NSF Awards $1.5M to Fund STEM Curricula for Students with Visual Impairments

A student with visual impairment touches a 3D model.

A student explores a 3D printed tactile model of the constellation Orion. The spherical stars have diameters that represent their true relative brightnesses and are attached to posts whose lengths indicate the stars’ true relative distances from the Earth. Photo: Professor Thomas Madura/San José State University.

Multiple 3D printers assembled by students with visual impairment.

3D printers assembled by students with VI at the Bureau of Services for Blind Persons in Kalamazoo, MI. Photo: Professor Thomas Madura/San José State University.

Researchers from San José State University, The Ohio State University and the Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) located at John Hopkins University have been awarded a $1.5 million dollar Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST) grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) to develop science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) curricula for students with blindness and visual impairments (VI).

The funding will be used to research and develop STEM Career Exploration Labs (CELs) where students with VI can learn about STEM, career opportunities in STEM and develop STEM skills.

“Students will participate in hands-on activities such as assembling and using desktop 3D printers and using 3D printed models and sound to learn astronomical topics, such as celestial motion and lunar phases,” said Principal Investigator and San José State University Assistant Professor Thomas Madura. “Spatial thinking is particularly important for students with VI, who touch their surroundings and gather information via sound to form mental images and make sense of the world.”

The STEM Career Exploration Labs will also include interactions with STEM professionals with VI and field trips to local businesses that offer insights into STEM careers. The CELs will serve high school students from ages 14 to 20 with VI, their sighted peers, STEM high school teachers and teachers of the visually impaired.  The Council of Schools for the Blind will help recruit students and teachers for the program.

Previously, researchers conducted two pilot workshops including one in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs’ Bureau of Services for Blind Persons and the South Carolina Commission For the Blind in Columbia, South Carolina.

“In the workshops, the students explored current research data obtained with NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope through 3D prints,” said Hubble Space Telescope Outreach Project Scientist at STScI Dr. Carol Christian. “The use of such tactile materials allows students to discover the wonder as well as some of the scientific detail of the astrophysical universe.”

A student with visual impairment holds a 3D printed model of the Eta Carinae Homunculus nebula.

A student explores a 3D printed model of the Eta Carinae Homunculus nebula created using observations obtained from the European Southern Observatory’s telescope in Chile. Photo: Professor Thomas Madura/San José State University.

According to Assistant Professor Thomas Madura, there is very little research to date on how students with VI learn science and fewer studies on the impact of technological tools designed for students with VI. Researchers will collect and provide new data by investigating:

  • The effect on students with VI’s understanding of scientific concepts
  • How students participate in the inquiry-based STEM work
  • How the project affects student attitudes towards STEM, STEM careers, and astronomy
  • Assess understanding of spatial thinking skills and astronomy concepts
  • Identify STEM high school teachers’ attitudes towards students with disabilities in STEM classes

Data results will be distributed in a variety of ways, including peer-reviewed research journals, presentations, and workshops at various STEM, astronomy, VI, education, 3D printing, persons with disabilities and related domestic and international conferences.

“We know very little about how persons with visual impairments understand abstract concepts, such as astronomy, as they are presented through 3D models,” said Project Researcher and Associate Professor at The Ohio State University Tiffany Wild. “The results of this research can impact the way we teach astronomy to students with visual impairments and ultimately increase accessibility for all those with visual impairments to the world of astronomy.”

Depending on the current COVID-19 pandemic, researchers plan to set up STEM Career Exploration Labs in public high schools, schools for the blind, and state agencies in 12 states beginning in spring 2021.

SJSU Launches SJSU Adapt Plan for Fall 2020

Note: The following message from President Mary A. Papazian was shared with the SJSU campus community on Monday, July 13, 2020.

SJSU campus community, 

I’m sure we can all agree the past few months adapting to the challenges of COVID-19 has tested us physically, emotionally, psychologically and, for some, spiritually. Although every one of us has been affected by the pandemic in their own way, as Spartans, we have shown strength in taking on whatever has come our way, while continuing to show compassion, care and a helping hand for others. 

The SJSU Adapt plan is now available after months of planning and responding to constantly evolving external guidelines. I want to thank everyone who played an integral part ensuring this plan addresses the needs of the entire campus community. I also want to thank the campus community for their patience as we developed the plan and obtained needed approvals from the California State University Chancellor’s Office.The SJSU Adapt logo, an infinity symbol with blue and gold colors The multi-phased approach of the SJSU Adapt plan purposely aligns with health orders of Santa Clara County and California Department of Public Health Departments. This plan serves as a roadmap for us to navigate the uncertainties of the COVID-19 pandemic and adjust to the continued gradual reopening or potential future closing of Santa Clara County and the state of California.

The new website features an explanation of the four phases of the plan, FAQs, and health and safety guidelines. SJSU is currently in “Phase 2: Modified Campus” of the SJSU Adapt plan.

A depiction of the four phases of the SJSU Adapt plan, with Phase 2 of the picture being highlighted to signify that SJSU is in Phase 2.

SJSU could move backwards or forwards in phases if it is deemed necessary, due to new or revised health ordinances from local and state public health departments. 

The following information from SJSU Adapt has been posted:

The icons for information that is available in the SJSU Adapt plan.

Please note that the fall plan for Athletics is still being reviewed by the California State University Chancellor’s Office. When information has been approved to share, the site will be updated and a follow up message will alert you to the update. 

After the community has had some time to review the details of the SJSU Adapt plan, there will be an opportunity to discuss parts of the plan and answer questions in one of two virtual town halls in late July. Details will be communicated soon.

Thank you again for your flexibility and patience during these last several trying months. I look forward to the time we can all be together, once again.

Sincerely,

Mary A. Papazian

President

CSU May Require Ethnic Studies Course to Graduate

Mural of Cesar E. Chavez.

The César E. Chávez Monument: Arch of Dignity, Equality and Justice, designed by Judith F. Baca.

A bill that moved forward in the California legislature on June 18 would require all CSU students in the class of 2025 and those beyond to complete a three-unit course in ethnic studies. If signed into law, the graduation requirement would begin in fall 2021.

College of Social Sciences Dean Walt Jacobs said that SJSU’s readiness to respond to an incoming mandate along these lines stems from the years of preparation. Several steps have already been taken to strengthen ethnic studies. One is the College of Social Sciences’ Ethnic Studies Collaborative, established in 2018.

“A collaborative is a more informal way of getting people together,” Jacobs said.

Yvonne Kwan, an assistant professor of Asian American studies, who joined the program in 2017, is director of the collaborative.

“The collaborative was a way for us to bring together the various ethnic studies programs and departments that we already have,” Kwan said. Chicana and Chicano studies and African American studies are departments, whereas Asian American studies and Native American studies programs are smaller. One thing the collaborative helps do, Kwan said, is to make them more equal and balanced. “The collaborative is a way in which we can come together to have these difficult conversations.”

Kwan said that an ethnic studies graduation requirement would help students understand what is going on in our world. “It’s important to know because K-12 education tends to have a very Eurocentric basis.” She distinguished her field from the fields of history and purely studying a culture. “It’s about a critical interdisciplinary way we understand racial and ethnic relations and how it shapes power dynamics in the United States.”

New Faculty Hires and a New Minor

Another weighty step taken, Jacobs said, is new hiring in all four of these fields.

“Three new faculty members in African American studies are starting this year, including a new department chair,” Jacobs said. “We’ve also had two recent hires in Chicana and Chicano studies, and a new faculty member in sociology who also does Native American studies is coming in this year. We also have two recent hires in Asian American studies, including Yvonne Kwan, who is doing a fabulous job leading the Ethnic Studies Collaborative. She followed inaugural director Magdalena Barrera, who will soon step down as chair of Chicana and Chicano studies to become SJSU’s vice provost for faculty success.”

In the fall, SJSU will offer a minor in comparative U.S. race and ethnic relations for undergraduates who want to pursue this topic alongside another course of study.

Kwan explained that some students already enroll in ethnic studies classes to fulfill a general education requirement. Two of her Asian American studies classes, for example, are heavily populated by students not focused intensively on ethnic studies.

Concerns that adding a three-unit ethnic studies graduation requirement might slow progress to graduation were unfounded, Kwan said. “We’re often worried about how AB 1460 could delay students’ time to graduation. But if students take an ethnic studies class, it’s not going to, because many of our existing courses already fulfill several GE requirements.”

She said students complete her classes with new skills and tools for looking at history, culture, comparative thinking and especially how power structures work.

She described one student who, at the beginning of the semester, told her that ethnic studies fosters divisive thinking. “But by the end of the semester—and especially with COVID and the proliferation of anti-Asian racism,” she said, the student’s understanding and analysis changed. The student said, “Many minority communities still do not have full human rights. People fought for ethnic studies courses because ethnic minorities have been politically oppressed for a really long time, and no one wanted to talk about it.”

Kwan added that sometimes ethnic studies classes serve other purposes—like engaging students and building skills that help them in whatever other course of study they are pursuing. “The research shows that it doesn’t matter what race you are. It benefits students academically and socially,” she said. “Also for students of color in particular, ethnic studies increases retention and graduation rates.”

About AB 1460

According to the language of the bill, AB 1460, “It is the intent of the Legislature that students of the California State University acquire the knowledge and skills that will help them comprehend the diversity and social justice history of the United States and of the society in which they live to enable them to contribute to that society as responsible and constructive citizens.”

Kwan described how the bill had moved forward in 2020. “As a collaborative, we’d been having this conversation [about the issues in the bill] for a very long time. The recent reinvigoration of the Black Lives Matter movement, spurred on by continued proliferation of police brutality and the murder of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Tony McDade, Dion Johnson—and the list goes on—made it ever so clear that this is what we need at this moment. Because AB 1460 passed with a great majority, 30 to 5, it’s clear that ethnic studies is important.”

Although no ethnic studies graduation requirement is in place yet, if a CSU-wide ethnic studies requirement is coming, Jacobs said, “We’re ready to go.”

SJSU Faculty Prepare for Fall 2020

More than 1,000 faculty members hone their skills to improve student experience in online courses

With the California State University system recently deciding on a shift to mostly virtual classes for the fall 2020 semester, SJSU faculty members are taking part in the SJSU Teach Online Summer Certificate Program. The program is being supported by a partnership that features the SJSU Center for Faculty Development, eCampus, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (ODEI), and the outside organization Online Learning Consortium (OLC).

More than 1,000 faculty members have signed up for the three-week online program, which will support them in inclusive, accessible and well-designed online and hybrid instruction for Fall courses.

“I’m excited by the response from our faculty members, who recognize the importance of this opportunity to create the best learning experiences for our students for fall 2020 and beyond,” said Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Vincent Del Casino Jr.

Screengrab of the SJSU Teach Online Summer Certificate Program

Jennifer Redd, Director of eCampus, presents during the first session of the SJSU Teach Online Summer Certificate Program on June 8, 2020.

Faculty members must complete seven modules to earn a certificate, badge and stipend. The program is led by experienced online instructors from a wide range of disciplines who will provide guidance and support. To establish a strong benchmark for everyone participating in the institute, 33 faculty members will be participating in a “train-the-trainer” workshop to serve as program mentors.

“The spring semester prompted a rapid shift in teaching and learning for students, faculty and staff alike,” said eCampus Director Jennifer Redd. “That we can invest in helping faculty members create quality teaching experiences for the fall that represent their dedication is critical to our campus’ long-term success.”

The program begins with a two-hour synchronous session, where faculty members will be introduced to hybrid options for curriculum and how to ensure equity in online teaching.

After the online session, participants will have three weeks to complete seven modules. Four modules are required to be completed by every faculty member:

  • Mastering Online Teaching Essentials,
  • Supporting Universal Design for Learning,
  • Analyzing Assessment Strategies and
  • Equity and Inclusion Frameworks in Design in Online Settings
Screenshot of a lesson from the SJSU Teach Online Summer Certificate Program

Chief Diversity Officer Kathy Wong(Lau) leads a discussion during the first session of the SJSU Teach Online Summer Certificate Program on June 8, 2020.

“I am grateful that ODEI could create a research-informed module on best practices and resources that attend to equity and inclusion in online course design, facilitation, and materials,” said Chief Diversity Officer Kathy Wong(Lau). “Working with this team of campus collaborators has been fantastic.” The additional three modules are selected from a group of optional modules on topics that include how to integrate support services for students, create robust online labs and simulations, and use Adobe’s Creative Cloud solutions in the classroom.

“Experts from across the campus have designed a program that will help any instructor strengthen their teaching, no matter how experienced they are to start,” said Center for Faculty Development Director Deanna Fassett.

Given the overwhelming interest, faculty members have been assigned to cohorts. The first cohort started June 8, with the other two sessions beginning June 29 and July 20.

Along with this program, faculty members are also pursuing opportunities through the CSU Chancellor’s Office, SJSU’s Center for Faculty Development, eCampus, and the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion.

 

NOAA Selects Moss Landing Marine Labs For New CIMEAS Institute

A boat on the water with partial view of being underwater with seaweed.

Photo credit: Scott Gabara, ’14 MS Phycology

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has selected San José State University’s Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) to be a founding member of the agency’s new Cooperative Institute for Marine, Earth, and Atmospheric Systems (CIMEAS).

The CIMEAS will conduct collaborative, multidisciplinary research on climate, ocean and ecosystems. Its goal is to advance the regional, national, and global understanding of natural and human-caused impacts on our ecosystems and develop sustainable ways to strengthen our environmental and economic well-being.

“Moss Landing Marine Laboratories (MLML) is excited to join the new CIMEAS organization because it provides extraordinary opportunities for our students and researchers to collaborate on important marine research and aquaculture issues,” said MLML Director Jim Harvey. “Our graduate students will benefit greatly by collaborating with NOAA scientists and others to investigate relevant oceanographic problems and to gain important skills as they become the leaders and researchers of the future.”

In partnership with NOAA and other agencies, CIMEAS will conduct research in four main areas focusing on the western U.S., California Current System and the Pacific and Southern oceans. The science will support:

  • ecosystem-based management of living marine resources
  • research, development, and technology innovation for global ocean observations and monitoring
  • coastal and oceanic observations, analysis, and prediction
  • weather, water, and climate research

The institute, led by UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography, is comprised of a consortium of graduate degree-granting institutions, including MLML, Humboldt State University, Cal State University Los Angeles, Farallon Institute, University of California Davis, University of California Los Angeles, University of California Santa Barbara, and University of California Santa Cruz.

“MLML and SJSU have an excellent reputation for research and education globally, and MLML students have moved on to different levels of research and management that serve the needs of California and the nation,” said MLML Director Jim Harvey. “There are many pressing issues associated with the oceans and coastlines, and MLML is excited to be joining an Institute that will partner with NOAA to understand and help solve these important problems.”

Editors Note:  To learn more about Moss Landing Marine Labs go to Washington Square Magazine

SJSU Appoints New Dean of College of Health and Human Sciences

Audrey Mengwasser Shillington has been appointed dean of SJSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences (CHHS), effective July 1.

Shillington joins SJSU from Colorado State University, where she has held the positions of Director of the School of Social Work, Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, and Interim Associate Dean for Research in the College of Health and Human Sciences. She will be replacing Pamela Richardson, who served as interim dean of CHHS for the past year.

“Dr. Shillington brings an energy, creativity and background that will allow her to facilitate the larger strategic conversation in CHHS and on the campus in academic affairs,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Vincent Del Casino, Jr. “More importantly, Dr. Shillington has a clear commitment to the mission of the California State University system and SJSU.”

New dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences Audrey Mengwasser Shillington

Audrey Mengwasser Shillington has been appointed dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, effective July 1.

Prior to her leadership roles at Colorado State University, Shillington was a professor at San Diego State University’s School of Social Work, where she helped create and co-led the Center for Alcohol and Drug Studies and Services. She also served as Senior Investigator at SDSU’s School of Public Health Center for Behavioral Epidemiology and Community Health. Upon arriving at Colorado State University, Shillington helped develop an interdisciplinary Cannabis Research Group.

“I am excited to join the SJSU team — my work has always been interdisciplinary and collaborative throughout my training, research and leadership — and I look forward to working with leadership, faculty, staff, students, alumni, industry, and community partners to build the College of Health and Human Sciences,” Shillington said. “In light of recent COVID-19 impacts, there has been no other time in recent history when the call and need to better understand and address health disparities has been stronger. SJSU’s CHHS is poised to be at the forefront of this important work.”

Shillington is currently a Fellow of the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare and also Fellow of the American Academy of Health Behavior — both preeminent national organizations for disciplinary researchers and practitioners.

Shillington earned her MSW and PhD in social work at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri, and her undergraduate degrees at Drury University in Springfield, MO. She served as a Peace Corps volunteer for three years in Benin, West Africa, where she was involved in projects on energy conservation and food insecurity for rural communities. She was a NIH National Institute of Mental Health postdoctoral fellow for three years and received a master’s in psychiatric epidemiology from the Washington University School of Medicine’s Department of Psychiatry. Shillington also spent two years as a National Institute of Drug Abuse trainee for the Hispanic Drug Abuse and HIV/AIDS Research Training through the Yale University School of Medicine.

Shillington’s research has focused on the prevention and intervention of substance use behaviors among youth and young adults. She has over 70 publications and been Principal Investigator or Co-Investigator for $16 million in NIH and state grants and contracts. Her research focused on addressing disparities that exist in the nosology and measurement of mental and behavioral health. Shillington has also led work aimed at reducing problematic alcohol use and issues related to the legalization of recreational marijuana use among young adults.

Faculty Research: Sexual Harassment on Public Transit

Students waiting to take the VTA in downtown San Jose.

Students waiting to take the VTA in downtown San Jose.

“I was riding the metro alone on a Sunday morning, and as I turned the corner, there was a man masturbating. I was scared and ran away,” recalls Asha Weinstein Agrawal of an incident she encountered as a college student during a vacation in Paris two decades ago.

The Professor of Urban and Regional Planning and the Director of Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) National Transportation Finance Center Agrawal says although she didn’t talk about it then, there’s a need today to start conversations around sexual harassment and recognize behaviors and patterns that women who use public transit witness all over the world.

Over the last three years, almost two-thirds (63 percent) of SJSU students had experienced some form of harassment while using the bus or train, according to the recent MTI-sponsored research study titled “Crime and Harassment on Public Transportation: A Survey of SJSU Students Set in International Context.”

Agrawal’s team includes UCLA Professor Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris, one of the global project leaders who put together the original survey, Assistant Professor of Mathematics and Statistics Cristina Tortora and Yajing Hu, now a senior scientist at Abbott, who worked as a data analytics intern with the team. The SJSU survey asked essentially the same questions as the global study: “Does sexual harassment happen to you? Are you worried? Have you ever reported? Does fear of harassment change the way you use transit?”

The survey found that public transit harassment is not unique to San Jose State students. Agrawal’s team worked on data collected from a random sample of 891 SJSU students. With that many voices woven in, the SJSU narrative mirrors typical concerns that students around the world expressed when the same survey was administered in 18 cities across six continents, including San Jose, Los Angeles, Vancouver and Mexico City in North America, Bogota, Sao Paolo and Rio Claro in South America, London, Paris, Milan, Lisbon, Stockholm, and Huddinge in Europe, Tokyo, Guangzhou and Manila in Asia, Lagos in Africa and Melbourne in Australia.

Although fear of harassment binds all respondents together across demographics, Agrawal has a guess about the underlying reasons behind why SJSU students were less likely to feel “always” or “often” safe after dark on the bus or on the train, compared to students in the other cities in the global study. She points to downtown San Jose’s features after dark—mostly empty streets and transit vehicles. The responses could easily vary in European and Asian cities that have considerable activity on the streets after dark. In addition, relatively high proportions of university students don’t have the luxury of driving private cars. Compared to the population at large, students more frequently use public transit, especially in the United States.

Agrawal says abuse on public transit is not new. Having studied the transportation of 1890s America as part of her doctoral research, she saw that women feared sexual harassment on public transit then, too. “Nice women didn’t want to ride the street cars because they would get groped or harassed” was a common refrain in the articles she remembers reading during her dissertation writing days. There is new attention on the topic of sexual offense today as part of the MeToo movement, but it’s been happening all around the world ever since there was public transit, she adds.

As Agrawal argues, that train of thought is still what stops some women from using public transit. Women throughout history have found themselves at society’s margins, as have older adults, vulnerable people and those who identify as LGBTQ, whose fear of harassment has influenced their participation in broader society.

Transit trips are not limited to vehicle settings. Rather, they are multi-phased activities, including riding on vehicles, waiting at transit stops or walking/biking to and from those points. The survey looked at the transit experience in these three areas as well. “Besides asking for experiences on the bus or on the train, we also asked about while you’re waiting, either at the bus stop or the train stop, and also the access journey,” says Agrawal. These environments are not controlled by transit operators, but offer perspectives on choices a rider may make about using transit. The goal of the survey was to understand how safety concerns affect their choice of transit.

With so many students taking public transit every day, Agrawal wondered if there would be a correlation between the amount of harassment and number of complaints filed. “Unfortunately, that’s not the case,” she says. “People often think it’s so commonplace that there’s no point reporting, or that even if they do, it hardly yields results,” which in turn leads to a feeling of helplessness in victims.

Harassment is largely perceived to be a woman’s issue. Men’s experiences don’t often make it to the headlines. The SJSU survey revealed that 40 percent of men experienced sexual assault on buses or trains, expanding the conversation beyond gender identities.

Agrawal is hopeful that the results of the survey could be a starting point for transit operators to consider certain measures that can proactively address the issues. She says transit operators—and others— who’ve built apps for commuters to report graffiti and broken lights could consider adding a category of language that would make sexual harassment reporting easier, “thus making it more obvious that there is a problem.”

SJSU’s Top Academic Achievers Recognized

Students jumping up in the air and cheering with pom poms.

Photo by David Schmitz.

San Jose State University’s top academic achievers—including 1,582 President’s Scholars who obtained a 4.0 grade point average in spring or fall 2019—are being honored and celebrated this month for the hard work, determination and dedication that earned them a place at the top of their class.

“It is always a pleasure to recognize and celebrate the academic excellence of our students,” said SJSU President Mary Papazian. “They’ve spent hours on end in the library. They’ve asked penetrating questions in the classroom. They’ve been industrious and unflagging in pursuit of knowledge. In short, they represent the best of our Spartan student community, and we are very proud of them.”

Ranked against an average undergraduate enrollment of 26,518 during spring and fall 2019, President’s Scholars rank in the top six percent of the undergraduate population.

In addition to the President’s Scholars, 5,783 students made the Dean’s Scholars list for achieving a 3.65 GPA in spring or fall 2019. All Dean’s Scholars will be recognized with certificates from their college deans.

“These students clearly have a limitless future in front of them,” said Provost Vincent Del Casino. “They are tomorrow’s leaders of Silicon Valley, the State of California and beyond. On behalf of our faculty and staff, I congratulate each of them.”

“The student scholars we recognize this spring have reached this level of excellence through their own individual sacrifice and through the support of their families, friends and our faculty and staff,” said Papazian. “Their grades are more than letters; they represent an unwavering commitment to academic excellence that have earned them our admiration and respect.”

The academic success and scholastic performance of San Jose State’s top students, said Del Casino, is demonstrable proof that they have high standards of achievement and are capable of attaining lofty goals.

“I truly commend each of these students for their accomplishments and their future promise,” he said. “Their academic success is just a prelude to the significant contributions to society they will make after they graduate.”

Papazian said it was also important to acknowledge the people behind the scenes who work hard to guide and support students.

“Parents, spouses, significant others, children, relatives and friends make crucial contributions that help to support these scholars on their educational journey,” she said. “They couldn’t do it without those important people in their lives.”

Papazian also notes that with recognition comes responsibility.

“We expect much from these gifted and hard-working students,” she said. “I am confident that their academic success will translate into meaningful civic engagement, career success and other positive outcomes that will make our world a better place.”

SJSU Legacy of Poetry Day 2020: Staying Home—The Way to San Jose

Media Contacts:
Alan Soldofsky, alan.soldofsky@sjsu.edu
Gaia Collar-Schilling, gaia.collar-schilling@sjsu.edu

San Jose State’s Poets and Writers Coalition will host the annual Legacy of Poetry Day Reading and Celebration in honor of National Poetry Month as an online event this year, which will premiere on YouTube April 23. This year’s event will focus on the theme “Staying Home: The Way to San Jose.” The theme is designed to include poems inspired by the poets’ personal and family stories of how they settled in and made their home in San Jose and Silicon Valley, or how they’re coping with sheltering in place in San Jose or nearby Silicon Valley communities. Interested community members can participate via Zoom starting at 4 p.m. on April 23.

This year’s keynote poet is Ellen Bass, poet, educator, bestselling nonfiction author and winner of the Lambda Literary Award. Bass is a former Santa Cruz poet laureate and is SJSU’s 2021 Connie and Robert Lurie Distinguished Author-in-Residence. Her newest collection of poems, Indigo, was published in April 2020 by Copper Canyon Press. Her poems frequently appear in The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, The New York Times Magazine and other publications. She is also a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Joining her as featured readers are Janice Logo Sapigao, newly appointed Santa Clara County poet laureate; Mighty Mike McGee, former Santa Clara County poet laureate; Arlene Biala, ’90 Psychology, former Santa Clara County poet laureate; Sally Ashton, ’01 English, former Santa Clara County poet laureate; Gary Singh, ’94 BA, ’98 MA, Music, poet and Metro columnist; and Tskaka Campbell, award-winning poet and spoken word artist.

Alan Soldofsky

Alan Soldofsky, director of SJSU’s Creative Writing program, at the 2015 Legacy of Poetry event. He is organizing virtual events for National Poetry Month this year. Photo by Christina Olivas.

These featured poets will be followed by SJSU faculty poets, including Alan Soldofsky, director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing, Michael Tod Edgerton and Joseph Navarro, as well as Darrell Dela Cruz, ’07 English, ’11 MFA Creative Writing, Linda Lappin, ’97 English, ’07 MFA Creative Writing and Mark Heinlein, ’09 MFA Creative Writing. They will be followed by San Jose community poets and award-winning undergraduate and graduate student poets.

Poetry Contest: #Best20secondPoemsSJSU

As part of this festival, SJSU students and members of the SJSU community are invited to submit a 20-second poem for a special contest—the amount of time the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends we spend washing our hands. Poems can be submitted on social media using the hashtag #Best20secondPoemsSJSU. If chosen, poets will be asked to send an audio or video file to be posted on the Legacy of Poetry website. Submissions are open until May 1.

The Legacy of Poetry Reading and Celebration is made possible by the following SJSU campus sponsors in conjunction with the SJSU Poets and Writers Coalition: the Department of English and Comparative Literature; the College of Humanities and Arts; the Center for Literary Arts and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. Community co-sponsors include Poetry Center San Jose and Copper Canyon Press.

SJSU Emergency Management Expert Frannie Edwards Offers Webinar On COVID-19

San Jose State Professor of Political Science Frannie Edwards.

San Jose State Professor of Political Science Frannie Edwards will conduct a webinar on April 9, “Transit and COVID-19: How Its Impact Differs from Other Emergencies,” where she’ll discuss the similarities and differences between the impact of COVID-19 and other contagious diseases such as SARS and H1N1/swine flu on transit systems. Photo courtesy of Frannie Edwards.

San Jose State Professor of Political Science Frannie Edwards will conduct a webinar this Thursday, April 9, “Transit and COVID-19: How Its Impact Differs from Other Emergencies,” where she’ll discuss the similarities and differences between the impact of COVID-19 and other contagious diseases such as SARS and H1N1/swine flu on transit systems.

Edwards, who also teaches emergency management and serves as the deputy director of the National Transportation Security Center at the university’s Mineta Transportation Institute, served for 14 years as director of the Office of Emergency Services in San Jose and as director of the city’s Metropolitan Medical Task Force.

Edwards developed her expertise through an impressive array of academic work, research and classroom teaching.

“Teaching is my passion, and I really want my students to learn the things they’ll need to know in order to be successful and creative servants of their community,” she said. “But it’s the research and my own constant learning that fuel my ability to teach effectively and give students the tools they need.”

Edwards’s emergency management background draws on lessons learned while living in Japan, serving as a police budget officer for the City of Irvine and developing emergency plans for earthquakes, floods and other disasters.

Hired into her current role at SJSU in 2005 to teach public administration, Edwards was brought into MTI’s fold as a research associate to help with the Institute’s fast-growing anti-terrorism work. Transit organizations nationwide had been persuaded to take such threats seriously after the 1995 sarin gas attack on a subway system in Tokyo and other high-profile events.

Edwards and a small group of colleagues became MTI’s de facto emergency preparedness brain trust, giving presentations and briefings via a “traveling road show” of sorts around the state. She and her research partner Dan Goodrich are co-authors on more than a dozen MTI publications on emergency preparedness.

In a profession that uses a lot of acronyms, Edwards refers a great deal to one in particular—COOP. A COOP plan, or, “continuity of operations” effort, is a collection of resources, actions, procedures and information that is developed and used to maintain critical operations after a disaster or emergency. Edwards characterizes COOP as the “next level” of emergency management.

“An emergency operations plan outlines what you should do when something really bad happens, and it typically lays out all the resources at your disposal,” she explained. “A continuity of operations plan outlines what to do when there are no resources, but still a lot of people who need help.” An essential concept behind COOPs, she explained, is that organizations must identify those activities that are the most essential in order to execute the mission—while ceasing all other activities.

SJSU, she points out, essentially put a COOP into operation in the early stages of the Coronavirus pandemic when it hit the pause button on athletics activities, large events and public gatherings in general. Instead, university leadership asked itself, What do we need to do in order to keep educating our students, finish the semester and keep everyone on track to earn credits and graduate on time? That, Edwards explained, is COOP in a nutshell: narrowing one’s world to just the essentials.

Edwards said, in fact, that the current crisis is the only one she has seen in more than 30 years of emergency management that represents “a true COOP situation.” The geographic impact of other crises, such as the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake, the Northridge (Los Angeles County) earthquake in 1994 and the 1998 El Niño floods in the Bay Area, have been relatively small compared to COVID-19. The shortage of available pumps during the floods were a precursor to today’s shortage of ventilators and other personal protective equipment, though at a much smaller scale.

Edwards remains optimistic during the current crisis and chooses to focus on the “inspiring things going on.”

Mobilizing two large naval hospital ships to assist overwhelmed hospitals amid the pandemic was a smart use of resources, she said, while the work of the nation’s medical community and caregivers has been nothing short of heroic. In addition, she points to the number of companies, including many in Silicon Valley, who have contributed large sums of money to the overall effort. “We are seeing a wonderful charitable spirit that is helping people in our communities who are struggling,” she said.

To help get through the crisis, Edwards emphasizes the need for people to find creative ways to stay connected and remain true to their own passions and needs, whether it is through a religious community they may be part of, online museums and music or even just regular calls or emails to friends.

“Whatever it is that feeds your soul, brings you happiness and hope and helps you see a brighter future—those are the things we all must continue to do.”

Those interested in the 4/9 webinar can register to receive an email reminder. The webinar takes place from 10-10:30am and will be conducted via Zoom.

2020 Silicon Valley Women in Engineering (WiE) Conference Will Convene Entirely Online On March 14

Graphic of 2020 Silicon Valley WiE Conference announcing a switch to a virtual conference.
The Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering has moved its annual Silicon Valley Women in Engineering (WiE) conference scheduled on March 14, 2020 entirely to an online format as a precautionary measure against COVID-19 as the virus continues to pose a risk to the well-being of the community. WiE 2020 is still happening with all the amazing programming that was promised as the Women in Engineering Conference team has succeeded in creating a virtual conference.

Live streaming of the event, which is now free and open to all, will start at 8:30 a.m. with welcome and keynote addresses that will be delivered by Kate Gordon, director and senior adviser to the California governor on climate, and Meagan Pi, vice president of Google. While Gordon will shed light on the cutting edge of sustainable Smart City innovations, Pi will share her journey from China to Silicon Valley. Isaura S. Gaeta, vice president of security research and general manager of Intel Product Assurance and Security, will deliver the lunch keynote.

Every year the event draws the best of tech industry experts, aspiring engineers and a large section of the student community from the engineering department, local community colleges and high schools. This year, the virtual conference is centered on the theme of “vision for a better future.” Engineers and scientists will gather to discuss a range of issues from the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI) to the current global health crisis to impacts of climate change.

WiE 2020 is an avenue for aspiring engineers to network with trailblazing scientists who are breaking gender stereotypes and designing creative solutions to counter the world’s pressing problems. It will also help students visualize a career arc, learn about emerging technologies as well as understand the extent of impact engineers have on shaping the world.

Registered students will receive an email by Friday, March 13 with instructions as to how to participate online for the entire conference, including keynotes, technical and professional development sessions, career panels, and even the innovation showcase. More information will soon be available on 2020.siliconvalleywie.org.

In her message to the community on the conference website, Stacy Gleixner, SJSU professor and conference chair, said that industry leaders at this year’s conference are creating a better future by designing greener construction and energy solutions, developing life-saving diagnostics and medicine, and inventing tools that promote inclusion and security while revolutionizing the way we interact and work.

Industry leaders from some of the top Silicon Valley companies such as Netflix, Facebook, Accenture, IBM, NASA, LinkedIn, Amazon Labs, Marvel Semiconductor, Shockwave Medical, Xilinx and others will be speaking throughout the day on topics that include sustainable development and construction, medicine and diagnostics, space travel, virtual reality, the future of blockchain, AI, machine learning and wearable devices.

Sheryl Ehrman, SJSU

Sheryl Ehrman, dean of SJSU’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering, speaking at the 2018 Women in Engineering Conference at SJSU. Photo: David Schmitz.

One of the technical tracks will focus on the ethical aspects of AI, starting with those related to models and algorithms such as bias, fairness and explainability to examine how they influence the end outcomes concerning privacy and safety. The panel will also discuss the impacts AI has on humans. For example, it will explore how automation will change the nature of some jobs, what effect it would have on democracy, human-to-human, and human-to-AI interaction, etc.

Computer Engineering Professor Magdalini Eirinaki said AI users should be conscious of its implications, especially in terms of sharing their personal data. With less information, manipulation chances for targeted advertising or propaganda purposes reduce. “I’m now more mindful about doing online quizzes, for instance,” she said.

She added that deep learning has allowed many interesting applications. “AI has allowed us to visualize how we will look when we get old and add funny headpieces to our selfies, but also fight cyberbullying and diagnose cancer in the early stages,” said Eirinaki. “However, it can also discriminate against underrepresented groups, or become a tool of propaganda and warfare.”

Several of these ethical questions that go beyond the design of the underlying algorithms and technologies will feature in the discussion as AI continues to impact our everyday lives.

Interested candidates can still join the virtual conference by entering their names in a signup sheet on the main page of http://2020.siliconvalleywie.org/ Once they sign up, they will receive the instructions and the pdf schedule with log-in links in their email.

The committee has refunded all fees and setting up pick up hours/locations for the swag (bags, t-shirts) at SJSU and also sending them to all schools that pre-registered as a group.

Visit Silicon Valley Women in Engineering to participate in the 2020 conference.

Kim Blisniuk and Yue “Wilson” Yuan Receive Early Career Investigator Awards

Assistant Professor Kim Blisniuk from the Department of Geology in the College of Science and Assistant Professor Yue “Wilson” Yuan from the Department of Justice Studies in the College of Health and Human Sciences have been chosen to receive the SJSU Research Foundation Early Career Investigator Awards for calendar year 2019. The award recognizes tenure-track SJSU faculty members who have excelled in areas of research, scholarship and creative activity at an early or beginning point in their careers.

Kim Blisniuk

Kim Blisniuk

Geology Assistant Professor Kim Blisniuk. Photo: Robert Bain.

Kim Blisniuk’s research investigates and quantifies how landscapes evolve through time due to earthquakes and climate change. She is particularly interested in earthquakes that are preserved in the landscape along active faults because the rate at which a fault moves is proportional to the fault’s seismic hazard potential. The societal impact of her research is high because data she collects will help refine earthquake hazard models that forecast the potential of future earthquakes and their recurrence in California.

In 2019 Blisniuk received the National Science Foundation (NSF) CAREER Award, the organization’s most prestigious award in support of early-career faculty. This added to her remarkable track record of funded research grants and awards from organizations such as the U.S. Department of the Interior’s National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program and the Southern California Earthquake Center. She has made presentations at the American Geophysical Union, the U.S. Geological Survey, Boston University, the California Institute of Technology, UCLA and Université Grenoble. Her publication record is equally impressive.In addition, she has been interviewed as a subject matter expert by Earth and Space Science News, National Geographic Magazine, the New York Times and major television networks.

Yue “Wilson” Yuan

Justice Studies Assistant Professor Yue “Wilson” Yuan

Justice Studies Assistant Professor Yue “Wilson” Yuan. Photo: Robert Bain.

Wilson Yuan’s research examines the origins of fear of crime and how individuals and communities react to criminal victimization, particularly in Asian and Latino immigrant communities. He explores whether an immigrant’s status is associated with victimization and how immigrants of different racial and ethnic groups mobilize formal and informal resources in response to crime.

Funded by a grant award from the National Institute of Justice, Yuan and six SJSU graduate students are launching an extensive mixed-methods city-level victimization study focused on the city of San José, California. A survey of local residents’ victimization experiences will be conducted, as will in-depth interviews with residents, police department officials, victim services providers and members of community organizations.

Since arriving at SJSU in 2016, Yuan has published eight peer-reviewed articles on criminal justice and criminology in high-impact journals. With one of his graduate students as lead author, he co-authored “Surveillance-Oriented Security Measures, School Climate, Student Fear of Crime, and Avoidance Behavior,” which appeared in Victims and Offenders. He regularly presents at criminology conferences and has made invited research presentations at law schools (Nankai University and Southwestern University of Finance and Economics) and at Harvard University.

Blisniuk and Yuan will be honored at the SJSU Celebration of Research on March 26, 2020 from 3 to 6 p.m. in the Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom. A short video profiling their research will be shown at this festive event. A showcase of research posters developed by more than 100 SJSU undergraduate and graduate students also will be presented. The event is open to the entire SJSU campus community.

Read more about Blisniuk and Yuan’s research.

2019: A Spartan Year in Review

From breaking ground on San Jose State’s Interdisciplinary Science Building to the grand opening of the Spartan Recreation and Aquatic Center to the launch of Transformation 2030, SJSU’s strategic plan, 2019 was a year of growth at One Washington Square. The following 13 stories feature exciting interdisciplinary research, award-winning new facilities, important university rankings, campus initiatives, innovative projects and alumni giving.


Spartan Football Receives $1 Million Gift from Kevin and Sandy Swanson, January 2019

San Jose State alumnus Kevin Swanson and his wife Sandy Swanson committed to give $1 million to Spartan football.

Kevin and Sandy Swanson at the Spartan football All In campaign event in 2017. Photo: David Schmitz.


SJSU Student Engineers Launch Latest TechEd Satellite with NASA, March 2019

After a year of hard work, collaboration and many late nights subsisting on Costco pizzas, a group of SJSU students, faculty and alumni gathered with guests from NASA Ames Research Center to watch the deployment of a technology education satellite (TechEdSat) from the International Space Station (ISS) on March 5.

TechEdSat group in N-244 Lab 9 with mentors Mark Murbach (standing back left) and Ali Guarneros Luna (kneeling on right). Photo courtesy of NASA Ames Research Center.


SJSU Opens $130 Million Spartan Recreation and Aquatic Center, April 2019

SJSU hosted a grand opening ceremony for the new Spartan Recreation and Aquatic Center (SRAC), a facility that provides new modern recreation facilities and services for students and the entire university community.

Photo: David Schmitz


Forbes Names SJSU to 2019 Best Value College List, April 2019

Forbes named SJSU to its 2019 list of America’s Best Value Colleges. The university moved up from #55 on the list in 2018 to #40. SJSU was listed as #13 in California.

Graduates celebrate at Avaya Stadium during San Jose State University’s College of Social Sciences Graduation in 2018.
Photo: David Schmitz.


San Jose State University Celebrates Historic Groundbreaking on Interdisciplinary Science Building, April 2019

SJSU celebrated the historic groundbreaking for its new Interdisciplinary Science Building.

An artistic rendering shows what the Interdisciplinary Science Building will look like in 2021 when it is completed.


SJSU Community Invited to Spartan Food Pantry Open House, April 2019

The SJSU Cares Program and the SJSU Student Hunger Committee hosted a Spartan Food Pantry Opening Celebration.

Ben Falter, left, a senior student affairs case manager, helps a student at the Spartan Food Pantry. Photo: Brandon Chew


State of the University Address and Strategic Plan Announcement, April 2019

SJSU introduced Transformation 2030, its new strategic plan.

Photo: Javier Duarte


SJSU Celebrates the Class of 2019 at Commencement May 22-24, May 2019

SJSU honored more than 6,800 graduates during spring 2019 commencement with seven ceremonies.

College of Engineering students cheer during commencement in fall 2018. Photo courtesy of Best Grad.


On Fire, Washington Square spring/summer 2019

The only team of its kind in the United States, SJSU Associate Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science Craig Clements’ Fire Weather Research Laboratory studies and decodes wildfire behavior to improve fire management and prevention.

Photo courtesy of the Fire Weather Research Lab.


Where Research Leads, Washington Square spring/summer 2019

From engineers to medical doctors, four alumni reflect on how their SJSU experiences have helped them make an impact.

Noemi “Nicky” Espinosa, ’81 Chemical Engineering. Photo by David Schmitz.


Danielle Ishak: Robots for Seniors, Washington Square spring/summer 2019

Danielle Ishak, ’16 MS Human Factors and Ergonomics, is helping develop products to support the elderly.

Photo: David Schmitz


SJSU Ranks #6 Among West’s Top Public Universities and #5 Overall for the Region in Social Mobility in U.S. News and World Report College Lists, September 2019

U.S. News and World Report ranked SJSU #6 among the West’s top public universities offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees. The publication added a ranking for social mobility that compares how well universities and colleges do in graduating Pell grant-eligible students. SJSU ranked #3 among public universities in the West, and #5 overall for the region.

Graduates of the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering celebrate at Spring 2019 commencement. SJSU ranked among the top public engineering programs on U.S. News and World Report’s 2020 college rankings. Photo: Josie Lepe, ’03 BFA Photography.


Jianna Salinas, ‘13 CHAD, Receives Special Message During Commencement, December 2019


It was an eventful year at San Jose State, full of student, faculty and alumni accomplishments. How would you describe your #SJSU2019YearInReview?

San Jose State University and County of Santa Clara Renew Multi-Year Agreement for Timpany Center

Interior shot of the Timpany Center therapeutic pool

Photo by David Schmitz/San Jose State University

SANTA CLARA COUNTY, CALIF – San Jose State University’s Research Foundation (SJSURF) and The County of Santa Clara (SCC) have reached agreement on a new, multi-year partnership to continue operation of the Timpany Center.

The Timpany Center, a non-profit educational and therapeutic service center, has served community members for 10 years. The center offers a wide range of aquatic and land fitness and training programs, as well as therapeutic and safety courses for individuals of all ages and abilities. Its specialized services and facilities, including a warm water pool and spa, gymnasium, weight room and classroom, are operated by San Jose State University’s Department of Kinesiology in the College of Health and Human Sciences in conjunction with SCC.

“The Timpany Center is a critical health and wellness resource to County residents. I am pleased to confirm a renewed agreement between the County and San Jose State University to keep the Timpany Center open through 2024,” said County of Santa Clara Supervisor Susan Ellenberg. “Our County is always committed to exploring the best practices to expand these much-needed services.”

The new agreement, from Jan. 1, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2024, is meant to position the facility as an operationally and financially sound service-learning program for our students and an inclusive wellness resource for our community, well into the future, said Mohamed Abousalem, SJSU’s vice president for research and innovation and president of the board of directors at SJSURF.

“SJSU values the importance of the Timpany Center to our community and greatly appreciates the hard work of its employees,” said Abousalem. “We are grateful for the support and loyal patronage of our community members these past 10 years, and we have every reason to believe that the facility will continue to provide important services for years to come.”

“The County of Santa Clara and San Jose State University Research Foundation (SJSURF) worked together to reach an agreement that will keep resources from the Timpany Center such as the pool, gym and other services open for business,” added  Jeff Draper,  director of County of Santa Clara Facilities and Fleet Department. “We are appreciative of SJSURF for working with us and their dedication to assisting the community.”

Lurie College Hosts Inaugural Future of Learning Summit

Lurie College of Education Dean Heather Lattimer with speakers from the inaugural Future of Learning Summit: Shar Naidu, Vivian Vu, Kent McGuire, Valerie Lundy-Wagner, Laura Quintana, Irene Castillon, SJSU professor Ellen Middaugh, and Arun Ramanthan. Photo by Francisco Mendoza.

San Jose, Calif. — About 100 Silicon Valley thought leaders, policymakers and K-12 educators filled SJSU’s Diaz Compean Student Union Theater November 13 at the inaugural Future of Learning Summit, hosted by the Connie L. Lurie College of Education. The event included five keynote speakers and talks by five SJSU community members, all of whom addressed the question, “What is the future of learning?”

“We’re at a time of significant change in education and across society,” said Heather Lattimer, dean of the Lurie College. “We have changing job markets, demographic shifts and new understandings around what learning and cognition mean and look like. It’s a time of rapid change that can be really scary. But it’s also an opportunity for all of us to challenge the way that we think of education and schooling to find new ways to support stronger, more equitable and more relevant outcomes.” Lattimer described SJSU’s upcoming Future of Learning Initiative, a cross-disciplinary program to spur innovation on campus, serve as a hub for transforming education in the region, generate new knowledge that will elevate the importance of the scholarship of teaching and learning, and position SJSU as a thought leader in the field of educational innovation.

San Jose State President Mary Papazian introduced the event by reminding the audience that the university was founded in 1857 as Minns Normal School with the express purpose of educating teachers. Keynote speakers included Christopher Cabaldon, the Hazel Cramer Endowed Chair and professor of public policy and administration at Sacramento State University and mayor of West Sacramento; Valerie Lundy-Wagner, senior research analyst at California Competes; Kent McGuire, education program director at the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation; Arun Ramanathan, CEO of Pivot Learning Partners; and Laura Quintana, vice president of Corporate Affairs at Cisco.

Speakers discussed how advances in technology, changing job markets, demographic shifts and new research have created unique opportunities to re-imagine learning.

“In the future, students will need to think like employees, and employees will have to think like students,” said Quintana, who shared how Cisco’s Networking Academy is helping current SJSU students gain hands-on experience in industrial technology and cybersecurity.

“What if we question the fundamentals of the education system before assessing a student with disabilities?” asked Ramanthan, who worked in special education in San Francisco Unified for many years. “What if we actually look to see whether they had been given the resources to succeed? What if we diagnose the school and the classroom, instead of diagnosing the child?”

Five SJSU community members also spoke throughout the evening: Irene Castillon, ’17 MA Education, assistant principal and history teacher at Cristo Rey San Jose Jesuit High School; SJSU Assistant Professor of Child and Adolescent Development Ellen Middaugh; Shar Naidu, ’21 MS Occupational Therapy; Vivian Vu, ’23 Business Administration; and Sabrina Dao, seventh grader at Ocala STEAM academy.

“Democracy requires more than heroes or role models,” said Middaugh, referring to Parkland High School survivor Emma Gonzalez as an example of the new generation of thought leaders ready to provoke conversation. “I see the next generation of leaders who are going to recreate this environment and create a better online public sphere. Our job as educators is to be very intentional in creating opportunities for them to experiment and practice.”

“Do I feel prepared for my future?” asked Dao, who shared how upset she was by hearing stereotypes of East Side families as being “poor” or “living in bad neighborhoods.” “Everyone at my school is motivating. We have so many role models and defy those bad opinions. So yes, I do feel prepared for my future.”

A number of SJSU students, teacher candidates and aspiring educators attended Wednesday’s event. Henry Fan, ’22 Computer Science, worked in hospitality and tech before discovering a passion for education in junior college. He said he walked away from the evening inspired and reflective.

“I not only learned a lot, but I realized just how beautifully diverse the people who are in this room are, and how much vulnerability they were willing to have about their own stories,” said Fan. “I can’t wait to work with our students to uncover some amazing stories.”

Learn more about the Future of Learning Institute.

Nobel Laureate Salutes San Jose State Alumnus Sidney Siegel

Vernon Smith speaking at the SEEL event. Photo by David Schmitz.

When San Jose State University held a grand inauguration event in October celebrating the launch of the newly renovated Spartan Experimental Economics Lab (SEEL), Vernon Smith, the 2002 Nobel Laureate in Economics, one of the key dignitaries present on the occasion, talked about a certain Sidney Siegel, who was a pioneer in the early days of experimental economic research.

A social psychologist and San Jose State alumnus, Siegel is considered to be one of the founding fathers of experimental economics. Experimental economics is a branch of economics that studies human behavior in a controlled laboratory setting or out in the field, with appropriate controls to remove effects of external influences, rather than just using mathematical models.

According to Smith, Siegel was a master experimentalist, but much more. He also used theory and statistics with great skill in the design and analysis of experiments. “Few behavioral or experimental economists realize how much of their methodological tradition came from Sid Siegel.”

Smith’s reference to Siegel is important in many ways. Siegel and San Jose State go back a long way. In 1951, the master experimentalist graduated with a bachelor’s degree in vocational arts from San Jose State College, the precursor to SJSU.

Arguably, graduating from college was a defining moment in Siegel’s educational pursuits. The degree opened the path for many opportunities, one of which led him to Stanford where he completed his doctoral studies in psychology. It was there that Smith first met him.

“During the 1961-1962 academic year, I was a visiting associate professor at Stanford. At the beginning of the autumn quarter, I had the truly significant experience of meeting Sidney Siegel and discovering that we had both been doing experimental economics,” Smith recalled. 

That moment has stayed with the 92-year-old Nobel Laureate. Little did he know then that it would be a brief association. Siegel passed away at age 45 in 1961.

In his “Tribute to Sidney Siegel (1916-1961): A founder of Experimental Economics,” Smith writes about how Siegel survived the rigors of impoverished and diabolical teenage years in the dark alleys of New York. He did not finish high school until later. His only saving grace was when he signed up for the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

Smith published his first experimental article in 1962, two years after Siegel collaborated with Lawrence Fouraker, a professor of economics and later a dean of the Harvard Business School, to publish their first bargaining experiments, which they did in the 1950s.

In Smith’s tribute to Siegel, at a panel where others were speaking in his honor, Smith said that if Siegel had lived he would not only have been a deserving Nobel Laureate, but also that the timetable for the recognition of experimental economics would have been expedited, perhaps by several years.

As experimental methods become more prominent among firms in Silicon Valley, SEEL is focused on joint academic-industry projects, as well as collaborations among departments and researchers, that would help establish SJSU’s position at the forefront of experimental work.

“The use of experiments in industry, particularly within tech companies such as Uber and Facebook, is a growing trend, and the SEEL lab provides us with the ability to not only make SJSU students familiar with the use of experimental techniques, but also to have them run their own experiments,” said Justin Rietz, assistant professor of economics. 

“Research experimentalists in SJSU’s economics department did not have a lab, and as a result, they were either traveling to UC Santa Cruz or Chapman University to partner with faculty members and students as a standard protocol, and that has meant lost opportunities for SJSU students. But all that has changed now,” said Colleen Haight, interim associate dean, undergraduate education.

Today’s Tech Revolution Requires Some Humanity, Papazian Tells Sacramento Bee Readers in Opinion Piece

President Mary A. Papazain is a strong proponent of the value of the humanities, liberal arts and social sciences in higher education. Here, she served as a featured guest for the Frankenstein Bicentennial Monster Discussion Panel in 2018. Photo by David Schmitz.

An op-ed by San Jose State University President Mary A. Papazian published in the October 29 edition of the Sacramento Bee asserts that “the liberal arts must remain a vital part of higher education for the sake of the future of our students, our economy, and our society.”

Drawing largely on her academic background and expertise on the English Renaissance era, Papazian writes that “Just as the Renaissance opened mankind’s eyes to the reality that we do not sit at the center of the universe, today’s technology age has expanded our capabilities beyond the imaginations of only decades ago.” She goes on to note how Renaissance figures such as John Donne and Leonardo di Vinci exemplified many of the humanist principles lacking in today’s technology innovators.

Papazian said the messages conveyed in her op-ed piece are more vital than ever, particularly given the perils of technology and social media that have manifested in attacks on elections and the democratic process.

“It is vital that we understand the true impact of the technology-driven world in which we now live,” she said. “We need to be able to guard our global society against the dangers of this digital age. How we ensure that the next generation interacts more responsibility with technology than we have done this far is critical, and refocusing on the talents of humanists and liberal arts is an excellent place to start.”

In July, Papazian delivered a well-received speech at the Council of Graduate Schools Summer Workshop titled “Humanities for the 21st Century: Innovation and the Fourth Industrial Revolution.” There, she pointed out that “the hard skills learned from STEM programs are essential, but employers actually are desperate for candidates who have balanced their personal portfolios with both digital capabilities and human understanding.”

The partnering of STEM disciplines with the liberal arts, she asserted, can lead to true academic impact at both the graduate and undergraduate levels.

“Students will work in groups all their professional lives, and they must be able to collaborate effectively with people from a broad array of backgrounds and working styles,” said Papazian. “They must be able to communicate in a variety of ways, using digital tools that we know are evolving with stunning rapidity. And they will be required to be creative and confident.

“Where better to learn all of this than in our labs and studios on our campuses? Where better to learn the capacity for these things than in our classrooms and our community-based projects?” she asks.

Developing the tools and the ability to talk about ethics, unconscious bias and the complexity of emotions within individuals and cultures, Papazian said, can help students recognize the choices that lead to collaboration rather than conflict.

“The liberal arts need to be a vital part of the education spectrum if we are to have any hope of addressing the problems we are seeing and reading about on almost a daily basis,” she said.

“Our challenge—and our opportunity—is to seize the moment to influence and shape history meaningfully in this, our present Renaissance.”

 

SJSU and IBM Announce New Collaboration—First of its Kind on the West Coast

Preparing Students for high tech jobs of the future

Photo by Francisco Mendoza, ’21 Photography/San Jose State University

On October 18, 2019, San Jose State University and IBM announced a strategic collaboration designed to provide today’s students with advanced skills needed for high tech jobs of the future.

The use of emerging technologies such as the Internet of things, cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI), data science, security, and blockchain are growing. AI is expected to contribute $15.7T to the global economy by 2030* as the U.S. skills gap widens. Over 11.5 million workers in the United States alone may need to be retrained or reskilled as a result of AI and intelligent automation alone in the next three years.**

“It makes perfect sense for Silicon Valley’s public university to collaborate with IBM, a giant in the tech world,” said San Jose State University President Mary A. Papazian. “Growing our research and scholarship is a priority of ours and ties directly to our student success goals. This collaboration will help San Jose State students gain the skills they need to compete in tomorrow’s workforce, and it will solidify SJSU as the top provider of talent to Silicon Valley companies.”    

The strategic skills-based collaboration, the first of its kind on the west coast, will feature three key components on campus: IBM Academic Initiative, SJSU Technology Office, and IBM Skills Academy.  

  • IBM Academic Initiative. IBM will provide a unique, customized portal for SJSU students, staff, and faculty to access IBM Academic Initiatives resources for teaching and research purposes. The Academic Initiative also provides faculty and researchers with IBM’s cloud technology and software in fast-growing fields such as AI, blockchain, cybersecurity, data science, high-performance computing, and quantum computing. 
  • SJSU Technology Office. IBM will help SJSU establish a technology office to support faculty research, student growth, and campus-wide innovation through regular workshops and training. A cybersecurity training center will also be developed and located on the SJSU campus in the future.
  • IBM Skills Academy. This Skills Academy will offer practical curriculum, learning tools, and labs created by IBM subject experts. Courses will cover a variety of advanced skills, and SJSU’s Information Technology department will evaluate pilot programs in data science, AI, data engineering and cybersecurity. IBM’s new AI tools and related education initiatives are drawn from methods and technologies IBM developed in-house to drive its own workforce transformation. The IBM Skills Academy transforms how cultures and people will operate with digital technology including ethics and human bias in coding.

“Skills are the most important issue of our time and we need to fully equip students with the right skills to participate in the digital economy,” said Naguib Attia, vice president, IBM Global University Programs. “Through this new collaboration, we will work closely with San Jose State University to ensure curricula aligns with industry needs and trends so both students and faculty can earn digital badges and develop the skills they need today, for the jobs of tomorrow.”

The collaboration between San Jose State University and IBM takes effect immediately.

**PwC’s Global Artificial Intelligence Study: Exploiting the AI Revolution

**IBM Institute of Business Value, “The Enterprise Guide to Closing the Skills Gap”, September 2019.

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CSU Shares Profile of SJSU’s Fritz Yambrach, Professor and Inventor

San Jose State University’s Professor Fritz Yambrach brings the same innovative and practical approach to his work, whether rebuilding the packaging program in the College of Health and Human Sciences’ Department of Nutrition, Food Science, and Packaging, creating internships for students with industry partners or developing a new way for people to carry water in developing countries.

When he was hired in 2006, the packaging program had five students enrolled and four courses. He has since developed 10 courses that include packaging for medical devices, pharmaceuticals and food processing, and built the program to an enrollment of 70 students.

Fritz Yambrach, a professor in Nutrition, Food Science, and Packaging helped to develop a way to package water to transport to disaster areas or areas where water is not readily available. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Fritz Yambrach, a professor in Nutrition, Food Science, and Packaging helped to develop a way to package water to transport to disaster areas or areas where water is not readily available. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

“I created course content I believed was useful to a working professional in the field,” Yambrach says. “Packaging is simply problem solving. I’ll give [students] relationships between items and then see how they put it together and make creative extensions.”

Yambrach is the latest San Jose State University faculty member to be featured in the CSU Spotlight with a new profile and video about his teaching philosophy and his research. He is the inventor of a water vest that is being tested in Haiti, Burundi and Ethiopia as an ergonomic, hygienic alternative to carrying water in buckets over long distances.

Fritz, who received the 2017 DuPont Diamond Packaging Innovation Award, said those who have tested the vest since 2006 found an unexpected benefit: “Young girls in Ethiopia were typically tasked with collecting water and it often meant they couldn’t go to school,” he explained. “The vest is allowing more girls to attend school since it makes transporting water much easier.”

Read more about Yambrach’s teaching and research in the CSU Profile, an SJSU Academic Spotlight story and an SJSU Washington Square profile.

SJSU Presents 2018 Outstanding Seniors and Thesis Awards

Media contacts:
Pat Harris, SJSU Media Relations, 408-924-1748, pat.harris@sjsu.edu

SAN JOSE, CA – San Jose State University President Mary A. Papazian will recognize this year’s top graduates at commencement ceremonies to be held May 23-25 at the SJSU Event Center and Avaya Stadium. Nardos Darkera and Sierra Peace will each receive the 2018 Outstanding Graduating Senior Award for academic achievements, leadership roles, contributions to the community and personal achievements. Emily Moffitt is the recipient of the 2018 Outstanding Thesis Award in recognition of the quality of her research.

Nardos Darkera

Nardos Darkera (all photos courtesy of the students)

Nardos Darkera, ’18 Public Health, has given back to the Spartan community while maintaining a 3.85 GPA. She has represented San Jose State as a United Nations Foundation Global Health Fellow, served as a peer teaching assistant, worked as a lead peer advisor in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts Success Center, and interned with Planned Parenthood Mar Monte. Darkera is a recipient of the Louie Barozzi Scholarship for academic excellence and community service, the Dean’s International Scholarship to study abroad in Puerto Rico, and the Health Science Scholarship to attend the American Public Health Association Meeting in Atlanta. She will continue on to the University of California, San Francisco, to pursue a master’s degree in global health. Health Science Professor Kathleen Roe predicts that Darkera “will be a leader of thought, social action, professions — and maybe even politics.”

Sierra Peace

Sierra Peace

Sierra Peace, ’18 Psychology, arrived at San Jose State as a 16-year-old freshman with her sights set on medical school. A member of SJSU’s International Neuroeconomics Institute research lab since 2015, Peace has presented two posters at the Western Psychological Association Conference. She juggled four jobs while volunteering with the Third Street Community Center, the Associated Students of SJSU community garden and the Regional Medical Center of San Jose. Her 3.97 GPA qualified her for Educational Opportunity Program Honors for four years. She was also a 2016 and 2017 Dean’s Scholar, a 2017 Hoover-Langdon Scholar and a 2018 President’s Scholar. Psychology Professor Cheryl Chancellor-Freeland describes Peace as “the most exceptional student I have encountered in my 23 years of teaching.”

Emily Moffitt

Emily Moffitt

Emily Moffitt, ’17 Environmental Studies, collected feathers from 169 birds at San Jose’s Coyote Creek Field Station, and then analyzed the feathers for stable isotopes to reveal where birds spent their breeding season. Her thesis “Using Stable Isotope Analysis to Infer Breeding Latitude and Migratory Timing of Juvenile Pacific-Slope Flycatchers (Empidonax difficilis)” revealed the species’ migratory patterns, critical information for preserving habitats the birds need to survive. She partnered with the University of California, Davis, Stable Isotope Facility to develop statistical programs and used ArcGIS to portray probable breeding origins, and support her research using isotope reference and Breeding Bird Survey data.


About San Jose State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San Jose State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San Jose State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing 10,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 260,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.