SJSU to Recognize Afghan Photojournalist Massoud Hossaini as 2021 Hearst Award Recipient

Massoud Hossaini

Pulitzer Prize-winning Afghan photojournalist Massoud Hossaini will accept the 2021 Hearst Award for excellence in journalism during an online ceremony on Nov. 16. Photo by Jakob Van Vliet.

When the United States announced its plans to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan last summer, ending a 20-year occupation, the impact was immediate and, at times, devastating. 

As thousands of Afghans attempted to flee the country upon hearing of the Taliban’s return to rule, Pulitzer Prize-winning Afghan photojournalist Massoud Hossaini was reporting for Foreign Policy magazine, breaking stories on the development of the war that led to the fall of Kabul on Aug. 15. 

“Covering the war during the last four months of the Afghanistan Republic was so risky and difficult as a freelancer,” wrote Hossaini in an email from the Netherlands, where he is currently living. “However, as I love my motherland, it was so important to cover it, and I accept it as my main role and responsibility in my life.” 

San José State University’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications (JMC) will honor Hossaini with the 2021 William Randolph Hearst Foundation Award for excellence in photojournalism on Tuesday, Nov. 16, from noon – 1:30 p.m PT during an online ceremony. 

Hossaini will accept the award remotely and present a selection of photographs. San José State President Mary Papazian will also provide remarks before a short Q&A session. Registration is required for the event: http://go.sjsu.edu/hearst2021.

Hossaini shared that winning the award is a great honor.

“I am happy and honored that I got it in the name of Afghanistan,” he wrote, though it broke his heart that he earned this recognition while in exile. 

He said he dedicates the award to Afghan journalists stuck under Taliban rule, as well as to female journalists who are being denied opportunities to work. He said the Hearst Award reinforces his desire to “show the ugly face of war and violence to the world.”

Phylis West-Johnson, director of the journalism school, explained that faculty nominate candidates for the award. This year, Hossaini’s name rose to the top.

“His photography epitomizes the significance of excellence in journalism,” she said. “Looking at his photos is a glimpse through his eyes into the people of Afghanistan. We believe Massoud will inspire our students, faculty and community.”

Documenting the truth

Originally from Kabul, Hossaini’s family fled to Iran shortly after the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan. Hossaini grew up in Iran and took up photography as a hobby, documenting the lives of Afghan refugees in Mashhad before returning to Afghanistan in 2002, where he studied photojournalism. 

His first professional assignment was in 2004 for the London-based Sunday Times Magazine. In 2006, he joined Agence France-Presse as a photojournalist. After he won the Pulitzer Prize in 2012 for Breaking News Photography, Hossaini became chief photographer of The Associated Press in Kabul.

Halima Kazem-Stojanovic, ’99 Radio-Television-Journalism, the journalism coordinator at SJSU’s Human Rights Institute (HRI) and journalism and human rights lecturer, nominated Hossaini and will present the award to him during the ceremony. 

As a veteran journalist who reported from Afghanistan for 12 years, Kazem-Stojanovic said honoring Hossaini is an opportunity to highlight the important work of Afghan journalists who have dedicated their careers, sometimes at great personal risk, to demonstrating the human impact of war. 

“Massoud’s photographs are very well known all over the world, especially in the international media,” she said. “He fled Afghanistan in August because he is a photojournalist who speaks truth through his pictures.”

Kazem-Stojanovic added that there have been multiple waves of Afghan migration to the Bay Area, with the latest prompted by the August withdrawal of U.S. troops. 

“Nominating Massoud for this award is my attempt to provide a soft landing for some of these incredibly bright Afghans who have gone through so much hardship and need a place to come and share their knowledge,” she said. “It’s important for photojournalists like Massoud to be able to pursue the efforts they’ve given so much to. It’s important to recognize that there’s so much good coming from Afghanistan; it’s not always bad.”

Hossaini agreed that it is critical for journalists worldwide to remain committed to truth-telling, even if it comes with great sacrifice.

“Journalism offers the public the facts — it documents issues, makes the public aware of what is really going on, and it records history and shares human experiences,” he wrote. “If journalism follows its own humanistic ethics, the public will be able to recognize good and evil. They will have clear choices and the freedom to choose the best way to improve their lives.”   

About the award

The William Randolph Hearst Foundation Award is an annual honor for outstanding professional media service in journalism, public relations, advertising and mass communications. Each year, an honoree’s work is showcased for students and celebrated for efforts that meet the expectations and high standards for public service by a free press, as provided in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States. Past winners include Dr. Anthony Fauci (2020), Dan Rather and Alexander Shebanow (2019), and CNN’s Jim Acosta (2018).

 

With “Marisol,” San José State Offers First Theater Performance to an In-Person Audience at Hammer Theatre Since March 2020

When Kirsten Brandt attended a Shakespeare Santa Cruz performance in summer 2021, the assistant professor of theater was overcome with emotion. She hadn’t experienced live theater as an audience member for a year and a half due to the pandemic, and wasn’t prepared for the gratitude and relief she’d feel watching actors interact live. 

This fall, after directing multiple live-streamed and virtual shows, Brandt is thrilled to direct in-person performances of “Marisol” at the Hammer Theatre — the university’s first performance in front of a live, masked audience since early 2020. 

“We’ve had events during the pandemic, even performed live on the Hammer stage, but it’s just not the same without an in-person audience reacting in real time,” said Brandt. “This is why we are in theater — we want that tangible connection with an audience.” 

Brandt chose the Obie-award-winning “Marisol,” a play written in the late 1980s by Puerto Rican playwright José Rivera, because the subject matter aligns with two of SJSU’s College of Humanities and the Artscurricular communities: the Inclusion Initiative and Sustainable Futures

“College programming themes are chosen based on faculty interest, but also the most important issues affecting us today,” said Shannon Miller, dean of the College of Humanities and the Arts. “Sustainability, social justice and racial equity seemed to be the most important issues for our students to consider, given the fires and other climate change events that have been impacting California so devastatingly over the last few years, as well as the murder of George Floyd and the aftermath of this tragic event.”

“The play mirrors many of the events happening today,” said Brandt. “It talks about how the Earth is dying. It references ‘the plague that killed my friends,’ bad water, climate change, systemic racism and the need for empathy when helping people with mental health challenges. It is the theatre of the absurd meeting magical realism and calls attention to the horrific things in society in a tragicomic way. It incites action.”

The ‘compassionate badass’

Marisol, the show’s protagonist — played by Nayeli Roman, ’24 Radio-Television-Theatre-Film — is a copy editor for a Manhattan publisher. She’s confronted by her guardian angel, who informs her that the angels have declared war upon a senile, power-hungry god. Written in the tradition of the theater of the absurd — an existentialist genre that explores the absurdity of humanity — “Marisol” explores relevant social issues in a quickly changing world. 

Roman calls Marisol a “compassionate badass,” adding how much it means to her as a Puerto Rican actor to play a Puerto Rican character created by a Puerto Rican playwright. While the play addresses racism, sexual assault and gun violence, Roman said that “when audience members view this play … they feel the urgency for change.” 

She looks forward to hearing audience reactions in real time to her performance. Though she made her debut on the Hammer stage in last spring’s “Alone Together,” this will be her first time performing in front of an in-person audience with SJSU.

As a performer for 10 years now, nothing compares to the experience of live performance and how gratifying it is to see and hear the audience’s reactions to your performance,” said Roman. “Live-streaming theater performances for me are enjoyable because I still get to perform, but it feels so empty looking at seats instead of faces. Performing in the live stream of ‘Alone Together’ was especially bittersweet because it was my first time performing and even being in the Hammer Theatre, but it was also the first time my family was not there to see me perform.”

She is looking forward to seeing fellow actors’ faces without masks, adding that when she and her cast mates are able to perform maskless, it “makes working with each other much more interactive in the sense that we won’t only have to focus on each other’s eyes and can react to things with our whole being.” 

“Marisol” will be performed at the Hammer Theatre Nov. 12-20. Audience members are required to wear masks and present proof of COVID-19 vaccination or a negative PCR test within 72 hours of attendance. 

Get tickets to see “Marisol” at the Hammer Theatre.

Camino Chronicles Arts Series: a Celebration of Mexican and Latin American Music Influenced by California History

Historically, the Camino Real connected Spanish missions along the state of California. Image by Chandler O’Leary.

How can music reframe the story of the ancient road we know as El Camino Real?

Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz and the folk Americana band the Ronstadt Brothers will celebrate California history through their music on October 1-3, during a weekend of activities presented by San José State University’s College of Humanities and the Arts, The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies, TomKat MeDiA, CaminoArts and Symphony Silicon Valley (SSV). The Ronstadt Brothers will also offer a moderated conversation on the business of music.

“CaminoArts celebrates the folk and classical music of Mexico and Latin America through an excavation of El Camino Real, the historical indigenous trade route used by the Spanish to colonize Mexico and what is now the U.S. Southwest and South America,” said Marcela Davison Aviles, managing partner and executive producer at TomKat MeDiA, a production company founded by Tom Steyer and Kat Taylor to inspire creativity for the common good.

“We brought this idea to the Center for Steinbeck Studies as a way to catalyze writing a new fourth-grade curriculum about the history of El Camino Real.”

Gabriela Ortiz.

Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz.

Ortiz’s new composition, a concerto for flute and orchestra entitled “D’Colonial Californio,” will make its world premiere at 8 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 2, with SSV at the California Theatre, and again at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 3.

Her work is a joint commission underwritten by the TomKat Foundation and presented in collaboration with TomKat MeDiA, SSV, CaminoArts and San José State as part of a broader initiative to examine California history through arts and education.

Admission to the Ronstadt performance is free. Tickets for the symphony performance are on sale through Symphony Silicon Valley.

“The stories and songs inspired by El Camino Real — the transcontinental pathway forged by Indigenous peoples and later colonized by the Spanish and other European powers — set the stage for the Camino Chronicle Arts series,” said Kat Taylor, founding director of the TomKat Ranch Educational Foundation (TKREF) and one of Camino Chronicles’ sponsors.

“We’re thrilled to illuminate the work of Mexican composer Gabriela Ortiz, Mexican American singer/songwriters Peter and Michael G. Ronstadt, concert flutist Marisa Canales, the musicians of Symphony Silicon Valley under the baton of Maestra JoAnne Falleta, and project music director Benjamin Juarez Echenique,” she added.

“And we’re doubly delighted to thank San José State University and the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies for believing, as John Steinbeck did, in the unique power of harmony, dissonance, cadence and rhythm of diaspora and migration.”

The symphony will also perform “New World Symphony” by Antonín Dvořák, a piece that was especially meaningful to John Steinbeck, added Steinbeck Center Director and Assistant Professor of American Studies Daniel Rivers. Canales, who also is a co-founder of CaminoArts, will serve as soloist for both the Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon performances, under the direction of Grammy-winning conductor Maestra Falletta.

Ronstadt Brothers

The Ronstadt Brothers will be performing at the Hammer Theatre on Oct. 3. Image courtesy of Marcela Davison Avilas.

The Ronstadt Brothers will perform the world premiere of their new album “The Road,” commissioned by the Camino Chronicles Project and underwritten by the TomKat Foundation, at the Hammer Theatre at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 3. The event is free and open to the public.

“This full-length album from the Ronstadt Brothers centers on the theme of roads, migration and the existential experience of travel,” Rivers said.

Multi-instrumentalists Michael G. Rondstadt and Peter D. Rondstadt describe their music as a “new and fresh take on traditional Southwestern and Mexican folk songs” that carries forward the legacy of their aunt Linda and their father Michael.

“The curricular connections of the Camino Chronicles with the university are related to music, history, humanities and education,” said Shannon Miller, dean of the College of Humanities and the Arts.

“Ortiz’s work rethinks the identity of the El Camino around issues of migration, while the Ronstadt Brothers are composing work in the American folk music tradition while also exploring connections to their Mexican heritage and the Camino’s indigenous roots. This introduces a lot of interesting issues related to decolonizing the curriculum and the arts,” Miller added.

Visit the Symphony Silicon Valley to learn more about the Oct. 2 and 3 performances of Ortiz’s work.

Learn more about the Rondstadt Brothers’ performance and work with the Steinbeck Center.

Read about TomKat MeDia and CaminoArts.

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 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.

 

San José State Launches In Our Own Words, a Community Collection of COVID-19 Experiences

In Our Own Words

How will the Bay Area remember the COVID-19 pandemic? For University Archivist Carli Lowe, the pandemic has offered a unique opportunity to interact with history in real time. This summer SJSU’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library, in partnership with the College of Humanities and the Arts, have officially launched “In Our Own Words: A Multilingual Public History of the COVID-19 Pandemic in the Bay Area,” a public digital humanities project designed to document Bay Area residents’ personal experiences of the pandemic. 

The project is the result of Lowe’s partnership with San José State Assistant Professor of World Languages and Literatures Chunhui Peng, a memory studies scholar who is adding a multilingual component to the project.

“Usually, archives deal with records of things that happened many, many decades ago, or even centuries in the past,” said Lowe. “One of the reasons I was excited to partner with Dr. Peng is that we are very focused on collecting memories as they unfold in our contemporary moment. We know that we are living in a historic moment.”

In May 2020, Lowe launched “Spartans Speak on COVID-19, a project designed to memorialize journal entries, blog posts, social media posts, photographs, audio and video recordings, and other documentation of personal experiences during the pandemic and make them available online through SJSU Digital Collections. Community members have shared the effects of social distancing and county shelter-in-place orders on their social lives, mental health, financial well-being, and campus life. The project has already amassed more than 300 submissions.

Peng responded to Lowe’s call for submissions with a proposal to widen the project scope to reflect the diverse communities of the Bay Area. Together, they partnered with several faculty members of the World Languages and Literatures Department to translate their call for submissions into seven of the most commonly spoken languages in the Bay Area — English, Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, Tagalog, Russian. Associate Dean of Faculty Success and Research Jason Aleksander has been a big proponent of the project.

“‘In Our Own Words’ builds on ongoing collaborations between the library and the College of Humanities and the Arts to establish a digital humanities center at SJSU,” said Aleksander. 

“The project also fits well with one of the major public programming themes sponsored by the college — ‘Racial Equality and Social Justice’ — a series of public events that engages broadly with challenges and opportunities in the areas of diversity, equity and inclusion. ‘In Our Own Words’ is an impressive and interesting project.”

In Our Own Words Peng and Lowe hope to capture a 360-degree perspective of the pandemic by including essential workers such as farmworkers, health care workers, grocery store employees, as well as students and families who have lost loved ones to COVID-19 and employees who were laid off or had their careers otherwise derailed

“In memory studies, we always ask who is speaking and for what purpose,” said Peng. “The second world war was written differently by different groups — by the United States, by Germany, by Japan. Some groups were less visible in the conversation, and their voices were not recorded. That’s why it is very important for us to give all the invisible voices a chance to share their experiences about the pandemic.”

Lowe added that the true power of a digital archive is that it expands access to critical information to those who may not have been able to contribute to it. 

“Information can be transformative for individuals and communities,” said Lowe. “I’m trying to think about whose voices are being heard through this collection and whose voices are not being heard.

“My motivation as an archivist is rooted in actively making space in collections to serve people who may or may not be in power, projects that serve the needs of marginalized people. I see a project like this as an opportunity to create access to information and to bring people together.”

To contribute to the project, contact Lowe and Peng at covid19collection@sjsu.edu or visit https://library.sjsu.edu/own-words.

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.

A Remarkable Achievement: SJSU Celebrates the Graduating Class of 2021

Celebrating our 2021 Graduates with portraits of grads in the background.

We’re thrilled to congratulate our graduating class of 2021, who have shown incredible resilience, determination and grit during the COVID-19 pandemic, which spanned more than a year of their college experience.

Here are some of our extraordinary soon-to-be graduates, as shared by SJSU faculty from across disciplines, in alphabetical order: Robby Abarca, ’21 Communicative Disorders and Sciences; Diego Almaraz, ‘21 Industrial Design; Joshua Bevis, ‘21 Mechanical Engineering; Aliza Bolliger, ’21 Public Relations; Briena Brown, ’21 Sociology; Marc Aaron Casupanan, ’21 Graphic Design; Sabrina Cervantes, ’21 Justice Studies; Anie de la Rosa Clark, ’21 Master of Business Administration; Nicole Coates, ’21 MS Interdisciplinary Studies; Rachel Crawford, ’21 MFA Creative Writing; Briettny Curtner, ’21 MA Education, Counseling and Student Personnel; Zobeida Delgadillo, ‘21 Political Science; Zoe Dolak, ’21 Public Relations; Adam Elwailly, ’21 Electrical Engineering; Mateo Garcia De la Quintana, ’21 Advertising; Lydon George, Master in Urban Planning; Olivia Gerber, ’21 Political Science and Journalism; Anna Harvey, ’21 MS Transportation Management; Fatima Hassan, ‘21 Psychology; Bianca Hernandez, ’21 MA Sociology; Shruthi Kamath, ’21 Psychology; Jacob Lapinsky, ’21 History and Social Sciences; Vanndy Loth-Kumar, ’21 Doctor of Nursing Practice; Ben Newsome, ’21 MA History; Sabina Patel, ’21 Psychology; Steven Peck, ’21 Political Science; Andrea Perez, ‘21 Advertising; Abril Perez-Gonzaga, ‘21 Anthropology; Naromy Ramirez, ’21 MA Education, Special Education; Nick Randle, ’21 Graphic Design; Jasmine Marie Reyes, ’21 Music, Performance; Ralph Robinson, ’21 Master in Urban Planning; Leilani Saelaw, ’21 Kinesiology; Marc Adrian Narvadez Santos, ’21 English; Sabrina Shell, ‘21 Industrial Design; Kristina Smith, ’21 Child and Adolescent Development and Psychology; Juan Carlos Soliz, ’21 Behavioral Science; Ty Supreme, ’21 Microbiology; Amber Renee Sylva, ’21 MA English; Alice Tsvinev, ’21 Psychology; Narayani Tyagi, ’21 MS Physics; Brianna Misaki Williams, ’21 Philosophy; Neng Xiong, ’21 MA Education, Curriculum and Instruction; and William Yi, ’21 Public Relations.

In their words, they describe the important milestones reached and lessons learned while at San José State, the key takeaways gained from attending college during a pandemic, their next steps — and the transformative impact SJSU had on their lives.

Many of them are on a path to become future leaders and educators, law enforcement and urban planners, clinicians in healthcare and practitioners of art and research. Some are the first in their families to attend college, others are parents setting an example for their children to follow — all of them are shining examples of what it means to be a Spartan.

“Throughout my career, this has always been the most important and revered time on the academic calendar,” said President Mary A. Papazian. “It is the moment that officially affirms the completion of a milestone that forever will impact our students’ lives, and the lives of future generations. All of us at San José State share in the joy and excitement felt by our spring graduates, and I am delighted to welcome them into the Spartan alumni family.”

Graduates will be celebrated at the end of the semester with a custom recognition website, one for each college, and also have the opportunity to be individually recognized at a socially distant, in-person walkthrough photo experience on campus May 26-28. All of this will begin with a livestreamed virtual kick-off event hosted by the president and provost on Wednesday, May 26.


Bobby Abarca.

Robby Abarca (he/him/his), ’21 Communicative Disorders and Sciences

Milestones at SJSU:
One of my major accomplishments at SJSU was being accepted into the undergraduate speech clinic within the Communicative Disorders and Sciences department. This experience solidified my decision to become a speech-language pathologist.

I got to work alongside great student clinicians and under a supervisor that provided us with many opportunities to grow. I learned so much about producing sessions that obtained goals in an ethical manner. I believe that it prepared me for my future in graduate school.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I am actually capable of online learning! I was extremely scared of the transition to online classes, but it ended up being better than I had expected. Our professors and other faculty members were constantly providing us with encouragement and were overall understanding of the new transition.

The biggest takeaway is that it prepared me for the totally unexpected. COVID-19 had such a huge impact on all of us, but we continued to persevere.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
By far, one of the most valuable lessons I have learned at SJSU is that it is really true when people say, “When one door closes, another opens.” I am the type of person who had their entire life planned out since the sixth grade, but everything changed when I stepped foot at SJSU.

It is fine if anyone is feeling lost or confused about what to do next; just know that your journey is not over! SJSU has bountiful resources and experiences that are capable of changing your entire life!

Career goals/next steps:
I am on to my next journey of furthering my education at graduate school! The end goal is to become a speech-language pathologist providing services to those who are in need. I hope to someday return as a professor, so I am able to provide future generations with the same knowledge and resources that were once given to me as a student.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU has transformed my life for the better. I am leaving with so many memories, friends and influential advice from my professors that have made me into the person I am today.

I honestly do not know what I would be doing if I did not attend this university. SJSU has prepared me to become a better clinician, researcher and partner to others. College definitely goes by very fast, but the memories I have will last a lifetime!


Diego Almaraz.

Diego Almaraz (he/him/his), ’21 Industrial Design

Milestones at SJSU:
After being in Industrial Design for a few years, I thought it would be beneficial for us students to have exposure and networking opportunities within the Bay Area design community. I became the president of the major, and I was able to achieve these goals by having several trips to firms, guest speakers, local design events, and appearing in a design magazine.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Out of the several things learned during virtual classes, the biggest takeaway is learning how to effectively work in a remote team. Being able to figure out how to keep all our information universally accessible between us over a cloud was key to our success. This will make that transition easier into remote working and will open more doors in the future to allow for working with different people all over the world.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lesson that I have learned over my time at SJSU is how to work together in a culturally diverse team. Design being a universal language, it helped to create clear communication between our culturally diverse team, which made it a lot easier for us to work in unison without leaving anyone out.

Career goals/next steps:
My ultimate career goal is to open a design firm later down the line. Being able to work in a wide range of different industries — such as footwear, electronics, services and charity — and making a meaningful impact sounds like something I would enjoy doing every day. When working in so many different fields, you are constantly learning new things every day which is my favorite aspect of working in design.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
Out of the many ways that SJSU has transformed me, the most notable is how it got me to break out of my shell. Going into the design, a very social major, had a large role in that transformation because we are always together on campus working hard and building each other up. Ultimately, they made me feel comfortable to be myself, speak my mind and take initiative.


Joshua Bevis.

Joshua Bevis (he/him/his), ’21 Mechanical Engineering

Milestones at SJSU:
I received the 2021 Scott T. Axline Memorial Student Award for Excellence in Service, was hired as an instructional student assistant for the Mechanical Engineering department in 2019, was a Dean’s List Scholar in 2018, and received the Silicon Valley Engineering Scholarship in 2016.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
My experience with COVID-19 was different than most students at SJSU, as I proctored a lab during the heat of the pandemic. For me, the most important takeaway from this experience was the importance of flexibility and adaptability. Shifting curriculums, lab designs and classroom protocols to fit the requirements of the pandemic was as much of a learning opportunity as a challenge — an opportunity to test my abilities to adapt to changing requirements and uncertainty.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
My experience at SJSU was one of constant learning and growth. I went from academic probation to a Dean’s List student within a year’s time, and through that process, I learned perseverance and determination in a trial-by-fire situation. I discovered the personal discipline and life habits required to not only succeed but also excel in my passions and efforts. I also gained a wealth of experience in my engineering courses and labs which have opened the door to my career and future.

Career goals/next steps:
I will be starting at Keysight Technologies as a manufacturing process engineer in June, furthering my interest and passion for mechatronics and metrology.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU has given me the tools, knowledge and experiences to excel in the industry and among my peers and build a better life for myself and my loved ones. The lessons learned and experiences gained here have helped shape the person I am and the impact I will have on my community. SJSU was ranked #1 Most Transformative University in the nation for a reason, and I have truly experienced and benefited from that as I transition into the next season of life.


Aliza Bolliger.

Aliza Bolliger (she/her/hers), ’21 Public Relations

Milestones at SJSU:
I succeeded at challenging myself to get almost all A’s while at SJSU (only one B), which allowed me to receive Dean’s Scholar and President’s Scholar recognitions. I am also headed in the direction of summa cum laude, though I will be ecstatic just to receive my degree.

Aside from the grades, I found a major and direction I want to take for a career, which was a choice that took a lot of years to make. I also got to experience my major in a real way through my internship, and I successfully led two accounts.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
One takeaway from attending college during the pandemic is the incredible importance of being a community and keeping each other safe. We have had to become (and successfully did so in most ways) adaptable in order to protect our communities during this unprecedented time. But it also has shown me how important personal connections are to me, especially after they’re gone or different from what they were before.

Another takeaway, which I noticed both in myself and in those around me, is how resilient we are even when things are tough. Dealing with a pandemic, college, work and life in general is a tall order, and we are still working through it, but together.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I learned through my SJSU experiences that I am stronger than I thought, and I can survive even the hardest of tasks, assignments and moments. There have been periods of time pre-COVID and during that have certainly tested a growing, young adult and budding professional, all while tackling anxiety, but I got through — and I exceeded expectations. I have gained such valuable skills, wisdom and education in my courses, but I was also given the truth of my personal determination.

Career goals/next steps:
I want to hold an internship after graduating, specifically a Disney Professional Internship. My dream is to be a Disney PR professional, but I would be excited to join another company where I could show my passion and support while flexing the skills I’ve gained at San José State University.

I ultimately look forward to opportunities to continue learning on my own and growing both personally and professionally — and maybe land that dream job one day.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
Aside from the obvious of being the place where I earned my degree, SJSU has been a unique and enriching experience both on and off campus. I wasn’t sure what State would be like after being a long-term community college student, but it transformed me more into the person who I want to be and allowed me to take the next giant steps in my life.


Briena Brown.

Briena Brown (she/her/hers), ’21 Sociology

Milestones at SJSU:
I had the honor of representing the Student Homeless Alliance (SHA) at a united press conference with SJSU’s administration to announce the implementation of SHA’s solutions to provide more resources for homeless students on campus (emergency beds, grants, SJSUCares on-campus location, etc.).

Besides being a community organizer and artistic activist, I also supported the SJSU Human Rights Institute through my involvement in the Silicon Valley Pain Index.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I have learned what I’m actually capable of during this pandemic. Being a college student during a pandemic can be difficult, but I have taught myself that I can do hard things, and I am so much stronger than I ever thought I was.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
SJSU has taught me that if the thought of doing something excites and scares you, it probably means that you should do it! When I reflect on my college experience, I only remember the opportunities/moments that I originally was so hesitant about before doing it.

Career goals/next steps:
I want to end up in a profession that helps those around me. I hope to break glass ceilings with my presence and provide support to those who need it, whether that’s on a national or local level.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU has taught me to be brave and to stand up for what I believe in. I have learned to accept myself for who I am and to work hard in absolutely everything that I do.


Marc Casupanan.

Marc Aaron Casupanan (he/him/his), ’21 Graphic Design

Milestones at SJSU:
A major accomplishment for me at SJSU was getting into the BFA Graphic Design program. To be able to do something I love, such as design, in an environment that pushes me to do my best — it has been a great opportunity and is an accomplishment for me personally.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I think the key takeaways from the online learning environment during the pandemic is the importance of connections and keeping in touch with others. An aspect that I didn’t realize I’d miss was interacting with classmates and peers. Peers kept me motivated while we were taking classes in-person, so to adjust to remote learning, reaching out to others and maintaining friendships become important. I find that having these relationships help motivate me to continue working towards better results.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lesson I learned at SJSU is that while self motivation is a great quality when it comes to accomplishing a task, being surrounded by a great group of people who push you, as well, is even better.

Career goals/next steps:
My next step is to pursue my passion in design, ideally working on a small team at first to get some experience working closely with others. I think for me, personally, I’d benefit within small groups because the communication aspect of the team is similar to what I’m used to from school experience.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has definitely given me numerous opportunities with the BFA Graphic Design program, being the NEO Design Club president, and working as a student assistant for the King Library. I’ve opened up a lot, and I value the chances and memories that have come from my time here at SJSU.


Sabrina Cervantes.

Sabrina Cervantes (she/her/hers), ’21 Justice Studies

Milestones at SJSU:
Academically, my proudest accomplishments are being named a Dean’s Scholar my first semester at SJSU, and being named a President’s Scholar the following two semesters. Also, during my internship with SJSU’s Record Clearance Project (RCP), I was offered a position as a staff assistant. Nothing is more rewarding than the work I get to do with this program.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The key takeaways I learned while attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic are to be disciplined and stay positive. While 2020 was a difficult year for everyone, some more than others, we students had to stay focused, disciplined and get used to the new normal, which was online learning.

Rather than dwell on what I was missing, I focused on the positives. The connections I have made with faculty, staff, students and RCP clients through a computer screen has been the greatest blessing in the most challenging year.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lesson I learned at SJSU is that I am capable of more than I think. I have met so many amazing people, peers and faculty, who have accomplished so much despite where they come from. It is easy to say, “I’m not qualified,” or “I’m not good enough,” and not even try. However, it takes courage to put yourself out there and accomplish something great.

Career goals/next steps:
My next steps would be to begin a career as a probation officer. I would like to go back to school after a few years to either get my master’s and become an educator or go to law school. I would like to get some experience in different fields and see what I’m most passionate about.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU has transformed my life by showing me that there are so many options out there. The Record Clearance Project has given me the opportunity to meet people from diverse backgrounds and learn many different skills that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

There is no doubt that my experience at SJSU has transformed me as a person and given me a very unique set of skills and experiences that will help me throughout my career.


Anie Clark.

Anie de la Rosa Clark (she/her/hers), ’21 Master of Business Administration

Milestones at SJSU:
A major milestone for me was to discover my competitive skills and take advantage of all opportunities the MBA offered. I participated in the Heritage Bank Certificate Analyst and took first place along with three talented undergraduate business students.

I became the first-ever MBA Hispanic Advisor with Centro Community Partners Advanced Entrepreneurs Program, setting course for future MBAs to get involved too. I managed to participate in an unpaid part-time internship at a robotics startup, and in our marketing class simulation project, my team set a new record in the simulation program for highest score since the simulation was introduced.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I could not think of a better way to spend my evenings and weekends than to spend them in MBA studies and assignments during the COVID-19 pandemic. This shifted my focus away from the pandemic, as I was so busy with readings, classes and projects.

I also appreciated interacting with classmates in similar circumstances and exchanging ideas about the unusual events that forced us to think differently. We cheered on each other. We connected with each other. We learned new ways of learning together, and we found new ways of planning, envisioning and executing ideas and strategies.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Everyone in the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business is genuinely invested in making every student’s career successful. Full disclosure, part of my interest in pursuing an MBA at SJSU is that I am a full-time SJSU employee; I wanted to know the SJSU product.

I uncovered the gem we refer to as the best public university in Silicon Valley. As I continue my work with SJSU donors, I feel reassured to share my story, knowing that everyone at SJSU is invested in educating the leaders of tomorrow and developing better citizens, thoughtful colleagues and stronger communities.

Career goals/next steps:
I launched my consulting firm and have been in a soft launch since 2019 refining my idea and putting in place my business plan. For now, I plan to continue working on it part time and continue my focus helping entrepreneurs launch their business.

My goal is to help entrepreneurs take action on their plans and launch, iterate and continue. I call this “actionate their planning” because a plan will not prove whether it works or not until action starts. And I plan to continue my career in philanthropy as it directly relates to my main three motivators: help others, support education and do what makes us happy.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
As a results-oriented person, I transformed my approach to face situations and address challenges by building more awareness of my people-oriented skills.


Nicole Coates.

Nicole Coates (she/her/hers), ’21 MS Interdisciplinary Studies

Milestones at SJSU:
I received the CSU Sally Casanova Scholar award, which helped me in applying to PhD programs this past year. I was able to apply to 15 programs, and I have been admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pursue my PhD in brain and cognitive sciences this fall!

I also was able to maintain a high GPA at SJSU, which was another goal of mine, in order to demonstrate to PhD programs I have what it takes to pursue graduate-level work.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
This past year has taught me to be patient in a time when everything seems uncertain, and to be understanding during a time when everyone is going through hardship. While socializing was nonexistent (in-person anyway), I was reminded of the importance and need for humans to be the social animals we are and reminded of how much I cherish my family, friends and colleagues.

Most valuable lesson I learned from SJSU:
First, office hours are necessary for not only retaining information learned in a class but also making long-lasting connections that will be helpful and wonderful to have as you advance in your career.

Second, the ability to collaborate is critical, as you can learn so much from your colleagues as well as produce work that is incredibly interesting and multifaceted.

Third, don’t be afraid to express interest in someone’s work! Chances are not only are they happy you are interested, but they will also offer ways in which you can collaborate with them.

Career goals/next steps:
I will be pursuing my PhD at MIT this fall in order to study developmental psychology and cognitive science. Aside from research, I will mentor undergraduates and be involved in diversity and inclusivity efforts in higher education.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State allowed me to pursue my interests that didn’t fit into one master’s program. Because of that, I have been able to collaborate with faculty from many departments as well as become a more creative and critical thinker.

Although the Interdisciplinary Studies program can be rather lonely (there’s no cohort or department that you belong to), faculty and students welcomed me with open arms. SJSU made me feel like I belonged, both as a student and as a young woman of color entering the world of academia.


Rachel A. Crawford.

Rachel Crawford (she/her/hers), ’21 MFA Creative Writing

Milestones at SJSU:
While at SJSU, I won the Dorrit A. Sibley Writing Scholarship Award for excellence in poetry in 2019 and 2020. I also won the Academy of American Poets Virginia de Araujo Prize, which led to the publishing of my poem “Visiting Side B” on the Academy’s website. I won the James Phelan Award for metrical verse in 2020, and my poem “Pleasants Valley Road, Cantelow Road, September 2020” was chosen as an award winner for SJSU’s Pandemic Pandemonium event.

My first major publication occurred during the spring of 2020 in New South Journal, and I have a poem, “The Snow Cone,” forthcoming in Reed Magazine’s first ever chapbook. I also worked with a group of Teaching Associates and Dr. Ryan Skinnell on writing a chapter that will be published in Threshold Conscripts: Rhetoric and Composition TAships.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
All people have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic in their own ways, and the things I learned the most are to have compassion for others and their circumstances and to show grace as much as possible.

I also learned how important it is to have patience for others, especially students who have family and work responsibilities outside of taking classes. While it was important for me to learn my own coursework and to teach writing skills to my students, it was also really important for me to pass on the value of having resilience and perseverance during difficult times.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
SJSU has so much to offer students in terms of resources and campus events, but it is up to each individual student how much to participate. When I attended SJSU as an undergrad, I did not participate much. In fact, I am embarrassed by the kind of student I was. However, attending SJSU as a graduate student 12 years later, I wanted my experience to be different.

I remember hearing a speech on the welcoming day for graduate students, and the speaker said to take advantage of everything in the program — read everything, attend every class, go to events and engage deeply in learning. I was inspired, and I did my best to live up to that advice.

Because of that, I graduate from the MFA program with a greater depth of knowledge and appreciation for everything I learned and everyone I encountered along my journey.

Career goals/next steps:
Next year, I will work at SJSU as a first-year writing instructor and as a supervisor for English phase II and III student teachers in the single-subject credential program. I will also continue to refine my poetry manuscript to send out for publication.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
I came to SJSU and found a community of writers and thinkers who welcomed and encouraged me. Many of the professors on campus have been my greatest mentors and supporters, and they showed me how to push the boundaries of my writing and my teaching.

Although I have always valued my family, going through this program taught me how much I truly depend on them, and for all of their help and encouragement, I am forever grateful. I feel so incredibly blessed to have attended the MFA program at SJSU, and I look forward to continuing my work there as a supervisor and first-year writing instructor.


Briettny Curtner.

Briettny Curtner (she/her/hers),’18 Psychology, ’21 MA Education, Counseling and Student Personnel

Milestones at SJSU:

  • Being a part of Faces of Learning, an arts-based research initiative hosted by Lurie College
  • Serving as an intern within the Residential Life Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage as part of the Association of College and University Housing Officers – International Housing Internship Program
  • Funding my thesis, “Misogynoir: Undergraduate Experiences by Black Women,” with the Graduate Equity Fellowship
  • Creating and facilitating 12 workshops focused on academic success, well-being and career planning workshops as a graduate assistant for Lurie College Success Center
  • Fostering awareness and coordinating initiatives relating to the Garret Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant as community mental health coordinator role with Counseling and Psychological Services at SJSU

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I learned the value of being proactive. I do not believe I would have moved to another state during this pandemic to begin my career before completing my master’s degree if I was not proactive.

Additionally, I was starting to review position descriptions that were interesting as well as intimidating while my imposter syndrome kicked in. However, by preparing for all that I could control, I learned how to prevent COVID-19 from becoming a hindrance as my career began.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I have been with SJSU since 2014 as an undergraduate student, student employee, full-time employee and now a graduate student months away from commencement. I have learned many lessons during the seven years that I have spent with SJSU. The most impactful is the value of authenticity.

My educational background is within psychology and educational counseling, which I have used to support college students, and the rapport that can be built is priceless when it is genuine and authentic. I believe that representation is powerful, and my presence within Student Affairs, I hope, shows to others that pursuing this field is possible — regardless of a pandemic.

Authenticity in all that you do will go a long way.

Career goals/next steps:
I am four months into my new role with Utah Valley University, and my goals are to create a path towards success for students that is realistic and feasible for them. I aim to continue to learn more about the student population I now serve, adventure every weekend to somewhere new, and enjoy cuisines from places I have never heard of until moving to Lehi, Utah!

Simply put, my next steps are to be present in my new role because it is exactly the type of work I went to school for. Now, I can thrive in my new environment rather than work to survive as I did during my collegiate experiences.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
I first started with SJSU at 17 years old and am now graduating for the second time at 24 years old. San José State has provided opportunities for me to grow personally and professionally.
From within the residence halls to inside a classroom, I sought out leadership experiences that challenged me and contributed to a resume that has served me well.

Additionally, through my master’s program, I was able to facilitate research. After two years, my thesis is complete, and it would not have happened without the support of my committee chair Dr. Jason Laker and committee members Drs. Angela Birts and Lorri Capizzi.

All in all, during my time with SJSU, I learned what I enjoyed in life, what careers were of interest, and what I will continue to aspire to accomplish.


Zobeida Delgadillo.

Zobeida Delgadillo (she/her/hers), ‘21 Political Science

Milestones at SJSU:
It has been both an honor and a privilege to have served as Associated Students president and chief executive officer as well as Associated Students director of legislative affairs. Additionally, as a governing member of the California State Student Association, I’ve advocated for obtaining more state funding for the CSU system, supporting basic needs initiatives, providing funding to resources and departments and promoting student participation in the governance of the CSU system.

Other roles that have allowed me to continue my pursuit of life-long learning, personal growth and inclusion: a senator on the Academic Senate, a board member on the Student Union, a member of the Athletics Board, an orientation leader for New Student and Family Programs, and a member of Alpha Omicron Pi.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I’ve learned that learning is a two-way street. Despite being in a virtual setting, I’ve continued to allow myself to share my personal experiences and learn from others, which has given me new perspectives and enriched my college experience.

I’ve also learned ways to be more adaptable and flexible, both in academic productivity and my personal development. I would advise students to not feel constrained by the lack of in-person engagement in a virtual setting. In a campus filled with cultural diversity, your individuality is extremely respected and valued, so no matter your interests, chances are there’s a place for you.

As Spartans, you are in the place where Olympic winners, entrepreneurs and trailblazers in society once stood. Challenge yourself. Absorb everything. And above all, enjoy and trust the process!

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
My experience as SJSU and various leadership roles have taught me the importance of intersectionality, equity and transparency. Initiative and innovation are key to my principles, as my time at SJSU taught me to capitalize on my strengths and find my voice.

My authenticity has taught me to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, which means having the courage to drive innovation, engagement and advocacy. This form of confidence has further contributed to my resilience and commitment to the communities I belong to.

Career goals/next steps:
I will be attending graduate school immediately after undergrad. I’m still undecided of where I’ll attend, but I recently received admission and a scholarship to the University of San Francisco for a MA in sports management.

I hope to pursue a career in the sports industry and one day become an executive in Major League Baseball. Regardless, I will continue to be a life-long advocate for access and equality for women not only in athletics but in all sectors of society.

How has SJSU transformed your life?:
As a first-generation student and a San José native, I’ve been transformed by SJSU in ways I never imagined. I keep close to me this quote by James Baldwin: “The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it.” It reminds me to always have vision, dedication and strategy everywhere I go, even if it means occupying spaces that traditionally have not been meant for me.

My community at SJSU has given me utmost guidance, clarity and an outstanding support system, to which I credit my success in and outside the classroom. As I move forward, I believe that my personal and professional experiences at SJSU have laid the foundation for me to continue creating transformative change in my career and community.



Zoe Dolak (she/her/hers), ’21 Public Relations

Milestones at SJSU:
My time at San José State has been filled with so many unique experiences and opportunities.
One of my biggest accomplishments at San José State was working alongside the Journalism and Mass Communications [school] and the Dwight Bentel Hall agency team to virtually honor Dr. Anthony Fauci with the William Randolph Hearst Award for excellence in mass communications. We were able to bring one of 2020’s biggest figures onto campus and bring recognition to the school and everything that Dr. Anthony Fauci has done.

I’m also proud to have led a month-long campaign and case study about civil discourse in America for the Public Relations Student Society of America

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending college during the pandemic was difficult, but I learned that I’m capable of taking on challenges and creating change no matter the circumstance. In every situation, there’s always still opportunity.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I’ve learned a lot of lessons at San José State, and I think one of the biggest ones was learning how to follow my heart. Everyone always says that there’s something you “need” to be doing or a point you “should” be at in life. But I found that listening to myself and following my own path has taught me the most.

Career goals/next steps:
Once I graduate from San José State, I plan to further the message of sustainability and climate equity in California and the United States by doing communications work with the company CALSTART. Helping to uplift other voices and empower future generations is always going to be my number one goal.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my professional life, but it also has transformed my cultural and societal views. Going to this school took me from being a young high-schooler who didn’t really know what she wanted to do in life to being a leader, a thinker and someone who has three times the amount of confidence in themselves. I am forever grateful for the opportunities the school has given me to learn how to grow and thrive every single day. Spartan up!


Adam Elwailly.

Adam Elwailly (he/him/his), ’21 Electrical Engineering

Milestones at SJSU:
One of my research papers was accepted to a peer-reviewed academic journal in the field of semiconductor electronics. I’m very pleased with this accomplishment, as the months of hard work that preceded submitting the manuscript led me to discover a passion for research, which informed my decision to pursue a PhD after graduation from San José State.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending classes during the COVID-19 pandemic taught me a great deal about focus. When classes moved online, I learned rather quickly that it is all too easy to become distracted and disengaged without clear structure and a few self-imposed rules to keep me focused. I hope to carry this self-discipline forward throughout the rest of my time as a student and into my career.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
My experience at San José State taught me that opportunities are rarely unavailable. One of the keys to success is learning to recognize where opportunities exist, even where they may be hidden, and being willing to take them, even when they may be difficult. The pursuit of opportunity is always worth it.

Career goals/next steps:
This fall, I will be attending the electrical engineering PhD program at Stanford University, where I will pursue research in nanoelectronics or power semiconductor devices. It is my hope that this path leads me to a rich career in electronics research.

I may ultimately pursue a university professorship, as academia lies squarely within this framework for my future endeavors.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State provided me with more opportunities than I could ever have taken. In addition to laying a foundation for a career in electronics research, being a student at San José State taught me valuable fundamental skills that will be useful in any of my future pursuits.
As I graduate, my most significant takeaway about San José State is that, through their interactions with their instructors and with each other, students here can find support for any interest or career path.


Mateo Garcia De la Quintana.

Mateo Garcia De la Quintana (he/him/his), ’21 Advertising

Milestones at SJSU:
My sophomore year, I started in my first graphic design position for CommUniverCity under John Delacruz. As a junior, I served as the creative director of the Spartan Ad Club, an advertising/marketing assistant for the Spartan Recreation and Aquatic Center (a role I continued as a senior), a student art director at DBH Communications Agency on campus, and an Adobe Ambassador, which I also held my senior year.

Both my sophomore and junior years, I interned for SJSU Up&Up Festivals. My senior year, I was co-president of the Spartan Ad Club, the social media director for Something Nice Company, and a freelance product photographer.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Opportunities are everywhere — especially online now! It was an amazing opportunity to understand myself away from campus while still at school.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lesson I learned is that you will receive just as much as you put in. Life is not always in the classroom — there is so much more to discover and learn from clubs, people and professors that you can’t always find in the classroom. Do not be afraid to take that extra step to improve yourself.

Career goals/next steps:
I just want my next step to be something I am passionate about and want to do — something that makes me say, “Yes; I am excited to do this.” I would love to continue working in social media and product photography. I am glad I will have an amazing background from SJSU to help me move forward in my career. SJSU has been recognized by so many companies, and they know the students that come out of here are going to be great.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my life drastically. I learned a lot that will transform me into the person I want to be, and I owe it to my professors and peers that shaped me.

But most importantly, I lost a lot, whether it was through assignments, jobs, relationships or a competition. That is something I value, because it made me learn things about myself, and it made me want to do better. I am always a better version of myself than I was yesterday.


Lydon George.

Lydon George (he/him/his), ‘21 Master in Urban Planning

Milestones at SJSU:
Through leadership roles with our two urban planning student organizations (TRANSITion and Urban Planning Coalition), I have been able to help coordinate numerous events and initiatives to engage students and the community with issues in planning.

I have contributed to published public transportation research through the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) and worked as an intern for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority . Lastly, I am on my way to having earned a master’s degree in urban planning; I think that is pretty noteworthy in itself.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic has very clearly highlighted the importance of community, relationships and in-person interactions to one’s success not only as a student but also as a healthy, happy person.

We have been hardwired to move about, place ourselves in different settings to do different things, and to interact with different people, not fully appreciating how much is communicated or experienced in the process. It took a collective, proactive approach to build up and maintain my SJSU community and ensure that we were able to support each other through this rigorous academic program, and in life in general.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I learned that true progress in academic thought and real-world problem solving is born from the collective mind. Often in the “real” world, we do not have the opportunity to spend time with people who are very different from us and are unable to truly understand the value of their different perspectives.

The Master in Urban Planning (MUP) program at SJSU is a microcosm of the beautiful diversity we see across the Bay Area, connecting students from all types of ethnic, social and academic backgrounds. Each of these people brings unique experiences, insights and knowledge to our field that are crucial for addressing issues of urban planning. As we move onto professional endeavors, it is important to remember the value in actively breaking down social and racial barriers to promote diverse voices.

Career goals/next steps:
Oh, you mean I can’t just be in classes forever? OK, in that case, I will actively seek employment in the public sector to further community/cultural enrichment and racial/social equity within systemic planning processes.

I will continue to conduct academic research with my research team at MTI and pursue other opportunities to become more involved with community-based planning initiatives. I might even read a book for fun.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
Immediately, my connection to SJSU and the MUP program gave me the institutional support to connect with various, planning-related professionals in a credible, real way. SJSU has provided the education, academic/professional opportunities and personal connections to facilitate my professional aspirations.

As well, my experience at SJSU has enabled me to academically frame and address critical issues we face on a day-to-day basis, such as access to housing and jobs, racism and environmental preservation, and it has empowered me to push for progress on a systemic level.


Olivia Gerber.

Olivia Gerber (she/her/hers), ’21 Political Science and Journalism

Milestones at SJSU:
I have had the pleasure of holding a variety of leadership positions at SJSU, including serving as a resident advisor, the Panhellenic Council president, and managing editor of the Spartan Daily. I also had the opportunity to complete the Advanced Humanities Honors program and work as a student intern for Students for Quality Education with the California Faculty Association.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending college during the pandemic has taught me that adaptability and a strong support system can go a long way and that it’s OK to struggle and lean on those around you.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lessons I have learned at SJSU are the only way to know is to try — quite literally get involved in everything and anything that interests you. It’s OK to feel nervous, but don’t take yourself out of the game before it’s even started.

Career goals/next steps:
Much like my time at SJSU, my next steps are wherever the wind takes me. My goals range from investigative reporting for a news publication to traveling the world as a diplomat and everything in between.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed me into a curious and confident person. I am so grateful for the diverse experiences and vibrant instructors I have had at SJSU, and I feel so ready to take on the world.


Anna Harvey.

Anna Harvey (she/her/hers), ’21 MS Transportation Management

Milestones at SJSU:
Switched jobs and semi-successfully parented my 4-year-old daughter — both with lots of love, help and advice from family, friends and mentors!

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Ask for and admit to needing help; your support network is waiting to step in, but they can’t read your mind.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Every class and every classmate is an opportunity to learn something new.

Career goals/next steps:
I’d like to continue working towards leadership roles in transportation organizations.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
I honestly never anticipated returning to school after earning my undergraduate degree. SJSU’s Minetta Transportation Institute and the MS in Transportation Management program allowed me to do so as the full-time working mom of a toddler.

I really applied myself to show my daughter what can be accomplished in even the busiest seasons of life. This experience has strengthened my conviction in my goals and given me the opportunity to meet many other awesome people who are all engaged in addressing similar professional and societal challenges.


Fatima Hassan.

Fatima Hassan (she/her/hers), ‘21 Psychology

Milestones at SJSU:
I have always been a mental health advocate, and I was delighted to continue doing this even as a student, thanks to the Mental Health Ambassadors program at SJSU. As a Mental Health Ambassador (MHA), all the outreach work I and the other MHAs have been doing has helped many SJSU students access and learn about the mental health services available at SJSU.

I’m also on my way to finish my degree in three years, and I was able to do this while maintaining my GPA (and sanity) and the transition to online classes due to the pandemic.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Adaptability is the key to achieving anything during unprecedented times. Not everything in life is going to work out the way you intended, especially when it comes to college. The key is to learn to adapt to unexpected situations, being resourceful and using the lessons you learn along the way for personal growth.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I have attended a lot of online events at SJSU and met some amazing people that I have learned a lot from. This taught me the importance of networking and connecting with others. Doing this has not only put me out of my comfort zone, but it has also helped me get exposed to diverse perspectives on life and meet some amazing individuals from various backgrounds.

Career goals/next steps:
The goal is to enroll in a master’s program and become a mental health counselor who serves underrepresented communities, especially immigrants/refugees. Eventually, I would like to get my doctorate and start my research as well as teaching career.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has offered me so many opportunities to learn and grow in ways I never imagined. My experiences at SJSU have pushed me to do better and achieve more than I thought I was capable of. I have met the most amazing professors who have helped me with my career goals and aspirations. I will miss the Spartan community, and I will cherish connections I have made here forever.


Bianca Hernandez.

Bianca Hernandez (she/her/ella/hers), ’21 MA Sociology

Milestones at SJSU:
A major accomplishment I had at SJSU is being the first in my family to attend and graduate from a higher education institution, and now in a few weeks, I will do it again with my master’s degree from SJSU, as well.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
No matter what is going on, I can do it. Maybe it won’t look or feel the same (Zoom meetings, no in- person meeting, social distancing), but I can still get it done.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
There will always be people around me, whether they’re teachers, advisors, co-workers or new friends, supporting and cheering me on in my educational goals.

Career goals/next steps:?
One of my ultimate career goals is to work in the community college system. It is where I learned about sociology, and I ultimately want to help other students like me navigating the higher education system.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my life by giving me so many new opportunities that will help me in my future career, and even in my last semester here, it keeps on opening new doors for me.


Shruthi Kamath.

Shruthi Kamath (she/her/hers), ’21 Psychology

Milestones at SJSU:
I am humbled to share that I will be graduating cum laude from San José State University with honors in psychology. To recognize my academic and leadership achievements, I have been awarded the President’s Scholar Award, Dean’s Scholar Award and the A.S. 55 Award.

In addition, during my freshman and sophomore years at SJSU, I was a part of the Humanities Undergraduate Honors program. Furthermore, in fall 2020, I was recognized with my team as a finalist for the Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge for our innovation of SPAR — a safety companion app exclusive to San José State University.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic has better prepared me for known and unknown circumstances. Along with my peers, I have learned to rise above and recognize my resiliency. I will be sure to embrace the future and take nothing and no one for granted.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
One of the most valuable lessons I have learned from my experiences at SJSU is that
when networking and creating the brand you want to portray, it is most important to be
genuine and authentic in order to make a lasting impression.

Also, being proactive, asking for help, and getting involved in student organizations has encouraged me to see that the world is at your doorstep, and stepping out of your comfort zone is the perfect way to explore those new areas and expand your perspective. Essentially, being open to taking risks is key, so you honor your desires and are willing to put yourself out there.

Career goals/next steps:
Following my graduation at SJSU, I look forward to starting my career in program
management within the tech industry. After a few years of work experience, I hope to
further my studies by pursuing a master’s in business analytics.

My interests lie at the intersection of business, technology and innovation, with a strong passion for women’s empowerment, entrepreneurship and professional development. My ultimate goal is to use my skills and knowledge while working with others to make a meaningful impact in the community around me.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State University has transformed my life through the plethora of exceptional
opportunities that have opened doors for me. Throughout the past four years, I have been
able to foster my professional interests and pursue my creative passions through my
involvement in SJSU Women in Business and Carr Lab Investigating Memory
and the Brain (CLIMB).

I have had the ability to thrive as a professional while being surrounded
by a values-driven community filled with creative, dynamic and resilient leaders.


Jacob Lapinsky.

Jacob Lapinsky (he/him/his), ’21 History and Social Science

Milestones at SJSU:
As a first-generation, low-income college student from a single mother household, I️ am the first person in my family to receive a college degree — in four years, on my own. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work for San José State’s Educational Opportunity Program, as the EOP Workshop Coordinator and an I Can I Will Mentor, while attending school full-time. I️ will be graduating with a 3.7 cumulative GPA as a double major.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I learned that things change, and those who actively work to adapt to the circumstances will succeed. Moving to remote learning left significant time for introspective thinking and to explore what I ️value — my place in the world.

From a historical perspective, we have seen pandemics similar or worse to the likes of what we are experiencing today. With books like The Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe and The Plague by Albert Camus that I have read in SJSU history courses, it is clear that this is a feature of the human experience, so this has been a historic time to attend college.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lesson I️ have learned from my time at SJSU has come from my Sociology of Education Professor, Dr. Yolanda Wiggins. She opened her class with a quote by Toni Morrison:

“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.’’

I️ hope to carry that spirit to enable my future students with the tools they need to free themselves.

Career goals/next steps:
I️ plan to attend the teacher education program at SJSU and achieve an MA in teaching with a teaching credential in social sciences or ethnic studies. I️ hope to teach history, social sciences or ethnic studies at a high school in the Bay Area. I️ am committed to helping to serve historically underserved and disadvantaged communities in the fight against the opportunity gap plaguing education today.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU has transformed my life by giving me the opportunity to pursue a career that I️ am truly passionate about. My life has truly been transformed with the instruction and knowledge accrued over these four years and have made me into a person capable of thinking deeply and critically — and teaching others passionately — as well as being a proper historian.

SJSU has given me the opportunity to live a life that is not full of struggle and strife, and the tools that I️ needed to “free myself,” as Toni Morrison says. I️ owe so much to the EOP program at SJSU, and I️ am eternally grateful for my time spent working for/being a member of the program.


Vanndy Loth.

Vanndy Loth-Kumar (she/her/hers), ’12 Nursing, ’15 Master of Public Health, ’21 Doctor of Nursing Practice

Milestones at SJSU:
I was privileged to complete my Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN), a Master of Public Health (MPH), and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) through SJSU. I am appreciative of my internship experiences on projects related to promoting intimate-partner violence awareness as well as evaluating program outcomes in mental health.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I have two main takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first is that learning and personal growth can still occur during a pandemic. The second is that faculty and peers are vital in making any academic experience meaningful.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I was able to participate in memorable internships and clinical experiences through SJSU. I was able to learn the value in the voices of the people within the community. This allowed me to gain the skills I needed for patient advocacy.

Career goals/next steps:
After graduation, my next steps include taking on a lead position with a nonprofit organization to support the integration between mental health and primary care services. My goal is to be able to provide timely access for patients who may benefit from quality mental health services.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
As a first-generation college student of Cambodian refugees, I did not intend to pursue graduate studies. SJSU changed my life by exposing me to the possibilities available with higher learning. SJSU also helped set me along a path towards supporting my community.


Ben Newsome.

Ben Newsome (he/him/his), ’21 MA History

Milestones at SJSU:
There were a couple of major accomplishments I achieved during my time at SJSU. The first was passing the cumulative exam for my program. The exam was rather stressful considering that it covered U.S. history from 1865 to the present and was timed. It was a relief to finish it and pass it on my first attempt. The second milestone that was particularly important to me was maintaining a 4.0 GPA for the entire time I was in the History graduate program.

There were several times when I worried that I would come up short, but thanks to my fellow classmates and the help I received from our wonderful history professors here at SJSU, I was able to reach my goal.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending college during the pandemic was tough. I learned that it takes even more personal responsibility to stay on top of assignments and your classes. I think it is important to practice self care and find ways to give yourself a break, especially when you are spending all day on Zoom.

I also felt that it was important to stay in touch with my classmates and co-workers at Peer Connections in order to maintain a sense of community. Having that connection to the school community really helped me get through the difficult days during the pandemic.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I have learned that sometimes the hardest thing about accomplishing your goals is staying determined and positive no matter what obstacles you face. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and reach out to friends and classmates that are there with you. They are often the most valuable asset you have.

Overall, I learned that if you show up, do the work and aren’t afraid to take chances, you can get through just about anything.

Career goals/next steps:
My career goal is to get a job teaching at a community college. My next step is to look for adjunct work as a history instructor or possibly a teaching job at the high school level. I think it is important to stay open and embrace whatever opportunities come my way.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has reminded me of what I am capable of and has opened the door to numerous opportunities for me to not only grow my career but also grow as a person.

The experience has given me a new perspective on what continuing your education can do for you at any age. I know now that no matter what happens in my life, no one can take away my experiences and what I have accomplished during my time at SJSU.


Sabina Patel.

Sabina Patel (she/her/hers), ’21 Psychology

Milestones at SJSU:
My major milestones have been presenting research at conferences such as Western Psychological Association, Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and the Spartan Psychological Association Research Conference, as well as repeatedly performing at a high level academically.

I developed my interpersonal skills through my experience as vice president of Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology, and president of Order of Omega, a Greek honor society.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic taught me the value of creating a good relationship with my professors early in the semester. Having that foundation along with strong organizational skills, allowed me to feel confident in my ability to manage school through these trying times.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
My experience at SJSU taught me the importance of saying yes and no to opportunities that arise. I learned when to set limits for myself while developing my skill sets. Having a strong support system helped me through challenges that I faced both academically and personally.

Career goals/next steps:
I will be pursuing a PhD in human factors and behavioral neurobiology with a primary focus of technology within the health-care field.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has taught me to be confident in my skill sets academically and professionally. I learned that self care should be used as something that supports your growth and should not be used as just a reward for hard work.


Steven Peck.

Steven Peck (he/him/his), ’21 Political Science

Milestones at SJSU:
Academically, I have had the honor of being a President’s and Dean’s Scholar during my time at SJSU. I also take pride in the various research projects I have taken on in my political science courses.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Being adaptive is probably the biggest takeaway I have from this online learning experience.
There is so much uncertainty in life — taking obstacles in stride and working to overcome them
is essential.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Making connections is key. I have been able to learn and gain so much from the relationships that I have built at SJSU. Without them, I’m not certain where I would be right now.

Career goals/next steps?
After I graduate, I intend to continue my efforts in preserving and sharing the history of Silicon
Valley’s LGBTQ community. In terms of my career, it is my goal that my work is centered around bettering our communities.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
Through my experiences at SJSU, I have been transformed into a driven and dedicated
individual. It is hard to imagine where I would be without all the people and opportunities SJSU
has provided me. I am forever grateful.


Andrea Perez.

Andrea Perez (she/her/hers), ‘21 Advertising

Milestones at SJSU:
I never imagined how much I would accomplish in four years. I completed the Humanities Honors program and was treasurer and co-president of the Spartan Advertising Club. I served as an Adobe Ambassador and participated in the National Student Advertising Competition by the American Advertising Federation — winning an ADDY.

My senior year, I was a board member of the Inaugural Student Advisory Committee for the American Advertising Federation. I have received scholarships from the Journalism and Mass Communications department, and I have been on the Dean’s Scholar list five times.

I also worked with Academic Technology as a media production student assistant and recently became the social media manager for the Center for Faculty Development.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
One of the most important lessons I learned while transitioning to an online college experience was to take advantage of every opportunity I was offered. Even if it seems like there isn’t enough time to get everything done, or it’s an opportunity that might be out of your comfort zone, you aren’t alone — others are feeling that way too. You will end up getting so much more out of college than just going to class and taking notes.

That being said, there are times when we have to recognize there’s too much on our plate. Sometimes it’s difficult to decide to turn something down, but being clear about your intentions will bring new opportunities later on.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
It’s important to not compare your college experience with others. I spent too much time worrying I was behind or not doing enough. Now, at the end of my college experience, I am finally processing all I have done and am proud of myself for it.

Career goals/next steps:
As a management track advertising student who has worked primarily with creative track students, I’ve noticed there’s a sense of separation and lack of communication between the two areas. I want to serve as a bridge, particularly on the production side in development.

Some of the best advice I received during an agency tour was that management has to think like a creative and vice versa for a campaign to be successful. The two areas should work together and work to everyone’s strengths. I aim to begin in a creative operations position at an agency and go from there.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
The most transformative aspect of my time at SJSU was building strong relationships with the faculty and staff. If it weren’t for their recommendations, I wouldn’t hold a position on a national board or have earned a job closely related to the field I would like to enter after graduation.

Their trust and belief in me has enabled me to do more than I could have imagined.


Abril Perez-Gonzaga.

Abril Perez-Gonzaga (she/her/hers), ‘21 Anthropology

Milestones at SJSU:
A major milestone for me was getting into the McNair Scholars Program and having the opportunity to publish an article. I have also been recognized for my extensive volunteer work with the César E. Chávez Community Action Center.

My favorite accomplishment so far has been working with my professors to help contribute to research in anthropology.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic during my college experience was particularly hard, but I learned that pivoting was crucial. I had to be resourceful and make the most out of my situation while balancing online classes.

I learned that fear was not an option, so I used my discomfort as motivation to adapt.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I have learned to question and criticize everything. Diversity and listening to perspectives that are different from mine have also enriched my experience.

Career goals/next steps:
My next steps are to take a gap year to gain experience in the field of anthropology or archaeology and then apply to PhD programs. I hope to attend Columbia University and become a professor.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my life through interactions with my professors. The enthusiasm in lectures and the devotion to students are what stood out to me. I left class every day thinking I knew it all only to have my mind blown again the next day. I am now able to think without constraint or limits and look forward to sharing my innovations with others.



Naromy Ramirez (she/her/hers), ’21 MA Education, Special Education

My name is Naromy Ramirez. My pronouns are she/her/hers. My major here at San José State is special education.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
One of the key takeaways that I’ve learned from attending college during this COVID-19 pandemic was just my ability of being able to be flexible in the locations where I study. I normally would go to the library, where I need some peace and quiet.

I knew that during this pandemic it was going to be difficult for me, given that there’s toddlers and infants at my house and with all that crying, it was going to make it impossible for me to study inside my home. So I was flexible enough to wake up earlier, six in the morning, and make a table for me outside in my yard. Six in the morning, put on some layers and get to work, do my assignments, study for my exams.

So that is one of the key takeaways that I’ve learned, is just being able, having to be flexible in order to complete my master’s program. I’m getting my master’s in special education and as a teacher I’ve learned that I need to be flexible, so this COVID pandemic actually really helped me learn that lesson that I needed to.

Career goals/next steps:
My career goals, my next steps is finding a job in teaching, and currently I’m applying to a couple different jobs. I am thinking of taking a job in a therapeutic setting STC classroom.

San José State has transformed my life.


Nick Randle.

Nick Randle (he/him/his), ’21 Graphic Design

Milestones at SJSU:
One major milestone I had at SJSU was being accepted into the BFA graphic design program. Since I transferred to SJSU from a junior college, I wanted to further my design education in the BFA. In the program, you learn how to have fun even in the most stressful of times.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I learned the importance of community. The BFA is a tight-knit group and during in-person class, we would often work together in our classroom and motivate one another. However, since the pandemic started, everyone is alone at home. I find it critical to keep in close contact with my classmates and chat over Zoom or voice-call to keep the camaraderie going.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
While at SJSU I learned two valuable lessons. The first is to accept that every project you do will not be perfect and that making mistakes is actually beneficial to learning. Second, do not feel like you have to know everything. Stay curious and always be receptive to new information and viewpoints.

Career goals/next steps:
After I graduate, I hope to pursue a career in graphic design either at a branding agency or tech company.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
At San José State, I really grew as a person and opened myself up to new people and experiences. I have also made deep friendships that I hope to continue after graduation.


Jasmine Reyes.

Jasmine Marie Reyes (she/her/hers), ’21 Music, Performance

Milestones at SJSU:
In the spring 2019 semester, I was in the SJSU School of Music and Dance department-wide production of Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass.” It was so different from other performances I’ve done — very artistic. I was also able to put on a successful junior recital last July during the pandemic!

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
If I really want to do something, I can’t rely on people to tell me to do it. I found myself very dependent on my professors and instructors for motivation (mostly for performance deadlines). Because I didn’t have frequent communication with them when we shut down, I really had to push myself to get work done. The discipline I grew helped me put on my junior recital after being unmotivated to practice my music for months!

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
There are so many narratives going on around me, and most of them only show one perspective of a story. I learned to do more research on my own, which consisted of looking at sources that hold various viewpoints/biases. This helped me learn things and make decisions about the world for myself, not just from social media and the news around me.

Career goals/next steps:
I will continue to train in musical theater and opera performance with private instructors and through various programs. I hope more countries become open to American travelers so I can do young artist programs in countries like Italy, Austria and France! I will also continue to teach my private voice students and build my studio.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has helped me see the world from a different view. Because the student body is so diverse, it’s full of people with various backgrounds and stories. (I was raised in an affluent neighborhood in the suburbs, which can be a social bubble.)

Music has the tendency to reflect the times (politics, issues, the world in general), and I have the privilege to reflect these stories through songs I perform and write myself. I’m grateful to my professors and instructors for helping me find my voice.


Ralph Robinson.

Ralph Robinson (he/him/his), ’21 Master in Urban Planning

Milestones at SJSU:
Preparing a robust community assessment of Eastside San José neighborhoods was the highlight of my time in the Master of Urban Planning program. I got to work directly with some tremendous residents and staff from local organizations, who taught me so much about the incredible history and culture of their community. The entire experience gave me a deeper appreciation for both the neighborhoods I worked in and the city of San José in general.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The lesson of this past year, and any challenging times I’ve encountered, is to just keep going. You have to do the best you can with what’s in front of you and find a way to get something out of every day. Stick to that and in time you’ll find yourself in a lot better spot than you were before.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I was so fortunate to learn from the wealth of personal and professional experiences my professors and classmates brought to the program. It was such an asset to be surrounded by people who well represented the diverse perspectives and backgrounds I will encounter throughout my career in planning.

Career goals/next steps:
I have long sought to work for the public good and to help create communities that are sustainable, equitable and, ultimately, better for people. My passion for place-making and effecting positive change in human environments is what inspired me to pursue a degree in urban planning. My ultimate goal is to play a role in creating places that best provide the mental, physical and social benefits that people and communities need.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State gave me the chance to pursue an opportunity I long wanted, but which I didn’t even think was still available to me. It opened back up a door that I worried had already closed. I will always be immensely grateful for everything SJSU has done for me.



Leilani Saelaw (she/her/hers), ’21 Kinesiology

Milestones at SJSU:
During my time here at San José State University, I was able to be featured in two Spartan Daily articles and two conferences where I was able to share my research and interests on adapted sports for athletes with disabilities. Through my research, I was able to win two awards: third place for best overall video and first place for most views and likes on Youtube.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending college through the COVID-19 pandemic taught me not to take education for granted. I also learned that I still had a voice — even though it was through a screen.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Some of the most valuable lessons I learned here at San José State were not to be afraid to ask for help and to make an effort to stay connected with your community. That could mean colleagues, peers, clubs — any of them, because they definitely will have an impact on your future.

Career goals/next steps:
My next steps after graduation is to get my master’s in occupational therapy and to continue my advocacy and research for adapted sports.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State University transformed my life. Here, I was introduced to many teachers, colleagues and peers that helped me get one step closer to my ultimate goal of becoming an occupational therapist. Also San José State University gave me a lot of opportunities to succeed and build a professional profile for myself.


Marc Santos.

Marc Adrian Narvadez Santos (he/him/his), ’21 English

Milestones at SJSU:
A major milestone during my collegiate academic career was participating in the Humanities Honors Program, in which an excellent team of professors instructed me and my cohort to connect, articulate and apply ancient, pivotal texts to the present day. I devoted three years to that program, and I cherish each lecture for making me into a more cosmopolitan scholar.

I want to recognize, celebrate and appreciate one of my favorite professors, Dr. Nancy Stork, who challenged yet improved my skills as a scholarly writer. She mentored and guided me in an independent study of advanced grammar in which I produced a 25-page research paper on verbs.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A key takeaway from that experience is learning how to control the space around me. Because all events — school, work and social relationships — were compounded into a single household and single computer screen, I needed to set boundaries for self-care and fending against digital fatigue. I had become desensitized to time and a monotonous, daily routine, which caused the days to blend in together.

Setting calendars and daily reminders helped ground me in finding critical moments to reorient myself, hydrate and breathe.

Career goals/next steps:
My next steps post-graduation are applying for graduate school to pursue my master’s degree in English education and my doctorate in English literary theory. My career goal is to become a professor — one who inspires undergraduate students to love literature from Shakespearean plays to texts from Romanticism.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
Before arriving at San José State, I was afraid and doubtful since I am first in my family to attend a university in the United States. But the San José State community welcomed me and assuaged my anxieties.

San José State transformed my life by being the first step in my pathway to becoming a professor. The Humanities and English faculty are amazing to learn from, and they helped me discover my passion for scholarly research.

By being part of the SJSU community, I cultivated long-lasting connections and friendships with fellow scholars.


Sabrina Shell.

Sabrina Shell (she/her/hers), ‘21 Industrial Design

Milestones at SJSU:
One of my memorable accomplishments is passing my first-year portfolio review for the Industrial Design program. It was a challenging and demanding year, but I was so proud that I could continue growing and learning in the program.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Stay on top of things and accomplish my assignments; write down my schedule or a list of things I would like to achieve every day. Being able to cross items off my daily list helped me stay on top of my work.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Hard work always pays off. If your skills are lacking in something, keep working at it and give it everything. You will show others and yourself how much you have improved.

Career goals/next steps:
My career goal is to find a design company that designs products that have meaning and improve people’s lives. I would love to be in an environment where I can grow and always continue to learn as a designer.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has positively transformed my life. I am thankful for the knowledge and skills I gained in the last four years. I am most grateful for all the memories I have made and the friendships; I know I will never forget my experience at San José State.


Kristina Smith.

Kristina Smith (she/her/hers), ’21 Child and Adolescent Development and Psychology

Milestones at SJSU:
An accomplishment I had at SJSU would be graduating in four years as a double major. Another accomplishment would be getting a job working with juvenile delinquents and youths who struggle with mental illnesses.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic has given me the opportunity of connecting and networking. As soon as everything transitioned to Zoom, I found myself talking to my advisors and professors more than I did when we were in person. This helped me gain stronger relationships with my professors and mentors. Through reaching out, I was given an opportunity to be a research assistant and have been given great career advice.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lessons I have learned from my experience at SJSU is to network and ask questions.

Career goals/next steps:
My career goal is to become a clinical psychologist. I am wanting to work with children and adolescents who have experienced trauma. Within this, I am also planning to conduct research. My next steps consist of me gaining more research experience then applying to a doctoral program.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my life by giving me the opportunity to find myself as an adult and figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life.


Juan Carlos Soliz.

Juan Carlos Soliz (he/him/his), ’21 Behavioral Science

Milestones at SJSU:
It is a great honor to graduate from SJSU with a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science. I’m the first one (of 12 siblings) in my family to graduate after taking a break due to medical reasons. It was also an honor to go back to college around the same time my daughter started attending SJSU, as I want to be a role model for her.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Regardless of the critical circumstances we all are in, education was my number one priority, and this time there is nothing that will stop me from accomplishing my goal. I have plans to become a social worker and provide my community with any vital information they might need.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I have learned that no matter the setbacks, either at a professional or personal level, getting a higher education is something that will provide me with the essential tools to work with my community, who is part of my family. As such, it is my responsibility to provide an exceptional type of work.

Career goals/next steps:
My career goals are to work in the Department of Social Services as a social worker for the California In-Home Supportive Services program. I also will continue to volunteer for Sacred Heart Community Center as our community needs to receive proper information and services.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
Attending SJSU has provided me with the knowledge and guidance to expand my willingness to help the Hispanic/Latino community. Obtaining a degree in behavioral science will expand my opportunities within the Social Services department. I will be able to assist the most vulnerable people in the county.


Ty Supreme.

Ty Supreme (she/her/hers), ’21 Microbiology

Milestones at SJSU:
I think one of my biggest milestones at San José State has been the realization that my passion lies in the sciences. I came to San Jose Staté as a justice studies major, and I was able to utilize many of the opportunities the school had to offer in order to change my major to something I am truly passionate about.

Throughout my time at SJSU, I’ve been a President’s Scholar (2017-2018) and a Dean’s Scholar (2018-current). I’ve been able to maintain a GPA above 3.85 my whole academic career while playing Division 1 sports and will most likely graduate summa cum laude.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I think the biggest takeaway I’ve learned from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic is how resilient we college students really are. Many students throughout this pandemic have had to adapt like no one ever has before. Learning completely online was a change for everyone, teachers included, and everyone really tried their best to make the transition as easy as they could.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I think my time at SJSU as a Division 1 athlete and a STEM major has really taught me that anything is possible if you really commit to it. There will be so many times where you don’t want to stay up late studying or don’t want to go to practice, but all of those little sacrifices are investments into your future.

Lastly, just make the most of every opportunity you’re given because you don’t want to leave college wishing you did things differently.

Career goals/next steps:
I am fortunate enough to have been accepted into the graduate program at the University of Toronto (the top university in Canada) for molecular genetics, where I intend to pursue my master’s then PhD.

My ultimate career goal is to make meaningful contributions in the fields of microbiology and immunology with a focus in the study, defense and treatment of infectious human diseases. I hope to secure a challenging position in a reputable organization or continue fundamental research by becoming a professor and mentoring young scientists.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
I think SJSU has helped me grow into the person that I am today. Looking back at freshman year, I would have never imagined that I would be graduating from a STEM program with plans to do a PhD degree.

There have been highs and there have been lows during my past four years here, but I would have never learned some of the lessons I needed to be taught if I had not decided to attend San José State, and for that I am truly grateful.


Amber Sylva.

Amber Renee Sylva (she/her/hers),’18 English, ’21 MA English

Milestones at SJSU:
During my time in the graduate program, through a competitive hiring process, I received a graduate assistant position as well as a teaching associate faculty position. I was also hired as a lead TA for all disciplines and a reader for the college’s accreditation process through critical thinking assessments.

I presented my research at two conferences, co-authored “Teaching Teaching as a Process: San Jose State University’s TA Program and the Development of Pedagogical Thinking” for Threshold Conscripts: Rhetoric and Composition TAships, and contributed work to “An Annotated Bibliography of Global and Non-Western: Sources for Comparative Rhetorical Studies” for Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society.

In addition, I am the president of Graduate Resources and Academic Development for English Studies (GRADES) as well as co-VP of The Young Rhetoricians’ Conference.

Although my aforementioned accomplishments are worth noting, my biggest achievement is successfully completing graduate school while raising my family and illustrating grit and perseverance to my three daughters: Bailey (15), Aubrey (11) and Chloey (10).

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
One of the key takeaways that I have learned while attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic is to press in when it seems unbearable. Also, to grant me, my children and my students grace; for illustrating empathy, kindness and compassion to ourselves and others is where learning starts.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Three of the most valuable lessons that I have learned from my experience at SJSU are to: build strong relationships with the professors because they are great mentors; graduate school and life is better with a cohort; lastly, believe in yourself.

Career goals/next steps:
I am applying to local community colleges for fall 2021 teaching positions. I plan on continuing my research in pedagogical methods, rhetoric and composition, and American literature. In the future, I will be applying to doctoral programs.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State University has transformed my life in copious ways from academic to personal, but the most notable reflect in my ways of being more empathic, compassionate and encouraging toward others.


Alice Tsvinev.

Alice Tsvinev (she/her/hers), ’21 Psychology

Milestones at SJSU:
Engaging with and hearing experiences of older peers in a research lab, successfully maintaining GPA while working two jobs, finding the career right path with resources from SJSU.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Appreciating the moments we often take for granted because, as we’ve seen, events like this can impact our social life as well as academics. Another takeaway I’ve learned is to use every opportunity given to me, and I’ve done that during the COVID college shift by really focusing on schoolwork and my personal and intellectual growth.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
To always seek guidance and a mentor: It’s always best to learn from the mistakes and benefits from someone else’s journey to see how they may impact your future decisions.

Career goals/next steps:
I hope to attend graduate school to obtain a PhD in psychology and work towards becoming a professor while conducting my own research in behavioral and cognitive psychology.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU has given me the opportunity to stay close to friends and family while still experiencing a new and diverse academic and social environment. I met many wonderful peers and mentors that have encouraged me to continue pursuing my passions.


Narayani Tyagi.

Narayani Tyagi (she/her/hers), ’21 MS Physics

Milestones at SJSU:
I’d consider my major milestone to be my research projects. Another milestone I’m proud of is the Outstanding Graduate TA award that I received for spring 2020, which was one of the most grueling semesters for all of us.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
My key takeaways were health first (mental and physical, and yes, they both need equal care), patience (it can take you a long way) and using the resources that are available to you! There are so many resources that can help us a lot, but most of us might not be aware of them.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
SJSU taught me the difference between a leader and a boss. Even in a classroom setting, having a caring and approachable mentor/professor can work wonders that a strict disciplinarian could never imagine. This applies to all facets of life, and I’m glad to have had this experience.

Career goals/next steps:
The most natural career goal for me is to stay within academia and collaborate with the most brilliant minds around the world; therefore, my next step toward this goal is to start on my PhD in the fall of 2021.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU gave me more than knowledge. I found beautiful friendships here, which I know I will cherish throughout my life. I felt heard and seen by my mentors, which boosted my confidence and helped me realize the value of teacher-student interactions. In turn, it helped me set a similar example as a lab instructor for my students. I shall forever be grateful for SJSU for helping me see myself more clearly than I ever had before.


Brianna Williams.

Brianna Misaki Williams (she/her/hers), ’21 Philosophy

Milestones at SJSU:
My accomplishments are due in no small part to my involvement with Women in Business at SJSU, a pre-professional organization. The workshops and speaking engagements prepared me to enter the legal workfield at 19. I worked in business litigation and immigration for two years, and now I am a legal intern at the invaluable Record Clearance Project law clinic here at SJSU.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic was trying for many students. While I sympathize for those who have been impacted negatively, there were many new opportunities that arose as a direct result from sheltering-in-place: Commuter students were afforded more time to invest in other endeavors, the classroom become more accessible, and the forced integration of technology into almost all other aspects of our lives can be convenient even after we finish sheltering.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The structure of learning at SJSU makes degree acquisition possible while working part-time, or even full-time hours. I, like many others, had to work during undergrad in order to support myself.

During this time, I was also committed to my role as president of the Women in Business [student organization] and still managed to enjoy and complete the coursework and be named a President’s Scholar. Your time is what you make of it.

Career goals/next steps:
I will be applying to law school in the fall of 2021. My work at the Record Clearance Project has instilled in me a desire to elevate marginalized communities. A career in law practice will be fulfilling and meaningful.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
My undergraduate experience at SJSU has allowed me to discover what it is that I enjoy and what it is that I am skilled at. I will forever be grateful for the professors who have been flexible and patient with me.

I will cherish and maintain the friendships I’ve formed along the way. I will be sure to give back to the SJSU community when the opportunity arises.


Neng Xiong.

Neng Xiong (she/her/hers), ’20 Child and Adolescent Development, ’21 MA Education, Curriculum and Instruction

Milestones at SJSU:
Since I did both my undergraduate and graduate degree at SJSU, and I had amazing opportunities to study abroad in South Korea, host one of the first Hmong cultural showcases with the Hmong Student Association, and learn from Dr. Kim Tsai as a student research assistant.

Currently, I am a resident teacher with the SEAL/OGSD/SJSU teacher residency program. I love teaching my students every day and growing as a teacher through the program!

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I’ve learned about the importance of a good support system from friends, family, colleagues and faculty. As attending college during a pandemic can feel emotionally and academically defeating and isolating, having people you can turn to for support during these difficult times can make the experience easier.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
As the saying goes, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” There were so many personal, academic and professional development opportunities presented to me while at San José State, such as becoming a Global Leader, that I learned to take advantage of as many of them as I could.

The other most important thing I have learned is that my voice matters. The power lies in the stories we hold, and I am happy I am able to share my story as a first-generation, Hmong womxn graduate student.

Career goals/next steps:
My next step is to teach in underserved elementary schools and use culturally sustaining pedagogy across all classrooms!

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my life because I think more critically about the world I live in now. I have also challenged myself to go beyond my boundaries and become more involved in my communities.



William Yi (he/him/his), ’21 Public Relations

Milestones at SJSU:
My writing greatly improved because I was refined and tested by my major professors. It may not be perfect or the best, but I’m glad they were harsh because I needed to hear the truth and improve from there.

I saw this achievement as a major milestone for my career! I don’t have a lot of professional experience so I didn’t know how to gauge if my school work or understanding of PR was good. I was proud to be nominated by my professors because this gave me reassurance that I am on the right track.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The smallest things matter; pay attention to the details because it all adds up to be important in the long run. People appreciate the little things and will remember you for going the extra mile. Don’t cut corners!

Communities and mental breaks are important to have. Having a community around you will support and encourage you to be your best self! Also, take a break from everything and just HAVE FUN! You need to relax and destress — otherwise, you’re just going to dread the next day.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Go out on a limb — meaning, be more vulnerable! We’re young adults and have our whole lives ahead of us, so why should you stay in a bubble? See new places, try new things and make new friends. You might regret it later on in life, so take this chance now because you might lose it!

Lastly, it’s OK to make mistakes and it’s OK to mess up! I was always putting myself down for my past and current mistakes, but these mistakes helped me to grow and transformed me to embrace my shortcomings, and it’s better to mess up now than later!

Career goals/next steps:
My next step is to find a job! I want to gain the necessary skills needed to be a public relations professional. I want to have a career that helps many lives through storytelling. I don’t know which industry I want to go into but overall, “I want to understand every aspect with research, timeliness, empathy and honesty. I hope to know and share your story.” This is on my LinkedIn, and essentially this is how I want to tackle every challenge that comes my way.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my whole direction in life. I came to SJSU for accounting but I’m going to leave with a major in public relations. This was only possible because I went to SJSU and found a community here that encouraged me to find a different major that fit my personality.

SJSU was the best decision because I found my community, major, and passion. As a high-schooler, I didn’t see the need to go to college, but after coming to SJSU, I hope everyone attends this school. Go Spartans!

Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at SJSU Announces 2021-2022 Steinbeck Fellows

The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at San José State University has named six Steinbeck Fellows for the 2021-2022 academic year: Ariel Chu, Rose Himber Howse, Tammy Heejae Lee, Uche Okonkwo, Timea Sipos and Brian Trapp. The Steinbeck Fellowship program offers emerging writers of any age and background a $15,000 fellowship to finish a significant writing project.


Ariel Chu

Ariel Chu.

Ariel Chu is a Taiwanese American writer from Eastvale, California, and an incoming first-year student in USC’s creative writing and literature PhD program. She completed her MFA in Creative Writing at Syracuse University, where she received the Shirley Jackson Prize in Fiction. A former editor-in-chief of Salt Hill Journal, a 2019 P.D. Soros Fellow, and a 2020 Luce Scholar in Taipei, Chu has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, the Best Small Fictions Anthology, and the Best of the Net Award. Her writing can be found in The Common, The Masters Review, and Sonora Review, among others. She is currently working on a short story collection and novel.


Rose Himber Howse

Rose Himber Howse

Rose Himber Howse is a queer writer from North Carolina and a recent graduate of the MFA program at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where she served as fiction editor of The Greensboro Review. Howse’s fiction and essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Joyland, The Carolina Quarterly, Hobart, YES! Magazine, Sonora Review, and elsewhere. She has been awarded fellowships and residencies at the Millay Colony, Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center for the Arts, and Monson Arts. 


Tammy Heejae Lee

Tammy Heejae Lee.

Tammy Heejae Lee is a Korean American writer from Davis, California. She holds a BA from UC Davis and an MFA in fiction from the University of San Francisco, where she received a post-graduate teaching fellowship. A Tin House Summer Workshop and VONA/Voices alum, her writing has appeared in The Offing, PANK, Hayden’s Ferry Review, and Split Lip Magazine. She is currently at work on her first novel about expat and hagwon culture in Seoul. 


Uche Okonkwo.

Uche Okonkwo. Photo by Rohan Kamicheril.

Uche Okonkwo has an MFA in fiction from Virginia Tech and a master’s in creative writing from University of Manchester, UK. Her stories have been published or are forthcoming in One Story, Ploughshares, The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2019, A Public Space, Lagos Noir, Per Contra, and Ellipsis. She was a 2019 Bernard O’Keefe Scholar at Bread Loaf, and a 2017 resident at Writers Omi. She is the recipient of the 2020-2021 George Bennett Fellowship at Phillips Exeter Academy—a fellowship established to provide time and freedom from material considerations to a selected writer each year. She is working on her first short story collection.


Timea Sipos.

Timea Sipos. Photo by Cris Kith.

Timea Sipos is a Hungarian American writer, poet, and translator with an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. Her writing and translations appear in Prairie Schooner, Passages North, Juked, The Offing, Denver Quarterly, The Bisexual Poetry Anthology, and elsewhere. She is a proud 2021 Pushcart Prize nominee, a PEN/Robert J. Dau Prize nominee, a Miami Book Fair Emerging Writers Fellowship Honorable Mention, and a Cecelia Joyce Johnson Award finalist. Her work has received support from the MacDowell Colony, the Vermont Studio Center, Tin House, the American Literary Translators Association, the Hungarian Translators’ House, the Black Mountain Institute, and the Nevada Arts Council, among others. During her fellowship year, she will be finishing her short story collection and making headway on her novel.


Brian Trapp

Brian Trapp. Photo by Marjorie Celona.

Brian Trapp is a fiction and creative nonfiction writer from Cleveland, Ohio. He has published work in the  Kenyon Review, Longreads, Gettysburg Review, Narrative, Brevity, and Ninth Letter, among other places. He won an Oregon Arts Fellowship and had an essay selected as the #1 Longread of the Week by Longreads.com. He received his PhD in comparative literature and disability studies from the University of Cincinnati, where he was an associate editor of the Cincinnati Review. He now teaches at the University of Oregon. He will be at work on a memoir about his twin brother Danny, who had cerebral palsy and intellectual disabilities and was also very funny. 


Named in honor of author John Steinbeck, the program is guided by his lifetime of work in literature, the media and environmental activism. The Steinbeck Fellows program was endowed through the generosity of SJSU Professor Emerita Martha Heasley Cox. The next deadline for applications is January 2, 2022. For eligibility and application instructions, visit sjsu.edu/steinbeck/fellows/.

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

Legacy of Poetry 2021

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

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

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

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

Thursday, April 15 at 7 p.m.

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

Friday, April 16 at 3 p.m.

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

Monday, April 19 at 5 p.m.

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

Tuesday, April 20 at 5 p.m.

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

Other notable events

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

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

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

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

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

Families Across Borders_2

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

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

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

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

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

The House of Representatives passed both bills last week.

Spartan journalists share stories of separation 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Humanizing immigrant narratives

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

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

Families Across Borders event

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

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

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

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

Virginia San Fratello’s Teeter Totter Wall Earns Beazley Design of the Year Award

The Teeter Totter Wall, designed by SJSU Design Chair Virginia San Fratello and UC Berkeley Architecture Professor Ronald Rael, in 2019. Photo courtesy of Ronald Rael.

In summer 2019, a design project entitled the “Teeter Totter Wall” created by San José State Design Department Chair Virginia San Fratello and UC Berkeley Architecture Professor Ronald Rael became an international sensation when a video of their pink seesaw went viral. As featured in the spring/summer 2019 edition of Washington Square, the project was a collaborative effort involving communities along the United States-Mexico border. By working together, San Fratello, Rael and a collective of Mexican artists created a pink seesaw that used the border wall as the physical and metaphoric fulcrum. Children on both sides of the wall were invited to play for 40 minutes.

A year and a half later, the project has once again captured the imagination of the world. On January 19, 2021, the Design Museum in London announced that the project had won the prestigious Beazley Design of the Year, an honor that recognizes the most innovative designs across fashion, architecture, digital, transport, product and graphic design from the previous year, as nominated by public and design experts worldwide. The winning designers’ work will be included in a physical and virtual exhibition alongside the 73 other nominees at the Design Museum in London.

“The Beazley Design of the Year are the Oscars of the design world,” said Razia Iqbal, BBC journalist and chair of the judging committee for the 2020 Beazley Awards. In an award announcement video released on the Design Museum website, Iqbal said that judges were extremely moved by the Teeter Totter Wall. “The project wasn’t just something that felt symbolically important. It talked about the possibility of things. That’s what moved us and made us feel that all kinds of things are possible when people come together with great ideas and determination.”

San Fratello and Rael were surprised and delighted to hear the news of their winning design, a project that had been in progress for nearly a decade and existed as a physical installation for less than an hour, yet whose impact continues to reverberate internationally, more than a year later.

“Great design allows us to see something in a way we could not before,” said Shannon Miller, dean of San José State’s College of Humanities and the Arts. “These seesaws did exactly that—transforming borders from barriers to bridges, and making division instead an opportunity for connection, play and joy.”

While the Teeter Totter Wall is not currently installed on the border, San Fratello welcomes further collaboration with their partner in Mexico, Colectivo Chopeke, who helped fabricate metal for the seesaw in 2019. She hopes that the project will eventually result in actual social change.

“I think this project speaks to the horror of the border wall, it speaks to the fact that this land was once united and is now divided, and it shows the faces of the families, the mothers and children who live at the border,” said San Fratello from her Colorado home, where she has been sheltering in place and teaching remotely since fall 2020. “In terms of a larger picture, the project speaks to trade and balances between our two nations and the way we treat our neighbors, the care that we take for people that we play and work with. We need to bring joy to other people’s life at this time where we’re so disconnected and hungry for meaningful connections.”

 

Chef José Andrés to Receive 2020 John Steinbeck Award

In an iconic passage in The Grapes of Wrath, Tom Joad declares, “Wherever there’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there.”

John Steinbeck wrote those words, Henry Fonda rendered them, and José Andrés lives them.

For his efforts in providing meals to millions of the hungry and dispossessed, Andrés will receive the John Steinbeck Award in the finale of a virtual event with Sean Penn on Monday, November 30, from 6-7 p.m. (PST). Penn received the Steinbeck Award in 2004.

The event — José Andrés and Sean Penn: A Conversation on Giving Back — is hosted by the Commonwealth Club of San Francisco and sponsored by the Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies at San José State University. Ticket information and details for this virtual event can be found at www.commonwealthclub.org.

Andrés, a legendary chef and restaurateur, serves as the founder of the World Central Kitchen. Penn, a two-time Oscar winner, serves as co-founder of the Community Organized Relief Effort.

Andrés said, “This is a huge and humbling honor, to be receiving an award in the name of one of my very favorite authors, John Steinbeck – and to be on a list with icons like my friend Sean, the great Dolores Huerta, Joan Baez, Bruce Springsteen… c’mon man! Thank you to the people of San José State for this amazing award – the words and wisdom of Steinbeck are very close to my heart and the mission of World Central Kitchen, so this is meaningful to the entire team and me.”

Andrés and Penn have collaborated extensively as the World Central Kitchen and CORE confront the COVID-19 crisis. During the pandemic, World Central Kitchen has served nearly 25 million meals in the United States, Spain, and beyond, while CORE has provided tests for COVID-19 to millions of Americans, many in underserved communities.

The Steinbeck Center at San José State has the Steinbeck estate’s authorization to present awards to artists and activists who, through their work, embody the spirit of John Steinbeck’s social engagement.

SJSU professor Nick Taylor, director of the Steinbeck Center, explained the selection of this year’s honoree. “José Andrés is like a character out of a lost Steinbeck novel: a chef whose cuisine is the envy of kings, but who chooses instead to feed the world’s neediest people, wherever they may be. We salute the work of Chef Andrés and the team at World Central Kitchen.”

SJSU Celebrates Dr. Anthony Fauci With William Randolph Hearst Award Virtual Event

 

Public opinion surveys nationwide have consistently reported Dr. Anthony Fauci is one of the voices most Americans trust and seek out for timely information during the pandemic. With the COVID-19 pandemic forcing the annual William Randolph Hearst Award to be held virtually, it was fitting that Dr. Fauci was honored with the award for excellence in mass communication.

San José State University and the School of Journalism and Mass Communications (JMC School) presented the award to Dr. Fauci on Tuesday. More than 2,500 SJSU students, faculty, staff and community members took part in the virtual ceremony, which included remarks from Dr. Fauci and a short Q&A session.

“It is an extraordinary honor to be chosen by the faculty of the School of Journalism and Mass Communications to receive this William Randolph Hearst Award, and I thank you so much for this recognition,” Dr. Fauci said. “Knowing that great communicators have received this award before me, people I have long respected, such as Dan Rather (2019 recipient) and Jim Acosta (2018 recipient), makes this day extra special with me.

“To be honored by your great JMC School and to now be a small part of your long legacy of excellence is very meaningful to me,” Dr. Fauci said.

Dr. Fauci discussed the commonalities he has found between being a renowned public health official and a journalist, including the need to always ask questions and the importance of accurately sharing information. He added that communicating to the country during the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced lessons he learned while managing several public health crises in a career that has spanned six presidential administrations.

“People need to hear the truth as it is, rather than as they might want it to be,” said Dr. Fauci, who has served as director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NAID) since 1984. “Over time, truth telling builds credibility. We must always tell the truth, even if it means ‘I just do not know.’ Consistency in truth telling is critical because consistency means integrity.”

During the virtual ceremony, President Mary A. Papazian also shared remarks, expressing appreciation for Dr. Fauci’s leadership during a time of great stress and pressure.

“We are all thankful to have had you with us throughout this global pandemic, helping us to understand this virus, and explaining how we can best deal with it in a way that keeps us and our loved ones safe,” Papazian said.

The JMC School announced that they are in the early planning stages of an endowed scholarship in Dr. Fauci’s name that would attract students with a strong interest in science, public health and journalism. The school also announced that it is in the beginning stages of developing a new interdisciplinary curriculum between the JMC School and the College of Health and Human Sciences.

Before his work during the COVID-19 pandemic, Dr. Fauci was best known for his groundbreaking work in HIV-AIDS research, helping to develop effective drugs to scale back its mortality rate. Dr. Fauci has also spearheaded the federal government’s public response to combat West Nile Virus, SARS and Ebola.

“Dr. Fauci’s unparalleled commitment to science, public health and saving human lives has been documented over 40 years of service to his country, and it would be his tireless moonlighting in media that would assure and calm millions of people across generations and secure his legacy in American history,” said Bob Rucker, professor in the School of Journalism and Mass Communication and host of the virtual event.

History of the William Randolph Hearst Foundation Award

In the 1990s, the SJSU Journalism School received a William Randolph Hearst Foundation Endowment for Visiting Professionals. It established the creation of a special honor for outstanding professional media service in journalism, public relations, advertising and mass communications. Each year, an honoree’s work is showcased for students and celebrated for efforts that meet the expectations and high standards for public service by a free press, as provided in the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.

The School of Journalism and Mass Communications was founded in 1936 and is the largest of its kind in Northern California. It remains dedicated to the proposition that the free flow of ideas, together with accurate and timely information, is vital to developing and improving democratic societies. Today, the school is recognized worldwide for producing outstanding graduates who become leaders in global communications.

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.

 

San José State University and the City of San José Extend Operating Agreement of Hammer Theatre Center for 35-Year Period

Editors note: This media advisory was distributed on June 25, 2020.

Corner view of the Hammer Theatre Center Box Office entrance.

Hammer Theatre Center. Photo: Christina Olivas.

Media Contacts:
Robin McElhatton, San José State University
O: 408-924-1749
E: robin.mcelhatton@sjsu.edu

Steph Keay, Carla Befera & Co
O: 650-327-1200
E: steph@cb-pr.com

SAN JOSÉ, CA – June 25, 2020– The city of San José and San José State University have agreed to a new contract that allows the university to continue operating the Hammer Theatre Center for up to 35 years. The theatre, which is owned by the city of San José, is a state-of-the-art performance venue located in the heart of downtown San José at 101 Paseo De San Antonio.

In March, San City Council voted unanimously to proceed with the contract, which builds on a successful partnership initiated in 2016. San José Director of Cultural Affairs Kerry Adams Hapner told the council, “This has been such a successful model in so many ways.” She says, “We are looking forward to continuing a fruitful partnership that increases the cultural vibrancy of the downtown and brings long-lasting benefits to the city and SJSU.”

San José State has signed the agreement, which allows SJSU to operate the Hammer for the next fifteen years with additional options to renew through the year 2055. “This contract allows the Hammer Theatre to bring high-quality arts programming to San José for decades to come,” said College of Humanities and the Arts Dean Shannon Miller. “It also gives our music, theater, and dance students the opportunity to perform on the Hammer’s professional stage, and connects our campus community to the cultural and economic corridors throughout the downtown area.”

Formerly the home of San José Repertory Theatre, the architecturally striking, bright blue building sat vacant from June 2014 until SJSU took the helm in early 2016, investing approximately $2 million to renovate the facilities. “One of the hallmarks of the Hammer has been the diversity of our programming,” said Hammer Executive Director Christopher Burrill. “We have been attracting new audiences with a wide range of interests—not only theatre lovers, but also fans of dance, music, film, live talks, and much more, with programs that speak to all sectors of our multicultural community.”

For the past four years, the 528-seat theatre has presented an array of offerings including outstanding professional productions, community-based works, SJSU shows, and concerts, as well as dance, music, talks, film screenings—even live aerial performances with dancers suspended outside, scaling the sides of the iconic blue building. In addition to a complete renovation of the stage, and updated audio and lighting equipment to reflect the latest technology, an upstairs rehearsal space was transformed into Hammer 4, a black box theatre space designed for intimate productions such as Hammer’s “Black Cab Jazz” collaboration with San José Jazz.

In the last season, the Hammer presented nearly 200 events, drawing more than 57,000 audience members. From jazz performances to mariachi extravaganzas, the popular National Geographic Live! speaker series to the acclaimed National Theatre Live film screenings, Cinequest film festival presentations, ballet and modern dance shows, kid-friendly performances, live art and more, the Hammer’s mission is to serve the community through artistic and educational programming that express the unique characteristics and diverse cultures of Silicon Valley. The Mercury News raved, “It’s safe to say San José State has exceeded anyone’s expectations for the reactivation of the theater and have kept it as a vital community asset. That is certainly worth applauding.”

On June 15, 2020, the Hammer announced its plan to invest in additional technology to create a studio-quality, high-definition, multi-camera video environment that will allow the theatre to offer its audiences live stream events to view from home. These tech upgrades provide the Hammer the opportunity to offer high-quality alternatives for the short term—while large public gatherings are prohibited by COVID-19—and long term—for those who may not be able to attend a live event in person for accessibility reasons. To help with the effort, the Hammer has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise $30,000 to pay for the refit of the theatre and to offer live stream content from its stage. For more information visit: power.sjsu.edu/hammertheatre.

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 145 areas of study with an additional 108 concentrations—offered through its nine colleges.

With approximately 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 more than 7,000 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 Legacy of Poetry Day 2020: Staying Home—The Way to San Jose

Media Contacts:
Alan Soldofsky, alan.soldofsky@sjsu.edu
Gaia Collar-Schilling, gaia.collar-schilling@sjsu.edu

San Jose State’s Poets and Writers Coalition will host the annual Legacy of Poetry Day Reading and Celebration in honor of National Poetry Month as an online event this year, which will premiere on YouTube April 23. This year’s event will focus on the theme “Staying Home: The Way to San Jose.” The theme is designed to include poems inspired by the poets’ personal and family stories of how they settled in and made their home in San Jose and Silicon Valley, or how they’re coping with sheltering in place in San Jose or nearby Silicon Valley communities. Interested community members can participate via Zoom starting at 4 p.m. on April 23.

This year’s keynote poet is Ellen Bass, poet, educator, bestselling nonfiction author and winner of the Lambda Literary Award. Bass is a former Santa Cruz poet laureate and is SJSU’s 2021 Connie and Robert Lurie Distinguished Author-in-Residence. Her newest collection of poems, Indigo, was published in April 2020 by Copper Canyon Press. Her poems frequently appear in The New Yorker, The American Poetry Review, The New York Times Magazine and other publications. She is also a chancellor of the Academy of American Poets.

Joining her as featured readers are Janice Logo Sapigao, newly appointed Santa Clara County poet laureate; Mighty Mike McGee, former Santa Clara County poet laureate; Arlene Biala, ’90 Psychology, former Santa Clara County poet laureate; Sally Ashton, ’01 English, former Santa Clara County poet laureate; Gary Singh, ’94 BA, ’98 MA, Music, poet and Metro columnist; and Tskaka Campbell, award-winning poet and spoken word artist.

Alan Soldofsky

Alan Soldofsky, director of SJSU’s Creative Writing program, at the 2015 Legacy of Poetry event. He is organizing virtual events for National Poetry Month this year. Photo by Christina Olivas.

These featured poets will be followed by SJSU faculty poets, including Alan Soldofsky, director of the MFA Program in Creative Writing, Michael Tod Edgerton and Joseph Navarro, as well as Darrell Dela Cruz, ’07 English, ’11 MFA Creative Writing, Linda Lappin, ’97 English, ’07 MFA Creative Writing and Mark Heinlein, ’09 MFA Creative Writing. They will be followed by San Jose community poets and award-winning undergraduate and graduate student poets.

Poetry Contest: #Best20secondPoemsSJSU

As part of this festival, SJSU students and members of the SJSU community are invited to submit a 20-second poem for a special contest—the amount of time the Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommends we spend washing our hands. Poems can be submitted on social media using the hashtag #Best20secondPoemsSJSU. If chosen, poets will be asked to send an audio or video file to be posted on the Legacy of Poetry website. Submissions are open until May 1.

The Legacy of Poetry Reading and Celebration is made possible by the following SJSU campus sponsors in conjunction with the SJSU Poets and Writers Coalition: the Department of English and Comparative Literature; the College of Humanities and Arts; the Center for Literary Arts and the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library. Community co-sponsors include Poetry Center San Jose and Copper Canyon Press.

2020 Faculty Award Winners

San Jose State has recognized four distinguished faculty members for noteworthy achievement in teaching, scholarship and service. Read more about each recipient:

President’s Scholar: Lawrence Quill, Department of Political Science

Outstanding Professor: Charlotte Sunseri, Department of Anthropology

Outstanding Lecturer: Sharmin Khan, Department of Linguistics

Distinguished Service: Karen Singmaster, Department of Chemistry

Exhibition Celebrates 35 Years of Tabia African-American Theatre Ensemble

Tabia Theatre Ensemble

The Martin Luther King, Jr. Library is hosting an exhibit on the Black theatre group Tabia, founded by SJSU faculty and alumni, in honor of Black History Month. The opening reception was hosted on Jan. 25th, 2020. Photo by Brandon Chew, ’18 Journalism.

This month, the Africana, Asian American, Chicano and Native American Studies Center at the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library is home to a special exhibit, featuring costumes, programs, photographs and mementos from the Tabia African-American Theatre Ensemble. Founded in 1985 by artistic director Viera Whye, ’04 MA Theatre Arts, along with Ann Johnson, Robert Parker, Rudy Morris, Arlene Sagun and Adaku Davis, Tabia has presented work by Black and African-American artists in San Jose and with its traveling troupe. The library exhibit was curated by SJSU Associate Professor of Journalism Duane “Michael” Cheers, who worked closely with Theatre Arts Professor Buddy Butler, resident director of the company, and Professor Emerita Ethel Walker, both of whom have dedicated decades to supporting African-American theater in San Jose and beyond.

“It’s important that we have an expression of multicultural theater in San Jose, specifically African-American theater,” said Whye. “Black history is also American history and it is important to have our voices authentically displayed.”

Over its 35-year history, Tabia has produced stage productions and performed as a traveling troupe, taking its touring Black History Show to schools, festivals, corporations, churches and conferences throughout the state. The traveling show presents historical figures, poetry, song and dance that conveys the contributions and culture of African-Americans. The theater company is under the umbrella of the San Jose Multicultural Arts Guild (SJMAG).

“Tabia/SJMAG’s mission is to unite and serve communities by conducting cross-cultural arts programming reflective of the experiences of African-Americans, women and Chicanos and Latinos,” writes Whye in a tribute essay printed in the exhibit. “Culturally specific theater, especially ‘Black Theater’ in San Jose (where the percentage of blacks has fluctuated from two percent to six percent over many years), has been at times a daunting and challenging task. But we have managed to sustain our presence and do high-quality work. I am so proud and appreciative of all who have served in this endeavor.”

“This exhibit is a wonderful exhibit showcasing Viera Whye and Tabia,” said Cheers. “Her African-American ensemble deserves so much credit in what they have achieved over the past 35 years. However, the story doesn’t end there.”

In an essay Cheers printed for the exhibit, he expresses a desire for SJSU to recruit more African-American theater professors, which will encourage more black and African-American students to pursue careers in the field. Cheers writes that representation matters, which is one of the reasons he hopes SJSU students and members of the public visit the library exhibit.

“The exhibit celebrates what Tabia has achieved and what it has given to San Jose State,” said Butler, who Cheers photographed for the exhibit. “It has provided several opportunities for young and upcoming black artists.”

On display on King Library’s fifth floor through February 29, the exhibit includes playbills, photographs, slideshows and props. The Tabia Ensemble’s next production is Eve of Jackie, a one-night performance by Broadway actor and singer Chester Gregory, on Friday, February 7.

2019 William Randolph Hearst Foundation Award

Photo: Robert Bain

SJSU’s School of Journalism and Mass Communications faculty presented the distinguished 2019 William Randolph Hearst Foundation Award for Outstanding Professional Service to journalists Alexander Shebanow and Dan Rather on Thursday, November 14, 2019 in Yoshihiro Uchida Hall.

Professors Bob Rucker, a former CNN news correspondent and Hearst Award coordinator, and Dona Nichols, a veteran television news producer and assignment editor for NBC Bay Area, presented the award to the duo amidst a campus community and Bay Area media leaders.

This was the first time the School of Journalism and Mass Communications decided to honor journalists from across generations. The two honorees represent the bridging of several generations of journalistic instincts and critical thinking to produce a necessary and powerful public service in mass communications.

The 88-year-old Emmy Award-winning journalist Dan Rather first entered the national scene with his live, on‐site coverage of President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in Dallas, Texas in November 1963. He went on to make extraordinary strides in the field of journalism.

More recently, Rather heads News and Guts, a company he founded that specializes in high‐quality nonfiction content across a range of traditional and digital distribution channels.

Shebanow, a 29-year-old award-winning filmmaker, who has been working on his directorial debut documentary feature for six years, grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area. He attended Foothill Community College before finishing his studies at the University of Southern California.

Shebanow teamed up with investigative journalist Dan Rather for his expansive documentary exposé Fail State, which targets “predatory for‐profit colleges and worsening inequality in American higher education.” Rather served as its executive producer.

“News is something that the public needs to know that somebody, particularly some powerful person or force, doesn’t want the public to know. That is why I find this film and work not only so important, but so timely,” said Rather.

The film narrates the stories of low-income and minority students who talk about the emotional and financial stress they endured for failing to see through the scam recruiting trap and eventually enrolling in sham institutions. Shebanow skillfully chronicles the decades of policy decisions in Washington, D.C., to create a powerful political story filled with outrage toward stymied government reforms and inaction.

“We are so honored and humbled by this immense recognition and want to deeply thank the journalism school faculty at San Jose State for this award. As investigative journalists, we hope that our work can inspire other journalists to take on powerful forces and uncover the stories that need to be exposed,” said Shebanow.

Besides successful screening at several educational institutions, this hard-hitting exposé also premiered to packed houses at film festivals nationwide, garnering major press attention, awards and critical acclaim. Leading media outlets like The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian and The Wall Street Journal, among others, ran rave reviews and the film has since debuted to 30 million subscribers on STARZ cable and satellite TV network.

In 2019, Alexander Shebanow became a policy fellow and resident filmmaker at the National Student Legal Defense Network (Student Defense), where he investigates for‐profit college issues with a focus on amplifying student voices and strengthening student protections.