SJSU Takes Gold in Sustainability, Top 6% Nationwide

Fountain

Chavez Fountain at San José State. SJSU was one of the first users of recycled water on the South Bay Water Recycling system and continues to transition services to the system. Photo: David Schmitz

San José State University has quickly become a model campus for sustainable practices in higher education — ranking in the top 6% nationally for sustainability and Gold in the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment & Rating System™ (STARS).

STARS is a “transparent, self-reporting” program colleges and universities can utilize to measure their sustainability performance developed by the Association of Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). According to AASHE, by participating in STARS, “institutions can earn points toward a STARS Bronze, Silver, Gold, or Platinum Rating, or earn the STARS Reporter designation” which represent significant sustainability leadership.

San José State is one of 1,035 institutions registered to use the STARS Reporting Tool, of which just 674 have earned a STARS rating.

We asked Bill DeVincenzi, faculty-in-residence for sustainability at SJSU, and Debbie Andres, ’07 Chemical Engineering, senior utilities and sustainability analyst for SJSU’s Office of Sustainability, to help us understand what the significance of the STARS rating means for SJSU and how sustainability is incorporated into programming and other activities on campus.

The GOLD rating is the second highest ranking in the STARS reporting system, marking a significant level of sustainability leadership. What is the significance of this ranking for San José State?

Bill DeVincenzi (BD): The STARS rating and ranking system provides a measurement of the effectiveness of our sustainability programs at SJSU. The ratings cover all aspects of sustainability, including academics as well as operations. Providing students and the local community with an education about sustainable practices is a strong objective of our university.

Debbie Andres (DA): We have strived to be a leader in sustainability since we were one of the first universities to establish a Department of Environmental Studies in 1970 and one of the first organizations to begin using recycled water in our central plant in the 1980s. We have always prided ourselves on our progressive and strategic efforts in sustainability, and the ranking validates the work we have been doing for decades.

Can you help us understand what “sustainability” means in regards to this ranking (i.e., what are the factors that we are reporting on and why do those matter)?

BD: In academics, we report the extent to which sustainability concepts are included in all academic courses. For example, we have 399 sustainability related or focused courses in 50 of the 64 total academic departments across SJSU.

DA: The reporting and subsequent ranking show a comprehensive and holistic view of every aspect of our campus and how sustainability is incorporated into each, such as research activities, faculty that are involved in sustainability related projects, and sustainability focused research centers.

This also includes operations, or non-academic functions, from campus grounds and buildings to procurement, dining and investments. One example is the solar panels installed at South Campus that provide all the power to those facilities. We also recently installed electric charging stations in parking lots and have more planned for the new South Campus parking garage.

How do we compare to our peer institutions in terms of sustainability?

BD: SJSU compares very favorably with peer institutions. Our Gold rating and ranking 60th out of 1,035 universities and colleges worldwide says we are doing a great job. However, there is a lot of room for improvement, and we are working diligently to make that happen.

How long has SJSU been reporting in this system, and how would you describe our progress toward becoming more sustainable in the time we’ve been a part of it?

DA: We were one of the first universities to submit a STARS report in 2011, and we have submitted recertification every three years since. We started with a Silver ranking and reached Gold with our last two submissions.

Our progress reflects our efforts in two ways: First, sustainability is getting increasingly incorporated into our curriculum and operations. Second, we are improving our self-auditing process to accurately reflect all our activities on campus.

How has participation in this program impacted sustainability practices and/or programming at SJSU?

BD: By tracking our standings in the STARS reports, we are able to determine our strengths and weaknesses relative to sustainability. This has allowed us to identify those areas of weakness and design programs and practices that have improved our offerings to students and the community at large.

What are some things that any of our community members could do to contribute to our sustainability while on campus?

DA: Minimize waste, use recycling bins, eliminate single use plastics, recognize and reduce energy usage. Faculty and staff could also get workspaces Green Office certified.

SJSU Receives $1 Million Grant From Adobe as Part of Inaugural Anchor School Program

The growing partnership between downtown San José neighbors, San José State University, and Adobe got stronger on Wednesday, with San José State being named an inaugural member of Adobe’s new Anchor School Program. As part of the program, SJSU will receive a $1 million grant and will work with Adobe to determine how the grant will be used. 

“We are very excited for the opportunity afforded by this gift from Adobe,” said President Mary A. Papazian “Adobe has long been a leader in the San José community, investing in programs that help advance the important learning of our students and research of our faculty.”

SJSU plans to use the grant to enhance the university’s mission to provide access to students from underrepresented backgrounds.

“We are excited to receive funds that further our efforts as a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) and Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander Serving Institution (AANAPASI),” said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Vincent Del Casino, Jr. 

“We can provide our faculty with the resources to engage in new forms of pedagogy and practice that infuse principles of digital and creative literacy. Among our goals is a faculty fellows program that identifies and trains champions committed to closing the equity gaps for all our students.”

Adobe will also provide 100 scholarships of up to $15,000 to students of color to be distributed amongst SJSU, Bowie State University, and Winston-Salem State University — the other two inaugural members of the Anchor School Program — as well as students at other universities. 

A variety of resources and opportunities to help students and faculty prepare for careers in tech, including evolving curriculum and hands-on work experience through Adobe programs like Experience Days and the Adobe Career Academy, is included in the program. Student-athletes will also be able to access micro-internships to enable them to balance their athletic and professional aspirations.  

“Longstanding change requires a conviction to innovative solutions and a willingness to lead,” said Brian Miller, Adobe’s chief talent, diversity & inclusion officer. “Our Anchor School Program gives us the opportunity to partner with universities to develop unique solutions that expose students to careers in tech and prepare them with the creativity and digital skills of the future. We will strategically invest in providing students with training, career readiness, internships, financial assistance and digital tools to fuel their professional careers at Adobe or elsewhere.” 

In 2020, SJSU was recognized as an Adobe Creative Campus for its commitment to using technology to provide students with a transformative path to success.

SJSU Hosts “The Burn and Beyond: Wildfires, Drought and Environmental Justice” Webinar

San José State University brings together experts from academia, government and industry to discuss critical issues facing California today — wildfires and drought, and how they disproportionately impact historically disadvantaged communities.

On September 16, SJSU will host “The Burn and Beyond: Wildfires, Drought, and Environmental Justice” virtual webinar to address the problems and potential solutions from 2 to 3:15 p.m.

Register here

San José State University President Mary A. Papazian will moderate the discussion.

“Often, it seems as though some of our communities do not receive the attention and care that other communities enjoy and take for granted during environmental crises,” said Papazian. “Given the events that have unfolded nationally these past two years related to systemic racism and the disparities in how people are treated by our institutions, this event could not be more timely or urgent.”

U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, Santa Clara Valley Water District CEO and Vice President of the California NAACP Rick Callender, and SJSU Associate Professor and Director of the Human Rights Institute William Armaline will participate in the discussion.

“Cycles of drought and wildfire are worsening in California and neighboring regions in no small part due to climate change, threatening the survival of our precious communities and delicate ecosystems,” said Professor Armaline.

“Such threats are also challenging to human rights and the ability for Californians to enjoy the fundamental security and human dignity that everyone deserves. We at the SJSU HRI are ecstatic to join our colleagues and local public agencies to investigate the problems and potential solutions to these incredible social and ecological challenges.”

SJSU’s Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center (WIRC) is on the cutting edge of wildfire research in California.

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

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

Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center at SJSU

New U.S. News Rankings Place SJSU at Top of Many in the West

Students walking between classes on the SJSU campus.

Students walking between classes on the SJSU campus. Photo: Robert Bain.

College of Engineering is #4 in the nation among public universities, and the university ranks in the top three among public universities in the West for veterans, top seven overall. 

Although 2022 is more than three months away, San José State University is already starting the year off with an impressive showing in the 2022 U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges rankings.

Nationally, the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering continued its tenure as a top five Best Undergraduate Engineering Program – Non-Doctorate, coming in at #4 among public universities — and #19 overall. Electrical engineering ranked #6 among public universities in the country, while mechanical engineering is ranked #8 among public universities.

In regional rankings, SJSU is ranked #7 among public universities — and #22 overall — in Best Overall, Western Regional Universities. Fifteen states make up the U.S. News and World Report’s West region.

SJSU also ranked in the top 10 among public universities in the West in other key areas:

  • #3 in Best Colleges for Veterans
  • #7 in Top Performers for Social Mobility
  • #8 in Best Value Schools

“These outstanding rankings serve as further proof that SJSU is one of the premier universities in the West,” said President Mary A. Papazian. “Especially during the pandemic and these challenging times, these rankings are a tribute to the dedication and commitment to learning our fantastic faculty and staff exhibit each and every day. When combined with our students’ personal and academic growth during their time at SJSU, you can see the transformative experience that comes with being a Spartan.”

U.S. News and World Report’s rankings focus on academic excellence, with institutions ranked on 17 measures of academic quality, including graduation and retention rates, social mobility and undergraduate academic reputation.

Camino Chronicles Arts Series: a Celebration of Mexican and Latin American Music Influenced by California History

Historically, the Camino Real connected Spanish missions along the state of California. Image by Chandler O’Leary.

How can music reframe the story of the ancient road we know as El Camino Real?

Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz and the folk Americana band the Ronstadt Brothers will celebrate California history through their music on October 1-3, during a weekend of activities presented by San José State University’s College of Humanities and the Arts, The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies, TomKat MeDiA, CaminoArts and Symphony Silicon Valley (SSV). The Ronstadt Brothers will also offer a moderated conversation on the business of music.

“CaminoArts celebrates the folk and classical music of Mexico and Latin America through an excavation of El Camino Real, the historical indigenous trade route used by the Spanish to colonize Mexico and what is now the U.S. Southwest and South America,” said Marcela Davison Aviles, managing partner and executive producer at TomKat MeDiA, a production company founded by Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor to inspire creativity for the common good.

“We brought this idea to the Center for Steinbeck Studies as a way to catalyze writing a new fourth-grade curriculum about the history of El Camino Real.”

Gabriela Ortiz.

Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz.

Ortiz’s new composition, a concerto for flute and orchestra entitled “D’Colonial Californio,” will make its world premiere at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, with SSV at the California Theatre, and again at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 3.

Her work is a joint commission underwritten by the TomKat Foundation and presented in collaboration with TomKat MeDiA, SSV, CaminoArts and San José State as part of a broader initiative to examine California history through arts and education.

Admission to the Ronstadt performance is free. Tickets for the symphony performance are on sale through Symphony Silicon Valley.

“The stories and songs inspired by El Camino Real — the transcontinental pathway forged by Indigenous peoples and later colonized by the Spanish and other European powers — set the stage for the Camino Chronicle Arts series,” said Kat Taylor, founding director of the TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation (TKREF) and one of Camino Chronicles’ sponsors.

“We’re thrilled to illuminate the work of Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz, Mexican American singer/songwriters Peter and Michael G. Ronstadt, concert flutist Marisa Canales, the musicians of Symphony Silicon Valley under the baton of Maestra JoAnne Falleta, and project music director Benjamin Juarez Echenique,” she added.

“And we’re doubly delighted to thank San José State University and the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies for believing, as John Steinbeck did, in the unique power of harmony, dissonance, cadence and rhythm of diaspora and migration.”

The symphony will also perform “New World Symphony” by Antonín Dvořák, a piece that was especially meaningful to John Steinbeck, added Steinbeck Center Director and Assistant Professor of American Studies Daniel Rivers. Canales, who also is a co-founder of CaminoArts, will serve as soloist for both the Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon performances, under the direction of Grammy-winning conductor Maestra Falletta.

Ronstadt Brothers

The Ronstadt Brothers will be performing at the Hammer Theatre on Oct. 3. Image courtesy of Marcela Davison Avilas.

The Ronstadt Brothers will perform the world premiere of their new album “The Road,” commissioned by the Camino Chronicles Project and underwritten by the TomKat Foundation, at the Hammer Theatre at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 3. The event is free and open to the public.

“This full-length album from the Ronstadt Brothers centers on the theme of roads, migration and the existential experience of travel,” Rivers said.

Multi-instrumentalists Michael G. Rondstadt and Peter D. Rondstadt describe their music as a “new and fresh take on traditional Southwestern and Mexican folk songs” that carries forward the legacy of their aunt Linda and their father Michael.

“The curricular connections of the Camino Chronicles with the university are related to music, history, humanities and education,” said Shannon Miller, dean of the College of Humanities and the Arts.

“Ortiz’s work rethinks the identity of the El Camino around issues of migration, while the Ronstadt Brothers are composing work in the American folk music tradition while also exploring connections to their Mexican heritage and the Camino’s indigenous roots. This introduces a lot of interesting issues related to decolonizing the curriculum and the arts,” Miller added.

Visit the Symphony Silicon Valley to learn more about the Oct. 2 and 3 performances of Ortiz’s work.

Learn more about the Rondstadt Brothers’ performance and work with the Steinbeck Center.

Read about TomKat MeDia and CaminoArts.

Advancing Quality and Student Success at SJSU

Paseo walkway on SJSU's campus

SJSU’s campus is alive with activity as students bustle along one of its main walkways, the Paseo de César E. Chávez.

What to know about SJSU’s 2021 WSCUC accreditation review.

More than 36,000 students are enrolled at San José State University. How do we hold ourselves accountable to them and the rest of our community in achieving our mission? The answer starts with SJSU’s commitment to ensuring students succeed and includes an accreditation, which is an independent, third-party evaluation process.

This fall, San José State will begin its next review of our accreditation by the WASC Senior College and University Commission* (WSCUC), the regional accreditation body for universities in California, Hawaii and American territories in the Pacific.

What does WSCUC accreditation mean for SJSU?

Put simply: WSCUC accreditation is our university’s report card of our academic quality and educational effectiveness. In other words: How do we define and assess student learning, and how are we ensuring we are delivering a high quality, effective, equitable and sustainable educational experience?

SJSU’s WSCUC Accreditation Liaison Officer Junelyn Peeples, who is also vice provost for institutional effectiveness and strategic analytics, explained the goal for accreditation “is to help higher education institutions evaluate the efficacy of their educational delivery and its impact on student success.”

Furthermore, WSCUC’s approach to accreditation, she added, “aids institutions in developing and sustaining effective educational programs and assures the educational community and the general public that an accredited institution has met high standards of quality and effectiveness.”

Every regional accrediting body has core competencies that its institutions must uphold, such as oral and written communication, information literacy and quantitative reasoning. WSCUC’s particular set of core competencies has been developed considering what the public would expect a global citizen to look like upon graduating at any given higher education institution.

Accreditation is also periodically reaffirmed by the WSCUC to allow the university to review and reflect on how it’s doing in relation to standards set for the colleges and universities in our region.

Read more about SJSU’s accreditation history.

Why is it important to SJSU?

“The accreditation process provides us a way to make an evaluation of what we’re doing and determine our direction moving forward: where we’re going to direct our attention, where we’re doing really well, and where we may need to readjust what we’re doing,” said Pam Richardson, professor of occupational therapy and faculty chair of SJSU’s accreditation review committee.

Accreditation is also tied to federal funding and impacts schools and colleges within our university — they would not be able to have accreditation of their professional programs if the university was not accredited.

“WSCUC focuses its attention on how we deliver curriculum and our support services to our students, particularly how students are able to demonstrate their learning,” added Peeples.

“And they do it very collaboratively, so we really engage in the process. For example, if there are major changes in the expectations of what institutions need to deliver, universities are part of the conversation about how to meaningfully focus our attention to make those adjustments.”

“I think [WSCUC] is very forward looking,” said Thalia Anagnos, vice provost for undergraduate education and member of SJSU’s accreditation review steering committee. “They see trends happening at the national level, and then create guidelines to help us stay up-to-date with them. Requiring meaningful assessment practices is a good example of how WSCUC has helped us maintain our accountability to the public and also our own students.”

What is the process of accreditation like for SJSU?

SJSU’s last accreditation reaffirmation was in 2015. Over the last 18 months, SJSU conducted a self study of its activities that involved eight components, including progress on the recommendations from WSCUC’s prior report and follow-up special visit in 2017.

A team of independent evaluators from other universities, including one from another California State University, will review SJSU’s self-study later this fall and then meet with representatives from the university for clarity on any questions they have before they make a campus visit in early spring 2022.

During our site visit, the team of evaluators will meet with the president, provost, chief financial officer as well as students, administrators, faculty and other stakeholder groups from the SJSU community over the course of three days.

The external review team then provides their recommendations about SJSU to WSCUC. WSCUC will determine whether we receive a 10-year or shorter term of accreditation and/or a special visit in a few years, in which case SJSU will work to address any outstanding issues that were noted by the reviewers.

Take a deeper dive into SJSU’s accreditation process.

What is important to note about SJSU’s 2021 self study?

As someone who has experience as a peer reviewer for other institutions’ accreditation, Peeples was energized when she reviewed SJSU’s self-study report.

“I’m really proud that San José State has focused on general education, and the work that we’re doing most institutions don’t tackle because it is such a heavy lift to assess, and this is one of the foundational pieces of how we demonstrate our educational effectiveness,” she said.

“We also are taking a holistic, comprehensive advising approach,” which she explains is reflective of our focus on student success.

“The report also does a nice job of linking our Transformation 2030 strategic plan to our initiatives supporting student success,” added Richardson.

SJSU has also worked to address leadership, campus climate as well as social injustice, equity and inclusion, which came up as recommendations in the last self study. Both Richardson and Peeples recognize progress in these areas, but they also acknowledge more work is still needed.

The true measure of San José State’s education as an accredited institution is that students are graduating with a degree for which they can competently identify the skills, knowledge and understanding of that subject matter in a meaningful way, and that they did it in a timely manner.

What else should the SJSU community know about this process?

Of particular note, explained Anagnos, is that this report was put together by several stakeholders at SJSU from every single division and area of the university — including a 25-member, faculty-led accreditation committee.

“Accreditation is really a collaborative effort, and we’ve been working on it for almost two years,” she added. “By having this kind of self reflection and cross-divisional discussion, we learned a lot about each other, and that’s a really important piece of the process.”

Peeples emphasized the opportunity this gives our community to take a step back and assess not only how we help students but also in what ways we may influence the impact our alumni make once they graduate. “As alumni of San José State University and global citizens, they bring something with them to the world that helps change it, and this is our chance to tell that story and how we make it happen.”

SJSU’s self study is available to view online. Coming soon, student, faculty and staff forums will be held for the community to respond and ask questions about the report and the process.


About WASC

*WASC was created in the early 1960s to “promote the development and accreditation of higher education in the western region of the United States.” Today, WASC accredits public and private higher education institutions throughout California, Hawaii, the Pacific and around the world and is recognized as an accrediting body by the US Department of Education and by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

“On 9/11, I was a NYPD Captain”; UPD Captain Belcastro Reflects 20 Years Later

San José State University Police Department (UPD) Captain Frank Belcastro can tell you in a heartbeat where he was and what he was doing on September 11, 2001. Back then, he was a NYPD Captain about to start his regular shift for the day. Then everything changed.

A picture of Captain Frank Belcastro in NYPD gear

San José State University Police Department Captain Frank Belcastro was a member of the New York Police Department and led the response following the attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

Now that two decades have passed since the life-altering terrorist attacks, Belcastro shared what it was like to be a first responder in this unprecedented situation that had worldwide impact. We captured the moments that still stand out to him today, and what he would like Spartans who did not experience these tragic events to understand.

Tell us about the events as they unfolded for you on that fateful day.

Captain Frank Belcastro (FB): On Sept. 11, 2001, I was a NYPD Captain, Commanding Officer of a Borough Task Force. My unit was charged with daily tasks such as crime reduction, auto crime and graffiti investigations, evidence collection, traffic enforcement, speed enforcement, DUI patrol, COBRA (Chemical, Biological, Radiological Action Team), Truant Team/school patrol and major incident response throughout the city.

On the day of 9/11, I was scheduled to work a 4×12 shift. But, as was my regular routine, I called my office to see if anything was going on. I learned that we were on alert for mobilization because a plane had hit the World Trade Center. 

At that time the thinking was “it was an accident.” I told them that I was going to come in and gave instructions on the personnel and equipment that I wanted for our response. A short time later, I called back because I wanted to change the equipment and add personnel. As I was talking, a second plane hit. 

I knew then it was a terrorist attack. I told them to get everyone ready, and I was on my way. When I arrived, the duty captain had directed my unit, officers from three precincts, vehicles, equipment and firefighters onto a waiting ferry. When I arrived, I assumed command, and we proceeded towards Manhattan. 

When we were about two thirds of the way over, the first tower collapsed. The ferry captain stopped the ferry due to dust and debris blocking visibility of the ferry terminal. I tried to arrange an alternate dock or smaller ferries. However, nothing would work. At that point, the police dispatcher radioed that I was directed to return to base. 

But, people needed help, I was not turning around. 

I was the field commander. I radioed the dispatcher; my call: We were going into Whitehall (the Manhattan Ferry terminal). I then directed the ferry captain to take us in.

When we exited the ferry in Manhattan, the second tower collapsed. Dust and debris filled the air. I couldn’t see the hood of my patrol car. Thousands of people were running in the street, away from the devastation. You could see the fear in their faces. The primary mobilization point was not reachable. I then directed that we respond to the secondary mobilization point. 

We were eventually assigned to patrol the World Trade Center area. We searched the area, including train stations, looking for people who needed help. As we patrolled, World Trade Center #7 became very unstable. A Police Chief advised me to pull my unit back because the collapse of it was imminent. As we pulled back, the building collapsed.

One of my young officers had a brother who was a firefighter. He was missing and unaccounted for. To protect my officer, because he was distraught, I brought him into the Patrol Officers Benevolent Association Offices, several blocks from Ground Zero, and asked the trustee to keep him there. 

When building 7 collapsed, the officer called me over the radio asking for help. He had left the PBA office to look for his brother. I formed search teams, and we found him. I assigned an officer to take him home and stay with the family. His firefighter brother is the youngest firefighter to die in the line of duty, at just 20 years old.

One of my vivid memories is the eerie silence as we patrolled into the evening. The dust and debris was falling like a heavy snowstorm. Ash was piled deep on the streets and sidewalks. We were not equipped with masks. I remember the air was thick with ash and debris, including fiberglass. I rubbed my eyes due to the irritation and had abrasions under my eyes from the fiberglass and other abrasive debris. When we were relieved in the early morning hours of 9/12, we were covered in ash.

In the days after 9/11, for that first week, I was in command of Ground Zero security and recovery. My unit was charged with providing security there and for safeguarding human remains. When human remains were recovered, we took custody and delivered them to a morgue trailer, documenting the recovery. 

At one point, a firefighter’s body was recovered. I gathered my unit. We stood at attention and rendered a hand salute as his body was escorted by his fellow firefighters.

My assignment posed many challenges. There were attempts by members of the media and other persons to access the dig site. One of the hardest things for me was when officers I had worked with handed me their phone number and asked me to call them if I found their brother. I knew the reality of our operation at that time. 

Another challenge was that we were working under the threat of the possible collapse of the Deutsche Bank, which was heavily damaged. We had to evacuate on several occasions when movement was detected. On one such occasion, I was notified to evacuate all personnel because city engineers had detected that the Deutsche Bank had shifted. They believed that the building was going to collapse. I directed everyone to evacuate. 

However, a fire chief and his men refused to leave. The chief told me he was not going to evacuate. I told him that I understood what he was saying and that if he wanted to stay, I would stay with him and his men. But, I said, “I want to ask you one question, and after that, if you want to stay, we will stay.” 

I said, “You and I know the reality of what we are doing here,” and I pointed to his men. “They are alive. Is what we are doing here worth their lives? If you say yes, I will stay with you.” 

He agreed to evacuate. 

What do you remember most about September 11, 2001? 

FB: I remember that 9/11 started out as a beautiful day that became a nightmare. I will never forget the uncommon valor of the police officers and firefighters who ran into those towers to save others. Many never returned to their families.They sacrificed their lives to save others, complete strangers. Police officers and firefighters ran towards the danger while thousands fled in panic and fear. 

Our mission was clear — save lives.

I will also always recall the ash and debris raining down like a heavy snowstorm. And, the deafening silence of a deserted city as we patrolled into the night.

I will never forget the thousands of innocent persons slaughtered in a heinous attack and the selfless sacrifice of the first responders.

As a first responder in that type of unprecedented situation, how much of your response is predicated on your training versus reacting on instincts? 

FB: We are well trained, and our training helps us to react. But training cannot prepare you for everything. Your instincts are a big part. As a leader, you have to look at the big picture and make split second decisions based on experience, training and instinct. The burden of leadership is great. You are making decisions that will not only impact you but will affect everyone under your command.

As you reflect back on 20 years since the Twin Towers fell, including the nation’s united response in the days and weeks after the attack, what stands out to you most? 

FB: In the 20 years since the attack, I see that our nation is fractured. After the attack, we were united in our grief, our anger and our determination to rise from the ash. We were one people. If anything positive could come out of that infamous day, it was the unity of New Yorkers and the nation. We came together as human beings, united in our grief, working together. 

Many of SJSU’s students were born after September 11, 2021. What do you think would be most important for them to understand about that day as someone who lived through it firsthand? 

FB: I think the most important thing for our students to understand is the selfless sacrifice of the first responders. They saw people who needed help and ran toward danger. It is also important to understand that first responders are still losing their lives due to the toxins we breathed on that infamous day and the days after. To this date, more than 200 NYPD officers have succumbed to cancers caused by those toxins.

What does it mean to you to be one of several Spartans (including Captain Jason Dahl, ’80 Aeronautics Operations, who piloted United Flight 93, and Meta Mereday, ’84 Advertising) whose heroic actions saved lives on this tragic day in American history? 

FB: I am humbled to be among such an elite group. I also feel guilty about being recognized with these heroes. I survived when so many died, and that guilt will always be with me. 

Belcastro started with SJSU’s UPD in June 2008, as the Special Operations Lieutenant, in charge of Emergency Preparedness and Library Security. He was promoted to Captain at UPD in 2011.

NSF Grant to Accelerate Wildfire Research at SJSU

SJSU Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center

Craig Clements, director of the SJSU Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center, with a truck equipped for wildfire surveillance. Photo by Robert C. Bain

Wildfire research at San José State University is about to move faster than ever before — and in partnership with key industry and government stakeholders — thanks to a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF).

The NSF grant awards the SJSU Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center (WIRC) the designation of an Industry-University Cooperative Research Center (IUCRC), making it part of a program designed to accelerate the impact of research by establishing close relationships with industry innovators, government leaders and world-class academic teams.

WIRC will be the only IUCRC in the U.S. focusing on wildfire research. 

Functioning as an IUCRC will allow wildfire research at SJSU to move at an unprecedented speed, explained Craig Clements, director of WIRC and professor of meteorology. Typically, the academic research process can require months of waiting for funding and approval. In this case, funding is available and projects can start as soon as the stakeholders approve.

WIRC will partner with a board of industry innovators and government agencies, including: San Diego Gas & Electric Company; Pacific Gas & Electric Company; Southern California Edison; Technosylva, Inc.; Jupiter Intelligence, Inc.; State Farm Insurance; CSAA Insurance Group; Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory; and others.

Those members will each contribute an annual fee of $50,000, which will allow them to work directly with WIRC faculty to determine research goals, share industry data and prioritize the most pressing needs in the area of wildfire research. In addition to annual membership fees, the NSF provides $750,000 over a five-year period.

“This is going to be transformative for our faculty and students in terms of what we can accomplish,” said Clements. “And the members will benefit because they will get access to research results before anyone else. Our students will get to interact with industry and government members, and members get to interact with our talent pool.”

WIRC has identified five initial key areas of research in which it will engage partners, focusing on both physical and social science aspects of wildfire research, according to its proposal submitted to the NSF. Those areas include:

Fire weather and coupled fire-atmosphere modeling and forecasting: In order for industry and government members to make the best fire management decisions, WIRC will prioritize learning how fire interacts with the atmosphere and across complex terrain. 

Fire behavior monitoring and modeling: As remote sensing and long-wave infrared technologies have advanced, WIRC plans to conduct scientific measurements of real-time wildfire data for the first time — which can then be shared with scientists and fire managers around the world as well as contribute to more accurate fire predictions. 

Wildfire management and policy: How individuals and communities respond to wildfires varies. WIRC will expand its research on how social and behavioral factors contribute to evacuation plans and trust in wildfire management. Additionally, researchers will examine barriers to prescribed fire use on private lands and residential areas. 

Climate change and wildfire risk: As climate change continues, wildfire locations, frequencies, intensities, size and duration will change, too. Researchers will produce detailed information on how climate change has influenced wildfire behavior in the past and how it will likely impact the future. 

STEM fire education and workforce development: In the past, wildfire experts have typically been firefighters. But today, wildfire expertise is interdisciplinary and includes land management agencies, nonprofits, teachers, land-use planners, public health experts, landscape architects, building scientists, insurance agencies and more. WIRC wants to develop a wildfire training program for the next generation of fire-adapted professionals and communities. 

SJSU researchers will work with the U.S. Forest Service Fire Science Lab to train community teachers, park rangers and outdoor educators so that they can teach residents in fire-prone ecosystems how to be more fire adaptive from a young age. WIRC also plans to train the next generation of wildfire experts through a wildfire minor at SJSU and by streamlining opportunities for underrepresented minority students to work with industry members. 

Clements will continue to serve as director of WIRC and primary investigator (PI) along with Amanda Stasiewicz, assistant professor of wildfire management, as co-director and co-PI.

Other leadership faculty include Adam Kochanski, co-PI and assistant professor of wildfire meteorology; Ali Tohidi, co-PI and assistant professor of fire dynamics and mechanical engineering; Kate Wilkin, co-PI and assistant professor of fire ecology; Mario Miguel Valero Pérez, senior personnel and assistant professor of wildfire remote sensing; and Patrick Brown, senior personnel and assistant professor of meteorology and climate science. 

Mohamed Abousalem, vice president for research and innovation at San José State, said the IUCRC designation is an excellent demonstration of the public impact that SJSU research is delivering to local and global communities.

“It is great to see the continuing support from the National Science Foundation to this critically important research program at San José State,” said Abousalem.

“With record-size wildfires currently ravaging through California’s ecosystems and communities, the value and impact of this collaborative research work could not be more timely. SJSU has the depth of expertise and the interdisciplinarity needed to understand, assess, mitigate and manage these wildfires through targeted partnerships with industry and government.”

SJSU Launches New Combined Bachelor’s and Master’s Degrees

This fall, San José State University introduced a new opportunity for undergraduate students — an accelerated track to earning a bachelor’s and a master’s degree at the same time.

The new Spartan Accelerated Graduate Education (SAGE) Programs allow students to pursue the two degrees simultaneously by earning graduate credit while in their junior and/or senior year. This reduces the number of semesters required for completion of a master’s degree and saves students time and money in the process.

Students may apply to become SAGE Scholars once they complete half of their undergraduate coursework or 60 credits. Currently, SJSU has announced 11 of these combined bachelor’s and master’s programs: 10 beginning in fall (three in engineering and seven in education) and one additional program, biomedical engineering, starting in spring 2022.

“We’re providing a smooth pathway for students to transition from undergraduate to graduate education and the ultimate goal of achieving both degrees,” said Marc d’Alarcao, dean of the College of Graduate Studies.

The SAGE programs also eliminate the need for students to apply for graduate programs — a sometimes lengthy process that includes costly application fees and GRE/GMAT tests, which add additional time to prepare for and take when required.

“A big advantage of [SAGE Programs] is that we could be breaking down some of the barriers in place that are just enough to keep a student from considering this graduate degree,” said Thalia Anagnos, vice provost of undergraduate education. “This opportunity ultimately will help them achieve higher goals than they might have if they just earned an undergraduate degree.”

Susan Verducci, a professor and advisor who helps departments who prepare teachers create these programs, expressed similar thoughts: “SAGE programs are designed to reduce hurdles to graduate studies, including an advisor-supported transition between undergraduate and graduate work and a decrease in the time it takes to earn a master’s degree.”

“When you think about applying for almost any graduate program through the regular channels, you need to plan three to six months to a year in advance,” added Anagnos. “Students can complete the [SAGE application] process relatively quickly, making the decision to pursue a graduate degree easier for them.”

The seven SAGE programs in education also provide the opportunity for students to concurrently satisfy the requirements needed for a teaching credential. According to d’Alarcao, this could benefit new teachers by boosting their starting salaries.

“Getting a credential, which they need in order to teach, and a master’s degree at the same time may help them get a higher salary when they’re starting out, which is a value proposition that students will likely appreciate,” he explained.

The SAGE Programs have been designed to be as easy for students to navigate as possible. Each individual program has its own useful roadmap, outlining the required courses and the order in which they need to be taken for a successful transition between undergraduate and graduate status. This is especially important because students begin their graduate work while they are still technically undergraduates.

“SAGE programs can be highly valuable for students who know early on that they want to earn a master’s in their field of study,” adds Verducci. “The programs provide students with an integrative and cohesive educational experience toward their professional goals by allowing them to take carefully sequenced master’s-level courses as undergraduates.”

Behind the scenes of the SAGE Programs is Jeffrey Honda, associate dean of graduate programs. He’s been working with departments across campus to build the program sequences during the pandemic. The programs go through vigorous approvals from department to college to university committees, and eventually the California State University’s chancellor’s office, before they are given the green light.

According to Honda, there are a number of other colleges at SJSU that are interested in offering their own SAGE Programs to students. The next ones could be from the School of Journalism and Mass Communications, he explained. Four of them are currently under review by Honda and their stakeholders.

In 2019, the College of Graduate Studies launched with a mission to develop a variety of new, independent programs, including expanding doctoral program offerings and now the SAGE Programs, which are providing additional pathways to graduate education for students.

Dean d’Alarcao is excited by the potential of the SAGE Programs and what they can do for students. “This is part of a constellation of things that we’re doing to overall strengthen the access to graduate education,” he said.

“I hope we will continue to get additional SAGE Programs developed, so we have a broad menu of these opportunities in a lot of different disciplinary areas. By virtue of having these programs, I believe more of our undergraduates will seek that graduate degree before going into the workforce.”

That is something all Spartans can be proud of.

See the SAGE Program flyer for more information.

What’s New at SJSU: Updates to Campus Services, Events and Resources

Students walking through the SJSU gates on campus.

The Spartan community is back on campus for the first time in a year and a half, and the campus looks a bit different, including several changes made to facilities. Here’s a preview of what to expect this fall.

Air Filtration

San José State optimized building ventilation systems to maximize outside air intake (fresh air) and installed MERV 13 filters to filter re-circulated air and remove as many aerosol particles (i.e. very small particles containing the virus) as possible, in accordance with EPA recommendations for indoor public spaces.

In places that have been determined to have poor ventilation or have a use case scenario that would warrant increased ventilation beyond what the building system could provide, SJSU will deploy a portable air filtering HEPA unit.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library

As of Aug. 2, all floors of King library are open to the SJSU community. To access the study spaces and research collections on floors six through eight, you will need your Tower ID.

Hammer Theatre

The beloved Hammer Theatre is welcoming back patrons this fall with a full list of exciting in-person performances. Visit the Hammer Theatre website for more information on these performances and what you need to know regarding COVID-19 safety protocols before you attend a show.

Sustainability

There are now solar panels and 50 EV charging stations at the South Campus Park & Ride; 25 of them have dual charging capability. There are currently eight to 10 charging stations on main campus that were installed this summer with four-hour maximum use.

Solar panels were also added to provide electrical power to the CEFCU Stadium area, lightening our carbon footprint while providing some shade during events.

Dining

Panda Express in the Student Union has upgraded their wok station to speed up orders. In addition, you can now place your order and schedule a pickup through the Boost app to save time when you’re on the go.

San José State is introducing Burger 408, its first “ghost kitchen,” featuring delicious burgers, fries and sides, fried chicken sandwiches and tenders, and more. All orders are made through the Boost app and picked up at the window at the Student Union.

In spring of 2022, Halal Shack will replace Steak and Shake and will offer authentic and delicious Halal food for the entire community.

Athletics

SJSU opened the new South Campus Multi-Level Parking Structure and Sports Field Facility, including a 2-acre recreation field with a state-of-the-art synthetic playing surface and art honoring the “Speed City” athletes and track and field coach Bill Winter. The four-level, 1,500-stall parking structure overlooks the new field, which features a dedicated public walkway around the perimeter.

Fans planning to cheer on the 2020 Mountain West champion Spartan football team will notice a new state-of-the-art scoreboard at CEFCU Stadium. Don’t miss the first home game on Saturday, Aug. 28, against Southern Utah.

Health and Well-being

YOU@SJSU is a wellness learning and resource tool for students, including tips and tools for everything from mental and physical health to friendships and finding balance. Students can also set personalized goals and track their progress in achieving them with interactive support included in the app.

SJSU Cares will open a new space (anticipated in fall) on the first floor of Clark Hall. Students can receive the confidential support to address basic needs through individual meetings with case managers, on-site connections to partner agencies that support self-sufficiency, and workshops.

The Office of Sustainability and SJSU Cares have partnered to establish the Clothes Closet, a new resource for SJSU students providing a steady source of gently worn clothing and new essential items such as underwear and socks. It is also tentatively scheduled to open in fall.

Technology and Cybersecurity

Outdoor WiFi will blanket almost all of the SJSU campus in WiFi 6, the latest standard for stable, reliable wireless broadband connectivity. This will activate more spaces around campus for learning and studying.

A new SJSU Events Calendar is mobile friendly, more visible and plugged into social media, allowing events to be searchable via hashtags and listings to be populated directly into Google Calendar and Outlook. The “I’m interested” feature provides logged-in users with recommendations for upcoming events based on ones they’ve already attended.

SJSU Students Use Data to Help Serve City’s Most Vulnerable Communities

A map created by SJSU graduate students presents data from San José’s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services.

Data has the power to transform communities.

Just ask Saritha Podali, ’22 MS Data Analytics, and Fengling Zhou, ’22 MS Data Analytics. As part of a new partnership with San José State and the City of San José — supported by the Knight Foundation — the pair played a key role in gathering, interpreting and presenting data that can help the city provide resources to those who need it most.

San José’s Parks, Recreation, and Neighborhood Services (PRNS) offers scholarships for qualifying residents to participate in youth activities and after-school programs. While the city has always sought to ensure the scholarships went to those most in need, certain questions persisted: Were the people receiving the scholarships getting the right amount of aid? Who was being left out, and why?

Saritha Podali, '22 MS Data Analytics

Saritha Podali, ’22 MS Data Analytics

Enter the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation who, thanks to a partnership with SJSU’s MS Data Analytics program, brought Podali and Zhou on board to tackle the issue in what was dubbed the city’s Data Equity Project.

“We define data equity as using the city’s data ethically and in ways that drive equitable outcomes for constituents,” explained Julia Chen, project manager for the Data Equity Project.

Starting in April, Zhou and Podali got to work mining PRNS data — by organizing records from 2009 to 2019 using the programming language Python — to paint a full picture of who was enrolling in the youth programs and who was receiving financial support.

“One of our primary objectives was to provide PRNS folks who might have little or no tech background with an easy-to-use, interactive experience to present the trends to their board,” explained Podali.

Fengling Zhou, '22 Data Analytics

Fengling Zhou, ’22 Data Analytics

And that’s exactly what they did: Their final presentation to PRNS and Mayor Sam Liccardo included an interactive map identifying the city’s most vulnerable communities by ZIP code and how many scholarship dollars were allocated to those areas compared to others. Plus, it highlighted where certain communities indicated a need for programs that were unavailable locally by attending those outside their immediate area.

Podali and Zhou, along with others who worked on the project, shared a list of recommendations on how to use the data, which PRNS plans to do, explained Hal Spangenberg, interim division manager of PRNS.

“We will use this data and information to help inform key decisions in the allocation and distribution of scholarship funds and hopefully increase scholarships to those most in need,” he said.

“We can’t overstate the value of the dashboards they created,” Chen added. “Now, the PRNS team has a level of data and truth they can refer to as they make their future decisions.”

“Data is not anonymous,” she continued. “These are people’s lives we have in our hands. It’s not just analysis for the sake of analysis; we are ultimately here to hopefully better the lives of residents of San Jose. That’s the importance of having local students doing this kind of work and bringing their local context to the table. We need to understand the community we’re serving, so it made sense to partner with the university, where there’s a pipeline of talent.”

A demonstration of the interactive map created by Podali and Zhou for the City of San José.

One of the goals of the SJSU MS Data Analytics program is to show students that they can apply analytics to solve relevant, real-world problems, explained Ruth Duran Huard, dean of the College of Professional and Global Education (CPGE).

“One of our core learning objectives is for our students to integrate multidisciplinary knowledge to engage in practical data analytics projects, from analyzing requirements to managing data, building models, presenting results and assessing societal impacts,” she noted.

“The partnership of CPGE’s Applied Data Science department with the City of San José speaks to our university’s commitment to connect and contribute within our communities,” Huard continued. “To be able to support the city in its efforts to meet its data systems needs and develop an overall data strategy has been invaluable, especially for our faculty and students.”

Mohamed Abousalem, SJSU’s vice president for research and innovation, says this collaboration is an example of how the university’s research expertise can have tremendous public impact.

“SJSU has several areas of research expertise that intersect with the City of San José’s interests and priorities,” he said. “This collaboration was a demonstration of how our students and faculty can help the city make data-informed decisions based on expertise and skill in data analytics. Our partners have a great opportunity to tap into the resources of today’s students to select tomorrow’s employees through meaningful and productive research and development projects.”

For Podali and Zhou, the experience broadened their understanding on the power of data.

“Being fair when creating policies to serve a community is hard,” noted Zhou. “But our data project provides evidence that will help the best decisions to be made.”

“This experience has helped me develop a new perspective of how data can be transformative for communities,” Podali said.

“I now realize the impact technology advancement has when it is leveraged across all walks of life,” she continued. “Studying community problems, identifying areas of improvement and assessing risks using data analytics is the need of the hour. As exciting as it is to work on groundbreaking artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, it is equally important to ensure that communities receive enough help to position themselves in today’s world of technology.”

View the students’ final presentation, and learn more about SJSU’s MS Data Analytics program

How Can Educators and Parents Prepare for the K-12 School year? A Q&A with Lara Ervin-Kassab

SJSU faculty interact with a small child in the Lurie College’s Child Development Laboratory Preschool in Feb. 2020. Photo by Bob Bain.

Whether you’re a K-12 educator, caregiver or parent, this fall promises more than the usual back-to-school excitement and anxiety. Nearly 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, caregivers and educators must, once again, evaluate how to safely interact with learners while feeling the pressure to make up for lost time. 

As the spouse of a high school teacher and mother to a kindergartner and a 1-year-old, I’m all too familiar with these concerns. While I’ll feel better once my kids can access a vaccine, I am still eager to usher them both into classrooms of some kind next week. Like many of my peers, I have way more questions than answers.

Lucky for me, San José State’s Connie L. Lurie College of Education is home to experts like Assistant Professor of Teacher Education Lara Ervin-Kassab, who has 25 years of experience teaching pre-K through graduate school. 

This summer, she offered a webinar on considering community and trauma as part of the Lurie College’s K-12 Teaching Academy. She was kind enough to answer my questions — and yes, lower my blood pressure — about preparing for school in a COVID world.

Lara Kassab.

SJSU Lurie College of Education Teacher Education Department Faculty Lara Kassab. Photo by Brian Cheung-Dooley.

How can schools, educators and parents prepare students for returning to a classroom environment?

Lara Ervin-Kassab (LEK): Everyone has experienced some level of trauma during the pandemic, and we need to acknowledge that in others and in ourselves.

First, this is an opportunity for us to step back and ask, what is really worthwhile in education? What is the actual purpose of this whole process? What do we really want it to do?

Then, we can reprioritize and open up dialogues around how we make schools a place where everyone feels supported coming out of this traumatic experience. How can we make schools a place where everyone’s humanity is acknowledged and engaged and their interests are being heard?

How have districts addressed some of these concerns? 

LEK: Several of our local districts and parent-teacher associations have started these conversations about what we want schools to look and feel like. At least one district has moved toward offering an in-house online school for parents and students who may have concerns about going back to face-to-face. That, again, is an opportunity to look at making sure our educational system is thinking about everyone’s needs and how those can best be supported.

How has COVID-19 affected how teachers design and implement curriculum?

LEK: I teach a course in classroom management for pre-K and K-12 teachers. I’ve also been researching how teachers should continue to use technology. 

I think there has been resistance to changing some of the ways we teach in order to better utilize technology, and COVID either reinforced resistance to the tech or helped teachers overcome their fears. A lot of us used tools we never used before, and the ways we used those tools caused us to reflect on how we’ll continue to use them moving forward.

For instance, I feel strongly that all student voices need to be heard. In a face-to-face classroom, you have students who may never speak, who may not raise their hands or who may feel really uncomfortable engaging that way. Since teaching online, a lot of the students who usually don’t want to raise their hands or speak out loud were very engaged through the virtual chat feature.

So, going forward, how can I still provide my students with that ability to be a part of the conversation through chat once we’re back in a face-to-face environment?

Many of my teaching colleagues have provided their students with options to do videos or podcasts in lieu of more traditional assignments. This semester will be a test case for what sticks and what doesn’t, not only in K-12, but in education writ large and even in the corporate world. 

As COVID protocols continue to shift and the Delta variant poses a threat this fall, how can teachers manage their own stress, mental health and well-being as well as that of their students?

LEK: I recommend teachers and parents look into the Center for Reaching and Teaching the Whole Child, which was founded by Emerita Professor of Elementary Education Nancy Markowitz. It is grounded in the idea of helping the whole person learn. It’s very integrated with  social emotional learning — helping our students learn to engage socially to understand and regulate their own emotions.

This is especially important after more than a year of being isolated from other people. With every class I teach, whether in person or online, I start with a short mindfulness activity that helps reinforce how to breathe and sit in the present.

The center has a great teacher competency anchor framework that reminds teachers to do the work alongside their students. So, for teachers and parents alike, if you take a few minutes to practice mindfulness with your kids, remember to practice it yourself. These activities are very helpful when you or your kids are feeling overwhelmed.

What main message do you have about returning to school, whatever it looks like, in 2021?

LEK: Be patient. Be kind to yourself and to all the people around you.

Take this uncertainty and find ways to embrace your creativity. This year is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the discomfort, and with that, we can either push back and close down, or we can say, “This is uncomfortable. What do I need to do to make it better? How creative can I be right now? How can I think of how these possibilities could recognize our diversity?”

What’s one tip you’d give every parent and teacher?

LEK: When you’re not sure about something, ask the children and listen to their answers. Because even children as young as 2 or 3 years old have a really good sense of what they need. They may not have the vocabulary for it, and they may not be able to distinguish between what they want and what they need, but if you have a conversation with them, you can begin to understand what they need.

Watch Ervin-Kassab’s 2021 K-12 Teaching Academy webinar, “Considering Community and Trauma,” for more resources for teachers, caregivers and parents.

SJSU Welcomes Spartan Community Back With SJSU Together Campaign


After nearly 17 months of remote learning and telecommuting during the COVID-19 pandemic, San José State University is preparing for the return of students, faculty and staff to the campus this month.

As part of the SJSU Together campaign, a wide variety of activities and events are planned to celebrate the community and invoke a sense of pride. Spartans can also expect to see a host of new and upgraded facilities and resources on campus that took place over the last year and a half.

Here are a few of the ways San José State is gearing up for the start of the new academic year.

Celebrating Faculty and Staff

Aug. 9 through Aug. 25

San José State’s faculty and staff have worked tirelessly to ensure the campus kept moving forward during this unprecedented year. Now, some will be returning after more than a year away, while others will be setting foot at 1 Washington Square for the first time.

That’s why SJSU has organized activities to honor its employees, including outdoor yoga, group walks around campus, social gatherings outside with new and familiar colleagues and much more.

Events to note:
Aug. 11, 3:45 – 5 p.m. New Employee Social, Bell/Rose Garden
Faculty and staff who joined SJSU since Mar. 17, 2020, can meet colleagues in person and connect.

Aug. 25, 3 – 4 p.m. | Faculty and Staff Social, Bell/Rose Garden


Weeks of Welcome (WOW)

Aug. 16 – Sept. 22, times and activities vary

At the start of each academic year, SJSU organizes campus-wide programming spanning the first five to six weeks of instruction. The goal is to welcome returning students and greet and support new students in their transition to the Spartan community.

Students have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of events and activities in areas including academics, wellness, social justice*, career, Spartan spirit, social/community building and campus resources. Programming this year will be a mix of hybrid, fully online and in person.

*Social justice activities refer to those that promote students’ development or self advocacy and voice and engage in topics around social justice and community transformation.

Events to note:
Aug. 16, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. | New Student Convocation, virtual
SJSU’s formal welcome of our new Spartans and their parents, family members and/or supporters.

Aug. 19, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. | Weeks of Welcome Kick-Off, 7th St. Plaza
Pick up your schedule for all Weeks of Welcome events and enjoy snacks, music and SJSU giveaways.

Aug. 23, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. | Weeks of Welcome Kick-Off, Tower Lawn

Aug. 24, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. | Weeks of Welcome Kick-Off, Housing Quad


SJSU Loves SJ

ongoing

The SJSU Loves SJ initiative is a partnership between San José State and Visit San Jose, the Downtown Association, Japantown Business Association, and San José City Hall to help increase students’ connection with and appreciation of the culture of San Jose’s vibrant surrounding community. The university plays an important role in the economic vitality of downtown San Jose, and there are many local venues and landmarks students, faculty and staff can explore just steps from campus.

Events to note:
Aug. 19, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. | Student welcome event, Swenson Gate on 4th Street and the Paseo de San Antonio
Student social event on the first day of classes, includes snacks and giveaways from local businesses.

Aug. 19 – 20, dusk – 10 p.m. | Lighting of City Hall Tower and Rotunda, 200 E. Santa Clara St.
San Jose’s City Hall plaza will be lit up with SJSU’s blue and gold colors at dusk.

Aug. 23, 9 a.m. | SJSU flag raising at City Hall
Marks the return of the SJSU community to downtown and celebrates our partnership with the city.


(Re)Discover SJSU

ongoing

Now in its second year, (Re)Discover SJSU is a digital campaign that invites the San José State community to utilize their informational website and social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram and YouTube) to learn about and share campus programs, services and events.
The dashboard updates regularly throughout the academic year with new opportunities to explore and engage with the campus community.


New Campus Facilities and Services

In addition to welcome festivities, here are a few of the new things to expect on campus this year.

Landscape

Behind the scenes, university personnel have been planning ahead to ensure Spartans, many of whom have yet to set foot on campus, feel properly welcomed to SJSU. This includes banners decorated with colorful art and the SJSU logo — some featuring the word “welcome” stated in multiple languages — hanging along the pedestrian paseos spanning the length of campus.

Health and Well-being

YOU@SJSU is a wellness learning and resource tool that provides students with tips and tools for everything from mental and physical health to friendships and finding balance. Students can also set personalized goals and track their progress in achieving them with interactive support included in the app.

SJSUCares will open a new space (anticipated in fall) in Clark Hall. Students can receive the confidential support to address basic needs through individual meetings with case managers, on-site connections to partner agencies that support self-sufficiency, and workshops.

The Office of Sustainability and SJSU Cares also partnered to establish the Clothes Closet, a new resource for SJSU students providing a steady source of gently worn clothing and new essential items such as underwear and socks. It is tentatively scheduled to also open in fall.

Technology and Cybersecurity

Outdoor WiFi will blanket almost all of the SJSU campus in WiFi 6, the latest standard for stable, reliable wireless broadband connectivity that can host far more devices than previous standards. This will activate more spaces around campus for learning and studying, as well enabling a future strategy for an IoT-based Smart Campus.

A new SJSU Events Calendar is mobile friendly, more visible and plugged into social media, allowing events to be searchable via hashtags and listings to be populated directly into Google Calendar and Outlook. The “I’m interested” feature provides logged-in users with recommendations for upcoming events based on ones they’ve already attended.

Duo Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is now live for all SJSU accounts. MFA significantly reduces the potential impact from ransomware and phishing attacks.

SJSU partnered with industry-leading software security companies to give our campus population free access to security software for their home devices.

Athletics

SJSU welcomes the new South Campus Multilevel Parking Structure and Sports Field Facility, including a 2-acre recreation field and art honoring the “Speed City” athletes and their famed track and field coach Bill Winter. The four-level, 1,500 stall parking structure overlooks the new field. The field itself is a state-of-the-art synthetic playing surface and features a dedicated public walkway encircling its perimeter.

Fans planning to cheer on the 2020 Mountain West champion Spartan football team will notice a new state-of-the-art scoreboard at CEFCU Stadium. The first home game is Saturday, Aug. 28, against Southern Utah.

Facilities

There are now solar panels and 50 EV charging stations at the South Campus Park & Ride; 25 of them have dual charging capability. There are currently eight to 10 charging stations on main campus that were installed this summer with four hour maximum use.

Solar panels were added to provide electrical power to the CEFCU Stadium area, lightening our carbon footprint while providing some shade as well.

Panda Express in the Student Union has an upgraded wok station to speed up orders. In addition, you can now place your order and schedule pickup times through the Boost app to save time.

San José State is introducing Burger 408, its first “ghost kitchen,” featuring delicious burgers, fries and sides, sauces, fried chicken sandwiches and tenders. All orders are made through the Boost app and picked up at the window at the Student Union.

In spring of 2022, Halal Shack will replace Steak and Shake and will offer authentic and delicious Halal food for the entire community.

San Jose Art Project Illustrates a Safe Emergence from ‘COVID Bubbles’

A live art installation at Heritage Rose Garden directed by SJSU’s Robin Lasser. Photos of the scene appear on billboards around San Jose. Photo by Robin Lasser

There’s a new art exhibit opening this week in San Jose — but you won’t find it in a gallery. Instead, look up.

Starting August 2 and lasting through the month, billboards throughout the city are featuring art installations created by Robin Lasser, professor of art at San José State, and her longtime collaborator and former student Adrienne Pao, ’05 MFA Photography.

The message behind the art? Celebrate a safe, vaccinated emergence as a community from our “COVID bubbles.”

“The ‘bubble’ represents our social, familial or solitary bubbles that we live in during the pandemic,” Lasser explained.

The art is part of a statewide project aimed at reminding Californians that their actions can save lives. Fourteen artist teams throughout the state created pieces designed to empower their communities to protect one another and to show resilience. The project was developed in partnership with The Center at Sierra Health Foundation.

Members of San Jose’s Vietnamese community appeared in a tableau honoring emergence from the pandemic. Photo by Robin Lasser

“One of the goals was to work with harder hit and under-recognized communities during the pandemic,” Lasser explained.

So she and Pao worked with members of San Jose’s Vietnamese and predominantly Mexican American, as well as other Hispanic and Latino, communities to illustrate a celebratory emergence using traditional clothing, cultural elements and, of course, their signature dress tents. Messages like “Vaccinated, no more loneliness!” are written in Vietnamese, Spanish and English onto either silk lanterns or papel picado.

A rendering of a billboard featuring Lasser’s and Pao’s art installation. Image courtesy of Robin Lasser

The installations were created in public spaces. Lasser invited members of the Vietnamese community to Kelly Park on May 30 for one installation, and Mexican American and other Hispanic and Latino community members to Heritage Rose Garden on June 5 for another. At each public gathering, she invited some attendees to participate in the tableau she and Pao created, while the rest served as onlookers watching the scene come to life.

Then, she took photos.

“We wanted to create an event where those who had been vaccinated could finally be together and celebrate that emergence. It’s a two-pronged experience: We created art with members of these communities, and then we took the art and are now placing it back into those very communities with the billboards.”

While this art is specifically geared towards disproportionately affected populations, Lasser emphasized that her work carries a global message.

Map shows where billboards will be feature Lasser's art around San Jose

A map indicates where the tableaus will be featured on billboards around San Jose. Image courtesy of Robin Lasser

“When something happens to everyone everywhere, it helps us unite, to come together, to understand one another, to have greater empathy. Not that everything needs to have a silver lining, but as I spoke with people while working on this, there was a greater sense of openness and understanding for each other because we are all going through the same thing,” she explained.

She added that she hopes that anyone who spots a billboard can feel a similar celebratory feeling.

“The spirit of the work is intended to provide a sense of magic, to uplift, and imagine a hopeful future as we emerge from our solitary bubbles.”

Explore photos, videos and read more about Lasser’s and Pao’s project.

SJSU Announces New Partnership With Manchester Metropolitan University

San José State announced an exciting partnership to offer the Gateway PhD program with Manchester Metropolitan University (Manchester Met) in Manchester, England. This innovative international doctoral degree program prepares individuals for research, faculty and leadership positions in the library and information science field.

The partnership allows doctoral students to virtually attend Manchester Met and learn from the instruction and mentorship from faculty members at both universities — with the opportunity to attend an annual weeklong research workshop held in San José. The convenience of this primarily online program also allows information professionals and academics to earn their PhD degree from Manchester Met, without having to relocate to England or disrupt their current careers.

“SJSU appreciates the hard work that went into forming this unique, innovative, global partnership and is committed to ensuring the success of this program,” said President Mary Papazian. “And we’re looking forward to working with our partner, Manchester Metropolitan University, to launch and support the program.”

The School of Information (iSchool), housed within SJSU’s College of Professional and Global Education, will provide the entry or “gateway” to the PhD in Library and Information Management that will be conferred by MMU. The iSchool faculty will serve as associate supervisors and provide coordination of the program.

“Our college’s mission is to provide access to relevant, high-quality educational programs,” said Ruth Huard, dean of the College of Professional and Global Education. “It is exciting to know that through this Gateway PhD program, we are creating a solid pathway for future scholars in the information field who have a global perspective.”

This partnership is well aligned with the research and global focus of San José State, including the launch of new doctoral programs like the Doctor of Nursing Practice program, which graduated its first cohort earlier this year.

At the official launch event with leaders from both institutions, Professor Jenny Watling, pro vice chancellor international for Manchester Met, described the opportunity for MMU to “grow and diversify their global community” and build “academic relationships that will bring innumerable benefits to both institutions,” including support for achieving each other’s research ambitions.

Sandra Hirsh, associate dean of academics for SJSU’s College of Professional and Global Education, expressed similar sentiments and excitement about how this international partnership highlights the strengths of the two universities.

“This is a unique opportunity for doctoral students to benefit from the expertise of faculty at two institutions and consider research from a global perspective,” she explained. “I am also excited about the opportunities for our faculty to engage in collaborative research with international colleagues.”

The Gateway PhD program was previously offered through a partnership between San José State and Queensland University of Technology in Brisbane, Australia, from 2008 to 2021. Alumni of the program have received numerous awards and honors for their original research.

San José State and Manchester Met have also worked together before: SJSU’s Department of Communication Studies and Manchester Met’s department of art and performance collaborated this past year on joint student projects, which culminated in the creation of short films. This collaboration helped formalize the relationship between SJSU and Manchester Met, further enhancing the synergies between the two universities.

“I am confident our students will take full advantage of this opportunity [of the Gateway PhD program] to engage in original research alongside their peers and expert faculty — and bring much needed insight to this unprecedented digital and information era,” expressed Huard.

SJSU’s Olympic Legacy Continues at Tokyo Games

A picture of 6 SJSU alumni who will be competing at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo

Seven SJSU Spartans will participate in the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo from July 23 to August 8. Not pictured: Coach Greg Massialas.

San José State has been a part of nearly every Olympics since 1924. The university will be well represented in the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, which run from July 23-August 8.

Seven former Spartans will participate in five sports:

  • Suzy Brookshire Gonzales, Mexico softball — first Olympic Games
  • Colton Brown, USA men’s judo — second Olympic Games
  • Michelle Cox, Australia softball — first Olympic Games
  • Emma Entzminger, Canada softball — first Olympic Games
  • Clara Espar Llaquet, Spain women’s water polo — second Olympic Games
  • Robyn Stevens, USA women’s track and field (20k race walking) — first Olympic Games
  • Coach Greg Massialas, USA fencing head coach — seventh Olympic Games, fourth as a head coach (2008, 2012, 2016, 2020)

The five female Olympic athletes are the most for SJSU in any one Olympics. Stevens is the first Spartan women’s track and field Olympian since USA shot put and discus thrower Margaret Jenkins competed in the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics. .

This is also the first time an SJSU alumnae will appear in softball, which returns to the Olympics schedule for the first time since 2008.

Colton Brown continues SJSU’s impressive judo legacy that began with alumnus Yoshihiro “Yosh” Uchida, ’47 Biological Science, head judo coach at the Olympic Games in Tokyo in 1964. Brown shared his thoughts on competing in his second Olympics and his quest for a gold medal in a Q&A before leaving for Tokyo.

How Diamonds Could Unlock the Secrets of Quantum Physics

What makes diamonds so valuable? Most of us would point to their brilliance, clarity and beauty. But Christopher Smallwood, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at San José State, has a different answer: He looks to diamonds as the key to unearthing the secrets of quantum physics.

Smallwood and his collaborators are examining silicon-vacancy centers, which are a type of atom-sized flaw, in diamonds in order to better understand quantum physics. Illustration by Pourya Nadimi

Smallwood and his collaborators are using diamonds to better understand how the world works at the scale of a single atom. His recent findings, “Hidden Silicon-Vacancy Centers in Diamonds,” were published in May in the journal Physical Review Letters.

In the jewelry store, people typically look for the diamond with the fewest flaws. But Smallwood explained that, in the lab, these flaws are exactly what can make diamond samples so special.

He and fellow researchers create atom-sized flaws in the diamonds. Then, using a laser with pulses of light less than a trillionth of a second, they can observe the details and properties of those flaws “in a way we never had been able to before,” Smallwood said.

Exploring new territory

Christopher Smallwood

Christopher Smallwood, assistant professor of physics and astronomy

Why diamonds? To start, their crystal clear makeup allows scientists to easily access flaws with laser technology, Smallwood explained.

But what’s more, they contain a treasure trove of quantum secrets for physicists to uncover.

“There are literally books about optical resonances in diamonds for which no one understands the underlying origin,” he said. By resonances, he means physical responses in the diamonds to outside stimuli, such as light.

“From an experimental physicist’s point of view, it’s really great to have so much left to explore.”

Smallwood noted that his research takes place amid Silicon Valley’s push toward quantum engineering — that is, applying quantum physics to technology. Currently, IBM and Google, for example, are building quantum computers, which will have the power to apply quantum physics knowledge to solve today’s most pressing issues, like creating sustainable energy, reducing emissions and developing more helpful artificial intelligence.

Smallwood’s research demonstrates how San José State could become a key player in this process.

“I’ve seen a number of companies pop up in and around Silicon Valley in recent years aiming to make new inroads in quantum technology, and SJSU is well-positioned to help train the workforce required to make these technological dreams a reality,” Smallwood explained. “The publication of this paper helps underscore this potential.”

Shining light at San José State

Smallwood’s recent findings tie closely with his project funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation he received in 2020. The grant has allowed Smallwood to advance San José State’s capabilities of studying the properties of diamonds and other materials through light.

“SJSU is great because of the ways it allows me to directly work with undergraduate and master’s students and stay active in the laboratory,” he said. “Student participation in these research efforts is crucial. And I’ve got some extraordinary graduate and undergraduate students currently working in my group.”

One of those students is Tommy Wen Chin, ’22 Physics, who is helping Smallwood to better understand the recent findings. Together, he and Smallwood will work on another manuscript that explores the theory behind the work, which they will submit for publication.

Tommy Wen Chin, '22 Physics

Tommy Wen Chin, ’22 Physics

Chin said he’s gaining valuable experience for the future: He plans to pursue a PhD in physics and a career in academic research.

“This experience will give me a significant head start in that process, as I learn not only to perform research, but also to formally report it through publications. Being a first author on a publication as an undergraduate student is very rare within academic circles, and this will enhance my credibility as I apply for programs.”

But most importantly, Chin said he is getting to explore his passion and advance his knowledge of quantum physics.

“The opportunity to learn something new in physics is what drives me,” he shared. “The process of research projects often involves learning bits and pieces of the physics here and there. The most interesting and exciting part for me is when all these little pieces fit together seamlessly and tell a cohesive story.”

Smallwood, of course, understands Chin’s passion for quantum physics and the research process as a whole.

“There’s something really aesthetically beautiful about the theoretical side of the work, and on the experimental side, you get to build things with your own hands,” Smallwood said. “I enjoy working with lasers and shining light on things because — even at the level of high-level physics experiments — seeing is believing.”

View Smallwood’s published study in the Physical Review Letters journal.

SJSU Hosts Historic Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic, Showcasing Very Best of Women’s Tennis

Bay Area tennis fans hungry for a glimpse of some of the world’s top women’s hardcourt players have a rare opportunity to see many of their favorites in action early next month, as the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic (MSVC) returns to San José State in an important U.S. Open tuneup.

The historic women’s tennis event — which marks its 50th anniversary this year — takes place Aug. 2-8 at the SJSU Tennis Center. Tickets, which start as low as $20 for the opening round, can be purchased by visiting MubadalaSVC.com or by calling 1-833-94-MATCH (1-833-946-2824).

Hitting the ball at the Mubadala SV Tennis Classic

Beginning on Aug. 2, the Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic will take place at the tennis courts at CEFCU Stadium in San Jose, Calif. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

“We are excited to be returning to San Jose State University for the 50th Anniversary of this historic Bay Area tennis event and to do so at 100 percent capacity,” said Vickie Gunnarsson, Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic Tournament Director. “This tournament holds a special place in history as a precursor to the establishment of the WTA and with the fight for gender equality in sports. Our former champions are some of the best players ever and given the talent we have competing this year I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or more of this year’s players joining the list of all-time greats when it’s all said and done.”

“San José State could not be more excited to again be hosting a professional tennis event of this caliber,” said Jeff Konya, SJSU athletic director. “We love showing Bay Area sports fans our exceptional tennis complex, which we feel offers a delightful fan experience, inviting hospitality options and the intimate atmosphere this tournament has become renowned for over the years.”

Highlighting the field are a collection of top-ranked American players, Women’s Tennis Association (WTA) title winners and recent Grand Slam champions. Topping the list of U.S. players will be 2020 Australian Open Champion Sofia Kenin, 2017 Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic Champion Madison Keys and 2017 U.S. Open Champion Sloane Stephens.

Other top players include 2017 French Open champion Jelena Ostapenko, World No. 16 Elise Mertens, 2021 Australian Open semifinalist and 2021 Wimbledon quarterfinalist Karolina Muchova, 2021 French Open quarterfinalists Elena Rybakina and Paula Badosa and Chinese star Zhang Shuai.

The Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic showcases SJSU’s exceptional tennis complex, offering a delightful fan experience, inviting hospitality options and an intimate atmosphere. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

Another recent addition to the MSVC main draw is 18-year-old British sensation Emma Raducanu, who accepted a wildcard invitation. In her first-ever Grand Slam tournament earlier this month, Raducanu advanced to Wimbledon’s fourth round, becoming the youngest British woman to reach the final 16 at Wimbledon in the Open Era.

The Mubadala event is slated to be one of the most competitive in the tournament’s storied history, with 17 of 19 players entered having won at least one WTA singles title and 15 having advanced to a Grand Slam quarterfinal or better. The field has combined to win 46 career singles titles.

Rich history and Bay Area roots

Legendary sportswoman, visionary and activist Billie Jean King and her friend Rosie Casals — a San Francisco native and, like King, a member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame — played significant roles in establishing the event decades ago.

Sensing a growing passion and enthusiasm for women’s tennis, the pair joined forces and helped bring the Virginia Slims of California — the inaugural Bay Area women’s tennis tournament — to the San Francisco Civic Auditorium in 1971. It was the first event of that year’s historic tour, which paved the way for today’s WTA.

The tournament’s list of past champions reads like a who’s who of women’s tennis, including Serena Williams, Lindsay Davenport, Billie Jean King, Chris Evert, Martina Navratilova, Andrea Jaeger, Monica Seles, Martina Hingis, Venus Williams, and Kim Clijsters. 

The Mubadala Silicon Valley Classic represents the first women’s stop on the US Open Series, which begins after Wimbledon and concludes with the US Open. 

Owned and operated by IMG, the WTA 500 event features a 28-player singles draw and a 16-team doubles draw with total prize money of $565,530.

SJSU Alumnus Colton Brown Going for Gold at Tokyo Olympics

A photo of Colton Brown

Colton Brown, ’15 Business Administration, will compete in the 2021 Summer Olympics. Photo courtesy: David Schmitz.

Colton Brown, ’15 Business Administration, will represent Team USA in judo at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, later this month. This is Brown’s second Olympic games after competing in the Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, in 2016.

Brown is the latest judoka who graduated from SJSU to compete on the world’s most storied athletics stage — a legacy that began with Yoshihiro Uchida serving as the head coach of the first U.S. judo team in 1964, the last time the Summer Olympics were held in Tokyo. Race walker Robyn Stevens joins Brown as the two Spartans who will compete for Team USA at the 2021 Games. 

Editor’s Note: See the timeline of SJSU-affiliated participants representing Team USA in nearly every Olympics since 1924. 

Ahead of Brown’s quest for his first Olympic medal, which begins with his first match on July 28, he shared his thoughts on representing the U.S. at the Olympics, how the pandemic affected preparation for the games, and what it means to him to be part of SJSU’s judo legacy. 

1) What does it mean to you to be able to represent the U.S. again at the Olympics?

The more time I spend competing at the highest level, the more I realize that I am very fortunate to be able to do what I love every day. Representing my country on the Olympic stage is an incredible honor, and I am happy to have gotten this opportunity twice. 

2) With the pandemic pushing the Olympics back a year, did you see that as a benefit or difficult to manage — especially since you likely have a routine as you prepare for the Olympics?

Great question. During the beginning of the pandemic, things were very confusing. There was a lot of uncertainty, so I wasn’t sure whether or not the Olympics were even going to take place. I was used to training three to four times a day, but when everything shut down, the only thing I was able to do was run and bike through the mountains. 

To be honest, I was a little sad that the Olympics weren’t happening in 2020 because I felt my preparation up to that point was great. But, I soon realized the severity of the situation and understood that it was best for the world if they postponed the games. 

Throughout the months that I wasn’t able to do judo, I realized how much I genuinely loved the sport. When something is taken away from you, I feel like it gives you a new perspective. I found that I was no longer worried about whether or not the Olympics would happen, I was just excited to be able to train again. It took me back to when I was a child doing judo because I loved it. So, at the end of the day, the pandemic made me realize why I started judo and restored my love for the sport.

3) This will be a return to Tokyo for you since you competed there in 2019 at the World Championships. Although there will be restrictions in place there, what are you most looking forward to?

Tokyo is one of my favorite cities in the world. A lot of people don’t know this, but when I graduated high school, right before I went to SJSU, I lived in Japan for four months. I went there to train at Nihon University, and I was the only American in the all-Japanese dormitory. Between the training and language barrier, it was one of the most difficult experiences of my life, but the amount of friendships that formed because of that experience are priceless. 

Since then, I have traveled back to Japan twice a year to train, so I’m very familiar with Tokyo. I’m looking forward to performing in front of my friends and the Japanese fans that are allowed to attend the Olympics. I’m also looking forward to the amazing food that Tokyo has to offer.

Editor’s Note: As of July 8, fans will not be allowed at the Tokyo Olympics.

4) You are a standout in a storied history of judo competitors and coaches from SJSU,  starting with Yoshihiro Uchida. What does it mean to you to be a part of the Spartan judo legacy?

Mr. Uchida is one of my idols. Throughout my time at SJSU, he taught me countless lessons on and off of the mat. When I first arrived at SJSU as a freshman, I was impressed by all of the amazing individuals who came through the judo program. I remember looking up to people like Marti Malloy and Mike Swain. Hearing stories of how they trained and the obstacles they had to overcome throughout their careers really inspired me. 

As I began to achieve some success, I realized that I could be an example for the younger generation. SJSU graduates like Mike and Marti gave me hope when I was younger that I could be something special. The thought that I could now have that impact on the lives of other Spartans truly means the world to me. 

https://fb.watch/v/A4Nb7he37/

Editor’s Note: Watch Brown train with Yoshihiro Uchida ahead of the 2016 Summer Olympics. 

5) Is there anything from your time at SJSU that you still carry with you today (a training method, something a professor or coach told you, etc.)?

SJSU is a great place. I tell people all the time that my time at SJSU was the most fun I’ve ever had in my career. I think when you put a bunch of people together who are trying to achieve a common goal, it makes for a special place. The one thing that SJSU taught me was to lead by example. I’ve learned so much by simply watching successful people who came before me. Without that example, I don’t know if I would be where I am today. 

6) Any words for Spartan Nation as they get ready to cheer you on at the games?

I just want to say thank you to all of the Spartans supporting me! I appreciate all of the love and will keep the Spartan mentality in mind when I’m out there fighting. 

What Do Recent Historic Heat Waves Mean for Us? A Q&A With SJSU Meteorologist and Climate Scientist Alison Bridger

The SJSU Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center truck overlooks the drought-stricken landscape of Coyote Valley on the outskirts of San José. More wildfires, severe droughts and extreme heat waves are all results of climate change. Photo: Robert C. Bain

Last month, temperatures in the Pacific Northwest reached historic and dangerous levels, like nothing the region has ever experienced before.

In fact, more than 100 Oregon residents died from heat-related illnesses during the record-shattering heat wave, which drove temperatures up to 117 degrees Fahrenheit in some parts of the state. Compare that to 12 hyperthermia deaths reported statewide between 2017 and 2019, according to CNN.

Parts of British Columbia hit 121 degrees Fahrenheit during the heat wave — the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada.

Alison Bridger, professor of meteorology and climate science

What should we make of this phenomenon? Alison Bridger, professor of meteorology and climate science at San José State, has some answers about why this extreme weather occurred in an area known for its cool climate — and how likely it is to happen again.

Q: We know the recent record-breaking heat in the Pacific Northwest was extremely dangerous. Can you give insight as to just how abnormal it is to see temperatures that high in that area?

AB: In the old days, when a high-temperature record got broken, it would be by 1 or 2 degrees. The Pacific Northwest heat dome was shattering records by as much as 10 degrees, which is why there was so much buzz.

It also remained very warm at night, providing little chance for anybody to cool down. Plus, it was in an area where few people use air conditioners — and stayed in place for days — so there was a lot of potential for heat stress, which is when the body can’t get rid of excess heat. As a result, there were many sudden deaths in the Pacific Northwest and in Western Canada.

One more thing is in the west, the highest temperatures tend to occur in July and August, not June.

Q: You used the term “heat dome.” Can you explain what that is and why it’s important?

AB: We meteorologists measure and pay attention to air pressure. In particular, we pay attention to areas where air pressure is higher or lower than average. Our weather is closely linked to whether we have a high- or low-pressure area over us.

Low pressure is associated with warm and cold fronts, clouds and rain — the kind where it rains all morning. High pressure areas are generally clear and dry with no clouds and no rain.

So a heat dome is an example of a high-pressure system — with clear skies, long days and the sun high in the sky. These are typical in the Southwest on really hot days in Death Valley, Las Vegas, Phoenix, etc. When they form, they can sometimes spread their influence further west and can even reach us at the coast, hence our Bay Area heat waves that occur one to three times a year.

We had another notable heat dome event this year, which was centered south and east of us and resulted in a temperature of 128 degrees Fahrenheit in Death Valley. This was a very strong heat dome and covered much of the west. We got over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in San Jose!

Q: How likely is it that we’ll see these temperatures again soon? Will this become a regular occurrence?

AB: I think so. Climate scientists have been warning about the impacts of climate change for decades, and here we are, seeing those predictions come true. More extreme heatwaves? Check. More rain in the Northeast? Check. More drought in the Southwest? Check. Melting ice caps? Check.

We might not see this type of occurrence every year, but it’s going to be more frequent and will likely occur again within the next five years. As we continue to add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, we will continue to warm, and new extreme events will continue to emerge.

Q: What kind of impact do higher than normal temperatures have on our environment?

AB: Here are some major impacts:

  1. Changes to growing seasons — but if there’s less or no water for irrigation, that won’t matter.
  2. Less snow in the mountains, hence less water in reservoirs for western cities.
    More electrical demand for AC.
  3. Drier forests (trees and vegetation dry out more rapidly after rains due to warmer temperatures), leading to more wildfires.
  4. Animals that live in the mountains are being forced uphill to cooler areas. But when they reach the top, then what?
  5. I’ll bet there’s a human stress impact. People have been told for decades that climate change is coming, and now it’s obviously here, and we’re not doing anything. I know I’m stressed!

Q: Is there any hope that we can make improvements and possibly limit this in the future? If so, what needs to happen?

AB: If we were to suddenly stop adding more greenhouse gases and our carbon dioxide levels become stable, I think the atmosphere would continue to change for maybe 10 to 20 years due to its inertia. Then in 20 years, say, things would settle down to a “new normal,” which would be warmer, but we could start to deal with the consequences.

But, if we wait another 20 years and keep adding greenhouse gases, and then do the above, we’ll be at a warmer new normal, with more impacts that are more extreme and more widespread.

One way we could tackle this is to move faster on colonizing the moon and Mars, so we have an escape hatch. Or, we could work to fix this by moving much faster on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. This has to be a global effort, but we in the U.S. can get started regardless.

Let’s generate more solar, wind and tidal energy; do a better job on battery storage; do a better job on power transmission; and use smart devices to use less energy. And let’s provide serious incentives for getting these big tasks done.

Learn more about the SJSU Department of Meteorology and Climate Science.