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

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Photography by D. Michael Cheers

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malala at SJSU

With great eloquence, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Malala Yousafzai shared her life story with thousands of audience members young and old at the SJSU Event Center the evening June 26.

After introductory remarks by President Mohammad Qayoumi and novelist Khaled Hosseini, Yousafzai spoke without the benefit of notes or a podium, appealing directly to the crowd, before taking a seat beside Hosseini for a question-and-answer session.

The president noted he and Hosseini are both from Afghanistan, which has a shared history with Yousafzai’s native Pakistan. An avid reader, Yousafzai counts Hosseini among her favorite authors for his realistic depictions of war.

In October 2012, Yousafzai was shot in an attempt by the Taliban to silence her. Just 15 years old at the time, she was already an outspoken proponent for girls’ education in her country and throughout the world, a role she resumed after recovering.

Today, Yousafzai and her family live in Birmingham, England. Her San Jose visit came amid a series of U.S. speaking engagements and events including a 70th anniversary celebration for the United Nations in San Francisco.

Design Swarm

Over 60 design professionals and students gathered for an unusual get-to-know-you event on a recent Friday night at the TechShop in downtown San Jose. The group was here for an annual meeting of the Industrial Designers Society of America.

“What architects do for buildings, industrial designers do for products ranging from toothbrushes and cars to chairs and laptops,” said Assistant Professor of Industrial Design Joshua Nelson. “This involves collaborating with engineers and other experts to produce products that will be comfortable, useful and innovative.

Nelson invited his students to attend the event, which was a design swarm that functioned much like the rapid prototyping events that have become popular here in Silicon Valley as a means of brainstorming ways to use innovative, new products.

In this case, six teams, each comprised of professionals and students, were asked to design a homeless shelter for earthquake relief or a portable toilet for emergency scenarios using a new type of fiberboard provided by Ditto Sustainable Brand Solutions.

In just a few hours, the teams went from sketches to prototypes, which they shared with the entire group in five-minute pechakucha presentations. What was the best part for Professor Nelson? Watching the pros and students bond over doing what they love.

“The interaction that occurs while attempting to creatively solve problems is very deep and meaningful,” Nelson said. The professionals  “really get to know how our students work and become interested in hiring them or referring them to a friend. At the end of the event, all kinds of business cards were being shared.”

Engineering Hall of Fame Inducts Qayoumi

The buzz was all about energy—human energy, that is—at the Silicon Valley Engineering Council‘s 2015 Engineers Week Banquet on Feb. 19 at the Doubletree Hotel in San Jose.

“I believe that learning and imagination are the most potent forms of energy in the universe,” said President Mohammad Qayoumi in prepared remarks following his induction into the council’s Hall of Fame.

Clearly, engineering council members felt the same, devoting much of the event to mentoring the next generation of engineering talent.

Scholarship recipients

Scholarship recipients included three San Jose State students: Jose Alvarez, Biomedical Engineering; Linh Do, ’16 Chemical Engineering; and Giovanni Zecchini, ’16 Mechanical Engineering.

The council is an umbrella organization for engineering societies in the valley. Goals include promoting the career development of engineers and technical professionals.

Among the council’s founders was the late Jay Pinson, an SJSU engineering professor and dean widely recognized for corralling support for the first engineering college fundraising campaign in the 1970s.


SJSU continues to engender that sense of community beyond campus. Among the event’s attendees was San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White and Tower Foundation Board Chair Amir Mashkoori.

Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, congratulated Qayoumi with a video message. They were once college roommates. Campus community members in attendance included President Qayoumi’s wife, an excellent example of the power of human energy.

“I am grateful to the love of my life and wife of 36 years, Najia, who has supported my academic and related public policy pursuits while carving out her own niche as an accomplished clinical dietitian and Persian poet,” the president said.


SJSU Honors its Faculty Members

Seventy faculty members stepped into the spotlight at the 16th annual Faculty Service Recognition and Awards Luncheon, and were honored for their work at San Jose State University.

“It is an honor for me to take part in this annual event, recognizing our faculty members for their years of service to San Jose State University and acknowledging the special achievements and contributions of this year’s four faculty awardees,” said President Mohammad Qayoumi in his prepared remarks.

2014-2015 Faculty Awards

“I have devoted my career to training students in order to develop the next generation of scientists who will tackle the next generation of tough issues in human system integration.  It is very gratifying to see that the university places such high value on those activities.”

With that said, Kevin Jordan, professor of Psychology in the College of Social Sciences, accepted the President’s Scholar Award. His 30-year career at the university is impressive. He’s authored or co-authored approximately 80 academic papers and presentations, supervised some 80 master’s theses, and secured nearly $200 million in research funding.

The Student Union ballroom erupted with applause as President Qayoumi presented the Distinguished Service Award to Scott Guenter, professor of Humanities in the College of Humanities and Arts. Guenter also received an award for his 25 years of service to the university.

Outstanding Professor Anne Marie Todd of the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Social Sciences and Outstanding Lecturer Cynthia Baer of the Department of English and Comparative Literature in the College of Humanities and the Arts also received a warm reception.

Yearly Service Awards

The university gave awards to faculty members with 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 and 50 years of service. William McCraw, professor emeritus of Political Science and a Humanities lecturer, was the only person at this year’s luncheon to receive an SJSU Tower frame for 50 years of service.  As he walked to the stage, everyone in the ballroom rose to their feet and applauded.

“I feel a lot of pride for being associated with this vibrant campus,” said McCraw.  “It seems just like yesterday that I stepped foot on campus.”

More than 350 people turned out to honor the faculty members for their inspiring work and dedication to SJSU.


Super Sunday 2015

From the moment the service began, it was clear that the people of Maranatha Christian Center could relate to their guest speaker from San Jose State.

After welcoming rain-soaked congregants indoors with song, Praise and Worship Leader Kimberly Christmas, ’93 Communication Studies, greeted the guest with a big hug.

It turns out Coleetta McElroy, director of the Office of Financial Aid and Scholarships, helped Christmas back when she was an SJSU student, sparking a lifelong friendship.

McElroy was one of four SJSU administrators to attend church services statewide as part of the CSU Super Sunday program.

She “knows about the money,” as Pastor Tony Williams so aptly put it, drawing a clear “Amen!” from the pews.

But McElroy presented all aspects of planning for college, given the goal of the CSU campaign is to increase African American college graduation rates.

Yet it was the personal connections that will leave lasting impressions. Speaking from the stage, McElroy shared her journey, as first in her family to graduate from college.

She went on to receive a master’s in public administration in 1997 from San Jose State, progress that she said continues to inspire her nieces and nephews.

After the service, Zeke Staples, ’08 BS, ’12 MA, Kinesiology, answered questions while placing college brochures in as many hands as he could.

Though he kept this to himself Sunday, his story inspires, too. Staples runs his own fitness business while working as an SJSU admissions counselor and recruiter.

Feeding the Hungry

As the semester ends and the weather cools, students from the Afghan Student Association, the Muslim Student Association, and supporters took to the streets to feed the hungry.

Established this year by President Matt Mohammed, ’16 Civil Engineering, the Afghan Student Association led the distribution of homemade sandwiches, snacks and bottled water to homeless people on the streets surrounding campus following their usual Jummah prayer on Friday, Dec. 5, in Clark Hall.

“As a Muslim, it is our duty to do charity,” said Mohammed, explaining that giving alms, or Zakat, is one of the five pillars of Islam.

“Not everyone here is Muslim,” he continued, gesturing to the group of about 25 students packing food. “Anyone is welcome. This is about just about giving back. It’s cold out and people are hungry.”

Mohammed’s parents emigrated from Afghanistan nearly 40 years ago and he remains closely connected with his cultural heritage.

“It’s hard to help overseas in impoverished Afghanistan,” he says, “but it’s easy to help here in our own community.”

H&A Showcase

It’s the caliber of the students and faculty members that draws crowds to the College of Humanities and the Arts Showcase. Visitors learn about the college by experiencing everything from students performing the lead roles from the musical “West Side Story” to the opportunity to view the exquisite details of costumes and lighting designed for SJSU stage performances to the option of inviting an English student to compose a poem on the spot on the topic of the visitor’s choice. This year’s event, held in the Student Union ballroom the afternoon of Oct. 10, featured all of the colleges departments and many of its majors including Music and Dance; Art and Art History; Design; English and Comparative Literature; Humanities; Linguistics and Language Development; Philosophy; Radio, Film and TV; Theatre Arts; and World Languages and Literature.

Fall 2014 Career Fair

How popular are Career Center events? When the doors opened for the Fall ’14 Engineering & Science Job & Internship Fair Sept. 23 at the Student Union ballroom, the line cascaded down the stairs, navigated alongside the Art Building, and wrapped around the Music Concert Hall. Savvy employers accommodated the crowd by heading outdoors to share information with prospects while they waited.

As a solution for those who were not able to enter, resumes were collected from students at the Sept. 23 fair and submitted online for a second fair held the next day to ensure students connected with employers,” said Career Center Employer Services Lead and Employment Specialist Moira Kolasinski.

More than 105 employers and 1,700 job seekers attended the engineering and science fairs. In addition, the Career Center organized fairs this fall for the business, government and nonprofit fields, attracting more than 100 employers and 840 job seekers.

According to a recent study by The Conference Board, skilled professionals are in short supply. Kolasinski said that study and a corresponding 42 percent increase in SpartaJobs openings over the past year mean only one thing:

The market for students in Silicon Valley is looking bright.”

Yoshihiro Uchida Hall, Renewed

Walking through the newly renovated Yoshihiro Uchida Hall is a study in old meeting new. Much of the year-long construction project includes seismic retrofitting and other refurbishments not visible to the naked eye, yet threaded throughout and around the historic building, modern amenities cannot be missed.

The building’s signature spiraled turrets are still in place, but a new, glass-front main entrance encases the structure on the west side, bringing the old exterior in. What used to be a dilapidated swimming pool now houses an instructional gym. Above it, a world-class dojo lit by original floor-to-ceiling windows finally provides a venue befitting San Jose State’s premiere judo program.

Shared by the kinesiology, athletics, and health science and recreation departments, Uchida Hall houses state-of-the-art academic facilities such as an exercise physiology research lab, a stress management lab and classroom, a sports medicine center and many fully equipped, modern classrooms, as well as beautiful new locker rooms for men’s and women’s basketball and women’s volleyball and gymnastics—all centered around the heart of the building, the retrofitted gymnasium.

To top it off, a second-floor outdoor patio is open to the university community for enjoyment. A grand opening celebration and rededication with attendance from Yoshihiro Uchida and other local dignitaries is tentatively set for early November.

Cyber Camp 2014

The 2014 U.S. Cyber Challenge Western Regional Cyber Camp took place Aug. 11-15 at San Jose State. The camp included a cybersecurity roundtable discussion featuring national experts from technology, government and academia and a virtual “Capture the Flag” competition and awards ceremony. In addition, the week-long camp program offered in-depth workshops on a range of topics such as reverse engineering malware, writing exploits, tactical attacks and penetration testing, all taught by academics, SANS Institute senior instructors and other cybersecurity experts. More than 70 camp participants attended the invitation-only camp, based in part on their scores from Cyber Quests, an online competition offered through the USCC in April that drew more than 1,600 participants from almost 700 schools nationwide.

Honors Convocation

Over 3,545 undergraduates were honored at the 2014 Honors Convocation April 25 in the Event Center.

The university’s top academic performers, seated in rows, flooded the floor as family and friends packed the stands. All rose as faculty and SJSU Air Force Color Guard entered.

The President’s Scholars, all 4.0 students, self-introduced and then crossed the stage, producing a stream of names and majors displaying the amazing diversity at SJSU.

Each dean congratulated, as a group, his or her Dean’s Scholars, undergraduates who earned a 3.65 or higher GPA in at least two contiguous semesters of the three semesters prior to the event.

Also honored were the 2013-2014 Outstanding Professor Winifred Schultz-Krohn and alumnus Charles W. Davidson, who rose from humble beginnings to become one of the region’s most successful and influential real estate developers.

After receiving an honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters, Davidson delivered a short speech addressing the classic question for college speakers: What can the youths of today do to build a better tomorrow?

Start with yourself, the only person over whom you have complete control,” Davidson said. “Always keep in mind your moral compass and keep it balanced. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. To thy own self be true. Keep this in mind and you can help make this a better society.”

Earth Day

The Native American Student Organization (N.A.S.O), Trader Joe’s representatives, students participating in their global climate change class, and many more gathered on Tower Lawn under the shining sun for a breezy Earth Day with performances, interactive displays and a petting zoo.

The SJSU community came together to watch Smokey Bay Dancers from the Indian Health Center of Santa Clara celebrate “Mother Earth.” However, people were reminded that the event was also participatory as a drummer encouraged the crowd to grab the hand of someone next to them for a friendship dance.

N.A.S.O invited the Smokey Bay Dancers to SJSU to participate in the Earth Day festivities and educate students about the Native American culture in San Jose. “We want to let them (the SJSU community) to know we (Native Americans) are here on campus,” said Bethany Richmond, ’14 Psychology. Richmond, treasurer of N.A.S.O and part of the Kumeyaay tribe, also led an interactive bracelet-making activity. The bracelets, made of colored beads—red, white, black and yellow—were representative of the four directions: east, south, west and north. According to Richmond, the four directions represent “ways of life” and have certain significance to the many Native American tribes.

Other booths represented global climate change courses, seeking to educate students about green roof efficiency and tap water. Shaleesha Walker, ’15 Psychology, represented her global climate change group with a green roof display. Walker said a green roof is an energy efficient roof covered with grass or plants that can keep a building warm during the winter and cool during the summer. She and her classmates wanted to encourage students to consider installing a green roof at their homes or “impact change at SJSU to have a green roof installed on a building, like Dudley Moorhead.”

Take Back the Tap, a national campaign that is part of Food and Water Watch, was popular as students lined up to fill their little tasting cups with the different types of water and complete the surveys. Student organizer Adam McAndrews, ’15 Environmental Science, said he and his group mates for his global climate change course set up Take Back the Tap booth to bust some of the myths surrounding tap water. Students took an introductory survey, blindly tasted the water and took a follow-up survey. Though McAndrews said the results seemed pretty even for tap and bottled water, the group wanted to make sure students left the booth with more information about water.

Admitted Spartan Day

More than 3,500 admitted students and 7,000 family members attended Admitted Spartan Day on April 12. This year’s annual event included a keynote address by SJSU alumnus and Mayor Evan Low of Campbell as well as campus tours, informational workshops and a campus resource fair comprised of 85 departments and student organizations. Over 250 campus community members welcomed our newly admitted class to campus.

Ronstadt Retrospective

Imagery, words and performance illuminated the career of one of the leading vocalists of a generation when Linda Ronstadt came to Morris Dailey Auditorium on March 12. With a slideshow flickering in the background and students performing in the foreground, Professor Maria Luisa Alaniz and Cesar E. Chavez Community Action Center Director Maribel Martinez took Ronstadt through a retrospective of her life’s work. The result was a sensational lesson in the Mexican American experience, as well as an inspirational dialogue about the power we all can draw from our roots and her experiences. “She has a lot to say to young women about resiliency,” Alaniz said. “She negotiated the music industry’s corporate world as a woman and for the most part a single woman. She really had to be courageous in creating her own eclectic career.”

CSU Super Sunday

San Jose State President Mohammad Qayoumi, faculty and staff attended four San Jose churches to inform families that it’s never too early to strive for higher education during CSU Super Sunday Feb. 16.

Ready for Greatness

Parents and youth, such as Jahne Hill, a high school sophomore, sought more insight into college readiness.

Whatever choices you make now affect what you are going to do in the future, especially for college,” she said.

Grandmother Flavor Dyer, ’81 Liberal Studies, encouraged her three young grandchildren to introduce themselves to Qayoumi at Emmanuel Baptist Church, as she insisted that they too would be doctors.

Greeting the President

Catherine Mann, ’12 Art and Art History, waited for Qayoumi’s arrival after the 8 a.m. service because she wanted to shake the hand of her alma mater’s president.

Qayoumi participated in the entirety of the 11 a.m. service, standing, sitting and bowing in reverence to the speakers, songs and prayers before he spoke to the congregation about financial and admission opportunities within the CSU system.

Despite campus dissonance, Qayoumi said the administration wants to make SJSU more hospitable.

If there are changes that need to be done whether it’s in our training, whether it’s in our outreach, whether it’s the general knowledge [or] whether it’s the policies, changes will be incorporated,” he said.

“Unfortunately, bad things happen in our society. The key is … how do we use that information so that we can strengthen the university?”



Practicing for Pebble Beach

(Editor’s note: This is based on a College of Applied Sciences and Arts blog post. Read the full story.) 

Heading out to the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament this weekend? You may see some familiar faces.

A group of 34 hospitality and tourism management, kinesiology and communications studies students will be managing the concessions, chalets and skyboxes along the course.

The Special Event Management Team spent a full week during winter break training for the event. 

The Hospitality Management program has partnered with Pebble Beach Resorts on this event since 2006.

For the first time, the students will be using iPads purchased with a grant from the College of Applied Sciences and Arts dean’s office.

The iPads streamlined the training process by eliminating the need to duplicate (and carry!) a 900-page training manual for each team member.

Of course the human touch remains essential. Training days at SJSU began with students transforming the Boccardo Business Center into a slice of Pebble Beach by setting the tables with linens and centerpieces.

Program Director and Lecturer Rich Larson uses this exercise to, in part, show the students that attention to detail matters, right down to the tilt of the window blinds. 

In addition, Pebble Beach staff members led by Director of Special Events Beat Giger make presentations on everything from food safety to human resources to hospitality.

The program fills a real need for the resort while providing students with hands-on experience at one of the world’s most beautiful locations.

“It’s our good fortune to be in proximity to such a well-known resort and golf course,” Larson said.

Remembering Dr. King

As sunlight streamed through the 20-foot-tall glass walls of the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Library foyer, people from all walks of life gathered Jan. 15 to sing, dance and speak in memory of the nation’s beloved civil rights leader.

Organizers dedicated this year’s King Day event to Nelson Mandela, given both men were “united in the struggle to combat human suffering.”

SJSU students Diana Crumedy and Gary L. Daniels received the 2014 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Legacy Award.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” said Dorothy Poole, chief of staff for the Office of the President.

Quoting King during her remarks, she noted that while conditions in our country have improved in some ways, college graduation rates for people of color continue to lag, a point especially relevant in this library, which jointly serves the city and university.

As the program ended, the voices of everyone in attendance echoed up through a permanent banner display overhead. One featuring Dr. King is especially poignant this year.

His quote? “The complete education gives one not only the power of concentration but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate.”

Spartans Best Dance Crew

Entertainment and service go hand-in-hand for Delta Sigma Phi fraternity members, who organized this unique competition showcasing local talent in order to raise over $4,500 for Smile Train. Preparations began months ago. The event was held Nov. 1 in Morris Dailey Auditorium. Read more on the results and this year’s first place team, Attack of Piepan.

A Homecoming to Remember

From the Cookie Kickoff to the final seconds of the game, Homecoming 2013 was outstanding.

The festivities began Monday morning with free gold and blue cookies for everyone. The middle of the week brought circus performers, the Campus MovieFest grand finale and Fire on the Fountain, where the Homecoming king and queen were named.

Seniors Daniel Harris-Lucas and Diana Busaka were selected based on their achievements. But the honor took on special significance this year, believed to be the first time in SJSU history that the king and queen are both African American.

On Friday, San Jose State took over San Pedro Square. The revelry continued Saturday, when Golden Grads from the Classes of 1962, 1963 and 1964 joined current students at tailgate parties before the game.

More than 16,120 fans packed Spartan Stadium. Spartans delivered a nail biter, beating Wyoming in the last few seconds of the game. Fireworks filled the night sky, but the celebration did not end there.

Spartans awoke Monday to learn quarterback David Fales, who threw for a career-high 482 yards and five touchdowns, had been named National Performer of the Week. The former Wyoming walk-on was quick to deflect the attention.

“We’ve got a lot of guys making plays,” he told the San Jose Mercury News.

The excitement continues Saturday, when Spartan Football travels to UNLV, followed by the men’s basketball season opener 7 p.m. Nov. 4 at the SJSU Event Center.

Have you seen the new floor? This is Sparta!

SJSU Basketball Court

This is Sparta! (SB Nation Photo)