Honoring Native American and Indigenous Heritage, Sovereignty and Future: A Q&A with SJSU Tribal Liaison Alisha Marie Ragland

The history of Native American Heritage Month mirrors the way many Native American and Indigenous movements have been treated by the U.S. government.

The idea was originally introduced in the early 20th century by pioneering Native Americans like Seneca Indian Arthur C. Parker, then-director of the Museum of Arts and Sciences in Rochester, NY, and Red Fox James, a Blackfoot Indian. But it wasn’t until 1990 that President George H.W. Bush approved a joint resolution designating November as a month to recognize the history, heritage and legacy of Native American and Indigenous communities across the country.

Since then, many similar proclamations have been issued to honor and celebrate the contributions of a culture that dates back thousands of years. But what does that recognition look like in 2021?

San José State University Anthropology Lecturer Alisha Marie Ragland, ’18 MA Anthropology, who also serves as an applied archeologist and the university’s tribal liaison, answered questions about what this time means to her.

San José State Anthropology Lecturer and applied anthropologist Alisha Marie Ragland, ’18 MA Anthropology, also serves as the university’s first tribal liaison.

What is Native American Heritage Month, and what does it mean to you?

Native American Heritage Month is a time when Native Americans may finally see ourselves and our diverse cultures represented righteously in the media and in the places we work and live. It is a time when we see increased participation in Native American movements and engagement with Native people, which I hope will last throughout the year.

Simultaneously, it can be a difficult time. As a person of mixed-settler and California Native American ancestry, it is often a time when I reflect on the ways colonization has disrupted Indigenous sovereignty.

What inspired you to pursue a career in anthropology? 

I chose to major in anthropology after being motivated by the revolutionary work of educator and activist Angela Yvonne Davis, who, in the early days of my college career, was still lecturing in the anthropology department at University of California, Santa Cruz. I wasn’t really focused on building a career; I simply wanted to be educated. I had faith that my education would provide me with opportunities that were aligned with my values, and that was exactly what happened.

You have held various roles at SJSU — first as a graduate student, then as a lecturer and tribal liaison. How has your education prepared you for the roles you have today?

I really enjoyed being a student in the anthropology department. Most of my professors were inspiring and dedicated educators who believed in racial and economic justice.

Through the mentorship of Emeritus Lecturer Alan Leventhal and other collaborations with the Department of Anthropology, I was able to work with the local Native American community in a variety of ways.

For my thesis project, I worked closely with Vice Chairwoman Monica Arellano of the Muwekma Ohlone Tribe. I was then hired by the tribe as an archaeologist. This entry into archaeology provided me with an invaluable understanding of the moral and ethical imperative archaeologists have in working with the descendants of those we study.

As a grad student, I made a point to meet with some of my favorite professors to ask them how they became educators and what path I might take to make that dream a reality. One year after graduating, I was asked by the Department of Anthropology to teach archaeology. It was just as fulfilling as I had always imagined, and I was grateful for the opportunity.

Now, as tribal liaison for Assembly Bill 275, I work with local tribes to repatriate their ancestors currently held at SJSU. I am eager to see the full repatriation of all Native American ancestors and their belongings within the next few years.

Can you define repatriation, and share more about your work in that area?

Because so many Bay Area Tribes are and have been woman-led, I like to use the term rematriation whenever I can, as this is a word that Indigenous communities have chosen. It implies a holistic framework for self-determination, and more accurately describes the leadership of many Tribes in our geographic region and around the world.

The term rematriation inherently references the care we give and receive from mother earth — where the ancestors will eventually return — as well as the many ways in which Indigenous women and two-spirit people have historically and contemporarily cared for their communities and act as stewards of Indigenous knowledge.

Despite the inadequacy of the word repatriation, I still default to it since it is more widely known and has a legal element to its definition. Yet, as brilliant Indigenous scholar Eve Tuck notes, “We get blisters from using inadequate tools, but blisters can be drained and the work can still be completed.”

The word repatriate has many meanings. In my role, repatriation is the act of returning ancestors and their belongings to their respective Tribal Nations. This involves meaningful consultation with local Tribes who may be descendants of the ancestors in our collections.

Consultations include discussions about sensitive cultural information pertaining to sacred sites, traditional knowledge, tribal territories and more. Once consultations have occurred, we then inventory our collections with the recommendations received from Tribes during consultation. After inventorying, we publish this data so that Tribes may request legal transfer of the collections.

What rematriation/repatriation work has SJSU done already?

SJSU has done a lot, comparatively speaking. The new repatriation law AB275 requires public institutions to create a full-time position for Tribal outreach and consultation. To my knowledge, we are the first — and possibly only — California State University campus to have done so. That is my position.

We have already completed our first round of consultations for 75% of our holdings and have identified Tribes who wish to receive legal transfer of their ancestors, and will begin the inventorying process soon for the 75%. We have just begun scheduling consultations for a bit more than half of the remaining 25% of our holdings. Our goal is to have inventoried all of the ancestors in our care and ready to return home by Jan. 1, 2022.

What does SJSU still need to work on?

As a colonial institution, SJSU has a lot to work on. First, we need to establish a healthier environment on campus and support for all Indigenous people (students, staff, faculty). This is the foundation for all the work to be done between the university and the local Native American communities.

Second, we need to facilitate healthier relationships with local Tribes that have been harmed by the university in some way. Despite so many challenges, I believe my work so far has begun to address some of the harms and move us towards restorative actions that may hopefully strengthen SJSU’s relationships with local Tribes.

Why is it important for residents to acknowledge and understand the history of the land they inhabit?

It is important for everyone to understand that the project of colonization is ongoing. Land acknowledgment is the first step in educating ourselves and each other about whose land we occupy, the legacy of Indigenous land stewardship in our areas, and what obstacles Indigenous people currently face. The next step is to support local movements for Indigenous sovereignty.

What main message would you like to share with members of the SJSU community about Native American Heritage Month? 

Do not treat Native American Heritage Month as a once-a-year source of entertainment or content to be consumed. Rather, Native American Heritage Month provides an opportunity for institutions and organizations to commit to working with Native Americans and uplift Native American achievements; to highlight Indigenous artists, educators and creators; and to raise awareness of both historic and contemporary systemic issues facing the Native American community.

This year, I hope there is a widespread campaign to support Indigenous land and water protectors who disproportionately shoulder the burden of climate justice, followed by a global movement to divest from fossil fuels forever.

To learn more about Native American and Indigenous communities at San José State, check out the Native American Student Organization and the Gathering of Academic Indigenous and Native Americans (GAIN).

Visit the Muwekma Ohlone site to learn more.

SJSU Launches Inaugural Racial Justice Event

Transforming Communities: A Movement to Racial Justice

As protests erupted across the United States over the killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor in 2020, raising the national conscience about racism, San José State University administrators vowed to combat systemic racism on campus through a series of short-term and long-term action plans.

One of those action plans begins on November 1, 2021. Transforming Communities: A Movement to Racial Justice — is designed to drive the conversation and work around racial justice. It will be an annual event every November —  which also serves as Native American Heritage Month — and will include a variety of programming from campus partners, the City of San José, local schools and community organizations.

“Part of our mission at San José State is to become a fully inclusive, anti-racist, multicultural institution of higher learning,” said President Mary A. Papazian. “To get there, we must take steps toward tangible change and, at the same time, implement longer-term strategies. I anticipate that Transforming Communities will soon become a signature event at our university, and an opportunity for the entire SJSU community to come together to learn, engage and create pathways for positive change.”

The Transforming Communities: A Movement to Racial Justice event will feature a different theme and new programs each year. Director of Advocacy for Racial Justice Jahmal Williams said this year’s theme is: Reflection. Discovery. Action.

“We believe everyone plays a part and begins from different places,” Williams said. “Some people or organizations may be in the space of reflection. Others may be seeking additional information or discovery to help drive efforts or strategies they hope to implement. While others may be just getting started with the work. No matter where they are, there is a space for everyone to get involved. We want to make sure all can participate.”

This year, there will be 27 different programs during the first 13 days of November. They include presentations, panel discussions, keynote speakers, artistic performances and open space workshops in which participants can discuss and reflect on issues around racial justice. A schedule of programs can be found on the Transforming Communities website.

Transforming Communities puts into action many of the key values of the work of equity and social justice,” said Chief Diversity Officer Kathleen Wong (Lau). “The programming is innovative and collaborative and includes community and campus voices as not only agents of change but also generators of important conversations and connections necessary to do the work around racial justice. As an ongoing annual program, it has the potential to expand the region’s capacity for transformative change that is institutionalized and continually energized.”

Looking Back on the Foundation of SJSU’s PRIDE Center

Silicon Valley Pride Celebration

SJSU LGBTQ+ Community members at a Silicon Valley Pride celebration in 2017.

October is LGBT History Month, and with it comes an opportunity to explore the beginnings of the PRIDE Center at San José State University. First called the LGBT Center, the PRIDE Center was founded in 2008, following a long history of activism in support of an inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ students at San José State.

Some of the early advocates for the PRIDE Center were student government leaders and a small group of faculty and staff — chief among them was Wiggsy Sivertsen, ’62 SJSU alumna, emeritus professor and former director of counseling services at San José State; Debra Griffith, then director of SJSU’s student conduct and ethical development; and Cathy Busalacchi, ’76 Recreation, who was the executive director of Student Union, Inc. and associate vice president for campus life.

Current and founding Director of the PRIDE Center Bonnie Sugiyama (they/them) notes that a study conducted by psychologist Angela Krumm, who was then a part of San José State’s Counseling Services, also played a role in demonstrating how a center of this kind could benefit the community. Wiggsy and Griffith also credit SJSU’s former president Don W. Kassing (2004-2008), for his support of funding to establish the center.

Creating a path to visibility

The Spartan Daily Newspaper

The Spartan Daily Newspaper from November 19, 1969 announces the beginnings of the GLF.

The LGBTQ+ community at San José State first began organizing in the late 1960s as the San José Gay Liberation Front (GLF). According to Wiggsy (as she is widely known), who became the faculty advisor for the GLF (now Queers Thoughtfully Interrupting Prejudice or QTIP), they were the primary LGBTQ+ group on campus until the 2000s — though there were no other letters in this acronym then, she emphasized.

An icon in the LGBTQ+ community at SJSU, in the City of San José and in Santa Clara County, Wiggsy said the early life of the gay community at SJSU was not comfortable. In the ’60s and ’70s, there was a lot of activism in the Bay Area, especially for civil and Black rights, gay rights, women’s rights and anti-war movements; but it was not easy for LGBTQ+ people to speak out.

“To speak out against anti-gay violence, you were assumed to be gay yourself,” she recalled.

And that assumption was negatively charged.

Warren Blumenfeld, who attended SJSU from 1966 through 1970 — now a renowned writer and social justice educator — corroborates the bias and discrimination the LGBTQ+ community faced during that time at California State University (CSU) campuses. He recently shared his experience as an openly gay college student in an anti-LGBTQ+ climate with SJSU Chief Diversity Officer Kathy Wong(Lau).

In the discussion, he described how Glenn Dumke, then chancellor of the CSU system, denied recognizing the Gay Liberation Front’s existence in 1970. Because it was not yet permitted for the GLF to officially hold meetings on campus, they met at a diner on San Fernando Street, a few blocks off campus. According to Wiggsy, the group continued to meet at various places near and around San José State for years without a dedicated space to call home.

In the early 1970s, a number of students and faculty members at Sacramento State University filed a lawsuit to address the legality of a public university’s denial of recognition to LGBTQ+ student groups in California and won, further paving the way for other gay and lesbian student organizations across the country to become visible on their campuses.

Documenting change

At present, there are gaps of historical knowledge of the LGBTQ+ community’s activities at SJSU between the 1970s and 2000s, but SJSU’s PRIDE Faculty and Staff Association is currently working on a timeline for their website to remedy this. There is also an extensive documentation of the rich history of the LGBTQ+ community in the university’s surrounding area, thanks to SJSU lecturer Ken Yeager, ’76 Political Science.

Yeager was the first openly gay elected official in Silicon Valley, first as a trustee of the San Jose-Evergreen Community College District (1992-2000), a member of San José’s City Council (2000-2006) and a Santa Clara County Board of Supervisor (2006-2018).

He pioneered “Coming Out: 50 Years of Queer Resistance to Resilience in Silicon Valley,” an exhibit displayed at History San Jose museum earlier this year that chronicles the story of the LGBTQ+ civil rights movement and traces five decades of Silicon Valley Pride events, the experience of the AIDS epidemic in the South Bay, and how the LGBTQ+ community made progress in the area’s high-tech and other professions. The exhibition first launched virtually as the Queer Silicon Valley website.

“The exhibit tells the history that younger LGBTQ people know little about and have had limited access to,” Yeager wrote in an op-ed in The Mercury News. “The hope is that it allows them to see themselves in the continuum of an older queer generation that forged a path for them to walk.”

There were a lot of dark days for the LGBTQ+, especially in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, explained Wiggsy, that people nowadays may not know about. SJSU students in particular, she said, may not have time to be as active in the community as they were then; she thinks it has a lot to do with the family and job commitments many of them have.

When the PRIDE Center was eventually established at San José State in 2008, it was located in the former Building BB, where SJSU’s 10-story Campus Village 2 residence hall is located today. That’s when Sugiyama, champion of social justice issues for more than 20 years — first as a student and then as a professional at several CSU campuses — came on board.

Building from the ground up

Sugiyama simultaneously set up the PRIDE Center and the Gender Equity Center (then the Women’s Center) side-by-side in a five-room space. Serendipitously, a local feminist bookstore (now defunct) called Sisterspirit, founded by SJSU women’s and gender studies graduate program alums, was downsizing inventory and offered to donate books for the centers. They were happy to pay the resources forward.

Students tabling at a student organization fair.

Students tabling at a student organization fair in 2009. Photo: D. Schmitz

It took a while to establish knowledge of the center around campus — and for the LGBTQ+ community to realize the resource was available to them.

“Where that building used to exist near student housing, nobody really knew about us yet,” said Sugiyama. “The first three years of any sort of new program is hard because folks don’t really know who you are, and you’re still trying to figure out and establish yourself.”

After eight years and a few moves around campus, the PRIDE Center eventually found its home in the Student Union in 2016, where it is today.

A new generation

Today, the center is supported by Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS) and encourages the well-being of all LGBTQ+ students on campus. It provides a brave space to cultivate community, such as through its Peers in Pride (PIP) mentoring program, while also encouraging a broader climate of inclusion on campus. Read more about this work.

The PRIDE Center also provides space for student-run organizations and student meetups, including Asexual/Aromantic, Bisexual/Pansexual; Out in Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (oSTEAM); Queer and Asian (Q&A); Queers Thoughtfully Interrupting Prejudice (QTIP); and Trans Talk. The center also hosts student facilitated group meetups for those identities who don’t have a specific organization and social “gayme” nights on Thursdays.

During the pandemic, the center was able to continue much of the social programming online through the platform Discord. They created different channels for all the groups that exist, providing a much-need respite from Zoom that many of the students appreciate.

This fall, the PRIDE Center is also co-sponsoring a conversation with Janet Mock, transgender rights activist and writer, director and executive producer for the television show “Pose” on Nov. 9 at 6 p.m. as part of the Spartan Speaker Series.

Learn more about SJSU’s PRIDE Center.

SJSU Joins CSU Initiative to Increase Women Faculty in Engineering

Sheryl Ehrman, dean of the College of Engineering, speaks at San José State’s Silicon Valley Women in Engineering conference in 2019. The university has joined a CSU-wide initiative to increase women faculty in engineering.

More than 30% of tenure or tenure-track faculty at San José State University’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering are women — the fourth highest among public engineering colleges in the country, according to the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

Thanks to a $1.25 million National Science Foundation grant, that number may grow, with an emphasis on increasing diversity as well as expanding networking and support opportunities for women faculty.

Awarded to California State University, Fresno — who is partnering with SJSU, California State University Los Angeles and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo — the grant will support those California State University (CSU) campuses’ efforts to hire more women engineering faculty members, especially underrepresented minority women, according to a release from Fresno State.

Ultimately, the goal is to enroll more female students. Up to 11 more CSU campuses may eventually join the initiative.

“We are excited to participate in this initiative,” said Sheryl Ehrman, the Don Beall Dean of the College of Engineering.

“While we are one of the top public colleges of engineering in the nation with respect to women tenure/tenure-track faculty, there is still room for progress,” she continued. “I appreciate the focus on strengthening research collaborations and building the mentoring and peer-support network.”

The initiative, called the Kindling Inter-University Networks for Diverse (KIND) Engineering Faculty Advancement, is led by Fresno State and will follow a three-pronged approach.

First, it will analyze the campuses’ engineering faculty data using Aspire’s Institutional Change program to evaluate hiring practices, and policies and procedures around supporting and advancing existing faculty.

Second, it will create a CSU-wide network for research collaboration, including mini-grants for network members. And third, it will foster a systemwide mentoring and peer-support network to increase faculty retention and promotion.

The initiative will also create a dashboard where campuses can track the demographics of existing faculty and advancement data, which would allow them to identify potential roadblocks in hiring and retention.

“Is it at the hiring state where we aren’t getting diverse candidates? Is it in faculty departures before tenure? Is there a gender difference there?” asked Kimberly Stillmaker, assistant professor of civil engineering at Fresno State and one of the faculty members who led the grant application process.

“Once we have that data, then we’ll be able to make better changes, more pinpointed changes,” she noted.

In 2019, only 17% of the country’s engineering tenured/tenure-track faculty were women, according to the ASEE, and it’s even lower for Black and Latina women.

Since Ehrman stepped into her role in 2017, she has worked to increase the presence of female faculty in SJSU’s College of Engineering.

“The SJSU campus has made significant changes to our faculty search processes, including training committees in inclusive search practices,” she noted.

“Our college has women in leadership roles — department chairs, associate deans and me as the second female dean — so this helps in recruiting women at all career stages,” Ehrman continued. “We are looking for faculty who are student-focused and who will prioritize delivering a quality educational experience for students as well as research that directly involves students.”

Young Park, associate professor of computer engineering, is one of those faculty members. She uplifts women and underrepresented minorities through cybersecurity hands-on research and industry experience.

“My focus is to let these students overcome stereotypes as they develop skills that are needed for advanced cybersecurity,” she explained.

“I believe diversity is a key factor for successful programs at any organization and any project, because the complete solution can be derived from various backgrounds and environments. Through the KIND project, I hope our female faculty members will become leaders in the engineering field.”

Another strategy that has helped recruit women engineers to SJSU is the college’s emphasis on applied research that benefits society, Ehrman said.

“Women are more drawn to engineering if they see an engineering career as a way they can contribute positively to society, and being an engineering professional, training the next generation of engineers is a way to scale that benefit,” Ehrman explained.

The College of Engineering provides several opportunities for women engineering students to build relationships with mentors and each other. For example, the college hosts an annual Silicon Valley Women in Engineering Conference, where female engineering students from SJSU and other higher ed institutions can learn from women professionals in the field.

SJSU women engineering students can also join SWE SJSU, the campus’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. And in 2017, an engineering sorority was founded on campus as well.

Still, Ehrman emphasized that the KIND Engineering Faculty Advancement initiative will allow SJSU to continue to take big steps toward bringing more women — especially underrepresented minority women — into the engineering field.

“The grant will provide excellent opportunities for networking and support of women faculty across the CSU, so our current and future faculty will greatly benefit,” she said.

“While our percentages are high, our college can improve in recruitment and retention of women faculty of color, and we hope to be able to learn through participation in this grant how we can improve in this area.”

Learn more about the KIND Engineering Faculty Advancement initiative.

SJSU Honors Its History of Social Justice and Activism With Expanded, Campus-Wide “Legacy Month”

October’s celebratory, educational events build off Associated Students’ tradition.

October is always a busy month at San José State University with Homecoming activities, the start of midterms, and a variety of events and activities taking place around campus. One of the most significant recurring themes throughout October at SJSU is Legacy Month, which promises to have an even more prominent role than years’ past, especially as the university continues to repopulate and resume more in-person events.

Faculty, Associated Students and CCCAC plant the seeds

Legacy Month has traditionally centered on celebrated SJSU alumni and 1968 Olympic track-and-field medalists John Carlos and Tommie Smith, and the global impact they have had on social justice and human rights. A small group of faculty and students made sure years ago that the legacy of Carlos and Smith would never be forgotten.

Professor Scott Myers-Lipton of SJSU’s Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences conceived and led the years-long campaign to commemorate the Smith/Carlos legacy. On October 16, 2006 — the first anniversary of the unveiling of the statues — Myers-Lipton and several colleagues, including those from the African American Studies department and Ben Henderson from Associated Students, held a small event to commemorate the day Smith and Carlos raised their fists for justice in Mexico City.

SJSU’s Associated Students, along with key faculty members and staff, created Legacy Week (later, Legacy Month) as a way to honor and remember the social activism of Spartans from previous eras. Photo: Christina Olivas, San Jose State University

The following year, Professor Myers-Lipton asked the César Chávez Community Action Center (CCCAC) to become actively involved in the Smith/Carlos event, which they agreed to do. In the following years, the CCCAC took the lead in broadening the October 16 event to what came to be known as Legacy Week and, later, Legacy Month.

In recent years, Legacy Month events have placed raising awareness of Carlos and Smith’s historic stance atop the medal stand and their struggle for human rights to the forefront. CCCAC’s efforts are also designed to cultivate the next generation of social justice advocates at SJSU. Due to these efforts, the likeness of the two Spartan legends will forever be depicted and remembered by the iconic statue displayed on Tower Lawn.

“As an alumna of SJSU and part of the founding cohort of the CCCAC, I had the honor in 2008 to assist with the coordination of the inaugural Legacy Week at SJSU,” said Diana Victa, who now serves as department manager for the CCCAC.

“What started as a makeshift event in front of the statues now promises to not only deeply honor Smith and Carlos but also our rich history of student activism advocating for racial and social justice. I am proud and excited to see that the university has taken recognition of the power of Legacy Month by broadening it into something even greater for our community.”

Continuing, growing the tradition

Now, as campus efforts to address systemic racism have emerged as an ongoing priority, Legacy Month is growing in hopes of engaging even more members of the campus community. Jahmal Williams, Director of Advocacy for Racial Justice in the Office of the President’s Community & Government Relations group, said the month-long effort offers a variety of ways for students and others to gain an understanding of and an appreciation for the racial struggles that will always be a part of SJSU’s history.

(L-R) Tommie Smith, Dr. Harry Edwards and John Carlos pose for a photo on Oct. 17, 2018, in front of the statue on the SJSU campus that honors their iconic, black-gloved protest at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of that historic event. Photo: Josie Lepe/San Jose State University

“Fighting for racial and social justice is in the fabric of our campus,” said Williams. “Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Harry Edwards, the entire Olympic Project for Human Rights and so many others stand as icons in history. Their efforts should not only be studied, but celebrated and reflected upon by every student, faculty and staff member who grace our campus. We owe it to our pioneers for justice and to our community to embed this work into our university and the lives of those who will always be part of it.”

In addition to the events around October’s Legacy Month — which include a two-day conference spearheaded by SJSU’s Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change — a new symposium is planned for mid-November titled Transforming Communities: A Movement To Racial Justice. The event, which Williams hopes will become an annual tradition, is a joint effort between SJSU and local government, non-profits, organizations, schools and businesses with an end goal of creating a racially just and equitable city, county and region. An array of presentations, lectures, workshops and keynote speakers are expected.

Here are some of the ways San José State will celebrate Legacy Month this October and honor those Spartan alumni who have paved the way for future generations with their activism and commitment to human rights:

Legacy Month Kickoff

Monday, October 4  |  Noon
7th Street Plaza

Honor the rich history of student activism of SJSU. Stop by the CCCAC table to receive a free t-shirt.


Legacy Month Speaker: Leah Thomas

Wednesday, October 6  |  7 – 8:30 p.m.
Zoom Registration – Leah Thomas

Leah Thomas is an environmentalist, passionate about advocating for and exploring the relationship between social justice and environmentalism. She is the founder of eco-lifestyle blog @greengirlleah, @thegreensgirlco and The Intersectional Environmentalist Platform.


Press Conference: Racial & Social Justice at SJSU

Tuesday, October 19  |  11 a.m.
Smith and Carlos Statues

Hear the announcement of the release of the booklet “Racial and Social Justice at SJSU,” which documents 10 actions taken by SJSU students, including the actions by Tommie and John, to build Dr. King’s Beloved Community.


Continuing the Legacy of Tommie Smith and John Carlos

Tuesday, October 19  |  Noon – 1:30 p.m.
Smith and Carlos Statues

Join the SJSU campus community to reflect on the significance of Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s historic action 53 years ago in Mexico City, and its relevance to today’s struggle for racial and social justice.


Ableism in Social Justice Spaces

Spartan Legacy Training Academy

Tuesday, October 19  |  1 – 2 p.m.
Zoom RSVP – Ableism

As activists and advocates, we are often so busy organizing we forget to take the time to look at what our spaces look like and who we design them for. Learn more about what we can do in our own spaces to combat ableism.


Smith/Carlos “Teach-In”

Tuesday, October 19
Wednesday, October 20

SJSU faculty are encouraged to register and select from a variety of related topics to engage students on the university’s legacy of activism or to choose their own! These informal discussions or lectures on issues related to SJSU’s legacy of social justice and activism are designed to inspire and engage.


Legacy Month Movie Night: With Drawn Arms

Wednesday, October 20  |  6:30 p.m.
Tower Lawn

Enjoy a night on the lawn as you learn the story of the ’68 Olympic Games protest firsthand. Tommie Smith takes you through a journey of his experience that helped define a movement and changed the course of his life forever. Bring your friends and your favorite blankets.


It is Time: Voice of Athlete Activism

Thursday – Friday, October 21 – 22  |  9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
More information and RSVP – It is Time

Join the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change for a two-day virtual conference to learn about the history and legacy of athlete activism at SJSU and beyond, including keynote panels, change agent organizations and educational teachings with ISSSSC’s Words to Action workshops.


SJSU Legacy Run – A Celebration of our Community

Also part of Hispanic Heritage Month

Saturday, October 30  |  9 – 11 a.m.

Starting and ending at the Smith/Carlos statues on Tower Lawn, this new fun run will circle the perimeter of the university, highlighting SJSU’s roots and heritage in activism. A number of running groups from San José and the Bay Area will join SJSU’s Track and Field and Cross Country teams, and students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the community are all invited to register and participate.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: A Q&A with Chicana and Chicano Studies Faculty Christine Vega and Johnny Ramirez

Each year, the United States recognizes National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Originally, it was Hispanic Heritage Week, an observance started by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968; then in 1988, President Ronald Reagan expanded it to a month-long celebration. But, what does it mean to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month today? 

Two of San José State University’s newest faculty, Assistant Professors Christine Vega and Johnny Ramirez, offered us their perspective on the month, why it’s important and how they became interested in teaching Chicana and Chicano Studies. 

Vega described Ramirez as her “academic sibling,” because they have traveled many of the same pathways in higher education. Both hail from southern California, both were introduced to Chicana and Chicano Studies through the California community college system, and both earned their PhDs in education from UCLA and served as postdoctoral scholars at the University’s Interdisciplinary Research Institute for the Study of (in)Equality (IRISE). 

But their expertise and experience vary. Ramirez’s community-engaged research and critical pedagogical approaches have explored the punitive discipline practices that lead to Chicanx-Latinx school pushout (students dropping out), youth resistance, positive youth development and transformational resistance frameworks within critical race theory in education. 

Vega identifies as a community-based, Motherscholar-activist who merges academia, activism and spirituality in her pedagogy and research. She focuses on Motherscholar activism — the implicit and explicit work of mothers, especially Chicana, Chicanx, Latina, Latinx and Indigenous mothers enrolled in doctoral programs in the American Southwest.

Here’s what they shared about this timely topic. 

Why is it important for people to acknowledge Hispanic Heritage Month?

Christine Vega

Assistant Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies Christine Vega. Photo by Josh Vu Photography.

Christine Vega (CV): This is a celebration that should be honored year-round. A main part of being faculty in Chicana and Chicano and Chicanx studies is talking about the history and  context of our luchas [struggles]. This goes for all folks who identify as BIPOC [Black, Indigenous People of Color]; they should be honored year-round.

Johnny Ramirez (JR): I agree. This is also an acknowledgement that, even in 2021, there is this traditional narrative about the American experience and oftentimes BIPOC folks are not included. For folks who identify as Hispanic, Latinx, and/or Chicanx are part of a broader diaspora. There are a lot of different racial and ethnic identities and experiences within that. There isn’t just one homogenous so-called ‘Hispanic’ group, but when we think in the U.S. context, that is the traditional narrative. 

For me, this month is an opportunity to reaffirm that we need to acknowledge Chicanx-Latinx communities year-round, but in this particular time, we organize some resources to push our visibility. 

Positive representation matters in society. It is the first step in creating a cultural shift in which racialized groups are able to be seen, heard and valued. Oftentimes, Chicanx-Latinx communities are only mentioned and acknowledged when public discourse is focused on racist, nativist rhetoric or stereotypical media forms. It becomes imperative for Chicanx-Latinx communities to share the beauty and richness of their cultural memories, stories and epistemological perspectives within society. 

Who or what inspired you to study Chicana and Chicano studies?

CV: In terms of my experiences as a student in K-12 education in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, I didn’t realize that schools were tracking me in a certain direction, one that was not college-bound. It wasn’t until summer school my senior year, when I was around students who were AP and honors, that I began asking what is college, and how come I didn’t know about it earlier?

What really lit a fire in me to pursue higher education is UCLA’s Center for Community College Partnerships. They came to my high school to invite students to apply for a free summer program and assist high school students pursuing community college learn how to transfer to a four-year university, and they provided the language in terms of injustice in Communities of Color. The program really changed my life. I told myself, UCLA is where I’m going to go, and I went there twice.

A lot of my consciousness-building happened at Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural, a cultural center founded by LA poet laureate Luis J. Rodriguez, Trini Rodriguez and Enrique Sanchez, as well as my community college courses, which centralized intersectionality and named the inequalities experienced by BIPOC and Students of Color in marginalized communities. 

Johnny Ramirez.

Assistant Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies Johnny Ramirez.

JR: Part of my story is being a youth that got pushed out of school in the ninth grade. I grew up in poverty with a single mom, and it was my exposure to a student activist group called Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlán (MEChA) and Chicano Studies that gave me the building blocks to construct a positive self identity. I couldn’t find the language to name the injustices I saw and experienced in my life and community, but Chicana and Chicano Studies classes and activism provided me a lens to understand the struggles and resiliency of my ancestors, my parents, as well as, within my own life. 

I was about 17 years old when I got introduced to a group of Chicanx college students who were activists. They planted the seed, and when I got to community college, I took my first Chicano studies class. It was then that I realized I wanted to be a Chicano studies professor, and now my route is coming full circle. As a community college student, I experienced transformative change in higher education due to the field of Chicana and Chicano Studies, and I wanted to help cultivate that for diverse student populations similar to my own.

What’s beautiful about our field is in the early foundations of Chicanx Studies, there was always this acknowledgement of community empowerment and involvement. Our community, especially our youth, were framed as “holders and creators of knowledge.” So our academic space is, by design, a collaborative  bridge between the university and community spaces. We can build together and have positive representations, so our youth can pursue higher education as well.

What attracted you to San José State? 

JR: I come from a working class community — my mom is a payable clerk at the school district, and my stepdad is a retired warehouse worker. What’s so beautiful at San José State is there is a large population of working-class first-generation students of color, who are trying to get a college degree to uplift their family and community. Also, I really appreciated that at San José State, there’s a legacy, from the farmworker’s movement to the labor movement, to some of the foundational historians and intellectuals like Dr. Ernesto Galarza. There’s a lot of that cultural memory here. I’m getting more familiar with it, and it is an honor to be here. 

CV: It’s always been my dream to be a professor in a Chicana and Chicano studies and ethnic studies department that also honors my educational training. SJSU honors all my intersectional, interdisciplinary training as well as the work that I do with other scholars. As a student, I wanted to see Chicanas and Chicanos be my professor, and it took me a while to actually see that. The goal for me in becoming a professor was to help others see themselves reflected in me. I am that mirror.

That’s the power of representation, and that goes beyond one month. This is our role — to be that representation for many years to come.

Learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month activities at SJSU.

 

The Record Clearance Project Maintains Impressive 99% Success Rate in Court Throughout Pandemic

Record Clearance Project


The Record Clearance Project staff includes, from left to right: Cindy Parra, Jordan Velosa, ’20 Justice Studies; Jesse Mejia, ’19 Justice Studies; Darlene Montero; Michelle Taikeff, ’19 Justice Studies; Victoria Kirschner; Omar Arauza, ’20 Justice Studies; and Diana Carreras. Photo by Bob Bain.

This fall, the Record Clearance Project (RCP) kicks off its 14th year of service at San José State. 

“Having a criminal record is often a major obstacle to employment for low-income residents in San José, and this challenge is amplified for people of color,” said College of Social Sciences Dean Walt Jacobs. 

“The Record Clearance Project assists thousands of people each year with criminal convictions who cannot afford an attorney, enabling them to pursue their legal rights to a full, productive future. SJSU students also benefit from participation in this critically important work, as they learn valuable skills that translate to their areas of study.”

The program offers representation in court on petitions to dismiss eligible convictions and reduce eligible felonies to misdemeanors in Santa Clara County. Students interview clients and prepare their petitions in the appropriate legal format. Students also offer free “speed screenings” to help members of the public understand their individual legal rights to clearing their record. 

SJSU Justice Studies instructor and attorney Margaret (Peggy) Stevenson launched the RCP as a series of justice studies courses and an internship program that provides undergraduates with the training and attorney supervision to help eligible individuals get their records cleared as allowed by law, also known as expungement. 

Since launching the RCP in 2008, Stevenson and her team have spoken to nearly 13,000 people, including 4,000 in custody, explaining expungement law and employment rights of people with convictions at legal rights presentations. Throughout the pandemic, the RCP has pivoted to online services, continuing to consult with clients virtually. 

“Our justice system takes people who have made a mistake in their past and condemns them to limited employment, limited housing and limited education for the rest of their lives,” said Stevenson. “It takes sophistication, knowledge, experience and kindness to interview our clients, share their stories and advocate for them.” 

To help people begin the expungement process, the RCP obtained a LiveScan machine in 2017. Since then, the RCP has provided more than 800 people with their histories, saving them at least $31,500 in commercial services, and received court decisions that removed over $130,000 in debt. 

In addition to the financial benefit, providing a safe, friendly environment alleviates some of the trauma many people experience in being fingerprinted again. 

Peer mentor Diana Carreras and project assistant Omar Arauza in the RCP office at San José State. Photo by Bob Bain.

Stevenson has trained SJSU students to conduct over 2,100 individual legal advice interviews and helped them file more than 1,700 petitions to dismiss convictions on behalf of over 600 clients. The training, practice and role-play pays dividends: The RCP has an impressive 99% success rate in court.

That success is exponential, says RCP alumna Serey Nouth, ’20 Kinesiology. She explained that helping clients made it easier to address her own struggles and gave her hope for the future.

“Every day, we hear and see injustice, inequality, and systemic racism in our justice system,” she said. “Once hopeless and dejected, I now feel more empowered to dedicate my life to becoming part of the solution to these long overdue issues. 

“Every time I get to work with a new client, it’s another life changed for the better. Thanks to RCP, I am now studying for my LSAT and preparing my application for law school.”

Stevenson said that the RCP will continue to hold speed screenings online or by phone, and this fall they will be offering some legal rights presentations via video, enabling access to clients across the state. 

“There are 78 RCP cases on the court docket in August,” she added. “We filed these cases for 12 clients, including convictions as old as 1986. On we go.”

SJSU Hosts Global Virtual Event Examining Long-term Effects of Separating Families Due to Immigration

San José State University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications tackled hard questions about the impact of immigration policies on families at Families Across Borders: A Live Connection, a  global virtual event, live-streamed from SJSU’s Hammer Theatre on March 23. U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren kicked off the evening with introductory remarks about her commitment to immigration reform from her office in Washington D.C.

The event was emceed by SJSU Journalism and Mass Communication Professor Diane Guerrazzi and Joronica Vinluan, ’21 Journalism, onstage at the Hammer. Five alumnae reporters presented multimedia presentations on families from Mexico, Morocco and the Philippines about the social and psychological effects of family separation. 

Families Across Borders_2

U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren (center) spoke at the Families Across Borders event, streamed from the Hammer Theatre on March 23. Joronica Vinluan, ’21 Journalism (left), and SJSU Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications Diane Guerrazzi (right) anchored the evening. Photo by Bob Bain.

“The basic structure of immigration law has been unchanged, for the most part, since 1965,” said Lofgren, former immigration attorney and chair of Congress’ Subcommittee on Immigration and Citizenship

She recalled hosting her first hearing on immigration on Ellis Island in 2007, where she shared the story of her Swedish grandfather, then an unaccompanied minor, who had immigrated to the U.S. in search of a better life.

“I did that to remind all of us that immigration is really central to our core as Americans,” she said. “The optimism, the courage, the bravery, the value of family, the American dream that immigrants embody and their ancestors embodied is as true today for the immigrants coming to America as it was 100 or 200 years ago.”

As the co-author of the new Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which offers opportunities for farmworkers, their spouses and children to earn legal status through continued employment in agriculture, Lofgren remains hopeful that humane immigration reform is possible. She also mentioned that the American Dream and Promise Act of 2021 would provide a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. 

The House of Representatives passed both bills last week.

Spartan journalists share stories of separation 

After Lofrgren’s remarks, Guerrazzi and Vinluan introduced alumnae reporters who shared stories live on Vimeo. 

Spartan journalist Elizabeth Rodriguez shared the story of David, whose mother returned to her native Mexico to see her dying father and whose father was deported. Left without his parents in northern California, David had to help raise his siblings.

While David reflected on the challenges of long-term family separation, Spartan reporter Guadalupe Emigdio, ’20 Communication Studies, shared the story of Hector, who fled violence while immigrating from Mexico. Emigdio translated his responses about the “ugly, sad feelings” that linger when thinks of the miles keeping him from his parents. 

Both David and Hector connected to the livestream to field questions from the reporters.

Kelsey Valle, ’20 Journalism, now an assignment editor at Telemundo 48 Bay Area, produced a story about Kelsea and Ismail, a married couple and parents to an almost 1-year-old daughter. Both Spartans, the couple met at SJSU’s International House and were married in Morocco, Ismail’s home country, in 2019. 

Despite this, immigration laws and COVID-19 restrictions have kept them in different countries, even through the birth of their daughter. Kelsea connected from Turlock and Ismail from Morocco to share how they long to be together as a family once more. 

Nicole Albillar, ’20 Global Studies, interviewed a same-sex couple whose civil union was not recognized by federal immigration laws for years before they were allowed to live permanently in the same country. While Judy and Karin are thrilled to finally make a home together in San José, the years of travel back and forth took a toll.

“It’s like a knife to the heart when you hear about families being separated, regardless of the reason,” said Judy live at the event. “But when it’s the government that’s making you not be able to be together, it’s more heartless.”

Humanizing immigrant narratives

The final piece was produced by Vinluan, the daughter of Filipino immigrants who have been separated from their family members for more than 15 years. Vinluan interviewed her mother Akilah, who lives in San José, and her aunt Maria Teresa, who lives in the Philippines, to answer questions about the impact of their separation.

“When people think of immigration, they tend to think in two ways: politics or family,” said Vinluan. “I want to emphasize the humanity of immigration. If you take the time to understand different cultures, there can be new connections, especially between generations.”

Families Across Borders event

Joronica Vinluan, ’21 Journalism, (left) and SJSU Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications Diane Guerrazzi (right) anchored Families Across Borders, a live event streamed from SJSU’s Hammer Theatre on March 23. The evening included a panel of experts: SJSU Psychology Lecturer Jill Citron (upper left), Human Rights Institute Director William Armaline (center) and associate clinical social worker Yovanna Moran. Photo by Bob Bain.

The event concluded with a panel discussion with William Armaline, director of SJSU’s Human Rights Program; Jill Citron, psychology lecturer; and Yovanna Moran, associate clinical social worker in Stanislaus County. Online viewers shared questions about the effects of family separation, which sometimes include post-traumatic stress disorder, attachment disorders and difficulty trusting others.

The Families Across Borders event was an extension of ongoing immigration reporting done by San José State’s Update News, the weekly student news broadcast, said Guerrazzi. In 2018 and 2019, she taught summer journalism courses in Italy and Greece, where SJSU students reported on the refugee crisis. 

The resulting award-winning special, Beyond Borders: Refugee Realities, covered stories from Italy, Greece, Mexico, Vietnam and the Philippines. A second Update News Refugee Realities special that examines efforts to house children and place families in American communities will air in May. A Families Across Borders podcast to highlight immigrant narratives is also in the works.

ISSSSC Hosts Panel Discussion of Gender Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Sports

ISSSSC Words to Action

The ISSSSC is hosting Sport Conversations for Change online this year.

On March 11, San José State University’s Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change (ISSSSC) hosted “Equitable Futures for Womxn in Sport,” an online dialogue about gender equity in sports with three industry thought leaders. 

The event, moderated by ISSSSC Executive Director Akilah Carter-Francique and Assistant Director Amy August, featured Dawna Callahan, ’02 MS Recreation Management, CEO and founder of All In Sport Consulting; Jenny Lim, program manager at Canadian Women & Sport and Danielle Slaton, director of external relations at Santa Clara University.

Carter-Francique kicked off the webinar by sharing a video from the International Women’s Day #ChoosetoChallenge campaign, which invites women and girls to challenge gender norms. 

Jenny Lim

Jenny Lim develops gender equity solutions for Canadian sports organizations.

The video, which compared gender to a “pre-written book,” served as a conversation starter for the panelists, who were asked to reflect on leadership and hiring, and methods for sustaining the movement toward gender equity in sport. “We have a long way to go in terms of gender equity and representation in media,” said Lim, who develops gender equity solutions for Canadian sport organizations such as the Gender Equity LENS E-module, the Gender Equity in Sport Assessment, the Gender Equity Action Plan, Equity in Coaching and Same Game. 

Lim mentioned that only four percent of the 35,000 hours dedicated to traditional sport coverage on television was devoted to women sports. 

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” she added.

All three panelists reflected on the importance of intersectional diversity and inclusion in sports. Callahan has played a vital role in developing the Paralympic movement in the United States over the past 20 years. The silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic has been how employers have had to adjust to their employees’ needs, especially with regards to accessibility, said Callahan. 

Dawna Callahan

SJSU alumna Dawna Callahan has helped pioneer the Paralympic movement.

“Everyone has had to be more adaptive—and there is no one better at adapting than a person with disabilities,” she added. 

“Disability is diversity, and there is diversity within disability. Think of an amputee who is starting their career. Did they lose their leg on the battlefield or to cancer in high school? People with disabilities have diverse perspectives to share in the work world.”

Slaton, a silver medalist soccer player, former member of the U.S. National Women’s Soccer team and soccer television analyst, agreed that the narrative of women playing sports and working in sport-adjacent careers needs to change. She mentioned how rare it was to see a woman of color like herself commentating in professional sports.

“Not only do we need to have more women and girls who look like me on TV, but we need to recognize that our opinions matter as much as those of the athletes on the field,” said Slaton. 

Danielle Slaton

Olympic medalist and television sports analyst Danielle Slaton believes in creating a more inclusive world on field and in broadcast television,

“My thoughts, my perspective and how I give a voice to the game of soccer is important. The challenge comes from changing the minds of people in the highest echelons of media. What games do we get to cover? We need to have diversity at the decision-making table.”

The webinar offered opportunities for panelists to share educational and academic resources with their audience, as well as with each other. While discussing intersectionality, Slaton suggested to Callahan that they connect when Slaton covers the Tokyo Olympics later this year, with the hope of increasing coverage of Paralympic sports. 

When Carter-Francique asked how female leaders and allies can shift the narrative of women in sports, Slaton reiterated that they simply “choose to challenge.”

“I may not have the platform of Megan Rapinoe, but I have a voice in my community,” said Slaton as the conversation concluded. “I have a voice here today. We all must take one step forward in service.”

This presentation was part of the ISSSSC’s Sport Conversations for Change speaker series. Their next event is scheduled for April 8. To learn more, visit sjsuwordstoaction.com.

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.

SJSU Highlights Its Own Women Leaders in Celebration of Women’s History Month

In celebration of Women’s History Month, we are highlighting some of San José State’s extraordinary women leaders and alumnae, showcasing the transformative impact women have made upon their lives—and the positive impact women can have as mentors, friends, family and aspirational figures to emerging women leaders.

Featured Leaders

Mary A. Papazian, President, San José State

Jenny Ming, ’77 Applied Sciences & Arts; Board Member, Levi Strauss & Co. 

Sheryl H. Ehrman, Don Beall Dean, Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering, San José State

Brandi P. Jones, ’96 Education; Vice Dean and Professor, Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California 

Ann Agee, Interim Dean, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, San José State

Lisa Millora, Vice President for Strategy and Chief of Staff, Office of the President, San José State

Colleen Wilcox, Board Member, Tower Foundation Board of Directors

Ruth Huard, Dean, College of Professional and Global Education, San José State

Heather Lattimer, Dean and Professor, Connie L. Lurie College of Education, San José State


President Mary Papazian

Mary A. Papazian

SJSU President

What women in history do you admire? 

Mary Papazian (MP): There are so many women who have made contributions and impact, ranging from Eleanor Roosevelt to Ruth Bader Ginsberg, as well as lesser-known women such as my own mother. Justice Ginsberg was an extraordinary woman who never allowed barriers to get in her way of the professional and societal progress she was determined to make. Her work in women’s rights, in particular, had a profound and lasting impact on our society.

I can actually draw a line from my own mother to RBG! When she was early in her marriage to my father, Mom was about to start a job when she became pregnant with my brother (her first child). That immediately cost her the job, since in those days pregnant women were not allowed in the classroom. This forced my Dad to set aside his educational pursuits and the trajectory of our family, and their careers and educational paths changed.

RBG later helped alter not only that line of thinking, but—just as important—the policies and laws that allowed it to manifest in society. So her perseverance, bravery and progressive thinking led to tangible changes for women everywhere, for generations.

What women in your life supported you on your journey to achieving your goals and aspirations?

MP: My mother was probably the first woman who I came to admire deeply. She was an educator herself, having taught high school English and American history for 30 years. She was always proud of me and supportive of my goals and ambitions, and she encouraged me to consider academic and career possibilities that she may not have had given the era in which she lived.

There have been many others along the way, of course. At each stop in my professional and academic career, I benefited from the generosity of a wide range of advisors, mentors and supporters. From my days as a PhD candidate through the growing challenges of university teaching, scholarship and leadership, I experienced the immense value of those professional networks.

What is your advice for emerging women leaders at SJSU and across the country?

MP: Having women in positions of leadership is more important than ever. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have been enormous for everyone in society, of course, but perhaps these stresses are felt even more acutely by women. Still, women remain greatly underrepresented in the ranks of university administration and leadership across the nation, despite the increasing numbers of women college graduates.

My best advice? We must continue effectively to harness the experience, wisdom and power of women leaders to help find, prepare and move more women into college presidencies and other executive and leadership. I would counsel all women leaders—no matter what positions we hold—to be intentional about serving as door-openers, role models and sounding boards, so women who are seeking advancement are not alone.

By paying it forward for upcoming generations, we can ensure that the leadership in higher education appropriately reflects the diversity of our society, and we can continue to better meet the complex and diverse needs of our students, faculties, communities and employers.

Tim Cook, Malala, and President Papazian

SJSU President Mary A. Papazian meets in late 2019 with Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Malala Yousafzai and Apple CEO Tim Cook on the SJSU campus. Papazian moderated a discussion that examined the impact of a partnership between Apple and Yousafzai on expanding access in girls’ education around the world. Photo: Jim Gensheimer.


Jenny Ming, ’77 Applied Sciences & Arts

Board Member, Levi Strauss & Co.

What women in history do you admire?

Jennie Ming (JM): There are so many admirable women in history. If I have to pick one, it would Ruth Bader Ginsburg (RBG). She was on the federal bench for 25 years and a U.S. Supreme Court Justice.

Throughout her life, RBG was a leading voice for gender equality, women’s interests, and civil rights and liberties. She did all this while balancing being a wife, mother and grandmother. She taught me to believe in myself, and that I can be anything I want to be.

What women in your life supported you on your journey to achieving your goals and aspirations?

JM: There are many women who have supported me throughout my life, starting with my mom and sisters.

I was also fortunate to have incredible mentors and bosses at work. Most notable was my first boss at the Gap: Patti DeRosa. She taught me how to bring my real and best self to work and to be authentic and fair to those that you work with. Patti gave me the confidence that I can do and achieve anything.

What is your advice for emerging women leaders at SJSU and across the country?

JM: Find what you are passionate about. Work with people you respect and can learn from. Believe in yourself and do not be afraid to fail. You can be anything you want to be.


Sheryl Ehrman, Dean, College of Engineering

Sheryl H. Ehrman

Don Beall Dean, Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering

What women in history do you admire? 

Sheryl Ehrman (SE): I admire women historians like Margaret Rossiter and non-fiction writers, like Margot Lee Shetterly, who have researched and promoted women’s advances in STEM. When I was growing up, it seemed like the only woman ever mentioned in the history of science was Marie Curie, and there is much more known now about the advances so many women have made.

What women in your life supported you on your journey to achieving your goals and aspirations? 

SE: My grandmother Dorothy Tombaugh, who had a MS degree in chemistry and ended her career as a high school science teacher, developing methods to teach chemistry and biology to visually impaired students.

My mom Sandie Ehrman, who loved building things but wasn’t allowed to take shop class as a girl in school. She learned how to work with her hands from my grandfather Roy Tombaugh, and she majored in home economics/textiles and design in college. My daughter loved being able to draw a dress design (at age 4) and having my mom create a pattern and make it for her.

My high school calculus teacher Mrs. Mitchell, who was so enthusiastic and confident about math, and so good at making math fun (donuts on the day we learned about toroidal shapes, for example).

Because of my grandmother

and Mrs. Mitchell, there was never a question in my mind that women could [or could not] have careers in STEM, and my mom’s design/construct skills made her a great role model.

In my career, Dr. Sandra Greer, formerly the provost at Mills College, and before that a faculty member in chemistry and chemical engineering at the University of Maryland College Park, was a great mentor, as I started my career as a professor.

What is your advice for emerging women leaders at SJSU and across the country?

SE: Your perspective and your voice are important. Women tend to be overcautious rather than overconfident. If you’re afraid to step up and try something new because you aren’t sure you are fully prepared, consider stepping up anyways and be ready to keep learning and growing.


Brandi Jones, SJSU Alumna

Brandi P. Jones, ’96 Education

Vice Dean and Professor, Viterbi School of Engineering, University of Southern California

What women in history do you admire?

Brandi Jones (BJ): Fannie Lou Hamer, Mary McLeod Bethune, Shirley Chisholm, Harriet Tubman

What women in your life supported you on your journey to achieving your goals and aspirations?

BJ: My mother Aretha M. Jones and my junior high school principal Dr. Linda Caillet.

What is your advice for emerging women leaders at SJSU and across the country?

BJ: In the words of Shirley Chisholm, “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring a folding chair.”


Ann Agee

Interim Dean, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library

What women in history do you admire? 

Ann Agee (AA): The many women throughout history who have worked in and advocated for libraries.

The mission of libraries is to provide free and open access to information, and this access changes lives. For centuries, women in libraries have battled for books and resources, so their libraries could provide their patrons with the tools for lifelong learning.

What women in your life supported you on your journey to achieving your goals and aspirations?

AA: Too many to count! Throughout my life, my mother has supported me in every way. Experienced librarians have served as mentors and given guidance that has helped me attain my professional goals. Women friends have provided emotional support and lots of opportunities to laugh.

Never underestimate the power of perspective!

What is your advice for emerging women leaders at SJSU and across the country?

AA: Persevere. In academia especially, persistence is needed to achieve important goals. If you have an objective, it might be the work of years to reach it and pushing through obstacles—maybe more than once—to successfully realize your goal. By persevering, you can learn from your mistakes, then just keep going.


Lisa Millora, SJSU chief of staff

Lisa Millora

Vice President for Strategy and Chief of Staff, Office of the President

What women in history do you admire? 

Lisa Millora (LM): I believe there is so much value in every woman’s lived experience. That said, I especially admire the women who have broken barriers for other women and transformed lives through their courageous actions.

Those who come to mind immediately are Corazon Aquino, Dolores Huerta, Malala Yousafzai, Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, and Oprah Winfrey, each of whom overcame numerous obstacles—personally and publicly—to stand up for the most marginalized among us. All heroes have friends, co-organizers and partners who walk alongside them in creating change.

I also admire groups like the all-women’s mountaineering team that climbed Annapurna as part of the American Women’s Himalayan Expedition in 1978. This team demonstrated what a dedicated group of women can achieve—and challenge the limitations imposed upon us of what we can do.

In doing so, this team changed the narrative about a woman’s place in the world.

What women in your life supported you on your journey to achieving your goals and aspirations?

LM: First and foremost, my mother, Anita Santiago Lansang-Millora. She was raised in the Philippines by her single mother, a widow as a result of World War II’s Bataan Death March. Seeing how her educated mother was able to support her and her brother as a teacher, my mother instilled in my sisters and me a belief in the power of education.

She encouraged us to pursue college degrees, telling us that they would allow us to be independent, and they would be assets that no one could ever take away from us.

This belief, combined with her strong ethic of care and sense of social justice, drove her to pursue an MD which she used to serve one of the poorest communities in my hometown for her entire professional career.

Uncommonly kind, my mother also showed me that women could be both kind and strong, hold others accountable while being respectful, and work full time while being fully present to my sisters and me.

Amazing women—my three sisters, Jenni, Laura, Ngoc, Jeanne, Kimmie, Monica—and countless others—have helped me achieve my dreams.

Collectively, they have taught me how to love and respect myself, picked me up and dusted me off, challenged me, kept me honest, cheered me across both metaphorical and literal finish lines, and supported me through every chapter, every joy and every sorrow of my life.

Lisa Millora and daughter reading together

What is your advice for emerging women leaders at SJSU and across the country?

LM: Don’t let any single moment—good or bad—define you. That means not resting on your laurels just as much as it means not letting failure keep you from creating the life you desire. If I’ve learned anything on my journey, it’s that the way we respond to failure is far more important than the mistakes we make.


Colleen Wilcox

Board Member, Tower Foundation Board of Directors

What women in history do you admire? 

Colleen Wilcox (CW): Certainly Eleanor Roosevelt, whose famous quote “You must do the thing you think you cannot do,” has encouraged me down many challenging paths that I probably would never have pursued without that encouragement.

What women in your life supported you on your journey to achieving your goals and aspirations?

CW: My older cousin Carolyn showed me a professional trajectory that I hadn’t witnessed from my immediate family or friends and gave me the encouragement to believe it was as simple as putting one step in front of the other toward my goals.

What is your advice for emerging women leaders at SJSU and across the country?

CW: Take advantage of every opportunity afforded you and reach for those that haven’t crossed your path—and kindness always matters.


Ruth Huard, Dean, College of Professional and Global Education

Ruth Huard

Dean, College of Professional and Global Education

What women in history do you admire?

Ruth Huard (RH): I respect and admire those who have both honed their minds and opened their hearts to act and positively change the lives of others, their community, their country or humankind— women like Mother Mary Teresa Bojaxhiu, code breaker Elizebeth Friedman, [American nurse] “Angel of the Battlefield” Clara Barton, suffragist Susan B. Anthony, mountaineer and teacher Junko Tabei, and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

What women in your life supported you on your journey to achieving your goals and aspirations?

RH: I am fortunate to have been surrounded, supported and mentored by strong, smart women who selflessly do and act—my grandmothers who advocated for quality education in impoverished communities; my undergraduate advisor, Mary Gauvain, who challenged me and my peers to make opportunities rather than wait for them to be offered; my mom, who showed me the significant impact of opening our home to strangers; and Barbara Hayes-Roth, my boss as I entered the startup world, one of the few female CEOs in Silicon Valley and an early innovator and leader in applied AI [artificial intelligence].

What is your advice for emerging women leaders at SJSU and across the country?

RH: Develop a bias for action, have the courage “to do” and keep moving forward—and be fully present, engaged and intentional with what you are doing and those you are doing it with.


Heather Lattimer, Dean and Professor, College of Education

Heather Lattimer

Dean and Professor, Connie L. Lurie College of Education

What women in history do you admire?

Heather Lattimer (HL): I so appreciate women who broke rules and pushed boundaries.  A few in particular: Lilian Ngoyi, Madeleine Albright, Nana Nama’u, Ida B. Wells, and Isabelle Allende.

What women in your life supported you on your journey to achieving your goals and aspirations?

HL: My mom always encouraged and supported me. I’m an only child and only grandchild, a reality that can carry a lot of expectations. But I never felt pressured to be or become something to please others. I was allowed and encouraged to explore possibilities and dream big.

What is your advice for emerging women leaders at SJSU and across the country?

HL: Don’t be afraid to be ambitious in your aspirations and advocate for yourself. For my generation, the message (explicit or implicit) was often that women shouldn’t be openly ambitious, that we should work hard and wait to be noticed. But that’s not the way the world works. Speak up, share your goals, advocate for your future. Doing so will strengthen our whole community.

Lurie College to Host Free Emancipatory Education Speaker Series Starting Feb. 26

The Emancipatory Education Initiative: Redesigning the Future of Learning P20 with a gold upright fist clenching a pencil.

The Emancipatory Education Initiative: Redesigning the Future of Learning P20

San José State University’s Connie L. Lurie College of Education is launching the Emancipatory Education Speaker Series on Friday, Feb. 26, from 3:30 to 5 p.m. The free series invites educators to join in four online discussions with local and national leaders in education.

Emancipatory education, as defined by the college, is the critical evaluation of the systems and structures of oppression that maintain the status quo in educational institutions.

The series is a product of the Lurie College’s Emancipatory Education Initiative, which promotes community-engaged research and supports the redesign of learning from preschool through post-secondary education. This initiative reflects the college’s commitment to racial equity as outlined in its three-year strategic plan.

“As we stare down a year of COVID, many are looking forward to a time when we can go back to ‘normal,’ but normal didn’t work for too many of our children, youth, families and communities,” said Heather Lattimer, dean of the Lurie College.

“We’re asking educators whose research, advocacy and leadership spans early childhood through post-secondary education to share their vision for post-COVID education through an emancipatory lens and to identify concrete steps to enact that vision.”

In fall 2020, Lurie College students participated in Emancipatory Education Now, a student-led initiative that examined what emancipatory education looks like in today’s society and advocated for the expansion of emancipatory education research, policies and practices. The speaker series is meant to grow this work for the SJSU community and open these conversations to educators beyond San José State.

“The Emancipatory Education Speaker series contributes to an ongoing conversation within the Lurie College—how post-COVID education initiatives learn from and build with educators and scholars who have been agents of change at various levels of our schooling system,” said Rebeca Burciaga, interim chair of SJSU’s department of educational leadership, associate professor of educational leadership and Chicana and Chicano Studies, and founder of the Emancipatory School Leadership master’s program.

“Our return to schools in the context of a global pandemic, challenges to our democracy, a national racial reckoning, and growing inequalities requires a fundamental shift in the way we think about education. We cannot afford to do business as usual. This series is an invitation for educators and community members to partner with us as we look towards new beginnings.”

Confirmed speakers thus far include:

February 26

  • Gloria Ladson-Billings, American pedagogical theorist
  • Jonathan Rosa, associate professor of education, Stanford University

March 5

  • John King Jr., former U.S. Secretary of Education; CEO, The Education Trust
  • Leslie Gonzales, associate professor of educational administration, Michigan State University

March 12

  • Tara Yosso, professor, UC Riverside Graduate School of Education

Latina School Leaders Panel:

  • Fabiola Bagula, senior director, San Diego County Office of Education’s Equity Department, lecturer of educational leadership, SJSU
  • Rebeca Burciaga, associate professor of educational leadership and Chicana and Chicano Studies, SJSU
  • Melissa Martinez, associate professor of education and community leadership, Texas State University
  • Sylvia Mendez-Morse, professor emeritus of educational leadership, Texas Tech University
  • Ana Tavares, bilingual educator and administrator

March 19

  • E. J. R. David, psychology professor, University of Alaska, Anchorage

Disability Justice Panel

  • Saili Kulkarni, assistant professor of special education, SJSU
  • Leroy Moore, founder of Krip-Hop
  • Lisa “Tiny” Gray-Garcia, poverty scholar and revolutionary journalist

The series, co-sponsored by SJSU’s Division of Student Affairs, will be recorded and made available on the Lurie College website. For more information, please visit the Emancipatory Education Speaker Series page.

 

San José State University Ranks Among Top Colleges in the West for Diversity

Diverse students talking on SJSU campus

From most transformative to one of the most diverse colleges in the nation, SJSU has proved itself to be a leader, once again, in preparing students to live, work and thrive in an increasingly diverse global world.

San José State University ranks #8 in the nation, and #6 in the west, in the Wall Street Journal/Times Higher Education (WSJ/THE) College Rankings released earlier this month. In WSJ/THE 2021 rankings, diversity accounts for 10 percent of a school’s overall score

These rankings measure diversity in school environments based on factors including the racial and ethnic diversity of students, faculty and academic staff, the percentage of Pell Grant recipients and the percentage of international students. 

Public universities’ ability to draw students from across diverse backgrounds, particularly socioeconomically diverse populations, is largely due to their accessibility and affordability to local and low-income students alike. 

“San José State is incredibly proud of its distinction as one of the most diverse public universities in the country,” said President Mary A. Papazian.

“But diversity, on its own, does not necessarily lead to the kind of transformative learning environment we aspire to. Our university’s shared values of inclusion, equity, fairness, and respect for one another—combined with the richness of ideas, creativity and approaches that diversity offers—define who we are at San José State.”

San José State is home to a uniquely diverse environment, in which 41 percent of its students are first-generation college students, 37 percent are Pell Grant qualified and approximately 3,000 are international students. 

In addition, 42 percent of students identify as Asian American, 28 percent identify as Chicanx and Latinx—making SJSU a Hispanic-serving institution—and 16 percent identify as white, 3.4 percent as Black and 3 percent as Indigenous. 

In total, 14 California universities are among the top 20 schools in this category and eight of them are in the California State University (CSU) system. Only one, La Sierra University, is a private institution.

Within a year ripe with uncertainty from the pandemic, intersected by last summer’s protests and debate for racial equality and justice, San José State has been reinforcing its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and addressing systemic racism

“This national recognition of being one of the most diverse campuses reinforces our focus addressing historical systemic inequities, so that the diversity that we are known for translates into equity, cultural and global engagement, and an atmosphere where our students, faculty and staff can thrive,” said Chief Diversity Officer Kathy Wong (Lau). 

“At the heart of this work is building our organizational capacity for change, opportunities to learn, and accountability that reflects our core values of diversity, equity and inclusion. We are thrilled to receive this ranking but know that there is responsibility for continued work.” 

Recent SJSU Success in National Rankings

In August, San José State was named the #1 Most Transformative College in the United States by Money magazine. In a region known for constant innovation—and as the second-largest employer in the 10th largest city in the nation—San José State continually transforms to meet the needs of its students, Silicon Valley and the world. 

The university also embodies the diversity of Santa Clara County and the region. 

“This ranking recognizes SJSU as an institution where first-generation college students from economically challenged communities gain the knowledge and skills to not only enter their careers achieving high salaries shortly after gradation but also having low debt—thereby transforming the lives of their families, communities and their workplaces,” said Wong (Lau). 

In addition, the school’s breadth of academic programs, research and applied learning, and its extraordinary legacy of education and opportunity, perfectly position San José State to examine essential questions facing our community and our world—while incorporating a forward-looking view to solve 21st century problems.

These two rankings reflect San José State’s ability to not only attract and prepare a diverse body of students for success in a global workforce but also to transform the world in which they live.

 

San José State Celebrates Black History Month

Every year, San José State honors Black History Month by offering events, speaker series, workshops and lectures that recognize Black and African-American heritage, cultures and contributions to society. This year’s events will take place online due to the COVID-19 pandemic and are hosted by a number of different departments across campus. While these events are held in February, the university remains committed to fostering a culture of anti-racism and addressing systemic racism on and off campus throughout the year. Events this spring include, but are not limited to:


Black History Month Open Mic

Thursday, February 4, 6 p.m.

Join The Black Leadership Opportunity Centre, Student Union, Inc. and Mosaic for the February Open Mic night in honor of Black History Month. For more information, check out Mosaic’s YouTube video stream or contact the center at mosaic@sjsu.edu.


Center for Literary Arts Presents: Kiese Laymon

CLA

The Center for Literary Arts presents Kiese Laymon in conversation with Keenan Norris.

Thursday, February 4, 7 p.m.

The Center for Literary Arts is pleased to present Kiese Laymon, the best-selling author of Heavy: An American Memoir, in a reading and conversation with San José State Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature Keenan Norris.


SCARRED JUSTICE: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968

Poster of the three protestors who were killed.

Monday, February 8, noon

Fifty-three years ago, on the campus of South Carolina State University, the South Carolina Highway Patrol opened fire on a group of civil rights protestors, killing three and wounding 28. Join the Department of African American Studies and the Africana, Asian American, Chicano, and Native American Studies Center of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library for a special film screening of Scarred Justice: The Orangeburg Massacre 1968 with discussion to follow.


SJSU Reads: Confession of Copeland Cane with Keenan Norris

SJSU Reads.

Tuesday, February 9, noon

San José State Assistant Professor of English and Comparative Literature Keenan Norris will read an excerpt from his forthcoming novel, The Confession of Copeland Cane. Set in East Oakland, California, The Confession of Copeland Cane introduces us to a prescient and startlingly contemporary voice, one that exposes the true dangers of coming of age in America: miseducation, over-medication, radiation and incarceration.

Norris’ 2013 novel, Brother and the Dancer, won the James D. Houston Award. He has also published the chapbook By the Lemon Tree and served as editor for the critical volume Street Lit: Representing the Urban Landscape. The Confession of Copeland Cane will be published in June 2021.


Teach-In Panel Discussion: Dr. Angela Davis and the Indispensability of Black Feminism and Socialism in 2021

Barbara Ransby, Neferti X.M Tadiar and Bettina Aptheker.

Tuesday, February 9, 3 – 5 p.m.

This second event of the Human Rights Institute Lecture Series will feature a virtual teach-in panel discussion of Black feminism and socialism by internationally-known scholars Barbara Ransby; Neferti X.M. Tadiar; and Bettina Aptheker, ’76 MA Mass Communications. Each guest will present a brief but provocative talk before engaging directly with questions from the viewing audience.


All-African People’s Revolution Party Film and Dialogue Series

All-African People's Revolution Party.

Tuesdays, February 9, 16, 23, and March 3

Co-sponsored by the Africana, Asian American, Chicano, and Native American (AAACNA) Studies Center, celebrate Black History Month by joining the All-African People’s Revolution Party Film and Dialogue Series, featuring short films, speeches, guest presenters, and more covering a variety of contemporary issues with discussion to follow.

  • Feb. 9: Africom and Militarism
  • Feb. 16: #ENDSARS and Police Violence in Africa
  • Feb. 23: Power of Words
  • Mar. 2: Cuba and Sanctions

Spartan Speaker Series: Baratunde Thurston on How to Deconstruct Racism and Laugh at the Same Time

Wednesday, February 10, 7 p.m.

Baratunde Thurston is an Emmy-nominated host who has worked for The Onion, produced for The Daily Show, advised the Obama White House, and cleaned bathrooms to pay for his Harvard education. He’s the executive producer and host of We’re Having A Moment, a limited-run podcast series that captures this defining moment of pandemic, policing, and race in the U.S. He’s also the creator and host of Live On Lockdown, has hosted the iHeartMedia podcast Spit, wrote the New York Times bestseller How To Be Black, and serves on the boards of BUILD and the Brooklyn Public Library.


Shaun Leonardo: ConSortiUm

Thursday, February 11, 5:30 p.m.

Shaun Leonardo’s multidisciplinary work negotiates societal expectations of manhood, namely definitions surrounding black and brown masculinities, along with its notions of achievement, collective identity, and experience of failure. His performance practice, anchored by his work in Assembly—a diversion program for court-involved youth at the Brooklyn-based, nonprofit Recess—is participatory and invested in a process of embodiment.

ConSortiUm is a ground-breaking collaborative group that generates opportunities to include artists, curators, students, faculty, staff, and other allies from across the CSU campuses in visual arts-based dialogue. The CSU system represents the largest public four-year college system in the country, with more than 480,000 students enrolled at 23 campuses. Formed in Spring 2020 in response to the distance learning implemented by the CSU during the Covid-19 pandemic, ConSortiUm members are dedicated to responding to current societal issues and the pressing demand for an end to systemic and overt racism in California and beyond.


ISSSSC Sport Conversations for Change presents: We are Family – Sport, Politics, Culture and the Black Family

Thursday, February 11, noon

Over the past year, race, racism, and anti-Black racism has been at the forefront of national and international conversations and centered Black people and DEI initiatives in the management and operations of businesses and organizations. This event, hosted by the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change, will examine these issues and the experiences of Black athletes, coaches, sport professionals and their families. ISSSSC will celebrate Black History Month 2021 with scholars and leaders to discuss the significance of Black people in sporting spaces, examine the role Black athletes and coaches have played in political conversations, identify the influence and commodification of Black sport figures in cultural spaces, and explain how these experiences are affecting the representation, identity and diversity of the Black family.

Panelists:

  • Travis Boyce, chair and associate professor of African American Studies, SJSU
  • Letisha Engracia Cardoso Brown, assistant professor of sociology, Virginia Tech
  • Billy Hawkins, interim department chair and professor of health and human performance, University of Houston

Human Rights Institute Lecture Series: Keynote with Dr. Angela Davis

Dr. Angela Davis.

Thursday, February 11, 5 p.m.

The culminating event for the SJSU HRI Human Rights Lecture Series, featuring the 2021 keynote human rights lecture from UC Santa Cruz Distinguished Professor Emerita Angela Davis. Following the lecture, join for a discussion of how these ideas are shaping political struggles in our region and across the country.


Sneaker History IS Black History

Sean Williams showcasing his sneakers on a stand.

Monday, February 15, noon

Sean Williams, a sneaker expert and consultant, will deliver a talk on the history of sneakers and its importance to Black history, with a Q&A session to follow. This event is hosted by the Department of African American Studies.


Department of Economics Provocative Lecture Series: “Why the Study of Economics Neglects Race, and What Can be Done About It?”

Wednesday, February 24 at 5:30 p.m.

Gary Hoover, economics professor and the executive director of the Murphy Institute at Tulane University, will speak about strategies for bringing race into the teaching and study of economics. Hoover received his PhD in economics from Washington University in St. Louis in 1998 and is the co-chair of the American Economic Association Committee on the Status of Minority Groups in the Economics Profession. He has also served as the vice president of the Southern Economic Association. He is the founding and current editor of the Journal of Economics, Race, and Policy. He has been a visiting scholar at the Institute for Research on Poverty at the University of Wisconsin.

Hoover is also available on Friday, February 27 to meet with students and faculty members in small groups. Email SJSU Economics Professor Matthew Holian to book a time.


Frederick Douglass: Living History Presentation

Thursday, February 25, 11 a.m.

The San José State History Department is hosting a Chautauqua-style Living History performance, featuring James H. Armstead, Jr. as the iconic abolitionist Frederick Douglass. This event is free and open to the public. The departments of African American Studies, Communication Studies, the Black Leadership and Opportunity Center, the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and the College of Social Sciences are co-sponsoring this event.

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Beyond Words: Doing Justice – An Interview with Judge Thelton Henderson

Thursday, February 25, 7 p.m.

The Department of African American Studies co-sponsors an interview with Judge Thelton Henderson, who served on the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. Throughout his career, he has made transformational decisions on affirmative action, environmental protection and police and prison reform. In 1997, he ruled that Proposition 209, California’s anti-affirmative action initiative, was unconstitutional. This event is hosted by the San Jose/Silicon Valley Chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP).


Professional Development Workshop for Writers of Color, featuring Lynette Wanzer

Saturday, Feb. 27, 10 a.m.
Sunday, Feb. 28, 10 a.m.

Join the Diasporic Peoples Writing Collective for a two-day online professional development workshop for writers of color with writer Lynette Wanzer.

The interactive workshop covers finding free and low-cost professional tools that can strengthen your submissions, contest entries, grants and MFA applications, as well as creating a literary submissions calendar, drafting effective personal statements and a literary C.V., identifying trusted submission sites, grants, fellowships and residencies in markets that welcome writers of color.


Super Sunday

President Mary Papazian will provide a Zoom presentation at Emmanuel Baptist Church on Sunday, February 28, as part of California State University’s annual Super Sunday event, an effort to engage and serve underrepresented students. Vice President of Student Affairs Patrick Day will visit the Maranatha Christian Center, masked and socially distant, on the same day.


For more information about SJSU’s Black History Month events, please contact the Mosaic Cross Cultural Center at mosaic@sjsu.edu or The BLOC at africanamericanblackssc@sjsu.edu.

 

 

Human Rights Lecture Series Features Lectures on Black Feminism, Socialism and the Work of Dr. Angela Davis

Starting February 1, San José State University’s Human Rights Institute is kicking off Black History Month by launching a three-part lecture series focusing on the relevance of Black feminism, socialism, and Dr. Angela Davis’s work facing human rights challenges. Events include a documentary watch party on February 1, a teach-in panel on February 9 featuring renowned academics UC Santa Cruz Distinguished Professor and UC Presidential Co-Chair, Feminist Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Bettina Apethker, ’76 MA Mass Communications, historian Barbara Ransby and critical theorist Neferti X.M. Tadiar, and culminate in a keynote address by Dr. Davis on February 11. All events are free to the public and hosted online.

“We want our programming to be meaningful for our students who will be out in the workforce,” said Bill Armaline, director of the Human Rights Institute and associate professor of sociology at SJSU. “That means it needs to speak to real issues that their families and communities face.”

“This is an extraordinary time because we have a woman of color as the vice president of the United States. Our series speaks to this time and connects the deep history of black women as political forces in our country,” said Halima Kazem-Stojanovic, lecturer in journalism and human rights and the journalism coordinator for the Human Rights Institute.

Armaline said that in 2015, the Human Rights Institute (then a “collaborative”) brought together founders of the Black Lives Matter movement, including leaders from organizations like We Charge Genocide (Chicago), M.O.R.E. (Ferguson, MO), and the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights (Oakland) with long-time movement leaders like renowned sociologist Harry Edwards, ’64 Social Science, ’16 Honorary Doctorate, for two days of organizing and educational workshops on the SJSU campus around anti-racism and criminal justice reform.

“It was our most successful event in terms of students, panelists and organizers coming together—a lot of community organizing happened as a result,” Armaline said. “This year, we thought what better way to launch the Human Rights Institute than to return to some of these issues and invite Dr. Angela Davis to reflect on the last five years. We’ve seen a rise and explosion of white supremacist organizations throughout the country. Now we’re asking, how do Black feminism, socialism and the work of Dr. Davis give us any guidance about how to grapple with the human rights struggles of our day?”

February 1, 3:30 p.m.: Live Watch Party with Q&A with SJSU Alumna Bettina Aptheker

Live Watch Party

This event will kick off Black History Month and the lecture series with a live watch party of the award-winning documentary, Free Angela and All Political Prisoners, by Shola Lynch (2012). The film details the early life of Dr. Davis as a scholar, political figure, and temporary fugitive who would defend herself in an epic 1972 trial that became an international stage for revolutionary Black feminism. The live watch party will also feature a live Q&A with UC Santa Cruz Distinguished Professor and UC Presidential Co-Chair, Feminist Critical Race and Ethnic Studies Bettina Apethker, ’76 MA Mass Communications, who appears in the film.

February 9, 3 p.m.: Teach-in Panel Discussion: Dr. Angela Davis and the Indispensability of Black Feminism and Socialism in 2021

Teach-In Panel Event
This event features a virtual teach-in panel discussion of Black feminism and socialism by internationally-known scholars, Drs. Barbara Ransby, Bettina Aptheker, ’76 MA Mass Communications, and Neferti X.M. Tadiar. Each guest will present a brief but provocative talk before engaging directly with questions from the viewing audience.

February 11, 5 p.m.: Keynote Address with Dr. Angela Davis

Angela Davis Keynote Address

The culminating event for the SJSU HRI Human Rights Lecture Series features the 2021 keynote human rights lecture from Dr. Angela Davis, distinguished professor emerita of UC Santa Cruz. Dr. Davis spoke at SJSU’s 2015 Annual Lecture, joined by many of the various architects of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Six years later, Dr. Davis returns to discuss the relevance of Black feminism, politics of abolition, and revolutionary praxis to address the human rights challenges of our time. Following the lecture, join for a discussion of how these ideas are shaping political struggles in our region and across the country.


About the Human Rights Institute

The San José State University Human Rights Institute is an organizational research and training unit under the California State University system that specializes in human rights research, journalism, and policy design. HRI students and faculty study pressing social problems and work with community organizations, stakeholders, and policy makers to inform and design solutions according to relevant scholarship, human rights law, and international best practices. Further, the HRI is building the Human Rights News Network—a source of original and relevant human rights reporting from students, faculty, and Institute partners.

Students interested in getting involved with the HRI can do so through enrolling in the Human Rights minor program applying for student internship positions at the HRI, or working with a faculty Human Rights Working Group member on new or ongoing research. To learn more, visit the HRI website.

 

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

Reflecting on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s Legacy, San José State’s Hammer Theatre Center to Host Virtual Letter-Writing Event on January 18

MLK Day 2021

The Hammer Theatre Center is hosting an online event to encourage people to write letters to healthcare workers and survivors of COVID-19.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Day was originally established in 1986, and 2021 marks the 25th anniversary of the day being established as a national day of service to encourage all Americans to volunteer to improve their communities—the only federal holiday designated with this distinction. 

According to the National Civil Rights Museum, Dr. King’s impact and contributions include “decisions, monumental actions and steadfast progressions of humanitarian rights that reach far beyond the civil rights movement.” 

To honor his legacy while addressing the destructive impacts of the current COVID-19 pandemic, staff members from San José State University’s Hammer Theatre Center invite the public to join Letters to Heal, a virtual gathering to write letters to healthcare workers and patients recovering from COVID-19. Registration for the event, which runs from 1-5 p.m., is available online.

Though this event is inspired by worldwide letter-writing campaigns started during the COVID-19 pandemic, it clearly references King’s 1963  “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which he wrote while being imprisoned following non-violent demonstrations for human rights. The historic document argues that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” and is considered a landmark text for the Civil Rights movement. 

The goal of this free Zoom activity is to unite the Spartan community in the fight against isolation and the struggle to recover from the virus that has claimed more than 380,000 American lives to date. Data from the Center for Disease Control shows that communities of color have been especially devastated by the pandemic. 

Acts of service looks different during a global pandemic, says Maria Bones, director of Patron Services at the Hammer Theatre Center. While the Hammer Theatre Center would normally be bustling with regular performances, staff have had to convert its space into a recording studio to better capture programming for an online audience. Bones says that the King holiday offers a special opportunity to serve others and promote community engagement.

“We have so few ways to be of service during the pandemic,” said Bones. “While we can’t physically gather, we do have paper and pencils. There are no masks needed when writing from home. This is our call to service.”

Participants are encouraged to drop in to any of the event’s three zoom rooms. In the main room, Hammer staff will offer examples of what other letter-writers have done and encourage participants to come up with their own ideas. A host will answer questions and share an ongoing slide deck. There will be two breakout rooms, one with quiet background music to inspire letter-writers, and another where hosts will provide resources for addressing cards and letters. The Hammer Theater is reaching out to local hospitals and retirement homes to see if they would like to receive letters. The public is invited to participate in Monday’s event by registering online

“This outreach idea came about in our efforts to continue to engage our Hammer volunteer community in a digital capacity, and we are really excited to be able to encourage people who are either isolated due to the pandemic or on the front lines of battling the disease,” said Bones. “How can we give people a chance to gather, inspire each other and be in service?”

Building on Dr. King’s Legacy

As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day approaches on Monday, January 18, the nation continues to grapple with issues of systemic racism. These same issues, of course, are the hallmark of Dr. King’s life, legacy and impact on the civil rights movement.

Many universities have looked inward to address and identify institutional racism and are taking immediate steps—as well as developing intermediate and long-term plans—to create permanent organizational change with regard to systemic racism on their campuses. San José State University is now immersed in a systematic and strategic effort in this regard, with a focus on addressing commonly assumed practices, protocols, and knowledge designed to lead to lasting change.

Walt Jacobs, dean of San José State’s College of Social Sciences, says that it is important to recognize King as a three-dimensional leader. To build on his legacy, Jacobs says, Americans must think critically.

“It is more important than ever to remove rose colored glasses,” said Jacobs. “We need to see King clearly. He was not considered a hero in his time by the mainstream. He took complex and controversial stands, such as questioning capitalism. See how the labels used against him are being reused against today’s Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) activists. See that we are not a colorblind society, as protestors are treated differently by security forces depending on their race. See Georgia, where King was born, and where historic Senate races recently concluded. We can still dream, but dreams need coordinated collective action to become reality.”

“Dr. King devoted his life to advancing equality, social justice and economic opportunity, ” said Patience Bryant, director of Black/African-American Equity at San José State. “He understood the importance of addressing racism across multiple areas such as in the health industry, access to living wages, etc., in order for marginalized communities to succeed and grow. This past year has shown us as a nation that we still have significant work to do in this area and we really would like to honor Dr. King.”

Bettina Love Lecture on Abolitionist Teaching Draws 800+ Online Participants

Bettina Love poses in front of a mural.

Bettina Love’s lecture attracted 800 participants on Nov. 10.

On Tuesday, November 10, San José State University’s Connie L. Lurie College of Education hosted Bettina Love, associate professor of educational theory and practice at the University of Georgia and one of the founders of the Abolitionist Teaching Network, for an hour-long lecture. The online event included a panel moderated by Saili Kulkarni, assistant professor of special education; psychology and African American Studies Lecturer Leslye Tinson, ’22 EdD; and Jacqueline Lopez Rivas, ’21 Child and Adolescent Development. More than 800 people from around the country registered for the Zoom webinar.

Lurie College Dean Heather Lattimer kicked off the event by explaining how Love’s expertise aligns with the college’s strategic plan, which affirms its commitment to prepare “transformative educators, counselors, therapists, school and community leaders through an emancipatory approach across teaching, scholarship and service.”

Bradley Porfilio, program director of SJSU’s EdD Leadership Program, originally invited Love to speak in spring 2020, but the event was postponed due to shelter in place orders related to COVID-19. On Tuesday night, Porfilio introduced Love as “a transformative scholar on abolitionist teaching and hip hop education and an inspiration to our students, who are committed to creating a society that is free from hate and free from oppression.”

Love is the author of We Want to Do More Than Survive: Abolitionist Teaching and the Pursuit of Educational Freedom and Hip Hop’s Li’l Sistas Speak: Negotiating Hip Hop Identities and Politics in the New South. Her writing, research, teaching, and activism meet at the intersection of race, education, abolition, and Black joy. She began her talk by reflecting on how the COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on institutional racism and equity gaps in the United States and reinforced the need for abolitionist and anti-racist thought, especially in schools.

“There is a perception that racism only hurts Black, Latinx and indigenous people,” said Love. “What we don’t talk about is what society loses because of racism. Society loses when we don’t teach Black and Brown students to their highest potential. We lose doctors, lawyers, physicians, teachers, everyday people because we do not educate students to their highest potential.”

Love argued that educators need to rethink the ways their curriculum may reinforce racial stereotypes, such as minimizing the Black experience in America to slavery, police brutality or the school-to-prison pipeline. Rather, she encouraged teachers to focus on Black and Brown joy—by depicting the resilience, creativity and ingenuity of people of all races, she said, students can envision themselves succeeding in a variety of ways. She defined the difference between an “ally” and a “co-conspirator” as a reminder to non-Black and non-Brown people to do more than pay lip service to an abolitionist and anti-racist future by taking action to make change. When her talk concluded, she answered questions from the panelists that had been partially sourced from the 800+ registered participants.

“I truly believe that we have to fight racism and injustice, but we also have to believe that Black and Brown children are worthy—full stop,” said Love as the evening was drawing to a close. “Because if you believe that Black and Brown children are worthy, then you won’t fight racism from a deficit mindset. Do you think these people are worthy of their biggest dreams? To fight for them, you must believe that their life has so much value that it makes your life better.”

2020 ISSSSC Sport, Society and Social Change Conference

A single black line morphs midway into a person running with golden wings.

San José State University’s Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change (ISSSSC) will host its inaugural Sport, Society and Social Change Conference: Dream With Your Eyes Open: (Re) Imagining Sport in the Age of COVID-19 and Black Lives Matter.

The two-day virtual conference takes place on November 12 – 13 from 9:00 a.m.- 2:00 p.m. (PST).

Thought leaders, scholars, social change organizations, athletic administrators, athletes, and students will discuss the legacy of social activism and ways to promote social change and equity.

ISSSSC Executive Director and Associate Professor of African American Studies Akilah R. Carter-Francique says the inspiration for the conference comes from the musings of C. Wright Mills’ ‘The Sociological Imagination’ (1959). “Mills’ concept of sociological imagination promotes “the awareness of the relationship between personal experience and the wider society.”

The event includes keynote speakers, panel discussions, presentations, and community conversations highlighting personal experiences, on-going challenges and acknowledging people, groups, and organizations’ efforts to promote social change.

“The ISSSSC wanted to create a space that brings a variety of communities together to discuss the state and role of sport locally to globally, to educate, to network, to share ideas, research and innovations, and to support one another in efforts to promote social justice and social change. We especially want to use this space to engage the next generation in the legacy of equity and social justice and to, in the words of Dr. Harry Edwards, ‘ . . . teach our children to dream with their eyes open, Carter-Francique says.

Keynote speakers on November 12

  • Shireen Ahmed, Sports Activist, Public Speaker, Writer, Independent Journalist, CA
  • Dr. Jules Boykoff, Professor and Department Chair, Political Science, Pacific University, USA
  • Dr. Amira Rose Davis, Assistant Professor of History and African American Studies, Penn State University, USA
  • Dr. Jamil Northcutt, Vice President, Player Engagement, Major League Soccer, USA

Keynote speakers on November 13

  • Dr. Algerian Hart, Associate Dean of the Graduate College and Professor of Kinesiology at Missouri State University and President (2020-2021) North American Society for the Sociology of Sport
  • Dr. Kevin Hylton, Emeritus Professor of Equality and Diversity in Sport, Leisure, and Education, Leeds University, UK and Chair Sheffield Race Equality Commission, UK
  • Dr. Nicole LaVoi, Director, Tucker Center for Research on Girls and Women, University of Minnesota, USA
  • Rachelle Patel, Director of Marketing and Events, Laureus Sport for Good, USA

Conference Agenda

The conference will also feature pre-recorded 5-minute lightning talks from SJSU students on topics related to sport and social justice. Students who submitted presentations are eligible for awards ranging from $50.00 to $150.00

Conference Registration

The ISSSSC will continue conversations about the legacy of social justice and equity through its “Sport Conversations for Change” webinar series, internship program and educational collaborations.

SJSU Remembers Civil Rights Icon, Congressman John Lewis (1940-2020)



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Photography by D. Michael Cheers

For a 2017 Alternative Spring Break trip to Harlem and Washington, D.C., Associate Professor of Journalism and Photojournalism Coordinator D. Michael Cheers created an unforgettable experience for his students. He arranged a meeting with Congressman John Lewis, a civil rights leader who served in the United States House of Representatives for Georgia’s 5th congressional district from 1987 until his death in 2020.

“I started planning the alternative spring break trip in November 2016,” said Cheers. “I wanted to provide a meaningful experience for our African American students. Once the logistics were worked out in early 2017, and the trip was a ‘go,’ I still felt something was missing.”

Cheers had secured complimentary tickets to visit the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C., but felt the students needed some context before the museum visit. Cheers knew Lewis through his many years as a photojournalist for Jet and Ebony magazines, so he contacted Lewis’s chief of staff in Washington.

Cheers was persistent, as members of Congress are always busy. A week before departing, he received word that the congressman would see the group, but only for a brief meet and greet. “I gambled that perhaps he would have more time,” said Cheers. “He did!”

Lewis talked to SJSU students in his Capitol Hill office in Washington, D.C. for more than an hour about his work with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and the civil rights movement.

“Congressman Lewis mesmerized the students with his civil rights history lesson and a Q&A,” said Cheers. “And he brought tears to my eyes when he agreed to sign the many books the students had purchased and posed for photos.”

In 2018, Cheers and Sociology Lecturer Chris Cox led students and Bay Area community elders on an alternative spring break trip across the civil rights south to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s assassination. The group visited many civil rights landmarks.

“In my 15 years on the SJSU faculty, I’ve tried my best to share the experiences I had covering the civil rights movement with SJSU students,” said Cheers. “In January 2009, I took a van load of journalism students through the civil rights movement south to the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Of all the landmarks we visited in 2009 and in 2018, walking with our students across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, the site where Lewis was badly beaten on Bloody Sunday, March 7, 1965, remains a precious and reflective memory for me and our students.”