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

Laxmi Ramasubramanian in a black blazer and white top smiling.

Photo: Robert Bain / San José State University.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

COVID-19 Playing Major Role in SJSU’s 2020-2021 Fiscal Year Budget

The university is leveraging reserves in effort to prevent layoffs and continue Transformation 2030 strategic plan.

 

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, San José State University (SJSU) is in the process of releasing its budget for the current academic year. SJSU is scheduled to release its budget for the current academic year by the end of September.

With the California State University (CSU) system facing a $299 million budget reduction from the state of California due to COVID-19’s impact on the state’s overall budget, SJSU’s $377 million budget — down $26 million from last year — has been affected significantly by the state’s reductions and the economic impact of the pandemic. 

SJSU estimates a financial shortfall of more than $92 million from lost revenue and COVID-related expenses tied to the state’s budget reduction and university-specific revenue streams, most notably housing, which accounts for nearly half of the university-specific losses, parking, dining, concerts and events, athletics revenues and international student enrollment. Although SJSU’s total enrollment number is on track to mirror the 2019-2020 academic year, the loss of an estimated 500 international and out of state students this fall factors into the revenue reduction.

“On top of being a major health concern, the pandemic has created a financial impact on higher education that will hurt universities like SJSU for some time to come,” said President Mary A. Papazian. “The recovery from this will be long and arduous. I have and will continue to call upon Congress and others to support institutions like SJSU to ensure a well-educated workforce vital for our state’s future.”

The projected deficit is nearly six times the original estimate of $16 million in losses the university estimated during the spring semester after the county’s shelter-in-place order went into effect March 16. The federal government’s CARES Act, distributed in April, provided more than $30 million to SJSU, with nearly half of it earmarked and distributed as direct student aid. The remaining $16 million funded faculty training through the SJSU Teach Online Summer Certificate Program, enabled the purchase of much needed student and faculty IT equipment, and provided some relief to enterprises, including housing and parking services. The remaining funds from the CARES Act were used to support COVID-related infrastructure expenses, such as cleaning supplies and other uses by Facilities Development and Operations, and expenditures in Academic Affairs.

Options for this year and beyond

In July 2020, CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White shared a message emphasizing that the financial challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic will be felt by the CSU for at least the next three years. Chancellor White described the CSU’s plan to reduce expenses, including instituting a systemwide hiring slowdown, halting most travel for all campuses and the Chancellor’s Office, and the consideration of a furlough program beginning in the 2021-2022 fiscal year. Chancellor White has delegated to each campus president the responsibility and accountability for implementing local campus layoff plans, as determined by the campus and consistent with applicable collective bargaining agreements. 

“Layoffs are the least preferred option for SJSU, and we continue to look at the budget to find creative solutions to the looming financial challenges we face,” Papazian said. “We are committed to exhausting all avenues before resorting to layoffs. We will continue to find ways to ensure the university can maintain courses and services for students and keep our faculty and staff employed in the midst of a global crisis.”

While SJSU has continued to hire faculty and key strategic positions, the university has significantly slowed hiring and backfilling positions, resulting in budget savings.

Despite the expected financial shortfall over the next three years, SJSU is committed to continuing the work necessary to achieve goals of the Transformation 2030 strategic plan — including graduation rate increases, tenure-track faculty hiring and start-up, research growth, safety and growth of graduate studies. 

“Despite what feels like insurmountable challenges, we will continue the progress we have already made toward these vital goals for the growth of San José State University,” said Vice President of Finance and Administration and Chief Financial Officer Charlie Faas. 

In his July message, Chancellor White also wrote that use of reserves will be vital to protecting our institutions from financial exigency over the next three years. Campuses and the Chancellor’s Office will be measured in drawing on these funds to ensure they do not “zero out” their reserves. Funds from reserves intended for a specific need or priority will only be used to fund those particular areas.

Drawing from reserves

SJSU will utilize a significant portion of its reserves — currently $161 million from the general fund and enterprise reserves which amount to a little less than five months of funding to support all university operations. Given the long-term impacts of COVID-19, SJSU looks to draw on about 60 percent of its reserves in the 2020-2021 fiscal year. The remaining reserves will be largely expended in the next two fiscal years.

SJSU is also working closely with its auxiliary organizations to determine how they can best partner with the university. The university is prepared for several years where the state budget could be significantly decreased and additional state funding is not available. 

“Getting through the pandemic and its lasting financial impact will be a team effort, and potential support from divisions, enterprises and auxiliaries will allow SJSU to continue to adapt in crucial areas across campus and emerge from the pandemic on solid ground,” said Faas. “Together, we will continue to fulfill our academic mission and support graduation initiatives that have made San José State University a world-class institution that is the most transformative university in the country.”

Some of SJSU’s COVID-19 Heroes

Photo: Robert Bain/San José State University

San José State alumni, students and faculty members have risen to the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many alumni are frontline workers, government leaders and decision-makers managing and taking care of essential and emergency services.

Also tending to the community are current students and faculty–contributing valuable resources, raising awareness, generating funds and displaying creative ingenuity in addressing social and healthcare needs. As fall semester begins, SJSU recognizes some of the valiant efforts of these Spartans working tirelessly to keep the community safe and healthy.

Frontline Workers and Government Leaders

Christina Salvatier, ’19 MPA, is the CFO of the Valley Medical Foundation, and created the management systems for receiving, acknowledging, sorting, warehousing and issuing thousands of masks, gowns and related equipment.

Brandi Childress, ’08 MS Transportation Management, is the pubic information officer for VTA, developing COVID-19 messaging for its internal employees and for passengers, in collaboration with the Santa Clara County Health Department.

James Griffith, ’15 MPA, is the advanced planning lead in the State Operations Center (SOC) in Sacramento, managing the projections of resource needs for the management of COVID-19 response statewide.

Julie Nagasako, ’12 MPA, is a manager in the Office of the Secretary, California Department of Health, coordinating the department’s work on the medical issues.

Robert Sapien, ’95 Bachelors Political Science/Public Administration, chief of the San José Fire Department (SJFD), and current MPA student Reggie Williams, SJFD assistant chief, are leading the daily emergency medical response to the San José community.

Robert Herrera, ’18 MPA, San José Fire Department Battalion Chief supervises firefighters/EMTs in a number of stations.

Curtis Jacobson, ’19 MPA, is the chief of the Fremont Fire Department.

David Swing, ’08 MPA, has been appointed as the chief of the Pleasanton Police Department. Joseph Perez, ’18 MPA, is a corporal in the Watsonville Police Department.

Current MPA student Katy Nomura is the assistant to the City Manager in Cupertino and in charge of its emergency management programs, and Genevieve Yip, ’20 MPA,  is part of the city of Santa Clara emergency response.

Council member, District 7 Maya Esparza, ’11 MPA, and Council member, District 2 Sergio Jimenez, ’08 Political Science are members of the San José City Council, developing important legislation to protect our most vulnerable community members from evictions during the COVID-19 crisis.

Sergio Jimenez also oversees the work force that prepares food for distribution to the community impacted by COVID at Sacred Heart.

Kira Valenta, ’18 MPA, and Christopher Hoem, ’18 MPA, are aides to Mike Wasserman, Vice President, Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors. Lakeisha Bryant and Galen Boggs, ’21 MPA, are aides to Member of Congress (CA-17) Ro Khanna.

Current MPA student Galen Boggs is a National Guard officer who has been on active duty setting up COVID-19 facilities, including temporary hospitals

Current MPA student Viviane Nguyen and Patrick Cordova, MPA ’20 are working in the city of San José Emergency Operations Center team.

Current MPA student Maria Rodriguez is the Food Unit Lead for the Santa Clara County Emergency Operations Center.

Current MPA student Rob Wayman is running the 200-person quarantine facility for Stanford University students from out of Santa Clara County.

Current MPA student Darius Brown supervises a City of San José Community Center shelter for homeless people to enable them to shelter in place from Covid.

Daniela E. Torres, ’12 MPH, is responsible for all health information, health education, and health data collection in California’s public and charter schools which serves over 6.2 million students. She works very closely with the California Department of Public Health and CDC’s surveillance unit on multiple health topics.

Faculty and Frontline Students and Interns

SJSU Dietetic interns worked with Pajaro Valley Unified School District, Institute of Child Nutrition, Santa Clara County Senior Nutrition Program to make meals accessible to K – 12 students. They also helped centers to develop online training and marketing materials for K – 12 school lunch and child care programs, including topics related to nutrition, exercise, and recipes for staying at home.

Interns also worked on disaster menu and food supply planning at skilled nursing facilities. Many of SJSU’s internship sites/hospitals are now implementing these new guidelines in caring for affected patients.

For aspiring Registered Dietitians enrolled in NUFS 110B, Medical Nutrition Therapy, in Spring 2020, Associate Professor of Nutrition, Food Science & Packaging, Kasuen Mauldin, guest lectured on the topic of nutrition support and shared recent guidelines released by the American Society of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN) about nutrition therapy for Covid-19 patients. The guidelines focus on providing optimal nutrition (along with potential novel nutrient recommendations) to patients with severe respiratory syndrome while minimizing healthcare provider exposure.

As part of an IBM competition, Master of Information Science students under the leadership of Yu Chen, assistant professor in the School of Information Systems and Technology, created technology-based social solutions to COVID-19. Divided into virtual teams, students designed various apps to address the problems people are facing during this pandemic, such as generating recipes based on photos of ingredients in the pantry, measuring the intensity of symptoms when they’re sick, generating analysis by scanning key words in tweets employing IBM’s Personality Insights, etc.

PPE Donations

Faculty members and students in the industrial design department worked on 3-D printers in SJSU’s Calvin Seid Innovation Lab to make test kit swabs and badly needed ventilator parts for frontline medical staff.

The College of Science’s biology department staff have contributed 56 cases of gloves, plus a smaller supply of N95 and surgical masks to Valley Medical Foundation.

Valley Foundation School of Nursing donated personal protective equipment (gowns, gloves, masks) to a local hospital.

San José State’s athletics department partnered with Sacred Heart Community Service and Family Supportive Housing on the Heart for San José initiative to help the community cope. From sales of Heart for San José merchandise, $800 and 451 masks have been donated.

Creative Entrepreneurs

When extreme shortages of masks for healthcare workers  dominated the COVID-19 news headlines in March, Nitin Agrawal and his team formed a group called “The Free Maskeeteers.” The group raised more than $14,000, brought together 240 volunteers, including seamsters, drivers, website developers, and project and operation staff members to deliver more than 3,500 high-quality, hospital-grade, hand-sewn masks, 6,000 surgical masks and 3,400 KN95 masks to more than 70 hospitals, clinics, nursing centers and other facilities.

Occupational therapy graduate student Rebecca Farrell and her husband created a website called Bay Area Masks, which helps coordinate mask sewers with healthcare professionals and other individuals in the community.

San José State Football Head Coach Brent Brennan, Stanford University Football Coach David Shaw and University of California Football Coach Justin Wilcox came together for a video that highlights the importance of washing hands and practicing safe social distancing. San José State Football’s Director of Digital Communications Cam Radford edited the video.

Jobelle Abellera Named 2020-2021 CSU Trustee Scholar

Jobelle Abellera, ’21 Computer Science

Photo courtesy of Jobelle Abellera, ’21 Computer Science

The California State University has selected Jobelle Abellera, ’21 Computer Science, for the CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement for the 2020-2021 academic year.

San José State student Abellera earned the prestigious Trustee William Hauck and Padget Kaiser Scholar award as a result of her superior academic performance, exemplary community service and personal accomplishments. A portrait of fortitude, Abellera earned this award overcoming considerable physical and financial adversities.

Growing up in the Bay Area in a low-income household, Abellera didn’t have access to the “cool things that everyone had.” However, during elementary school, she found something that excites her even today: her parents’ old computer. Toying with the computer and playing video games soon became a source of inspiration. Abellera came to appreciate the stories, characters, music, coded graphics, and all the defining elements of these games. “I like playing online games. I used to have a PlayStation during my elementary school years. I used to play on that until my dad gave it away,” she said.

Her parents instilled in her the value of education early on. She quotes her father: “Go to college, get a degree and you will have a career and you will have a good life.” Abellera took the advice by heart and always made an effort to stay on course.

When Abellera was in middle school she was diagnosed with scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine, that left her in acute pain. “I wore a back brace during the first two years of my middle school, and did therapeutic back exercises to correct my spine,” she said. It was during this time that her self-esteem dipped  and she became reclusive. Abellera felt she didn’t “fit in” with the braces sticking out her clothes. The efforts yielded insufficient results as the curvature worsened, and she was forced to undergo back surgery. “I have a metal rod on my back, and most people don’t know that about me,” she said.

“I was out of school for two months after surgery. I was just getting homeschooled and was trying to keep up even though I was sitting at home in bed with a sore back,” she said. With support from friends and family, Abellera came out of the most difficult phase of her life.

The summer after she graduated high school brought in new challenges. Abellera got evicted from a Sunnyvale mobile home community after the landlord decided to sell off the land. She now lives in a suburban town an hour away from San José State.

Her work ethic has always served her well. “I’ve never turned in an assignment late,” she said. Abellera has been an honor student throughout her life. At San José State, she received the Dean’s Scholar and President’s Scholar awards for maintaining a high GPA. Abellera has been saving up all the scholarship money that she has been awarded throughout her life, not just for her education but also for her two younger siblings to use for school.

At the core of her life-long struggle lies a desire to help the underprivileged. Abellera wants to inspire children to be more tech-savvy. In the past, she has taught kids how to code and volunteered at local high schools to raise awareness around tech. “I want to introduce the benefits of technology to people in more rural areas such as where I live now,” she said. “So everyone can work more efficiently and see how technology can build jobs and futures for people.”

Abellera sees education beyond tests and grades. She encourages people to apply skills they have learned to make a difference. Abellera’s dream is to create her own video game someday. “The underlying factor in why I ended up taking computer science was my love for video games and the way they are created,” she said. “I hope to create an artistically original message that’ll inspire future generations to try to get out there and create their own things as well.”

$3M Grant from the Koret Foundation Benefits Students

The Koret Foundation’s focus on higher education aligns with the goals of SJSU’s Transformation 2030 strategic plan, enabling the university to invest in ways to optimize student success. Photo: David Schmitz / San José State University

San José, Calif. — San José State University is pleased to announce that it has received a $3 million grant from the Koret Foundation. The grant aims to directly benefit students by providing scholarships, career preparation resources, and other services.

“It is only through generous, sustained investments from organizations such as the Koret Foundation that we can engage and educate more students and meet our Transformation 2030 strategic plan goals,” said SJSU President Mary A. Papazian. “The foundation’s priorities in higher education align perfectly with our own, making them an ideal partner. I cannot thank them enough.”

The grant comes at a critical time, as higher education institutions grapple with funding and organizational challenges due to the global COVID-19 health pandemic. In addition to SJSU, 11 other Bay Area colleges and universities have received funding totaling $50 million.

The five-year grant aims to directly benefit students by providing scholarships, career preparation resources, and other services. Photo: Robert Bain / San José State University

“Investing in the next generation of talent, innovation and leadership is critical in order to ensure that all students, including the disadvantaged, have the opportunity to lead productive and successful lives,” said Michael J. Boskin, president of the Koret Foundation.

For SJSU, the five-year grant is significant. The Koret Foundation’s focus on higher education aligns with the goals of SJSU’s Transformation 2030 strategic plan, enabling the university to invest in ways to optimize student success.

“Koret’s Higher Education Initiative seeks to support key academic institutions in the Bay Area and fund programs that can spark new thinking, facilitate partnerships, and contribute to student success.” Boskin said.

Five Grant Elements

During a meeting with Boskin in late 2019, Papazian proposed key student needs, which have translated into the grant’s five elements.

The Koret Scholars Program will allow SJSU to continue awarding scholarships to eligible full-time undergraduate students served by SJSU’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) or the Military and Veteran Student Services Office.

The Veterans’ Services Expansion funding will be used to support the design and implementation of expanded programming for SJSU veterans in specific focus areas: career readiness, healthy living, women veterans support, and building community.

The Navigating College-to-Career Success funding will be used to integrate proven education-to-career tools and to engage experts to integrate these resources into existing campus services.

The Diversifying STEM Pipeline Project funding will be used to build upon proven and existing service delivery methods to pilot activities focused on diversifying the STEM pipeline through two avenues: training of teachers who support high school students and offering exceptional hands-on STEM learning experiences.

The Capital Resources for 21st-Century Learning funding will be used to purchase specific items for use by SJSU students with the goal of helping to optimize student success, improve completion rates, and bolster career advancement opportunities.


About San José State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study—offered through its nine colleges. With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing 10,000 graduates to the workforce. The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 280,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

About the Koret Foundation

The Koret Foundation is committed to strengthening the Bay Area and supporting the Jewish community in the U.S. and Israel through strategic grantmaking to outstanding organizations. Grounded in historical Jewish principles and traditions, and dedicated to humanitarian values, the foundation is committed to innovation, testing new ideas, and serving as a catalyst by bringing people and organizations together to help solve societal and systemic problems of common concern. Learn more about the Koret Foundation and its grantees at koret.org.

SJSU One of the Best in the West in Newest U.S. News Rankings

College of Engineering remains #3 in the nation among public universities, and university ranks top 3 in Social Mobility, top 10 in Undergraduate Teaching in the West

San José State University’s impressive showing in recent top colleges and universities rankings continued Monday with the release of the 2021 U.S. News and World Report Best Colleges rankings.

In regional rankings featuring universities in the West, SJSU ranked #7 in Top Public Schools. SJSU also rose several spots from last year’s West rankings in four key areas:

  • #3 in Top Performers in Social Mobility
  • #8 in Most Innovative School
  • #10 in Best Undergraduate Teaching
  • #22 in Best Regional University

Fifteen states make up the U.S. News and World Report’s West region. SJSU also ranked in the top 15 in the West for Best Colleges for Veterans. 

“As the reputation of San José State continues to grow nationally, students and families are coming to the realization that a Spartan education is one worth pursuing, even in—perhaps especially in—challenging times,” said President Mary A. Papazian.

“These latest rankings are a tribute to the exceptional faculty, staff and others here on our campus whose dedication and hard work are matched only by their strong commitment to learning and discovery across a wide span of disciplines,” said Papazian. “Their devotion to our students’ personal and academic growth is the engine that powers our university’s promise and mission.”

Nationally, SJSU’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering again ranked #3 among public universities — and #17 overall — in Best Undergraduate Engineering Program – Non-Doctorate.

“We are honored to be recognized again as one of the top engineering programs in the country by U.S. News & World Report,” Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering Dean Sheryl Ehrman said. “As the largest supplier of engineering talent to Silicon Valley, we remain committed to deliver hands-on learning — safely, even during the pandemic — from experienced and engaged faculty.” 

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.

These rankings come on the heels of SJSU being named the #1 Most Transformative College in the nation by Money. The university also rose 80 spots from last year’s rankings to rank #24 on Money’s list of Best Colleges.

SJSU Establishes the Nation’s Largest Academic Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center

Largest Cluster Hire of Wildfire Scientists at a University

Photo: Robert Bain/San José State University

San José State University has established the largest academic Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center (WIRC) in the United States with five new tenure-track faculty members and millions of dollars in new technology. The purpose of the new center is to serve as the leading institution in California, providing modern, state-of-knowledge on wildfire science and management.

“In just the past few years, wildfires have scorched California’s landscape, burning millions of acres, injuring and killing hundreds of people and causing billions of dollars in damages. Dealing with this challenge requires interdisciplinary solutions,” said College of Science Dean Michael Kaufman. “The advanced wildfire research enabled by this new center is needed now more than ever before.”

WIRC is housed in the College of Science and will work through an interdisciplinary model with the College of Social Sciences and the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering. WIRC’s new integrated and interdisciplinary academic team specialize in the following areas:

  • Fire Ecology (Biology)
  • Fire and Fluid Dynamics (Mechanical Engineering)
  • Wildfire Behavior Modeling and Wildfire Meteorology (Meteorology)
  • Wildfire Remote Sensing (Meteorology)
  • Wildfire Management and Policy (Environmental Studies)

Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science and Director of the Fire Weather Research Lab Craig Clements will serve as director of the new Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center. Four newly hired tenure-track faculty members join him in wildfire science and management:

Adam Kochanski

Assistant Professor of Wildfire Meteorology

His research interests include fire-atmosphere interactions, including air quality impacts of wildland fires. He is an international leader in wildfire modeling with extensive experience in running numerical simulations of fire, smoke and regional climate on high-performance computing platforms.

Amanda M. Stasiewicz

Assistant Professor of Wildfire Management in the Department of Environmental Studies

Her research focuses on the human dimensions of wildfire, community adaptation to wildfire risk in the wildland-urban interface, and citizen-agency conflict and cooperation during wildfire preparation, prevention and wildfire response (e.g., suppression, evacuation).

Ali Tohidi

Assistant Professor of Fire and Fluid Dynamics in the Department of Mechanical Engineering

His research interests are at the nexus of experimental, data-driven and mathematical modeling of nonlinear spatiotemporal processes across different scales. His current research focus is understanding wildfire spread mechanisms, including firebrand (ember) generation, transport and spot fire ignition, as well as applications of data-driven methods in physics-based models.

Kate Wilkin

Assistant Professor of Fire Ecology in the Department of Biological Sciences

She has nearly 20 years of experience in natural resource management, outreach and research. Her research focuses on living sustainability in fire-prone ecosystems: wildfire recovery of communities and natural lands, prescribed fire on private lands and wildfire mitigation, including fire-resistant homes, defensible space and fuel treatments.

A fifth tenure-track faculty member in wildfire remote sensing with expertise in monitoring wildfire behavior and developing novel airborne remote sensing technologies will join the team in January 2021.

These new faculty members will join three other faculty members at SJSU:

Craig Clements

Director of the WIRC and Fire Weather Research Laboratory and Professor of Meteorology

He has more than 20 years of experience designing meteorological and wildfire field experiments. His research aims to better understand the complexities of fire weather in mountain areas, including extreme fire behavior in canyons and wildfire plume dynamics. His work has pioneered the deployment of novel observation systems to wildfire incidents to study fire weather phenomena.

Patrick Brown

Assistant Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science

He is a climate scientist who conducts research on weather and climate and how they interact with society. He currently conducts research on the relationship between climate and wildfire risk.

Mike Voss

Staff Meteorologist and Technician; Lecturer in the Meteorology and Climate Science Department

He has more than 25 years of experience forecasting California weather, focusing on fire weather and extreme weather events.

“San José State is bringing together some of the top academic experts in the world who have extensive experience in wildfire science, management, climate and meteorological research,” said Clements. “This is truly a world-class group that is passionate about advancing wildfire science.”

The WIRC will employ an advanced, next-generation, wildfire-atmosphere forecasting system and a suite of mobile assets to conduct research in the field. These assets include two customized trucks equipped with Doppler radar and one truck equipped with Doppler LiDAR. These are the only mobile fire weather units in the United States. They are also the only fire weather research units in the nation qualified to go behind fire lines.

“These new technologies will strengthen the prediction, monitoring and management of wildfire throughout California,” said Clements.

“San José State University’s initial investment in the Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center demonstrates our commitment to advancing wildfire research and to the state of California as it faces one of the most pressing problems the 21st century,” said Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Vincent J. Del Casino Jr. “I am confident there is more to come.”

SJSU ranked #1 “Most Transformative College” in the nation by Money

SJSU graduates jumping in the air to celebrate their graduation

San José State University ranks No. 1 in Money’s Most Transformative Colleges list for 2020. Photo: David Schmitz

*Editor’s Note: This story was updated on October 30, 2020, to reflect SJSU”s #5 ranking in Best Colleges Where More Than Half of Applicants Get In.

San José State University is the most transformative college in the United States for 2020-2021, according to rankings announced by Money magazine.

“While likely not surprising to the countless students whose lives and families have been improved and changed forever by the academic and personal journey they have undertaken at San José State, this tremendous honor brings pride to every member of Spartan Nation,” said SJSU President Mary A. Papazian.

SJSU also was ranked number 24 on Money’s list of Best Colleges, ranked by value, up from its No. 104 ranking last year. Rankings are determined by more than 20,000 data points, including tuition fees, family borrowing, and career earnings. More than 700 universities are analyzed for Money’s rankings.

Other national rankings featuring SJSU were:

“As the nation continues to become more and more diverse, we know that education remains key to the American Dream and the social mobility of our residents,” said Papazian. “We see this every day at San José State, with stories of determination, aspiration and success, and could not be more delighted to be recognized by Money for our efforts to help our diverse students achieve a college degree and develop the tools they need for lifelong learning.”

Adding Value by Beating the Odds

“It’s not surprising that elite schools report high graduation rates or alumni success,” Money said. “What’s impressive is when students beat the odds by doing better than would be expected from their academic and economic backgrounds. We call this a college’s value add.”

For the Most Transformative schools list, Money ranked colleges based on their exclusive value-added scores for graduation rates, earnings, and student loan repayment.

Money estimated a graduation rate of 65 percent for SJSU, a rate that is 31 percent higher than at universities with similar student demographics.

Affordability in a high-cost region

The publication estimates 62 percent of San Jose State students receive grants, and the estimated price of attendance for students who receive aid is $15,200. The publication adds that 86 percent of student need is met.

“For the fall 2020 semester alone, San José State awarded aid to nearly 20,000 students, which is absolutely critical given the current budgetary climate,” said Papazian. “We will continue the important work to make college affordable and help alleviate the heavy financial burden felt by so many students and their families.”

Patricia Backer Receives 2020 CSU Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award

Professor of Technology Patricia Backer.

2020 CSU Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award recipient: Professor of Technology Patricia Backer. Photo: Robert C. Bain

In her 30 years in the technology field, Professor of Technology Patricia Backer has been leading and innovating by enabling San José State to do difficult things in a smarter way.

For her achievements, the California State University Chancellor’s Office awarded Backer the 2020 Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award.

The gist of her first innovation: Studies show freshmen tend to stick around for sophomore year when they make friends in their classes as first-year students. Backer led the building of a straightforward—but complex to implement—solution to make that happen.

The Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award “acknowledges faculty members who have demonstrated leadership to improve student success and outcomes in courses with traditionally low success rates or persistent equity gaps.”

Project Succeed: A Novel Path to Improving Retention

The award recognizes Backer’s most recent work on a campus-wide initiative called Project Succeed, funded by a five-year, multimillion-dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Education. Backer’s innovative vision—and her talent for interdisciplinary cross-campus teamwork—has improved SJSU’s five-year graduation and retention rates and closed the achievement gap for underrepresented students across all majors.

Director of Student Success Services Cynthia Kato wrote in her nomination letter that Backer’s work led to a “dramatic increase in student success at San José State. Her creativity, dedication, support and guidance in this endeavor exemplify the principles of the Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award.”

The core tool Backer championed was block scheduling of freshmen. Starting in fall 2015, every freshman engineer and business major had extended chances to meet people in classes they shared, such as COMM 20. A peer mentor program, living learning communities, a First Year Experience and other mechanisms further supported freshmen. The scheme soon spread to computer science, biology and other departments. For many students—especially first-generation college students or those typically underrepresented in universities—connecting with peers became a support system that allowed more of them to make it to graduation.

Kato wrote that, “Each year students who were part of the block scheduling group showed higher retention rates.” Students admitted to the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering in fall 2014 had a four-year graduation rate of 11 percent, while the four-year graduation rate for those admitted in fall 2015 was 18 percent. The Lucas College and Graduate School of Business saw four-year graduation rates for those cohorts leap from 29 percent to 40 percent. A dramatic improvement, thanks to a subtle but effective innovation.

“Now almost all freshmen at SJSU are block scheduled and take classes with students from their own major,” Backer said. “That’s been our biggest success, and it started with this project.”

Department of Aviation and Technology Chair Fred Barez praised Backer’s contributions. “Through her effort, we blocked freshmen in dormitories and tried to group them so they would be taking the same calculus class, for example. She’s been receiving excellent recommendations for what she has been doing for the college, improving the retention rate and graduation rate. Our engineering students may be in different disciplines within engineering, but they can make friends and they can actually work together.”

College of Social Sciences Dean Walt Jacobs, one of Backer’s nominators, wrote: “One aspect of Project Succeed that doesn’t get a lot of attention but is quite the accomplishment is Pat’s ability to convince stakeholders from units across the university to come to the table to collaboratively design and implement best practices for student success. There were both technical and philosophical hurdles to the implementation of block scheduling for incoming freshmen, but Pat patiently worked with volunteers to implement it. She has done a great job of showing faculty and staff why blocked scheduling is beneficial for our students.”

“I was so touched by what Walt Jacobs wrote [in his nomination letter],” Backer said. “My job on these projects is to get them done, get them working. Anytime I have a project, I just try to do my best.”

Integrating Equity and Social Good into Engineering

Another innovation Backer helped implement involved a complex restructuring of engineering graduation requirements—with the goal of helping engineers recognize the cultural ripples that fan out from the solutions and products they will design and build.

When the CSU adjusted graduation requirements in 2013, Backer and her colleagues  came up with a solution that met the new standard and simultaneously elevated social awareness to the forefront of engineering education at SJSU.

“We decided to integrate our senior project classes with our advanced general education coursework,” Backer said. Engineers look at design through a lens of social and equity issues, first in the U.S. and then globally. Their senior engineering projects  directly address social needs they identified after learning about such issues. Projects have included a smart bicycle trailer, a portable UV tracker to fight skin cancer, and an electronic cane to help the visually impaired navigate. Today, in most of the engineering disciplines at SJSU, future engineers are looking not only at the how, but the why.

The Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET), the national accreditor of collegiate engineering programs, “really loved this,” Backer said. “They want engineers to think about their projects as situated in social issues and people issues.”

Davidson College of Engineering Dean Sheryl Ehrman said, “SJSU students are well known and sought after for their effective transition to the workforce and to grad school. Employers and Ph.D.-granting programs, as well as our own students, greatly benefit from Pat’s efforts to place engineering in a societal context.”

Recognition for Innovation and Leadership

CSU Chancellor Timothy White announced the award on August 24. The faculty-led selection committee reviewed more than 120 nominations before choosing Backer. Only one faculty member from each CSU campus may be selected each year. Backer will receive a $5,000 cash award and $10,000 allocated to her academic department.

During her 30 years at SJSU, Backer has served in faculty governance, enriched student success and, in 2011, won the SJSU Distinguished Service Award. Still instructing undergrads, Backer teaches a class each year. This fall, it’s TECH 198: Technology and Civilization, which she conducts remotely. Her involvement in teaching about the internet—going back to the early 1990s and Apple’s Hypercard—precedes the World Wide Web. Technology offers lessons Backer wants today’s SJSU engineering students to understand.

“No one sits down and invents things for no reason,” Backer said. “There’s something motivating them to make that invention.”

Updates on Air Quality and Campus Impact: Fall 2020

October 4, 2020 9:24 a.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on October 4, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

Air quality levels around San José State University have improved over the past 24 hours and are expected to continue to improve throughout today, October 4. Based on these improvements, effective immediately, the SJSU campus is REOPENED. 

In-person classes and services will resume Monday, October 5. The Moss Landing Marine Laboratories are also reopened. 

Please note that as wildfires continue to rage north of San José, we may need to close the physical campus if the air quality changes. If this becomes the case, an update will be communicated by email, the SJSU Newsroom site and SJSU’s Twitter

Thank you for your continued patience, flexibility and kindness as we continue to navigate this fall semester.

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs


October 2, 2020 10:52 a.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on October 2, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

With wildfires raging north of San José, unhealthy air quality levels have returned on and around the campus, and likely will remain through the weekend. Effective immediately, the San José State University campus is CLOSED. Online classes and services will continue as scheduled. The campus will remain closed until further notice as we continue to assess the air quality.

As a result of the campus closure, all buildings will be closed with the exception of:

  • Residence halls and University Housing Services
  • Dining Commons

Note that the Student Health Center is closed, but access to Student Health Center services and personnel is available Monday through Friday from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. by calling 408-924-6122. For assistance after hours, visit the Student Health Center website

The Moss Landing Marine Laboratories are also closed. 

If you are working on campus and your presence is not deemed essential by your supervisor, you are asked to leave the campus as soon as possible. 

We will update the campus community by email, Twitter and on the SJSU Newsroom site late Sunday afternoon as we continue to assess the air quality and wildfires in the area. 

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs


September 15, 2020 5:37 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on September 15, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

As we continue to closely monitor the air quality levels around San José State University, we have noticed an improvement in the past 24 hours. Based on current conditions and predicted air quality levels for Wednesday (September 16), the SJSU campus will REOPEN tomorrow. 

In-person classes and services will resume as well. Although we are hopeful for favorable air quality levels tomorrow, please note that we may need to close the physical campus if the air quality changes. If this becomes the case, an update will be communicated by email, the SJSU Newsroom site and SJSU’s Twitter

The continued toll of COVID-19 and the poor air quality caused by wildfires across the state can lead to mental and emotional stress. Please remember SJSU is here to help. Students can access counseling through Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) and employees can utilize the confidential Employee Assistance Program. The SJSU Cares Program is also available to address any unforeseen financial crises, including housing or food needs.

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs


September 14, 2020 6:23 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on September 14, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

After reviewing monitoring station observations throughout the day and the air quality forecast from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the San José State University campus will remain CLOSED Tuesday, September 15. Online classes and services will continue as scheduled. In-person classes are canceled.

Due to the campus closure, all buildings will be closed with the exception of:

  • Residence halls and University Housing Services
  • Dining Commons and Village Market
  • Student Health Center (8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
  • Spartan Food Pantry (11 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

The Moss Landing Marine Laboratories will remain closed. 

Only those whose presence is deemed essential by your supervisor should be on campus on Tuesday.

We will update the campus community by email, Twitter and on the SJSU Newsroom site late Tuesday afternoon as we continue to assess the air quality in the area. 

We must continue to practice patience, flexibility and kindness as our fall semester has been interrupted again. Continue to keep all first responders and those directly affected by the fires in your thoughts.

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs


September 13, 2020 6:28 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on September 13, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

With unhealthy air quality levels expected to continue around the campus, the San José State University campus will remain CLOSED Monday, September 14. Online classes and services will continue as scheduled. 

Due to the campus closure, all buildings will be closed with the exception of:

  • Residence halls and University Housing Services
  • Dining Commons
  • Student Health Center (8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m.)
  • Spartan Food Pantry (11 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

The Moss Landing Marine Laboratories will also remain closed. 

Only those whose presence is deemed essential by your supervisor should be on campus on Monday.

Current projections indicate that it may be safe to reopen campus on Tuesday. We will update the campus community by email, Twitter and on the SJSU Newsroom site late Monday afternoon as we continue to assess the air quality in the area. 

Please continue to keep the firefighters, first responders and our fellow Spartans who may be affected by these fires in your thoughts.

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs


September 11, 2020 9:56 a.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on September 11, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

Due to a recent spike of unhealthy air quality levels on and around the campus caused by wildfires north of San José, effective immediately, the San José State University campus is CLOSED. Online classes and services will continue as scheduled. 

As a result of the campus closure, all buildings will be closed with the exception of:

  • Residence halls and University Housing Services
  • Dining Commons

Note that the Student Health Center is closed, but access to Student Health Center services and personnel is available Monday through Friday from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. by calling 408-924-6122. For assistance after hours, visit the Student Health Center website

The Moss Landing Marine Laboratories are also closed. 

If you are working on campus and your presence is not deemed essential by your supervisor, you are asked to leave the campus as soon as possible. 

The campus will remain closed through the weekend as we continue to assess the air quality. When it is safe to reopen the campus, we will notify the campus community by email, Twitter and on the SJSU Newsroom site

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs


August 26, 2020 6:22 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on August 26, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

Air quality levels appear to have stabilized at a level where campus can reopen as previously outlined in the SJSU Adapt plan, including in-person classes, which can continue as scheduled. 

A reminder for students, faculty and staff: We understand that you may be directly impacted by the fires. I encourage you to reach out to your professor, students or supervisor if you are unable to attend class or conduct your work duties. We must continue to practice patience, kindness and flexibility as campus community members care for their safety, health and well-being.

Student Specialized Instructional Support Center

SJSU has converted Ballroom A/B in the Diaz Compean Student Union into a Student Specialized Instructional Support Center. The area will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Students may enter the Student Union using their Tower ID cards at the West Entrance (7th Street Paseo) and must complete the self-check requirements. 

FEMA Assistance

For those affected by the wildfires, FEMA recently activated its Individual Assistance program for residents in Lake, Monterey, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Cruz, Solano, Sonoma, and Yolo counties. Eligible individuals and families have 60 days to apply for direct grants from FEMA for damages that are not covered by insurance. Contact FEMA by visiting their website, downloading the FEMA app and registering on your smartphone or tablet, or by calling 800-621-3362.

At this time, we encourage you to continue to follow the running blog on the SJSU Newsroom site. We will email the campus community again if air quality concerns worsen to the point where we would need to close campus again.

We continue to keep those affected and our firefighters and first responders in our thoughts. 

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs


August 25, 2020 5:08 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on August 25, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

As we continue to closely monitor the air quality levels around San José State University, we have noticed an improvement in the past 24 hours. Based on current conditions and predicted fire and wind conditions for Wednesday (August 26), the SJSU campus will reopen tomorrow. 

In-person classes will resume as well. Although we are hopeful for favorable air quality levels tomorrow, please note that we may need to close the physical campus if the air quality changes. If this becomes the case, an update will be communicated during the day via email and SJSU’s Twitter

For students: Even though we are making in-person courses available, you should check with your faculty member before class, as we know some faculty, staff, and students have been directly impacted by the fires. Thank you for continuing to be patient as our campus community members focus on addressing their personal health, safety, and well-being.

For Faculty and Staff: We know that you may be directly impacted by the fires. If you can’t make it to class or work, please advise your supervisor and, if needed, students as well. Please remember that students may also be directly impacted by the fires. Please make sure that we are being flexible in completing early assignments and course requirements. If students are not present in either an online or in-person class, please give them time to get in contact with you. 

The limited services on campus include:

  • Residence halls and University Housing Services
  • Dining Commons
  • Spartan Food Pantry
  • Spartan Bookstore
  • Diaz Compean Student Union

An update will be provided to the campus community late Wednesday afternoon as we continue to assess the air quality and wildfires in the area. 

The continued toll of COVID-19 and the wildfires can lead to mental and emotional stress. Please remember SJSU is here to help. Students can access counseling through Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS) and employees can utilize the confidential Employee Assistance Program. The SJSU Cares Program is also available to address any unforeseen financial crises, including housing or food needs.

Kindness, patience and flexibility continue to be the attributes we need the most during this time. Our Spartan family remains strong, and we will continue to look out for one another.

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs


August 23, 2020 5:24 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on August 23, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

We continue to experience unhealthy levels of air quality around the SJSU campus. Because of this, the physical campus will remain closed on Monday and Tuesday (August 24-25). Online classes and services will continue as scheduled. In-person classes are canceled. Only essential personnel who have been cleared by their supervisor to work on campus will be allowed on campus. Faculty and students who are approved to come to campus for research-related purposes are also allowed on campus. 

Our current decisions are based on data from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District and Cal Fire concerning air quality, fire incident information, evacuation orders, and our understanding of where our community members live. SJSU’s leadership team is actively monitoring weather and air quality forecasts, evacuation orders and warnings for these areas. 

We will update the campus community late Tuesday afternoon as we continue to assess the air quality and wildfires in the area. Please continue to monitor the running blog on the SJSU Newsroom site should conditions change rapidly and a decision on the campus’ status for later in the week is made sooner than Tuesday afternoon. 

Consistent with our decisions last week, all buildings will be closed with the exception of:

Note that the Student Health Center is closed, but access to Student Health Center services and personnel is available Monday through Friday from 8:45 a.m. to 4 p.m. by calling 408-924-6122. For assistance after hours, visit the Student Health Center website

Please continue to keep the firefighters, first responders and our fellow Spartans who are affected by these fires in your thoughts. It is important that we show patience, kindness and flexibility to one another during this trying time. 

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs


August 22, 2020 6:00 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on August 22, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

We continue to experience unhealthy levels of air quality around the SJSU campus. Because of this, campus will remain closed Sunday, August 23. Only essential personnel who have been cleared by their supervisor to work on campus Sunday will be allowed on campus.

As a result of the campus closure, all buildings will be closed with the exception of:

  • Residence halls and University Housing Services
  • Dining Commons
  • Student Health Center 

An update will be provided to the campus community late Sunday afternoon as we continue to assess the air quality and wildfires in the area ahead of the start of the first full week of the fall semester. Sunday’s update will include the status of in-person classes for Monday, August 24. At this time, all online classes and services should expect to continue as scheduled on Monday.

Please keep the firefighters, first responders and our fellow Spartans who are affected by these fires in your thoughts. It is important that we continue to show patience, kindness and flexibility to one another during this trying time. 

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs


August 21, 2020 3:23 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on August 21, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

Due to a recent spike to unhealthy levels of air quality on and around the campus, effective immediately, San José State University is CLOSED for the remainder of the day and Saturday. Online classes and services can continue as scheduled. 

As a result of the campus closure, all buildings will be closed with the exception of:

  • Residence halls and University Housing Services
  • Dining Commons
  • Student Health Center 

If you are working on campus and your presence is not deemed essential by your supervisor, you are asked to leave the campus as soon as possible. 

An update will be provided to the campus community late tomorrow afternoon in regards to the status of the campus for Sunday as we continue to assess the air quality and wildfires in the area. 

Our thoughts continue to be with our fellow Spartans and others who are affected by these fires. We must continue to be supportive of one another during this time of uncertainty and anxiety.

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs


August 20, 2020 6:54 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on August 20, 2020.

Dear Spartan Community,

As California and the surrounding Bay Area is grappling with numerous forest fires, San José State University is thinking of your safety and wellness. If you have been impacted by evacuation orders or the effects of fires, staying focused on academics may be challenging amid worries about personal, family, and community needs. Please know that SJSU is ready to help. As we realize that many people are being displaced by the fires that surround our community, we have listed below some immediate resources available to members of our community. 

Support Services Available

For Students: 

  • SJSU Cares Program: To address unforeseen financial crises, including those related to housing or food needs, contact the SJSU Cares Program.
  • Counseling & Psychological Services (CAPS): To address social or emotional impacts, contact the CAPS office at 408-924-5910 (after hours assistance available via phone).
  • Please reach out to your faculty should you need help making connections to any of these support services noted. 

For Faculty/Staff:

Status of Campus Operations and Classes

SJSU will re-open the campus tomorrow for limited services. This includes the work of essential personnel as well as faculty and students who are approved to come to campus for research-related purposes. The Air Quality Index around campus has remained at a “moderate” level. Because of this, we will have restricted access to campus, but we are no longer at an emergency status caused by the wildfires and air quality concerns. 

Online classes will continue to operate under the same principles as today, with the continued understanding that we will excuse those who cannot attend because of the fires. In-person classes will not be offered because we will only have limited services available on campus. 

Normal campus activity will resume Saturday, and we hope to start in-person courses on Monday, August 24. An update will be provided to the campus community over the weekend as we continue to assess the air quality and wildfires in the area. 

These are trying times, and the health and well-being of ourselves and our campus community members are always the top priority. Let us continue to show kindness, patience and flexibility to one another as we navigate this unsettling period of time.

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

Patrick K. Day

Vice President for Student Affairs


August 19, 2020 6:24 p.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on August 19, 2020. 

Editor’s note 2: All buildings will be closed with the exception of University Housing, Dining Commons and the Student Health Center.

Dear SJSU Campus Community,

We have been monitoring the wildfire situation closely and it is predicted that the air quality for tomorrow will remain at an unhealthy level. Therefore, operations on the physical campus will remain closed for Thursday and Friday (August 20-21). This means that no in-person courses or services will take place on campus. And, only essential personnel, as officially notified by their supervisors, will be on the campus. 

As context, we closed campus today because the Air Quality Index was at an “unhealthy” level and large numbers of students, faculty, and staff live in areas affected by the wildfires. These current wildfires, in fact, are much closer to San José State than recent ones. Given this, and knowing that many in our campus community live in evacuation zones, we wanted everyone to have ample opportunity to prepare should they have to relocate at a moment’s notice. We hope that with anticipated shifts in the winds and some level of containment, more students, faculty, and staff can find the time and space to engage in their education and work tomorrow. 

So, given that the majority of our courses and services are already planned for remote delivery, we have decided to hold online classes and resume support services beginning tomorrow morning (August 20). 

There are some caveats. If you are directly impacted by the fires (e.g., you might be evacuated tomorrow or over the weekend) or rolling power outages and:

  • You are Faculty: If you cannot find a way to teach your class tomorrow, you may cancel the class by notifying your department chair and messaging students in your class. Please note, because the physical campus is closed, faculty cannot come to campus to teach remote classes. 
  • You are a Student: If you are unable to make the assigned class time, you must do your best to notify your instructor as soon as possible.
  • You are Staff: If you are unable to perform your responsibilities remotely, please contact your supervisor. Otherwise, you are expected to resume your responsibilities remotely tomorrow morning, holding meetings, answering calls and questions, and managing the day-to-day operations of our offices.

We have to be patient, thoughtful, and supportive when and if classes are not able to meet or office staff are not available. We also have to be cognizant of our students and colleagues and their current situations. We can’t penalize each other for circumstances that are beyond the control of any one individual. Someone recently asked me, “are we going to have a policy if there are fires or rolling blackouts?” My answer, “kindness.” That stands. It’s a simple policy.

We will continue to monitor the situation closely and keep everyone informed about next steps. We hope that those in our community who are directly impacted by the fires remain safe. We are here to support you. 

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs


August 19, 2020 11:41 a.m.

Editor’s note: The following message was emailed to all students, faculty and staff on August 19, 2020.

SJSU campus community,

Today, August 19, San José State University is CLOSED and cancelling all in person and online classes for the remainder of the day. This decision is based on air quality levels that are expected to rise to unhealthy levels throughout the day and health concerns already heightened by the COVID-19 pandemic for our SJSU community, including for those who are facing evacuations due to fires near their homes. With wildfires raging directly east and west of San José, we are monitoring air quality on and around the San José State University campus. 

As a result of the campus closure, all buildings will be closed with the exception of:

  • Residence halls and University Housing Services
  • Dining Commons
  • Student Health Center 

Other than offices necessary for essential work, all operational- and service-related offices will also be closed today. Meetings, including those that are being held remotely, are canceled because no one should be working other than those officially identified as essential by their supervisors. We recognize that our campus community is dispersed throughout the Bay Area, and we want to ensure that we are not creating a disadvantage for those who are located in areas more impacted by the air quality, wildfires, or power outages. 

Our thoughts are with those who are having to evacuate their homes and the fire crews who are tirelessly working to put out the fires. 

By 6 p.m. today, we will re-evaluate air quality levels and update you on campus closure status through email and SJSU Twitter.

The expected weather conditions in the Bay Area for the rest of the week will likely cause the air quality to remain unhealthy. Precautions we can all consider include:

  • Limiting outdoor activities
  • Setting air conditioning units and car vent systems to re-circulate (to prevent outside air from moving inside)
  • Reducing exposure to smoky air by remaining indoors with windows and doors closed, if possible

A good resource to refer to is the Bay Area Air Quality Management District website. The site offers current information on “Spare the Air” alerts, environmental news, and other advisories. Another good resource is the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Air Now Index

We understand this is not an ideal start to an already unprecedented fall semester. The health and safety of the campus community is always the top priority, especially when it comes to discussions of campus closure. We will continue to post updates at http://go.sjsu.edu/air-quality-2020.

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs

New Federally Mandated Title IX Regulations Take Effect August 14

*Editor’s Note: This message from Chief Diversity Officer Kathleen Wong(Lau) was shared with the SJSU campus community on Friday, August 14, 2020. 

Dear campus community,

Last week, I wrote to inform you about the U.S. Department of Education’s new regulations relating to Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 (Federal Regulations). The Federal Regulations include key changes to provisions addressing scope, questioning at live hearings, review of evidence, appeals, and training, among others. All educational institutions which receive federal funding, including San José State University (SJSU) and the other 22 California State University (CSU) campuses, must comply with these regulations as of August 14, 2020, or risk loss of federal funding. 

Effective today, the Chancellor’s Office has issued Addendum B: Federal Mandated Hearing Addendum, which accompanies CSU Executive Orders 1096 and 1097, and which outlines the policy and procedures required under the Title IX Federal Regulations. Please note that regardless of the Federal Regulations, our policies governing sexual harassment, sexual misconduct, and sex- and gender-based discrimation, as stated in Executive Orders 1095, 1096 and 1097, still remain fully in effect. The U.S. Department of Education acknowledges that SJSU and other universities may address misconduct through their policies and through state law, and SJSU is firmly committed to responding to and addressing sexual harassment and sexual misconduct that affects the CSU community. In the case of California law and CSU policy, policies are more expansive than the conduct prohibited by the Federal Regulations. 

The Changes

All formal complaints submitted to the Title IX Office will be first assessed under Addendum B to determine whether those procedures apply. If a formal complaint does not meet the criteria to be processed under Addendum B, the complaint may be processed under EO 1096 or 1097 (our current single-investigator model) or Addendum A (our current hearing-model for student cases). 

Two significant aspects of Addendum B:

  • Under Addendum B, alleged incidents can be considered for investigation only if they occur within the United States, and only if they occur in university sanctioned programs or activities, or on properties owned or controlled by the university or recognized student organizations. If these criteria are not met, the allegations may be evaluated under EOs 1096 and 1097, or Addendum A, which apply much more broadly to alleged violations involving any university student, staff, or faculty member, including in non-SJSU locations and outside of the United States
  • All Addendum B investigations, which apply the Federal Regulations, will involve live hearings with mandatory Hearing Advisors who will conduct the cross-examination of the Parties. The hearing will be facilitated by a Hearing Officer, who will monitor decorum and assess the appropriateness of the questions. The CSU will provide trained Hearing Advisors if either complainant or respondent do not have one available.
  • Other regulation details are available at Addendum B and FAQs. Please note that FAQs will be forthcoming. Any inquiries can be directed to diversityoffice@sjsu.edu.

What has NOT changed:

  • Employees still have a duty to report potential incidents of sexual misconduct, sexual harassment, dating and domestic violence and stalking to the Title IX Office, unless they are specifically exempt under CSU policy.
  • Executive Orders 1096 and 1097 and Addendum A are still in effect but only after consideration whether allegations are governed by Addendum B, based on specifically defined criteria.
  • Regardless of which process, or whether a case meets criteria for an investigation, our Title IX team continues to provide supportive measures and other services, conduct intakes relating to reports and complaints of sex- and gender-based misconduct, and coordinate with other campus offices on Title IX issues of misconduct, harassment, stalking, and gender equity.

All current active investigations as well as intakes regarding alleged incidents that occurred prior to August 14, 2020, will still go through the process under EO 1096 and 1097 or Addendum A. Incidents occurring on or after August 14 will be subject to the new process described above, including determining whether they are governed by procedures stated in Addendum B.

San José State University remains committed to supporting a safe and equitable campus environment as we move forward with these new regulations issued by the federal government. Title IX will continue to work and collaborate to provide supportive measures and other services in our processes for our campus community.

Sincerely,

Kathleen Wong(Lau)

Learn Anywhere Website Launched to Aid Student Success

student working remotely on his laptop.

Student working remotely.

On August 6, San José State University launched Learn Anywhere—a website to help students better adapt to the hybrid teaching and learning model for the upcoming fall 2020 semester that consists of mostly online learning.

The Learn Anywhere site—the third in a trio of help and instruction websites—joins Work Anywhere and Teach Anywhere, which were created last spring to assist staff and faculty members transitioning to sheltering in place.

Learn Anywhere offers students a readiness questionnaire, basic tips to get started, guides to Zoom mastery, help navigating Canvas—and even what to do if students don’t have reliable Wi-Fi access at home, or need a loaner laptop. The Learn Anywhere site also has many easy-to-find tips on how to access other SJSU resources available to students, including:

  • Academic support, like the Writing Center, Accessible Education Center and Career Center
  • Advising Hub
  • Campus Life’s rich range of virtual opportunities to join in and connect
  • Financial Aid and SJSU Cares
  • How to use the library remotely

Learn Anywhere provides a “one-stop shop” where students can find information about technology needs, using online tools and campus resources like student centers, activities and events.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Vincent J. Del Casino, Jr., said the Learn Anywhere website “helps students tap in and figure things out: How do I connect to tutoring? How do I connect to other success programs?”

Melinda Jackson, associate dean for undergraduate education, said, “We are excited to roll out Learn Anywhere for our students. Online learning is a new experience for many, and we want to make sure that students know about all of the resources the university is offering this fall.

“We recognize that online learning brings new challenges,” Jackson said. “Our faculty and staff members have been working hard all summer to reimagine and revamp what we do to offer an excellent educational experience for all.”

Last spring—when sheltering in place threw everything into a whirl—eCampus launched Teach Anywhere, a rich resource to help faculty members find what they needed. “It was a whole campus team effort getting that up,” said Jennifer Redd, director of eCampus. “This was truly a cross-campus collaborative effort to design and develop,” Redd said. Together, Learn Anywhere and Teach Anywhere curate resources, provide tips and offer guidance for teaching and learning online.

In addition to pointing students toward upcoming workshops, the Learn Anywhere site also displays numerous helpful recorded tutorials, such as tips on how to go beyond Zoom basics. A simple video tutorial explains how to share videos within Canvas. Another reminds students that, with access to the Adobe Creative Cloud suite of tools, they’re able to practice making polished, professional-quality presentations.

The homepage also features personal tips offered by undergraduate and graduate students on strategies they use to succeed in learning remotely.

Sumeet Suhas Deshpande, a current student who helped the eCampus staff design and produce Learn Anywhere, said in an email that he hoped the site would make for “a smooth and efficient online learning experience in the semesters to come. Learn Anywhere is primarily built to cater to the needs of students who are not so well-versed with technology and software applications and are new to online learning.” Deshpande said he intended to use the very site he helped create to better manage his own time and studies, learn how other students were coping and succeeding, and connect with peers. As a student himself, Deshpande said he and the team had put a great deal of thought into “building the website with the end user’s perspective, as that is what matters the most.”

“We hope that students will bookmark the Learn Anywhere site and visit it often throughout the semester,” Jackson said. “We are all on this online journey together and want this site to help students connect to the Spartan community and find the support they need.”

STEM Faculty Members Receive $1.69M NSF Grant Award

SJSU community members participating in STEM education program.

Photo: David Schmitz

The National Science Foundation (NSF) has recently awarded a $1.69 million grant to San José State’s faculty members for a research proposal titled “Transforming Undergraduate Teaching and Learning Through Culturally Sustaining, Active and Asset-Based Approaches to Introductory Science Courses” that aims to increase diversity, inclusion and retention in STEM.

Over the course of the next five years, the STEM research team led by Cassandra Paul, associate professor of physics and astronomy, and science education, will be employing innovative instructional approaches to reduce attrition rates in introductory STEM courses.

“The goal of this grant is to increase student success and graduation rates for undergraduate students and, more specifically, for Latinx and other students belonging to regional, racial and ethnic minority groups,” said Paul, principal investigator of the project.

Historically, the attrition rates in STEM courses are highest during the first two years of college, especially among Latinx and underrepresented minority students. “We want to make sure that we’re listening to what the students are bringing with them to SJSU, and engaging with them more actively,” said Paul.

According to Pamela Stacks, associate vice president of research, the beauty of the kind of research that Paul and her team are doing is that it not only tells us about Latinx students but provides insights into all students.

“Getting this grant opportunity means that STEM faculty members can now be more collaborative and informed about connections between different STEM disciplines, and also they’ll be able to identify issues students are struggling with,” said Stacks. Stacks added, “eventually when the research gets published, it will impact a much bigger audience and, in the process, elevate our whole institution.”

Co-PIs Tammie Visintainer, assistant professor of teacher education and science education, and Marcos Pizzaro, associate dean of the Lurie College of Education, have lent their expertise in educational equity to the project. Their research and service work informs the culturally sustaining and asset-based approach of this work.

“This grant is truly unique because it explores introductory science instruction as something that needs to be more inclusive and leverage the diverse resources that Latinx and other students of color bring with them—which has consistently been ignored and/or not celebrated in institutions of higher education,” said Visintainer, who played a significant role in writing the grant.

Part of the impetus for the grant, according to Paul, came about during informal meetings with STEM faculty members Resa Kelly, professor of chemistry and science education, and Katherine Wilkinson, associate professor of biological sciences, who are also co-PIs for the project. The idea to better align and link content across different courses like biology, chemistry and physics motivated the team to create a cohesive experience for students entering STEM majors.

The novel part, said Visintainer, “is how faculty “see” students of color and how this shapes their instruction.”

“The innovative approach of this grant is that we are specifically seeking to identify the cultural wealth, assets, and strengths that uniquely position Latinx students to thrive and succeed in STEM disciplines – and tapping into those,” said Visintainer.

The entire first year of the five-year grant will be spent on collecting data, talking to students and interviewing them, and also learning more about their experiences.

“The first year is really about getting a better understanding of what the students’ STEM experience is at SJSU in order to be better informed for the next stages of the grant,” Paul said. Subsequently, the team has plans to develop new faculty learning communities that will engage with the data, identify different aspects of the curriculum, and then adapt and align content to ensure a coherent experience for the students.

Since it’s a grant with a particular focus on Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSI), Tammie Visintainer said, “we are going to focus on that population while also transforming science and undergraduate education for everybody.”

Stacks agrees that gender, race and ethnicity elements are crucial in STEM, she thinks that diversity of thought is what the community should strive for. “What’s more powerful as we become more inclusive is that we expand the intellectual elements, and then we make possible solutions to how we approach things,” said Stacks.

Stacks said that Paul has implemented a radical reform process in her physics classes since joining SJSU in 2012. Besides improvising on teaching style and technique, Paul is also experimenting with grade scales that are different from the traditional percent scale for assessing students. “We saw our fail rates go way down. And so our students are much more successful in the course,” said Paul. “We’ve also started group quizzes and group portions of the finals. So every aspect of the class has a community element to it,” she added.

“In this moment in history, the most exciting part of this grant is that it creates space for a true reimagining of undergraduate STEM education,” said Visintainer.

The other important aspect of the grant is that the research faculty members were supported for preliminary research by CSU STEM-NET (a system-wide research affinity group) that promotes research, community building and innovative educational ideas across the CSU university system.

Diversity in STEM Master’s Degrees Recognized

Professor sits with science students in lab.

Photo courtesy of Miri VanHoven.

The July 23 issue of Diverse Issues in Higher Education highlighted a list of institutions that best produce minority post-baccalaureate graduates in STEM fields. San José State took multiple honors.

In addition to its regular annual top 100 rankings, Diverse published an expanded list highlighting master’s degrees in the STEM fields of engineering, math and statistics, and physical science. SJSU was included on all three lists.

In granting a master’s in engineering, SJSU ranked #5 in diversity among all institutions, any size, public or private. Rounding out the top five were Georgia Tech, UC Berkeley, USC, and Stanford. Minorities also earned SJSU master’s degrees at high rates in:

  • Mathematics and statistics: #13
  • Physical sciences: #52

This analysis was based on master’s degrees conferred in the 2017-2018 academic year.

Marc d’Alarcao, dean of the College of Graduate Studies, said, “One of our priorities in the College of Graduate Studies (CGS) is to assure that the grad student population reflects the diversity of the community. Although we still have more work to do, we’re delighted to be recognized in this way.”

In March, the CGS hired Dr. Amy Leisenring as associate dean of inclusive student success. Her work, d’Alarcao said, would “continue to deepen an examination of our practices in the College of Graduate Studies, focusing on making them inclusive and equitable.”

“San Jose State University is proud of its role in serving all students seeking graduate degrees in STEM fields,” President Mary A. Papazian said. “SJSU has a legacy of a commitment to inclusion, and sending our diverse group of talented STEM graduates into the Silicon Valley workforce and beyond, and on to advanced degrees, is just one way we demonstrate that commitment.”

In 2019, SJSU ranked #1 for total minorities receiving master’s degrees in Diverse’s library science category, and #1 for Asian Americans, Hispanics, and African Americans.

Bachelor’s Degree Diversity across All Fields

San José State University has also previously topped the magazine’s charts for diversity in bachelor’s degrees awarded.

San José State was the #1 school in the country in Diverse‘s rankings for producing Asian American bachelor’s degree graduates in visual and performing arts, and in business administration, management and operations. For both those undergraduate majors, the school ranked #3 nationwide in total minorities (including Hispanic, African American, Native American, and graduates who list multiple ethnicities).

For all disciplines combined, SJSU ranked #5 in the 2019 data for Asian American bachelor’s degrees, split evenly between men (1285) and women (1262).

Those same rankings show SJSU placing tenth in all minorities completing a bachelor’s in the two fields of communication/journalism/related degrees and natural resources and conservation. Nationally, SJSU ranked #6 in engineering bachelor’s degrees for all minorities.

“The diversity of the undergraduate program reflects the larger community,” d’Alarcao said, “and we hope undergraduate students stay on for graduate school, further increasing our diversity there.”

These recognitions come on the heels of recent rankings demonstrating SJSU’s excellence at facilitating social mobility. Last year, U.S. News and World Report added a ranking for social mobility that compares how well universities and colleges do in graduating Pell grant-eligible students. SJSU ranked #3 among public universities in the West, and #5 overall for the region.

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



Click on the “i” icon in the toolbar to view photo captions.

Photography by D. Michael Cheers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SJSU Launches Human Rights Institute

HRI director W. Armaline with his students that make up the HRI team.

Director William Armaline (far right) with the HRI team.

Formally launched in October 2019, San José State’s Human Rights Institute (HRI) has already been making an impact—and now is poised to do even more.

Years in the making, the HRI recently launched its website offering a world-class policy and research institute’s research, education and praxis, the intersection of policy with action.

Director William Armaline credited numerous faculty and staff members who collaborated to bring the San José State’s Human Rights Institute come to life. “So many people have been critical in building this entire project,” he said.

Armaline said creating the HRI “has really has been sort of my grind and mission since I’ve been at at San José State: Trying to build this—both the minor program, which launched in 2012 out of justice studies—and also a research and policy institute that would go beyond pedagogy and education to actually giving a public university very real roles in the communities we serve.” Armaline said the HRI brings research and frameworks from international human rights and international standards to bear on “social problems that confront the communities that we literally are chartered to serve as a university.”

College of Social Sciences Dean Walt Jacobs said that creating a formal institute had meant navigating a long approval process to win official status. Within the CSU system, research centers tend to spotlight research, which the approval process is designed to prioritize.

“But the HRI is unique,” Jacobs said. “It also has that component of praxis. Which is about teaching action, putting research into action. We had to go through a lot of hoops to get the HRI approved. But we did. And it fits really nicely into the legacy of social justice work that San José State has done throughout its history. It’s a good fit.”

Armaline described his view of how an institute in a public university ought to serve community needs: “We want to answer legitimate questions from the community: ‘If I don’t have kids going to your university or even beyond that, why should we really support it? Why do we need to have it here? Why is it a critical member of our community institutionally?’ And we want to be an answer to that question. We want to be able to say, ‘Because centers of learning are critical for communities to be able to understand the world around them and develop solutions for the problems that they face.’ And also to answer the questions they find interesting and relevant. I think people rightly want direct and pragmatic kinds of answers to those kinds of questions.”

Jacobs said that when Armaline was hired in 2007, his purpose was to build something like the University of Connecticut Human Rights Institute, where Armaline previously worked. Preeminent nationally, even internationally, “they had a very robust program there,” Jacobs said. “Bill was hired in part to establish an institute here on the West Coast that would be very similar to the very successful one on the East Coast.”

A sociologist by profession, Armaline moved to the sociology department from the justice studies department, where he was hired in 2007. Doing the work, demonstrating results and setting up the structure of the HRI have consumed almost a decade of his life—along with the many other projects and initiatives he’s engaged in (not to mention teaching).

HRI faculty members include award-winning authors, educators and journalists who partner with SJSU’s extremely diverse student body—as well as organizations across the region—to inform policy and practice according to international human rights law, standards and scholarship. For example, since 2012 the HRI has offered an undergraduate minor to students who want to add training in international human rights law or human rights reporting/journalism and advocacy to their field of study.

After receiving official approval as a research center in October, the HRI has been preparing for the public launch of its website amid the months of the 2020 COVID-19 restrictions.

“One of the requirements is that the center or institute has to have a plan for self-sufficiency within two years,” Jacobs said. “As a college, we’ve been supporting them as they’ve been in the planning process. But a big part of their efforts will be to raise funds to keep going. I’ll also be helping too, as we go out and talk to donors about places we can help support them.”

Armaline highlighted the importance of connecting international human rights research with the lived experience of Californians right here in SJSU’s neighborhood. For him, tying scholarship to immediate, real-world problems is at the core of the mission: “We dedicate ourselves as a research and policy institute to study and understand the problems that confront us—the local community but also the national and global community. And then really work with those communities and other stakeholders and decision makers to develop the best possible solutions.”

Support the Human Rights Institute

Beyond supporting human rights education and research, contributors can support the HRI’s new Human Rights News Network, which includes human rights reporting classes where students will develop original news content, report on the HRI’s research and action, and learn to use human rights laws, conventions, monitoring mechanisms and data in news stories. The HRI has already received gifts that will support student scholarships, and seeks additional support to further the institution’s path to self-sufficiency as an institute advancing research and action on human rights. Learn more about the Human Rights Institute and how you can support its work.

$1.2M Gift Commitment from Michael C. and Kathryn M. Grischy to Provide Future Support for Students Studying Abroad

Michael C. and Kathryn M. Grischy.

Photo courtesy of Michael C. and Kathryn M. Grischy.

San José, Calif. — San José State University is pleased to announce that it has received a $1.2 million gift commitment from Michael C. and Kathryn (Katy) M. Grischy. The gift will support students who study abroad for a semester.

“This generous gift commitment will help us share the life-changing opportunity of a globally facing educational experience that exposes SJSU students to a deeply immersive cross cultural experience to help them reach their academic, personal and professional goals,” said Study Abroad and Away Director Susie Morris. “We’re grateful for how these resources will support our mission to provide accessible global experiences for all SJSU students, providing the support they need to incorporate a global experience into their university education but who might not have the resources to experience study abroad otherwise.”

The Michael C. and Kathryn M. Grischy Study Abroad Fund in the College of Professional and Global Education will establish an endowed fund for scholarships that cover tuition and fees for one semester of study abroad.

A consulting software/firmware engineer, Michael is the retired co-founder and president of Octave Software Group, a technology service consulting firm in San José, California. Michael graduated summa cum laude with a degree in electrical engineering in 1985. Katy Grischy studied English at SJSU from spring 1967 to spring 1968, completed her bachelor’s in English at Cal State Long Beach, and attained her master’s in counseling psychology at Loyola Marymount University Los Angeles. She retired from her 30-year San José private practice in psychotherapy in 2016.

The Grischys both expressed a deep commitment to the value of a broad-based education that is more than just the sum total of classroom experience.

“Michael and I want more students to have the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective, to augment their academic experiences and have the privilege of learning through travel,” Katy said.

“A study abroad experience can change a student’s worldview, a student’s life,” said Michael. “Our idea is to enable more SJSU students to be able to have those experiences.”

“Internationalizing San José State cultivates an environment of diversity and inclusion,” said Ruth Huard, dean of the College of Professional and Global Education. “The Grischys’ generous donation will directly support students and the wider campus community as we continue to prepare to live and lead in a globalized world.”

Their gift commitment was established via the Grischys’ living trust.

To learn how you can make a gift to SJSU from your estate, please contact Randy Balogh, director of planned giving, at 408-924-1123, randy.balogh@sjsu.edu.


About San José State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study—offered through its nine colleges. With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing 10,000 graduates to the workforce. The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 280,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

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

A student with visual impairment touches a 3D model.

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

Multiple 3D printers assembled by students with visual impairment.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SJSU Launches SJSU Adapt Plan for Fall 2020

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

SJSU campus community, 

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

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

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

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

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

The following information from SJSU Adapt has been posted:

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

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

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

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

Sincerely,

Mary A. Papazian

President

A Gold Star for Sustainability, and a How-to Series for Viewers at Home

Water fountain with a recycled water sign next to it.

Water fountain on El Paseo De César E. Chávez. Photo: David Schmitz.

Improving sustainability demands more than a string of individual actions. It requires partnerships.

That’s why the SJSU Office of Sustainability is working with a long list of campus partners to continue making the campus cleaner and greener.

Its achievements were rewarded last March when SJSU received a Gold rating from STARS, the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System. STARS is a “transparent, self-reporting framework for colleges and universities to measure their sustainability performance,” awarded San José State its level Gold ranking this spring, with a score of 71.91.

The Gold ranking is not merely a measure of good recycling or energy-efficient buildings but evaluates numerous efforts: academics, campus and public engagement, facilities, transportation, waste management, and energy and greenhouse gas emissions. The Gold ranking recognizes not only the buildings, but what’s happening inside and outside them–the web of partnerships geared toward improving sustainability on campus.

Senior Utilities and Sustainability Analyst Debbie Andres said that the challenge of a three-year campus-wide audit was important in helping to infuse sustainability practices throughout campus. “In 2016, we were the first CSU to get the Gold ranking,” she said. “That was really exciting.”

This summer, together with a list of partners, the Office of Sustainability is hosting a Summer Workshop Series, short videos offering tips on using public transportation, reducing food waste–even “conscious closet cleaning.”

The first offering in the video series, in partnership with the Women’s Wellness Center, was Conscious Closet Cleaning Part 1. Soozy Zerbe, zero waste student intern at the Office of Sustainability, explained much more than shared ideas about how to reduce unwanted clothing. Zerbe said the global fashion industry has a higher carbon impact than airlines or shipping. Student president and co-founder of the Women and Wellness Club Guadalupe Moreno said in the video that in addition to reducing waste, “cleaning out your closet is great for your well-being and a method of self-care.” The video contains a tidy closetful of highly informed data about how much clothing we unthinkingly send to the landfill. “Cluttering takes up space, and decluttering can make you feel calm and relaxed,” Moreno said.

Andres said the idea for the topic originated with Moreno, who noticed how often students are posting questions and sharing information via videos on sites like Instagram. The summer video series evolved from an initiative dreamed up by students into a broader way to help the campus community think about sustainability at a time when regular modes of outreach can’t happen.

“It’s on YouTube, so people can access these videos any time. I thought there was so much information we could share out there.” Students pay attention to and learn through media like Instagram videos, Andres said—and all the more so now, when they aren’t crossing campus or dropping in the sustainability office, which they have always done frequently in the past.

The workshop series, Andres said, was formed during events earlier this summer, with the goal of offering people at home a set of “how-to” guides in an easy to watch format. “For me, and for my office, sustainability isn’t just about environmental sustainability. It’s about people. If we’re not protecting people on the planet, we’re not protecting the planet.”

More tips on keeping sustainability in mind in the home and office will appear in three more videos throughout July. Videos coming in August include gardening at home in small containers (with AS Community Garden), public transportation tips (with AS Transportation Solutions), and cooking tips when shifting to a plant-based diet, with the Spartan Veg Club. Spartan Eats partnered on a video about how to reduce food waste when on campus, and how SJSU incorporates sustainability in food options. The last video in September, made with SJSU’s Spartan Food Pantry and SJSU Cares, will discuss how to apply for Cal Fresh benefits, and how to access the Spartan Food Pantry and other basic needs resources on campus.

“It just started morphing into ‘What else would students be interested in learning about?’ It was a team effort with my students to reach out to organizations that were doing awesome things that tied in with sustainability.”

Follow @sjsugreencampus on Twitter to get the full schedule of videos and their release dates.