President Papazian’s Message on Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Sept. 5, 2017. California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White shared a message on the same topic with the CSU community. Five of the state’s top educational leaders shared a message with California’s congressional delegation.

Dear campus community,

The phase out of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program just announced by the attorney general will impact many members of our community—those with DACA status as well as the many who work, live, and learn alongside them—while heightening fear and anxiety.

As I previously have observed, ensuring access to a quality education is neither a partisan nor political issue; it is our mission. Since its adoption in 2012, DACA has provided stability and opportunity to many students and some of the faculty and staff members who serve them. Every one of these individuals is intrinsic to the fabric of our uniquely diverse community. Viewed through this lens, today’s news is deeply disappointing.

It would be imprudent of me to speculate about the scope or speed of changes that may be coming our way. But I want to offer this assurance: my administration stands with the leadership of the California State University (CSU) in its unwavering commitment to DACA students.

Some students who may be affected by changes to DACA also receive state financial aid under AB 540. That support is not affected by today’s action.

I also want to assure you that I will lend my voice and influence, as I have been doing, to urging that all of our students continue to enjoy the freedom, safety and security to lift themselves and their communities through the pursuit of knowledge.

In the meantime, we are continuing to collaborate with student organizations and other campus partners to ensure that emotional, academic and other forms of support are available to students and who need them.

The CSU has created and is continuing to update an FAQ with updates on many DACA-related issues. As new information becomes available, we will be sure to share it.

Mary A. Papazian

President Papazian’s Pre-Semester Reflections

Dear Campus Community,

In the days preceding the start of each academic year, our focus ordinarily is on welcoming resident students during move-in weekend, preparing for the beginning of fall classes, and readying our campus for the return of all students and faculty.

It should be a time of optimism and excitement—and we are busily engaged in this important work. Yet this is no ordinary year, as recent incidents at home and abroad have starkly reminded us.

The deadly violence, racism, bigotry and anti-Semitism on display recently at the University of Virginia were an affront to our sensibilities. I was sickened by what I observed, and can imagine there may be concerns about similar activity occurring closer to home—or even on our own campus.

Meanwhile, in just the last 48 hours, we have been jolted by several deadly terrorist acts throughout western Europe.

As a civilized, caring community, we condemn this outrageous, indefensible behavior while affirming our commitment to inclusion, diversity, equity, and respect for individual differences.

All of these incidents understandably may make it harder to focus on all that we have to look forward to this year. It is important to acknowledge our concern for the victims of these attacks, as well as our own feelings of sadness and outrage. I encourage you to take advantage of the counseling services available to students, faculty and staff members.

In the meantime, much effort has gone into making move-in weekend memorable and as smooth as possible. If you are among our resident students arriving over the next few days, be assured that you can expect a warm Spartan welcome from the many members of the campus community there to lend a hand.


Mary A. Papazian

President Papazian’s Mid-Summer Blog

In one of her popular novels, Along for the Ride, author Sarah Dessen writes that “… in the summer, the days were long, stretching into each other. Out of school, everything was on pause and yet happening at the same time, this collection of weeks when anything was possible.”

Things are on pause for many students and faculty members, although some faculty members are teaching and many more are conducting research or otherwise participating in university service, while many students are working or taking summer courses. I hope some of you also are finding time to travel, spend time with family and friends, or simply to rest!

For our staff, while the summer months somewhat alter the rhythm and tenor of daily campus life, much important work is happening. I doubt that many would say things have slowed down!

Much is happening and, as Ms. Dessen observes, anything is possible. I have updates on several summer priorities later in this blog. But first, I want briefly to reflect on the Commencement season and its meaning for our community.

2017 Commencement: Institutional, personal milestones reached

As I noted in my last blog, the opportunity to confer degrees and celebrate with graduates and their families is a signature moment of each academic year. This year’s Commencement celebration at CEFCU Stadium was noteworthy in several respects.

Record degrees awarded

A record number of degrees—slightly under 10,000—was conferred this spring, including the first-ever doctoral degrees awarded by SJSU to graduates of the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership program. (The Doctor of Nursing Practice, or D.N.P. degree, is offered in collaboration with Fresno State.)

With 2017 graduates added to the existing living alumni population, Spartan Nation has now grown to nearly 270,000, a significant majority of whom live and work in the Bay Area. This is a powerful reminder of the enormous contribution Spartans make to the rich diversity, intellectual vibrancy and economic vitality of our region and state.

It also is a reminder of the importance of forming and sustaining connections with recent—and all—graduates through alumni, athletics and other university programming. Ensuring our long-term institutional impact depends on it.

Spartans honored

Two Spartans were honored at the May Commencement ceremony: SJSU alumna Ysabel Duron, ’70 Journalism, delivered an impassioned Commencement address, and Phil Boyce, ’66 Business Administration, was awarded an honorary doctorate of humane letters. I had the opportunity to spend time with both Ysabel and Phil and was impressed by their Spartan pride and the honor each felt at being invited to participate meaningfully in such a signature university event.

Deferred celebration

Speaking of pride, one of our graduates and his family celebrated some 44 years after he wrapped up his studies. I encourage you to read this wonderful story of Spartan grit and determination.

Directional shift

Meanwhile, a tweak in this year’s stadium Commencement ceremony moved the platform ninety degrees from its traditional location, with field seating for graduates and faculty members facing south instead of west.

As a result, access to the field and visual sight lines for guests improved. These were small, yet important shifts intended to improve the Commencement experience for all participants. Feedback from participants and others generally was positive; we also received helpful suggestions for further refinements.

We all know how important Commencement is to graduates, their families and friends, and our community. And we surely appreciate its centrality to our mission.

With this in mind, throughout the year I have solicited input from campus stakeholders and others on how we might further enhance the planning and staging of this seminal campus ceremony. I have received much heartfelt, substantive input. There are several oft-repeated points:

  • There appears to be strong desire to find ways to increase participation among students and faculty in the official degree-conferring Commencement ceremony.
  • While there are many opinions about the factors contributing to generally low student and faculty participation, some have wondered if scheduling Commencement over Memorial Day weekend, as well as staging many smaller celebrations in advance of the formal Commencement, are prominent factors.
  • There is an openness to rethinking how Commencement is staged. Some have asked if we might hold several smaller Commencement ceremonies (perhaps organized by college) in lieu of one large-scale stadium event. There also is sentiment for moving the official ceremony away from the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, perhaps to a mid-week day before the holiday.

I want to express appreciation to all members of our community whose dedication to student success made it possible to confer a record number of degrees this spring and to all who make Commencement itself the memorable, celebratory moment we all desire.

I also am grateful for the interest many of you have expressed in further improving the Commencement experience, and for the specific ideas and suggestions that have been offered. This conversation surely will continue into the forthcoming academic year!

Meantime, much is happening

In the wake of a very active and consequential year, we now are regrouping and looking forward, with, I hope, a bit of time for reflection and rest.

There are many reasons to be excited. Among them:

Spartan student-athletes honored for academic success

We all can celebrate a record number of SJSU student-athletes garnering academic all-conference recognition this year. Seventy-seven Spartans from nine spring sports squads were honored by the Mountain West conference, while 158 student-athletes throughout the 2016-17 academic year were recognized by the four conferences with which SJSU is affiliated.

Each of these students maintained at least a 3.00 grade point average while competing in at least half of their team’s competitions—no easy feat. Congratulations to each of these stellar Spartans!

Facility construction and upgrades

Work is completed, underway or planned in many areas of campus. Among them: safety upgrades in the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library and several residence halls; construction of the recreation and aquatics center; the recent opening of the south campus golf practice facility and ongoing planning for a second phase of upgrades on our South Campus; modernization of Morris Dailey Auditorium; and the return to campus of our College of International and Extended Studies (CIES) to the first floor of the Diaz Compean Student Union.

Administration and Finance will continue to offer updates on these and other ongoing efforts to make our campus more hospitable to students, employees and visitors.

Campus strategic planning

Under the shared leadership of Provost and Senior Vice President Andy Feinstein and Academic Senate Chair Professor Stefan Frazier, a roadmap for developing a long-term campus strategic plan is being constructed while a comprehensive report summarizing the impacts of Vision 2017 is finalized. We will publish that closing report in August.

I am pleased to see such collaborative progress in developing a rubric for future planning. At present, the tentative plan calls for us to kick off our strategic planning process with a campus event on September 14, followed shortly thereafter by a series of facilitated input-gathering conversations for all campus and community stakeholders.

The insights from those initial conversations will form the basis for further campus analysis and study during the 2017-18 academic year, culminating in a draft plan for us to review and discuss next spring.

How we go about developing our long-range plans is every bit as important as the plans that will evolve from this work. I am fully committed to involving campus and community stakeholders in thoughtful, transparent dialogue. Developing a long-range strategic plan for propelling SJSU to the forefront of urban public universities will be as important as anything we undertake this year. I am counting on and look forward to your active engagement in this conversation.

The president’s cabinet also will devote considerable time this summer—including a multi-day retreat—to long-range strategic issues. I will update you on those conversations in future blog posts.

Strengthening our capacity for excellence

As SJSU continues to evolve into a first-choice destination for many prospective students, we also are focusing on addressing the implications of enrollment growth. This fall, we anticipate that undergraduate enrollment will exceed earlier projections by several hundred students, as we welcome more than 4,300 new freshmen and another 4,300 transfer students to our campus community. This will create multiple impacts, including our ability to offer campus housing to all interested students.

The pace of activity on campus recently has picked up as new first-year students and family members began arriving for the first of sixteen summer orientation sessions taking place between July 7 and August 16. Our last graduate student orientation will take place on August 17.

Summer orientation and related programming for new students demands considerable planning and effort. I am grateful to the many campus community members who contribute to this important work and help prepare students for the rigors of university life.

When students do arrive each fall, faculty are central to their university experience. Added financial support from the state has permitted us to hire 130 new tenure-track faculty members in the last two years. We hope to continue this pace of hiring in the coming budget year.

We have strengthened our capacity to act strategically, hiring Bob Lim as SJSU’s vice president for IT and CIO. Bob, who started work on June 30, brings deep academic and technology industry expertise, abiding passion for the mission of the public university—himself a graduate of San Francisco State University—and a track record for student and faculty-focused innovation. I know you will enjoy getting to know him.

We also are strengthening our academic leadership. Our new dean of the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering, Dr. Sheryl Ehrman, joined us earlier this month. I want to take this opportunity to welcome Sheryl to campus and to express gratitude to Professor Ping Hsu for his interim leadership. Recruitments for deans to lead the Lurie College of Education, College of Science, and College of Humanities and the Arts all will be active this fall.

I also am pleased to welcome several faculty members to new administrative roles for the coming academic year. Dr. Michael Kimbarow, long-time faculty member in Communication Sciences and Disorders and recent chair of the Academic Senate, has been named interim AVP for Faculty Affairs; Dr. Michael Kaufman, chair of Physics and Astronomy, has been named interim Dean of the College of Science; and Dr. Shannon Miller, chair of English and Comparative Literature, has been named interim Dean of the College of Humanities and the Arts.  Thanks to all of our colleagues for agreeing to take on these new roles!

Mixed news from Washington

We’ve seen both positive and unsettling news out of Washington.

On a positive note, the U.S. Department of Education recently announced that summer Pell Grants will be available to eligible students beginning July 1. I was in Washington D.C. for meetings with university and federal policy leaders, including Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, when this long over-due news was announced.

This is an important policy change, helping eligible students shorten their time to degrees by allowing them to enroll in summer coursework without incurring additional personal debt. This also could meaningfully impact the utilization of our campus during the summer months; it may be a worthwhile topic for campus consideration in strategic planning.

Students with questions about the Pell Grant program may contact our Financial Aid office.

At the same time, the United States Supreme Court last month authorized the federal government temporarily to implement certain provisions from the international travel ban, originally proposed last winter but on hold pending multiple judicial challenges. The high court also agreed to take up the broad executive order this fall.

We have been seeking clarity as to how these developments may impact current or prospective international students and others. But, as I observed in January when efforts to restrict international travel to the U.S. from specified countries were first proposed, we have been and will remain focused on supporting all students, faculty and staff members impacted by travel or other immigration restrictions.

As soon as we are better informed about the potential impacts of these actions, we will be sure to offer additional guidance.

Encouraging development(s) in downtown San Jose

Many of you have heard me observe that great universities and great cities are inextricably connected.

Two downtown development opportunities have been announced in the last month; each would help revitalize our city’s downtown core and offer intriguing opportunities for SJSU students, faculty and community members.

In early June, city leaders announced that they had entered discussions with Google about building a mixed-use development near the Diridon transit hub and SAP Center that could bring up to 20,000 jobs and millions of square feet of office and R&D space to the center of our city. And late last week, Adobe Systems disclosed plans to expand its downtown headquarters by acquiring adjacent property that could house 3,000 additional workers, more than twice its local workforce presence.

With a daytime population exceeding 40,000 (combining students, employees and visitors), SJSU is downtown San Jose’s oldest, largest and busiest epicenter of activity. The addition of a Google “village” and expansion of Adobe’s presence would add dynamism to the western edge of downtown San Jose even as we remain its easternmost anchor.

This poses interesting questions for city and regional planners as they sort out related infrastructure issues, including the strategic placement of downtown BART stations and access to affordable housing. And as Silicon Valley’s go-to provider of talent across many disciplines, SJSU naturally will look to forge deeper ties with Google and Adobe benefiting our students and faculty.

Stay tuned!

Putting SJSU on the map

The colorful banners adorning the perimeter of our main campus and adjacent to Hammer Theatre were part of a limited, internally-focused rollout of a new SJSU visual identity and brand platform.

Other iterations of this work include profiles of Spartans showcased on banners along campus paseos and a companion website; various creative treatments throughout the interior of the Diaz Compean Student Union; and selected Spartan apparel and other merchandise.

As the fall semester gets underway, our branding campaign will expand to include SJSU banners flying along several additional downtown streets, around the entire perimeter of our South Campus, and inside CEFCU Stadium.

You also will see several buses running through portions of downtown between the South Campus park-and-ride lot and main campus. These “roving billboards” will help amplify SJSU’s presence and, I believe, further enhance Spartan pride.

In the meantime, I hope that you are able to enjoy summer’s longer, warmer days, and I look forward to resuming monthly blog posts as we approach the start of the fall term.

President Papazian’s May Blog

I want to begin this month’s blog by expressing heartfelt concern for the victims of Monday’s terror attack in Manchester, U.K., their families and friends, and all those who are impacted by this senseless act of violence.

Six SJSU students have been studying abroad in England; I’m able to report that all six have been contacted since the attack and we have confirmed that they are safe and sound.

Closer to home, we are at long last enjoying some of the fruits of spring—sunnier skies; blossoming trees; a sense of new possibilities. It is about time!

April was National Poetry Month, established in 1996 by the Academy of American Poets to increase awareness and appreciation of poetry in the United States.

As a student and scholar of literature I long have found unique inspiration from poetry, ranging from the works of such classic poets as John Donne—the subject of my own scholarly efforts—to contemporary, less heralded writers such as British poet Angela Wybrow.

Wybrow observes in a poem called Spring: New Beginnings that “…the season heralds a bright new dawn,” and “…there’s a sense of hope at this time of year.”

This indeed is a hopeful and bright season, dawning with possibilities. On our campus, it is a time to celebrate SJSU’s legacy as we prepare to plan for our future; to bid farewell to this year’s graduates; and to continue to deepen our relationships with community partners.

Inaugural Week Reflections

The many events and activities that preceded the May 4 inaugural ceremony celebrated our campus’s remarkable legacy and promise, showcased the creative, academic and operational excellence of our students, faculty and staff, and illuminated issues of global significance.

Ours is a community of uncommon cultural, intellectual and personal diversity. These attributes were revealed in the array of lectures, exhibits, concerts and other pre-inaugural events that were held on campus and in our community. As I observed on several occasions throughout the week, these moments afforded us a unique opportunity to celebrate our storied past and reflect a bit on the grand promise that awaits us. It is my hope that you were able to enjoy some or all of them.


The investiture ceremony itself brought together members of our campus community; professional colleagues who have profoundly influenced my career and life; leaders from the CSU and numerous sister campuses; elected and community leaders; and members of my immediate and extended family and friends.

While mindful of the important ceremonial and symbolic nature of this moment, the investiture—taken from the term “investment”—affirmed my commitment to the campus and to you. This is a promise that I take very seriously, and which I attempted to convey in my inaugural address while also reflecting on SJSU’s legacy and promise and the personal and professional journey that brought me here.

I am deeply grateful for the trust that has been placed in me by CSU trustees, Chancellor White, the individuals who served on the presidential search advisory committee and our community. My first year here has fully affirmed my belief that together, we can fulfill our extraordinary potential.

Many of you have heard me say that coming to SJSU was a “homecoming” after nearly three decades of service to public universities in Michigan, New Jersey, New York and Connecticut.

Dennis and I indeed feel very much “at home,” and we deeply appreciate the extraordinary effort that went into planning the investiture and all of its accompanying activities. Select news coverage and social media content and a video of the ceremony are available online.

Gala Celebration

The Inspiration to Innovation gala in our Event Center beautifully capped the week. SJSU alumnus Luis Valdez, ’64 English, the acclaimed playwright, activist and father of Chicano theater, received the 2017 Tower Award. Joe Pinto, a senior vice president at Cisco Systems and collaborator in several nascent academic initiatives, received a community partner award.

Luis’ spellbinding remarks truly embodied the meaning of “inspiration.” He spoke lovingly and passionately about his experience as an SJSU student, declaring that “…I learned diversity, I learned multi-versity in this university.”

The resumption in 2016 of an annual gala celebration at SJSU, benefiting students through individual and institutional philanthropy, is an important building block in broader efforts to attract private support.

Building on this momentum, the 2017 gala attracted a diverse array of sponsors. The support of these partners reflects growing respect for and belief in SJSU’s role in powering Silicon Valley.

Please bookmark October 18, 2018 for the next Inspiration to Innovation gala. I promise you, it will be special!

Commencement Season

Among the most powerful of our celebrations this spring are those that showcase the success of our students. Commencement season  culminates this Saturday, May 27 with the official campus commencement ceremony at CEFCU Stadium.

I was thrilled to see the large number of students who achieved President’s Scholar or Dean’s Scholar status and were recognized in front of a capacity Event Center crowd at this year’s Honors Convocation on April 28. It truly was a pleasure to participate in honoring these outstanding graduating seniors and to witness the immense pride and excitement among family members, friends and campus community members there to celebrate with them.

In addition to celebrating the accomplishments of the entire Class of 2017, this Saturday’s commencement ceremony will confer doctoral degrees on SJSU’s first cohort to complete the Ed.D. in Educational Leadership; hear what I know will be an inspiring commencement address from Spartan alumna, legendary journalist, cancer survivor and Latina leader Ysabel Duron ’70 Journalism; and confer an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree on Tower Foundation Board member and long-time Silicon Valley business leader Phil Boyce.

I strongly encourage you to join us the morning of May 27 for what I truly believe is the signature moment of our academic year.

Fall 2017 Admissions

As we prepare to bid farewell to the graduating Class of 2017, we also are preparing to welcome a highly diverse and large—potentially, the largest ever—cohort of new students this fall.

Throughout the spring, Student Affairs worked strategically and diligently on outreach to this year’s admitted applicants. Admitted Spartan Day in early April attracted a spirited crowd of ten thousand prospective students, families and friends to campus for a day of programming and personal engagement.

I want personally to thank the many members of the SJSU community—450 volunteers from all over campus—who ensured that this important annual outreach event was welcoming and successful.

Although we will not know the precise size or composition of the new class until late summer—some students inevitably withdraw their commitments prior to the first day of the fall term—we should be proud of the very strong response from this year’s admitted first-year and transfer students. San José State clearly has become a “first choice” institution!

Key Leadership Recruitments

A strong institution depends on strong leadership, and I am pleased to report that we are nearing completion of recruitments for several key academic and administrative leaders, each of whom will play an important role in strengthening our leadership and enhancing our capacity to serve students and all members of our campus community. Here is an update on each:

Dean, Lurie College of Education

Campus visits by finalists for this important academic leadership role concluded on May 8.  Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Andy Feinstein and I are grateful to search committee chair Professor Michael Kimbarow and other members of the committee for their efforts to date.

We also have been conducting two cabinet-level positions:

Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer

As I have shared in previous communications, the successful candidate will play an integral role in developing university-wide strategies and action plans to enhance the use of technology in support of our strategic goals. Given our presence in Silicon Valley and proximity to the world’s most innovative technology companies, SJSU should be a leader in the deployment of technology to support student and institutional success. The addition of an experienced technology executive will help enable us to fulfill this vision.

Several finalists recently visited campus. We will update you as soon as we have determined next steps.

Director of Athletics

Last Friday we announced the appointment of Marie Tuite as SJSU’s next director of Athletics. Marie stood out among a group of excellent candidates, demonstrating the unique mix of experience, expertise and commitment to educational values needed to ensure that intercollegiate athletics is deeply woven into the fabric of campus life.

We already are seeing evidence of momentum in Spartan athletics in the wake of the hiring of Brent Brennan as head football coach, a comprehensive sponsorship agreement with Adidas, and philanthropic support that is fueling a comprehensive renovation of our South Campus facilities.

I am convinced that Marie can sustain this energy while providing strategic leadership and direction for a program placing a priority on student success through academic achievement and athletic excellence.

Congratulations, Marie!

Community Engagement

My last blog included some reflections on SJSU’s role in shaping policies that meaningfully will impact the future of central San Jose and the broader region. In particular, I focused on looming decisions about transportation enhancements including the extension of Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) into San Jose’s downtown.

This is only one among numerous policy issues in which SJSU, as the downtown’s top employer and landowner, should meaningfully be involved. With 10,000 students living within four miles of our campus, a total student and employee population exceeding 40,000, and more than 200,000 average monthly visitors to the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. library, we have an important role to play in housing, public safety, economic development and transportation planning.

Last month, I was invited to share some of our long-range thinking about these issues at a breakfast meeting convened by SPUR San Jose. My presentation included a campus update as well as historical perspective on SJSU’s enduring role in shaping—literally and otherwise—the character of downtown San Jose over the past century-and-a-half.

This is a conversation that we should continue to have, both within and beyond our campus community, and we will be seeking opportunities to do so in coming months. I look forward to engaging campus urban planning experts and others as we evolve and broaden this dialogue.

In Pursuit of Equity, Locally and Globally

I believe we should help remove barriers to success for everyone. No identity characteristic—including one’s gender—should impede or limit educational or career opportunities.

The third annual Silicon Valley Women in Engineering Conference, hosted in late March by our Davidson College of Engineering, was designed with this aspiration in mind.

Professor Belle Wei, who as Guidry Chair for Engineering Education spearheads efforts to broaden opportunities for all SJSU engineering students, shared a startling statistic: women account for less than twenty percent of engineering and computing graduates while representing close to sixty percent of all college graduates.

More than 80 SJSU faculty members joined presenters from Silicon Valley technology companies—some of them Spartan alumni—in a day of programs focused on emerging technologies and personal and professional development.

I am heartened to see this type of creativity and resourcefulness in preparing our students for future workplace opportunities and challenges.

Barriers to personal and professional growth—particularly for women—are not confined to Silicon Valley. In late April, I attended a conference hosted by the American University of Armenia (AUA) on the Empowerment of Girls and Women, where I served as the opening plenary speaker.

This was a meaningful opportunity for me professionally and personally, bringing me to my ancestral home—a fledgling republic established 25 years ago after the breakup of the former Soviet Union—just days before the April 25 anniversary of the 1915-1923 Armenian Genocide.

In my remarks, I highlighted unique issues facing women in Armenia and the extent to which, to the surprise of some attendees, they are similar to conditions confronting women in America and all over the world. These synergies form the basis for opportunities for a global academic and cultural partnership between AUA and SJSU, and other higher education institutions in Armenia and globally, which we will explore in the coming months.

Telling SJSU’s Story

Throughout the spring, SJSU has garnered a steady stream of national and local news coverage highlighting the expertise and accomplishments of students, faculty and staff. Faculty experts commented on reaction to the U.S. military strike on Syria; deliberations in the U.S. Senate on the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch; cutting edge research projects involving fire weather science and vehicles of the future; Facebook’s response to live crimes and fake news; and reputation challenges facing major U.S. companies and the White House.

Closer to home, there were features on the Paseo Prototyping Challenge and Festival at the Hammer Theatre; a creative potential solution to local homelessness; a Money Magazine feature ranking SJSU favorably among public universities delivering the strongest “rate of return” for humanities graduates, and a study ranking SJSU ahead of all Ivy League schools for placing graduates in Silicon Valley’s 25 largest technology companies.

And, as a strong dose of Spartan pride, I encourage you to view the video of assistant football coach Alonzo Carter’s “dance moves” that inspired players and fellow coaches. Upon going viral, it was featured on Good Morning America, The Today Show and ESPN and attracted at least fourteen million online views on social media.

I also am very proud to share this video profile of our own Dr. Debra Griffith, winner of this year’s CSU Wang Family Excellence Award in the Outstanding Administrator category.

Dr. Griffith’s work as associate vice president, Transition and Retention Services and director of the Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) is a stellar example of our institutional commitment to student success. Congratulations, Debra! You are an inspiration to all Spartans.

Athletics Update

Hearty congratulations to our Spartan softball squad, which qualified for the NCAA tournament after winning the Mountain West Conference championship. Over last weekend in Los Angeles, the team opened with a victory over CSU Fullerton—the first NCAA win in program history—before being eliminated in a 1-0 loss to Fullerton on Saturday night.

This accomplishment is all the more impressive considering that they spent the entire 2017 season away from their home field due to ongoing renovations to South Campus athletic facilities.

Speaking of those renovations, we will celebrate the official opening of the South Campus golf complex at a ribbon cutting ceremony on June 1.

I wish everyone the very best in these final days of spring term as we prepare to celebrate commencement and the beginning of summer.

And, I look forward to seeing many of you at Saturday’s commencement ceremonies at CEFCU Stadium as well as other end-of-semester celebrations taking place on and around campus.


President Papazian’s March Blog

This week’s break has been memorable for 16 SJSU students spending the week in Washington, D.C., and New York city on an alternative spring break trip led by Associate Professor Michael Cheers. Among the trip’s highlights was a meeting with U.S. Representative and civil rights icon John Lewis (photo courtesy of Professor Michael Cheers).

This week’s break has been memorable for 16 SJSU students spending the week in Washington, D.C., and New York city on an alternative spring break trip led by Associate Professor Michael Cheers. Among the trip’s highlights was a meeting with U.S. Representative and civil rights icon John Lewis (photo courtesy of Professor Michael Cheers).

As we approach the midpoint of the Spring Semester and the rainy winter turns into a beautiful spring, I hope we all take a moment to enjoy the quiet of Spring Recess and to recharge before entering the final weeks of the academic year and the many celebratory activities of Commencement season.

It is my hope that this week brings to students and faculty members some well-deserved restorative time, and that our hard-working staff also can take a bit of a breath during the extended weekend afforded us by the celebration of Cesar Chavez Day this Friday, March 31.

SJSU students meet civil rights icon

This week’s break has been memorable for 16 SJSU students spending the week in Washington, D.C., and New York city on an alternative spring break trip led by Associate Professor Michael Cheers. Among the trip’s highlights was a meeting with U.S. Representative and civil rights icon John Lewis.

The students also were scheduled to tour the African American Museum of History and Culture (an incredible telling of our collective American story that I had the chance to visit earlier this year); visit Howard University’s Graduate School Admission’s Office; tour the Studio Museum in Harlem; and meet with high school students from Satellite Academy “alternative” High School in Manhattan, where three of our students who participated in a study abroad trip to Cuba are sharing their experience.

This remarkable experiential learning opportunity is the result of Professor Cheer’s vision and persistence—the meeting with Rep. Lewis was months in the making—and the support and collaboration of many campus and community partners. I look forward to sharing some of their stories in future blogs.


As many of you likely have heard, CSU Trustees last Wednesday approved a $270 increase in undergraduate tuition for California resident students, bringing the annual tuition rate in 2017-2018 for full-time in-state undergraduates to $5,742.

This action was taken reluctantly after many months of public discussion and deliberation. While the additional funding will make it possible for us to enhance our capacity to serve students, I understand that for many, this was disappointing and frustrating.

Set to take effect this fall, the system-wide increase will provide $77.5 million to the CSU for additional investment in student success initiatives that benefit all students by enabling campuses to hire more tenure-track faculty and add course sections, and it will help address inequities impacting students from low-income backgrounds and underserved communities.

As we digest this news, there are several important things to keep in mind.

Impacts minimized by financial aid

First, for the more than sixty percent of CSU undergraduates already receiving full financial aid, the increase will be fully covered. (In all, eighty percent of CSU students received more than $4 billion in financial aid in 2015-16 from various sources.) I encourage any student concerned about how this increase may impact them to seek help from our financial aid office.

Second, the preliminary budget proposal issued by the governor in January provided to the CSU no additional funding for enrollment growth, new student success initiatives or deferred maintenance needs. All of us in the CSU—from the Chancellor’s Office, to our faculty, staff, and students here at San Jose State and throughout our sister campuses—are continuing to encourage lawmakers in Sacramento to fully fund the 2017-18 operating budget previously adopted by trustees.

Making the case for stronger public support

I traveled to Sacramento earlier this month for meetings with lawmakers and legislative staff and was joined there by many of my fellow campus presidents, Chancellor White and others.

Our message to lawmakers was straightforward and simple: although California’s investment in public higher education is just about back to pre-recession levels, we are educating tens of thousands more students; our facilities are years older; our costs are materially higher.

And, we know there are obstacles that stand in the way of students who are motivated and would otherwise be able to complete their degrees within four years. We want to remove as many of these obstacles as we can.

Doing so, however, will require innovation, a steadfast commitment to making decisions with student needs at the center, and additional resources strategically allocated. I am pleased to say that members of our local legislative delegation with whom I have met regularly since arriving last summer, want to help. There are other legislative proposals under consideration that, if enacted, would generate additional new revenue. We will learn and share more as budget deliberations continue this spring.

In the meantime, we also will continue to work with area lawmakers and local education leaders on creative ways better to enable high school graduates to navigate successfully the transition from high school to college and to ensure that they thrive once they arrive here.

From words to action

Finally, on this topic, I know of no one who wants students to pay more for their education. I want to acknowledge the students and other members of our community who have been and continue to be engaged in advocacy and other forms of expressive action seeking stronger public support for the CSU.

A group of our Associated Student “lobby corps” traveled to Sacramento days before my recent visit; others organized campus informational activities or attended the recent meeting of CSU trustees. Their persistence, eloquence and energetic activism are Spartan trademarks, and they embody what it means to turn words into action.

Philanthropy: helping us reach our potential

State support and revenues from tuition and fees can only take us so far. To achieve true excellence, we also depend on the support of individual and institutional private partners.

Preliminary conversations have begun in anticipation of a major comprehensive fundraising campaign, which would be just the second in SJSU’s history. I recently joined a planning retreat organized by Vice President for University Advancement and Tower Foundation CEO Paul Lanning for the foundation’s board of directors. I was inspired by their enthusiasm and commitment to moving this important work forward.

Additional philanthropic support will allow us to strengthen our student success efforts, improve our support for faculty members in research, scholarship and the creative activity, and continue to improve our physical infrastructure. I especially am pleased with our ongoing conversations with our Bay Area business community, and its interest in developing deeper partnerships with San Jose State University.  I am confident that these early conversations will lead to greater opportunities for our students and faculty, as we continue to invest in the success of our city, region, and state.

Tangible impact

There are reminders of the power of private philanthropy—some of them visible, others less so—all over our campus.

Thanks in part to a transformative $15 million gift, the Diaz Compean Student Union is now a thriving hub of campus life. Students in our School of Journalism and Mass Communications have access to a state-of-the art, technologically advanced campus broadcast studio that was funded through an $8.7 million endowment. And our long-neglected South Campus facilities are now beginning to be renovated as the result of significant private gifts and a multi-year partnership with CEFCU.

Faculty, staff contributions matter

Less obvious, but no less significant, are individual philanthropic contributions from SJSU faculty and staff members.

Your support makes a big difference in the lives of students. Our annual faculty/staff giving campaign Spartans Supporting Spartans —now in its sixth year—fuels many campus programs including a fund that provides critical short-term support to students facing economic emergencies.

This fund was a vital lifeline for students impacted by last month’s San Jose floods. One student described the fund to a local news outlet as “…life-changing. It allows me to stay in school and not to have to drop out.”

Last year’s staff/faculty campaign attracted gifts and pledges for a mix of specific programs and general discretionary use from several hundred individuals. Our highest participation rate came, as it has in prior years, from our colleagues in the Facilities Development and Operations office.

Giving can be arranged automatically through payroll deduction, and your gifts can be designated to any of a wide array of programs. A series of special campus events are scheduled through April 13; I hope you’ll attend one and explore ways to support this year’s campaign.

Toward a better, stronger community

Securing the financial resources we need to support our mission is an essential aspect of our daily work. So is finding ways to collaborate with local partners in imaginatively and actively addressing local and regional quality-of-life issues.

Both as a major employer and a source of significant intellectual expertise, SJSU should be meaningfully involved in community building efforts.

CommUniverCity is a nationally recognized leader in building community-based partnerships that afford experiential teaching and learning opportunities to faculty members and students while also delivering meaningful benefits to San Jose neighborhoods. SJSU invests meaningfully in this city/university/community collaborative.

In April, SJSU’s Community Engagement Collaborative and Center for Community Learning & Leadership will welcome the Santa Clara County Office of Education to campus to display a “tiny house” constructed by local K-12 students in an effort to raise awareness of possible short-term solutions for housing the homeless.

Community engagement

As downtown San Jose’s largest employer and property owner, and with a daytime population of 40,000 students, employees and visitors, SJSU has a responsibility to engage actively with local and regional leaders on major quality of life issues. We want to ensure that our city grows and prospers along with us.

This means taking opportunities to contribute ideas and solutions to our region’s complex housing and transportation challenges, and this has been a priority for my administration since I arrived last summer.

At a macro level, we are actively engaging and collaborating with many local and regional organizations including SPUR, the Silicon Valley Organization, Silicon Valley Leadership Group, Joint Venture Silicon Valley, Silicon Valley Education Foundation, San Jose Downtown Association, Bay Area Council and others. We also are meeting regularly with local and regional political and community leaders to advance SJSU and its critical and deepening partnership with our city and region.

BART Phase II: Major decisions ahead for downtown SJ

Housing and transportation issues are inextricably linked; the high cost of living in this area obliges many of our employees and students to commute to campus from long distances. And transportation issues—fighting freeway and street traffic, inadequate parking, and uneven transit options—represent barriers to student success.

Our desire to remove these barriers—as well as our commitment to sustainability and the environment—make the extension of BART into downtown San Jose a critically important issue for all of us.

BART has served the Bay Area since 1972; when its so-called Phase II expansion into our downtown core is finally completed, the cities of San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco will for the first time be accessible via a single transit system. This will be an enormous potential benefit to the SJSU students, faculty and staff members living along BART’s route system, as well as the countless visitors who come to campus throughout the year.

For this reason as well as others, the location of the downtown San Jose station and related plans for the corridors along which pedestrians will travel throughout the downtown and to and from our campus are critically important choices that ultimately will be made by the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority (VTA) board at its Sept 7 board meeting.

It is no exaggeration to call these “100-year choices.” And we take seriously our responsibility to ensure that decision-makers consider all of the impacts of station locations and related variables. Earlier this month SJSU submitted comments to VTA as part of the BART project’s environmental review (CEQA) process.

There are two locations under consideration for the downtown station—the West option, near Market and Santa Clara streets, and the East option, on Santa Clara between Third and Sixth streets. I encourage you to review our submission, which articulates our view that the diverse interests of all downtown community members would be better served by the East Station option.

I will be sure to keep you updated as the approval process continues to unfold.

Let me conclude this month’s blog with a few informational updates:

London attack: SJSU students, faculty safe

Our hearts are with the people of London in the wake of last week’s frightening terror attack that claimed several lives and injured dozens of others. We are aware of one SJSU faculty-led program from Humanities and the Arts taking place in London, and we have confirmed that the faculty and students are safe. The Humanities and Arts dean’s office is staying in touch with faculty there.

Our study abroad office also has confirmed the safety of all SJSU students known to be studying in London and other European cities.

Investiture/Inaugural events

I am very much looking forward to a spirited, joyous celebration of our university’s remarkable legacy and bright future during a weeklong series of inaugural events during the week of May 1 – 5. The investiture ceremony, on May 4 at 9:30 a.m., is an opportunity for reflection and vision-setting.

I hope you will join me on the Tower Lawn for my investiture ceremony as we celebrate the history and promise that is San Jose State. If you are interested in participating in the academic procession, please register online by April 13.

Inauguration week will be filled with many wonderful celebrations—from an exhibition on the Near East Foundation’s Near East Relief efforts a century ago on display in the lower level of the Diaz Compean Student Union (from April 21 through May 5), to a variety of musical performances, to a celebration of poetry in the Hammer Theater—that speak to the heart and soul of our values and commitment to social justice, human rights, inclusion and the arts. I hope you take a moment to enjoy these wonderful events!

On the evening of May 4, our Tower Foundation will host the Inspiration to Innovation gala celebration during which we will confer the coveted Tower Award on SJSU alumnus, noted playwright and National Medal of Arts recipient Luis Valdez, ’64 English, ’88 Honorary Doctorate.

Luis is considered the father of Chicano theater; his decades of noteworthy artistic contributions reflect his deep commitment to social justice and human rights. I cannot think of anyone more deserving of our university’s highest honor.

This will be a joyous celebration of what makes us Spartans. Tickets are now available on the Inspiration to Innovations website.

Welcome to Dean Dan Moshavi

Dr. Dan Moshavi, our new dean of SJSU’s Lucas College and Graduate School of Business, joined us at the outset of the month and is settling in. He is an engaging, outstanding, and experienced leader who has returned to SJSU (he began his academic career here as an assistant professor in the late 1990s) after serving in academic leadership roles at two other institutions. I hope you have the opportunity to meet him soon. Welcome home, Dan!

Athletics: team and individual excellence

And, finally, it has been an impressive month for Spartan athletics.

My congratulations to the SJSU women’s gymnastics team for claiming the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation’s team championship and to student-athletes Haleigh Shepard (vault) and Taylor Chan (floor) on being named individual event champions.

We have nationally-ranked softball and women’s golf teams and nationally ranked competitors in women’s golf and women’s tennis. Ten Spartans earned all-conference honors in men’s basketball and several women’s sports: basketball, swimming and diving, and gymnastics.

The San Jose State men’s and women’s judo teams repeated as national champions, and the cheerleading team placed second at its national championship.

Be sure to check out the Spartan Athletics website for scheduled athletics event, and support our student-athletes as they continue a busy season of spring competition. San Jose State faculty, staff and students are admitted free to home events with a valid Tower ID card.

I hope that Spring break is affording you the opportunity to rest and recharge. Thanks for all you are doing on behalf of SJSU.


President Papazian’s February Blog

I have always thought that February is the most unpredictable month. It sits at the gateway between winter and spring and, as we wait patiently for the gifts of the warm weather, February often takes the opportunity to remind us to pay attention. This past week has been a perfect example of February’s strength.

Extreme weather

We witnessed the shocking development of nearly unprecedented flooding in portions of downtown San Jose and surrounding communities, extensive damage to residences and personal property, and many road closures. SJSU students and employees were among the 14,000 local residents displaced from their homes as of Wednesday morning. Many more have been impacted in other ways.

In the wake of this extraordinary weather pattern, we immediately reached out to our local officials with offers of assistance and began coordinating efforts to identify students in greatest need and ensure that they receive emergency assistance. We have provided temporary housing for a number of displaced students, and Student Affairs continues to reach out with information for our students who are experiencing hardship as a result of the storm damage.

Students financially impacted by the floods can visit the Financial Aid & Scholarship Office in the Student Services Center (8:15 a.m. – 4:45 p.m. Monday through Thursday; 9 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. Friday) or submit a request form online, where information on local evacuation centers and shelters also is available.

We realize that a number of our faculty and staff members also may be experiencing hardship during this time. We will attempt to provide as much support as possible while this situation persists. If any members of our faculty and staff are experiencing difficulty getting to work or must be absent as a result of the situation, I am asking all our supervisors and administrators to be flexible and supportive.

With more rain forecast in the coming days and the possibility of additional flooding, we all must pay extra attention to the needs of those around us. I am grateful for the caring, supportive spirit across campus and throughout our community. As just one example of our commitment to our community, CommUniverCity is accepting donations on behalf of neighborhoods affected by the flooding. They will pass along proceeds to grassroots groups who can distribute them to those who most need help.

If you are interested in helping, please designate your gifts to: CommUniverCity – Flood Relief here or contact executive director Dayana Salazar.

Immigrant and undocumented students

This year, February also brought many changes on the national level, as federal policies have developed and rapidly changed, including federal immigration enforcement measures and travel restrictions. The latest developments have replaced recent policies that have stalled amid multiple legal challenges. Although early indications are that “dreamer” students will be unaffected, these new policies, like those that preceded them, are certain to provoke mixed reactions—especially in regions with large, diverse immigrant populations like San Jose.

On Wednesday, Chancellor White issued a statement speaking to this rapidly changing area and reaffirming the CSU’s commitment to fulfilling its mission in a safe, welcoming, and inclusive environment. My own message offered important details related to the chancellor’s statement.

I realize that the changing developments in this area have unsettled many in our community and I thus reaffirm our commitment to sharing information as soon as possible. We also will continue to provide information on all available support services and make it as easy as possible to take advantage of those services. To this end, information about campus and community resources has been aggregated, updated and posted on a single website. University staff members are monitoring these issues closely, and this site will be updated as new information emerges.

SJSU’s rich diversity is intentional and a part of each student’s learning experience. We are particularly sensitive to the challenges facing our transgender students in the current political climate. Indeed, in this vibrant community of learners, we all benefit daily from the amazing tapestry of friends and colleagues that continue to be woven at San Jose State. We wear our diversity with extraordinary pride, and we will continue to make every lawful effort to provide a safe, welcoming and open campus for all our students, faculty, staff and members of our larger community.

Celebrating social justice, activism

In spite of the many challenges we have faced these past weeks, February also has provided us with opportunities to celebrate SJSU’s legacy of activism in pursuit of social justice, personal equity and human rights. I would like to share several highlights.

Noted author, writer and activist Kevin Powell visited SJSU last week as part of the Spartan Speaker Series, presenting History is a People’s Memory: Celebrating the Past, Celebrating Us. Kevin’s book is a powerful statement on the importance of reclaiming African-American history and culture, not only for the African-American community but for all of humanity.  I encourage you to read it.

This past Saturday, Feb. 25, the Hammer Theatre Center hosted the Black Legend Awards, honoring the regional contributions of 16 African-American community leaders, several of whom have ties to SJSU:

  • Active faculty members D. Michael Cheers and Charles “Buddy” Butler, and emeritus faculty member Dr. Ethel Pitts-Walker.
  • Alumnae Florene Poyadue BA ’75 and Debra Watkins MA ’98.
  • Retired Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge and former City of San Jose Police Auditor LaDoris Cordell, who led an independent special task force on racial discrimination after an SJSU student was subjected to race-based abuse in 2013.

Event proceeds will help establish a Black History Museum in Silicon Valley. I am proud to see SJSU so well represented in this important effort.

Last week, acclaimed journalist and philanthropist Bob Woodruff was here to receive the 2017 Steinbeck Award and participate in a conversation with local news anchor Dan Ashley. Woodruff was severely injured in 2006 when his vehicle was struck by a roadside bomb in Iraq while reporting for ABC News.

His wife Lee subsequently formed the Bob Woodruff Foundation to support the needs of returning U.S. military veterans. This event raised funds for our new Veterans Resource Center, an important element in our efforts to support the academic and personal needs of those returning from active U.S. military service.

Narrowing the graduation gap – integrated efforts

Earlier this month the CSU Academic Senate sponsored a retreat at our sister campus, San Diego State University, for representatives from throughout our system to share and discuss strategies for enhancing student success. Participants included Chancellor White and members of his team; many campus presidents; academic, senate, student affairs and student leaders (including ours); and CSU trustees.

Framed around the primary goal of shortening the time to a degree, I found this to be a rich, eye-opening conversation. In particular, the importance of increasing the number of course units taken each semester (so-called “Average Unit Load”) stood out as a critical variable.

We already have seen a recent, modest uptick in this metric at SJSU, and I am confident that we have the will and focus needed to move the needle further on this and many other fronts. We soon will launch a search for a permanent Associate Vice President for Student and Faculty Success to help guide these efforts.

In addition, SJSU recently staged its second Student Success Summit, a collaboration involving SJSU, Assemblymembers Evan Low and Ash Kalra, community and K-12 education leaders and others. This effort is aimed at identifying ways to ensure that students are ready to transition successfully to the first-year college experience.

Our first summit, held this past September, brought together representatives from K-12 schools and districts, community colleges, local foundations and the legislature and involved broad discussion and information sharing. The most recent meeting was a working session for a group of SJSU, K-12 and elected representatives to conceive ideas for pilot programs.

I am grateful to our local legislators, staff in Academic Affairs, Student Affairs and University Advancement, and community education leaders for collaborating on such an important initiative. Together, we are placing our region at the forefront of efforts to improve college readiness—a priority for our campus, the CSU and our state. This work will help inform and strengthen spring state budget advocacy efforts in Sacramento.

Recruitment for new campus leaders

As I announced recently, we have launched our search for a Vice President for Information Technology/Chief Information Officer. The search committee, chaired by Prof. Michael Kaufman, met last Friday to receive its charge and discuss its plans. The search is on pace to bring finalists to campus prior to the conclusion of the spring semester.

The search for a permanent dean to lead the Connie L. Lurie College of Education has now officially opened and is being led by Prof. Michael Kimbarow. I encourage you to share the position prospectus with potential candidates. Updates will be posted online as this important recruitment continues.

We are also fortunate to be able to continue growing our faculty ranks. Last year, 68 new tenure-track appointments were made; this year, we are working to add 68 more.


As a campus committed to accessibility and sustainability, we must pay special attention to the transportation infrastructure serving our campus community. In this context, we recently learned that the Valley Transportation Authority (VTA), which operates our regional public transit network, is planning changes to its service network.

As many of you are aware, VTA’s preliminary plan calls for the elimination of the free DASH downtown shuttle service between the Diridon transit hub and SJSU. (The shuttle also makes intermediate stops at several downtown locations.) SJSU has helped pay for the cost of operating these shuttles for many years. If approved by the VTA board, these changes likely would take effect this fall.

We recognize that many of our campus community rely on this and other transportation services, and thus we are communicating with VTA officials about this and other important regional transportation issues. I want to assure you that SJSU is fully committed to maintaining a shuttle service in the downtown San Jose corridor for members of our campus community—whether through VTA or other options.

Safety update

In last month’s blog, I mentioned that a comprehensive set of safety initiatives was in the works and that Vice President for Administration and Finance Charlie Faas soon would provide a detailed update.  The safety report has been completed and is now available. It includes background information, updates on various plans to enhance campus safety and security, links to various compliance reports and other data. I encourage you to review it.

Spartan Pride

I talk often about the relationship between great cities and great public universities, and as I indicated in my address to the campus community at the opening of this academic year, I believe strongly that San Jose State can—and should—be our nation’s premier metropolitan public university.

Our place among the great public universities in the country is supported by a recent report from U.S. News & World Report that ranked the San Jose area as the third best place to live among the top 100 metropolitan areas in the U.S.  In summarizing the report, U.S. News’ executive editor said “…the metro areas that do well are the ones with strong job markets and high quality of life.”

We know that our city and region depend on SJSU for the talent needed to sustain its strong innovation economy. And we should be proud to see San Jose earn long-overdue recognition as a great place to learn and live.

In addition to being an integral part of one of America’s most livable cities, SJSU is, as I shared last month, considered one of America’s top 10 universities for fostering students’ upward social mobility. This impressive ranking, which affirms that we are living our mission, is based on a social mobility index that based its rankings on each institution’s cost of attendance, graduation rates, median early career salaries and percentage of students coming from low-income households.

Top coders start at SJSU

Speaking of great places to live and learn, CodinGame (a computer programming support network) last month ranked SJSU second among U.S. colleges and universities, and 15th worldwide, for the quality of its computer programmers.

Congratulations to all our Spartan programmers!

Infrastructure building

Structural problems at California’s Oroville Dam in early February and storm damage throughout our region—including this past week’s flooding in downtown San Jose—remind us of the importance of national infrastructure investment.

SJSU faculty members are contributing important insight to this issue. Professor of Sociology Scott Myers-Lipton, who authored Rebuild America: Solving the Economic Crisis Through Civic Works, was interviewed for and featured in a recent story on U.S. infrastructure needs.

It is wonderful (and important) to see SJSU experts featured in news coverage of contemporary events; this exposure is integral to raising institutional visibility, building pride and appreciation for who we are and what we do, and attracting public and private support. I want to commend faculty and staff experts for devoting their time and knowledge to these efforts.


Spartan men’s basketball is rising under fourth-year head coach Dave Wojcik. With seven wins in the Mountain West conference—including a sweep of conference and CSU rival San Diego State and breakthrough wins over UNLV and New Mexico, the program clearly has turned a corner.

Coach Wojcik has led this resurgence while coping with the loss of his father in late January. I am immensely proud of him, as well as his staff, student-athletes and others for rallying around such an inspirational leader. A recent Mercury News story adds great context to his inspiring and moving story.

After securing their third straight road victory at Air Force earlier this month, our women’s hoops team delivered head coach Jamie Craighead’s 100th career win. Seniors Dezz Ramos—who scored 1, 000-career points faster than any player in the history of SJSU women’s basketball—and Jasmine Smith have been instrumental contributors all season.

Saturday’s home women’s basketball game against Boise State attracted nearly 400 faculty and staff members and their families to an annual inter-divisional spirit celebration. It was terrific to see so many youth (many, we hope, future Spartans!) in attendance. Student Affairs was recognized as “most spirited” and Provost and Senior Vice President Andy Feinstein and Vice President Reggie Blaylock surprised me at the half with a spirited rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

I also am proud to report that 47 Spartan student-athletes from five sports were named to the Fall 2016 Academic All-Mountain West team. Eligibility for this honor is limited to student-athletes with a 3.0 or higher cumulative grade-point average who competed in at least half of their team’s contests.

This has been a month of transition—in some ways positive, in other respects leaving us searching for answers and paths forward amid adversity.

I want to conclude this month’s blog by sharing this short video, produced by our Strategic Communications team, capturing key moments and insights from the January 24 launch of the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change. The NFL Network also has begun airing an hour-long documentary, portions of which were filmed at SJSU during and after the institute launch, on the role of the professional athlete in social activism.

This institute, through the unique synergies of interdisciplinary education, scholarship and service, is poised to impact meaningfully the pursuit of social justice, gender equity and human rights. It is just this kind of thought, scholarship and activism that makes San Jose State a remarkable place to live and learn. I am truly excited for our future, and I look forward to sharing it with each of you.


President Papazian’s Message on Flood Relief

Editor’s note: This was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Feb. 24, 2017.

Dear Campus Community,

This week brought news of flooding in downtown San Jose neighborhoods and surrounding communities, dislocating thousands of residents and causing extensive damage.

SJSU students and employees are among those who have been most severely impacted. Some of you have been in touch with my office offering information and assistance. I wanted to update you briefly on what we are doing to support members of our community and let you know how you can help.

Student Affairs has arranged temporary campus housing for some displaced students while ensuring that many more have access to information about emergency financial and emotional support.

Any student impacted by the floods can visit the Financial Aid & Scholarship Office in the Student Services Center or submit an online request form and learn about other local support services, including evacuation centers and shelters. Students in need of emergency assistance this weekend can contact University Police at (408) 924-2222; dispatchers will be prepared to connect students with on-call Student Affairs staff.

Flooding and other weather impacts also have been felt by our faculty and staff members. Emergency shelter and other services through the City of San Jose and local relief organizations can be found here.  Those needing assistance with the trauma often associated with this kind of event should reach out to the Employee Assistance Plan.

SJU students and employees still displaced from their neighborhoods will be permitted to park their vehicles in the South Campus Garage at 7th and San Salvador this Saturday and Sunday, February 25 – 26. Parking enforcement will resume Monday, February 27. If neighborhoods remain inaccessible into next week, affected SJSU students and employees will be allowed to park in the south campus Park & Ride lot on S. 7th St. between Humboldt and Alma.

We have reached out to city and community leaders to express concern and offer our help. There are numerous ways you can get involved:

  • CommUniverCity is accepting donations on behalf of neighborhoods affected by flooding. You can designate gifts to: CommUniverCity – Flood Relief here or contact executive director Dayana Salazar.
  • If you would like to participate in neighborhood cleanup and recovery efforts, the City of San Jose has launched a volunteer effort that will continue through Saturday. Learn more or sign up here.

I am grateful for the caring, supportive Spartan spirit on display across campus and throughout our community. I hope you will broadly share the information provided here and encourage others to get involved.

President Papazian’s Message on National Immigration Policies

Editor’s note: This was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Feb. 22, 2017.

Dear Campus Community,

I’m writing to share a statement released this afternoon from CSU Chancellor Timothy White addressing new developments regarding national immigration policies.

On February 21, 2017, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly issued two memoranda to his department providing direction regarding implementation of President Trump’s recent executive orders on increased border security and stricter enforcement of immigration laws.

While the memoranda deal with many immigration issues, they do not affect the existing Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy – which remains in full effect. DACA status is applicable to many, but not all of our students who lack immigration documentation.

Clearly, this emerging federal immigration policy is complex. At this time, the CSU is carefully examining these federal directives and reviewing their potential impact on CSU campuses.

We do not have information indicating that stepped up enforcement will focus on our campuses. We do advise any member of our CSU community – students, faculty and staff – who is approached while on campus by federal, state or local officials asking for information or documentation regarding immigration status, to immediately contact the University Police Department. The University Police Department will act as a liaison with the on-site officials, and will coordinate with the Office of General Counsel to provide guidance, references and resources as available.

As I have emphasized in the past, the California State University is committed to being an inclusive and welcoming institution of higher education that is enhanced by our global community. As such, we will continue to make every lawful effort to provide a safe and welcoming campus environment for all of our students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of our community.

As I announced previously last summer, CSU’s flexible systemwide set of policy guidelines are intended to remove the CSU from the enforcement of federal immigration laws. CSU’s policy is that, unless otherwise required by law, we will not enter into agreements with law enforcement agencies for the purpose of enforcing federal immigration laws. Our university police departments will not honor immigration hold requests, and our university police will not contact, detain, question, or arrest individuals solely on the basis of being – or suspected of being – a person who lacks documentation. This important CSU policy has not changed and is not impacted by Secretary Kelly’s memoranda, and these memoranda do not affect the policies or practice of the CSU and our university police departments.

We remain deeply committed to fulfilling the educational and public mission of the California State
University in a safe and welcoming environment.

For campus assistance with issues referenced in Chancellor White’s message, please contact University Police at (408) 924-2222.  I also encourage you to be acquainted with campus and community resources available to undocumented students.

We will share additional information as it becomes available.

Mary A. Papazian

President Papazian’s Message on Library Closure

Editor’s note: This was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Feb. 1, 2017.

Dear Campus Community,

Shortly before 11 a.m. today (Feb. 1), an individual died after falling from an upper floor of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. library. Our hearts go out to the decedent, his family and friends.

The library has closed for the day. We expect that it will reopen at 8 a.m. Thursday. In the interim, Ballrooms B and C on the second floor of the Diaz Compean Student Union have been opened as temporary study space.

The victim was not an SJSU student or employee. According to university police, all available evidence suggests that this was a suicide. The medical examiner will release additional details once its investigation is completed and next of kin are notified.

Our thoughts are also with the library staff, patrons and others who witnessed this tragedy. We are closely collaborating with our partners from the city of San Jose to ensure that library staff, students and others have access to counseling and other forms of emotional support.

Free counseling support is available to SJSU students, faculty and staff members. Students can contact Counseling and Psychological Services at 408-924-5910; faculty and staff can access the Employee Assistance Program, offered through SJSU Human Resources, at 800-367-7474.

Mary A. Papazian

President Papazian’s January Blog

We’re a month into the new calendar year and just days into the spring term—traditionally a time of renewed energy and hope. In spite of the tensions that are in play around the world and close to home, I hope this month’s blog post reflects SJSU’s energy and hope and our collective ability to influence our community, region and beyond.

Acknowledging uncertainties

We can’t, however, ignore the uncertainties that I know are on many of our minds and will influence our efforts moving forward.

Yesterday afternoon I commented on a recent federal order that indefinitely bars entry to the U.S. by Syrian refugees, bars all refugees for 120 days and individuals from seven predominantly Muslim countries for 90 days.

Late Monday, the office of the CSU Chancellor released a joint statement from Chancellor White, campus presidents and leaders of the CSU Academic Senate and California State Students Association expressing deep concerns about this action and its potential impact on our mission and our community.

We are—and we will remain—focused on serving the needs of our students, faculty and staff members, and broader community. Ensuring that every deserving student has access to a quality education is neither a political nor partisan issue; it is essential to our mission. And it cuts to the heart of who we are, what we stand for and what we value.

In that vein, I was proud to join thousands of community members two Saturdays ago in my capacity as a citizen, a parent, and a descendant of Armenian immigrants, marching to express my love for our country and its values. And I am proud of all Spartans—from all political perspectives—who exercise their constitutional right to protected free speech.

Supporting international, Dream Act students

With immigration policies in flux, we are working to engage, communicate with and support international students as well as students who are here thanks to the federal Dream Act, California’s AB 540 and related state laws.

Late last year I joined hundreds of leaders from public and private higher education in supporting federal policies aimed at protecting these students, and I renewed my support during visits in early January with lawmakers and other government officials in Washington D.C.

These visits were heartening, and we hope to welcome some members of our delegation to San Jose this spring to meet our students and see first-hand how important it is that we preserve educational opportunities for all who have earned them.

Supporting a safe environment

In last month’s blog I referenced several unsettling reports of sexual misconduct and our commitment to studying ways to enhance student and community safety.

Progress is being made on multiple fronts.

Informed by an inclusive group of campus stakeholders, Vice President for Administration and Finance Charlie Faas has developed a comprehensive set of safety initiatives including the hiring of more university police officers, additional campus surveillance cameras and enhanced lighting.

A detailed report outlining these plans will be available soon.

Efforts in support of Title IX, under the auspices of the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, are also expanding:

  • Title IX staff are closely coordinating their efforts with University Police, reviewing all reported incidents that may be subject to Title IX regulations to determine if crime alerts should be issued. (This may increase the overall number of alerts.)
  • Communication with complainants and respondents in Title IX cases is intensifying with the goal of more regular and consistent case updates and check-ins to ensure that the needs of these individuals are being met.
  • More frequent campus dialogue; two campus conversations took place last fall; a third is planned for February and others will follow. A commitment has been made to greater transparency, including publishing a comprehensive report of reported Title IX incidents from fiscal year 2015-2016.
  • Enhanced training opportunities for designated confidential-level university community members, to increase the number of individuals eligible and available to support Title IX related processes.

While the outcome of criminal complaints is not within the university’s control or purview, these measures should enhance our ability to respond to Title IX incidents and support the needs of all affected parties. Chief Diversity Officer Kathleen Wong(Lau) will share more details on these efforts in coming weeks.

Celebrating our values

I’m very proud to share several initiatives and activities that reflect our values and demonstrate a commitment to social justice and student success:

Student Research

In early January, Associate Professor of Photojournalism Michael Cheers led a small group of students to an international conference on education to present research in which the students had participated in summer 2016. (Dr. Ruth Wilson co-led this project, which brought the students to Cuba to study Afro-Cuban culture.)

The project was structured to evaluate opportunities to close the achievement gap among underrepresented students by combining culturally relevant content and teaching methods. Academic Affairs and Student Affairs contributed support to this endeavor, enabling undergraduates to present research to more than 1300 participants representing at least 36 countries.

Upward Mobility

Earlier this month, SJSU was named one of America’s top ten universities for fostering students’ upward social mobility. The Social Mobility Index considered cost of attendance, graduation rates, median early career salaries and the percentage of students coming to campuses from low-income households.

According to the report, “…The SMI measures the extent to which a college or university educates more economically disadvantaged students (with family incomes below the national median) at lower tuition, so they can graduate and obtain good paying jobs. The new SMI rankings show that through wise policy-making, colleges and universities can be part of improving both economic opportunity and social stability in our country.”

We can all be proud to see SJSU ranked among leading American universities described in the New York Times as “…deeply impressive institutions that continue to push many Americans into the middle class and beyond — many    more, in fact, than elite colleges that receive far more attention.” This recognition is the result of everything our faculty and staff members, alumni, donors, and elected and community leaders have done and are doing on behalf of our students, our campus, and the CSU.

From Words to Action

Last Tuesday we celebrated the launch of the nascent Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change at SJSU with a morning symposium, From Words to Action, filling the Hammer Theatre Center and bringing together a luminous group of Spartans and other change agents from sports and the media. Panelists included NBA Hall of Famer Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, NFL Hall of Famer Jim Brown, Olympic champion Tommie Smith, several active or recently retired professional athletes, and many influential national and local sports journalists.

We are grateful to these individuals for lending their voices to an important conversation, and to institutional partners including the San Francisco 49ers and the York family; San Jose Earthquakes; Golden State Warriors; and the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE) for their contributions and active involvement.

The institute, guided by an advisory board now being formed, will facilitate educational offerings developed by SJSU faculty from multiple academic disciplines; stimulate research at the intersection of sports and society; and host ongoing community programming. (A panel conversation featuring women in sports media is now under consideration.)

Last week’s symposium—which attracted a large outpouring of national and local news media—and the institute itself bear the heart and soul of Dr. Harry Edwards, a proud Spartan whose commitments to human rights and social equity are well known and well documented.

Thanks to the efforts of many members of our campus community and others, and augmented by Dr. Edwards vision, SJSU is poised to influence and be at the epicenter of the national conversation about race relations, gender equity and human rights. A recent Mercury News editorial affirmed this, declaring that “…the time is right for San Jose State University’s new Institute…and so is the place.”

Personal commitment

We believe that as Spartans, what powers us changes our world. I want to acknowledge SJSU nursing student Annie Ho, whose quick reaction and selflessness helped save a life last November.

Annie helped administer CPR to a runner who fell ill while competing in last year’s annual Thanksgiving Silicon Valley Turkey trot. The Mercury News reported in mid-January on an informal “reunion” of the victim and his emergency caregivers at the race site.

Annie, Spartan nation is proud of you!

A look ahead

  • Efforts to engage and inform state lawmakers about the possibility of a tuition increase and advocate for additional investment in the CSU began last week, with a visit by Chancellor White and campus presidents to the state Capitol and meeting with Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon. (While there, I met with several lawmakers and administration officials.) This activity will continue throughout the spring.
  • We are continuing to engage local elected, transportation and community leaders in conversations about the future of BART’s downtown San Jose stations and associated regional planning issues. As a hub of downtown activity (more than 40,000 students, faculty and staff members on campus, many of whom also travel to and from nearby destinations, plus daily visitors to MLK Library and other campus destinations), SJSU’s voice and input are important to decisions that will eventually be made by the VTA board.
  • Academic Affairs and Student Affairs will co-host the second Student Success Summit this Friday, Feb. 3 in partnership with California Assemblymembers Evan Low and Ash Kalra. The focus of this working session will be identifying ways to enhance college readiness.
  • Many campus groups are engaged in strategic planning. Work continues on preparing for closure of the Vision 2017 strategic plan, and the Academic Senate last Friday held its winter planning retreat. I look forward to receiving and sharing updates on these and other planning efforts.

As a reminder, please share suggestions for these monthly posts by writing to I hope you find them informative and useful.

Here’s to a productive month!


President Papazian’s Message on International Travel Bans

Editor’s note: SJSU President Mary Papazian emailed the following to all SJSU students, faculty and staff on Jan. 30, 2017.

In addition, California State University Chancellor Tim White, California State Student Association President David Lopez, CSU Academic Senate Chair Christine Miller and the presidents of all 23 CSU campuses have issued a statement.

Dear Campus Community,

The latest federal executive order imposing specific immigration and international travel restrictions has intensified anxieties and concerns for many on our campus and throughout Silicon Valley.

This may be because so many of us are immigrants or descendants of immigrants who came to the United States in pursuit of freedom and opportunity. Seen through this lens, these are neither political nor partisan issues; they reflect our American values.

San Jose State University has a rich legacy in the fight for equity, social justice and human rights. Given this, and the fact that we serve a diverse student population fueling our valley’s workforce needs, caring so much about these issues is both understandable and appropriate.

Over the weekend, federal judges in four states issued orders temporarily delaying the implementation of certain policy provisions. And it appeared yesterday that a ban on reentry to the United States by those possessing green cards might be lifted.

I want to assure you that no matter how these policies unfold, SJSU will continue to seek ways to support any student, faculty or staff member potentially impacted by travel or immigration restrictions. We also are developing plans to ensure ample opportunities for constructive dialogue.

As new information becomes available, we will be sure to get it to you as quickly as possible.

Mary A. Papazian

President Papazian’s December Blog

Welcome to the first installment of what will become a monthly communication to the San José State University community.

As I settle into my first year as president of San José State, I want to take the opportunity to reach out to you regularly with updates on the latest developments on campus and beyond. I also will use this space to highlight the accomplishments of our students, faculty and staff—so if there are items that you would like to bring to my attention, please email my assistant, Zaynna Tello, at

The end of fall term is an apt opportunity for us to celebrate accomplishments and progress on key initiatives and for me to share initial impressions from my early months as your president.

Toward sustained stability, leadership

The traditional academic year unfolds along a somewhat predictable pace that I know is familiar to many of you. While this fall has in some respects been anything but “ordinary,” I am confident that SJSU is on a path toward stability and extraordinary opportunity.

This summer, you welcomed me as your new president—warmly and enthusiastically, I should add—and we have begun to fill other key academic and administrative leadership posts. I observed in August that I was fortunate to have inherited a highly capable leadership team. Several months later, I’m even more convinced of this.

Next year, we will welcome new deans to lead the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business and the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering while conducting recruitments for a new permanent dean of the Connie L. Lurie College of Education and a new vice president for Information Technology/Chief Information Officer. As I mentioned in announcing our intent to elevate the latter role to a cabinet-level position, a truly integrated and strategic technology infrastructure is essential to all of our efforts.

Faculty and staff achievement and collaboration

In the meantime, I have been deeply impressed by our faculty’s dedication, expertise across countless disciplines, and commitment to student success and scholarship. Although it is impossible to cite all of them here, I want to recognize several examples of excellence in teaching and scholarship.  I know you will be as proud of our colleagues as am I!

  • Department of Communication Studies Associate Professor Matthew Spangler’s adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s bestselling novel The Kite Runner opens at Wyndham’s Theatre in London’s West End on December 21 and runs through March 11, 2017.
  • Associate Professor of Astrophysics Aaron Romanowsky and several international colleagues discovered a massive galaxy that exists entirely of dark matter. (You can read the abstract online.) Romanowsky has another article pending in Nature.
  • Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Rachael French and Assistant Professor of Health Science & Recreation Miranda Worthen received SJSU’s Early Career Investigator Awards for their research efforts.
  • The Online Learning Consortium awarded SJSU the Award for Excellence in Faculty Development for Online Teaching for its exemplary support of faculty development for both hybrid and online courses. Jennifer Redd, the director of eCampus, received the award on behalf of the campus on Nov. 19.
  • Debra Griffith, AVP for Student Transition and Retention Services, in November was named a 2017 CSU Wang Family Excellence Award winner, recognizing her service to SJSU students over the past 16 years.

Supporting diversity and action

Many of you know that faculty diversity lags behind that of our student population. I want to acknowledge the good work of Associate Professor of Mexican American Studies Magdalena Barrera and Associate Professor of Educational Leadership Rebeca Burciaga, who are serving as Faculty-In-Residence seeking to diversify our faculty during a period of intensified recruiting. (We are in the midst of adding more than 130 new faculty positions over a two-year period.)

Magdalena and Rebeca actively have consulted faculty search committees, provided informative data assessments and insights, and meet regularly with the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and others to support campus-wide efforts to diversify candidate pools.

Others of you have worked to ensure that we celebrate and support our community’s rich diversity. Our African-American and Chicanx/Latinx Student Success Task Forces have intensified efforts on behalf of student success through academic tutoring, finals week study sessions, other engagement activities and cultural celebrations. In addition, nine faculty members participated in a pilot program this fall, living in our residence halls as part of a pilot program seeking ways to better engage students.

Our Faculty Fellows initiative has amplified the work of our PRIDE and MOSAIC centers, helping identify ways to create a more inclusive and welcoming environment. 2016 Faculty Fellows include Erica Boas, an adjunct faculty member in the College of Social Science Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences Department; Funie Hsu, an assistant professor of American Studies; Manolo Callahan, a Mexican American Studies professor at MOSAIC, and Stephanie Preston, a counselor with SJSU’s Counseling and Psychological Services department supporting the PRIDE Center.

As many of you know, the fall semester also brought us many challenges related to diversity. I am grateful for the dedicated work of our nascent Office of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, led by Chief Diversity Officer Kathleen Wong(Lau). Through campus programming, targeted training, guided conversations and thoughtful engagement with individual campus community members, Kathy and her colleagues are deepening SJSU’s commitment to a welcoming, inclusive community. This work will be more important than ever as we enter 2017.

On January 24, SJSU will host what I am confident will be a compelling symposium at the Hammer Theatre Center, in partnership with the Ross Initiative in Sports for Equality (RISE). This event—Sport, Activism and Social Change: From Words to Action—will feature an impressive array of panelists and also will serve to introduce the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change at SJSU. You will hear much more about this in early January.

Students: at the heart of it all

The success and engagement of our students is something of which we all can be proud.  I feel uniquely blessed by abundant opportunities to see our remarkable students in action. As is the case with our faculty and staff members, I can’t possibly herald everything that our students are doing, but let me offer a few examples:

Helping students succeed 

Even before arriving in San José, I was aware of the impressive, holistic efforts underway at SJSU to ensure college readiness, enhance student retention, and shorten the time to a degree. This work is too complex and requires too much integration to be led by any single campus unit; indeed, every one of us contributes in some way to ensuring student success.

Our Spartan Scholars Program was launched last summer to prepare at-risk students for the difficult transition from high school to college. New advising tools were added to aid students’ navigation through the complex maze of selecting courses and tracking degree requirements. New class sections were added to reduce bottlenecks; and more academic advisors are being hired.

I am very encouraged by signs that this work, collaboratively guided by Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, is paying dividends: Our four-year graduation rate has already risen from 10 to 14 percent; the six-year rate has risen from 57 to 62 percent; the underrepresented student achievement gap (which measures differential achievement among students from multiple racial and ethnic categories) has shrunk from 17 percent to 11 percent.

There is much more to be done if we are to meet (and exceed!) the four and six-year graduation targets established by the CSU by 2025. To that end, we joined with Assemblymember Evan Low to convene a Student Success Summit on September 30, beginning a solution-focused conversation about student success with representatives from K-12, community colleges, the CSU and local education foundations. This work will continue in 2017.

Adding building blocks for our community to thrive

Numerous steps were taken this fall to address our aging infrastructure. We dedicated the beautiful expansion and renovation of our Diaz Compean Student Union, fueled by a $15 million gift from Silicon Valley philanthropist Lupe Compean. Campus Village II opened, adding more than 800 new residential beds. Work began on both a student recreation and aquatic center (on the site formerly occupied by SJSU’s legacy “bricks” residence halls) and the initial phase of a planned overhaul of our South Campus athletic facilities.

Dudley Moorhead Hall is scheduled to reopen in January after months of extensive renovation work. And CSU trustees approved plans for the addition of a Science and Innovation Center, which, when built, will be the first new academic space on our campus in more than three decades.

Engaging beyond our borders

I’ve invested considerable time this fall meeting community and business leaders, elected officials and others to listen, learn and engage. While this at times takes me away from campus, the time invested is essential to building partnerships and attracting support for our shared efforts. I have heard—over and over—tremendous community support for SJSU and a desire that we be at the table for important conversations about the future of our region.

Of course, many of you also are actively engaged with the City of San Jose, County of Santa Clara and innumerable regional organizations and foundations—far too many to mention them all here. I have, however, sensed opportunities for SJSU to step up its regional engagement to ensure long-overdue transportation improvements, find solutions to the region’s housing crisis, and even more effectively meet the region’s evolving and growing workforce needs.

I was energized by strong engagement with local, state and federal officials and their enthusiasm for supporting our students and our mission. We are working actively—in close collaboration with the CSU and others—on an array of opportunities to bring additional resources and enhance our ability to serve students. Several lawmakers have expressed interest in supporting campus capital needs, which today are constrained by limited support from the state.

To leverage these opportunities and others, we will need to be continually attentive, engaged and ready to bring our intellectual assets and other resources to the table. There is room for you to contribute, and I hope that you will.


A retrospective look at the fall is incomplete without acknowledging several significant moments of pride for us all, as well as considerable challenges.

We celebrated 50 years of noteworthy marine research and education at the Moss Landing Marine Laboratory. We welcomed home many luminaries from SJSU’s Speed City era of dominance in track and field for a day of celebration as we announced the return of men’s track and field to SJSU in 2018 as an NCAA sport. And the Hammer Theatre Center reopened its doors under SJSU management, restoring an exciting season of diverse artistic programming to downtown San Jose.

President Obama awarded the National Medal of Art and Humanities to alumnus and noted playwright Luis Valdez. SJSU advanced in national U.S. News rankings, rising from 8th to 6th among the West’s public comprehensive universities. The Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering rose from 4th to 3rd among national public comprehensive engineering programs, excluding service academies.

Earlier this month, Athletic Director Gene Bleymaier announced the hiring of Brent Brennan as SJSU’s new head football coach. Brent has deep Spartan roots—his parents met as SJSU students and he previously coached here for six seasons—and is uniquely prepared to support the academic progress and personal development of our student-athletes.

Challenges and opportunities

We end calendar year 2016 with much to be proud of, and much to do. The aftereffects of a highly contentious national election linger, as do concerns for students who may be affected by shifting immigration policies under a new administration. Our campus was shaken in recent weeks by reports of sexual misconduct that victimized numerous members of our community.

These issues, and others, demand—and are receiving—thoughtful, focused attention from university leaders, police and others.

Finally, an advisory group of SJSU faculty, staff and student representatives are collaborating on a review of SJSU’s Vision 2017 strategic plan, preparatory to beginning to imagine a future strategic plan for our campus. This work will continue into the spring.

I hope that this message illuminates my pride in SJSU and optimism about our future. On behalf of our campus leadership team, I wish you and yours a restful and joyous holiday season!

Mary Papazian


President Papazian’s Message on Campus Safety

Editor’s note: This was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Dec. 8, 2016.

Dear Campus Community,

The University Police Department (UPD) is investigating six cases of sexual battery that have been reported since October 17. These crimes occurred in Duncan Hall, Sweeney Hall, the Student Union, and Boccardo Business Complex. All of the victims were students.

These disturbing incidents have caused understandable anxiety in our community. I’m writing today to update you on the status of the investigations and several steps being taken or contemplated to enhance campus safety and security.

Responding to a tip from the community, UPD has identified and arrested a suspect in the Student Union case. The suspect is an SJSU student and it is believed that he may have committed additional unreported sexual batteries. If you were a victim of a sexual battery within the last week in the area of Clark Hall or the Dining Commons, please contact UPD.

Police are uncertain if other suspects are affiliated with SJSU. They believe that a single suspect may be associated with at least two of the remaining cases. Leads provided over the past few days are being pursued and police foot patrols have been intensified around campus.

It’s important to know what “sexual battery” means: touching intimate body parts without consent. While this may sound less severe than sexual assault, this behavior is deeply traumatizing to victims. I urge anyone who has been subjected to such conduct to contact UPD as soon as possible.

According to annual crime reports published by UPD, 11 cases of sexual battery were reported here in 2015, compared to 17 cases in 2016 (with several weeks remaining this calendar year). While there is no indication that we are experiencing a significant year-to-year increase in these crimes, even one case is too many.

We all know that campus safety and personal security is a real concern. Vice President for Administration and Finance Charlie Faas has been developing a comprehensive safety plan in collaboration with other campus stakeholders. Here are key elements:

Additional security cameras: Twenty-four additional cameras will be purchased and installed in the near future to complement existing video surveillance systems. But as a cautionary note, this video will be used as an investigatory tool and is not monitored in real time.

Police staffing: Recruiting is underway for six additional UPD patrol officers, which will increase the number of sworn officers on our campus to 32. UPD has received approval to hire an additional four Public Safety Assistants, which provides our own students with the opportunity to gain professional experience and expands the Safety Escort program.

Enhanced lighting: Like many of you, I often walk this campus late into the evening. I am very concerned about areas that lack adequate lighting or create blind spots for pedestrians. Additional lighting and related work will begin during the winter break, and continue through spring term.

While these plans move forward, I also want to ask for your help. Chief Decena this fall established a Student Advisory Board composed of students from all aspects of the campus community. This group has already offered many valuable insights. If you have suggestions or would like to get involved, please contact Chief Decena directly at

As an urban campus located in the center of a major U.S. city, working to enhance our collective safety and keeping you regularly updated will remain an ongoing top priority.


Mary Papazian

President Papazian’s Message on Hate Incidents

Editor’s note: This was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Nov. 12, 2016.

Dear Campus Community,

This week brought multiple reports of aggressive behavior targeting students of color. Wednesday, an unknown assailant grabbed a Muslim-American student by her hijab in the West (Fourth Street) Garage, yanking her backwards and causing her to fall. And Friday afternoon, a South Asian student was verbally accosted while studying in the Engineering Building.

We’ve been in touch with both students to offer our support and encouragement. University police are investigating both cases.

There have been other reports of students facing subtle taunting and overt verbal attacks. I understand that some of you have experienced or observed this behavior in classrooms and elsewhere on campus.

All of this is deeply troubling. And it leaves students–including those who are undocumented–as well as faculty and staff members concerned for their safety. Many of you are frustrated and unsure how to appropriately respond. Some of you have asked for our help.

I understand. We are just days removed from an election that provoked a dizzying array of reactions ranging from elation to depression. In several U.S. cities, thousands have taken to the streets in protest. And, sadly, attacks against individuals have been reported on other college campuses and in many communities.

As I observed earlier this week, we are a family. We celebrate opportunities for healthy dissent. But no one should face intimidation–or worse–based on a political viewpoint or on racial, ethnic, religious, gender or sexual identity. An attack on any member of our family is an attack on us all.

So where do we go from here?

The university administration will continue to provide support to any student, faculty or staff member who seeks our help. We will explore opportunities to further enhance campus safety and security.

We will continue working with campus and community members interested in fostering healthy dialogue and promoting an inclusive, safe, supportive climate.

And I ask you, as a member of the Spartan family, to join me in approaching the upcoming holidays with respect and appreciation for the unique diversity that sets us apart among our nation’s public universities.

Mary Papazian

President Papazian’s Message on Election 2016

Editor’s note: This was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Nov. 9, 2016.

Dear Campus Community,

We all are processing the results of a long, hard-fought and often-contentious national election.  It is an opportunity to reflect on the resilience of our people and the constitutional freedom we enjoy to express our opinions, our aspirations and our feelings.

As one of America’s most diverse public universities, it is reasonable that this election would provoke uniquely strong–and potentially mixed–reactions.  These will take time to fully absorb, and process.

In his remarks to the nation this morning, President Obama observed that “…everybody is sad when their side loses an election. But the day after, we have to remember that we’re actually all on one team… We’re not Democrats first. We’re not Republicans first. We are Americans first.”

To the president’s comments, I would add this: as members of the San Jose State community, we, too all are members of one team, and one family.  And, as a community devoted to preparing students to be engaged, informed citizens, it is critically important that we provide ample room for diverse opinions to be expressed safely and civilly.

This evening at 7 p.m., we will hold a guided campus conversation: “Together We’ll Rise: A Community Dialogue Moving Us Forward From the Election.” The Residential Life Team, the Student Affairs division, and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion have collaborated to provide this opportunity to come together, help each other make sense of the election, and continue building the inclusive Spartan community to which we all aspire.

This dialogue will take place in front of the Smith/Carlos sculpture, which honors two Spartans for their brave, civil activism. I encourage you to honor their legacy by joining in this important conversation.

Mary Papazian

President Papazian’s Follow-up Message on Sexual Assaults

Editor’s note: This was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Oct. 17, 2016.

Dear Campus Community,

Recent reports of sexual violence involving several students have disheartened many of us. Many of you have expressed concern for their well-being. I’ve been encouraged by the response from our community.

I also have heard and taken to heart the concerns ​some of you have expressed about the issues illuminated by these incidents.

I write to you today to assure you that I am determined to do everything possible to ensure that SJSU is a safe, caring, inclusive community. I have every confidence that working together, we can make this happen.

But as a recent disturbing account from one student reminds us, there is much to be done–and it must involve our entire community. While we wait for criminal, student conduct and Title IX cases to be adjudicated, I want you to know how we plan to address the systemic implications of these incidents.

First, we will look comprehensively at how to improve communication in the wake of reported Title IX incidents. While many offices and individuals responded in the wake of last month’s incidents, it is clear that we need to better “connect the dots” among resource providers and more clearly identify primary points of contact for students involved in sexual misconduct cases. This review will be co-led by Student Affairs and our Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

Second, I am asking for a reevaluation of the protocols for determining when campus crime alerts should be issued. Although it appears that we were in compliance with federal guidelines in the recent incidents, I believe it is time to reexamine and consider changes to notification policies. University Chief of Police Peter Decena will oversee this review in consultation with appropriate subject matter experts and campus ​and community ​stakeholders, including students.

Third–and perhaps most critically–each of us must fully understand the gravity of sexual violence, harassment and discrimination and embrace our duty to help combat it. To that end, I’ve asked Title IX Officer Natalie Potts to arrange a series of campus conversations, facilitated by our own experts as well as others, beginning ​as soon as possible and continuing throughout the year. This will supplement existing CSU-mandated and other training that already is offered.

It is easy to say we want to do better. We also need to walk the talk. I ask you to join me on that journey.

Mary Papazian

President Papazian’s Message on Sexual Assaults

Editor’s note: This was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Oct. 12, 2016.

Dear Campus Community,

In the last 24 hours, news reports have surfaced regarding allegations of sexual assault involving a SJSU student and member of our men’s water polo team and two victims, also students. Although student privacy and numerous pending investigations limit what we can say, I want you to know as much as can be shared.

These deeply troubling reports first came to the attention of university staff last month. Because they occurred off campus, city of San Jose police (SJPD) have led the criminal investigation. I am told that the case is now being reviewed by the Santa Clara District Attorney’s office.

In the meantime, our Student Affairs staff and Title IX office have acted to protect and support the students involved while internal student conduct and Title IX inquiries moved forward. Although there are reports that the student is no longer in the U.S., these investigations are continuing.

Pending the outcomes of these investigations, the student accused of these acts was placed on interim suspension, barred from campus, and ordered to stay away from the victims.

I know some are wondering why a campus crime alert was not issued sooner. The totality of information available at the time—including the fact that the suspect had been identified and was being closely monitored—led to the determination that there was no imminent safety threat to the campus community.

While we are confident that this was a reasonable decision based on what we knew, I very much appreciate this concern. We will be reviewing all existing protocols and processes in collaboration with our newly established Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Excellence and many others. Please contact Chief Diversity Officer Kathleen Wong(Lau) or Title IX Officer Natalie Potts if you have any questions or concerns.


Mary Papazian


President Papazian’s Follow-up Message on Residence Halls

Editor’s note: This was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Sept. 22, 2016.

Dear Campus Community,

In the wake of yesterday’s disclosure of two swastikas and hateful language discovered in two of our residence halls, I left CSU meetings in Long Beach a day early and returned to San Jose late Wednesday night. I was back on campus this (Thursday) morning.

While mindful of the need to preserve student confidentiality, I am determined to be as transparent as possible. Let me update you on the latest developments.

First, the University Police Department (UPD) has made enough progress in its investigation that we are able to share some details. One of the two swastikas discovered Tuesday was accompanied by undeniably hateful, anti-Semitic language (“Admit One Jew”). Police have identified the student responsible and determined that this act, while bias-based, targeted no one in particular and is not by definition a hate crime.

The second incident involved a swastika and language scribbled on a white board, in a residence hall suite. The white board was described to police by the student responsible as a “joke board.” While this incident remains under investigation, police are confident that the two incidents are unrelated.

Meanwhile, we are focused on continuing to engage and support open dialogue with, and among, students, faculty and staff members, and community leaders. We all want to understand and make sense of these deeply disturbing acts. I’ve been reminded by several of you that symbols and words can carry different meaning and significance depending on one’s age, ethnicity, race, gender, faith and other factors.

We must ensure as many opportunities for dialogue as are needed to ensure that your voices are heard. Last night, our chief diversity officer and professional housing staff members facilitated a dialogue with 150 students. I’m grateful to our residence life and counseling staff for their dedication to our students’ concerns and needs.

Earlier today, I met with more than 100 faculty members and with the executive director of the local chapter of Hillel; I also briefed the media. This evening, I’ll meet informally with students in the Dining Commons at 8 pm.

A facilitated conversation on campus climate issues has been scheduled for next Thursday, September 29, and I will hold a town hall meeting with students on Wednesday, October 5. Details will follow soon.

While I remain disheartened and outraged by these profoundly hurtful acts, I am also encouraged by the response from our campus and broader community. Together, we can use this difficult moment to grow and learn how to be a fully inclusive and welcoming community.

Mary Papazian

President Papazian’s Message on Gender Equity

Editor’s note: This was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on Sept. 6, 2016.

Dear Campus Community,

Our students’ success depends in large part on our determination to build and sustain a learning environment that is safe, affirming and non-discriminatory. We are just as obliged to provide a safe, equitable working environment for every faculty and staff member.

With these principles in mind–and in the wake of new reporting by the Mercury News of the sexual harassment of a student–I am writing to be sure we all are aware of our responsibilities and available resources. This is especially important in the early weeks of fall when, research tells us, students are at particular risk.

As I said during the fall welcome address, each of us has a role to play in supporting student success. That includes encouraging students to report inappropriate behavior to our Title IX office, and reminding faculty and staff members and administrators of their duty promptly to report potential violations, whether they occur on or off campus.

Prompt reporting is essential to supporting victims of inappropriate conduct and protecting others from similar behavior.

We already are benefiting from the leadership and experience of our new chief diversity officer, Kathy Wong(Lau), who brings particular expertise in equity and diversity training. We are committed to building our Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, which Kathy leads.

Meanwhile, programs for students, faculty and staff members are being expanded and enriched on multiple fronts. You’ll hear more about them in coming weeks.

The actions alleged and related issues enumerated in news coverage are troubling. We are looking into them, we will learn from them, and we will take appropriate systematic actions based on what we learn. And I’m confident that working collaboratively and creatively, we will be the welcoming, inclusive and supportive community to which we all aspire.

Mary Papazian