but resumed this year with a live-streamed virtual ceremony to commemorate these students’ achievements.

President Mary Papazian and Provost Vincent Del Casino served as hosts, with a keynote address by 2020-21 Outstanding Professor Lionel Cheruzel and congratulatory remarks from Associated Students’ Director of Sustainability Jocelyn Jones-Trammell, in addition to the Deans’ presentation of the honorees.

“Recognizing the academic success of San José State University’s top-performing students is always a delight,” said President Mary A. Papazian.

“The achievements of these scholars are an important indicator that they will make significant contributions to our society and serve as tomorrow’s civic, business and community leaders,” she added. “They are to be commended for their accomplishments and future promise.”

San José State Honors 2021 Faculty Award Winners

SJSU will host its 22nd Annual Faculty Service Recognition Event with a multi-day virtual celebration this year—culminating with a live presentation on April 15 of this year’s four exemplary faculty award winners and two remarkable 40-year honorees.

From April 12 to the 14, the university will celebrate 135 faculty who have reached milestones of service for 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 years. Faculty members will share what they love about SJSU via videos.

“These honorees are to be lauded for their dedication, passion and commitment to their students’ personal and academic growth, and to the advancement of knowledge in their respective disciplines,” said SJSU President Mary A. Papazian. “Each one has made important contributions through teaching, research and scholarship, and we are grateful for their service.”

The four distinguished faculty members below are selected to receive the following awards for noteworthy achievement in teaching, scholarship and service.

President’s Scholar: Matthew Spangler, Professor of Performance Studies, Department of Communication Studies

Distinguished Service: Anuradha Basu, Professor, Lucas College & Graduate School of Business

Outstanding Professor: Lionel Cheruzel, Professor, Department of Chemistry

Outstanding Lecturer: Mary Juno, Lecturer, Department of Justice Studies

Read a Q&A with each recipient below.

How the faculty awards started

Each of San José State’s four faculty awards has its own unique story, but they all emerged from a need to acknowledge exceptional faculty, starting with the university’s core mission of teaching and service.

In 1966, SJSU bestowed its first faculty award for Outstanding Professor, based on teaching effectiveness. The next award for President’s Scholar was bestowed in 1974 for remarkable scholarship and creative pursuits.

The third, Distinguished Service, was initially presented in 2000, to recognize outstanding service and the substantive contributions of SJSU faculty to their professional communities and beyond. In 2005, the Outstanding Lecturer award was created to recognize the contributions and teaching of a lecturer faculty member.

Who makes the nominations and decisions?

All areas of the campus community are invited to contribute nominations for faculty awards. Committees consisting of previous award winners, administrators and students (except for the President’s Scholar award) review the nominations and make their recommendations to the president, who then makes the final determination of the winners.

Read the full list of award criteria.


2021 Faculty Award Winners

Matthew Spangler, Professor, Performance Studies

Matthew Spangler, Professor of Performance Studies
Department of Communication Studies

President’s Scholar Award

Joined SJSU: 2005 | Research Focus: performance studies, an interdisciplinary field that uses performance as an artistic practice and theoretical lens to explore topics of social significance. Spangler’s research explores the representation of refugees and immigrants through the literary and performing arts.

Creative Activities: In addition to his scholarly work, Spangler has written numerous plays, among them an adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner, which premiered at San José State, and has since won many awards and been produced by theatres around the world, including on London’s West End and the Dubai Opera House.

Print-Based Scholarship: Spangler has published many journal articles on immigration in the performing arts, an academic book, several plays, and has a new book currently under review about adaptation and immigration in Irish theatre. The National Communication Association recently bestowed him with the Leslie Irene Coger Award for Distinguished Performance, the most prestigious award for live performance in the field of communication studies.

What brought you to San José State?

Matthew Spangler (MS): I was hired to create a curriculum in performance studies within the Communication Studies Department. I was living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, at the time, where I did my PhD, and the idea of creating an entire curriculum in my area of research and artistic practice was very exciting to me.

What inspired you to study this subject area?

MS: I was a first-year undergraduate at Northwestern University, thinking I would study law, and I happened to take a few courses in performance studies with amazing faculty who literally changed my life. The idea of using the performing arts and storytelling to engage the world felt like the only thing I ever wanted to do.

Later, I was studying for my master’s degree at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and immigration became a topic I was gradually more and more interested in.

What do you enjoy and/or surprises you the most about your work?

MS: When you work at the intersection of the performing arts and immigration, as I do, you get to meet some incredible people from all over the world. It never ceases to amaze me how fortunate I am to work with the people I do. In some cases, I might be writing an article about their work, or maybe we’re collaborating on a theatre project together, or I’m bringing them to campus to meet with my students. Sometimes I stop and think how lucky I am to know such amazing artists and scholars.

What does it mean to you to receive the President’s Scholar Award?

MS: To receive the President’s Scholar Award is a tremendous honor, and to say that does not do justice to how deeply moved I am. In the nearly two decades I have been at San José State, this university has provided a terrific home for my creative and scholarly work.

I am exceedingly grateful to my colleagues, and, in particular, I am grateful to the students who have deepened my work, inspired me, taught me, and occasionally, have traveled with me around the world on research trips, or whom I have proudly watched give conference presentations in far flung locations. San José State is a special place for a number of reasons, probably the biggest being the students.

And to receive this award during the current era of COVID-19—an award for work at the intersection of the performing arts and immigration—at a time when most theatres have been completely dark for over a year, and immigrants are facing ever more obstacles in their ability to move, is testament to the humanity of this university.

There is probably no time in my life when this award will mean as much as it does right now.


Anu Basu, Professor, Business

Anuradha Basu
Professor of Entrepreneurship and
Director of Silicon Valley Center for Entrepreneurship
Lucas College & Graduate School of Business

Distinguished Service Award

Joined SJSU: Fall 2003 | Research focus: immigrant and minority entrepreneurship.

Latest Research:A Review of Immigrant Entrepreneurship Research.” Basu is also researching the experiences of LatinX entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, in collaboration with a former student, who is a young SJSU alumna and Latina entrepreneur.

What brought you to San José State?

Anuradha “Anu” Basu (AB): In 2002, I was a visiting scholar at Stanford’s Center for International Development, having relocated with my family from the UK to the Bay Area. At a Silicon Valley networking event, I learned that SJSU was looking to hire a tenure-track faculty to launch their entrepreneurship program. I had recently set up an Entrepreneurship Center at the University of Reading, UK (my previous employer). Now, I could try my hand at doing the same here, in the heart of Silicon Valley.

What inspired you to study this subject area?

AB: As an Indian immigrant in the UK, I was curious to understand why South Asian immigrants in the UK were motivated to establish their own businesses in an unfamiliar business environment. I wanted to highlight the fact that, contrary to the public perception that immigrants were a burden on society, many British South Asians had created successful businesses, were large employers, and had a significant positive impact on the UK economy.

My research continues to be driven by a passion to shatter myths and preconceived notions about minority and immigrant entrepreneurs.

What do you enjoy and/or surprises you the most about your work?

AB: The most enjoyable part of my job is interacting with students, helping them learn, and encouraging them to do their best and achieve their potential. Sometimes, a quiet student in class turns out to be the one who writes the most thought-provoking essay, aces the exam, or comes up with the most innovative business idea.

Perhaps the most gratifying part is following my students’ careers after they graduate. Just recently, a former student who won our Silicon Valley Business Plan Competition shared his experience of pitching his startup on Shark Tank.

What does it mean to you to receive the Distinguished Service award?

AB: I am truly honored and humbled to receive this award. It is a wonderful recognition of my effort and commitment to build the entrepreneurial ecosystem at San José State. I could not have achieved it without the support of my wonderful colleagues in the College of Business and beyond, who have helped and continue to help build our entrepreneurial community on campus.


Lionel Cheruzel, Professor, Chemistry

Lionel Cheruzel
Professor, Department of Chemistry

Outstanding Professor Award

Joined SJSU: Fall 2009 | Research focus: bioinorganic chemistry focusing on a particular family of metalloenzymes called Cytochromes P450.

Research activities: Cheruzel recently initiated a Freshman Research Initiative to expose a large number of freshman students to research opportunities in the Department of Chemistry. He has given more than 60 invited talks worldwide including in the US, Europe, Japan and Australia and is the recipient of the 2019 Henry Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award in recognition of his dedication to teaching and research.

What brought you to San José State?

Lionel Cheruzel (LC): I was attracted to the unique opportunity that SJSU provided to combine my love of teaching with scholarly activity in the heart of the Silicon Valley. I started in fall 2009 right after the economic downturn in the midst of the furloughs. I was very fortunate to receive an offer from SJSU.

What inspired you to study this subject area?

LC: I have always been fascinated by the intricate connections in nature and the central role
that chemistry plays. Being a postdoc at Caltech was an eye-opening experience and
really inspired me to work in this unique field at the frontier between chemistry and
biology.

What do you enjoy and/or surprises you the most about your work?

LC: I have enjoyed supervising and mentoring a diverse and inclusive group in the laboratory
over the years. I have been very fortunate to be surrounded by very talented and
motivated SJSU students. I am proud that many of them went on to successful careers
in prominent graduate programs, professional schools or local biotech companies.

What does it mean to you to be named an Outstanding Professor?

LC: It means a lot to me to receive this award and to have my name in the company of other
great SJSU colleagues. I am also hoping this will bring a bright light on our research
and academic activities and help us recruit motivated students eager to learn. SJSU has
been a unique place to influence and develop young minds in both classroom and
laboratory settings. Watching students develop as scientists and succeed in their
endeavors has been personally rewarding and encouraged my mentoring efforts.


Mary Juno, Lecturer, Forensic Science

Mary Juno holding a model of a modern forensic skull.

Mary Juno
Lecturer, Department of Justice Studies and Coordinator, Forensic Studies Minor

Outstanding Lecturer Award

Joined SJSU: Fall 2006 | Research focus: identifying causes and sources of error in crime scene investigation, and the relationship between crime scene error rates and CSI education level.

Faculty Advisor: Themis Research Journal of Justice Studies and Forensic Science, a student-run academic journal that publishes original justice-related research by SJSU students. Juno launched Themis in 2013, and as of March 2021, more than 264,000 researchers worldwide have downloaded articles.

What brought you to San José State?

Mary Juno (MJ): I was originally hired to teach one section of one class [in Justice Studies] for one semester. I was asked to return in spring 2007 to teach the same course, and again in fall 2007, to teach two sections of that course. In spring 2008, I taught the same two sections plus a new course. The job had begun to snowball.

I decided to leave my regular full-time job as a crime scene investigator (CSI) at Oakland Police Department and work only at SJSU. This was an enormous leap of faith, but I enjoyed teaching so much that I felt compelled to do it and confident that it was the right move. I have never regretted this decision.

What inspired you to study this subject area?

MJ: I have always been interested in the intersection between science and justice. I studied forensic anthropology as an undergrad and thought I might go in that direction, but I got hired as a CSI first. That was a fascinating job, but also quite difficult—and nothing like TV. In my classes, I stress the realities of crime scene investigation and try to dispel the myths, so that students are clear-eyed about the field they’re getting into.

What do you enjoy and/or surprises you the most about your work?

MJ: I’ve been at SJSU for 15 years, and there is so much I love about it. First, teaching is loads of fun. My students have great senses of humor, and we find something to crack up about almost every day in class. I learn from them every semester, and I keep in touch with many students after graduation. Second, I feel lucky to work in a department with many brilliant and talented colleagues, who make critical contributions to social, economic, racial and criminal justice. And lastly, I very much like the feeling that I am trusted to do my job, to create new classes, and to revise and build programs. I’m grateful to SJSU that I was given that opportunity to contribute.

What does it mean to you to be named Outstanding Lecturer?

MJ: When I first got the news that I had been named Outstanding Lecturer, I couldn’t believe it. I know many lecturers who give so much of their time and energy to this university and to their students, and they all deserve an award. It feels fantastic to be recognized for my hard work and reconfirms for me that I made the right decision all those years ago when I left my job as a CSI!


Please visit the Faculty Service Recognition event website to see the full list of honorees and register for the live presentation on April 15 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

 

SJSU Staff Awards Honor Exemplary Service, Contributions and Spartan Spirit

San José State’s second annual Staff Awards culminated the university’s Spartan Service Celebration—an annual tradition of more than 50 years—which honored nearly 300 staff members in 2021 for their milestone years of service.

SJSU’s Staff Awards, sponsored by the SJSU Staff Council and the Office of the President, were hosted on March 4 and honored outstanding staff members in three categories: Spartan Spirit, Distinguished Service and Staff of the Year.

This year’s celebration is even more important, as SJSU staff in every area of the university have worked remotely and tirelessly through a global pandemic to keep operations moving forward, rising to every challenge along the way.

In particular, the Facilities Development and Operations team ensured the campus was safe and prepared for students, faculty and staff to learn and work on campus, and the Student Health Center staff continuously provided medical services, including virtual services, and lead our contact tracing efforts.

“Staff members are the driving force behind the university, connected in some way, shape, or form to all that we do,” said President Mary Papazian.

“To this year’s honorees: Thank you. You are devoted Spartans who have committed all or much of your careers to serving our students, supporting faculty and staff and being an integral member of the San José State University community.”

2020-2021 Staff Award honorees:

Each award has one winner and two honorable mentions. The winners receive a plaque and a $1,000 cash award; each honorable mention receives a certificate and a $250 cash award. This year, the Staff Council received more than 50 nominations for the three awards.

Spartan Spirit Award Winner: Erlinda Yañez, Chicana and Chicano Studies

Honorable Mentions: Cindy Aubrey, Communicative Disorders and Sciences and Tamela Sullivan, University Personnel

Distinguished Service Winner: Kim Huynh, Undergraduate Education

Honorable Mentions: Jocelyn Douglas, Moss Landing Marine Labs and Maria (Elma) Arredondo, Student Affairs Systems

Staff of the Year Winner: Rhett Frantz, Moss Landing Marine Labs

Honorable Mentions: Joshua Kas-Osoka, Peer Connections and Nha-Nghi Nguyen, Psychology

Read more about the awards and winners below.

How the awards started

When the SJSU Staff Council was formally established in October 2019, the members quickly formed a Staff Recognition Committee. The council understood the importance of recognizing their colleagues—many of whom have dedicated most of their entire careers to SJSU with dedication, perseverance and exceptional abilities.

The committee defined the award categories, developed the nomination questions and criteria, and then gained the support of President Papazian and her cabinet, who agreed to provide funding for the awards.

“It has been such a pleasure to recognize colleagues who give so much time and energy to the university,” said Janet Sundrud, finance systems and operations senior analyst and chair of Staff Council.

“We already knew we were working with exceptional people and now we get to honor some of them for their efforts. We hope that the Staff Council can continue to be involved in staff recognition efforts on campus.”

The Staff Council welcomes all interested staff to join and contribute to their monthly meetings and future events like this.

Joanne Wright and Erlinda Yañez

(L-R) Joanne Wright presents Erlinda Yañez with the Spartan Spirit award.

Erlinda Yañez, Chicana and Chicano Studies

Spartan Spirit Award Winner

The Spartan Spirit Award honors a San José State staff member, manager or auxiliary employee who displays exceptional Spartan spirit, passion and pride in their work at SJSU. They embody SJSU campus values such as social justice, diversity, helping and caring, and innovation, among others and demonstrate a commitment to campus and community service.

Nominees describe Erlinda’s contributions to the campus community that go well beyond the scope of her job description. Her passion and pride about being a Spartan is unmatched, and she never intentionally seeks the spotlight or recognition for her numerous activities, programming and guidance she offers to students.

Ravisha Mathur and Kim Huynh

(L-R) Ravisha Mathur presents Kim Huynh with the Distinguished Service award.

Kim Huynh, Undergraduate Education

Distinguished Service Winner

The Distinguished Service Award honors an SJSU staff member or an auxiliary staff member who has worked for the university for more than 10 years and has displayed a commitment to excellent service to the campus community with the utmost professionalism and helpful attitude.

Nominators spoke of Huynh’s unwavering dedication to our students, staff and faculty and her ability to anticipate problems and streamline processes and systems. She does it all with a can-do attitude, which has led her to be known as the “glue” of her department, attuned to others’ needs—even before they know them.

Huynh was genuinely surprised and humble about the recognition, crediting her teammates for their hard work and inspiration. “I never ever thought that I would ever be nominated for a prestigious award,” said Huynh.

“I was once a struggling student at SJSU and have seen what it takes to be successful in college. To be able to be on the other side of the desk, helping students find success in their studies, graduate and land incredible career opportunities is the best part of my job, and I love it.”

President Mary Papazian and Rhett Frantz

(L-R) President Mary Papazian presents Rhett Frantz with the Staff of the Year award.

Rhett Frantz, Moss Landing Marine Labs

Staff of the Year Winner

The Staff of the Year Award recognizes an exemplary SJSU staff member or auxiliary staff member who has made a valuable contribution to the campus in the past three years by improving the campus community and/or the California State University system through their work.

Nominators decidedly affirm Rhett’s unwavering commitment, dedication and passion for SJSU’s Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and his immeasurable impact on the graduate student experience, faculty, researchers and staff.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, he worked non-stop, 24/7 to maintain MLML’s IT services, support the transition to online learning, and ensure all complex marine research applications and data systems remained functioning when no one was allowed onsite.


The SJSU staff’s efforts are a testament of their resiliency, commitment and dedication—truly embodying what it means to be a Spartan.

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