Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at SJSU Announces 2020-2021 Steinbeck Fellows

The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at San José State University has named six Steinbeck Fellows for the 2020-2021 academic year: Ariel Chu, Rose Himber Howse, Tammy Heejae Lee, Uche Okonkwo, Timea Sipos and Brian Trapp. The Steinbeck Fellowship program offers emerging writers of any age and background a $15,000 fellowship to finish a significant writing project.

Ariel Chu

Ariel Chu.

Ariel Chu is a Taiwanese American writer from Eastvale, California, and an incoming first-year student in USC’s creative writing and literature PhD program. She completed her MFA in Creative Writing at Syracuse University, where she received the Shirley Jackson Prize in Fiction. A former editor-in-chief of Salt Hill Journal, a 2019 P.D. Soros Fellow, and a 2020 Luce Scholar in Taipei, Chu has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, the Best Small Fictions Anthology, and the Best of the Net Award. Her writing can be found in The Common, The Masters Review, and Sonora Review, among others. She is currently working on a short story collection and novel.

Rose Himber Howse

Rose Himber Howse

Rose Himber Howse is a queer writer from North Carolina and a recent graduate of the MFA program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she served as fiction editor of The Greensboro Review. Howse’s fiction and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Joyland, The Carolina Quarterly, Hobart, YES! Magazine, Sonora Review, and elsewhere. She has been awarded fellowships and residencies at the Millay Colony, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and Monson Arts. 

Tammy Heejae Lee

Tammy Heejae Lee.

Tammy Heejae Lee is a Korean American writer from Davis, California. She holds a BA from UC Davis and an MFA in fiction from the University of San Francisco, where she received a post-graduate teaching fellowship. A Tin House Summer Workshop and VONA/Voices alum, her writing has appeared in The Offing, PANK, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Split Lip Magazine. She is currently at work on her first novel about expat and hagwon culture in Seoul. 

Uche Okonkwo.

Uche Okonkwo. Photo by Rohan Kamicheril.

Uche Okonkwo has an MFA in fiction from Virginia Tech and a master’s in creative writing from University of Manchester, UK. Her stories have been published or are forthcoming in One Story, Ploughshares, The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2019, A Public Space, Lagos Noir, Per Contra, and Ellipsis. She was a 2019 Bernard O’Keefe Scholar at Bread Loaf, and a 2017 resident at Writers Omi. She is the recipient of the 2020-2021 George Bennett Fellowship at Phillips Exeter Academy—a fellowship established to provide time and freedom from material considerations to a selected writer each year. She is working on her first short story collection.

Timea Sipos.

Timea Sipos.

Timea Sipos is a Hungarian American writer, poet, and translator with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her writing and translations appear in Prairie Schooner, Passages North, Juked, The Offing, Denver Quarterly, The Bisexual Poetry Anthology, and elsewhere. She is a proud 2021 Pushcart Prize nominee, a PEN/Robert J. Dau Prize nominee, a Miami Book Fair Emerging Writers Fellowship Honorable Mention, and a Cecelia Joyce Johnson Award finalist. Her work has received support from the MacDowell Colony, the Vermont Studio Center, Tin House, the American Literary Translators Association, the Hungarian Translators’ House, the Black Mountain Institute, and the Nevada Arts Council, among others.

Brian Trapp

Brian Trapp. Photo by Marjorie Celona.

Brian Trapp is a fiction and creative nonfiction writer from Cleveland, Ohio. He has published work in the  Kenyon Review, Longreads, Gettysburg Review, Narrative, Brevity, and Ninth Letter, among other places. He won an Oregon Arts Fellowship and had an essay selected as the #1 Longread of the Week by Longreads.com. He received his PhD in comparative literature and disability studies from the University of Cincinnati, where he was an associate editor of the Cincinnati Review. He now teaches at the University of Oregon. He will be at work on a memoir about his twin brother Danny, who had cerebral palsy and intellectual disabilities and was also very funny. 

Named in honor of author John Steinbeck, the program is guided by his lifetime of work in literature, the media and environmental activism. The Steinbeck Fellows program was endowed through the generosity of SJSU Professor Emerita Martha Heasley Cox. The next deadline for applications is January 2, 2022. For eligibility and application instructions, visit http://www.sjsu.edu/steinbeck/fellows/.

 

SJSU Fire Weather Research Workshop Highlights Advances in Wildfire Prediction and Tracking

Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center

Photo courtesy of the SJSU Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center

California braces for yet another menacing fire season

Twice a month, San José State researchers collect samples from local vegetation, or “fuels”—and what they found for April was foreboding: Craig Clements, director of the SJSU Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center, told KPIX 5 News last week.

“This is the time of year when the fuels should have the most moisture content of the season, and they’re actually the lowest we’ve ever measured for April,” he said in the news report.

But there’s hope: Fire prediction and tracking tools are advancing—a key takeaway from SJSU’s Fire Weather Research Workshop held April 8-9—and the university is leading the effort in providing fire management agencies with state-of-the-art resources to help curb the spread of wildfires.

The virtual event drew hundreds of researchers, students and fire management stakeholders from 20 countries to discuss the latest research and technology on fighting wildfires.

On the same day, California Gov. Gavin Newson announced a $536 million plan to prepare the state for the upcoming fire season. The California Legislature passed the package on April 12, and Newsom signed it April 13.

Intel from above the flames

Once a windstorm and an ignition come together, there’s little to be done.

“There’s nothing you can do to stop that fire,” explained Clements.

The best shot is to try to contain the fire with an “initial attack,” he continued. “That’s where remote sensing technology comes in, because the sooner you can detect the fire, the faster you can get into it.”

WRF-SFIRE is a forecast and modeling system—and a crucial resource to help curb the spread of wildfires—that relies on remote sensing technology. Developed and operated by SJSU, the system pairs data from satellite and infrared imaging with a simulation tool, and it combines a weather forecast model (Weather Research Forecast) with a fire-spread model (SFIRE).

During the workshop, faculty shared updates on WRF-SFIRE, including the addition of wildfire smoke dispersion forecasts, improved data input and analysis, more options for running simulations, and even a mobile-friendly interface.

Adam Kochanski, assistant professor of wildfire modeling, shared how WRF-SFIRE now can model smoke behavior based on fire-spread predictions.

Adam Kochanski, assistant professor of wildfire modeling, shared how WRF-SFIRE now can model smoke behavior based on fire-spread predictions.

But while tracking and prediction technology is advancing, not enough satellite and infrared imaging data is being gathered in day-to-day fire management operations, noted Miguel Valero Peréz, assistant professor of wildfire behavior and remote sensing at SJSU. He said that bringing that process up to speed is crucial and requires widespread collaboration.

“We need to collaborate with everyone—fire management agencies, academia, industry. We can only solve this problem if we work together,” Valero Peréz emphasized.

Solving a bigger problem

Newsom’s package may be able to help the state get ahead of the game as another dangerous fire season approaches. His plan provides funding to invest in workforce training, vegetation and terrain management, home protection and more.

But the effort to track conditions needs to be year-round, Clements told NBC Bay Area News.

“We need to be doing predictions for the conditions that would lead up to a severe fire season, so using the state-of-the-science modeling we have at San José State and running that operationally throughout the whole season versus a fire here and a fire there like we usually do,” he explained on the news report.

Joaquin Ramirez is principal consultant with Technosylva, Inc., a wildfire technology company that partners with SJSU by using WRF-SFIRE to assist management agencies like Cal Fire during fire season. In 2020, they offered Cal Fire support with more than 9,000 fires.

Wildfires in 2020 California

Joaquin Ramirez of Technosylva, Inc., a wildfire technology company, provided a look back at 2020 fires in California.

He said the workshop is proof of the exciting research and technology in progress, but that there’s still much to do when it comes to solving the wider problem.

“An all-hands job is needed, starting from supporting citizens that understand that we have to live with fire in a smarter way—and that we need to support scientists as much as we support our firefighters.”

A community service

Clements said that while the workshop is about exchanging research and ideas, it’s also about providing information directly to those fighting fires on the front lines.

Because it’s free and several topics are covered in a shorter amount of time, it can be a good alternative to a conference, which might not always be an option for fire management agency employees.

“It’s part of our service to the community to host this workshop and to have it to be free to anyone,” he explained. “It’s about accessibility to the knowledge.”

WRF-SFIRE is available on mobile platforms

WRF-SFIRE is now accessible on mobile devices, a new addition to the system by wildfire researchers at SJSU.

Martin Kurtovich, senior utilities engineer for California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), said their staff participated to engage on important fire science topics—particularly wildfire modeling and predictions for forecasting future fire conditions.

He added, “I appreciate the important work being done at SJSU in not only conducting important research on California wildfires but also training future leaders in wildfire management.”

Learn more about SJSU’s Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center here.

How Has COVID-19 Impacted the Health and Well-being of the LGBTQ+ Community?: A Q&A With Laurie Drabble

Laurie Drabble.

Laurie Drabble, associate dean for research and faculty.

It’s known that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning+ (LGBTQ+) community face health disparities driven by social stigma and discrimination. But what happens when you introduce a global pandemic?

Laurie Drabble, associate dean for research and faculty with the San José State University College of Health and Human Sciences, explored the impact of COVID-19 on the LGBTQ+ community by serving as co-editor of a special issue of the Journal of Homosexuality, which was published earlier this year.

The issue also featured her recent research exploring alcohol and marijuana use among LGBTQ+ women during the pandemic.

The SJSU Editorial and News team sat down with Drabble to learn more:

What is the biggest takeaway from this special issue?

Laurie Drabble (LD): Social stigma and discrimination are important drivers of disparities in risk for depression, anxiety and suicidality among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-binary groups. LGBTQ+ people also reported more job loss and financial difficulty compared to heterosexual and cisgender people. These risks were amplified during the with COVID-19 pandemic and need to be addressed.

What surprised you about the research findings?

LD: Research in the special issue found that LGBTQ+ individuals were more likely than heterosexual people to adhere to social distancing guidelines. This may not be entirely surprising, given collective experience with the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.

That past experience heightened community buy-in about the importance of public health strategies to curb disease transmission—and contributed to viewing adherence to public health guidelines as more of a collective responsibility than an individual choice.

However, adhering to guidelines was also associated with psychological distress, which underscores the importance of both formal and social support in public health crises.

This issue pulls together data and research that spans the globe. Did the U.S. stand out?

LD: I was struck by the commonalities between countries. In particular, studies described the negative impact of losing access to LGBTQ+ positive spaces, reduced access to social support, and concerns about invisibility and potential discrimination.

It was also notable that LGBTQ+ people across countries use technology to connect with community, friends and family more than heterosexual and cisgender groups. This is likely a consequence of being part of a community that is defined by common identity rather than location. So, many LGBTQ+ people already used apps, social media and technology tools to find community before the pandemic.

Health disparities already existed in the LGBTQ+ community. Are we making any progress in closing these gaps?

LD: We were making progress in some ways. For example, research has consistently found that reducing structural stigma—such as the legalization of same-sex marriage—has helped reduce disparities in mental health outcomes.

However, research from our special issue and other studies suggest that LGBTQ+ people—particularly LGBTQ people of color—are disproportionately experiencing health and economic harms associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to make sure that policies and services intended to address the impact of the pandemic include the needs of LGBTQ+ populations.

Let’s talk about your research focusing on LGBTQ+ women and marijuana and alcohol use during the pandemic. What surprised you about what you learned?

LD: One of the more interesting findings was the degree to which routines or norms associated with alcohol and marijuana use were disrupted or changed.

For example, some study participants described drinking more because they used alcohol to mark the end of the day, and many described using more alcohol and marijuana to simply relieve stress or boredom. Others used less, because they were not spending time in social settings where they would typically drink alcohol or use marijuana with friends.

Sexual minority women had greater risks for hazardous drinking and drug use compared to heterosexual women before the pandemic, so it will be important to continue to study [post pandemic] whether or not these risks have been amplified over time.

Now that we have this information, what do we need to do about it?

LD: First, we need to continue to reduce stigma and address the economic impacts of the pandemic that disproportionately impact people of color and sexual and gender minorities.

For example, a growing number of states have passed harmful laws allowing health and social service providers to be exempt on religious grounds from laws prohibiting discrimination based on sex or gender identity. These trends are deeply concerning, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Second, given our research suggesting that LGBTQ+ people are frequent users of Internet-based communications and apps, enhancing access to online and remote health and mental health services would be timely.

Third, the research in this issue highlighted the importance of access to community and social support. So it is critical to provide financial support to ensure the survival of LGBTQ+ health and social service organizations, as well as LGBTQ+-centered physical spaces.

How can this information help us better care for the LGBTQ+ members of our SJSU community?

LD: For many LGBTQ+ young adults, university communities are important for finding safe and affirming support, particularly for students who may need to live with unsupportive families for financial reasons. Providing opportunities for social support and counseling—such as those provided by the SJSU PRIDE Center and Student Services—are crucial.

Read more about Drabble’s research and these topics.

Geology Professor Kim Blisniuk Unearths New Information About Southern California’s Next “Big One”

Kim Blisniuk, Associate Professor of Geology

Photo: Patrick Record

Ten years ago, two female geologists went for a hike in the Coachella Valley desert along a southern portion of the San Andreas Fault. One of them was Kimberly Blisniuk, now an associate professor of geology at San José State University. The pair spent days in the desert, traversing the landscape, studying its ridges and formations.

They weren’t sure what they were looking for. The San Andreas is a well-studied fault: The roughly 750-mile geographical rift running the length of most of California is positioned to set off what’s known as the next “Big One”—a massive earthquake predicted to strike Southern California, devastating the Los Angeles area, in particular.

Still, Blisniuk wanted to see if the terrain revealed something—anything—that might have been missed or not yet understood by geologists before them.

Sure enough, she found something. And after a decade of work to confirm her discovery, Blisniuk’s research, published March 24 in Science Advances, indicates that the highly anticipated earthquake—which scientists say is about 80 years overdue—might not ravage LA as much as previously thought.

Read the full story about Blisniuk’s findings here.

San José State Honors 2021 Faculty Award Winners

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

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

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

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

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

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

Outstanding Professor: Lionel Cheruzel, Professor, Department of Chemistry

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

Read a Q&A with each recipient below.

How the faculty awards started

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

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

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

Who makes the nominations and decisions?

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

Read the full list of award criteria.


2021 Faculty Award Winners

Matthew Spangler, Professor, Performance Studies

Matthew Spangler, Professor of Performance Studies
Department of Communication Studies

President’s Scholar Award

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

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

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

What brought you to San José State?

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

What inspired you to study this subject area?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Anu Basu, Professor, Business

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

Distinguished Service Award

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

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

What brought you to San José State?

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

What inspired you to study this subject area?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lionel Cheruzel, Professor, Chemistry

Lionel Cheruzel
Professor, Department of Chemistry

Outstanding Professor Award

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

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

What brought you to San José State?

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

What inspired you to study this subject area?

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

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

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

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

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


Mary Juno, Lecturer, Forensic Science

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

Outstanding Lecturer Award

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

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

What brought you to San José State?

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

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

What inspired you to study this subject area?

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

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

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

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

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


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

 

Annual SJSU Conference to Encourage Women to ‘Reimagine the Future’ of Engineering

Silicon Valley Women in Engineering Conference 2021

Diana Knobler, ‘22 Biomedical Engineering, grew up in a predominantly Hispanic Los Angeles neighborhood, where it was rare for high school students to attend four-year universities. After arriving at San José State, Knobler was surprised to discover she was even more of an exception to the rule than she thought.

“My introductory engineering course had three times as many male students as it did female students, and even fewer Latinx students,” Knobler explained.

That’s a big reason why she decided to attend this year’s Silicon Valley Women in Engineering Conference, which will be held virtually on Saturday, March 20, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The conference, in its seventh year, is hosted by the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering at San José State.

The conference’s theme is “Reimagine the Future,” and the event is open to students at SJSU and other higher ed institutions who want to learn about current trends and innovations in the field.

Keynote speakers include Renée DiResta, technical research manager for Stanford Internet Observatory; Ann Lee-Karlon, senior vice president of Genentech; and Jessica J. Marquez, human-systems engineer for NASA Ames Research Center. They will speak on how to detect misinformation on social media, new advances in biotechnology and future trends in space technology.

Attendees can choose from 12 technical talks about emerging technologies and six professional development sessions. They can also mingle with representatives from more than 50 Silicon Valley companies—including sponsors Google, IBM, Netgear, Lam Research and several others—during the conference’s Innovation Showcase.

The overall mission is to educate students, provide them with potential mentors and role models, and to create a community for women engineers in the Silicon Valley, according to Belle Wei, the Carolyn Guidry Chair of Engineering Education and Innovative Learning.

“Women are a minority in engineering classrooms—less than 20 percent of students in an engineering classroom are women,” said Wei, who serves on the conference committee.

“All of these speakers are highly accomplished women professionals,” she continued. “We want them to see that these women have worked hard, had a strategy, persevered and have been successful.”

Many of the students who attend the conference are in a position similar to Knobler’s. Jinny Rhee, conference chair and associate dean of undergraduate programs and student success for the College of Engineering, said attendees often come from underrepresented groups or are first-generation college students.

“So they might not have some of the support structures and infrastructure that other engineering students may take for granted,” Rhee added. “We want to allow them to reimagine the role engineering can take in a developed society. Engineering is there to make the world a better place, and we don’t want anyone to lose sight of that.”

Knobler does want to make the world a better place: She plans to one day introduce life-changing medical devices into the health-care field. After her first semester at SJSU, Knobler joined an engineering and technical sciences sorority, The Beta Upsilon Chapter of Alpha Omega Epsilon, and she said having a female support system has made all the difference.

“Being connected to so many amazing women through this conference feels like the first step to building an industry-level support system,” Knobler explained. “I hope to use the knowledge I gain from these women to become successful in the industry myself and one day return to do the same for [the next generation of] young female engineers.”

Laura Guio, ‘86 Marketing, is doing just that. When she entered the engineering industry more than 30 years ago, there were not many women to whom she could look for inspiration and guidance.

“Fast forward to today, and there are more women tech leaders, but not as many as I would have expected by this point in time,” said Guio, who now serves as general manager and executive for IBM. “As a woman technology leader and an SJSU graduate, I feel it is my responsibility and privilege to talk about my experience and encourage others while sharing my journey.”

Guio will talk about her experiences during a panel discussion on developing career strategies. Rhee and Wei want to see female students persist in their engineering careers long after graduation, but that doesn’t always happen.

“We know a lot of women leave technology fields soon after they graduate for various reasons, and that’s a shame,” Rhee noted. “The research says that the stronger your engineering identity, the more likely you are to get your degree and persist in the field after you graduate.”

They will ask attendees to complete pre- and post-event surveys to better understand how the conference can play a role in fostering that strong identity.

Guio said she wants attendees of the conference to know there are plenty of opportunities for success and many ways to pursue them.

“Everyone’s journey is their own, and you have to know yourself, your skills and what drives and motivates you to begin to understand the path you want to take,” Guio said.

“Technology needs diversity in representation, which brings diversity in thought. Studies show if you have a diverse mix of talent, this will improve performance and success. Most of all, I want to encourage these students to push forward, dream big, but take it one step at a time.”

To learn more about the conference, visit 2021.siliconvalleywie.org.

Lurie College Case Study Illuminates Unequal Access to Internet in Central California Amid COVID-19

California Assemblymember Rivas taps SJSU to provide data for new broadband legislation

In spring 2020, as schools began to close in-person instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic, California Assemblymember Robert Rivas, ’11 MPA, saw how “blatant” limited access to broadband Internet was negatively impacting families in his district—Assembly District 30, which spans from Morgan Hill to King City.

As a native of California’s central coast and an alumnus of San José State, Rivas hoped that by collaborating with faculty members to collect data in the region, the state Legislature would benefit from scientific information to help address the lack of broadband access in the state.

“COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated the broadband inequities that have existed in our state for years,” said Rivas.

Shortly after, a conversation with San José State Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Vincent Del Casino, Jr., sparked an opportunity for Rivas to gather data that could support potential legislation to improve broadband access.

Luis Poza, Tammie Visintainer and Eduardo Muñoz-Muñoz

(L-R) Luis Poza, Tammie Visintainer and Eduardo Muñoz-Muñoz

Heather Lattimer, dean of the Lurie College of Education, recommended that Assistant Professors of Teacher Education Luis Poza, Tammie Visintainer and Eduardo Muñoz-Muñoz collaborate to create a case study about the lack of broadband access in the coastal town of Watsonville. Together, the faculty partnered with teachers at Watsonville High School’s Education, Community, Humanitarian, Outreach (ECHO) Leadership Academy to create curriculum that involved high schoolers in the data collection process.

The project sought to answer a few key questions: How could students attend online school with limited Wi-Fi? How could residents access telehealth services without reliable Internet? And how did the pandemic shed light on infrastructure inequities across California?

Mapping Inequity

Students interviewed members of their communities about their Wi-Fi access since the pandemic began in March 2020. Poza and Visintainer presented the resulting case study, along with a series of maps created by the SJSU Spatial Analytics and Visualization (SAVi) Center, led by Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Ahoura Zandiatashbar, that depicted broadband access by demographic across District 30.

“Now that both jobs and education are increasingly relying on high-quality Internet access, the lack of Internet access means a barrier to the upward mobility of residents,” said Zandiatashbar. 

The maps specifically use American Community Survey 2018 data to highlight school-age children, Hispanic and African-American populations, as well as residents with below-poverty earnings. The SAVi team also used Fixed Broadband deployment data released by the Federal Communication Commission to identify four types of broadband service available. 

Early analysis revealed that communities with a higher proportion of vulnerable households live in areas with lower broadband access fixed services. 

“Our work shows that the neighborhoods of these individuals are suffering from insufficient service providers or the provided service is at a low speed,” explained Zandiatashbar.

“The fact that this region has had issues with Internet access has less to do with the Internet itself, but rather the populations affected,” said Muñoz-Muñoz. “Our racial identities connect with how we speak and choose to communicate, so these inextricable issues make it a social justice matter, a racial matter, a linguistic matter, and a right to learn matter.”

According to Poza, Internet access is not an all-or-nothing issue. A household might have to share wireless accounts across multiple families, which affects speed and reliability. Slow connectivity, in turn, makes it difficult for students to download resources and upload completed assignments.

This was acutely demonstrated when Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo tweeted an image of two young girls sitting outside Taco Bell with laptops in August of 2020, attempting to attend online school by accessing the restaurant’s Wi-Fi. The picture went viral, epitomizing the height of the digital divide.

“That photo captured this inequity at its core,” said Rivas. “Low-income families of color are facing the brunt of this pandemic, and it is research like San José State’s broadband report that informs our legislative response to this digital divide through data and facts.”

“Many of the participants mentioned the psychological and mental health costs of managing all this during a pandemic,” said Visintainer. “These kids are often portrayed as students who don’t care or aren’t motivated, but it’s very obvious that’s not the case and that they’re fighting so much harder to just access school right now, much less learn.”

From Research to Legislation

Poza and Visintainer were allotted five minutes with Rivas to explain how unequal access to Internet hotspots was just one way that the pandemic had amplified issues across the region. Central to their argument was that adding broadband infrastructure alone would not address the issues these communities experienced.

“Working with the ECHO Academy students, working with their teachers and hearing from their families and community members, made it abundantly clear that they are as brilliant, motivated and dignified as anyone in Silicon Valley,” said Poza.

“Their lack of access to broadband, housing or financial insecurity or their disproportionate exposure to COVID-19 risk are the results of policy decisions underlying these Band-Aid fixes around infrastructure in years past.”

How can policymakers and education researchers move beyond the Band-Aid? While there is no single cure for social, racial and economic inequity, this collaboration between the Lurie College and Assemblymember Rivas’ office is one critical step in closing the digital divide.

This was made clear in December, when Asm. Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, ’84 Accounting, introduced Assembly Bill 14, which Rivas co-authored, in the California Legislature. The bill, nicknamed the “Internet for All Act of 2021,” would allow educational agencies to report on issues with Internet access as it affects student learning.

“As a graduate of San José State, I am excited to work with the university community,” said Aguiar-Curry. “I know how educational, or anchor institutions, as they are defined in my AB 14, are critical hubs for learning and community engagement. We need the support of every educational, health and public safety institution in California so we can deliver 21st-century Internet technology to all Californians now.”

In the end, the 175 ECHO Academy students who participated in the project with the Lurie faculty had the satisfaction of knowing that the data they collected could lead to positive change not only in their hometown but also across the region. While their contributions could support Rivas’ campaign to improve wireless access, the project empowered students to reflect on pre-existing inequalities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and what steps they could take to address them.

SJSU Researchers Launch New COVID-19 Economic Dashboard for Silicon Valley

A dashboard showing various charts that focus on different areas such as unemployment claims and open businesses.

COVID-19 Economic Dashboard for Silicon Valley

Experts from the Department of Economics at San José State have developed a first-of-its-kind online tool to help Silicon Valley businesses analyze and respond to changing economic conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 Economic Dashboard for Silicon Valley provides visual insight into key economic indicators for the San José Metro area, including employment trends, housing supply and demand, and business closures due to COVID-19 restrictions. With near real-time updates, the dashboard can track the current state of the local economy and trends that show the impact of the pandemic on the Silicon Valley community.

Assistant Professor of Economics Justin Rietz and graduate student Ji An Lee, ‘21, MS Computer Science, with the support of the College of Social Sciences and College of Science, developed the dashboard for various users. “We have specifically targeted this tool to be useful for policymakers, researchers, government officials, business leaders and community members in the greater Bay Area,” said Assistant Professor Rietz.

The COVID-19 Economic Dashboard for Silicon Valley is unique because it tracks data daily at the local level. Most economic data is tracked monthly or quarterly at the state and national levels.

“Given the economic volatility created by COVID-19, it is important to have data on a daily basis that shows sudden changes in economic conditions,” said Assistant Professor Rietz. “Also, as policies put in place to fight COVID-19, such as shelter-in-place orders, are often at the county level, an accurate picture of local economic conditions requires granular data that can parse out trends that might otherwise be lost in data aggregated at the state or national level.”

The timely and targeted insights provided by the COVID-19 Economic Dashboard for Silicon Valley can also aid in local government policy-making regarding the pandemic, provide business leaders with a tool to help determine potential customer demand, and help inform personal and commercial real estate pricing decisions.

New Study Sheds Light on Endangered Seabirds and the Need for International Protection

Laysan and black-footed albatrosses at Tern Island, French Frigate Shoals, Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Photo credit: SJSU Professor Scott Shaffer

SJSU Biological Sciences Professor Scott Shaffer and an international team of researchers published a paper in the scientific journal Science Advances on endangered seabirds’ movements and the need to protect these highly threatened seabirds using a global approach.

The researchers tracked the movements of 5,775 individual birds belonging to 39 species from across the globe. The birds were equipped with bio-loggers, or miniature electronic data recorders, at 87 remote breeding sites in 17 countries.

In the Pacific Ocean alone, researchers studied albatrosses at colonies on the Japanese island of Torishima in the North Pacific, to subantarctic islands of New Zealand and Australia in the South Pacific, which hosts some of the highest diversity of albatrosses and petrels globally.

“This was a truly international effort for a global conservation need,” said Professor Shaffer. “Hopefully, the results of this research will bring about meaningful change to protect these amazing ocean travelers.”

The researchers found that all albatrosses and petrels studied spend at least 39% of their time on the high seas, which are international waters where no single country has jurisdiction. Yet, these high seas regions cover half of the world’s oceans and a third of the earth’s surface. They discovered all species regularly cross into other countries’ territorial waters, meaning that no single nation can adequately ensure their conservation.

“Seabirds like albatrosses are the ultimate globetrotters,” said Martin Beal, lead author of the study at the Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre at Instituto Universitário in Lisbon, Portugal (ISPA). “But this incredible lifestyle makes them vulnerable to threats in places where legal protection is inadequate.”

Albatrosses and large petrels are among the world’s most threatened animals, with over half of the species at risk of extinction. While at sea, they face many threats, including injury or death from entanglement with fishing gear, the impact from pollution, and loss of their natural prey due to overfishing and climate change.

“This means that a Black-footed Albatross breeding in the protected Northwest Hawaiian Islands can fall victim to a fishing operation from any number of flag nations on the high seas,” said Professor Shaffer. “Protective measures to avoid bird entanglements are not standardized, and it’s a real challenge to verify compliance at any given time.”

For example, the endangered Amsterdam Albatross spends 47% of its time in the international waters of the Indian Ocean. Although it benefits from strong protection at its only breeding colony on Amsterdam Island (one of the French Southern Territories), its conservation at sea is much more challenging.

When roaming the seas in search of their prey—squid, the fewer than 100 remaining adult Amsterdam Albatrosses use a vast area stretching from South Africa to Australia, requiring international coordination to minimize the risk of being killed in fishing gear.

In a global-scale collaboration, the team of researchers revealed the extent to which seabirds connect countries, as well as to the high seas. The study comes as the United Nations discusses a global treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in international waters.

“Our study unequivocally shows that albatrosses and large petrels need reliable protection that extends beyond the borders of any single country,” said Beal. “This treaty represents a massive opportunity for countries to commit to protecting species wherever they may roam.”

Legal measures up for discussion under the treaty include instituting environmental impact assessments on industrial activities in the high seas.  Beal added, “Animals have no concept of human borders. What we have shown here with seabirds is certainly true for many other marine animals, like sea turtles, seals, whales, and fish. To ensure their survival, we must work together to protect and conserve the global ocean.”

The study was made possible thanks to the cooperation of dozens of researchers across 16 countries, who agreed to share their data through the Seabird Tracking Database, a repository managed by BirdLife International to facilitate international collaborations between researchers working on the conservation of seabirds.

Electrical Engineering Faculty Receives NSF CAREER Award for Cryogenic Electronics Research

Hiu-Yung Wong, assistant professor of electrical engineering at SJSU, with graduate students

Assistant Professor Hiu Yung Wong; Johan Saltin, ’20 MS Electrical Engineering; and Varada Kanchi, ’20 MS Electrical Engineering in the SJSU M-PAC lab.

Hiu-Yung Wong, assistant professor of electrical engineering at San José State University, has received a Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award, a prestigious honor bestowed by the National Science Foundation. The award supports his research of cryogenic electronics—electrical systems that operate at extremely cold temperatures—as well as his project to expand education and research opportunities while building a diverse workforce in the field.

Wong is the first faculty member in more than 15 years in the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering to receive a CAREER award, which supports early-career faculty who show potential as leaders in both their academic and research roles and in advancing the mission of their department or organization.

Wong will receive about $500,000 over five years to implement his project, “Understanding and Modeling of Cryogenic Semiconductor Device Physics down to 4.2K.” While scientists understand the physics of electronics and their surroundings at room temperature, they still don’t fully grasp what happens at extremely cold, cryogenic temperatures, Wong explained.

He wants to close that knowledge gap, which could pave the way for the large-scale realization of quantum computers—as well as interstellar voyages. “Cryogenic-integrated circuits (ICs) are the natural candidate for the exploration of deep space, in which the temperature can drop below 4.2K,” Wong noted. (That’s equivalent to minus 452° Fahrenheit.)

In addition to the research, Wong wants to expand access to cryogenic electronics education, which is not as prevalent in electrical engineering programs today.

He’ll use the funding to develop two courses at San José State focused on cryogenic electronics that will be part of a specialization in the Electrical Engineering master’s program and create hands-on research opportunities for undergraduates.

Ultimately, Wong wants to build a future workforce in the field in a way that promotes diversity and uplifts underserved populations. For example, he plans to introduce a new session on cryogenics and quantum computing at the Silicon Valley Women in Engineering Conference, which connects female students—a minority in engineering programs—with women engineering professionals.

He will also develop a free summer course on cryogenics that will be geared towards socially and economically disadvantaged high school students.

“The goal is to build a pipeline of future students in quantum computing to create a diverse workforce and become an economic driver for vulnerable communities,” he said.

“We are so proud of Hiu-Yung’s achievements,” said Sheryl Ehrman, the Don Beall Dean of the College of Engineering. “He joined our college in 2018 with 12 years of industry experience, and he is a proud graduate from the Engineering Grants Academy program. This is our first home-grown CAREER award since the early 2000s.”

Wong said the award opens up several new research possibilities as well as collaboration opportunities with quantum computing companies.

“This award allows me to venture into more uncertain but also more rewarding research areas,” he added. “I particularly want to thank Dean Ehrman and Electrical Engineering Department Chair Thuy Le for creating a very supportive research environment.”

San José State University Launches Cybersecurity and Coding Bootcamps With Fullstack Academy

Photo courtesy of Fullstack Academy

To meet demand for tech jobs in the region, San José State University (SJSU) and Fullstack Academy have launched tech bootcamp programs focused on training aspiring cybersecurity and coding professionals.

Offered through SJSU’s College of Professional and Global Education (CPGE), the bootcamps will be presented in a live online format and are geared to train early-career and experienced professionals of any IT level.

Equipping students with the skills and portfolios to enter the tech workforce in just 26 weeks, the SJSU/Fullstack program is uniquely positioned to serve the burgeoning Silicon Valley market, a region long considered the nation’s center for technology and innovation.

San José has more than 10,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs and nearly 17,000 software job openings, according to Cyberseek.

Bootcamp graduates will qualify for high paying cybersecurity or coding jobs. Pay for beginner-level software engineers in the area is roughly $95,000, and cybersecurity analysts are making nearly $80,000 according to Glassdoor. Both figures well exceed the average San José entry-level salary of $36,807.

“Tracing its origins to Silicon Valley, the tech industry continues to grow at an accelerated pace,” said SJSU College of Professional and Global Education Dean, Ruth Duran Huard, Ph.D. “While these cybersecurity and coding bootcamps will present opportunities for those interested in transitioning into the tech market, the part-time live online format provides greater accessibility to anyone considering a career change or looking to develop a new skill-set.”

“Given the influence of the California market, it’s essential that we continue to expand our footprint in the state,” said Mogan Subramanian, president of Fullstack Academy. “To meet the state’s ever-growing demand for skilled technology experts, we’ve now partnered with our fifth prestigious higher learning institution, having already launched with the University of San Diego; Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo; CalTech; and California State University East Bay.”

Applications are now being accepted for the new part-time, 26-week bootcamps. The SJSU Cyber Bootcamp will teach students how to monitor and secure systems, networks and applications, and deploy offensive and defensive tactics needed to appropriately respond to cyber breaches. The SJSU Coding Bootcamp will provide Fullstack JavaScript training, giving students a foundation in front- and back-end web development and the crucial programming skills needed for in-demand coding jobs.

The bootcamps, which do not require SJSU enrollment or prior technical experience, will run from May 24 to November 20, 2021. Students must apply for the bootcamps by May 13, 2021. Scholarships are offered for SJSU alumni, current students and employees, as well as military personnel.

Faculty Member Pens Commemoration Letter for International Holocaust Remembrance Day

Editor’s note: The following is a commemoration letter written by Anat Balint, coordinator of SJSU’s Jewish Studies Program.

Graphic that reads Yom Hashoab: Holocaust Remembrance Day

On this day, January 27, International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust—six million Jews, among them 1.5 million children, who were murdered by the Nazis and those who cooperated with them. Millions of others were persecuted, imprisoned and tortured by the Nazis and those who cooperated with them in Europe, 1939-1945. 

The Holocaust was a unique event in the history of mankind: For the first time people had organized for the systematic extermination of other people based on racist beliefs that were nurtured by hatred, incitement and false information. The systematic murder of the Jews during WWII has brought the Jewish people on the verge of extinction.

The Holocaust happened because of the leadership and decision making of a few, the active cooperation of many and the silence and indifference of the majority of people in the countries that were under Nazi occupation.

On this day we stand in memory of those millions who were murdered, we stand by those who survived and are still with us and listen to their stories, we stand by the truth and the facts of history, and think of what can be done so that “never again”—not only for the Jews, but for any group of people—would not be just a wish.  

It is easy to think of how one would never take part in perpetration and how one would stand against its own victimization, but like the majority of non-Jews during WWII, most of us are none.

This is the day to remember the words of the prominent Israeli Holocaust scholar, Yehuda Bauer:

“Thou shall not be a perpetrator, thou shall not be a victim, and thou shall never, but never, be a bystander.” 

The International Holocaust Remembrance Day marks the anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi Concentration and Extermination Camp of Auschwitz-Birkenau, 76 years ago. Approximately 1.35 million people were murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

You can follow virtual events to commemorate the International Holocaust Remembrance Day this year here.

Please find here a poem by Abba Kovner: We Shall Remember (Yizkor). Kovner was a poet and one of the leaders of the Jewish underground in Vilna Ghetto. Kovner was the first to claim, in 1942, that Hitler has an organized plan to exterminate the Jews in Europe.   

-The Jewish Faculty and Staff Association and the Jewish Studies Program

SJSU Hosts Wildfire Briefing: Addressing Wildfire and Smoke Impacts in California

(L-R) Vincent J. Del Casino, SJSU Provost, Eli Goodsell, Director of Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserves, California State University, Chico, Craig Clements, Professor and Director of the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center, San José State University

Wildfire is one of the most critical issues facing California in the 21st century. According to CalFire, five of the top 20 wildfires in California occurred in 2020, including the largest single fire in state history. The agency reports a record 4.2 million acres burned,10,500 structures damaged or destroyed, and 33 people killed due to wildfires in 2020 alone.

To address the problem, San José State University brought together wildfire experts from across the California State University (CSU) system at the Addressing Wildfire and Smoke Impacts in California briefing on January 15, 2021.

California State Senator John Laid, representing District 17, provided opening remarks at the briefing.

“Simply put, we are at an inflection point about wildland fire in California,” Senator Laird said. “We have to work to make sure we change how California responds, and that is the important message of today.”

Wildfire experts from eight CSU campuses participated in the briefing, including:

  • Lisa Bentley, Assistant Professor, Sonoma State University
  • Craig Clements, Professor and Director of the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center, San José State University
  • Eli Goodsell, Director of Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserves, California State University, Chico
  • Megan Jennings, Assistant Adjunct Professor and Director of the Institute for Ecological Monitoring and Management, San Diego State University
  • Jeff Kane, Associate Professor and Director of the Wildland Fire Laboratory, Humboldt State University
  • Matt E. Rahn, Director of the Environmental Leadership Institute, California State University, San Marcos
  • Michael Thomas, Retired Chief for Los Angeles Fire Department and Assistant Professor at CAL State, LA
  • Dan Turner, Interim Director of the Wildland Urban Interface Institute, California Polytechnic State University

The experts discussed the impacts of climate change on landscapes and species; the need to look at the wildland-urban interface and community build-outs; the risk to vulnerable populations, especially indigenous communities and those that have been impacted by wildfires already; and the massive economic impacts of wildfires.

Each CSU representative also talked about how their campus is helping to mitigate wildfires and wildfire smoke impacts through research, analysis, state-of-the-art prediction tools, and educating future wildfire scientists.

SJSU Professor and Director of the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center Craig Clements told participants, “Our Fire and Smoke Prediction System (WRF-SFIRE) is the most advanced forecasting tool in the nation. We ran it operationally over the fires in the Bay Area all fire season. We hope to run it over the entire state of California in 2021 to protect communities from smoke impacts better. To do this, we will need increased computing resources.”

More than 220 people, including local and state legislative staff, government agency officials, industry and academic representatives attended the virtual briefing.

“At the CSU, we are tackling this fast-growing problem head-on by making investments in leading-edge fire research, both basic and applied,” said SJSU Provost Vincent J. Del Casino, who moderated the briefing. “We are also passionate about educating the next generation of fire scientists at both the undergraduate and graduate level. Workforce development, which builds resilience in communities and natural environments, is a key part of the DNA of the CSU.”

The recording of the Addressing Wildfire and Smoke Impacts in California briefing is here

Learn more about SJSU’s research and work related to wildfires:

SJSU Establishes the Nation’s Largest Interdisciplinary Research Center in the Read about San José State’s Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center

Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center at SJSU

 

 

Research Shows Lockdowns Did Not Decrease Park Visits

A single white crane stands in the middle of a brownish grassy field with a lake path curving behind.

Photo: Robert Bain / San José State University.

Assistant Professor of Urban and Regional Planning Ahoura Zandiatashbar scoured publicly available data and found that although we have limited our visits to stores, Americans are still visiting parks and beaches at near pre-pandemic rates.

In the journal Landscape and Urban Planning, Zandiatashbar—a newly hired faculty member in SJSU’s Department of Urban and Regional Planning in the College of Social Sciences—published a study he co-authored with Shima Hamidi, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

Using publicly available data, Zandiatashbar and Hamidi looked at millions of trips in 771 counties. Their model studied the period when the COVID-19 pandemic reduced daily visits to grocery stores, pharmacies and transit stations. They found that people visited “essential” destinations such as grocery stores 13 percent less frequently, yet they did not shy away from visiting parks and beaches.

“It gives us a clue that parks are quite important, because people are not reducing their visits,” Zandiatashbar said. “Staying at home increases anxiety. To reduce it, people are relying more and more on park facilities.”

People in more densely populated areas significantly reduced their trips to stores, but not to outdoor spaces—“possibly due to the smaller homes, lack of private yards and the higher level of anxiety amid the pandemic,” the study found. Residents who lived near restaurants may also have more affordable ways to order home delivery online. Reduced in-person shopping leaves time for more frequent park visits, Zandiatashbar said.

Zandiatashbar and Hamidi examined areas based on “compactness”—a measure of four factors: population density, land use, activity centering (how spread out activities are) and walkability. Over the years, compact, dense walkable residential development has been demonstrated to have multiple health benefits. However, the COVID-19 pandemic had some people questioning whether high population densities would be associated with increased viral transmission. “From day one of COVID-19,” Zandiatashbar said, “there was a perception that urban density spreads the virus, but multiple research studies show that urban density was not positively associated with spread of virus, which was interesting.” Residents of less dense areas may consolidate trips, making rarer visits to a single big-box store for grocery, pharmacy and other purchases—but they may also take fewer precautions.

Zandiatashbar and Hamidi surmise why people in denser areas might not necessarily be spreading the virus more widely. “Residents of dense areas have a greater exposure to first-hand information about the susceptibility to the virus,” the study reads. “Knowing people who are being infected is a more powerful force in following social distancing advisories than just hearing about the disease from the media outlets.”

“This finding shows the need for a closer attention to parks,” Zandiatashbar said. During stay-at-home orders, policy should support public use of parks and beaches, while maintaining precautions to prevent them from becoming spreader places, he said. “Local authorities need to be aware that people are going to visit parks more often. Therefore, they have to increase the infrastructure in the parks to make sure that social distancing is being maintained,” Zandiatashbar said.

COVID-19 notwithstanding, he said, “Public parks are a public health resource and great assets in the community. During shelter in place, we saw that park visits are more important than ever and necessary for mental health.”

NPR’s Marketplace reported that steady, intensive public visits to parks now add costs to the strained budgets of the local governments tasked with the additional expense of sanitizing and cleaning them.

“Our policy suggestion includes public education on how to use parks during lockdown or shelter in place. When we saw the results we were happy that people are trying to get some relief from stress. There’s a need for more public education and public information on how to use parks during this time.”

Zandiatashbar is an expert in mining geospatial data, locating patterns such as those found here. The publicly available Google data was based on anonymized mobility information from millions of Android, iPhone and Google Maps users.

Frequently partnering with local communities, Zandiatashbar has published widely on the impact of urban development on the knowledge economy. His research aims to provide data analysis that assists communities with better decision making.
 

Collaborative of CSU Art Museums and Galleries Announces Virtual Event Series

The newly formed ConSortiUm, a ground-breaking collaborative project of art museums and galleries from the California State University (CSU) system, is pleased to announce a virtual event series that actively engages students, faculty and staff members, and communities through visual arts-based dialogue.

The inaugural program, PLATFORM, launched in September 2020, includes six live virtual conversations with contemporary artists, collectives, and curators whose work is critical to current re-imaginings of the art world and the world at large.

“The goal of the PLATFORM speaker series is to be accessible to anyone in any discipline. It is to make sure we address the issues that are going to be at the top of our student’s minds as well as the faculty’s minds at this moment in time,” said Natalie and James Thompson Art Galleries Director and Collections Manager Alena Sauzade.

According to Sauzade, all of the speakers in the series have been hand-chosen to be meaningful during these times, and the talks will not just pique the interest of art historians and designers but it’s meant to cut a broad swath “that could address contemporary topics ranging from the environment to immigration to social justice,” said Sauzade.

The Thompson Gallery is the first of all the ConSortiUm art museums and galleries to transition to a digital format back in April 2020. “We hosted our first webinar lecture at the end of the spring semester. I brought that idea up to the ConSortiUm members as a possibility,” said Sauzade.

The PLATFORM speaker series fits well with the gallery’s Tuesday night lectures and all the other great programming that’s happening in the College of Humanities and the Arts. Most of the gallery’s program has shifted online, including lectures and exhibitions, without impeding content and productivity.

San José State will be co-hosting two lectures next semester. Spring 2021 lectures will feature Oakland-based People’s Kitchen Collective and multidisciplinary artist Shaun Leonardo.

According to Sauzade, all of the speakers’ sessions will be inspiring for students, especially People’s Kitchen Collective, a group of social activists artists who work with local issues of food insecurity and food poverty in the Bay Area. “It may seem that art is disconnected from something like food, but actually it’s not at all,” said Sauzade.

The final event for 2020 will occur on Thursday, November 12 at noon and includes a presentation by Forensic Architecture founder Eyal Weizman. A London-based artists’ collective, Forensic Architecture undertakes advanced spatial and media investigations into cases of human rights violations, with and on behalf of communities affected by political violence, human rights organizations, international prosecutors, environmental justice groups, and media organizations. The collective’s work often involves open-source investigation, the construction of digital and physical models, 3D animations, virtual reality environments, and cartographic platforms.

ConSortiUm recognizes that CSU students are integral to creating a new future, and is therefore committed to providing access to a multiplicity of voices and inspiration as students discover and nurture their own agency.

All events will be presented live via Zoom with access to all CSU campuses. Recordings of the events will be available for post-live stream viewing and archived by the sponsoring institutions. These events are free and open to the public.

EVENT INFORMATION: 2020

Artist Beatriz Cortez in conversation with Erin Christovale, Associate Curator, Hammer Museum
Thursday, September 24, 5:30 p.m.
Hosted by Cal Poly Pomona, CSU Long Beach, and CSU Northridge To register for the Zoom webinar visit: https://www.cpp.edu/platform-csu-art-speaker-series/ .

Postcommodity : A conversation with artists Cristóbal Martínez and Kade L. Twist Thursday, October 22, 5:30 p.m.
Hosted by CSU Humboldt, CSU Long Beach and Fresno State

Forensic Architecture: A conversation with founder Eyal Weizman
Thursday, November 12, noon

Hosted by CSU Bakersfield and Sacramento State

The CSU system represents the largest public four-year college system in the country, with more than 480,000 students enrolled at 23 campuses. ConSortiUm formed when CSU announced remote teaching would continue through the end of 2020. ConSortiUm members are dedicated to supporting students, artists, and their campuses’ surrounding communities during the pandemic, while also responding to the pressing demand for an end to systemic and overt racism in California and beyond.

67 New SJSU Faculty Members Hired Since COVID-19 Pandemic Began

As San José State University faces a historic $92 million budget cut, SJSU continues to demonstrate its investment in its educational mission by hiring 65 new faculty members since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020. Two additional faculty members were recruited during this time period and will be starting in fall 2021. Faculty members span colleges and disciplines, from Justice Studies to Marketing and Business Analytics to members of the newly-formed Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center (WIRC).

The latest faculty cohort reflects San José State’s commitment to diversity and inclusion in more than one way. According to University Personnel, 53 percent of new hires identify as women, 10 percent identify as Latinx, six percent as Black, 25 percent as Asian and 39 percent as white.

Senior Director of Faculty Affairs James Lee provided additional data to demonstrate how the demographics of incoming faculty members have changed since 2015.

*Prior years using PeopleSoft Data. AY 20-21, Interfolio. 2 or more race/ethnicity is not reported.

Interim Vice Provost for Faculty Success and Chicano/a Studies Professor Magdalena Barrera said that new and returning faculty must be cognizant of challenges that students are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Our goal is to attract a very diverse pool of faculty applicants—diverse in terms of their training, their areas of expertise, their gender, their ethno-racial identities along multiple axes,” said Barrera. “It’s important that faculty are understanding of issues around diversity and inclusion and are very equity-minded in their approach, using their training and creativity to the best of their abilities to be empathetic towards students. They are helping students get through a very challenging time and it’s important that they keep them motivated to stick with school and make progress toward their degrees.”

Deanna Fassett, assistant vice provost for faculty development at the Center for Faculty Development (CFD) and former chair of SJSU’s Communication Studies department, adapted much of the CFD’s previously face-to-face onboarding activities for remote work. Fassett said the shift to online programming has gone smoothly, with weekly trainings over Zoom ranging from curriculum development for online learning to anti-racist pedagogies. Professional development workshops are recorded and available for members who may not be able to attend in real time.

“This is the most resourced group of [new] faculty” at San José State, Fassett said. “They’re getting the effort and the labor and the drive behind me, eCampus Senior Director Jennifer Redd, our new Equity and Accessibility Educator Valin Jordan and their department chairs. We’re building out guides for how to have more interactive classrooms. There are new Teach Anywhere and Learn Anywhere website resources. Facing new challenges, we leaned in and asked, how can we be better in online mode? The Chancellor’s Office really enabled us to do that.”

“I was really looking forward to getting into the classroom and connecting with students,” said Hillary Hurst, theoretical physicist and newly minted assistant professor of physics and astronomy. She completed some of the activities online while moving from Washington D.C. to California this summer. “I’ve had to rethink some things about how I teach my courses. Jump Start offered an asynchronous onboarding course for faculty members. I started doing sessions before we moved, I continued completing them while we were on our road trip and finished the course in California. I’m looking forward to completing the online teaching certificate this winter. While it’s tough feeling like I’m not quite getting to know the students, I am working on improving my online teaching.”

Fassett also believes that hiring new faculty and updating recruitment and retention practices helps the overall health of the university.

“The better our faculty teach, the more students will come back to us, the better we will retain them, and we will continue to help them advance to their professional goals,” said Fassett. “Our university remains more relevant than ever, and that shows in our enrollments and in the work our faculty do.” ”

Both Fassett and Barrera said that by investing in recruiting, retaining and investing in the continued professional development of faculty, San José State can better address Graduation Initiative 2025, an ambitious system-wide campaign to increase graduation rates while eliminating equity gaps.

“This is a critical moment for us to observe student needs and not lose focus on Graduation Initiative 2025,” said Barrera. “A lot of historically underrepresented students find online learning challenging because they don’t have regular or reliable Internet access. Many of them have taken on more hours at work to provide economically for their loved ones. Incoming faculty members need to be aware of these challenges. How do we turn these into opportunities to really connect with faculty members in terms of their pedagogical styles? We have to think creatively about building community when we can’t physically be together in the classroom or on campus. We want to not just meet those goals; we want to be a leader among the CSU. We have a bigger mission and together we’re working towards it.”

SJSU Center for Community Learning and Leadership Launches Civic Action Fellowship

A young girl with long brown hair hovers over her desk as she works on an electric device.

Photo: David Schmitz / San José State University.

San José, Calif.— San José State University’s Center for Community Learning and Leadership (CCLL) is pleased to announce the launch of the Civic Action Fellowship—a partnership between the California Volunteers within the Office of the Governor, AmeriCorps and a coalition of public and private universities—designed to help students pay for college while addressing regional challenges.

This unique collaboration between federal and state funds will allow 44 San José State undergraduate and graduate students from diverse disciplines to become AmeriCorps Civic Action Fellows and engage in virtual service during a time of great crisis triggered by the COVID-19 global pandemic. CCLL received $75,000 for planning and $480,868 ($136,106, federal funds and $344,762, state funds) for implementation as part of the grants.

The goal of the fellowship is to ensure a new cohort of California citizens committed to addressing local and state challenges, public concerns and a life of public engagement. The students who dedicate time to public service will receive financial support to obtain a college degree designed to position them for success in career and life.

“San José State students will meet some of the highest needs in our country during this time, first, by providing STEM education to underserved youths in surrounding neighborhoods. And second, by contributing to health promotion around COVID-19 through high-impact social media campaigns,” said CCLL Director and SJSU Professor of Psychology Elena Klaw.

The Civic Action Fellows will primarily work with local after-school programs to provide computer programming enrichment for underserved third- and sixth-grade youths. In addition, Civic Action Fellows will participate in the city of San José and Santa Clara County initiatives. For their efforts, the fellows will receive a monthly living allowance and an education award upon completion of the program.

“The Civic Action Fellowship enabled our center to expand upon our Cyber Spartans program. We now have the capacity to increase our partnerships, reach more youths and expand the content the youths are taught from only cybersecurity to civic engagement and health promotion,” said CCLL Assistant Director Andrea Tully.

Since the once completely in-person program is now entirely virtual, Tully said, “Our fellows are learning how to teach computer programming in unplugged ways through interactive kits that have puzzles and other games. They’re learning how to provide social-emotional support virtually to youths who struggled with online learning when the stay at home orders were first issued in spring.”

Joshua Lawson, ’23 Computer Science, who worked earlier on the Cyber Spartans Program said the Civic Action Fellowship program offered him the opportunity to design a lot of the curriculum being used. “I was actually in charge of a lot of the design of the curriculum and had written a lot of programs and units of work that were designed to be either in person or in small groups with mentors,” said Lawson.

Due to COVID-19, the team had to dramatically change the curriculum over the last couple of months to adapt to the online environment. Lawson enjoyed the transition process as it allowed him to build a critically thought out creative project. Now, the virtual program model includes time to interact virtually with San José State fellows, as well as kits that students can work on at home.

Mercedes Mansfield, ’22 MS Occupational Therapy, who is working with the CCLL for the first time, said, “the program is important, as it will help me gain experience in hands-on work with members in underserved communities, as well as help me develop leadership skills.” Mansfield and Lawson both agree that the CCLL weekly seminars have helped to broaden their knowledge on societal issues and what they can do to create a larger change in the communities they serve.

“Our model at the Center for Community Learning and Leadership has always been innovative in that although there are many organizations on campus that provide service, our emphasis is long-standing mutually beneficial relationships that address ongoing community needs,” said Klaw.

CCLL works closely with Campbell Unified School District’s Expanded Learning Program, as well as its long-standing partner, Third Street Community Center, located very close to the SJSU campus.

“The pandemic caused unprecedented challenges to our program launch, as it has for our community partners and for the families of the youths our fellows serve. They are learning patience and resilience that I know will serve them well in their future careers,” Tully added.

SJSU Recognized as Adobe Creative Campus

A female and make student smile while admiring graphic design posters lined up on the wall.

Students look at graphic design posters on the wall prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Jim Gensheimer / San José State University.

San José State University has been named an Adobe Creative Campus for its commitment to using technology to provide students with a transformative path to success.

SJSU is among a select group of colleges and universities Adobe identified as higher education innovators actively advancing digital literacy skills across the curriculum. By making Adobe Creative Cloud available to its students, SJSU provides creative and persuasive digital communication tools that will give them an edge in the competitive modern workplace.

“San José State is honored to be recognized by Adobe as a Creative Campus,” said Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs, Vincent J. Del Casino Jr. “There is nothing more important in today’s world than creative and digital literacy. By providing our students with access to these creative software tools, we can enable them to do wonderful things in the digital world, but also to gain expertise at productive collaboration. Being named an Adobe Creative Campus is one of the many puzzle pieces we are putting in place to ensure that SJSU students can take advantage of as many opportunities as possible.”

SJSU students have access to all the Adobe Creative Cloud apps and services at no additional cost. Universal access to these industry leading communication tools is part of SJSU’s endeavor to prioritize equity and inclusion, leveling the playing field in the classroom. By becoming proficient in the software used every day by so many employers, SJSU students can gain valuable experience and soft skills to better demonstrate their digital literacy capabilities when entering the job market.

There are more than 20 Adobe Creative Cloud applications that students can practice with every day, including InDesign, Photoshop, Premiere Rush and Illustrator—leading industry standard applications across the curriculum used by many employers where SJSU students will be working.

“Digital literacy and fluency are quickly becoming core competencies for employment opportunities on an international scale,” said Sebastian Distefano, director, education strategic development. “One of the most effective ways academic institutions can ensure their students become digitally literate and fluent before they enter the competitive workforce is through early and frequent exposure to creative tools. We are delighted that San José State University has embraced Adobe Creative Cloud, as students will now have the tools they need to seamlessly unlock their creativity and share their stories in more visually compelling ways. As a result, students of all majors can nurture the fundamental soft skills that will be critical to success in their future careers.”

As an Adobe Creative Campus, San Jose State University will also have access to peer-to-peer collaboration with other Adobe Creative Campus institutions, support for driving student adoption in the classroom, and thought leadership opportunities within the global higher education community.

John Delacruz Named as a 2020 Adobe Master Teacher

Professor John Delacruz gestures with his hands while teaching his class.

John Delacruz teaches a course prior to COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Jim Gensheimer / San José State University

Associate Professor John Delacruz was included as one of Adobe’s inaugural Master Teachers, one of 35 educators in K-12 and higher education selected from across the globe. The program recognizes pedagogical expertise, educational innovation, and a commitment by “master teachers” to share their best practices, insights, and curricular materials with educators across the globe. The summer program included a professional learning community within the cohort, training on instructional design and professional curriculum writing, and a badge to share on professional profiles.

An experienced educator in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication, Delacruz is responsible for the Creative Track of San José State’s advertising program. The fellowship recognizes his expertise in using Adobe Creative Cloud in his teaching, his ongoing development of industry and education partnerships, and his success guiding student collaborative projects nationally and internationally.

Delacruz said, “The collaboration tools, Adobe Creative Cloud, that I’m using in the classroom now are the collaboration tools that they’re going to be using when they get out into the working world.”

Last spring, in Delacruz’s senior capstone course in design for advertising, students created awareness campaigns for a local business or local nonprofit organization. Using the Adobe Creative Cloud, students make real-world advertising creative projects and pitch them to real clients. Delacruz said the projects his seniors did in class matched how they will work once they start their jobs.

“For a lot of my students, this is such a big taste of the real world,” Delacruz said. “They’re learning a bunch of digital tools they’re going to have to use to move forward. They get to present orally, they ideate and collaborate in teams, and they work through a problem using critical thinking and understanding user groups and people.

“Adobe Creative Cloud is what industries are built on,” he said. “Even in this online moment, our students are learning skills that are really going to help them in the workplace.”

Delacruz has been a campus and statewide leader in using Adobe communication tools to augment his teaching. Last year, SJSU hosted a unique virtual Adobe Creative Jam with participants from seven other California State Universities.

All of these partnering initiatives are part of the connection that becoming an Adobe Creative Campus brings with it. SJSU collaboration with other Adobe Creative Campus institutions is designed to foster the sharing of ideas and innovations that expand digital literacy on the path to student success.

SJSU Clinical Lab Scientist Training Program Expands in a Crisis

A professor in a lab coat watches her student conduct research in a lab.

Photo: Robert Bain / San José State University.

Waiting on medical test results can be unpleasant, and the expansion of San José State’s Clinical Laboratory Scientist Training program could reduce those painful wait times. By building new hospital partnerships, the program serves as a crucial component in California’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

From Bakersfield to Chico, from Oroville to Newport Beach—across the state, 38 hospitals,  laboratories and medical centers are now state-approved SJSU affiliates, partnering with the university to train clinical laboratory scientists and get them to work where they are desperately needed.

“California has a shortage of clinical laboratory scientists,” said Michael Bowling, director of the Clinical Laboratory Scientist (CLS) and Clinical Genetic Molecular Biology Scientist (CGMBS) Training programs. “People are coming to us.”

SJSU is the largest training program in California in number of hospital affiliates, many of which serve rural populations. At those affiliates, the CLS trainees take SJSU coursework remotely and train in laboratories throughout the state. Within one year, they can earn a state CLS license and get to work, easing the laboratory staffing crisis.

A student in a lab coat and goggles dispenses liquid into a test tube.

Photo: Robert Bain / San José State University.

CLSs examine the sample taken at your medical facility after you have blood drawn, for example. “They’re the ones running the tests. They are licensed by the State of California to perform the highest complexity testing,” said Bowling. That might mean differentiating types of cancer cells or identifying COVID-19.

Together, Bowling and longtime program coordinator Sharlene Washington run the program. “We send 50 licensed CLSs into the workforce every year,” Bowling said, “which is especially important when qualified hospital professionals are needed more than ever.” Since Bowling began as program director in 2018, the program has added five new affiliates—which means arranging contracts, insurance, state approval and many other complex, time-intensive challenges. “We’re really proud of that,” he said.

Students who are accepted to the program do their SJSU coursework remotely on Mondays, then train the rest of the week on site at their local affiliate laboratory or medical center. Such locations include Adventist Health Bakersfield, Natividad Medical Center in Salinas, El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center in San José. Bowling said the course instructors are also practicing clinical laboratory scientists from all over the Bay Area, experts in the latest techniques and methods.

Each six-month cycle the SJSU program receives about 140 applications. A cohort of about 25 accepted students will then study and train for 52 consecutive weeks to meet State of California requirements. Students who complete the graduate level program may then obtain national certification from the American Society for Clinical Pathology and a California Clinical Laboratory Scientist license.

“It’s quite rigorous,” Bowling said. To become licensed, CLS trainees must master every laboratory in the hospital—microbiology, hematology, chemistry, immunology. “They’ll have a basic competency to perform any of the tests a doctor may order,” he said.

At orientation, Bowling tells new CLS trainees, “If you love working in a laboratory, if you love science—that’s enough, as it is. But it’s such a bonus that we get to help people too. And with starting salaries of $50 an hour, CLS is a good career choice.”

“What’s unique about our program is that we have a lot of remote affiliates,” Bowling said. “Hospitals all over the state have staffing shortages, so it is appealing to both urban and rural hospitals that students can take classes online while training anywhere in the state. Hospital administrators are reaching out to us to train more students right now during this crisis.” The result? More opportunities for students, more university revenue, and training more clinical laboratory scientists for the workforce.

Bowling said the CLS program was scaling up while other programs, hindered by the pandemic and campus closures, had suspended training. “We are still trucking along and actually expanding during the COVID-19 crisis,” he said. “Our students are working with our hospital affiliates’ doctors and other laboratory professionals to get patients diagnosed and treated, and it is very rewarding to be part of this great work.”

Urban and Regional Planning Department Chair to Lead a National Professional Organization

Laxmi Ramasubramanian in a black blazer and white top smiling.

Photo: Robert Bain / San José State University.

Professor Laxmi Ramasubramanian, chair of the SJSU Department of Urban and Regional Planning, was elected vice president and president-elect of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP).

ACSP, a consortium of more than 100 university departments and programs offering planning degrees, is a scholarly association dedicated “to promoting the field of planning as a diverse global community that works collectively toward healthy, equitable and sustainable neighborhoods, cities and regions,” according to its website.

Ramasubramanian described taking an ACSP leadership position as a “personal calling.” She said she felt now was a good time to help shape how planning professionals do their work because the current era demanded more active promotion of the values she teaches her students to keep forefront.

“My area of research is participatory planning,” Ramasubramanian explained. “I use every opportunity, whether in service, teaching or research, to think about process issues. Planning is about thinking about the future. To me, the governing board of the planning association should reflect the ethos of the field: Our processes should be transparent, accountable, participatory, engaged—all the things we want our public planners to do.”

Ramasubramanian said once the thought of contributing to her profession’s national leadership entered her head, she could not dismiss it. “I’ve been thinking this summer about the national mood,” she said, “which has refocused our attention to inequality in city after city, community after community. So I was struggling with this as an individual. And often I find that I need to be with other people to make change.”

Ramasubramanian said important structural changes could rarely be made by individuals alone, but only in concert with others. “We can’t do what we need to do by ourselves, and we shouldn’t try to do it by ourselves. How can we work in partnership with groups of people to create the kind of transformation they’re aspiring for?” Mulling that over led her to seek her new leadership position.

Ramasubramanian will serve as vice president through 2021, after which she advances automatically to president for the term 2021-2023.

“My goal is to spend this year really listening to the interest groups that are part of our association and who share the same anxieties and fears and mood that is going on around the country,” she said.

A professional organization undergoes the same struggles happening outside it, she said. Ramasubramanian said her role would be to actively support planning faculty and students who are Black, indigenous or people of color through both policy and action. “We’re a good organization,” she said. “We’ve always said the words. An academic organization with our heart in the right place. But that’s not enough right now. That’s what the world is telling us: It’s not enough.”

As a public university, SJSU is accountable to a wide range of people. “At public universities we have a teaching mission,” she said. “We are preparing planning professionals who go out in the world and solve the difficult problems of climate change and environmental degradation, build resilient and inclusive communities, fix our transportation problems. So I’m really proud of the work that universities like ours do.” Ramasubramanian said she hoped to represent the voices of public universities in the ACSP governing board. You have to have diverse points of view in the room to change the conversation.”

SJSU offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in geography and an accredited master’s of urban planning degree—the only programs of their kind in Silicon Valley. The department’s diverse student population includes working students who prefer to attend the program on a part-time basis—a rare opportunity, given that few fully accredited master’s in urban planning programs offer graduate students an entirely part-time option. Emphasizing experiential learning and career preparation, the department’s faculty members teach about architecture, communication, economics, history, public policy, and sociology. Through public service projects, students assist local communities in addressing topical planning issues. SJSU has excelled in the field of urban planning since 1970.

College of Social Sciences Dean Walter Jacobs said, “Laxmi was outstanding in her first year as the chair of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, so I was not surprised to learn that she was selected as vice president of a national organization. I have absolutely no doubts about her ability to thrive as the vice president and then president of ACSP while she continues to excel as a department chair.”

Ramasubramanian said she saw this step as part and parcel of the university’s larger mission. “I’ve chosen a narrow pathway to have an impact—trying to serve my peers in the academy, a membership organization of university people—but the work that we do, the professors, is hugely important because we impact young people,” she said. “One reason I’m at San José State is that here we can see so clearly how education is the pathway to transformation. The education you receive at SJSU prepares you to move in your career, your life, to move your family and your community to the next aspirational goals you set for yourself, whatever they may be.”