Making an Impact on Earth Day and Beyond: A Conversation with Climate Scientist Eugene Cordero

Eugene Cordero and the Green Ninja

Eugene Cordero is a climate scientist and professor in the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science. He is also the founder and director of the Green Ninja Project, an educational initiative that supports teachers and students with digital media and curricula designed around climate science and solutions. Photo: David Schmitz

We’re big fans of Earth Day here at San José State. After all, the founder of the annual celebration is a Spartan. So we’re looking for ways to reduce our carbon footprint on April 22 and beyond.

Eugene Cordero — SJSU professor of meteorology and climate science and fellow Earth advocate — has some great ideas for how we can all make a difference in protecting our environment. Whether it’s opting for chicken instead of carne asada on his burrito or choosing a bicycle as a primary mode of transportation, Cordero stresses that even the smallest changes can make a difference.

But there are ways to make a big impact, too, Cordero says — through the power of education.

Cordero’s research published last year found that students who enrolled in a university course that educated them on ways to reduce their carbon footprint adopted environmentally friendly practices that they kept for years down the line. Cordero is also the creator of Green Ninja, a comprehensive curriculum that uses solutions to environmental problems as a framework for teaching science and engineering to middle school students.

He wants to see education about protecting the environment more widely adopted — both at the university level and as early as middle school. We asked Cordero about the wider implications of his research and how we can all be Earth advocates — on Earth Day and beyond.

Last year, you published research that illustrated the impact universities can have on climate change through education. What surprised you most about your findings?

Eugene Cordero (EC): I was actually quite surprised to see how the course really had an impact on students, even many years later. The data that we collected and the stories we heard from alumni demonstrated that educational experiences, if well-designed, can have a lasting impact on students’ lives.

The study centered around one two-semester course at San José State, Global Climate Change I and II. What about this course sets itself apart?

EC: We identified three elements in the course that stood out as significant contributors to the lasting impact it had.

First, it made climate change personal, helping students understand how climate change was relevant to their personal and professional lives.

Second, it provided empowerment opportunities: Students developed projects where they created their own local solutions to climate change.

And third, it encouraged empathy for the environment — creating opportunities for students to observe and connect with living things.

The course also had a unique format as it was taught over a year (six units in the first semester, three units in the second) and used an interdisciplinary approach with three faculty from different departments team-teaching the course.

You have said it’s important to bring this type of education to a younger audience. What impact could that have?

EC: Our analysis suggests that this type of education, if scaled appropriately, could be as important in reducing carbon emissions as rooftop solar panels or electric vehicles. So for us, the big take-home message from this research is that climate-action plans need to include education as part of the strategies being used to reduce carbon emissions.

Are there other SJSU courses or programs you’d recommend for a student who wants to learn more about reducing their carbon footprint?

EC: SJSU has a lot of amazing courses where students can learn about the environment and what we can do to support a more sustainable world. These range from the courses we offer in our Department of Meteorology and Climate Science, to courses in Environmental Studies, Public Health and even Business. Students could take a look at this listing from our Office of Sustainability as a starting point.

Can you share about other ongoing or upcoming research?

EC: Our research program continues to look for innovative ways to educate and empower our youth in the area of climate and environmental solutions. We recently completed a study where students used data from their smartphone to coach drivers in their family towards more energy efficient driving behaviors, such as reducing driving speed and reducing the frequency of hard accelerations and hard brakes.

In the past, you’ve emphasized that our food choices can help reduce our carbon footprint. We love your example of the difference in carbon emissions when ordering chicken instead of beef in a burrito. Are there other ways the food we eat can make a difference?

EC: I think food choices are a great way to think about our personal carbon footprint since we have a lot of control over what we eat. We don’t always get the opportunity to purchase a new car or choose how to power our homes, but we typically get the chance to choose what we eat every day, and these choices can make a really large impact on our personal carbon footprint.

For example, choosing a diet lower in red meat and dairy can reduce our carbon footprint a similar amount as switching to a very fuel efficient vehicle. I also find learning about food — how it’s grown and the social and environmental impacts — to be fascinating!

We are seeing more effects of climate change every day. Standing up for the environment can sometimes feel like fighting a winless battle. Is there anything we can do to really make an impact as individuals?

EC: I understand that it’s a huge problem, and many of us feel helpless to make any real change. But I’d like to encourage people to believe in their power to create change, and just start.

Writing a persuasive letter to a lawmaker, attending a city council or school board meeting, getting involved in a local group that supports the environment — these are all ways we can get involved to make a difference. We can’t just sit on the sidelines and expect things to get better, we need more folks involved in advocating for and creating change.

I think if we do this, we can stop climate change, and we can make real progress towards a more equitable and habitable planet.

We also hear a lot of bad news or about how bad things can happen if we don’t make change fast. Is there any good news out there?

EC: There are a lot of committed people and groups working on climate change, but for me, the really good recent news is the U.S. government appears to be finally taking climate change seriously. We need individuals pushing for change, but having the government open to such changes is really a game changer.

What, if any, impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on fighting climate change?

EC: I believe the pandemic has demonstrated that technology can help us connect in ways that can reduce our need to travel as much as we did in the past. Do we need to attend a physical workplace every day? Do we need to attend every conference physically, or could a remote meeting accomplish similar outcomes in some cases?

Certainly, there have been reductions in transportation-related carbon emissions as a result of the pandemic, and moving forward, this experience now offers us more options for how and when we do travel for work in the future.

What has the pandemic taught us about the impact we can have as individuals when a big issue faces us collectively?

EC: For me, it was amazing to see how science and policy worked together so quickly to create solutions to the pandemic. It didn’t go perfectly for sure, but having a vaccine out within a year and already distributed to hundreds of millions of people is really amazing.

If we can develop a similar focus on climate change, we can absolutely respond to climate change.

Want to learn more about Cordero’s research? Take a look at One Carbon Footprint at a Time, a documentary that highlights his findings.

President Papazian’s Update Regarding Independent Investigation Opened in December 2019 and Action Steps

Editor’s Note: The following message was sent to the campus community on Thursday, April 15. To view on the web, visit the SJSU FYI site.

Dear students, faculty and staff,

The safety and well-being of our community are of paramount importance at SJSU. These are obligations we owe to each and every one of our students. Unfortunately, we have not always lived up to those expectations.

As many of you know, in December 2019, I requested an external investigation into allegations of misconduct in 2009 by Scott Shaw, SJSU’s former director of sports medicine. Today, I am sharing the results of that investigation with you. The 2009 allegations of improper touching during physical therapy were substantiated, as were more recent allegations raised in the course of the investigation. The investigator concluded that the conduct at issue violated the university’s policies in effect at the time of the conduct. The investigation was conducted by an external attorney investigator and was supervised by the CSU Systemwide Title IX Compliance Officer. The findings are now final. More information about the findings can be found on the SJSU FYI site [pdf].

To the affected student-athletes and their families, I apologize for this breach of trust. I am determined that we will learn from the past and never repeat it. We all need answers to questions about the original 2009 investigation and whether the university properly responded to subsequent concerns about that process. A new investigation, described below, will help us identify issues that must be addressed and improvements that should be made. This new investigation will be conducted by an external investigator and overseen by Systemwide Human Resources in the Chancellor’s Office. We will not, however, wait for that process to conclude before taking action. To that end, we are taking the following steps effective immediately:

Accountability & Facts

  • The new investigation is underway to determine the adequacy of the 2009 investigation and whether the university properly responded to subsequent concerns about that original investigation. I encourage anyone with relevant information to share their concerns with the external investigator, Elizabeth V. McNulty, who can be reached directly at 949-399-5026.
  • Individuals with questions, concerns or reports about any Title IX issues (such as sexual misconduct or other discrimination or harassment based on sex, gender or gender identity) should contact Wendi Liss at 408-924-7289 or Jenny Harper at 408-924-7288 in the Title IX Office or titleix@sjsu.edu.

Policy & Staffing

  • The Athletics Department, in conjunction with the Student Health Center and the Title IX Office, is finalizing a new sports medicine chaperone policy, which will be implemented no later than Fall 2021.
  • We are adding resources to and restructuring the Title IX Office.
  • We are increasing confidential support resources, including a full-time campus survivor advocate, before the start of the fall semester.

Training & Education

  • We will enhance education and orientation programs focused on sexual assault prevention, reporting options, and resources for survivors, witnesses, and bystanders.
  • Education will be provided to student-athletes, practitioners, and chaperones to ensure all persons involved in medical, physical therapy, and training sessions share a common understanding of what is expected.

Culture & Communication

  • We are responding to findings related to Title IX from the 2020 Belong@SJSU campus climate survey, geared towards improving awareness of resources, reporting options and empowering our students to come forward.
  • We will initiate an awareness and information campaign to encourage our student-athletes, coaches, and staff in the Department of Athletics to use Spartan Speaks – SJSU Athletics’ anonymous reporting tool.
  • We will provide user-friendly access to information about student rights and resources.
  • We will communicate updates and next steps across campus and throughout the San José State community.

Accountability, action, and transparency are critical to rebuilding trust in the face of troubling events like these. You have my promise that as we go through this difficult process and move forward together, we will hold ourselves accountable, make necessary changes, and consistently share our progress with the SJSU community.

Mary A. Papazian, Ph.D.
President

SJSU Fire Weather Research Workshop Highlights Advances in Wildfire Prediction and Tracking

Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center

Photo courtesy of the SJSU Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center

California braces for yet another menacing fire season

Twice a month, San José State researchers collect samples from local vegetation, or “fuels”—and what they found for April was foreboding: Craig Clements, director of the SJSU Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center, told KPIX 5 News last week.

“This is the time of year when the fuels should have the most moisture content of the season, and they’re actually the lowest we’ve ever measured for April,” he said in the news report.

But there’s hope: Fire prediction and tracking tools are advancing—a key takeaway from SJSU’s Fire Weather Research Workshop held April 8-9—and the university is leading the effort in providing fire management agencies with state-of-the-art resources to help curb the spread of wildfires.

The virtual event drew hundreds of researchers, students and fire management stakeholders from 20 countries to discuss the latest research and technology on fighting wildfires.

On the same day, California Gov. Gavin Newson announced a $536 million plan to prepare the state for the upcoming fire season. The California Legislature passed the package on April 12, and Newsom signed it April 13.

Intel from above the flames

Once a windstorm and an ignition come together, there’s little to be done.

“There’s nothing you can do to stop that fire,” explained Clements.

The best shot is to try to contain the fire with an “initial attack,” he continued. “That’s where remote sensing technology comes in, because the sooner you can detect the fire, the faster you can get into it.”

WRF-SFIRE is a forecast and modeling system—and a crucial resource to help curb the spread of wildfires—that relies on remote sensing technology. Developed and operated by SJSU, the system pairs data from satellite and infrared imaging with a simulation tool, and it combines a weather forecast model (Weather Research Forecast) with a fire-spread model (SFIRE).

During the workshop, faculty shared updates on WRF-SFIRE, including the addition of wildfire smoke dispersion forecasts, improved data input and analysis, more options for running simulations, and even a mobile-friendly interface.

Adam Kochanski, assistant professor of wildfire modeling, shared how WRF-SFIRE now can model smoke behavior based on fire-spread predictions.

Adam Kochanski, assistant professor of wildfire modeling, shared how WRF-SFIRE now can model smoke behavior based on fire-spread predictions.

But while tracking and prediction technology is advancing, not enough satellite and infrared imaging data is being gathered in day-to-day fire management operations, noted Miguel Valero Peréz, assistant professor of wildfire behavior and remote sensing at SJSU. He said that bringing that process up to speed is crucial and requires widespread collaboration.

“We need to collaborate with everyone—fire management agencies, academia, industry. We can only solve this problem if we work together,” Valero Peréz emphasized.

Solving a bigger problem

Newsom’s package may be able to help the state get ahead of the game as another dangerous fire season approaches. His plan provides funding to invest in workforce training, vegetation and terrain management, home protection and more.

But the effort to track conditions needs to be year-round, Clements told NBC Bay Area News.

“We need to be doing predictions for the conditions that would lead up to a severe fire season, so using the state-of-the-science modeling we have at San José State and running that operationally throughout the whole season versus a fire here and a fire there like we usually do,” he explained on the news report.

Joaquin Ramirez is principal consultant with Technosylva, Inc., a wildfire technology company that partners with SJSU by using WRF-SFIRE to assist management agencies like Cal Fire during fire season. In 2020, they offered Cal Fire support with more than 9,000 fires.

Wildfires in 2020 California

Joaquin Ramirez of Technosylva, Inc., a wildfire technology company, provided a look back at 2020 fires in California.

He said the workshop is proof of the exciting research and technology in progress, but that there’s still much to do when it comes to solving the wider problem.

“An all-hands job is needed, starting from supporting citizens that understand that we have to live with fire in a smarter way—and that we need to support scientists as much as we support our firefighters.”

A community service

Clements said that while the workshop is about exchanging research and ideas, it’s also about providing information directly to those fighting fires on the front lines.

Because it’s free and several topics are covered in a shorter amount of time, it can be a good alternative to a conference, which might not always be an option for fire management agency employees.

“It’s part of our service to the community to host this workshop and to have it to be free to anyone,” he explained. “It’s about accessibility to the knowledge.”

WRF-SFIRE is available on mobile platforms

WRF-SFIRE is now accessible on mobile devices, a new addition to the system by wildfire researchers at SJSU.

Martin Kurtovich, senior utilities engineer for California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), said their staff participated to engage on important fire science topics—particularly wildfire modeling and predictions for forecasting future fire conditions.

He added, “I appreciate the important work being done at SJSU in not only conducting important research on California wildfires but also training future leaders in wildfire management.”

Learn more about SJSU’s Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center here.

SJSU Legacy of Poetry Festival’s 14th Annual Event Goes Online April 15 – 23

Legacy of Poetry 2021

San José State University’s Poets and Writers Coalition will host the 2021 Legacy of Poetry Festival: “Closing the Distance—Sheltering in Technolog[ies],” online from April 15 – 23.

In honor of National Poetry Month, San José State University’s Poets and Writers Coalition will host the 2021 Legacy of Poetry Festival: “Closing the Distance—Sheltering in Technolog[ies],” online from April 15 – 23. The SJSU Legacy of Poetry Consortium coordinates the festival.

“As human beings, we have been robbed of contact with one another through social gatherings and literary events for one year now,” said Professor of English and Director of Creative Writing Alan Soldofsky. “The 2021 festival recognizes the pain of isolation that people are experiencing and how poetry—through various technological means—can close the distance between us.”

Recognizing how poetry can inspire and offer hope to broad and diverse audiences, the festival offers a lineup of readings and panels featuring poets from San José State, the South Bay community and across the country. Registration and information for the events is available at the Legacy of Poetry website.

Thursday, April 15 at 7 p.m.

The first free keynote event will be an online reading by award-winning poet Lillian-Yvonne Bertram. This event is presented by the SJSU Center for Literary Arts in conjunction with the SJSU College of Humanities and the Arts “Deep Humanities Initiative,” which explores the intersection between the arts and technology. Bertram’s most recent book, Travesty Generator (Noemi Press, 2019), is described as remixing “programming codes … to ruminate on the intersections of race and gender.” Longlisted for the 2020 National Book Award in Poetry, Lilian-Yvonne Bertram writes that she uses “codes and algorithms in an attempt to create work that reconfigures and challenges oppressive narratives for Black people and to imagine new ones.” She considers this “an intervention into a set of literary practices that have historically excluded women and minorities.”

Friday, April 16 at 3 p.m.

The festival will also include a master class on how to startup and sustain an independent literary press. It features the publisher of Noemi Press, American Book Award-winning Carmen Giménez Smith, ’96 English, and Noemi Press senior poetry editor and award-winning poet J. Michael Martinez. Martinez will be joining the SJSU Creative Writing faculty as its newest core member in Fall 2021.

Monday, April 19 at 5 p.m.

A second featured event presents a reading and conversation between Ellen Bass, SJSU’s Lurie distinguished visiting author-in-residence for 2021, and award-winning poet and Professor Emeritus of Creative Writing at the University of Pittsburgh Toi Derricotte. Both poets have served as chancellors of the Academy of American Poets.

Tuesday, April 20 at 5 p.m.

The festival will also host a tribute program for eminent San Francisco poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, founder of City Lights Bookstore and City Lights Publishing, who died at age 101 on February 22. Ferlinghetti often visited SJSU to give public readings of his poems, guest-teach poetry workshop classes, and collaborate with art department faculty on printmaking projects that combined visual and literary arts elements. It will feature a screening of the documentary film Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder, produced and directed by Chris Felver, who will introduce the film.

Other notable events

Also on the event schedule is a free online reading hosted by SJSU’s REED Magazine, the oldest continuously published literary magazine west of the Mississippi. The event will feature award-winning poet Rodrigo Toscano, winner of REED’s 2020 Edwin Markham Prize, and author of the just-published poetry collection, The Charm and The Dread (Fence Books, 2021). He will read with Santa Cruz Poet Laureate Emeritus Danusha Laméris, who most recently authored a collection of poems titled Bonfire Opera (University of Pittsburgh Press, 2020).

Poetry Center San José will host a workshop on performing poems and producing poetry videos for Instagram and other social media platforms. Enrollment will be limited and cost $15 for PCSJ members and students with ID and $25 for the general public.

How Has COVID-19 Impacted the Health and Well-being of the LGBTQ+ Community?: A Q&A With Laurie Drabble

Laurie Drabble.

Laurie Drabble, associate dean for research and faculty.

It’s known that members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning+ (LGBTQ+) community face health disparities driven by social stigma and discrimination. But what happens when you introduce a global pandemic?

Laurie Drabble, associate dean for research and faculty with the San José State University College of Health and Human Sciences, explored the impact of COVID-19 on the LGBTQ+ community by serving as co-editor of a special issue of the Journal of Homosexuality, which was published earlier this year.

The issue also featured her recent research exploring alcohol and marijuana use among LGBTQ+ women during the pandemic.

The SJSU Editorial and News team sat down with Drabble to learn more:

What is the biggest takeaway from this special issue?

Laurie Drabble (LD): Social stigma and discrimination are important drivers of disparities in risk for depression, anxiety and suicidality among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gender non-binary groups. LGBTQ+ people also reported more job loss and financial difficulty compared to heterosexual and cisgender people. These risks were amplified during the with COVID-19 pandemic and need to be addressed.

What surprised you about the research findings?

LD: Research in the special issue found that LGBTQ+ individuals were more likely than heterosexual people to adhere to social distancing guidelines. This may not be entirely surprising, given collective experience with the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.

That past experience heightened community buy-in about the importance of public health strategies to curb disease transmission—and contributed to viewing adherence to public health guidelines as more of a collective responsibility than an individual choice.

However, adhering to guidelines was also associated with psychological distress, which underscores the importance of both formal and social support in public health crises.

This issue pulls together data and research that spans the globe. Did the U.S. stand out?

LD: I was struck by the commonalities between countries. In particular, studies described the negative impact of losing access to LGBTQ+ positive spaces, reduced access to social support, and concerns about invisibility and potential discrimination.

It was also notable that LGBTQ+ people across countries use technology to connect with community, friends and family more than heterosexual and cisgender groups. This is likely a consequence of being part of a community that is defined by common identity rather than location. So, many LGBTQ+ people already used apps, social media and technology tools to find community before the pandemic.

Health disparities already existed in the LGBTQ+ community. Are we making any progress in closing these gaps?

LD: We were making progress in some ways. For example, research has consistently found that reducing structural stigma—such as the legalization of same-sex marriage—has helped reduce disparities in mental health outcomes.

However, research from our special issue and other studies suggest that LGBTQ+ people—particularly LGBTQ people of color—are disproportionately experiencing health and economic harms associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. We need to make sure that policies and services intended to address the impact of the pandemic include the needs of LGBTQ+ populations.

Let’s talk about your research focusing on LGBTQ+ women and marijuana and alcohol use during the pandemic. What surprised you about what you learned?

LD: One of the more interesting findings was the degree to which routines or norms associated with alcohol and marijuana use were disrupted or changed.

For example, some study participants described drinking more because they used alcohol to mark the end of the day, and many described using more alcohol and marijuana to simply relieve stress or boredom. Others used less, because they were not spending time in social settings where they would typically drink alcohol or use marijuana with friends.

Sexual minority women had greater risks for hazardous drinking and drug use compared to heterosexual women before the pandemic, so it will be important to continue to study [post pandemic] whether or not these risks have been amplified over time.

Now that we have this information, what do we need to do about it?

LD: First, we need to continue to reduce stigma and address the economic impacts of the pandemic that disproportionately impact people of color and sexual and gender minorities.

For example, a growing number of states have passed harmful laws allowing health and social service providers to be exempt on religious grounds from laws prohibiting discrimination based on sex or gender identity. These trends are deeply concerning, particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Second, given our research suggesting that LGBTQ+ people are frequent users of Internet-based communications and apps, enhancing access to online and remote health and mental health services would be timely.

Third, the research in this issue highlighted the importance of access to community and social support. So it is critical to provide financial support to ensure the survival of LGBTQ+ health and social service organizations, as well as LGBTQ+-centered physical spaces.

How can this information help us better care for the LGBTQ+ members of our SJSU community?

LD: For many LGBTQ+ young adults, university communities are important for finding safe and affirming support, particularly for students who may need to live with unsupportive families for financial reasons. Providing opportunities for social support and counseling—such as those provided by the SJSU PRIDE Center and Student Services—are crucial.

Read more about Drabble’s research and these topics.

Geology Professor Kim Blisniuk Unearths New Information About Southern California’s Next “Big One”

Kim Blisniuk, Associate Professor of Geology

Photo: Patrick Record

Ten years ago, two female geologists went for a hike in the Coachella Valley desert along a southern portion of the San Andreas Fault. One of them was Kimberly Blisniuk, now an associate professor of geology at San José State University. The pair spent days in the desert, traversing the landscape, studying its ridges and formations.

They weren’t sure what they were looking for. The San Andreas is a well-studied fault: The roughly 750-mile geographical rift running the length of most of California is positioned to set off what’s known as the next “Big One”—a massive earthquake predicted to strike Southern California, devastating the Los Angeles area, in particular.

Still, Blisniuk wanted to see if the terrain revealed something—anything—that might have been missed or not yet understood by geologists before them.

Sure enough, she found something. And after a decade of work to confirm her discovery, Blisniuk’s research, published March 24 in Science Advances, indicates that the highly anticipated earthquake—which scientists say is about 80 years overdue—might not ravage LA as much as previously thought.

Read the full story about Blisniuk’s findings here.

San José State Honors 2021 Faculty Award Winners

SJSU will host its 22nd Annual Faculty Service Recognition Event with a multi-day virtual celebration this year—culminating with a live presentation on April 15 of this year’s four exemplary faculty award winners and two remarkable 40-year honorees.

From April 12 to the 14, the university will celebrate 135 faculty who have reached milestones of service for 15, 20, 25, 30 and 35 years. Faculty members will share what they love about SJSU via videos.

“These honorees are to be lauded for their dedication, passion and commitment to their students’ personal and academic growth, and to the advancement of knowledge in their respective disciplines,” said SJSU President Mary A. Papazian. “Each one has made important contributions through teaching, research and scholarship, and we are grateful for their service.”

The four distinguished faculty members below are selected to receive the following awards for noteworthy achievement in teaching, scholarship and service.

President’s Scholar: Matthew Spangler, Professor of Performance Studies, Department of Communication Studies

Distinguished Service: Anuradha Basu, Professor, Lucas College & Graduate School of Business

Outstanding Professor: Lionel Cheruzel, Professor, Department of Chemistry

Outstanding Lecturer: Mary Juno, Lecturer, Department of Justice Studies

Read a Q&A with each recipient below.

How the faculty awards started

Each of San José State’s four faculty awards has its own unique story, but they all emerged from a need to acknowledge exceptional faculty, starting with the university’s core mission of teaching and service.

In 1966, SJSU bestowed its first faculty award for Outstanding Professor, based on teaching effectiveness. The next award for President’s Scholar was bestowed in 1974 for remarkable scholarship and creative pursuits.

The third, Distinguished Service, was initially presented in 2000, to recognize outstanding service and the substantive contributions of SJSU faculty to their professional communities and beyond. In 2005, the Outstanding Lecturer award was created to recognize the contributions and teaching of a lecturer faculty member.

Who makes the nominations and decisions?

All areas of the campus community are invited to contribute nominations for faculty awards. Committees consisting of previous award winners, administrators and students (except for the President’s Scholar award) review the nominations and make their recommendations to the president, who then makes the final determination of the winners.

Read the full list of award criteria.


2021 Faculty Award Winners

Matthew Spangler, Professor, Performance Studies

Matthew Spangler, Professor of Performance Studies
Department of Communication Studies

President’s Scholar Award

Joined SJSU: 2005 | Research Focus: performance studies, an interdisciplinary field that uses performance as an artistic practice and theoretical lens to explore topics of social significance. Spangler’s research explores the representation of refugees and immigrants through the literary and performing arts.

Creative Activities: In addition to his scholarly work, Spangler has written numerous plays, among them an adaptation of Khaled Hosseini’s novel The Kite Runner, which premiered at San José State, and has since won many awards and been produced by theatres around the world, including on London’s West End and the Dubai Opera House.

Print-Based Scholarship: Spangler has published many journal articles on immigration in the performing arts, an academic book, several plays, and has a new book currently under review about adaptation and immigration in Irish theatre. The National Communication Association recently bestowed him with the Leslie Irene Coger Award for Distinguished Performance, the most prestigious award for live performance in the field of communication studies.

What brought you to San José State?

Matthew Spangler (MS): I was hired to create a curriculum in performance studies within the Communication Studies Department. I was living in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, at the time, where I did my PhD, and the idea of creating an entire curriculum in my area of research and artistic practice was very exciting to me.

What inspired you to study this subject area?

MS: I was a first-year undergraduate at Northwestern University, thinking I would study law, and I happened to take a few courses in performance studies with amazing faculty who literally changed my life. The idea of using the performing arts and storytelling to engage the world felt like the only thing I ever wanted to do.

Later, I was studying for my master’s degree at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, and immigration became a topic I was gradually more and more interested in.

What do you enjoy and/or surprises you the most about your work?

MS: When you work at the intersection of the performing arts and immigration, as I do, you get to meet some incredible people from all over the world. It never ceases to amaze me how fortunate I am to work with the people I do. In some cases, I might be writing an article about their work, or maybe we’re collaborating on a theatre project together, or I’m bringing them to campus to meet with my students. Sometimes I stop and think how lucky I am to know such amazing artists and scholars.

What does it mean to you to receive the President’s Scholar Award?

MS: To receive the President’s Scholar Award is a tremendous honor, and to say that does not do justice to how deeply moved I am. In the nearly two decades I have been at San José State, this university has provided a terrific home for my creative and scholarly work.

I am exceedingly grateful to my colleagues, and, in particular, I am grateful to the students who have deepened my work, inspired me, taught me, and occasionally, have traveled with me around the world on research trips, or whom I have proudly watched give conference presentations in far flung locations. San José State is a special place for a number of reasons, probably the biggest being the students.

And to receive this award during the current era of COVID-19—an award for work at the intersection of the performing arts and immigration—at a time when most theatres have been completely dark for over a year, and immigrants are facing ever more obstacles in their ability to move, is testament to the humanity of this university.

There is probably no time in my life when this award will mean as much as it does right now.


Anu Basu, Professor, Business

Anuradha Basu
Professor of Entrepreneurship and
Director of Silicon Valley Center for Entrepreneurship
Lucas College & Graduate School of Business

Distinguished Service Award

Joined SJSU: Fall 2003 | Research focus: immigrant and minority entrepreneurship.

Latest Research:A Review of Immigrant Entrepreneurship Research.” Basu is also researching the experiences of LatinX entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley, in collaboration with a former student, who is a young SJSU alumna and Latina entrepreneur.

What brought you to San José State?

Anuradha “Anu” Basu (AB): In 2002, I was a visiting scholar at Stanford’s Center for International Development, having relocated with my family from the UK to the Bay Area. At a Silicon Valley networking event, I learned that SJSU was looking to hire a tenure-track faculty to launch their entrepreneurship program. I had recently set up an Entrepreneurship Center at the University of Reading, UK (my previous employer). Now, I could try my hand at doing the same here, in the heart of Silicon Valley.

What inspired you to study this subject area?

AB: As an Indian immigrant in the UK, I was curious to understand why South Asian immigrants in the UK were motivated to establish their own businesses in an unfamiliar business environment. I wanted to highlight the fact that, contrary to the public perception that immigrants were a burden on society, many British South Asians had created successful businesses, were large employers, and had a significant positive impact on the UK economy.

My research continues to be driven by a passion to shatter myths and preconceived notions about minority and immigrant entrepreneurs.

What do you enjoy and/or surprises you the most about your work?

AB: The most enjoyable part of my job is interacting with students, helping them learn, and encouraging them to do their best and achieve their potential. Sometimes, a quiet student in class turns out to be the one who writes the most thought-provoking essay, aces the exam, or comes up with the most innovative business idea.

Perhaps the most gratifying part is following my students’ careers after they graduate. Just recently, a former student who won our Silicon Valley Business Plan Competition shared his experience of pitching his startup on Shark Tank.

What does it mean to you to receive the Distinguished Service award?

AB: I am truly honored and humbled to receive this award. It is a wonderful recognition of my effort and commitment to build the entrepreneurial ecosystem at San José State. I could not have achieved it without the support of my wonderful colleagues in the College of Business and beyond, who have helped and continue to help build our entrepreneurial community on campus.


Lionel Cheruzel, Professor, Chemistry

Lionel Cheruzel
Professor, Department of Chemistry

Outstanding Professor Award

Joined SJSU: Fall 2009 | Research focus: bioinorganic chemistry focusing on a particular family of metalloenzymes called Cytochromes P450.

Research activities: Cheruzel recently initiated a Freshman Research Initiative to expose a large number of freshman students to research opportunities in the Department of Chemistry. He has given more than 60 invited talks worldwide including in the US, Europe, Japan and Australia and is the recipient of the 2019 Henry Dreyfus Teacher Scholar Award in recognition of his dedication to teaching and research.

What brought you to San José State?

Lionel Cheruzel (LC): I was attracted to the unique opportunity that SJSU provided to combine my love of teaching with scholarly activity in the heart of the Silicon Valley. I started in fall 2009 right after the economic downturn in the midst of the furloughs. I was very fortunate to receive an offer from SJSU.

What inspired you to study this subject area?

LC: I have always been fascinated by the intricate connections in nature and the central role
that chemistry plays. Being a postdoc at Caltech was an eye-opening experience and
really inspired me to work in this unique field at the frontier between chemistry and
biology.

What do you enjoy and/or surprises you the most about your work?

LC: I have enjoyed supervising and mentoring a diverse and inclusive group in the laboratory
over the years. I have been very fortunate to be surrounded by very talented and
motivated SJSU students. I am proud that many of them went on to successful careers
in prominent graduate programs, professional schools or local biotech companies.

What does it mean to you to be named an Outstanding Professor?

LC: It means a lot to me to receive this award and to have my name in the company of other
great SJSU colleagues. I am also hoping this will bring a bright light on our research
and academic activities and help us recruit motivated students eager to learn. SJSU has
been a unique place to influence and develop young minds in both classroom and
laboratory settings. Watching students develop as scientists and succeed in their
endeavors has been personally rewarding and encouraged my mentoring efforts.


Mary Juno, Lecturer, Forensic Science

Mary Juno
Lecturer, Department of Justice Studies and Coordinator, Forensic Studies Minor

Outstanding Lecturer Award

Joined SJSU: Fall 2006 | Research focus: identifying causes and sources of error in crime scene investigation, and the relationship between crime scene error rates and CSI education level.

Faculty Advisor: Themis Research Journal of Justice Studies and Forensic Science, a student-run academic journal that publishes original justice-related research by SJSU students. Juno launched Themis in 2013, and as of March 2021, more than 264,000 researchers worldwide have downloaded articles.

What brought you to San José State?

Mary Juno (MJ): I was originally hired to teach one section of one class [in Justice Studies] for one semester. I was asked to return in spring 2007 to teach the same course, and again in fall 2007, to teach two sections of that course. In spring 2008, I taught the same two sections plus a new course. The job had begun to snowball.

I decided to leave my regular full-time job as a crime scene investigator (CSI) at Oakland Police Department and work only at SJSU. This was an enormous leap of faith, but I enjoyed teaching so much that I felt compelled to do it and confident that it was the right move. I have never regretted this decision.

What inspired you to study this subject area?

MJ: I have always been interested in the intersection between science and justice. I studied forensic anthropology as an undergrad and thought I might go in that direction, but I got hired as a CSI first. That was a fascinating job, but also quite difficult—and nothing like TV. In my classes, I stress the realities of crime scene investigation and try to dispel the myths, so that students are clear-eyed about the field they’re getting into.

What do you enjoy and/or surprises you the most about your work?

MJ: I’ve been at SJSU for 15 years, and there is so much I love about it. First, teaching is loads of fun. My students have great senses of humor, and we find something to crack up about almost every day in class. I learn from them every semester, and I keep in touch with many students after graduation. Second, I feel lucky to work in a department with many brilliant and talented colleagues, who make critical contributions to social, economic, racial and criminal justice. And lastly, I very much like the feeling that I am trusted to do my job, to create new classes, and to revise and build programs. I’m grateful to SJSU that I was given that opportunity to contribute.

What does it mean to you to be named Outstanding Lecturer?

MJ: When I first got the news that I had been named Outstanding Lecturer, I couldn’t believe it. I know many lecturers who give so much of their time and energy to this university and to their students, and they all deserve an award. It feels fantastic to be recognized for my hard work and reconfirms for me that I made the right decision all those years ago when I left my job as a CSI!


Please visit the Faculty Service Recognition event website to see the full list of honorees and register for the live presentation on April 15 from 12:30 to 1:30 p.m.

 

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

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

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

Families Across Borders_2

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

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

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

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

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

The House of Representatives passed both bills last week.

Spartan journalists share stories of separation 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humanizing immigrant narratives

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

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

Families Across Borders event

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

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

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

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

SJSU Looks Ahead to Fall Semester at Recent Adapt Town Halls

An infinity symbol with SJSU Adapt inside the inner circles

The recent town halls are part of the SJSU Adapt plan, a four-phase approach for the continuation of campus operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over the past week, San José State outlined how the university plans to adapt to an expected increase of students, faculty and staff on campus in the fall. In December, the California State University announced an anticipated return to delivering courses primarily in person during the fall 2021 semester. 

The SJSU Adapt Town Halls on March 10 and March 16 featured short presentations by President Mary A. Papazian, Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Vincent Del Casino, Jr., and Dr. Barbara Fu, acting medical director of the Student Wellness Center, before shifting to a Q&A format. The Q&A featured questions submitted by attendees prior to the event as well as during the town hall.  

Most of the discussion was focused on fall 2021 courses and repopulation of campus for employees and students, with an emphasis on how the continued progression of the COVID-19 vaccination process plays a role in SJSU’s planning for the fall. 

“We live in a time of flux and fluidity, and we are doing the best we can to plan for fall while also understanding that a lot could change between now and August,” Del Casino said.

Del Casino added that he expects more face-to-face opportunities for learning in the fall while also remaining flexible for students who like learning in an online or hybrid environment. SJSU will continue to closely follow Santa Clara County and state of California public health guidelines as it finalizes the course schedule. 

Joanne Wright, senior associate vice president for University Personnel, said SJSU will not require the COVID-19 vaccination for students, faculty and staff. She added that departments will spend the coming weeks finalizing repopulation plans for employees. 

“Our mission is to educate our students, so as we repopulate, that will be foremost in our minds,” said Wright. “For individual units, the question will be: ‘How do we need to staff to best support our mission given that we anticipate a larger campus population for fall semester?’”

Wright added that some positions may continue telecommuting. SJSU currently has employees working on campus to support the limited on-campus population for the spring 2021 semester. 

To view the town halls in their entirety, visit the SJSU Adapt Town Halls page

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

ISSSSC Words to Action

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

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

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

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

Jenny Lim

Jenny Lim develops gender equity solutions for Canadian sports organizations.

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

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

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

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

Dawna Callahan

SJSU alumna Dawna Callahan has helped pioneer the Paralympic movement.

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

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

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

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

Danielle Slaton

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

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

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

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

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

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

Annual SJSU Conference to Encourage Women to ‘Reimagine the Future’ of Engineering

Silicon Valley Women in Engineering Conference 2021

Diana Knobler, ‘22 Biomedical Engineering, grew up in a predominantly Hispanic Los Angeles neighborhood, where it was rare for high school students to attend four-year universities. After arriving at San José State, Knobler was surprised to discover she was even more of an exception to the rule than she thought.

“My introductory engineering course had three times as many male students as it did female students, and even fewer Latinx students,” Knobler explained.

That’s a big reason why she decided to attend this year’s Silicon Valley Women in Engineering Conference, which will be held virtually on Saturday, March 20, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. The conference, in its seventh year, is hosted by the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering at San José State.

The conference’s theme is “Reimagine the Future,” and the event is open to students at SJSU and other higher ed institutions who want to learn about current trends and innovations in the field.

Keynote speakers include Renée DiResta, technical research manager for Stanford Internet Observatory; Ann Lee-Karlon, senior vice president of Genentech; and Jessica J. Marquez, human-systems engineer for NASA Ames Research Center. They will speak on how to detect misinformation on social media, new advances in biotechnology and future trends in space technology.

Attendees can choose from 12 technical talks about emerging technologies and six professional development sessions. They can also mingle with representatives from more than 50 Silicon Valley companies—including sponsors Google, IBM, Netgear, Lam Research and several others—during the conference’s Innovation Showcase.

The overall mission is to educate students, provide them with potential mentors and role models, and to create a community for women engineers in the Silicon Valley, according to Belle Wei, the Carolyn Guidry Chair of Engineering Education and Innovative Learning.

“Women are a minority in engineering classrooms—less than 20 percent of students in an engineering classroom are women,” said Wei, who serves on the conference committee.

“All of these speakers are highly accomplished women professionals,” she continued. “We want them to see that these women have worked hard, had a strategy, persevered and have been successful.”

Many of the students who attend the conference are in a position similar to Knobler’s. Jinny Rhee, conference chair and associate dean of undergraduate programs and student success for the College of Engineering, said attendees often come from underrepresented groups or are first-generation college students.

“So they might not have some of the support structures and infrastructure that other engineering students may take for granted,” Rhee added. “We want to allow them to reimagine the role engineering can take in a developed society. Engineering is there to make the world a better place, and we don’t want anyone to lose sight of that.”

Knobler does want to make the world a better place: She plans to one day introduce life-changing medical devices into the health-care field. After her first semester at SJSU, Knobler joined an engineering and technical sciences sorority, The Beta Upsilon Chapter of Alpha Omega Epsilon, and she said having a female support system has made all the difference.

“Being connected to so many amazing women through this conference feels like the first step to building an industry-level support system,” Knobler explained. “I hope to use the knowledge I gain from these women to become successful in the industry myself and one day return to do the same for [the next generation of] young female engineers.”

Laura Guio, ‘86 Marketing, is doing just that. When she entered the engineering industry more than 30 years ago, there were not many women to whom she could look for inspiration and guidance.

“Fast forward to today, and there are more women tech leaders, but not as many as I would have expected by this point in time,” said Guio, who now serves as general manager and executive for IBM. “As a woman technology leader and an SJSU graduate, I feel it is my responsibility and privilege to talk about my experience and encourage others while sharing my journey.”

Guio will talk about her experiences during a panel discussion on developing career strategies. Rhee and Wei want to see female students persist in their engineering careers long after graduation, but that doesn’t always happen.

“We know a lot of women leave technology fields soon after they graduate for various reasons, and that’s a shame,” Rhee noted. “The research says that the stronger your engineering identity, the more likely you are to get your degree and persist in the field after you graduate.”

They will ask attendees to complete pre- and post-event surveys to better understand how the conference can play a role in fostering that strong identity.

Guio said she wants attendees of the conference to know there are plenty of opportunities for success and many ways to pursue them.

“Everyone’s journey is their own, and you have to know yourself, your skills and what drives and motivates you to begin to understand the path you want to take,” Guio said.

“Technology needs diversity in representation, which brings diversity in thought. Studies show if you have a diverse mix of talent, this will improve performance and success. Most of all, I want to encourage these students to push forward, dream big, but take it one step at a time.”

To learn more about the conference, visit 2021.siliconvalleywie.org.

Lurie College Case Study Illuminates Unequal Access to Internet in Central California Amid COVID-19

California Assemblymember Rivas taps SJSU to provide data for new broadband legislation

In spring 2020, as schools began to close in-person instruction during the COVID-19 pandemic, California Assemblymember Robert Rivas, ’11 MPA, saw how “blatant” limited access to broadband Internet was negatively impacting families in his district—Assembly District 30, which spans from Morgan Hill to King City.

As a native of California’s central coast and an alumnus of San José State, Rivas hoped that by collaborating with faculty members to collect data in the region, the state Legislature would benefit from scientific information to help address the lack of broadband access in the state.

“COVID-19 has exposed and exacerbated the broadband inequities that have existed in our state for years,” said Rivas.

Shortly after, a conversation with San José State Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Vincent Del Casino, Jr., sparked an opportunity for Rivas to gather data that could support potential legislation to improve broadband access.

Luis Poza, Tammie Visintainer and Eduardo Muñoz-Muñoz

(L-R) Luis Poza, Tammie Visintainer and Eduardo Muñoz-Muñoz

Heather Lattimer, dean of the Lurie College of Education, recommended that Assistant Professors of Teacher Education Luis Poza, Tammie Visintainer and Eduardo Muñoz-Muñoz collaborate to create a case study about the lack of broadband access in the coastal town of Watsonville. Together, the faculty partnered with teachers at Watsonville High School’s Education, Community, Humanitarian, Outreach (ECHO) Leadership Academy to create curriculum that involved high schoolers in the data collection process.

The project sought to answer a few key questions: How could students attend online school with limited Wi-Fi? How could residents access telehealth services without reliable Internet? And how did the pandemic shed light on infrastructure inequities across California?

Mapping Inequity

Students interviewed members of their communities about their Wi-Fi access since the pandemic began in March 2020. Poza and Visintainer presented the resulting case study, along with a series of maps created by the SJSU Spatial Analytics and Visualization (SAVi) Center, led by Assistant Professor of Urban Planning Ahoura Zandiatashbar, that depicted broadband access by demographic across District 30.

“Now that both jobs and education are increasingly relying on high-quality Internet access, the lack of Internet access means a barrier to the upward mobility of residents,” said Zandiatashbar. 

The maps specifically use American Community Survey 2018 data to highlight school-age children, Hispanic and African-American populations, as well as residents with below-poverty earnings. The SAVi team also used Fixed Broadband deployment data released by the Federal Communication Commission to identify four types of broadband service available. 

Early analysis revealed that communities with a higher proportion of vulnerable households live in areas with lower broadband access fixed services. 

“Our work shows that the neighborhoods of these individuals are suffering from insufficient service providers or the provided service is at a low speed,” explained Zandiatashbar.

“The fact that this region has had issues with Internet access has less to do with the Internet itself, but rather the populations affected,” said Muñoz-Muñoz. “Our racial identities connect with how we speak and choose to communicate, so these inextricable issues make it a social justice matter, a racial matter, a linguistic matter, and a right to learn matter.”

According to Poza, Internet access is not an all-or-nothing issue. A household might have to share wireless accounts across multiple families, which affects speed and reliability. Slow connectivity, in turn, makes it difficult for students to download resources and upload completed assignments.

This was acutely demonstrated when Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo tweeted an image of two young girls sitting outside Taco Bell with laptops in August of 2020, attempting to attend online school by accessing the restaurant’s Wi-Fi. The picture went viral, epitomizing the height of the digital divide.

“That photo captured this inequity at its core,” said Rivas. “Low-income families of color are facing the brunt of this pandemic, and it is research like San José State’s broadband report that informs our legislative response to this digital divide through data and facts.”

“Many of the participants mentioned the psychological and mental health costs of managing all this during a pandemic,” said Visintainer. “These kids are often portrayed as students who don’t care or aren’t motivated, but it’s very obvious that’s not the case and that they’re fighting so much harder to just access school right now, much less learn.”

From Research to Legislation

Poza and Visintainer were allotted five minutes with Rivas to explain how unequal access to Internet hotspots was just one way that the pandemic had amplified issues across the region. Central to their argument was that adding broadband infrastructure alone would not address the issues these communities experienced.

“Working with the ECHO Academy students, working with their teachers and hearing from their families and community members, made it abundantly clear that they are as brilliant, motivated and dignified as anyone in Silicon Valley,” said Poza.

“Their lack of access to broadband, housing or financial insecurity or their disproportionate exposure to COVID-19 risk are the results of policy decisions underlying these Band-Aid fixes around infrastructure in years past.”

How can policymakers and education researchers move beyond the Band-Aid? While there is no single cure for social, racial and economic inequity, this collaboration between the Lurie College and Assemblymember Rivas’ office is one critical step in closing the digital divide.

This was made clear in December, when Asm. Cecilia Aguiar-Curry, ’84 Accounting, introduced Assembly Bill 14, which Rivas co-authored, in the California Legislature. The bill, nicknamed the “Internet for All Act of 2021,” would allow educational agencies to report on issues with Internet access as it affects student learning.

“As a graduate of San José State, I am excited to work with the university community,” said Aguiar-Curry. “I know how educational, or anchor institutions, as they are defined in my AB 14, are critical hubs for learning and community engagement. We need the support of every educational, health and public safety institution in California so we can deliver 21st-century Internet technology to all Californians now.”

In the end, the 175 ECHO Academy students who participated in the project with the Lurie faculty had the satisfaction of knowing that the data they collected could lead to positive change not only in their hometown but also across the region. While their contributions could support Rivas’ campaign to improve wireless access, the project empowered students to reflect on pre-existing inequalities that have been exacerbated by the pandemic and what steps they could take to address them.

SJSU Researchers Launch New COVID-19 Economic Dashboard for Silicon Valley

A dashboard showing various charts that focus on different areas such as unemployment claims and open businesses.

COVID-19 Economic Dashboard for Silicon Valley

Experts from the Department of Economics at San José State have developed a first-of-its-kind online tool to help Silicon Valley businesses analyze and respond to changing economic conditions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The COVID-19 Economic Dashboard for Silicon Valley provides visual insight into key economic indicators for the San José Metro area, including employment trends, housing supply and demand, and business closures due to COVID-19 restrictions. With near real-time updates, the dashboard can track the current state of the local economy and trends that show the impact of the pandemic on the Silicon Valley community.

Assistant Professor of Economics Justin Rietz and graduate student Ji An Lee, ‘21, MS Computer Science, with the support of the College of Social Sciences and College of Science, developed the dashboard for various users. “We have specifically targeted this tool to be useful for policymakers, researchers, government officials, business leaders and community members in the greater Bay Area,” said Assistant Professor Rietz.

The COVID-19 Economic Dashboard for Silicon Valley is unique because it tracks data daily at the local level. Most economic data is tracked monthly or quarterly at the state and national levels.

“Given the economic volatility created by COVID-19, it is important to have data on a daily basis that shows sudden changes in economic conditions,” said Assistant Professor Rietz. “Also, as policies put in place to fight COVID-19, such as shelter-in-place orders, are often at the county level, an accurate picture of local economic conditions requires granular data that can parse out trends that might otherwise be lost in data aggregated at the state or national level.”

The timely and targeted insights provided by the COVID-19 Economic Dashboard for Silicon Valley can also aid in local government policy-making regarding the pandemic, provide business leaders with a tool to help determine potential customer demand, and help inform personal and commercial real estate pricing decisions.

SJSU Staff Awards Honor Exemplary Service, Contributions and Spartan Spirit

San José State’s second annual Staff Awards culminated the university’s Spartan Service Celebration—an annual tradition of more than 50 years—which honored nearly 300 staff members in 2021 for their milestone years of service.

SJSU’s Staff Awards, sponsored by the SJSU Staff Council and the Office of the President, were hosted on March 4 and honored outstanding staff members in three categories: Spartan Spirit, Distinguished Service and Staff of the Year.

This year’s celebration is even more important, as SJSU staff in every area of the university have worked remotely and tirelessly through a global pandemic to keep operations moving forward, rising to every challenge along the way.

In particular, the Facilities Development and Operations team ensured the campus was safe and prepared for students, faculty and staff to learn and work on campus, and the Student Health Center staff continuously provided medical services, including virtual services, and lead our contact tracing efforts.

“Staff members are the driving force behind the university, connected in some way, shape, or form to all that we do,” said President Mary Papazian.

“To this year’s honorees: Thank you. You are devoted Spartans who have committed all or much of your careers to serving our students, supporting faculty and staff and being an integral member of the San José State University community.”

2020-2021 Staff Award honorees:

Each award has one winner and two honorable mentions. The winners receive a plaque and a $1,000 cash award; each honorable mention receives a certificate and a $250 cash award. This year, the Staff Council received more than 50 nominations for the three awards.

Spartan Spirit Award Winner: Erlinda Yañez, Chicana and Chicano Studies

Honorable Mentions: Cindy Aubrey, Communicative Disorders and Sciences and Tamela Sullivan, University Personnel

Distinguished Service Winner: Kim Huynh, Undergraduate Education

Honorable Mentions: Jocelyn Douglas, Moss Landing Marine Labs and Maria (Elma) Arredondo, Student Affairs Systems

Staff of the Year Winner: Rhett Frantz, Moss Landing Marine Labs

Honorable Mentions: Joshua Kas-Osoka, Peer Connections and Nha-Nghi Nguyen, Psychology

Read more about the awards and winners below.

How the awards started

When the SJSU Staff Council was formally established in October 2019, the members quickly formed a Staff Recognition Committee. The council understood the importance of recognizing their colleagues—many of whom have dedicated most of their entire careers to SJSU with dedication, perseverance and exceptional abilities.

The committee defined the award categories, developed the nomination questions and criteria, and then gained the support of President Papazian and her cabinet, who agreed to provide funding for the awards.

“It has been such a pleasure to recognize colleagues who give so much time and energy to the university,” said Janet Sundrud, finance systems and operations senior analyst and chair of Staff Council.

“We already knew we were working with exceptional people and now we get to honor some of them for their efforts. We hope that the Staff Council can continue to be involved in staff recognition efforts on campus.”

The Staff Council welcomes all interested staff to join and contribute to their monthly meetings and future events like this.

Joanne Wright and Erlinda Yañez

(L-R) Joanne Wright presents Erlinda Yañez with the Spartan Spirit award.

Erlinda Yañez, Chicana and Chicano Studies

Spartan Spirit Award Winner

The Spartan Spirit Award honors a San José State staff member, manager or auxiliary employee who displays exceptional Spartan spirit, passion and pride in their work at SJSU. They embody SJSU campus values such as social justice, diversity, helping and caring, and innovation, among others and demonstrate a commitment to campus and community service.

Nominees describe Erlinda’s contributions to the campus community that go well beyond the scope of her job description. Her passion and pride about being a Spartan is unmatched, and she never intentionally seeks the spotlight or recognition for her numerous activities, programming and guidance she offers to students.

Ravisha Mathur and Kim Huynh

(L-R) Ravisha Mathur presents Kim Huynh with the Distinguished Service award.

Kim Huynh, Undergraduate Education

Distinguished Service Winner

The Distinguished Service Award honors an SJSU staff member or an auxiliary staff member who has worked for the university for more than 10 years and has displayed a commitment to excellent service to the campus community with the utmost professionalism and helpful attitude.

Nominators spoke of Huynh’s unwavering dedication to our students, staff and faculty and her ability to anticipate problems and streamline processes and systems. She does it all with a can-do attitude, which has led her to be known as the “glue” of her department, attuned to others’ needs—even before they know them.

Huynh was genuinely surprised and humble about the recognition, crediting her teammates for their hard work and inspiration. “I never ever thought that I would ever be nominated for a prestigious award,” said Huynh.

“I was once a struggling student at SJSU and have seen what it takes to be successful in college. To be able to be on the other side of the desk, helping students find success in their studies, graduate and land incredible career opportunities is the best part of my job, and I love it.”

President Mary Papazian and Rhett Frantz

(L-R) President Mary Papazian presents Rhett Frantz with the Staff of the Year award.

Rhett Frantz, Moss Landing Marine Labs

Staff of the Year Winner

The Staff of the Year Award recognizes an exemplary SJSU staff member or auxiliary staff member who has made a valuable contribution to the campus in the past three years by improving the campus community and/or the California State University system through their work.

Nominators decidedly affirm Rhett’s unwavering commitment, dedication and passion for SJSU’s Moss Landing Marine Laboratories and his immeasurable impact on the graduate student experience, faculty, researchers and staff.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, he worked non-stop, 24/7 to maintain MLML’s IT services, support the transition to online learning, and ensure all complex marine research applications and data systems remained functioning when no one was allowed onsite.


The SJSU staff’s efforts are a testament of their resiliency, commitment and dedication—truly embodying what it means to be a Spartan.

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

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

Featured Leaders

Mary A. Papazian, President, San José State

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

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

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

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

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

Colleen Wilcox, Board Member, Tower Foundation Board of Directors

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

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


President Mary Papazian

Mary A. Papazian

SJSU President

What women in history do you admire? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tim Cook, Malala, and President Papazian

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


Jenny Ming, ’77 Applied Sciences & Arts

Board Member, Levi Strauss & Co.

What women in history do you admire?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Sheryl Ehrman, Dean, College of Engineering

Sheryl H. Ehrman

Don Beall Dean, Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering

What women in history do you admire? 

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

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

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

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

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

Because of my grandmother

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

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

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

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


Brandi Jones, SJSU Alumna

Brandi P. Jones, ’96 Education

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

What women in history do you admire?

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

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

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

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

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


Ann Agee

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

What women in history do you admire? 

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

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

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

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

Never underestimate the power of perspective!

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

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


Lisa Millora, SJSU chief of staff

Lisa Millora

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

What women in history do you admire? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lisa Millora and daughter reading together

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

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


Colleen Wilcox

Board Member, Tower Foundation Board of Directors

What women in history do you admire? 

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

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

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

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

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


Ruth Huard, Dean, College of Professional and Global Education

Ruth Huard

Dean, College of Professional and Global Education

What women in history do you admire?

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

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

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

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

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


Heather Lattimer, Dean and Professor, College of Education

Heather Lattimer

Dean and Professor, Connie L. Lurie College of Education

What women in history do you admire?

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

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

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

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

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

New Study Sheds Light on Endangered Seabirds and the Need for International Protection

Laysan and black-footed albatrosses at Tern Island, French Frigate Shoals, Northwest Hawaiian Islands. Photo credit: SJSU Professor Scott Shaffer

SJSU Biological Sciences Professor Scott Shaffer and an international team of researchers published a paper in the scientific journal Science Advances on endangered seabirds’ movements and the need to protect these highly threatened seabirds using a global approach.

The researchers tracked the movements of 5,775 individual birds belonging to 39 species from across the globe. The birds were equipped with bio-loggers, or miniature electronic data recorders, at 87 remote breeding sites in 17 countries.

In the Pacific Ocean alone, researchers studied albatrosses at colonies on the Japanese island of Torishima in the North Pacific, to subantarctic islands of New Zealand and Australia in the South Pacific, which hosts some of the highest diversity of albatrosses and petrels globally.

“This was a truly international effort for a global conservation need,” said Professor Shaffer. “Hopefully, the results of this research will bring about meaningful change to protect these amazing ocean travelers.”

The researchers found that all albatrosses and petrels studied spend at least 39% of their time on the high seas, which are international waters where no single country has jurisdiction. Yet, these high seas regions cover half of the world’s oceans and a third of the earth’s surface. They discovered all species regularly cross into other countries’ territorial waters, meaning that no single nation can adequately ensure their conservation.

“Seabirds like albatrosses are the ultimate globetrotters,” said Martin Beal, lead author of the study at the Marine and Environmental Sciences Centre at Instituto Universitário in Lisbon, Portugal (ISPA). “But this incredible lifestyle makes them vulnerable to threats in places where legal protection is inadequate.”

Albatrosses and large petrels are among the world’s most threatened animals, with over half of the species at risk of extinction. While at sea, they face many threats, including injury or death from entanglement with fishing gear, the impact from pollution, and loss of their natural prey due to overfishing and climate change.

“This means that a Black-footed Albatross breeding in the protected Northwest Hawaiian Islands can fall victim to a fishing operation from any number of flag nations on the high seas,” said Professor Shaffer. “Protective measures to avoid bird entanglements are not standardized, and it’s a real challenge to verify compliance at any given time.”

For example, the endangered Amsterdam Albatross spends 47% of its time in the international waters of the Indian Ocean. Although it benefits from strong protection at its only breeding colony on Amsterdam Island (one of the French Southern Territories), its conservation at sea is much more challenging.

When roaming the seas in search of their prey—squid, the fewer than 100 remaining adult Amsterdam Albatrosses use a vast area stretching from South Africa to Australia, requiring international coordination to minimize the risk of being killed in fishing gear.

In a global-scale collaboration, the team of researchers revealed the extent to which seabirds connect countries, as well as to the high seas. The study comes as the United Nations discusses a global treaty for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in international waters.

“Our study unequivocally shows that albatrosses and large petrels need reliable protection that extends beyond the borders of any single country,” said Beal. “This treaty represents a massive opportunity for countries to commit to protecting species wherever they may roam.”

Legal measures up for discussion under the treaty include instituting environmental impact assessments on industrial activities in the high seas.  Beal added, “Animals have no concept of human borders. What we have shown here with seabirds is certainly true for many other marine animals, like sea turtles, seals, whales, and fish. To ensure their survival, we must work together to protect and conserve the global ocean.”

The study was made possible thanks to the cooperation of dozens of researchers across 16 countries, who agreed to share their data through the Seabird Tracking Database, a repository managed by BirdLife International to facilitate international collaborations between researchers working on the conservation of seabirds.

Electrical Engineering Faculty Receives NSF CAREER Award for Cryogenic Electronics Research

Hiu-Yung Wong, assistant professor of electrical engineering at SJSU, with graduate students

Assistant Professor Hiu Yung Wong; Johan Saltin, ’20 MS Electrical Engineering; and Varada Kanchi, ’20 MS Electrical Engineering in the SJSU M-PAC lab.

Hiu-Yung Wong, assistant professor of electrical engineering at San José State University, has received a Faculty Early Career Development Program (CAREER) award, a prestigious honor bestowed by the National Science Foundation. The award supports his research of cryogenic electronics—electrical systems that operate at extremely cold temperatures—as well as his project to expand education and research opportunities while building a diverse workforce in the field.

Wong is the first faculty member in more than 15 years in the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering to receive a CAREER award, which supports early-career faculty who show potential as leaders in both their academic and research roles and in advancing the mission of their department or organization.

Wong will receive about $500,000 over five years to implement his project, “Understanding and Modeling of Cryogenic Semiconductor Device Physics down to 4.2K.” While scientists understand the physics of electronics and their surroundings at room temperature, they still don’t fully grasp what happens at extremely cold, cryogenic temperatures, Wong explained.

He wants to close that knowledge gap, which could pave the way for the large-scale realization of quantum computers—as well as interstellar voyages. “Cryogenic-integrated circuits (ICs) are the natural candidate for the exploration of deep space, in which the temperature can drop below 4.2K,” Wong noted. (That’s equivalent to minus 452° Fahrenheit.)

In addition to the research, Wong wants to expand access to cryogenic electronics education, which is not as prevalent in electrical engineering programs today.

He’ll use the funding to develop two courses at San José State focused on cryogenic electronics that will be part of a specialization in the Electrical Engineering master’s program and create hands-on research opportunities for undergraduates.

Ultimately, Wong wants to build a future workforce in the field in a way that promotes diversity and uplifts underserved populations. For example, he plans to introduce a new session on cryogenics and quantum computing at the Silicon Valley Women in Engineering Conference, which connects female students—a minority in engineering programs—with women engineering professionals.

He will also develop a free summer course on cryogenics that will be geared towards socially and economically disadvantaged high school students.

“The goal is to build a pipeline of future students in quantum computing to create a diverse workforce and become an economic driver for vulnerable communities,” he said.

“We are so proud of Hiu-Yung’s achievements,” said Sheryl Ehrman, the Don Beall Dean of the College of Engineering. “He joined our college in 2018 with 12 years of industry experience, and he is a proud graduate from the Engineering Grants Academy program. This is our first home-grown CAREER award since the early 2000s.”

Wong said the award opens up several new research possibilities as well as collaboration opportunities with quantum computing companies.

“This award allows me to venture into more uncertain but also more rewarding research areas,” he added. “I particularly want to thank Dean Ehrman and Electrical Engineering Department Chair Thuy Le for creating a very supportive research environment.”

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

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

The Emancipatory Education Initiative: Redesigning the Future of Learning P20

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Confirmed speakers thus far include:

February 26

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

March 5

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

March 12

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

Latina School Leaders Panel:

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

March 19

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

Disability Justice Panel

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

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

 

New Campus Master Plan Aims to Revitalize San José State Campus and University Properties

Aerial image of SJSU campus

The university invites community members’ input in transforming the institution to meet tomorrow’s needs. 

San José State is launching a new Campus Master Plan (CMP) to anticipate the future spatial needs of the university. This is a process that occurs every few decades and will revitalize the physical development of the main and south campuses, the university’s off-campus properties and connections with the City of San José through 2040. 

The CMP guides a strategy for future growth applicable to campus land use and building, the public realm, mobility, and infrastructure. 

It builds upon goals outlined in the school’s Transformation 2030 strategic plan and serves as the university’s long-term planning guide for accommodating projected student enrollment and all related educational programs and administrative services. 

“The campus master plan is a vital component of our university’s civic engagement,” said SJSU President Mary A. Papazian.

“Though today’s SJSU student won’t be studying or living on campus in 20 years, they may very well be a city council member, a local resident, a parent of a prospective student, or a business owner, and thus feel a personal stake in how the campus develops over time. The same may be said of our current faculty and staff. So I hope all members of SJSU will come to understand this and consider how they might contribute to the campus master planning process.”

Map of SJSU Campus

Image: Map of the SJSU campus

Share input on the CMP

There will be extensive community outreach during the next three years as the plan progresses, and the community is invited to participate in this process. 

From now through March 31, the CMP’s Virtual Open House will help visitors learn more about this important campus project and provide opportunities to share input.

“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes increasingly vital for us to take into account what we’ve learned, what we can shed, and what we will successfully leverage from how we’ve adapted,” said Vincent Del Casino, Jr., SJSU Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs and co-chair of the CMP Advisory Committee. 

“We appreciate the opportunity to engage with our community and join together on a shared vision of how we will reimagine the built environment of the campus.”

There will also be several live, online community meetings and opportunities to ask questions, provide input and be a part of the process of re-envisioning the university.

Gaining community feedback is a vital educational opportunity for the university and its constituents, as it will help guide the refinement of the CMP and ensure parties that are crucial to the successful development of the campus are involved. 

The CMP is also an opportunity for students to learn more about their campus, the way it works as a place, and its structural environment. The plan will take a long-term outlook—beyond the short term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic—taking into account what is possible for campus life, post-pandemic, when we are allowed to gather and meet in person.

“Being the oldest university in the West with an urban campus, and the synergy and richness that comes with being located directly in the San José community, there are challenges we face in terms of space, age of buildings and land use,” said Charlie Faas, CFO and Vice President of Administration and Finance and co-chair of the CMP Advisory Committee. 

“This Campus Master Plan provides a unique opportunity to further transform Money magazine’s #1 Most Transformative University in the country to meet the modern and future needs of our campus community.” 

San José State University Launches Cybersecurity and Coding Bootcamps With Fullstack Academy

Photo courtesy of Fullstack Academy

To meet demand for tech jobs in the region, San José State University (SJSU) and Fullstack Academy have launched tech bootcamp programs focused on training aspiring cybersecurity and coding professionals.

Offered through SJSU’s College of Professional and Global Education (CPGE), the bootcamps will be presented in a live online format and are geared to train early-career and experienced professionals of any IT level.

Equipping students with the skills and portfolios to enter the tech workforce in just 26 weeks, the SJSU/Fullstack program is uniquely positioned to serve the burgeoning Silicon Valley market, a region long considered the nation’s center for technology and innovation.

San José has more than 10,000 unfilled cybersecurity jobs and nearly 17,000 software job openings, according to Cyberseek.

Bootcamp graduates will qualify for high paying cybersecurity or coding jobs. Pay for beginner-level software engineers in the area is roughly $95,000, and cybersecurity analysts are making nearly $80,000 according to Glassdoor. Both figures well exceed the average San José entry-level salary of $36,807.

“Tracing its origins to Silicon Valley, the tech industry continues to grow at an accelerated pace,” said SJSU College of Professional and Global Education Dean, Ruth Duran Huard, Ph.D. “While these cybersecurity and coding bootcamps will present opportunities for those interested in transitioning into the tech market, the part-time live online format provides greater accessibility to anyone considering a career change or looking to develop a new skill-set.”

“Given the influence of the California market, it’s essential that we continue to expand our footprint in the state,” said Mogan Subramanian, president of Fullstack Academy. “To meet the state’s ever-growing demand for skilled technology experts, we’ve now partnered with our fifth prestigious higher learning institution, having already launched with the University of San Diego; Cal Poly, San Luis Obispo; CalTech; and California State University East Bay.”

Applications are now being accepted for the new part-time, 26-week bootcamps. The SJSU Cyber Bootcamp will teach students how to monitor and secure systems, networks and applications, and deploy offensive and defensive tactics needed to appropriately respond to cyber breaches. The SJSU Coding Bootcamp will provide Fullstack JavaScript training, giving students a foundation in front- and back-end web development and the crucial programming skills needed for in-demand coding jobs.

The bootcamps, which do not require SJSU enrollment or prior technical experience, will run from May 24 to November 20, 2021. Students must apply for the bootcamps by May 13, 2021. Scholarships are offered for SJSU alumni, current students and employees, as well as military personnel.