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

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

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

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

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


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

Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021

Doctor of Nursing Practice Graduates Look Ahead to Improving Health Care

The SJSU Valley Foundation School of Nursing Doctor of Nursing Practice program graduated its first cohort in May.

Eleven members of the San José State class of 2021 are graduates of the university’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program — and they are prepared to make a difference in health care in California and beyond.

The cohort is the first to graduate from the SJSU Valley Foundation School of Nursing DNP program since the university launched its own in 2019. Previously, SJSU partnered with Fresno State University to provide a joint program.

Offered mostly online and designed for working professionals, the SJSU program was created to develop leaders in nursing, including advanced practice clinicians and nursing faculty.

California faces a nursing faculty shortage, which affects the amount of nurses graduating from programs. This contributes overall to a lack of practicing nurses in the state, said Associate Professor Michelle Hampton, who coordinates the program alongside Ruth Rosenblum, also an associate professor in the School of Nursing.

“This [faculty] shortage severely limits the capacity to enroll qualified students,” Hampton explained.

So in 2012, the California State University system launched two joint DNP programs — one in Northern California and one in Southern California — to increase the potential pool of future nursing faculty. SJSU was part of the northern consortium, which graduated seven cohorts.

Then, as part of an overall strategy to help improve health care throughout the state of California, starting with Silicon Valley, SJSU launched its own DNP program.

“This doctoral program has helped us reposition the College of Health and Human Sciences as a conduit to the ever-expanding healthcare industry,” said President Mary A. Papazian. “Not only do we want to contribute to one of the fastest growing sectors in Silicon Valley, but in doing so, we must be at the forefront of understanding and addressing the health disparities that exist within our communities’ most marginalized populations.”

Using research to enact change

While a PhD in nursing focuses on advanced research and investigation, earning a DNP degree means learning how to put that research into practice and evaluate its efficacy. Each graduate completed a doctoral project allowing them to do just that.

“Some of these students have been in practice for awhile, and they’re seeing clinical issues that they think warrant further study,” explained Colleen O’Leary-Kelly, director of the School of Nursing. “They want to look a little deeper and expand the knowledge base of these areas. And these projects that I see them working on — they’re just fantastic.”

Vanndy Loth-Kumar

Vanndy Loth-Kumar

Vanndy Loth-Kumar, for example, used existing literature and guidelines on caring for patients with schizophrenia to execute her project, “Evaluation of a Wellness and Recovery Medication Services Program” at her workplace, AACI (formerly known as Asian Americans for Community Involvement).

Established patients at AACI had been required to receive therapy in order to qualify for medication services. But the Wellness and Recovery Medication Services (WARMS) pilot program explored whether or not some patients could successfully forgo therapy and still receive the medication.

“Therapy only lasts so long for some people,” Loth-Kumar said. “Once you learn coping skills, how long do you need to continue? The pilot program allowed us to see that some people didn’t need therapy for 15 years; they were able to stay stable. It also freed up counselors to provide care for new patients.”

Because Loth-Kumar was familiarized with WARMS through her project, she was promoted to integrated services lead of the program. She looks forward to “growing and shaping the program, while being mindful of who might fall through the cracks in the system.”

“Before this program, there was a lot of me just complaining about the way things are done,” she shared. “Now, after the program, it’s a lot more of looking into the research to see what can be done. I think it really helped me develop a proactive approach to problem solving in a professional setting.”

Sandy Phan

Sandy Phan

Meanwhile, Sandy Phan, a nursing professional development specialist at Stanford Health Care, wants to improve health outcomes by addressing the nursing culture within.

Through her project, “Promoting Civility in the Workplace: Addressing Bullying in New Graduate Nurses Using Simulation and Cognitive Rehearsal,” Phan created and implemented a curriculum to help recent nursing graduates, who occupy the lowest ranks of the hierarchy and are less experienced, to develop skills to identify and address bullying.

“Bullying fractures communication and teamwork, which ultimately can trickle down into patient care,” Phan said. “Units that have bullies can cause more infections and errors, because nursing is a team-based practice.”

“The research indicates that 64 to 97 percent of nurses witness or encounter nurse bullying in their practice,” she explained. “It’s a well-known phenomenon. I think it’s because of the way nursing was founded, in a very patriarchal society. But now, we’re an integral part of the team. We’re leaders.”

Envisioning a healthier future

Lynette Apen

Lynette Apen

Lynette Apen, division dean of nursing and allied health at Evergreen Valley College, always had professional goals of serving as an advocate in nursing education, and thanks to the DNP program, she says she’s more prepared than ever to take that on.

She recently stepped into the role of president of the northern region of the California Organization of Associate Degree Nursing, which she says she might not have done as early in her career had it not been for the program.

“This degree has given me the foundation and vocabulary and — though I’m still working on it — the confidence in having conversations with legislators, these decision makers who impact the work of nurses every day,” Apen said.

Last fall, she even testified in favor of the passage of AB 2288, which allowed for flexibility in clinical hours requirements for nursing students during the pandemic and contributed to more California nursing students being able to graduate during COVID-19.

Ultimately, her doctoral project, “Nursing Academic Leadership: An Urgent Workforce Shortage in California Nursing Education,” could increase understanding of how to address a particular shortage of nursing program directors, which is critical to the success of nursing programs.

Apen examined trends in nursing academic leadership positions that will soon leave several vacancies with few options to fill them as well as immediate and long-term interventions to improve the workforce pipeline.

Audrey Shillington, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences, noted that the pandemic has demonstrated how vital nurses are to health and well-being.

“Despite all the health-care challenges we faced in recent months, both our faculty and students stepped up and leaned into the community needs in addition to what are already demanding roles of teacher and learner. There is no other time when such a stellar group of nursing leaders are needed,” she said.

“I am so proud of all the hard work that our faculty, staff and students have been engaged in during recent years to bring us to this celebration of our first DNP graduating cohort.”

The DNP Class of 2021 and their doctoral projects:

Lynette Vallecillo Apen
Division Dean, Nursing and Allied Health, Evergreen Valley College
“Nursing Academic Leadership: An Urgent Workforce Shortage in California Nursing Education”

Ena Andrea Arce
Health Center Manager, Santa Clara Valley Medical Center
“Programmatic Colorectal (CRC) Screening During a Pandemic: Nursing Telemedicine Education Among Latinx Adults in an Ambulatory Safety Net Clinic”

Vanndy Linda Loth-Kumar
Integration Services Lead, AACI
Public Health Nurse, Santa Clara County Public Health Department
“Evaluation of a Wellness and Recovery Medication Services Program”

Elisa Nguyen
Director of Clinical Services, Stanford Health Care
“The Effectiveness of Resilience Training for Nurse Managers: A Case Study”

Sandy Phan
Nursing Professional Development Specialist, Stanford Health Care
“Promoting Civility in the Workplace: Addressing Bullying in New Graduate Nurses Using Simulation and Cognitive Rehearsal”

Tammi K. Reeves-Messner
Assistant Nurse Manager, Kaiser Permanente
“Neuroprotective Care in the NICU: A Quality Improvement Project”

Reynaldo G. Rosario Jr.
Enterprise Quality Manager – Accreditation, Regulatory Affairs, & Licensing (Santa Clara Valley Medical Center, O’Connor Hospital, St. Louise Regional Hospital, and DePaul Health Center)
“Quality Improvement Initiative: To Improve Surgical Wound Classification”

Dominique Ellen Teaford
Supervising Public Health Nurse III, County of Santa Cruz – Health Services Agency
“Website Redesign Project to Improve the Quality and Usefulness of the Perinatal Mental Health Coalition’s Resource Website”

Stacey L. Teicher
Oncology Nurse Practitioner, Kaiser Permanente
“The Effects of Telehealth on Patient Satisfaction and Information Recall for Breast Cancer Survivors During the COVID-19 Pandemic”

Silvia L. Turner
Nurse Educator, New Nurse Employee Orientation Coordinator, VA Palo Alto Healthcare System
“Virtual Training Impact on Nurses’ Self-Efficacy of Safe Patient Handling Equipment Usage”

Colleen A. Vega
Clinical Nurse Specialist, Stanford Health Care
Lecturer, San Francisco State University
“The Effects of Virtual Reality on Symptom Distress in Patients Undergoing Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant”

SJSU Celebrates the Class of 2021 With Virtual Recognition and Student Awards

How will San José State honor the Class of 2021? The university will offer a mix of in-person and online celebratory activities to recognize graduating Spartans.

Degrees will be conferred virtually by SJSU President Mary Papazian and Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Vincent Del Casino, Jr. during a virtual kickoff event at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 26. In addition, each college will launch recognition websites to honor graduates by program and major.

Visit the Commencement website to learn more about graduation activities celebrating the Class of 2021 at San José State.

2021 Outstanding Thesis and Senior Winners

Every year, SJSU recognizes undergraduate and graduate students whose academic work shows exceptional promise. Grace Shefcik, ’20 MA Education – Speech Language Pathology, has been named the 2021 Outstanding Thesis winner. Mamta Kanda, ’21 Industrial and Systems Engineering, and Annlyle Diokno, ’21 Sociology and Psychology, have been named Outstanding Graduating Seniors.

Grace Shefcik

Grace Shefcik is the 2021 Outstanding Thesis award winner. Photo by Brian Cheung Dooley.

Grace Shefcik studied the intersection of voice and gender identity for her graduate thesis “Assessment of Non-binary Individuals’ Self-perception of Voice.” Associate Professor of Communicative Disorders and Sciences Pei-Tzu Tsai described the paper as “transformative in nature, being the first in the professional field to investigate the communication needs of the underserved non-binary population.” Shefcik’s thesis has been published in a major peer-reviewed journal in the voice field and is being translated into Spanish by international researchers.

In addition to their remarkable academic accomplishments, the Outstanding Seniors must also demonstrate leadership in and make substantial contributions to the university community, among other notable qualifications.

Mamta Kanda

Mamta Kanda has been selected as one of the 2021 Outstanding Senior award winners.

Throughout Mamta Kanda’s time at SJSU, she served in multiple leadership roles, including as president of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers and vice president of the Tau Beta Pi Honor Engineering Society leadership while maintaining an impressive 3.99 GPA.

Yasser Dessouky, chair of San José State’s Industrial Systems Engineering Department (ISSE), describes Kanda as “one of the top 5 percent of undergraduate students during [his] 25 years teaching.”

Kanda also discovered innovative ways to give back to the greater SJSU community through her internship, volunteering, clubs and other academic activities, which included fundraising for wildfire victims and mentoring high school STEM students.

Annlyle Diokno

Annlyle Diokno is one of the 2021 Outstanding Senior award winners.

 

As president for the Global Student Network at San José State, Annlyle Diokno chaired and spearheaded a number of fundraisers in support of the Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate movements. Motivated by a desire to foster a campus community that values intercultural communication, she co-organized the SJSU APIDA Rally in April and founded Tutor for Love, a free virtual English tutoring service that benefits San Francisco’s Filipino Community Center.

Equally or more impressive than these awards themselves, is all three of these students faced adversity posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I commend and congratulate these student scholars for their impressive academic achievements, especially in the midst of such challenging circumstances,” said SJSU President Mary A. Papazian.

SJSU Recognizes Outstanding Spartans at 10th Annual Student Leadership Gala

10th Annual Student Leadership Gala.

San José State is home to over 350 student organizations, including fraternities and sororities, academic and honorary societies, cultural and religious groups, special interest organizations and club sports. On Tuesday, May 4, outstanding student organizations and individual leaders were recognized in the 10th Annual Student Leadership Gala.

The yearly event is a collaboration between SJSU’s Campus Life departments, including Associated Students, Student Involvement and the Solidarity Network, which is composed of the César E. Chávez Community Action Center, the Black Leadership and Opportunity Center (The BLOC, formerly the African American/Black Student Success Center), El Centro (formerly the Chicanx/Latinx Student Success Center), the Gender Equity Center, the MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center, the PRIDE Center, the UndocuSpartan Student Resource Center, and Wellness and Health Promotion.

“The Student Leadership Gala is a great way to bring together the greater campus community because there’s so much to do here at SJSU, and it’s great to hear the stories of students who are doing amazing work,” said Student Engagement Coordinator for Recognized Student Organizations Jordan Webb.

The virtual event recognized 112 individuals or organizations in several categories such as organization awards, operation awards, program awards and individual awards. Fraternity and Sorority Life honored four exemplary Greek life groups as well.

Each year, Associated Students also honors unsung heroes who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the university and have given back to the campus or local communities with the AS 55 leadership award. This year, A.S. awarded 11 students the AS 55 award and recognized 13 additional individuals in other categories as well.

“Educating our students on their civic responsibility, developing their leadership skills, and helping to equip them to be engaged in their communities are vitally important aspects of our public mission at San José State,” said SJSU President Mary Papazian at the May 4 gala.

“We know that our student leaders can become transformative agents for positive change in their communities, and that is why I am so proud of organizations like Associated Students, Student Involvement, the Solidarity Network and many others here on campus that are working so hard on this aspect of the higher education experience.”

Patrick Day, vice president of student affairs, also recognizes students with exceptional promise with a special VPSA award.

In addition to the awards recognized by Campus Life, 63 students who completed the Career Center’s Leadership and Career Certificate Program received their certificates of completion. The program offers students opportunities to enhance and develop their existing leadership and career skills in an online format.

“I love taking the time each year to intentionally honor and recognize student leadership,” said Dylan Mazelis, leadership development coordinator and co-chair of the program. “Over the past 10 years, the gala has become more intentionally collaborative, recognizing the intersectionality of our students and the all-encompassing leadership that they exhibit.

“It’s not just about recognizing specific titles or roles but rather recognizing all of the work that these students are doing every day in their many different spaces and communities — as well as the impact they have on San José and Silicon Valley.”

Visit the Student Involvement website to learn more about the 2021 awardees.

A Remarkable Achievement: SJSU Celebrates the Graduating Class of 2021

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bobby Abarca.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Diego Almaraz.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Joshua Bevis.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Aliza Bolliger.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Briena Brown.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Marc Casupanan.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sabrina Cervantes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Anie Clark.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Nicole Coates.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Rachel A. Crawford.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Briettny Curtner.

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

Milestones at SJSU:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Zobeida Delgadillo.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Adam Elwailly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Mateo Garcia De la Quintana.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Lydon George.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Olivia Gerber.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Anna Harvey.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Fatima Hassan.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Bianca Hernandez.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Shruthi Kamath.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Jacob Lapinsky.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Vanndy Loth.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ben Newsome.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sabina Patel.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Steven Peck.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Andrea Perez.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Abril Perez-Gonzaga.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

San José State has transformed my life.


Nick Randle.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Jasmine Reyes.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ralph Robinson.

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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


Marc Santos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sabrina Shell.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Kristina Smith.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Juan Carlos Soliz.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Ty Supreme.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Amber Sylva.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Alice Tsvinev.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Narayani Tyagi.

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

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

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

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

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

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


Brianna Williams.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Neng Xiong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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