SJSU Students Use Bioinformatics to Study How Living Organisms React to Space Travel

International Space Station

SJSU bioinformatics students helped NASA scientists better understand how living organisms react to life on the International Space Station compared to Earth. Image courtesy of NASA.

How does space travel impact the human body? That’s a question scientists are still trying to answer. This summer, they got a little closer to the answer, thanks to some extra help from San José State University students.

A cohort of biology and computer science undergraduate students were the first to participate in San José State’s new bioinformatics internship program with NASA, developed by two SJSU College of Science faculty: Philip Heller, assistant professor of computer science, and Bree Grillo-Hill, assistant professor of biology.

Equipped with knowledge from their SJSU biology and computer science courses — plus training from a bioinformatics bootcamp — six students joined NASA’s GeneLab project. They helped analyze and interpret publicly available data that revealed the RNA of different organisms, including humans, plants, insects and mice, in order to compare how those organisms responded to life on the International Space Station compared to Earth. The internship began in June and ended in August.

“The goal was to gain insights into the biological processes that degrade astronauts’ health in microgravity and other stressful conditions,” explained Heller. “These insights will drive decisions about lowering astronaut health risks, so the implications for science are profound.”

For example, Evelyn Wong, ’21 Biology, analyzed data to help NASA researchers better understand how and if cancer could be a risk following space travel.

“Astronauts are exposed to radiation when traveling to space, which makes them likely candidates for developing cancer later in life,” she explained. “I studied samples that might be able to help identify that possibility for developing cancer in the future.”

Wong said she’s not a natural programmer, so the internship offered her an opportunity to gain new data processing skills while putting her biology knowledge to use. Her hard work paid off: After her internship wrapped up in August, Wong began working as a full-time research associate contracted by Blue Marble Space Institute of Science to work with NASA.

That’s the kind of success Heller was hoping his students would achieve when he developed the internship. Bioinformatics is an increasingly important field, he noted. San José State offers a minor in bioinformatics as well as a master’s degree.

Preserved tissue samples

Publicly available data gathered from preserved tissues such as those seen here, archived at the NASA Ames Research Center, were analyzed and interpreted with the help of SJSU bioinformatics students. Image credit: NASA/Dominic Hart

Grillo-Hill emphasized that the experience can give students an edge in job searches and graduate school applications.

“Many cutting-edge projects in biology research require generating, managing and analyzing large data sets,” she explained. “Our bioinformatics minor teaches students the tools to do this, and internships give them the opportunity to practice these skills on real data sets.”

With NASA’s Artemis program to land humans — the first woman and first person of color, specifically — on the moon in 2024, “the urgency is high” to better understand how humans respond to space travel, Heller emphasized.

He hoped to create a program that would allow both SJSU and NASA to reap the benefits. SJSU could supply a steady stream of talented students interested in bioinformatics, and the next generation of scientists could gain valuable first-hand interdisciplinary experience, he said.

While this isn’t the only opportunity SJSU students have to intern with NASA — the College of Engineering, for example, helps place aerospace engineering students into internships with the agency — it’s the first chance for SJSU students interested in bioinformatics.

To make sure students were ready to hit the ground running, Heller, in collaboration with NASA GeneLab and Universities Space Research Association, kicked off the program with a five-day intensive bootcamp that acquainted students with NASA’s processes and goals and provided a deeper understanding of the field.

Kevin Truong, ’22 Computer Science, found the experience of working in an interdisciplinary environment with NASA scientists eye-opening.

“Working in bioinformatics gave me the opportunity to explore different fields and to learn things I didn’t know — and that I’ll likely never understand. And that’s OK if there is someone else on your team who can explain it. Sometimes, I will be the one to explain things to someone else.

“It’s a fascinating field and can be challenging, but in the end you get to create greater things.”

Heller emphasized that “even if the interns don’t become NASA scientists, they will gain training and experience in techniques that are commonly used in biotech, so we believe their long-term career experiences will be greatly enriched.”

Aeowynn Coakley, ’21 Biology, already feels that her future as a research scientist has been influenced by the experience.

“Whatever I do next, I want to work with an interdisciplinary team. You can go so much further and understand so much more working together that way,” she said.

“Bioinformatics is a really important tool to make meaningful inferences about data being collected,” she continued. “We are in an era of big data, and there’s so much biological information out there and so many scientists working siloed as they delve into this data. Through bioinformatics, we can make really meaningful contributions to the field by introducing an interdisciplinary perspective.”

Learn more about San José State’s MS in Bioinformatics and minor in Bioinformatics.

Braven Releases Annual Impact Report Highlighting SJSU Student Fellows’ Outcomes

Nonprofit Braven is built on the premise that when students who have not had the benefits of affluent circumstances are provided the same level of support and opportunities, they will excel. The proof is in their new 2020–2021 Annual Impact Report — a testament to the power of Braven’s model and what can happen when you give these students the tools they need to maximize their potential.

“The co-development of the UNVS 101 Leadership and Career Accelerator course by business, engineering and science faculty jointly with Braven staff has provided a valuable opportunity for all students at San José State University, both undergraduate and graduate, to build important leadership and career-readiness skills in a structured curriculum, with support from fellow students, faculty and industry coaches,” said Thalia Anagnos, vice provost of undergraduate education at SJSU.

Braven’s program is designed to complement the work of career services by scaffolding for students as they learn and master key leadership, career and life skills in two phases: The first is a semester-long, for-credit Accelerator course — UNVS 101 at SJSU — bolstered by coaches and fueled by the community that arises in the cohorts of student “Fellows.” The second allows Fellows to access a “post-course experience,” including one-on-one mentoring and career-building activities that continue beyond college graduation to help ensure their career success.

“We hear from Fellows time and time again that Braven is a reliable support system and like a family,” said Diana Phuong, executive director for Braven Bay Area. “What’s more, the ongoing support students receive from Braven through graduation helps them navigate the challenges that college students, particularly those who are first-generation, often face, whether through advice about their job search, helping to perfect their portfolio, or other ways.”

Gabriel Miranda, who was a spring 2020 Fellow and now an area manager at Amazon says, “Braven helped me learn what I needed to do to be on my path to a successful career and unlocked so many doors for me. Who would’ve thought a boy raised by two immigrant grandmothers from Korea and Mexico would be able to graduate from college and change the lives of his family.”

The “secret sauce” of Braven’s programming is the involvement of more than 75 employer partners, including Adobe, Linkedin and the NBA Foundation, whose employee volunteers gain as much, or more than, they give while serving as the Leadership Coaches. The experience offers them the opportunity to develop themselves by leading diverse teams and motivating promising young professionals — transferable skills that meet their own professional goals.

Employers benefit by the investment made in their own existing workforce as well as by supporting the Fellows through internships and often post-graduation jobs. Partnership in this case is both a retaining tool and a recruitment pipeline.

Some employer partners have also found deeper impact from their support of Braven, especially through the pandemic. Meg Garlinghouse, ‍head of social impact at Linkedin, said that “in a time of deep uncertainty, partnering with Braven has been a concrete way to be part of the movement for racial and economic justice.”

Since starting out with San José State University as its founding partner in higher education in 2014, Braven has expanded its programming via independent college success organizations. Now through BravenX in Chicago and Braven Online, which is nationwide, students involved with these groups can receive a financial stipend to obtain a similar experience outside of the traditional academic model.

SJSU and Braven Impact Report

Former Fellows Esteban Barrios, ’20 Physics, and Cynthia Fernandez-Rios, ’21 Business, both successfully launched their careers after graduation with the skills and support they gained by taking part in SJSU’s partner-program with nonprofit Braven.

Highlights of the 2021 Impact Report

  • 69% of Braven Fellows who identify as female obtained what Braven refers to as “a quality first economic opportunity”* after college, outpacing 62% of Fellows who identify as male.
  • Female Fellows also outpaced male peers at public four-year universities (56% obtained strong first jobs) and peers nationwide (60%).
  • Across races, Braven Fellows surpassed their counterparts at four-year public universities nationally by 15% or more in obtaining quality economic opportunities.
  • SJSU Braven graduates were 7% more likely to have at least one internship — mostly completed prior to the COVID-19 pandemic — during college compared to students at four-year public universities nationally.
  • 87% of Fellows report that they have expanded their networks to include people with diverse careers and career interests after Braven, and 91% credit Braven’s program to helping them develop or strengthen skills necessary to pursue their goals, according to a study from the Search Institute and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
  • This year, SJSU supported 324 new fellows on their path to economic mobility.

*Either enrollment in a graduate program or a full-time “strong first job” that requires a college degree and offers a competitive salary, benefits, professional development and pathways to advancement.

See how Braven is helping SJSU students grow their social capital.

The Record Clearance Project Maintains Impressive 99% Success Rate in Court Throughout Pandemic

Record Clearance Project


The Record Clearance Project staff includes, from left to right: Cindy Parra, Jordan Velosa, ’20 Justice Studies; Jesse Mejia, ’19 Justice Studies; Darlene Montero; Michelle Taikeff, ’19 Justice Studies; Victoria Kirschner; Omar Arauza, ’20 Justice Studies; and Diana Carreras. Photo by Bob Bain.

This fall, the Record Clearance Project (RCP) kicks off its 14th year of service at San José State. 

“Having a criminal record is often a major obstacle to employment for low-income residents in San José, and this challenge is amplified for people of color,” said College of Social Sciences Dean Walt Jacobs. 

“The Record Clearance Project assists thousands of people each year with criminal convictions who cannot afford an attorney, enabling them to pursue their legal rights to a full, productive future. SJSU students also benefit from participation in this critically important work, as they learn valuable skills that translate to their areas of study.”

The program offers representation in court on petitions to dismiss eligible convictions and reduce eligible felonies to misdemeanors in Santa Clara County. Students interview clients and prepare their petitions in the appropriate legal format. Students also offer free “speed screenings” to help members of the public understand their individual legal rights to clearing their record. 

SJSU Justice Studies instructor and attorney Margaret (Peggy) Stevenson launched the RCP as a series of justice studies courses and an internship program that provides undergraduates with the training and attorney supervision to help eligible individuals get their records cleared as allowed by law, also known as expungement. 

Since launching the RCP in 2008, Stevenson and her team have spoken to nearly 13,000 people, including 4,000 in custody, explaining expungement law and employment rights of people with convictions at legal rights presentations. Throughout the pandemic, the RCP has pivoted to online services, continuing to consult with clients virtually. 

“Our justice system takes people who have made a mistake in their past and condemns them to limited employment, limited housing and limited education for the rest of their lives,” said Stevenson. “It takes sophistication, knowledge, experience and kindness to interview our clients, share their stories and advocate for them.” 

To help people begin the expungement process, the RCP obtained a LiveScan machine in 2017. Since then, the RCP has provided more than 800 people with their histories, saving them at least $31,500 in commercial services, and received court decisions that removed over $130,000 in debt. 

In addition to the financial benefit, providing a safe, friendly environment alleviates some of the trauma many people experience in being fingerprinted again. 

Peer mentor Diana Carreras and project assistant Omar Arauza in the RCP office at San José State. Photo by Bob Bain.

Stevenson has trained SJSU students to conduct over 2,100 individual legal advice interviews and helped them file more than 1,700 petitions to dismiss convictions on behalf of over 600 clients. The training, practice and role-play pays dividends: The RCP has an impressive 99% success rate in court.

That success is exponential, says RCP alumna Serey Nouth, ’20 Kinesiology. She explained that helping clients made it easier to address her own struggles and gave her hope for the future.

“Every day, we hear and see injustice, inequality, and systemic racism in our justice system,” she said. “Once hopeless and dejected, I now feel more empowered to dedicate my life to becoming part of the solution to these long overdue issues. 

“Every time I get to work with a new client, it’s another life changed for the better. Thanks to RCP, I am now studying for my LSAT and preparing my application for law school.”

Stevenson said that the RCP will continue to hold speed screenings online or by phone, and this fall they will be offering some legal rights presentations via video, enabling access to clients across the state. 

“There are 78 RCP cases on the court docket in August,” she added. “We filed these cases for 12 clients, including convictions as old as 1986. On we go.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, she took photos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SJSU’s Olympic Legacy Continues at Tokyo Games

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

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

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

Seven former Spartans will participate in five sports:

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

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

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

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

SJSU Alumnus Colton Brown Going for Gold at Tokyo Olympics

A photo of Colton Brown

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SJSU Alumnus Marcio Sanchez Wins Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography

Marcio Sanchez

Marcio Sanchez, ’07 Photojournalism, is one of the winners of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography. Photo courtesy of Marcio Sanchez.

Associated Press Staff Photographer Marcio Sanchez, ’07 Photojournalism, became the first Honduran-born journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography this year. This is the 12th Pulitzer won or shared by a Spartan Daily alumnus and the sixth received since 2000.

The Pulitzer Prize is the gold standard of journalism awards — it represents the best work in the industry, and every writer, editor and photographer in the business aspires to meet that standard,” said Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications Richard Craig.

“For Marcio, it’s validation for years of great work; wire service photographers’ photos are shared far and wide, but they seldom get the recognition they deserve. It’s a level of status that few who work outside the elite news organizations achieve, and we couldn’t be more proud of him.” 

Sanchez was a member of the AP team assigned to cover July 2020 Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Oregon, in response to the murder of George Floyd. At the time, President Donald Trump had sent federal agents to Portland until, as he described, city officials “secured their city.” 

What Sanchez saw was more like mayhem: molotov cocktails, commercial-grade fireworks and canned beans thrown over the concrete fence that separated protesters from the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse, and federal agents were spraying rubber bullets and chemical irritants. At one point, he was pepper-sprayed in the face.

It was in the aftermath of this scene that he took his award-winning image. It features a bald woman in a gas mask, glasses, tank top, jeans and sandals propped against the concrete fence. There is a cloud of what looks like tear gas in the air and a poster that reads “Black Lives Matter” above her head.

“I was aware of the responsibility that I had,” Sanchez said, adding that the AP was one of the only news outlets allowed to access the federal building that day. “We were the only group that was able to tell the story from both sides.”

From Spartan Daily to the Associated Press

An alumnus of Spartan Daily, Sanchez got his start photographing the 1992 Rodney King protests in Los Angeles and San Jose. 

Not long after leaving SJSU, Sanchez accepted his first full-time job as a photographer for the Kansas City Star, where he stayed for seven years. Throughout his career, his work has been published in The New York Times, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, Newsweek and National Geographic. In 2002, he became a staff photographer for the Associated Press.

In addition to Black Lives Matter protests, Sanchez has covered wildlife preservation in Africa, Hurricane Mitch in Honduras, baseball in the Dominican Republic, the Super Bowl in the United States, the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

The accolade echoes a great run of success for the Spartan Daily in intercollegiate competitions, said Craig. The student newspaper has won two national competitions as Best College Newspaper in the past year and a half and was named Best Newspaper in California in two major statewide contests. The Daily has also won more than 70 statewide awards and over  25 national awards since 2016. 

“The Pulitzer Prize is beyond my wildest dreams,” Sanchez said. “We are at the forefront of history as photographers. I don’t do this for awards; my main satisfaction comes from informing the public.

“When you think about people who have won the prize, it’s John F. Kennedy, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and, now, little old me. This is the company we’re in, alongside the greatest journalists in history.”

Read the story of Sanchez’s career-launching photography at SJSU.

 

SJSU Hosts In-Person Photo Experience to Celebrate the Class of 2021

From May 26 to May 28, San José State welcomed students from the class of 2021 and members of their families to campus to celebrate their graduation with an in-person photo experience. The graduates were also recognized through a virtual recognition event held by the university and recognition websites created by SJSU’s individual colleges.

“What a great week it’s been at #SJSU, celebrating our #SJSU21 graduates!” President Mary Papazian tweeted on the 28th. “This class is undoubtedly one of the most resilient and dedicated cohorts ever. We will remember them for the challenges they’ve overcome and the positive imprint they will leave. Well done!”

As state restrictions ease for large gatherings, SJSU will invite both the class of 2020 and the class of 2021 back to campus for a safe in-person commencement.

Whether you were able to watch the livestream from the campus or missed the events, check out this visual recap of the campus events below.


All photography is by Robert C. Bain, university photographer.

Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021


Spring graduation in-person photo experience 2021

Valerie Coleman Morris Receives Honorary Doctorate from SJSU

SJSU conferred an honorary doctorate degree to alumna and trailblazing journalist Valerie D. Coleman Morris, ‘68 Journalism, as part of the university’s celebration of the Class of 2021 on Wednesday, May 26. 

Coleman Morris served as a reporter for the university student newspaper “Spartan Daily” during her time at SJSU, covering significant campus events such as the Dow Chemical protests and the Black Power salute by Tommy Smith and John Carlos at the 1968 Olympic Games.

Coleman Morris went on to become a broadcast journalist in San Francisco and Los Angeles and also created and narrated the CBS network radio show “With the Family in Mind.” In 1996, Coleman Morris joined CNN, and in 2011, she published the book “It’s Your Money So Take It Personally.” 

Coleman Morris has three California Emmy awards and was a major contributor to KCBS radio’s Peabody Award team coverage as co-anchor following the 1989 Loma Prieto earthquake. Other awards she’s received include Black Woman of the Year and Outstanding Contribution to Broadcasting from American Woman in Radio and TV. 

During her speech to the graduating class, Coleman Morris spoke about her love of threes and how it has played a role continuously throughout her life before imparting this wisdom on SJSU’s newest alumni:

“Congratulations to each member of the class of 2021. I leave with this thought: My late father and his regularly repeated lesson about looking in the rear view mirror. It’s important to do, he’d tell me. Glancing in the rearview mirror reminds you where you’ve come from. 

“And then dad would pose the question, and then he would also pose the answer and say, ‘What happens if you look in the rearview mirror for too long or too often?’ The answer: You won’t know what you run into. I need to explain, my dad was not talking about having an accident. He was talking about running past opportunities that were right in front of you. 

“Graduates, for each of your rearview mirror memories or realities, always hear you say, I am looking forward.”

View Coleman Morris’ entire speech above.

Spartan Studios’ Steinbeck Adaptation “Breakfast” Debuts at Beverly Hills International Film Festival

Breakfast film_Jessica Perez

L-R: Brett Edwards, Jessica Erin Martin, Darin Cooper and Matt McTighe, ’02 Theatre Arts. A scene from “Breakfast,” a short film directed by Spartan Film Studios. Photo by Jessica Perez.

August 2019, San José’s Coyote Valley: The Spartan Studios film crew awakened at 2 a.m. to prepare for a sunrise shoot of “Breakfast,” a film adaptation of one of John Steinbeck’s short stories.

They only had a few hours to set up camp, ready the old-fashioned stove and capture the dozen or so lines of dialogue that compose the story, which is rumored to have inspired Steinbeck’s masterpiece, “The Grapes of Wrath.

The story, which is excerpted from “The Long Valley,” depicts a man walking alone in the wilderness when he comes upon a migrant camp before sunrise. A young mother busies herself over a stove while nursing an infant, frying bacon and baking biscuits. Two men emerge from a tent to join her for breakfast, and upon noticing the stranger, invite him to join them.

The short film originated a decade ago, when San José State Film and Theatre Lecturer Nick Martinez, ’02 Radio, Television and Film, shared his vision with SJSU’s Director of Production for Film and Theatre Barnaby Dallas, ’00 MA Theatre Arts. Together they approached Nick Taylor, director of SJSU’s Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies, and English Professor Susan Schillinglaw, with the idea to acquire the rights to the story.

“Steinbeck fits so much beauty and symbolism in three-and-a-half pages,” said Martinez, who is also co-founder and director of Spartan Studios. “It’s a first-person story, and he didn’t write many first-person stories. The more I researched it, the more I thought, he probably wrote it this way because it happened to him. That means I had an opportunity to put Steinbeck on screen.”

Brett Edwards in Steinbeck's Breakfast

Brett Edwards in “Breakfast.” Photo by Jessica Perez.

Martinez, the film’s director, worked with producers Dallas and Jessica Olthof, ’13 RTVF, of Roann Films, to shoot in summer 2019. Assistant Professor of Film and Theatre Andrea Bechert served as the production designer, Film and Theatre Lecturer Cassandra Carpenter was responsible for wardrobe and costumes, and Costume Shop Manager and Costuming for Theatre Arts Instructor Debbie Weber, ’83 Theatre Arts, was responsible for the student costume and makeup teams on the days of shooting.

“It was the thrill of my career at SJSU to be able to collaborate with Nick, the faculty, staff and students on this film,” said Dallas. “Steinbeck has been and always will be my favorite author.”

The film was funded by Spartan Film Studios, the Film and Theatre Department, and fundraising efforts of Martinez, Dallas and College of Humanities and the Arts Dean Shannon Miller through Artistic Excellence Grants.

Though the project was completed by early 2020, they waited to release it until spring 2021. “Breakfast” premiered in late April at the Beverly Hills Film Festival.

“Adaptation is never easy,” said Film and Theatre Department Chair Elisha Miranda. “Dallas and Martinez did a good job of taking Steinbeck’s intentions during a very different time to create an educational piece of media. The synergy — not just from theatre to film but between faculty, staff and students — is critical to our department and the collaborative nature of the film industry.

“We look forward to more of these productions with our student directors and filmmakers at the helm, which is true to the mission of our department and implemented through our department production entity, Spartan Films,” Miranda added.

“When you always put the students first, and you put great staff and faculty together, San José State is unstoppable,” said Martinez.

“Breakfast” will run the film festival circuit for the rest of the year, with screenings on campus and events through the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies. Martinez said they hope to make it available free of charge to educators who plan to incorporate it into lesson planning.

Learn more about the Center for Steinbeck Studies.

Connie L. Lurie College of Education Launches Fourth Annual Celebration of Teaching Awards for Aspiring Educators

Alberto Camacho with his mother Irma.

Alberto Camacho and his mother Irma attended the 2019 Celebration of Teaching event, where he was recognized for his teaching promise. Photo: Bob Bain.

Alberto Camacho, ’20 English, ’21 Teaching Credential, can remember the names of all of the influential teachers in his life — from his preschool teacher, “Mr. E,” to his Chicana and Chicano Studies professor Marcos Pizzaro, associate dean of the Connie L. Lurie College of Education. 

He recalls Mr. E teaching him “e for effort” almost as clearly as he remembers Pizarro honoring him at the spring 2019 Celebration of Teaching event, where Camacho was recognized for his teaching potential and awarded a $1,000 scholarship. 

“My teachers had an impact; they genuinely wanted the best for their kids, and that’s what I want to do in the classroom,” said Camacho, who is completing his student teaching at Silver Creek High School in San José this spring. 

“I want the best for my kids, their families and their communities. It is thanks to my teachers that I feel this way — they planted the seed.”

The Lurie College of Education Student Success Center was first inspired to start the Celebration of Teaching event in 2017, when the college joined the CSU EduCorps initiative, a CSU-wide program dedicated to increasing outreach and recruitment for teacher preparation programs. Janene Perez, the center’s director of recruitment, student success and alumni engagement, said they first learned of a similar initiative at Sacramento State and drew on that model at SJSU in 2018.

“We wanted to reach students who might not have considered teaching as a career but had a deep commitment to their communities and exhibited qualities that were impactful in a teaching and learning setting,” said Perez.

The inaugural Celebration of Teaching event initially focused on recruiting from within SJSU but has expanded well beyond the university and into the community. 

“Recognizing that the consideration of career fields often begins much earlier, we’ve grown the initiative over the past few years to include outreach to community colleges, high schools and middle schools,” said Heather Lattimer, dean of the Lurie College. 

“Our outreach is intentionally designed to strengthen the diversity of our educator workforce, a critical equity issue that has a direct impact on student success in K12 and post-secondary education.”

Since then, 151 students have been recognized at the Celebration of Teaching. Of them, 16 have redeemed their scholarships and enrolled in one of the Lurie College’s credential programs. 

By recognizing students who show the potential to become transformative educators, Lattimer and Perez hope that the encouragement and financial incentive will inspire young people to consider careers in teaching. The initiative aims to increase outreach and recruitment efforts to students who perhaps wouldn’t have seen themselves becoming educators previously based on their interests or identities.

“So many of us share insecurities around academics: feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, and thoughts of, how could I possibly become a teacher if I’m not a top student?” said Perez. “When a trusted teacher, professor or supervisor nominates a student, that is something that not only boosts confidence but also sparks interest. 

“We hope that the nomination validates who the student is holistically, recognizing their diversity of experiences, resilience and cultural assets — all critical pieces of their whole being that they bring to the table and are at the heart of transformative education.”

To learn more about this year’s Celebration of Teaching nominees, visit sjsu.edu/education/community/celebration-of-teaching.

Patricia McKinney’s $1.8 Million Planned Gift Benefits Future Elementary Educators

Patricia McKinney.

Patricia McKinney has established a scholarship for future elementary teachers. Photo courtesy of Priscilla Robertson.

San José State University is pleased to announce that it has received a $1.8 million gift commitment from Patricia McKinney, ’60 General Elementary Education, ‘64 MA Education. The gift will support students majoring in elementary education in the Connie L. Lurie College of Education.

“Ms. McKinney’s gift is significant for our students, our college, and our region,” said Heather Lattimer, dean of the Lurie College. “As our K-12 student population continues to become increasingly diverse, this gift will help our college attract dedicated, talented future teachers from diverse communities who are committed to making a transformative impact in the lives of children and families. Additionally, this award will reduce the cost of enrollment for many of our students and enable them to focus their time and energy on the success of their own K-12 students as they enter professions that don’t typically bring fortune or fame.”

About Patricia McKinney

A native of San José, McKinney was an elementary education teacher her entire career. Upon graduating from San José State, she accepted her first teaching job in the Hillview/Menlo School District, briefly taught at an Air Force base in Germany when her husband was stationed there, and worked for many years in the Laguna Salada Union Elementary school district in Pacifica. She recognized the importance of early education and wants to provide assistance to underserved students who might not otherwise have an opportunity to become a teacher.

“I loved working with kids and going home at night knowing that I’ve made a difference,” said McKinney from her home in San Francisco. She recalls teaching multiple generations of the same families, running into her students’ parents who remembered her fondly from their own elementary school days.

“She thought SJSU had prepared her well and it was important to her to help other people become teachers, especially grade school teachers,” said her friend Priscilla Robertson.

“Ms. McKinney’s gift to San José State exemplifies her commitment to service,” said Theresa Davis, vice president of University Advancement and CEO of the Tower Foundation. “Not only did she teach generations of children across the Bay Area, her scholarship will support future elementary educators. We are grateful for Ms. McKinney’s example.”

To learn how you can support the university with a planned gift, please contact Randy Balogh, director of planned giving, at 408-924-1123 or via email at randy.balogh@sjsu.edu.

About San José State University

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

With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State 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 280,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

 

Alumna Olive Burata Coauthors Scientific Article on Multidrug-Resistance Transporters

Olive Burata.

Olive Burata.

On November 27, Nature Communications published a scientific article coauthored by Olive Burata, ’14 BS, ’18 MS, Biochemistry. The article, entitled “The structural basis of promiscuity in small multidrug resistance transporters,” studies the small drug resistance (SMR) family, which contain protein drug exporters that help bacteria become resistant to toxic chemicals. Burata, a PhD candidate at the University of Michigan, said the publication demonstrates how scientists can unlock how SMR proteins work to help bacteria survive in the presence of antibiotics, antiseptics or disinfectant. The study provided the first high-resolution image of one of the protein members of this family that will allow scientists to study the protein in very close detail.

High-resolution structure of Gdx-Clo, a protein member of the small multidrug resistance family that has given bacteria resistance against antibiotics, antiseptics, and disinfectants. Image courtesy of Olive Burata.

“This publication really brought together all the multidisciplinary scientific training I have obtained from my two mentors: Dr. Alberto Rascón from SJSU and Dr. Randy Stockbridge from the University of Michigan,” said Burata. “Both skills and techniques that I have learned from each of their labs have significantly contributed to my rapid understanding of this work. Although early in my career, this work alone has already encompassed skills I have learned as a biochemist, biophysicist, structural biologist, microbiologist and organic chemist.”

Burata said the multidrug-resistance bacteria research could have a big impact on one of the biggest side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic—that is, the increasing amounts of resistance bacteria being produced. As people increasingly rely on disinfectants and antiseptic products like hand sanitizers, 70 percent alcohol and Lysol and bleach products, they are not only killing any COVID-19 viral particles but also exposing the bacteria to the products, “giving them ample opportunities to become resistant to them—a double-edged sword.” As a member of Rascón’s lab at San José State, she studied enzymes called proteases that are similar to the ones associated with causing viral pneumonia as a result of COVID-19 infection.

“There are a lot of labs right now trying to find ways to make these enzymes force the virus to be less deadly,” she said, adding that her experience in Rascón’s lab introduced her to enzymology and ignited a passion for learning. “Six years ago, Dr. Rascón first introduced his research work on mosquito protease enzymology during the first day of class in my last semester of undergrad. I fell in love with how amazing enzymology was and its simple application in helping human lives. I had no research experience, my grades were mediocre, nor did I have any plans after graduating, but I immediately reached out to Dr. Rascón on that same day to ask if I could join his lab. I became a different person that day with a strong sense of determination. My pre-undergrad self would have never imagined coming this far (2,000 miles from California) in pursuing my passion and having constant support from my mentors, family and friends.”

Lucas College and Graduate School of Business Receives $1.6 Million Gift from the Late Virginia Silveira

Virginia Silveira

Virginia Silveira.

San José State University is pleased to announce that it has received a $1.6 million gift from the late Virginia Silveira, ‘36 Business Administration. The gift creates scholarships for undergraduates in the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.

“Virginia Silveira’s gift to the Lucas College of Business is one of the most impactful donations for scholarships that we have ever received and will benefit generations of students,” said Dan Moshavi, dean of the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business.

About Virginia Silveira

Born and raised in San José, Silveira was from a Portuguese American family, attended school locally and earned two degrees from San José State before dedicating 30 years as an accounting officer at her alma mater. A cancer survivor, Silveira volunteered at the American Cancer Society for 25 years. Following her retirement in 1976, she traveled the world with her sister Edna. Together they visited 49 countries.

Black and white photo of Virginia Silveira with her sister Edna.

Virginia Silveira (right), pictured with her sister Edna. Photo courtesy of Suzanne Avina.

“Virginia lived for 101 years as a single and childless woman at a time when her independence wasn’t really appreciated,” said her great-niece Sue Fagalde Lick, ’74 Journalism. “She traveled a great deal and was very interested in other cultures.”

Suzanne Avina, ’92 MS Nursing, cared for Silveira, her husband’s aunt, in her later years.

“She always talked about San José State fondly, with lots of respect—the days that she was there as a student and as an employee,” said Avina. “It was her persona. She was a very hard worker in every part of her life.”

“Virginia Silveira epitomized the Spartan spirit: she was dedicated, hard-working and committed to making the world a better place,” said Theresa Davis, vice president for university advancement and CEO of the Tower Foundation. “Generations of San José State students will benefit from her generosity for years to come.”

To learn how you can support the university with a planned gift, please contact Randy Balogh, director of planned giving, at 408-924-1123 or via email at randy.balogh@sjsu.edu.

About San José State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study offered through its nine colleges. With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State 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 280,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

Sue Howland Gift Creates Scholarship for Nursing Students

San José, Calif. — San José State University is pleased to announce that it has received a $1.9 million gift from the late Sue Howland, ’64 Business Administration. The gift creates the Judy Howland and Sue Howland Nursing Tuition/Books Scholarship for single parents and other eligible undergraduate and graduate students at The Valley Foundation School of Nursing at the College of Health and Human Sciences. Scholarships cover the full cost of tuition and required books for students to earn their nursing degrees.

“The Valley Foundation School of Nursing is grateful for the generous gift provided by the Judy Howland and Sue Howland Nursing Tuition/Books Scholarship,” said Colleen O’Leary-Kelley, director of the Valley Foundation School of Nursing and nursing professor. “Our student population is diverse, and many are single parents with significant financial need. Scholarship support is vital for students who strive to improve their family’s future while working full time or part time. Their ability to succeed in a rigorous educational program is greatly enhanced. Our hearts are filled with gratitude for the generosity of people like Sue Howland, who enable students to make their dreams become a reality.”

About Sue Howland

Sue Howland smiling in a bright read embroidered top.

Alumna Sue Howland established a planned gift that will create a scholarship for nursing students who are parents. Photo courtesy of Ana Espejo.

Born in Berkeley and raised in San José, Howland enrolled in a number of nursing courses at San José State before ultimately majoring in business. Ever the caretaker, Howland raised her son Scott while working for the San Jose Mercury News, Stanford University and McWhorter’s stationery in Los Gatos. When her grandmother fell ill, she quit her job to become her full-time caregiver, and later did the same for her mother. While she never became a nurse, Howland was a dedicated friend to many, including Ana Espejo, who she met when she hired Espejo’s husband to help with her garden.

“Sue was very compassionate and she had a lot of integrity and kindness,” said Espejo. “We became very close; she was my adopted mom. She was there for me when I was, at one point, a single mother. She treated my son as her grandson. She wanted to give single parents the resources to go to school, which is why she created the scholarship.”

Howland made arrangements in her trust to donate the proceeds from the sale of her house to create an endowed fund at San José State. The fund provides full-tuition scholarships named after Howland and her mother Julia (Judy) Howland to single parents so they may continue their studies while parenting. In her final years, Howland was grateful for the medical care she received as she was being treated for various illnesses and before she succumbed to cancer in 2019. Espejo said that it was this care that reinforced Howland’s desire to support future nurses.

“Throughout all of her surgeries and treatments, she appreciated that the nurses and medical assistants took such good care of her,” said Espejo. “This is part of why she wanted to support the nursing program at San José State, though she had planned her gift years before.”

“Sue Howland understood the challenges of single parenting while attending college and the impact that a scholarship like this could have. Students receiving this scholarship concentrate on their studies, and still spend valuable time with their children,” said Theresa Davis, vice president for university advancement and CEO of the Tower Foundation. “We are grateful for her thoughtful planning many years ago to leave a meaningful legacy at San José State.”

“I stand in awe of Sue Howland. It is remarkable that she and her family would share with such generosity their treasures with the College of Health and Human Science’s Valley Foundation School of Nursing,” said Audrey Shillington, dean of the College of Health and Human Sciences. “So many of our students face challenges, working their way through school, often juggling multiple jobs on top of coursework and practicum commitments. Ms. Howland had the insight to recognize that single parents face additional barriers and that they are much more likely to drop out due to all the financial burdens facing them. This gift will change the lives of all the parents who receive it. Beyond this though, the gift will impact the lives of the students’ children. This will lead to intergenerational transformation.”

To learn how you can support the university with a planned gift, please contact Randy Balogh, director of Planned Giving, at 408-924-1123 or via email at randy.balogh@sjsu.edu.

About San José State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study—offered through its nine colleges. With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State 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 280,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

SJSU Alumnus and Artist Titus Kaphar’s Work Featured on Time Magazine Cover

A Black mother with her eyes closed and eyebrows furrowed, holds a white cut out of her baby. Her hand below the baby is blue.

Cover of June 15, 2020, issue of Time, featuring Analogous Colors (2020) by Titus Kaphar. Artwork © Titus Kaphar.

For its June 15, 2020, cover on the protests surrounding the death of George Floyd, Time turned to Titus Kaphar, ’01 BFA Art/Pictorial Arts. The cover features Analogous Colors (2020).

To accompany the cover, Kaphar wrote “I Cannot Sell You This Painting,” which also appeared in Time.

A 2018 MacArthur Fellow, Kaphar says art can be used to shift perspectives and sees painting as a language that offers diverse perspectives on history, justice and change.

Read a Spring/Summer 2019 Washington Square alumni profile on Kaphar.

 

SJSU Receives $5 Million Signed Gift Commitment from Alumni, Business Leaders and Philanthropists Larry and Deirdre Solari

Media contacts:
Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU Media Relations Director, 408-924-1748, pat.harris@sjsu.edu
Lawrence Fan, SJSU Athletics Media Relations Director, 408-924-1217, lawrence.fan@sjsu.edu

Larry and Deirdre Solari (photo by David Schmitz)

Larry and Deirdre Solari (photo by David Schmitz)


San Jose, Calif.
 — San Jose State University is pleased to announce that it has received a $5 million signed gift commitment from alumni, philanthropists and Monterey Peninsula residents Larry and Deirdre Solari. Their gift, among the largest ever to SJSU Athletics, will support SJSU football personnel and facilities, including plans for a new football operations center envisioned for the east side of CEFCU Stadium, Home of the Spartans.

“On behalf of the entire San Jose State University community, I would like to express my profound gratitude to Larry and Deirdre Solari for their leadership gift,” said President Mary A. Papazian. “This gift supports and honors more than a program; it expresses a deep commitment to the university and higher education as a pathway to opportunity.”

The new operations center will include locker rooms, offices, an auditorium and seating on the 50-yard line. In addition, the project would rebuild the stadium’s east side. This gift will therefore supplement improvements underway throughout South Campus, including recently completed tennis and golf facilities, and a soon-to-be-completed softball field.

“Larry and Deirdre Solari are long-time friends and supporters, and I am thrilled to have this opportunity to thank them for their generous gift,” said Athletics Director Marie Tuite. “The Solaris are now among our greatest benefactors in terms of investing in our football program and in assisting with our efforts to elevate the overall profile of the program. This is a touch point day for Spartan Football, Spartan Athletics and San Jose State University.”

Larry and Deirdre Solari: Spartans for Life

An aspiring engineer from a small farm town between Lodi and Stockton, Larry Solari transferred to San Jose State as a sophomore in 1961. Although San Jose’s population was small by modern terms, San Jose State offered all the perks of a metropolitan campus. Solari graduated in 1965 with a bachelor’s in business and industrial management, and completed an MBA one year later. In addition, he served as president of Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity, played baseball and regularly attended Spartan football games, both home and away.

Oakland native Deirdre Keefe attended San Jose State around the same time as her future husband. Like Larry, she was active in Greek life. As an Alpha Phi sorority member, she enjoyed Panhellenic traditions such as the Greek Show, Sparta Sings and Homecoming. She was elected Lambda Chi Alpha Crescent Girl in 1964. Her academic interests included teaching and psychology. She went on to work in television, advertising and executive recruitment. Larry and Deirdre met after college, on what proved to be a lucky blind date.

Building a strong foundation together

The Solaris built their life together based on their San Jose State experience. Larry’s nearly 30-year career with Owens-Corning Fiberglass took them to Toledo, Ohio, where they raised their family while he rose to serve as president of the company’s building materials group. The couple continued following college football including the Spartans, and resumed regularly attending SJSU football games when they returned to California. Now semi-retired, Larry is a private equity firm partner and serves on several boards.

At San Jose State, the Solaris observed former head coaches Mike MacIntyre and Dick Tomey, and appreciated their focus on building a strong foundation. The couple sees current Head Coach Brent Brennan taking a similar approach, influenced by his experience serving as an assistant coach during the MacIntyre and Tomey years.

“As a former athlete, I know the value of lessons learned on the field,” Larry Solari said. “As a businessman, I also know that we must provide the very best we can for our players, coaches and staff in order to attract the talent we need to sustain and grow Spartan football. It is one aspect of the university—a very visible one—and its success will raise the stature of San Jose State.”

Athletics Advancement: A new partnership

San Jose State launched a new fundraising model in August 2017, creating an Athletics Advancement team to elevate fundraising efforts, leverage University Advancement resources, and enhance day-to-day connectivity and alignment as the university works to increase resources for its student-athletes, coaches and support staff.

“When we embarked on this plan, we saw much to gain from combining the resources and talent of University Advancement and Athletics,” said Vice President for University Advancement Paul Lanning. “This commitment from the Solaris is proof positive that teamwork and cross-campus collaboration will raise San Jose State’s visibility and inspire alumni and supporters to invest in the university. I echo our president and athletics director in thanking the Solaris for their support.”


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 more than 7,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 220,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.


About San Jose State University Athletics

San Jose State University’s athletics program sponsors 20 NCAA Division I sports (seven men’s and 13 women’s) and offers an intercollegiate athletics experience to at least 450 student-athletes annually. The Spartans compete in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), the highest level of college football. San Jose State is a member of the Mountain West—a conference of 12 football-playing schools in the Pacific, Mountain and Hawaiian time zones.

 

Spartan Alumna Premieres Feature Film at Cinequest

BY DAVID GOLL

As in previous years, students and faculty from San Jose State University will be well represented at the 2017 Cinequest Film and VR Festival staged at various venues throughout San Jose and Redwood City starting this week.

“Disaffected Youth,” billed as a “punk-rock coming-of-age” film directed by Patrick Mattes and co-written and produced by Jacob Ohlhausen, is a short film produced by Spartan Film Studios.

“I’m very excited,” said Mattes, a December graduate of the university’s Television, Radio, Film and Theatre (TRFT) department, about his film’s inclusion at Cinequest. “We’re both excited. I texted Jake the moment I heard.”

It will be shown as part of the College Shorts program on March 7, at 8:45 p.m.; March 10, at 7:15 p.m.; and March 11, at 12:45 p.m. at the Cinemark Century 20 theater complex, 825 Middlefield Road, Redwood City.

Also selected for Cinequest was “swiPed”, a four-minute, 38-second animated film both humorous and poignant about the detrimental impacts of smartphones on society. It’s the creation of David Chai, associate professor of Design and Animation/Illustration in the Department of Design, whose tagline for the film is: “Texters texting, tweeters tweeting, likers liking, posters posting, Googlers Googling, Amazonians Amazoning, webheads surfing, snappers chatting, pinnters pinning, tubers tubing, tenders tindering, Netflixers chilling — are we binging too much? More connected than ever, but more distant by the day. Is humanity being swiped away?”

Chai was a Silicon Valley smartphone holdout until recently.

“I had a flip phone until last year,” he said. “I don’t want to be emailing when I can be out enjoying life. People have become so disconnected from one another through technology. Even when you are with them, you’re often not.”

Chai’s film debuts on March 3, at 9:30 p.m. It will subsequently be screened March 5, at 1:05 p.m.; March 7, at 4:30 p.m.; and March 11, at 6:45 p.m. All presentations will be at the Cinemark Century 20 in Redwood City.

A 2008 alumna of the TRFT program, Los Altos resident Saila Kariat, will also be represented at Cinequest with her dramatic, one-hour, 38-minute film titled “The Valley” that she wrote, directed and co-produced. The movie will premiere at 7 p.m. March 5 at the California Theatre, 345 S. First St., San Jose. The feature-length film centers on an Indian-American entrepreneur who has an existential crisis following the suicide of his young-adult daughter.

Kariat — who grew up in India, Canada and the United States — said the film project took three years to complete. Professor Scott Sublett, chair of the SJSU’s TRFT department, said Kariat studied film and screenwriting and distinguished herself in student screenwriting competitions before becoming the department’s Valedictorian.

Kariat partially self-funded the production, which cost $500,000, but also attracted several investors. It had a cast of 30 and crew of 35. She said its international cast includes actors from Pakistan, Alyy Khan; India, Suchitra Pillai; and American Jake T. Austin.

For those who miss the premier, “The Valley” will also be shown on March 6, at 4:15 p.m.; March 9, at 9:15 p.m., and March 11, at 4:15 p.m., at the Cinemark Century 20 theater complex in Redwood City.

The annual festival, which has grown dramatically in size and prestige in recent years, provides matchless industry exposure for SJSU film students.

“We want our students to have a professional experience and Cinequest provides a great opportunity for them,” said Barnaby Dallas, coordinator of production for Film and Theatre, and the director of Film Production for Spartan Film Studios, which produced “Disaffected Youth” last summer. “Every year, the film industry comes to San Jose for 10 or 12 days.”

Tickets for events and more information about the Cinequest Film and VR Festival are available online.

SJSU Celebrates Super Sunday 2016

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

Pastor Jason Reynolds (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications)

Members of the Emmanuel Baptist Church choir crooned “no weapon they throw at me, you know it won’t prosper, no,” while donned in all black outfits and carrying picket signs reading “Black Lives Matter” during this year’s CSU Super Sunday service.

Super Sunday, part of the California State University system’s African American Initiative, resulted in CSU ambassadors visiting over 72 churches and speaking at over 100 church services in the state to encourage African American youth to pursue higher education.

“I think it’s a great opportunity for the CSU system to remind people that our mission is to aid ordinary people in being successful and transforming their families,” said San Jose State Interim President Susan Martin.

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

Vice President for Student Affairs Reginald Blaylock (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications)

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

SJSU Interim President Sue Martin and Pastor Jason Reynolds (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications).

Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications

Vice President for Student Affairs Reginald Blaylock (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications)

President Martin, who attended Emmanuel Baptist Church’s service on Feb. 28 along with SJSU Vice President of Student Affairs Reginald Blaylock, stressed the importance of encouraging youths to start considering college at a young age.

“Most of our CSU campuses, including ours, only have three percent of our students identifying as African Americans,” Martin said. “So we need more African American families to prepare to send their children to college.”

Tierney Yates, Social Sciences ’14, said he was only one of three African Americans in his political science program while in his undergraduate career and hopes the initiative will help boost representation in the CSU.

Yates, who serves as the church choir director, said the Black Lives Matter message was incorporated into the musical performances in addition to Pastor Jason Reynolds’ sermons for the month of February in order to bring attention to institutional racism and other issues.

“We talked about issues with community, income and family, so this week we were talking about the issues as they relate to education and disparities,” Reynolds said. “There is so much need for our children to see that knowledge is possible.”

Blaylock, who has served in the CSU system for 28 years, told the service attendees that he was a product of the system’s opportunities.

“My story can be summed up in eight words: ‘It wasn’t supposed to happen but it did,’” Blaylock said. “I came as a freshman over 30 years ago, and CSU and EOP [Educational Opportunity Program] most likely saved my life.”

Despite it being the 11th year that the CSU has organized a Super Sunday with California churches, Blaylock said there is a deep-rooted culture of partnerships within the system.

“There are many people in the CSU who have been doing work and reaching out to communities of color for many, many years,” Blaylock said. “I applaud and celebrate the coordination of these (Super Sunday) efforts, but as a witness today, there are staff and faculty from SJSU that attend this church that are on the scholarship committee and that organize afterschool tutoring, so we’ve been here long before the initiative.”

Yates said he was pleased to see over 20 SJSU or CSU alumni members in the church audience.

“When you’re on a campus of 33,000 students, you feel like you’re the only one,” Yates said. “But when you see it in a smaller setting you can see the impact that it can have and the potential growth that needs to happen.”

 

Ten Things to Know about SJSU and the Super Bowl

  1. San Jose State is proud to serve as the practice site for the Carolina Panthers. Following Super Bowl custom, practice will be closed to the public. But you’re bound to catch a glimpse of the Carolina Panthers caravan making its way from the San Jose Marriott to South Campus. And who knows? You might even spot a Panther because…
  2. A Spartan is on a Super Bowl team! Bené Benwikere, ’13 Sociology, is a cornerback for the Carolina Panthers. He’ll travel with the team, although he’s on injured reserve as he recovers from a leg fracture. It’s still a dream come true. What advice does he have for students? “Challenges are essential to your personal growth as a person; so do not shy away from any challenge,” Benwikere said.
  3. Photo via Twitter.

    Photo via Twitter @BigPlayBene

  4. Make that two Spartans on the field! Keith Ferguson, ’82 Accounting, will be the back judge, wearing jersey number 61.  This will be his second Super Bowl. Three more Spartans have officiated the NFL’s biggest game. They include alumnus Darrell Jenkins, who served as the umpire in Super Bowl XLVIII (Denver Broncos vs. Seattle Seahawks). He was a running back on the 1973, 1974 and 1975 SJSU football teams.
  5. There will be plenty more Super Bowl events right here in downtown San Jose. Super Bowl Opening Night is Feb. 1 at the SAP Center. Every major sports network in the nation will be there. So will Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism, and Randy Vazquez, ’15 Journalism, representing the SJSU School of Journalism and Mass Communications. In addition, you’ll see SJSU students seated near the NFL Network set, thanks to a special connection with NFL Marketing Manager Jason Whitcomb, ’11 Kinesiology.
  6. Photo: Tom Cherrey

    Neal Dahlen earned seven Super Bowl rings as a team executive (Photo: Tom Cherrey).

  7. Many Spartans have Super Bowl rings, but only one has seven of them. Neal Dahlen, ’63 BA ’64 MS Kinesiology/Physical Education, earned his rings during a 25-year career as an executive with the San Francisco 49ers and the Denver Broncos.
  8. The Spartans-Broncos connection runs deep. The late Jack Elway, father of Broncos General Manager John Elway, served as Spartan football head coach from 1979 to 1983. The late Jana Elway-Sever, ’83 Kinesiology/Physical Education and John’s twin sister, played on SJSU’s tennis team for two years. Janet Elway, John’s mother, worked at SJSU’s Department of Industrial Technology. Back then, John Elway was the quarterback at Stanford, where this son of an SJSU coach was on the road to becoming one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time. “The San Jose State-Stanford football games were magical: Stanford won in 1979 and 1980; San Jose State won in 1981 and 1982. The 1980, 1981 and 1982 games each drew more than 60,000 fans to Stanford Stadium,” SJSU Sports Information Director Lawrence Fan said.
  9. David Diaz-Infante, ’91 Social Science, was an offensive lineman on the Denver Broncos teams that won Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII (Photo: David Schmitz).

    David Diaz-Infante was an offensive lineman on the Denver Broncos teams that won Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII (Photo: David Schmitz).

  10. SJSU is the alma mater to five former Super Bowl head or assistant coaches including two legends: Bill Walsh, ’55 BA, ’58 MA, Education, led the San Francisco 49ers to victories in 1982, 1985 and 1989, and Dick Vermeil, ’58 Physical Education, ’59 MA Education, took the Philadelphia Eagles and St. Louis Rams to the Super Bowl in 1981 and 2000.
  11. Nineteen former Spartan football players have played for Super Bowl teams, including three in the past 15 years: wide receiver Rashied Davis, ’06 Sociology (Chicago Bears) wide receiver James Jones, ’06 Sociology (Green Bay Packers); and defensive back Duke Ihenacho, ’11 Speech Communication (Denver Broncos). David Diaz-Infante, ’91 Social Science, was an offensive lineman on the Denver Broncos teams that won Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII. Today, he is an ESPN college football analyst. Steve DeBerg, ’80 Physical Education, was 45 years old when he played backup quarterback for the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl XXXIII. Teased for being much older than Super Bowl 50 Panthers quarterback Cam Newton, Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning is just 39.
  12. Photo: David Schmitz

    Assistant Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications John Delacruz (Photo: David Schmitz).

  13. Many Spartans played leading roles in bringing the Super Bowl to the South Bay. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich, ’82 Chemistry, is a Super Bowl 50 Host Committee Advisory Group member. Alumnus Jamie Matthews is mayor of the city of Santa Clara, home to Levi’s Stadium. Jill Bryant Meyers ’91 BA Journalism, ’98 MA History, is executive director of the Triton Museum of Art, including “Gridiron Glory: The Best of the Pro Football Hall of Fame.” William Kelly, ’89 BS Aeronautics/Business Administration, ’14 MA Public Administration, is the Santa Clara Fire Department chief. He helped develop the security and emergency management plan for Super Bowl 50 and related events. “The knowledge gained through  completing the MPA program was extremely helpful in that effort,” he said.
  14. Photo: David Schmitz

    San Jose Mercury News columnist Mark Purdy and Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications Diane Guerrazzi (Photo: David Schmitz).

  15. Did you know all pro football players wear tiny devices that track speed, distance and orientation? This was one of many insights shared at two Super Bowl symposiums held right here at SJSU. Moderators included Assistant Professor of Kinesiology Cole Armstrong, Assistant Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications John Delacruz, and Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications Diane Guerrazzi. Jill Stelfox, vice president and general manager for location solutions at San Jose-based Zebra Technologies, described Zebra’s nickel-sized RFID chips, which are embedded inside the shoulder pads of every NFL player.