SJSU Presents 2018 Outstanding Seniors and Thesis Awards

Media contacts:
Pat Harris, SJSU Media Relations, 408-924-1748,

SAN JOSE, CA – San Jose State University President Mary A. Papazian will recognize this year’s top graduates at commencement ceremonies to be held May 23-25 at the SJSU Event Center and Avaya Stadium. Nardos Darkera and Sierra Peace will each receive the 2018 Outstanding Graduating Senior Award for academic achievements, leadership roles, contributions to the community and personal achievements. Emily Moffitt is the recipient of the 2018 Outstanding Thesis Award in recognition of the quality of her research.

Nardos Darkera

Nardos Darkera (all photos courtesy of the students)

Nardos Darkera, ’18 Public Health, has given back to the Spartan community while maintaining a 3.85 GPA. She has represented San Jose State as a United Nations Foundation Global Health Fellow, served as a peer teaching assistant, worked as a lead peer advisor in the College of Applied Sciences and Arts Success Center, and interned with Planned Parenthood Mar Monte. Darkera is a recipient of the Louie Barozzi Scholarship for academic excellence and community service, the Dean’s International Scholarship to study abroad in Puerto Rico, and the Health Science Scholarship to attend the American Public Health Association Meeting in Atlanta. She will continue on to the University of California, San Francisco, to pursue a master’s degree in global health. Health Science Professor Kathleen Roe predicts that Darkera “will be a leader of thought, social action, professions — and maybe even politics.”

Sierra Peace

Sierra Peace

Sierra Peace, ’18 Psychology, arrived at San Jose State as a 16-year-old freshman with her sights set on medical school. A member of SJSU’s International Neuroeconomics Institute research lab since 2015, Peace has presented two posters at the Western Psychological Association Conference. She juggled four jobs while volunteering with the Third Street Community Center, the Associated Students of SJSU community garden and the Regional Medical Center of San Jose. Her 3.97 GPA qualified her for Educational Opportunity Program Honors for four years. She was also a 2016 and 2017 Dean’s Scholar, a 2017 Hoover-Langdon Scholar and a 2018 President’s Scholar. Psychology Professor Cheryl Chancellor-Freeland describes Peace as “the most exceptional student I have encountered in my 23 years of teaching.”

Emily Moffitt

Emily Moffitt

Emily Moffitt, ’17 Environmental Studies, collected feathers from 169 birds at San Jose’s Coyote Creek Field Station, and then analyzed the feathers for stable isotopes to reveal where birds spent their breeding season. Her thesis “Using Stable Isotope Analysis to Infer Breeding Latitude and Migratory Timing of Juvenile Pacific-Slope Flycatchers (Empidonax difficilis)” revealed the species’ migratory patterns, critical information for preserving habitats the birds need to survive. She partnered with the University of California, Davis, Stable Isotope Facility to develop statistical programs and used ArcGIS to portray probable breeding origins, and support her research using isotope reference and Breeding Bird Survey data.

About San Jose State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San Jose State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San Jose State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing 10,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 260,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area. 

Students and Faculty Members Recognized for Environmental Effort

Photo: Courtesy of Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful

Photo: Courtesy of Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful

Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful, a community organization that works closely with the SJSU Center for Community Learning and Leadership and CommUniverCity, has received a 2015 Outstanding Environmental Project award from the Friends of the San Francisco Estuary.

“This award demonstrates the value of collaboration, as a community of stewards, to raise awareness, educate, restore and preserve our precious waterways,” said CCLL Director Michael Fallon. “On yet another front, the partnership between SJSU, the city of San Jose, and environmental organizations is benefiting our community.”

More than 200 SJSU students and faculty members have been volunteering their time and talent to help clean and care for Coyote Creek, a 64-mile long waterway spanning Henry Coe Park near Gilroy, San Jose, and the San Francisco Bay.

A multidisciplinary approach

Spartan volunteers include faculty members and students from the departments of Environmental Studies and MIS (Management Information Systems), and the School of Journalism and Mass Communications.

Volunteer Mary Yan, ’16 Environmental Studies, appreciates Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful Program Manager Deb Kramer’s passion and attitude “about bringing organizations together to work towards the same goals.”

“All the issues and connections to the creek are very interesting to me,” Yan said. “I am hoping that Coyote Creek becomes a successful restoration story one day without any reason to continue cleaning it up.”

Wildlife, homelessness

Photo: Mary Yan, ’16 Environmental Studies

Coyote Creek is a wildlife habitat and location for an important steelhead trout restoration project. Bike and hiking trails line the banks, which have also become a refuge for the homeless.

Acutely aware of the need to mitigate the environmental impact of homeless camps while caring for those who live there, SJSU advertising and public relations faculty members and students organized Coyote Creek Howl, a one-day summit in April focusing on ecological and human issues.

Communication studies students produced “Journey Through Homelessness: Silicon Valley’s Unsolved Problem,” described as “a thought and emotion provoking performance that immersed the audience into a world ignored by the masses and experienced by the few.”

Work continues

On Oct. 2, SJSU hosted the premiere of “Exodus from the Jungle,” a documentary on the closure of the nation’s largest homeless encampment, which was located within a mile of campus, on the banks of Coyote Creek.

As a new academic year begins, Keep Coyote Creek Beautiful continues to connect this generation of Spartans with service-learning opportunities. The goal? Gifting a vibrant watershed, and the knowledge of how to rally community support to protect it, to future generations.


SJSU Alumni Association Awards Scholarships

Randy Vazquez,  '16 Journalism

Randy Vazquez, ’16 Journalism

More than 50 students received $150,000 in scholarships at the SJSU Alumni Association Scholarship Awards Reception on Sept. 15 in the Student Union.

“All of the scholarship recipients have a clear vision of how they will achieve concrete goals and make a difference after completing their college degrees,” said Alumni Association President Coleetta McElroy, ’97 Public Administration. She also serves as the university’s director of financial aid and scholarships.


The honorees represent seven colleges and a cross-section of majors. They include:

  • James Keeley, ’16 Therapeutic Recreation, is a disabled veteran who works with homeless veterans.
  • Maria Stone, ’16 MA French and MS Physics, seeks to participate in space research looking for life on other planets.
  • Melissa Tracy, ’17 Child and Adolescent Development, chose her field based on her personal experience with foster care.

Read about more scholarship recipients and learn how to apply next year on the Alumni Association website.

Generous Support

Photo: Randy Vazquez,  '16 Journalism

Linh Dieu Do, ’16 Chemical Engineering, received the Hal Riddle Memorial Scholarship (Photo: Randy Vazquez, ’16 Journalism).

The SJSU program is among the most generous in the California State University system.

“What makes this program remarkable is these scholarships are funded by Spartans, for Spartans,” said Associate Vice President of Alumni Relations Brian Bates. “The donors—people in our community including teachers, accountants and artists—believe in creating opportunities through education for generations to come.”

In this way, alumni and students alike are part of a long legacy at San Jose State, spanning a half century of giving and receiving. And this legacy will continue, as this year’s recipients vow to pay it forward.

Paying it Forward

Linh Dieu Do, ’16 Chemical Engineering, received the Hal Riddle Memorial Scholarship, named for a lifelong educator and member of the Alumni Association’s Santa Clara County chapter.

“I am really hoping that someday I will be successful and will be able to come back and support my fellow students,” she said. “I work by this: Once you put your heart, your soul, your mind into something you love, nothing can stop you.”


Men’s Water Polo Returns to SJSU

Men's water polo coaches gather around their players at the edge of the pool.

The San Jose State men’s water polo team jumped back in the pool after a 34-year hiatus for its season opener against the Santa Clara Broncos on September 5 (Photo: Terrell Lloyd).

In the 1960s and 1970s, SJSU had a powerhouse water polo team. They won a national title in 1968, and finished in the top five nationally four times in the 1970s. But in 1981, the school discontinued the program to comply with Title IX regulations.

Bill Simpkins, a former college water polo player himself and son of long-time SJSU benefactors and alumni Alan and Phyllis Simpkins, repeatedly pressed the university to reinstate the sport. But the funds weren’t there. So Simpkins spearheaded an effort to raise enough money to bring the sport back.

“The team had a winning history. It needed to come back,” Simpkins said. “The sport of water polo has not added a new D1 team for over 30 years. Hopefully, this will start a trend. My parents, Alan and Phyllis, were my wingmen.”

Alumni support

Before the team’s first game, several donors and former water polo players participated in a cap ceremony, giving swim caps to the 19 players on the current roster (Photo: Terrell Lloyd).

Bill Simpkins and his wife Brigid made a generous donation. So did Peter Ueberroth,’59 Business Administration. Ueberroth is a former travel industry executive, Major League Baseball commissioner and U.S. Olympic Committee chairman.

Jane Hind set up a $1 million dollar endowment in her late husband’s name. Greg Hind, ’69  Health Science, was an All-American water polo player in the 1970s at SJSU.

Altogether, more than 100 people donated more than $3.5 million, which will sustain the program for five years until the university takes over the financing. Interest from the Greg Hine endowment will fund student-athlete scholarships beginning next year.

Cap ceremony

Before the team’s first game in September, several donors and former water polo players participated in a cap ceremony, giving swim caps to the 19 players on the current roster.

For a moment in time, right there on the pool’s edge, the years melted away as the generations bonded over their love of the game and their quest to keep this Spartan tradition going strong.


SJSU’s Accreditation Reaffirmed

WASC noted SJSU presented "a detailed and organized approach to describe assessment" of five core competencies, with a special focus on information literacy and writing (photo by Christina Olivas).

In a letter reaffirming the university’s accreditation, WASC noted SJSU presented a detailed and organized approach to describing assessment of five core competencies, with a special focus on information literacy and writing.

Media contact:
Pat Harris, SJSU Media Relations Director, 408-924-1748

SAN JOSE, CA – The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) has reaffirmed San Jose State University’s accreditation for seven years.

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NBC Bay Area: San Jose State University is Top School for Most Silicon Valley Hires

Posted by NBC Bay Area on July 16, 2015.

By Scott Budman

According to a recent survey by Jobvite, San Jose State University is the top school in the nation pushing for tech talent.

The Jobvite survey shows that SJSU has the most students hired by top tech companies in the Silicon Valley.

The career center at SJSU helps students bridge the gap between school and work.

“We promote and advocate internships and having that real-world experience while you’re in school, so that when you walk out of here with a degree, you also have years of experience as an intern,” said Daniel Newell, Program Manager of Workforce and Economic Development.

View the full story. 

SJSU Leads Silicon Valley Hiring

Photo: Christina Olivas

2013 SJSU career fair (photo by Christina Olivas).

Silicon Valley companies hire more San Jose State University students and alumni than any other college or university in the country, according to a recent analysis.

Jobvite, a recruiting platform, analyzed seven million applications and 40,000 hires to determine the schools that had the most students hired by top companies in and around Silicon Valley,” according to Business Insider.

San Jose State came out on top. More than 75,000 career opportunities including 11,000 internships were offered last year through the SJSU Career Center.

Approximately 4,000 employer representatives attended SJSU career fairs last year. Engineering and business were the top two industries recruiting on campus, followed by the non-profit/government, education and communications sectors.

President Obama Honors Professor

President Barack Obama meets with the 2013 winners of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring (PAESMEM) in the Oval Office, June 17, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

President Barack Obama meets with the 2013 winners of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring in the Oval Office, June 17, 2015. Professor Soto is on the far right (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza).

Professor of Biological Sciences Julio Soto met President Barack Obama at a White House reception on June 16 recognizing recipients of the Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring.

The award honors individuals who have made extraordinary efforts to engage students from communities that are underrepresented in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) fields. The National Science Foundation organized the event.

Soto served as the principal investigator on two groundbreaking grants at San Jose State. Under HHMI-SCRIBE, Soto and colleagues transformed the core curriculum for biology majors. With NSF-RUMBA, Soto coordinates summer research opportunities for under-represented students.

Together, the programs equip students with the academic and applied opportunities they need to excel in graduate school and beyond, reflecting the department’s emphasis on hands-on, inquiry-based learning activities at the bench and in the field.

Congrats, 2015 Graduates!

By Melissa Anderson, Executive Communications Specialist

Photo: David Schmitz

Photo: David Schmitz

San Jose State University graduates received congratulations and advice on being prepared for the circuitous route life often takes from U.S. House of Representative Leader Nancy Pelosi and honorary degree recipient Bob Ladouceur at Commencement May 23 in Spartan Stadium.

The Saturday event celebrated this year’s more than 8,500 students who earned bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in a wide range of disciplines from seven colleges at SJSU.

Family members and guests arrived as early as 7:30 a.m. to find an optimal seat to see graduates on the stadium floor. Occasional bubbles floated up from the stadium on the cool morning breeze as guests waited for the ceremony to start. One mother waited along the edge of the stands and dropped an orchid lei down to her child as the graduates processed into the stadium.

Many graduates donned decorated caps acknowledging the hard work to complete their degrees, while others emphasized their future plans. Others decorated their caps to evoke solidarity with their classmates—a swath of students from the College of Humanities and the Arts sat together with the same design on their caps.

“You become part of Spartan Nation,” said President Mohammad Qayoumi, during the ceremony. “Well over 200,000 Spartan alumni from all walks of life are making a difference in every corner of the world.”

Pelosi congratulated the students on joining the CSU Class of 3 Million. The 23-campus system has conferred degrees to 1 in 20 college graduates in the United States, with the alumni roster growing to three million with the class of 2015 graduates.

Nancy Pelosi is the perfect candidate to speak to us today because she embodies the grit and determination that make us Spartans,” Qayoumi said, introducing Pelosi.

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications

In her remarks, Pelosi touched on the beauty of diversity at SJSU.

“Have confidence in your education and be proud of your experience as one of the most diverse classes in America—and I might add 50 percent women,” she said. “The beauty is in the mix. It is true of San Francisco and it is true of this graduating class. Trust in the value of diverse and different perspectives.”

She also reflected on San Jose State’s influence on its surrounding community.

“You have been studying and living in the cradle of innovation,” she said. “You haven’t just been living here and going to school here. This school has contributed to the success of Silicon Valley in important ways.”

Pelosi shared a personal story of how she consulted her youngest child, a high school senior, before running for Congress.

“I never imagined one day I would go from the kitchen to Congress, from being a homemaker to a House speaker,” she said. “The opportunity was presented and I had to take inventory to be sure I was ready.”

Pelosi ran and has represented California’s 12th House district for more than 27 years.

“Leave here with the confidence that you are ready,” Pelosi said. “Know that you have been empowered by the strength of your value, the excellence of your education and the support of your families. When you encounter opportunities, be ready.”

During the ceremony, President Qayoumi conferred an honorary doctorate of humane letters to Bob Ladouceur, ’77 Criminal Justice, whose astounding 12-season, 151-game winning streak coaching football at De La Salle High School is the subject of the movie, When the Game Stands Tall.

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’15 MS Mass Communications

Ladouceur, who played on the Spartan football team for two years as a student, shared how his journey to becoming a legendary football coach was indirect.

“My graduation from San Jose State was not an end point, but another beginning in my education,” he said, noting that his chosen field of criminal justice had few openings the year he completed his degree. “It was one of the curveballs life throws you. I retooled (my goals.) Two years later on a whim I answered a job announcement and that was where I spent the last 35 years.”

Ladouceur credited his education at SJSU with making him a lifelong learner who has always sought the truth.

“Continue your education independently or formally,” he said. “Be proud and be thankful. Seek out your parents, support groups and show gratitude. As we said after every practice on this field and every game, ‘It’s great to be a Spartan.’”

Following the speeches, the deans each took the podium to confer the master’s and bachelor’s degrees upon the graduates. As the ceremony finished, the graduates joined in singing the alma mater while guests cheered.

See and share photos and messages from commencement with #SJSU15 on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Green Ninja stickers

Pedaling for the Planet

Green Ninja team

The Green Ninja Climate Ride Team (courtesy of The Green Ninja Project).

Green Ninja in the classroom.

In the classroom (courtesy of The Green Ninja Project).

After months of training and fundraising, the Green Ninja Climate Ride Team is set to take off in the Northern California Climate Ride. The ride starts in Eureka on May 17, and ends five days later in San Francisco on May 21.

The eight team members will bike 320-miles along the Northern California coastline to raise awareness about climate change and support environmental non-profit organizations like the Green Nina Project — an SJSU environmental outreach program that teaches middle school students about climate change and inspires them to take action.

300 ninja

A custom-designed jersey (courtesy of The Green Ninja Project).

We are excited about the ride, but also a little nervous,” says Professor Eugene Cordero, a climate scientist in the Department of Meteorology and Climate Science.

The team is made up of two professors, one alumna, one staff member and three students. Some are avid cyclists, while others are beginning bicyclists. Even though their skill level varies, they all share a common goal — a commitment to maintaining a healthy planet and reducing climate change.

Follow the team

You can follow the team and encourage them on via SJSU’s official Facebook, Instagram and Twitter accounts, using the hashtag #SJSUclimateride.

White House Honors Professor

“As a member of an under-represented minority group, I am committed to making the unlimited intellectual possibilities of modern biology accessible to all students,”—Professor Julio Soto.

“As a member of an under-represented minority group, I am committed to making the unlimited intellectual possibilities of modern biology accessible to all students.”—Professor Julio Soto (photo by Christina Olivas)

Media contact:
Pat Harris, 408-924-1748

SAN JOSE, CA – SJSU Professor of Biological Sciences Julio Soto will receive a Presidential Award for Excellence in Science, Mathematics, and Engineering Mentoring, the White House announced March 27.

The honor, received by just 14 individuals and one organization in the past two years, recognizes the crucial role that mentoring plays in the academic and personal development of students studying science and engineering—particularly those who belong to groups that are underrepresented in these fields.

“These educators are helping to cultivate America’s future scientists, engineers and mathematicians,” President Obama said. “They open new worlds to their students, and give them the encouragement they need to learn, discover and innovate. That’s transforming those students’ futures, and our nation’s future, too.”

Principal investigator

Soto served as the principal investigator on two groundbreaking grants at San Jose State. Under HHMI-SCRIBE, Soto and colleagues transformed the core curriculum for biology majors. With NSF-RUMBA, Soto coordinates summer research opportunities for under-represented students.

Among his students inspired in the classroom to take part in the summer research program is Pareet Raju, ’15 Molecular Biology. “Dr. Soto helped me understand the lecture by providing research articles as a reference…Recently I joined his lab, where he has been guiding me through my research project,” she said.

Together, the programs equip students with the academic and applied opportunities they need to excel in graduate school and beyond, reflecting the department’s emphasis on hands-on, inquiry-based learning activities at the bench and in the field.

“As a member of an under-represented minority group, I am committed to making the unlimited intellectual possibilities of modern biology accessible to all students,” Professor Soto said.

Professor and mentor

Soto arrived at SJSU in 1999, with degrees from the University of California, Berkeley, Texas A&M University-Kingsville, and the University of Puerto Rico at Cayey.

“Dr. Soto has a unique and refreshing approach as a lab mentor,” said Nicko Ly, ’15 Molecular Biology, and a RUMBA participant. “Although he has high expectations for his undergraduate lab researchers and challenges his students to be independent thinkers, he genuinely is passionate and determined to have his students pursuing a career in the sciences.”

In addition to being honored in Washington later this year, Soto will receive an award of $10,000 from the National Science Foundation. The mentors and organization announced March 27 represent the winners for 2012 and 2013.

San Jose State—Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,000 students and 3,740 employees—is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

Spartan Fund

SJSU Students Rock the Financial World

Spartan Fund

The Spartan Gold Team (courtesy of the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business).

Facing tough competition, a four-student team from SJSU walked away with a first-place trophy at the CFA Institute Investment Research Challenge for the Northern California region.

They were up against teams from the Stanford MBA program, the Wharton executive MBA program, Santa Clara University, the University of California, Berkeley, and the University of San Francisco.

The win was a major accomplishment,” said Stoyu Ivanov, associate professor of accounting and finance, Nancie Fimbel Investment Fellow, and assistant director of the Center for Banking and Financial Services.

The teams

Two teams from SJSU took part in the competition March 5 in San Francisco’s financial district. Earning the top spot at the competition was the Spartan Gold Team made up of Joel Gonzales, ’15 Finance; Shayan Khales, ’15 Accounting; Valeriya Razdyakonova, ’18 Corporate Accounting and Finance; and Nirav Shah, ’15 MBA.

A second SJSU team, the Spartan Blue Team, consisted of Aaron Foster, Tarriq Hansrajh, Michael Farrell and Mark Smith, all finance majors.

The teams were required to research and analyze Gilead Sciences, a Bay Area biotech company. As part of their pitch, they wrote a paper, gave a presentation, and participated in a question-and-answer session.

We applied a lot from what we learned in the Spartan Fund and our finance classes,” Gonzales said.

Spartan Fund

The Financial Navigator Student Managed Investment Fund, also known as the Spartan Fund, was established with a $100,000 donation from Nancie Fimbel, and her husband C. Edward Van Deman, CEO of Financial Navigator.

Fimbel, who capped a 28-year career at SJSU by serving as acting MBA director and senior director of development for the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business, wanted to give back to the university.

I’m very proud of having started this,” Fimbel said. “I had dreamed of this, and it’s really a kick to see the students pitch to each other.”

Students manage the $50,000 Spartan fund using 12 Bloomberg terminals in their classroom. They’ve raised the fund to $52,000 in just six months.

Next up for the Spartan Gold Team is the national competition on April 15 in Atlanta. A win there will send them to the Global Final, where they’ll face teams from the Europe and Asia Pacific regions.

SJSU Remembers Irene Dalis

Irene Dalis

Irene Dalis

San Jose lost one of its finest teachers Sunday with the death of Irene Dalis, ’46 Music. The acclaimed opera star, former professor, and founder of Opera San Jose was 89.

Irene Dalis poured all of her energy into providing young people with the greatest gift any teacher can give, the gift of opportunity,” President Mohammad Qayoumi said.

Raised on Delmas Avenue on downtown’s edge, Dalis arrived at San Jose State with the intention of studying piano.

An older sister encouraged her to pursue a master’s in music education at Columbia University in New York. While a Fulbright Scholar in Italy, Dalis auditioned as a singer.

Finding her voice

She went on to spend more than two decades as the highest-paid mezzo-soprano with the Metropolitan Opera, sharing the stages with superstars such as Leontyne Price and Placido Domingo.

It’s hard to know when you are young what your real talent is,” Dalis told the Spartan Daily in 2010. “Don’t be surprised to find that you don’t end up doing what you set out to do.”

After retiring in 1976, she came home to San Jose with her husband and daughter. Soon thereafter, SJSU President John H. Bunzel invited Dalis to return to her alma mater as a professor of music.

She didn’t teach voice, sensing her vocal technique was specific to her. Instead, Dalis drew on San Jose State’s homegrown talent to build an opera workshop that developed so many strong singers that she sought an even larger stage for them.

Dalis founded Opera San Jose in 1984, providing her singers with all the support they needed to grow, including two-year residencies and housing.


At the same time, she remained deeply committed to San Jose State, inviting students to audition for Opera San Jose principal and second roles and chorus in addition to providing props and costumes for campus productions.

“The effect she had had on my life was tremendous,” said Chloe Smart, ’14 Vocal Performance. “She was always supportive of me and constantly let me know that she was on my side. As a young singer, I can’t tell you how important those words were to me at that time and even now.”

She also recommended that a mezzo-soprano she hand-picked for Opera San Jose take on the campus position Dalis once held.

She changed my life,” said Layna Chianakas, an Illinois native who made San Jose her home after becoming a resident artist with the company in 1995, and director of the university’s Opera Theatre program in 2007.

The Marriage of Figaro was the program’s first performance under Chianakas in 2012. Dalis attended, although she was still struggling to recover from a debilitating car crash in 2010.

“The curtains were still closed but tears were already streaming down her cheeks,” Chianakas recalled. “She was so happy to see the program thriving.”

Green Ninja Receives 2014 STEM Innovator Award

ninja 530

The Green Ninja takes action with recycled oil (Green Ninja Project image).

Contact: Pat Harris, 408-924-1748

SAN JOSE, Calif.— San Jose State’s Green Ninja Project is one of four endeavors to receive a 2014 Science Technology Engineering and Mathematics Innovation Award from the Silicon Valley Education Foundation. The project will be recognized during the foundation’s signature annual event, Pioneers & Purpose, on Oct. 1 at the Fairmont San Jose.

“These organizations represent the best in the country working to provide STEM experiences that strengthen and inspire students to explore their curiosity in STEM fields,” Silicon Valley Education Foundation CEO Muhammed Chaudhry said.

Green Ninja project pupet

“The Green Ninja Show” features animation, live action and puppetry (Green Ninja Project image).

Multidisciplinary Initiative

The national award recognizes pioneering programs that have demonstrated innovative methods in STEM education and includes a cash prize.  The Green Ninja Project uses a collection of humorous films and hands-on learning experiences to help young people develop the inspiration and tools to do something about our changing climate.

“By blending science, engineering and the arts, the Green Ninja Project aims to become a nationally recognized icon for education and action on climate change,” said Professor of Meteorology and Climate Science Eugene Cordero.

Million YouTube Views

The project is a multi-platform climate science education initiative that is driven by a strong collaboration between faculty members and students across various departments including Meteorology and Climate Science; Geology; Computer Science; Science Education; Primary Education; Television, Radio, Film and Theatre; and Animation and Illustration.

To date, the project has worked with more than 100 teachers and reached more than 2,000 students. Episodes of “The Green Ninja Show” have had more than a million views on YouTube and TeacherTube. The $5,000 prize will support students working on the show’s second season.

San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,000 students and 3,740 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

Social Work Major Receives Top CSU Honor


A straight-A student, David Elliott plans to pursue a master’s in social work so that he can work with youths who are involved with social services or the justice system (Photo: Thomas Sanders, ’15 MFA Photography).

Media contact: Pat Lopes Harris, 408-924-1748

SAN JOSE, CA – In 2007, David Elliott was paroled from Folsom State Prison after a period of incarceration that resulted from a lifelong battle with drug addiction.

“Everything I owned fit into a backpack,” he said.

Now a San Jose State senior majoring in social work, Elliott has received the California State University system’s highest honor for students who overcome incredible odds to attend college.

As the 2014-15 Trustee Emeritus William Hauck Scholar, one of 23 CSU Trustees Awards for Outstanding Achievement, Elliott will fly to the chancellor’s office in Long Beach on Sept. 9 to pick up the award and meet the other recipients.

Extraordinary Commitment

While their commitment, drive and perseverance are extraordinary, these students are like thousands more who look to the CSU each year for high-quality, accessible, affordable educational opportunities.

After leaving Folsom, Elliott became homeless and lived at a shelter in San Jose. Fearing that he would turn to drugs again, he asked his parole officer for help and was placed into a drug treatment program.

Six years later, Elliott is completely clean and sober and works for the program that helped save his life. As a chemical dependency technician, he assists people in some of their darkest times by supervising their medical detox and encouraging them to continue treatment.

He has also served for four years as a volunteer facilitation and facility coordinator of a drug and alcohol support group at a local homeless shelter for people with mental health and substance abuse problems.

A Second Chance

“All of this work is an attempt to repay what has been given to me: a second chance,” he said.

A straight-A student, Elliott plans to pursue a master’s in social work so that he can work with youths who are involved with social services or the justice system.

“I have found a path leading to a career that employs me in useful service to others,” Elliott said.

The late William Hauck, ’63 social studies, served as deputy chief of staff to Governor Pete Wilson and chief of staff to Assembly speakers Bob Morretti and Willie L. Brown, Jr. The Hauck endowment will provide $6,000 to this year’s CSU Trustees Award recipient.

San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,000 students and 3,740 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.


Honoring 45 Years of Teaching, Counseling and Fighting

Photo: J.P. Tran, '14 Graphic Design

Photo: J.P. Tran, ’14 Graphic Design

“After 45 years, Mohammad will go to the mountain.”

With that, President Qayoumi strode off the stage and through the crowd to hand deliver a very special honor at the 15th Annual Faculty Service Recognition and Awards Luncheon on March 11 at the Student Union’s Barrett Ballroom.

Seated near the front of the room, surrounded by friends and colleagues, was Wiggsy Sivertsen. Her official record includes stints as a counselor and faculty member.

But just as important has been her unofficial role as the heart and soul of San Jose State for more than four decades.

As the sun sets on my career, I can truly say that this has been the ride of my life,” Sivertsen said. “So many students have taught me and touched my life. My colleagues have enriched me.”

Student centered

Also recognized at this annual event were more than 120 faculty members with 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 years of service, as well as the recipients of the university’s top annual awards for faculty members.

The luncheon is always filled with faculty and staff members and administrators. But this year, sitting quietly in chairs off to the side of the room were a half-dozen students.

Carrying flowers for their professor, they talked their way in to see Distinguished Service Award Recipient Julia Curry Rodriguez.

And it was there on the floor, while the proceedings continued on stage, that teacher and students quietly celebrated the connection at the core of the luncheon.

Fighting for rights

Similarly, Sivertsen dedicated her entire career to service in the classroom and beyond, focusing on educating the public about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender communities and fighting for the rights of all.

Soon after arriving at SJSU in 1968, she established the first gay student organization. She went on to co-found the Bay Area Municipal Elections Committee, a four-county LGBT political action group.

In the 1980s, she taught in the sociology department and later spent 11 years as director of counseling services.

Sivertsen has received numerous honors, including the American Civil Liberties Union “Don Edwards Defender of Constitutional Liberty Award.”

Thank you for your visionary leadership and dedication to San Jose State University,” said the commendation hand-delivered by the president.

“Your exemplary career of counseling and your tireless service and advocacy to the cause of civil rights attest to your lifetime spirited fight for equality.”


Faculty Notes: Research, Recognition and Applied Learning

Ryan Carrington

Lecturer Ryan Carrington, Department of Art and Art History, holds an MFA in spatial art from SJSU and teaches sculpture, foundry work and mold making.

Professor Ted Butryn and Associate Professor Matthew Masucci, Department of Kinesiology, spoke on February 26 at the King Library as part of the University Scholar Series on the topic of female triathletes’ awareness of doping and the anti-doping movement. Their research was funded by a two-year grant from the World Anti-Doping Agency.

Lecturer Ryan Carrington, Department of Art and Art History, received an Emerging Artist/Artist Laureate Award from Silicon Valley Creates. His art explores the theme of labor through gallery installations, performances and site-specific work. He holds an MFA in spatial art from SJSU and currently teaches sculpture, foundry work and mold making.

Professor Emeritus Betty Chu, Department of Economics, was profiled last month in TheHuffington Post for her success in breeding Angora rabbits. One of the oldest kinds of domestic rabbit, the Angora rabbit, along with the Angora cat and the Angora goat, originated in Turkey. Chu holds the distinction of breeding the only Angora that has ever won the Open Best in Show award at the American Rabbit Breeder Association National Convention.

faculty notes

Asst. Prof. Kasuen Mauldin

Assistant Professor G. Craig Hobbs, Department of Art and Art History, and director of Learning and Games Consortium, organized and served as faculty advisor of Global Game Jam, held January 24-26 on campus. A competitive “hackathon” focused on game development, it was an event open to students from all majors and focused on collaboratively creating games under tight deadlines using computers, software and brainwave sensor technologies.

Assistant Professor Kasuen Mauldin, Department of Nutrition, Food Science and Packaging, received the 2014 California Dietetics Association Excellence in Research Award. Her research focuses on human metabolism and, more specifically, lipoprotein homeostasis. She will also chair the 2014 Center for Healthy Aging in a Multicultural Population (CHAMP) conference.

faculty notes

Asso. Prof. Cathleen Miller’s book

Creative writing Associate Professor Cathleen Miller and Professor Alan Soldofsky read and signed their most recent books at Barnes and Noble in San Jose on February 12. Miller’s Champion of Choice (University of Nebraska Press) is a biography of Dr. Nafis Sadik, the first female director of a United Nations agency and a renowned advocate for women’s health and reproductive rights. Soldofsky’s poetry collection, In the Buddha Factory (Truman State University Press), takes Silicon Valley as its backdrop.

Professor David Parent, Department of Electrical Engineering, has been working with Silicon Valley employers Atmel, Texas Instruments and Linear Tech to secure internships and acquire donations of equipment for the department, including boards and chips. Atmel recently recognized SJSU as one of the top universities from which to acquire talented electrical engineering graduates.

Director of Film and Television Production Babak Sarrafan won the Broadcast Education Association’s Educational/Instructional Video Award of Excellence in the faculty video category. His “Green Ninja Episode 4: Styrofoam Man” is the latest in an ongoing series featuring an environmental ninja. “My aim is to make environmental responsibility entertaining,” he said. SJSU students also took home top prizes, including Best in Show for Always Learning, a feature-length film by Robert Krakower. The BEA is the largest association of Radio-TV-Film programs in the United States with 260 member institutions.

Assistant Professor Katie Wilkinson, Department of Biological Sciences, oversaw student teams competing in the American Physiological Society’s Phantasic Physiology Voyage: “Function Follows Form” video contest. To be considered, videos had to explore, for a general public audience, a specific physiological function in five minutes or less (including credits). Students Peter Luu, Lubayna Elahi, Laura Philbin and David Tatarakis received the Judge’s Award, which carries a prize of $750, for “Avian Surgery.”

faculty notes

Prof. Emily Wughalter

Professor Emily Wughalter, Department of Kinesiology, will receive the Luther Halsey Gulick Medal from the American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance at the AAHPERD national conference in April. The highest award bestowed by the organization, it recognizes Wughalter’s 33 years of distinguished service to her profession. A strong advocate for girls and women in sport, she previously received the Honor Award from the National Association for Girls and Women in Sport (NAGWS) and served as president of the Western Society for Physical Education of College Women. In January 2014, she received a distinguished service award from the National Association for Kinesiology in Higher Education (NAKHE).


SJSU Admits 29,000 Prospective Spartans

SJSU Admits 28,000 Prospective Spartans

SJSU Admits 29,000 Prospective Spartans

Congratulations @hip_dalys! It’s great to see SJSU is your first choice. (Image by Rachel Poage, ’14 Graphic Design)

This week, more than 28,000 high school and community college students across the country are ripping open envelopes arriving in the mail to find inside a “Certificate of Admission.”

It’s that time of year again, when San Jose State says yes to its incoming class of freshmen and transfers.

Follow the Enrollment Services’ Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts as these newly admitted students post pictures of themselves with their certificates to win the “Spartan Swag Photo Contest.”

Past participants have used their creativity to take photos with others in classrooms, while flying a plane and at a daycare center.

SJSU Admits 29,000 Prospective Spartans

Good job, Elaina Mattingly! Elaina received a consolation prize in last year’s “Spartan Swag Photo Contest.”

The new admits hail from all over California plus 39 more states, Guam and Puerto Rico. The largest number of admitted out-of-state students are from Hawaii, Washington and Texas.

SJSU will continue to accept international applications through April 1. Admitted Spartan Day–one more chance to visit before the big decision–will be April 12.

The deadline to say yes to SJSU is May 1. Keep in mind these are provisional admissions. All candidates are subject to verification of California State University eligibility via final transcripts.

Everyone attends transfer orientation beginning in April or freshmen orientation beginning in June. If last fall is any indication, expect more than 3,600 new freshmen and 3,700 new transfers on the first day of classes August 25.

More than 90 percent will be Californians, with the remaining 10 percent coming here from other states and countries.

Of course, there is a long road ahead for these new Spartans but it’s worth it. Also in the mail this week? Diplomas to fall 2013 graduates.

SJSU Admits 29,000 Prospective Spartans

Congratulations Denny! Well deserved!



M60-UCD1 galaxy

Faculty Notes: Research, Recognition and Recent Publications

Professor Goldston receives his award. Sandy Huffaker/American Mathematical Society photo

Professor Daniel Goldston, along with research colleague Cem Yalcin Yildirim, receives the Frank Nelson Cole Prize in number theory (Sandy Huffaker/American Mathematical Society photo).

Associate Professor Marjorie Freedman, Department of Nutrition, Food Science and Packaging, received a 2013 Guardians of Health Award from the California Center for Public Health Advocacy. The award recognizes individuals who have had an impact on the “health of children and adults who live in communities without easy access to healthy food or safe places to be physically active.” Freedman spearheaded the Healthy San Jose State initiative and helped bring the Spartan Smart Cart to campus. Recently she has worked with East San Jose’s multi-ethnic, low-income population at Most Holy Trinity Church to increase CalFresh enrollment and implement healthful food and beverage policies.

faculty notes

Mima Mounds Natural Area Preserve, Olympia, Wash. (Flickr Creative Commons photo)

Associate Professor Emmanuel (Manny) Gabet, Department of Geology, developed a computer model that solved the mystery of the formation of Mima mounds. The largest structures built by mammals (other than humans), found on every continent except Antarctica, Mima mounds were built by gophers, Gabet’s research has proved. In December, he presented his findings at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union, held in San Francisco. He has been interviewed by BBC Radio about his research, and news of his discovery was reported in The Economist, The Huffington Post and elsewhere.

Professor Daniel Goldston, Department of Mathematics, along with research colleagues János Pintz and Cem Y. Yildirim, received the 2014 American Mathematical Society’s Frank Nelson Cole Prize in number theory. Presented every three years, the prize recognizes an outstanding research paper in number theory that has appeared in the preceding six years. Goldston, Pintz and Yildirim were honored for their work on “small gaps” between prime numbers, presented in their paper “Primes in tuples 1,” published in the Annals of Mathematics. The awards ceremony took place at the Joint Mathematics Meetings in Baltimore on Jan. 16.

Francisco González Gragera, Capricho de Cotrina

Francisco González Gragera, “El Capricho de Cotrina” (Jo Farb Hernandez photo)

Professor Jo Farb Hernandez, Department of Art and Art History, and director/curator of the Thompson Gallery, curated the fall exhibition “Singular Spaces—From the Eccentric to the Extraordinary in Spanish Art Environments” and authored the exhibition book of the same title. The result of 14 years of research and documentation, the exhibit and book chronicle art environments created by 45 self-taught Spanish artists, including Josep Pujiula and Joan Sala.

Alan Leventhal, Department of Anthropology, faculty advisor for the Native American Student Organization (NASO) and the SJSU chapter of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos and Native Americans in Science (SACNAS), helped promote King Library’s November/December 2013 exhibit honoring Native American veterans and celebrating Native American Heritage month. Leventhal has served as Muwekma Ohlone tribal archaeologist and ethnohistorian for 34 years.


M60-UCD1 (Chandra X-Ray Observatory photo)

Assistant Professor Aaron Romanowsky, Department of Physics and Astronomy, who studies the dynamics and evolution of galaxies, was part of a research team that discovered the dwarf galaxy M60-UCD1, an “ultra-compact” dwarf galaxy. Romanowsky was involved with the spectroscopic follow-up observations, using the Keck telescope, that determined the distance to the galaxy.

Associate Professor Cynthia RostankowskiDepartment of Humanities, and coordinator of the Humanities Honors Program, reported that humanities honors student Jacky Mai won the third annual Norton Poetry Recitation contest with a recitation of Shakespeare’s Sonnet 130 and received a $200 Barnes & Noble gift certificate. SJSU was the only institution to have two students advance to the final round of the competition.

Professor's Band Earns Grammy Nomination

Professor’s Band Wins Grammy

Professor's Band Earns Grammy Nomination

Professor Lington wrote half of the arrangements on the record and played sax on all the tracks (Chad Ziemendorf photo).

A Spartan has won a Grammy! Baritone saxophonist, composer and Professor Aaron Lington is a member of the Pacific Mambo Orchestra, a 19-piece Big Band whose debut release was nominated for Best Tropical Latin Album.

That placed PMO alongside the likes of Marc Anthony, who was nominated for a Grammy in the same category.

Professor Lington beat out a number of very famous artists and his band’s album was the only independent entry in this category,” said Chair of the Department of Music and Dance Joseph Frank. “This is a real victory for our own phenomenal artist.”

Lington was proud just to be nominated.

“I am so unbelievably excited and proud of PMO for beating the odds and making it into the running with some of the best in the biz,” Lington said on his website. “I am very personally proud of the album as having been one of its primary composers. I wrote half of the compositions or arrangements on the record, as well as having played baritone sax on all the tracks.”

SJSU offers a bachelor’s in jazz studies, providing students with the opportunity to learn from top educators and performers.