Exceptional Voices and Vision

Alan Soldofsky

Meet two SJSU English professors whose recently published books reflect a deep sense of place and history. (Christina Olivas Photo)

In the Buddha Factory by Alan Soldofsky

In the Buddha Factory by Alan Soldofsky

The Center for Literary Arts continues its 2013-14 season with readings by two SJSU English professors whose recently published books reflect a deep sense of place and history. With “In the Buddha Factory,” Alan Soldofsky explores the opposite tensions of place and no place, rich and poor, finite and limitless, with his backdrop being Silicon Valley and Zhejiang Province. It is in this Chinese epicenter of capitalist development that Soldofsky visits a Buddha statue factory. Nick Taylor’s novel “Father Junipero’s Confessor” explores the human drama underlying California’s mission era through the eyes of a Franciscan serving Junipero Serra. A book party, reading and signing for both authors will begin at 7 p.m. Sept. 30 in King 225/229.

 

Father Junipero’s Confessor: A Novel by Nick Taylor

Father Junipero’s Confessor: A Novel by Nick Taylor

This event is co-sponsored by The Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies and the Department of English and Comparative Literature. Other CLA events this term are a book party for Steinbeck expert and Professor Susan Shillinglaw; three events with author and humorist Sandra Tsing Loh; and readings by New York Times bestselling author Tom Barbash and Filipino poet Barbara Jane Reyes.

Reflecting on 9/11

Events on Tower Lawn and at Spartan Chapel will reflect on the terrorist attacks, which will also be discussed in an international politics class (Christina Olivas photo).

Although 12 years have passed since the terrorist attacks, the events of the day remain fresh on the minds of many at San Jose State.

The Veterans Student Organization will host a memorial service from 8:30 to 10:03 a.m. Sept. 11 on Tower Lawn. Speakers will pause three times for moments of silence, signifying each plane crash.

Canterbury Bridge will host a discussions open to all faiths. “The Root Causes of Violence” will begin at 3 p.m. Sept. 11 in the Guadalupe Room of the Student Union.

Reflecting on 9/11 will also be taking place in many classes campuswide. SJSU Today asked Associate Professor of Political Science Karthika Sasikumar about her experiences.

Not only was she teaching in New York on 9/11, but she continues to teach international politics today, connecting an event that many students are too young to recall personally to the shocking news out of Syria this week.

***

Remembering 9/11

Karthika Sasikumar, second from left, leading a first-year writing seminar, “Militaries and Societies in the Modern Age,” at Cornell University shortly after Sept. 11, 2001 (photo courtesy of Robert Barker/Cornell University Photography).

SJSU Today: Please tell me briefly about your experience teaching. Were you in the classroom on 9/11?

Professor Sasikumar: I’m Indian and my family still lives in India. I was living in Ithaca, NY, in 2001. I was a graduate student at Cornell University on 9/11. It was a beautiful Tuesday morning and I was on a bus to campus when I heard about the planes. I rushed to the computer lab and tried to find out what was going on. Most U.S. news websites had crashed due to heavy traffic, so I started looking at Indian websites. So right from the start I had a different, international perspective on the event.

At the time, I was teaching a first year writing seminar with 17 students. It was titled “Societies and Militaries in the Modern Age.” It was the first class where I was the instructor. And I was two weeks into it—when this hit.

Many of my students were from New York City or had family there. Many of them lost either someone they knew or had close family or friends that had lost a loved one. When I saw them for the first time after 9/11, they looked stunned and stiff. For most, it was their first encounter with death.

I changed the syllabus and started looking up material on Afghanistan, as it became clear that the United States would invade that country. In class, I had to be careful because there was a lot of anger and unreasoning emotion which I wanted to respect—I tried not to make the discussion too academic. At the same time, I emphasized to students that it was important to ask hard questions about U.S. policy.

SJSU Today: Tell me a little bit about how your approach to leading students through reflection on 9/11 has changed over the years.

Professor Sasikumar: 9/11 was a very important milestone in my life. It also changed my research. I included a chapter on the emerging counter-terrorism regime in my dissertation. Right after 9/11, Americans, especially the youth, were extremely motivated to learn about foreign countries in general and particularly about South Asia and Islam. Many students told me it was the event that motivated them to become political science majors.

As the years passed and emotions faded, I became less hesitant about questioning people’s assumptions about 9/11. The war in Iraq was key in making Americans more cynical and more insular.

SJSU Today: And how has the student response changed as the years go by, keeping mind your move from New York to California?

Professor Sasikumar: Last year, I used the anniversary of 9/11 as a prompt for an online discussion for my class “War and Peace” (POLS 150). I asked students, who had just encountered various definitions of war, to reflect on the “war on terror.” I started by asking them to recount their own emotions on 9/11.

I was in for a shock. Several of the responses were banal and casual. I realized that there was a new generation of students entering my (virtual and real) classroom. These were students who were too young to have their own memories and were filtering them through the media and family recollections. One student wrote about how her kindergarten teacher lined them up for early dismissal! I can no longer assume that 9/11 was as important to this new generation as it was to me. I would say that distance from the event, rather than distance from the East Coast, has been more important in this regard.

SJSU Today: Finally, in class tomorrow, will you tie 9/11 and Syria? How does our 9/11 experience as a nation inform our response to Syria?

Professor Sasikumar: In class tomorrow (“United States Foreign Policy,” POLS 154) the syllabus topic is foreign policy decision-making. The assigned readings talk about the divisions within the U.S. State Department as well as the conflict between the Pentagon and State.

I will begin by asking students if they think 9/11 influenced them and their leaders. Then I will have them read a piece called “The Taming of Samantha Power,” in which a prominent voice calling for intervention is shown to be tamed by the post-9/11 hatred of the United States. Yet Power is also making the case for the invasion of Syria, by predicting that inaction now “eventually compels us to use force anyway down the line, at far greater risk and cost to our own citizens,” which I take to be a reference to 9/11 and the policies that led up to it—specifically the U.S. decision to extract itself from Afghanistan after the end of the Cold War.

 

American Public Media: Fighting for a Higher Minimum Wage

Posted Sept. 3, 2013 by American Public Radio.

Produced by Phoebe Judge

Listen to story.

As part of a class project, a group of students at San Jose State University started a campaign to raise the city’s minimum wage. They successfully persuaded the city to impose a 25 percent minimum wage increase, from $8 to $10 an hour. Elisha St. Laurent was a student in the class, and tells Dick Gordon she’s spent years struggling to support herself on a minimum wage salary.

Celebrating East African Immigrants

Celebrating East African Immigrants

Celebrating East African Immigrants

The Silicon Valley East African Diaspora Project represents immigrants from six nations: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan (Michael Cheers photo).

The uncertain future of the diversity visa program and a novel online timeline tool are heightening interest in a new King Library exhibit sharing immigration stories of Silicon Valley’s East Africans.

But equally important is the way “Celebrate!” tells the story of an immigrant experience familiar to so many in the South Bay, perhaps the most ethnically diverse community in the nation.

The show opens Aug. 31 and continues through Sept. 29 at the Jennifer and Philip Di Napoli Gallery on the second floor of King Library.

Expect photojournalism, digital technology, films, cultural memorabilia, and text to introduce immigrants from six East African nations: Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan.

“‘The exhibit will increase the visibility of our region’s East African immigrants and their contributions to its economic, cultural, religious, and intellectual growth,” said Project Director and Professor of African American Studies Ruth P. Wilson.

Here are more details from SJSU’s Silicon Valley East African Diaspora Project.

Photojournalism

Along the surfaces of seven gallery walls will hang portraits of East Africans engaged in work, family life, community events and faith. Most poignantly captured is the intensity of the commitment of persons engaged in collective worship activities, family life and work. Whether in an evangelical healing service, a mosque or a Coptic church, immigrant communities of faith seek meaning in their new home away from home, find hope as they work to survive and thrive, and find comfort in celebrating the cultural rituals that make life more meaningful for individuals and families.

They consistently strive to support family members here, and in their home countries, who depend on them for some of the basic necessities: food, shelter, school fees, medicine, hospital care and funeral expenses. This collection of more than 50 photographs by photojournalist Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications D. Michael Cheers captures the similarities and diversities of gendered, ethnic, religious, socio-economic and family experiences in these East African diaspora communities.

Telling Our Stories

TimeShaker, a Silicon Valley start-up, presents a new way to tell our immigrants’  stories. “What was the sequence of events that brought you to the U.S.?” and “What were the key events that have happened since arriving?” View these immigrants’ stories on a timeline, and overlay other pieces of history such as the history of their homeland or the history of U.S. immigration policies.

This allows you to see their stories relative to the world around them. These stories seek to evoke the audience’s sense of connection not only to these immigrants, but all immigrants as they face the challenges of adjusting to living in another country. In this part of the exhibit, visitors will view a short video that introduces the East African immigrants’ stories, then log into

Visit TimeShaker’s online portal to read the rest of the stories using an interactive, digital storytelling tool.

Films

Film screenings will evoke discussions, sharing of insights, and education of the general public about issues confronting East Africans in the United States and on the African continent. Some of these provocatively informative films, including but not limited to Salem Mekuria’s documentary “Deluge- Yewenze Meabel,” Kobina Aidoo’s “The Neo-African Americans”, and Vulcan Productions and Intel Corporation’s “Girl Rising,” will be shown on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, in Room 227, right
across from the main exhibit. Each film addresses important issues for immigrant communities in the valley, in their home countries, and in diaspora communities throughout the world. Scholars and community activists will lead the discussions and panels after the screenings.

Cultural Memorabilia

Six display cases will be dispersed throughout the exhibit, one for each of the six East African nationalities represented in the exhibit. Each case will contain cultural memorabilia treasured by immigrant communities. While viewing jewelry, beaded objects, woven tapestries, stoneware, religious relics, carvings, coffee pots used in coffee ceremonies, cooking utensils, prayer beads, etc., visitors will realize the homogeneity and diversity of some of humanity’s most ancient human civilizations and cultures.

The Meaning of Democracy

This text-based visual display seeks to explore themes in immigrant interviews on the meaning of democracy. It attempts to bridge the gap between a concept that has special meaning for immigrants’ nascent democracies, and America’s, where many citizens take the right to participate in governance for granted, often foregoing the most basic of civil responsibilities—
participation in the selection of candidates for office, and the right to vote. Featured are East Africans’ thoughts on the promise of democracy and their hopes for more opportunities offered in the Valley and in their distant homelands.

When Africa calls, East Africans answer. They travel throughout California, the nation and abroad for worship, weddings, sporting events, funerals, graduations, birthday parties, christenings, and feasts.

And, family members from the home country come to America to celebrate many other important family events. No matter what, East Africans’ enthusiastic celebrations include cultural foods, dance, music, colorful dress, and congregating as a community. Join them at “Celebrate!”

Participating community organizations include: Bay Area Somali Association, Bay Area South Sudan Association, Eritrean Community and Cultural Center of San Jose, the Eritrean Community Center of  Santa Clara, and the Ethiopian Cultural and Community Center.

Sponsors include the African Women’s Development Fund USA and the Cal Humanities California Documentaries Project.

Udacity on Ipad

SJSU Plus: Fall 2013 Update

[This item was updated Sept. 11, 2013, to reflect publication of the National Science Foundation report and historical comparison noted below.]

Media contact: Pat Lopes Harris, 408-656-6999

The following can be attributed to SJSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Junn.

With summer drawing to a close, we would like to provide everyone with an update on the SJSU/Udacity partnership. SJSU Plus began in January with just under 300 students in three courses. In June, we added two more courses, with 2,091 students enrolling in all five classes.

What do these courses have in common? All are entry-level classes most students need to graduate. This matches the project’s goal, which is to provide high-quality, low-cost college courses for credit to everyone.

SJSU and Udacity learned quite a bit over the past six months. The spring pilot study funded by the National Science Foundation has been published.

San Jose State has also posted the following document: SJSU Plus Grade Distribution and Historical Comparison.

We would like to share some lessons learned.

Here’s what worked:

  • Learning by doing works. Online video allows us to stop every few minutes and offer students the opportunity to try what they’ve learned with an online exercise. Instructors have found this so effective that some are incorporating SJSU Plus materials into their campus-based courses.
  • Student interaction remains strong. Does online learning stifle conversation? We found the opposite. Students are connecting with each other, instructors and instructional assistants through every means available: text, email, phone calls, chats and meetings.

Here’s where we’ve improved:

  • Students need help preparing for class. With SJSU Plus reaching well beyond the SJSU campus, we are enrolling a growing number of students who are unfamiliar with the demands of college courses. This summer, 89 percent of our SJSU Plus students were not California State University students. So SJSU Plus now offers orientation in various forms in all five courses.
  • Students need help keeping up. Everyone needs a little encouragement to stay on track. So we’ve added tools that help students gauge their progress and we’re checking in with individual students more often.
  • We need to communicate better with students. Although SJSU and Udacity try to be as clear as possible with our online instruction, we know we can do better. Student feedback has been immensely helpful in refining SJSU Plus materials. We’re also sending less email and more messages while students are “in class” online.

Here’s what happened:

We’re still analyzing summer results. As you know, it can take a while to double check the numbers and understand cause and effect. But SJSU and Udacity are encouraged by improvements in student performance across the board. The following chart shows the percentage of students who earned a C or better.

Spring Pilot 2013 Summer Pilot 2013 SJSU On-Campus
(based on past 6 semesters)
Elementary Statistics 50.5% 83.0% 76.3%
College Algebra 25.4% 72.6% 64.7%
Entry Level Math 23.8% 29.8% 45.5%
General Psychology not offered 67.3% 83.0%
Intro to Programming not offered 70.4% 67.6%

(*Represents students who scored a C or better)

The overall retention rate dropped to 60 percent this summer, compared with 83 percent this spring, reflecting SJSU’s decision to be more flexible when students signaled to instructors that they needed to drop the course.

Here are a few things we’d like to clarify:

  • Over the summer, there were many comparisons made between our SJSU Plus and face-to-face courses. What many people failed to realize is this was not an apples-to-apples comparison.
  • On campus, we have students who are well acquainted with the rigor of college-level work. With SJSU Plus, most students are just beginning or resuming their college careers.
  • Also, the SJSU students enrolled in the SJSU Plus math courses this past spring failed the campus-based versions once before. Normally, these students would have been required to return to community college.
  • And that goes right back to our mission of increasing access. A 30 percent pass rate does sound low, until you stop and think that most of these students would not otherwise have had access to the course at all.

Here’s where we see things going in the future.

  • After taking a breather this fall to set the stage for student success in the future, we will resume offering SJSU Plus courses in January 2014. One major question we need to address is how to better sync our courses with our students’ busy schedules.
  • Many students have asked for greater flexibility in pacing, enabling them to speed up or slow down outside the confines of a conventional semester schedule. Customized scheduling is unprecedented at SJSU, but we would like to explore this option.

Spartans at Work: Mineta San Jose International Airport

(This summer, SJSU Today hit the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job at summer destinations throughout the Bay Area. Our 2013 Spartans at Work series ends with graduate Andres Quintero).

Mineta San Jose International Airport, located in the heart of Silicon Valley and minutes from downtown San Jose, welcomes over eight million passengers annually.

Design elements like Terminal B’s airy paseo and the parking garage’s seven-story “Hands” mural representing diversity and innovation remind visitors that SJC is more than just a travel hub.

Andres Quintero, ’06 Political Science, ’11 MA Public Administration, serves his community as vice chair of the San Jose Airport Commission, an advisory body to the San Jose City Council.

 “I’m glad I’ve been able to provide my prospective and look out for the citizens,” said this San Jose native.

Appointed for two three-year terms ending in June 2015, Quintero first got involved in politics at age 12, when he volunteered to pass out literature for a presidential campaign. He got a taste of “real” politics in 2003, when he interned for Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren in Washington, D.C.

Quintero’s role on the airport commission encompasses advising the city council on many management matters, with a focus on safety, customer service and fiscal responsibility.

 “I have found it very rewarding to be on the commission because you think it’s an airport and you use it every once in a while” but it’s a very important asset, he said.

Quintero helped oversee the airport’s $1.3 billion renovation and played an instrumental role in making the airport more welcoming to international visitors.

He also works as a policy analyst for Santa Clara County Supervisor Cindy Chavez (who earned a bachelor’s in political science from SJSU in 1987) and serves as vice president of the Alum Rock School District Board of Trustees.

 “The commission has prepared me to realize that the decisions you make have an impact on other people’s lives and you have to make sure that you make the right decisions as best as you can,” he said.

 

Spartans at Work: The Tech Museum of Innovation

(This summer, SJSU Today hit the road, visiting students and recent grads on the job at summer destinations throughout the Bay Area. Our 2013 Spartans at Work series continues with psychology alumna Maryanne Mwangi.)

In the heart of downtown San Jose is an impressive building with orange walls and a dome roof, home of The Hackworth IMAX Dome Theater and part of The Tech Museum of Innovation. The Tech is a distinctive part of the downtown San Jose skyline and a fitting museum for a city whose motto is “the capital of Silicon Valley.”

“Being that we’re in Silicon Valley, we are surrounded by innovators who create or want to create technology that can change the world, so The Tech is moving towards becoming a resource for those innovators and others around the world, ” said Maryanne Mwangi, ’11 Psychology.

As assistant project manager for the exhibits team, Mwangi provides support during the development and creation of the museum’s experiences. She is there every step of the way from brainstorming and initiation to maintaining a schedule, managing a budget and communicating with other teams during the set-up.

Mwangi assisted with the brand-new experience Social Robots, which opened July 1. Visitors have the opportunity to design and build their own working robots. She describes the “a-ha moment” when people connect the different pieces together, and their robots come alive.

“You come into the Social Robots exhibit and you’re provided with the tools and resources to build something amazing,” she said. “While you’re building you are also learning  how data is transferred between inputs and outputs to create an action. The Tech is providing the opportunity to bring out the innovator that’s in all of us and I think that’s amazing!”

User experience is an important priority in both technology and museums, especially for a technology and science museum that is creating more interactive, hands-on experiences like Social Robots. Mwangi’s psychology education gave her a foundation for brainstorming and collaborating with her team on exhibits.

“It’s an understanding of how people will interact with different things and trying to anticipate how someone will utilize  something that is put out on the floor,” she said. “Psychology plays a role in helping to understand people’s emotions and trying to figure out what would make them happy and  motivated to try something.”

Economics Convocation: “Success Here And Now”

Economics Convocation: “Success Here And Now”

Economics Convocation

Each member of the economic department’s Class of 2013 was called to the stage and invited to offer thanks to friends, family, peers and professors. (Stan Olszewski photo)

(This week, SJSU Today’s small but mighty band of writers and photographers will take a peek at graduation receptions and convocations campuswide so we can share with you the excitement of the more than 8,000 members of the Class of 2013. We’ll post more photos on Facebook.)

The high acoustic ceilings of the Music Concert Hall resonated with the sounds of proud supporters Thursday night as guests of all ages found their way to comfortable seating at the Department of Economics convocation.

Chair Lydia Ortega opened the ceremony by welcoming friends, family and “cheerleaders,” and urging graduates to focus on success “here and now.”

Ortega’s talk was followed by a slideshow accompanied by Louis Armstrong’s “What A Wonderful World.” In the presentation, grads gave thanks and expressed their appreciation for family and friends.

Special awards were then given to faculty and students for “keeping alive the vitality of the department and economic ideas.”

Leading Balanced Lives

In his keynote address, Lecturer Martin Kropelnicki opened by saying people who understand and maximize their skills lead the happiest and most balanced in lives.

Kropelnicki urged graduates to think rationally and learn how to solve problems. He emphasized the importance of obtaining moral fiber by “understanding boundaries,” “knowing how to act,” “being prepared for mental challenges” and “not compromising principles.”

He closed by listing the top 10 attributes business employers look for including ethics, ambition, optimism, communication and organizational courage.

Ortega and Associate Professor Jeffrey Hummel called each member of the Class of 2013 by name and provided everyone with the opportunity to offer thanks to friends, family, peers and professors.

Shout-Outs

In a recent survey, SJSU asked new grads if they would like to send a shout out to family and friends. Here are some of the responses we received from child and adolescent development majors. More will be shared at Commencement.

Tod Holland: “I want to thank my mother for the love and emotional support she gave me during my time here. She was my inspiration for going to college in the first place.”

Megan Swartzwelder: “Thanks to my family for all the love and support!!!”

Travis Tesarek: “To my wife Michele, I could not have done it without your love and support.”

 

Man’s Best Friend, Even in Prehistoric California?

Man’s Best Friend, Even in Prehistoric Times?

Man’s Best Friend, Even in Prehistoric California?

The Department of Anthropology’s Alan Leventhal is exploring “the interrelationship between the genus Canis and hunter-gatherers through a case study of prehistoric Native Americans in the San Francisco Bay-Sacramento Delta area.” (photo courtesy of Alan Leventhal)

The Department of Anthropology’s Alan Leventhal and colleagues delve into this question in an article recently published by the Journal of Archeological Science (Volume 40, Issue 4).

The piece “explores the interrelationship between the genus Canis and hunter-gatherers through a case study of prehistoric Native Americans in the San Francisco Bay-Sacramento Delta area. A distinctive aspect of the region’s prehistoric record is the interment of canids.”

“This is the first application of using ancient DNA in California in order to segregate out whether these large canids were domesticated dogs, coyotes or wolves,” Leventhal said.

Leventhal talked to SJSU Today about his work. The following was edited for length and clarity:

SJSU: What do you teach?

Leventhal: I teach ANTHRO 195/280, which is an advanced practicum archeology lab class analyzing and excavating sites in the Bay Area with the local Ohlone tribe.

SJSU: Can you tell us about your research with dogs of Central California?

Leventhal: It’s principally focused on the identification of canid burials that were found in Central California. Sometimes, when we do measurements on the animal remains, some of them are so large that they look like they fall into the wolf category. Our group applied the use of ancient DNA in order to test the validity of these animal burials, which then also helps in terms of the interpretation of the symbolic placement of the human burials in the human cemeteries.

SJSU: How many people were in your group?

Leventhal: There were seven coauthors, some out of UC Davis and some with the Far Western Anthropological Research Group.

SJSU: What was your role?

Leventhal: Back in the 1990s, we excavated a site from the Kaphan Umux (“Three Wolves”) tribe that had 102 human burials and animal burials, which we thought because of their size, were wolves. When the human remains were reburied the tribe decided not to rebury the wolves for future research. Years later, my colleagues at UC Davis, who had a hard time locating previously published canid burials going back to the 1940s, wanted to know if the wolves were still available and I said yes. My effort was to contribute particular bone samples from a 1960 SJSU excavation of a mortuary mound by Coyote Hills in the East Bay and contact the photographers of the animal burials themselves.

SJSU: What interests you most about your research?

Leventhal: My research is on several levels. One is connecting the descendents of the San Francisco Bay Ohlones to their 10,000-year-old history, then training them to do their own archeology and working collaboratively with our students and the tribe. Another level is my students, who are authoring and coauthoring archeological reports from various sites in the Bay Area and all the way to Santa Cruz. I enjoy laying out a database of understanding the history of human adaption and the evolution of complex Native American societies that lived here.

SJSU: What are you working on now?

Leventhal: We are now working on an exhibit up at Oakland Museum on one of the largest mortuary mounds in Emeryville and interpreting the placement of validity in these towns.

 

Long Beach Mayor Receives Alumni Award

Long Beach Mayor Receives Alumni Award

Long Beach Mayor Receives Alumni Award

Prior to becoming mayor, Bob Foster served as president of Southern California Edison for more than 20 years.

SAN JOSE, CA – Long Beach Mayor and former Southern California Edison President Bob Foster received the 2013 Outstanding Alumni Award at the College of Social Sciences Awards Ceremony on April 26.  Foster received a bachelor’s degree in public administration from San Jose State in 1969.

“The College of Social Sciences is delighted to honor Mayor Foster. We are especially proud of the contributions to civic life made by so many of our graduates, and Bob’s dedication to his community inspires and encourages all of us,” said College of Social Sciences Dean Sheila Bienenfeld.

Bob Foster is the 27th mayor of Long Beach, an office to which he was first elected in 2006. Prior to becoming mayor, he served as president of Southern California Edison for more than 20 years. During his tenure, he led California’s largest electric company though the 1999 energy crisis and developed the nation’s largest renewable, clean energy programs.

Foster began his career as a staff member of the California State Senate and California Energy Commission, where he established statewide energy efficiency standards that are still enforced today.

He is active in the U.S. Conference of Mayors and was appointed Environmental Committee chair in 2008 and elected to the Advisory Board in 2009. He currently serves as chair of the Mayors Business Council and as a trustee.

Foster was appointed by Governor Schwarzenegger to the Board of Governors for the California Independent System Operator and was reappointed by Governor Brown in 2013.

Foster served as trustee to the California State University system from 1997 to 2006, during which time he was the vice chair and chair of the Committee on Collective Bargaining and a member of an SJSU presidential search committee. He also co-taught a political science class at San Jose State with Professor Larry Gerston.

San Jose State University — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,000 students and 3,850 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

New York Times: Colleges Adapt Online Courses to Ease Burden

Posted by the New York Times April 29, 2013.

By Tamar Lewin

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Dazzled by the potential of free online college classes, educators are now turning to the gritty task of harnessing online materials to meet the toughest challenges in American higher education: giving more students access to college, and helping them graduate on time.

Nearly half of all undergraduates in the United States arrive on campus needing remedial work before they can begin regular credit-bearing classes. That early detour can be costly, leading many to drop out, often in heavy debt and with diminished prospects of finding a job.

Meanwhile, shrinking state budgets have taken a heavy toll at public institutions, reducing the number of seats available in classes students must take to graduate. In California alone, higher education cuts have left hundreds of thousands of college students without access to classes they need.

To address both problems and keep students on track to graduation, universities are beginning to experiment with adding the new “massive open online courses,” created to deliver elite college instruction to anyone with an Internet connection, to their offerings.

While the courses, known as MOOCs, have enrolled millions of students around the world, most who enroll never start a single assignment, and very few complete the courses. So to reach students who are not ready for college-level work, or struggling with introductory courses, universities are beginning to add extra supports to the online materials, in hopes of improving success rates.

Here at San Jose State, for example, two pilot programs weave material from the online classes into the instructional mix and allow students to earn credit for them.

“We’re in Silicon Valley, we breathe that entrepreneurial air, so it makes sense that we are the first university to try this,” said Mohammad Qayoumi, the university’s president. “In academia, people are scared to fail, but we know that innovation always comes with the possibility of failure. And if it doesn’t work the first time, we’ll figure out what went wrong and do better.”

In one pilot program, the university is working with Udacity, a company co-founded by a Stanford professor, to see whether round-the-clock online mentors, hired and trained by the company, can help more students make their way through three fully online basic math courses.

The tiny for-credit pilot courses, open to both San Jose State students and local high school and community college students, began in January, so it is too early to draw any conclusions. But early signs are promising, so this summer, Udacity and San Jose State are expanding those classes to 1,000 students, and adding new courses in psychology and computer programming, with tuition of only $150 a course.

San Jose State has already achieved remarkable results with online materials from edX, a nonprofit online provider, in its circuits course, a longstanding hurdle for would-be engineers. Usually, two of every five students earn a grade below C and must retake the course or change career plans. So last spring, Ellen Junn, the provost, visited Anant Agarwal, an M.I.T. professor who taught a free online version of the circuits class, to ask whether San Jose State could become a living lab for his course, the first offering from edX, an online collaboration of Harvard and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ms. Junn hoped that blending M.I.T.’s online materials with live classroom sessions might help more students succeed. Dr. Agarwal, the president of edX, agreed enthusiastically, and without any formal agreement or exchange of money, he arranged for San Jose State to offer the blended class last fall.

The results were striking: 91 percent of those in the blended section passed, compared with 59 percent in the traditional class.

“We’re engineers, and we check our results, but if this semester is similar, we will not have the traditional version next year,” said Khosrow Ghadiri, who teaches the blended class. “It would be educational malpractice.”

It is hard to say, though, how much the improved results come from the edX online materials, and how much from the shift to classroom sessions focusing on small group projects, rather than lectures.

Finding better ways to move students through the start of college is crucial, said Josh Jarrett, a higher education officer at the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which in the past year has given grants to develop massive open online courses for basic and remedial courses.

“For us, 2012 was all about trying to tilt some of the MOOC attention toward the more novice learner, the low-income and first-generation students,” he said. “And 2013 is about blending MOOCs into college courses where there is additional support, and students can get credit. While some low-income young adults can benefit from what I call the free-range MOOCs, the research suggests that most are going to need more scaffolding, more support.”

Until now, there has been little data on how well the massive online courses work, and for which kinds of students. Blended courses provide valuable research data because outcomes can easily be compared with those from a traditional class. “The results in the San Jose circuits course are probably the most interesting data point in the whole MOOC movement,” Mr. Jarrett said.

Said Dr. Junn, “We want to bring all the hyperbole around MOOCs down to reality, and really see at a granular level that’s never before been available, how well they work for underserved students.”

Online courses are undeniably chipping at the traditional boundaries of higher education. Until now, most of the millions of students who register for them could not earn credit for their work. But that is changing, and not just at San Jose State. The three leading providers, Udacity, EdX and Coursera, are all offering proctored exams, and in some cases, certification for transfer credit through the American Council on Education.

Last month, in a controversial proposal, the president pro tem of the California Senate announced the introduction of legislation allowing students in the state’s public colleges and universities who cannot get a seat in oversubscribed lower-level classes to earn credit for faculty-approved online versions, including those from private vendors like edX and Udacity.

And on Wednesday, San Jose State announced that next fall, it will pay a licensing fee to offer three to five more blended edX courses, probably including Harvard’s “Ancient Greek Heroes” and Berkeley’s”Artificial Intelligence.” And over the summer, it will train 11 other California State campuses to use the blended M.I.T. circuits course.

Dr. Qayoumi favors the blended model for upper-level courses, but fully online courses like Udacity’s for lower-level classes, which could be expanded to serve many more students at low cost. Traditional teaching will be disappearing in five to seven years, he predicts, as more professors come to realize that lectures are not the best route to student engagement, and cash-strapped universities continue to seek cheaper instruction.

“There may still be face-to-face classes, but they would not be in lecture halls,” he said. “And they will have not only course material developed by the instructor, but MOOC materials and labs, and content from public broadcasting or corporate sources. But just as faculty currently decide what textbook to use, they will still have the autonomy to choose what materials to include.”

While San Jose State professors decided what material should be covered in the three Udacity math courses, it was Udacity employees who determined the course look and flow — and, in most cases, appeared on camera.

“We gave them lecture notes and a textbook, and they ‘Udacified’ things, and wrote the script, which we edited,” said Susan McClory, San Jose State’s developmental math coordinator. “We made sure they used our way of finding a common denominator.”

The online mentors work in shifts at Udacity’s offices in nearby Mountain View, Calif., waiting at their laptops for the “bing” that signals a question, and answering immediately.

“We get to hear the ‘aha’ moments, and these all-caps messages ‘THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU,’ ” said Rachel Meltzer, a former clinical research manager at Stanford and mentor who is starting medical school next fall.

The mentors answer about 30 questions a day, like how to type the infinity symbol or add unlike fractions — or, occasionally, whether Ms. Meltzer is interested in a date. The questions appear in a chat box on-screen, but tutoring can move to a whiteboard, or even a live conversation. When many students share confusion, mentors provide feedback to the instructors.

The San Jose State professors were surprised at the speed with which the project came together.

“The first word was in November, and it started in January,” said Ronald Rogers, one of the statistics professors. “Academics usually form a committee for months before anything happens.”

But Udacity’s approach was appealing.

“What attracted us to Udacity was the pedagogy, that they break things into very small segments, then ask students to figure things out, before you’ve told them the answer,” said Dr. Rogers, who spends an hour a day reading comments on the discussion forum for students in the worldwide version of the class.

Results from the pilot for-credit version with the online mentors will not be clear until after the final exams, which will be proctored by webcam.

But one good sign is that, in the pilot statistics course, every student, including a group of high school students from an Oakland charter school, completed the first, unproctored exam.

“We’re approaching this as an empirical question,” Dr. Rogers said. “If the results are good, then we’ll scale it up, which would be very good, given how much unmet demand we have at California public colleges.”

Any wholesale online expansion raises the specter of professors being laid off, turned into glorified teaching assistants or relegated to second-tier status, with only academic stars giving the lectures. Indeed, the faculty unions at all three California higher education systems oppose the legislation requiring credit for MOOCs for students shut out of on-campus classes. The state, they say, should restore state financing for public universities, rather than turning to unaccredited private vendors.

But with so many students lacking access, others say, new alternatives are necessary.

“I’m involved in this not to destroy brick-and-mortar universities, but to increase access for more students,” Dr. Rogers said.

And if short videos and embedded quizzes with instant feedback can improve student outcomes, why should professors go on writing and delivering their own lectures?

“Our ego always runs ahead of us, making us think we can do it better than anyone else in the world,” Dr. Ghadiri said. “But why should we invent the wheel 10,000 times? This is M.I.T., No. 1 school in the nation — why would we not want to use their material?”

There are, he said, two ways of thinking about what the MOOC revolution portends: “One is me, me, me — me comes first. The other is, we are not in this business for ourselves, we are here to educate students.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 30, 2013

An earlier version of this article misstated the institution from which Rachel Meltzer, a mentor for the online provider Coursera, graduated. It was Washington University in St. Louis, not Stanford (where Ms. Meltzer worked a clinical research manager).

Univision: California Student’s Idea Helps Working People’s Finances

Univision: California Student's Idea Helps Working People's Finances

Univision: California Student’s Idea Helps Working People’s Finances

Posted by Univision March 14, 2013.

Univision’s national news program interviews SJSU student Marisela Castro, whose proposal that she and her classmates push to raise the minimum wage in San Jose led to a successful ballot box measure implemented this month. Click here to view the story.

East African Immigrants Invite You to "Celebrate: Part I"

East African Immigrants Invite You to “Celebrate: Part I”

East African Immigrants Invite You to "Celebrate: Part I"

East Africans are proud entrepreneurs and shareholders of the Silicon Valley taxi industry (photo by D. Michael Cheers).

“Celebrate: Part I,” comprised of 60 photographs by photojournalist D. Michael Cheers and nine display cases of cultural memorabilia donated by East African immigrant and refugee families, opened March 10 in the Cultural Heritage Center on the fifth floor of King Library.

East African Immigrants Invite You to "Celebrate: Part I"

Proud, competent woman entrepreneur at Michael’s Styling Salon in Santa Clara (photo by D. Michael Cheers).

Part I features photographs of East Africans as they engage in their families, work, communities and faith. Part II, slated to open in August, will include films, digitized stories, photographs and more memorabilia.

The exhibits are the work of the Silicon Valley East African Diaspora Project, which is seeking to profile the newest East African immigrant groups to Silicon Valley: Eritrean, Ethiopian, Kenyan, Somali, South Sudanese and Sudanese immigrant families.

Unlike earlier African diaspora groups, there is little documentation of their immigrant stories, challenges and contributions to our democracy or our region.

The multimedia pieces are designed to bring more visibility to Silicon Valley’s diverse black groups, identify and address social justice issues they face, support local self-help groups in their efforts to navigate the complexity of our society, and educate Californians of the widening diversity of blacks in our communities.

The project team includes Chair of African American Studies Ruth P. Wilson and Cheers, an associate professor of journalism and mass communications. The effort is funded by grants from Cal Humanities and the College of Social Sciences.  “Celebrate: Part I” continues through March 30.

 

The Wall Street Journal: Want to “Change the World”?

Posted by The Wall Street Journal March 1, 2013.

By Yuliya Chernova

Silicon Valley dreams bigger than the rest of the country, according to an analysis of LinkedIn profiles.

People who include the keywords “change the world” in their professional profiles on the business-networking site are far more common in the San Francisco Bay Area than in Greater New York or Los Angeles, Venture Capital Dispatch found. Out of about 8,300 people in the U.S. who use “change the world” in their profiles, 11.5% reside in the Bay Area, 10% in greater New York and 6% in Los Angeles.

Compared with the total number of LinkedIn profiles in each region, San Francisco has twice as many such profiles in its area as do New York and L.A. The amount of change-the-world profiles is still a tiny percentage out of the millions in the three urban areas.

The Bay Area “has long attracted people who in a way believed that they are doing visionary work, almost doing God’s work through technology,” said Chuck Darrah, chair of the anthropology department at San Jose State University and co-founder of the Silicon Valley Cultures Project.

The proliferation of self-proclaimed world-changers may be driven not just by the region’s pull on utopian thinkers, but by the increase in seed financing over the last two years and the resulting greater number of startups. With young companies increasingly competing for capital and talent, some founders may try to stand tall and shout from the mountain tops about their potential and worth, not to mention trying to instill a connection to their company in employees who have the option of working elsewhere.

“The space has become one where you need to sensationalize and hype what you are doing,” said Jon Sakoda, partner at Menlo Park, Calif.-based venture firm New Enterprise Associates. “That lends people to being evangelical and calling themselves the people that change the world. I don’t think they are delusional. I think they are trying to do their job.”

“We’re dreaming big dreams,” said Paul Rosenfeld, co-founder of startup Fanminder, which helps small businesses use social media for marketing and that was acquired by Total Merchant Services in December. Rosenfeld quit a well-paying job to start his company, which was a scary decision, he said. He and his partner needed to convince other team members to believe in their dreams, he said—that’s why he included the phrase “change the world” in his LinkedIn profile.

“We were getting [the engineers] through buying them into our vision,” said Rosenfeld.

For some people changing the world is just a core belief that drives their entrepreneurial dreams. Joe Lonsdale, an entrepreneur and general partner with new venture firm Formation 8, proclaims on his LinkedIn profile that he is “interested in understanding and reversing the decline of Western Civilization.”

He also writes in his profile that he is “helping [the Seasteading Institute] change the world by building a new frontier for humankind.” Lonsdale is a board member of the Seasteading Institute, which says on its website it is aiming to build “seasteads,” or floating cities, which will give people the opportunity to “peacefully test new ideas about how to live together.”

Lonsdale is hoping to invest in startups that make technology to improve financing, government, education and energy. “If you make any of those work better, you help everyone else,” said Lonsdale, who has founded startups such as Palantir Technologies, which has been deploying its software to optimize data processing in counterterrorism, fraud detection and other uses, as well as Addepar, which tackles financing system optimization.

“A lot of us think that there are a lot of challenges our civilization faces, and technologists have the best chance of tackling them,” he said.

While to those outside Silicon Valley the ambition and drive on display in the region may appear “egotistical,” it’s not necessarily delusional, says Darrah. For many the role of tech companies like Facebook and Twitter in galvanizing political change has been proof that Silicon Valley does, indeed, change the world.

“We have no more arrogance than the rest of the population,” said Ali Behnam, co-founder and managing partner of Riviera Partners, a Silicon Valley recruiting firm.

In a way, Silicon Valley allows young people at least the dream of having it all. In other parts of the country, college graduates often face a dilemma–whether to pursue high-paying careers in finance or go into low-paying nonprofit work that gives them the opportunity to “change the world.” But those who come to Silicon Valley often don’t have to choose, said Darrah.

Nationally, people working in nonprofit organizations trail only people working in marketing and advertising when it comes to change-the-world profiles. But in the Bay Area, nonprofit workers take a distant fifth place, trailing would-be world changers working in the Internet, computer software and information technology categories. That suggests utopian thinkers aren’t confined to low-paying nonprofit work in the Bay Area and believe they can help society while also working in a financially rewarding field.

“The money is important to the equation,” said Behnam. “Money in the absence of a mission and doing good, sets you up for a culture that’s not sustaining,” he added.

There’s another reason why Silicon Valley residents may feel the ability to change the world, perhaps more now than ever. Technology is becoming more accessible and cheaper, so that people feel they have access to the necessary tools to implement their ideas. “There are few places in the world where a developer or a single individual can make a huge impact,” said Behnam.

“This is the part of the world where people who believe they can influence the future for the better come to build things,” said Lonsdale.

San Francisco Chronicle: Student Class Projects Leads to Minimum Wage Jump

Posted by the San Francisco Chronicle March 11, 2013.

By MARTHA MENDOZA, AP National Writer

SAN JOSE, Calif. (AP) — If anyone deserves an A+ this week it’s Marisela Castro, a daughter of farmworkers who turned her Social Action class project at San Jose State University into a campaign to increase the local minimum wage.

On Monday her activism paid off, as 70,000 workers in San Jose enjoyed the nation’s single largest minimum-wage increase, a 25 percent raise from $8 to $10 an hour, amounting to a $4,000 annual bump in pay for a full time worker to $22,080.

“I never doubted for a minute we could make this happen,” said Castro, 28, who grew up in agriculture-rich Gilroy, where her parents and at times Castro picked garlic, lettuce and other vegetables in nearby fields.

While putting herself through college in 2011, Castro worked at an after-school program with low-income children who slipped snacks into their backpacks because there wasn’t enough food at home.

Meanwhile in her sociology classes she was reading about how a minimum wage job leaves workers — especially those in one of the wealthiest regions of the country — in severe poverty.

“When I understood what was happening in our community, it started to really piss me off,” she said.

In her Social Action class, sociology professor Scott Myers-Lipton assigned everyone to create an advocacy campaign. Castro and several classmates chose raising the minimum wage.

“At some point during that semester it hit me that this was much more than a class project,” said classmate Leila McCabe, 31, who graduated and now works for a nonprofit. “But we were determined and now that it’s happening, it’s amazing, very emotional.”

The students started with a poll that found 70 percent of the community favored an increase. They later learned one in five local workers would be directly impacted. Then they asked Cindy Chavez, who heads the nonprofit Working Partnerships USA, for support.

“When you live in a place as expensive as Silicon Valley, the fact that people here are paid so little and still figure out a way to hang on by their fingernails here is just sort of astounding,” Chavez said. “We were very excited to take this on.”

In November, 59 percent of San Jose voters approved the raise, making it the largest city in the U.S. to date to raise its minimum wage.

“In providing the largest jump in the minimum wage in America, Silicon Valley once again shows that it is a national leader,” said U.S. Rep. Michael Honda, who represents the region.

Voters in Long Beach and Albuquerque, N.M., also approved similar measures in November. San Francisco’s $10.55 an hour minimum wage, the highest in the country, took effect on Jan. 1.

Nineteen states, including California, have also raised their minimum wage, and Congress is now considering a law that would raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 an hour.

Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality associate director Charles Varner said raising minimum wage can help address growing disparity.

“The rising inequality in the last four decades is a problem of the restructuring of our economy,” he said.

Opponents in San Jose said raising the minimum wage would cripple San Jose’s fragile economic recovery, causing employees to lose hours or even their jobs. On Monday, opponent Scott Knies, executive director of San Jose’s Downtown Association, said some businesses have already raised prices or cut hours.

But Knies was trying make the best of it, launching “Earn ‘n Spend in San Jose,” a campaign that urges workers who benefit from the raise to keep their dollars local.

Nick Taptelis, owner of Philz Coffee, raised his wages to $10 an hour more than a month ago and has seen happier workers which in turn brings more customers into his bustling shop near the university campus.

Castro, 28, was beaming as her former professor patted her on the back.

“This shows that regular folks can change economic policy in this country,” said Myers-Lipton.

Castro said her professor was “very inspiring.”

So what grade did she end up with?

“Actually I got a B,” she said. “He’s also a really hard grader.”

 

 

Professor Emeritus Ted Norton

SJSU Remembers Professor Emeritus Ted Norton

Professor Emeritus Ted Norton

Professor Emeritus Ted Norton

Please join the university community in celebrating the life and contributions of the late Professor Emeritus of Political Science Ted Norton at a campus service 3 p.m. March 20 in the Spartan Memorial Chapel. Norton, who passed away Feb. 7 at age 90, was by most accounts the most influential faculty member in San Jose State’s modern history, guiding the Academic Senate in a variety of capacities throughout his 53 years at the university.

A native of Alameda, Calif., Norton served in World War II, earning a Purple Heart in the European Theater. He went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in sociology in 1947 and a law degree in 1949 from Stanford University. He also earned master’s and doctoral degrees in political science, in 1955 and 1960, respectively, from the University of Chicago. He began teaching at SJSU in 1960, specializing in constitutional law, inspiring many students to pursue legal careers.

Academic Senate

Within a few years of his arrival on campus, Norton became a very active member of the Academic Senate, the principal agency for the formulation of university policy. He twice served as chair, drafted more policies and resolutions than any other individual, and volunteered as the senate’s unofficial parliamentarian. After retiring, he continued to serve as an honorary senator and, in 1992, wrote a comprehensive history of the senate.

Professor of Political Science Kenneth Peter aptly sums up his colleague and friend’s career: “Professor Norton helped to bring SJSU through the turbulent 1960s, shaping many of the policies that transformed SJSU from a state college into a modern university. He was a rigorous constitutional law professor with a capacious memory, a wry sense of humor and a modest and soft-spoken demeanor. He will be sorely missed in numerous quarters on campus.”

Endowments

In addition to his many years of service to SJSU, Norton used his modest professor’s salary to create multiple endowments, which are particularly powerful because they deliver a dependable, perpetual source of funding.

In 1995, Norton made a small gift establishing the SJSU Political Science Faculty Endowment, with the hope his contribution would inspire more gifts from faculty members, alumni and friends of the department. Today, thanks to such gifts, income from $45,000 endowment provides grants to political science faculty for research, scholarship and professional development.

In 2004, Norton made a gift of $50,000 to endow the T.M. Norton Campus Enhancement Fund. To ensure the fund would grow, he asked that all income from the endowment be added to its principal until 10 years after his death. The fund will be used to support activities beyond what the state supports, including enhancing the intellectual and aesthetic qualities of SJSU and its campus, such as scholarly conferences, lectures, concerts, authors- and artists-in-residence and scholarly journals.

On Giving

In SJSU’s 2006-2007 Donor Endowment Report, Dr. Norton shared his views on giving: “Faculty usually don’t make enough money to give much away, but they realize that the university is grateful for everything it gets. Even though my contribution is not very big, I believe that something is better than nothing. I asked myself where better to give my money than the place I spent 35 years and have such fond memories of?”

In lieu of flowers, his family asks remembrances be made to the “SJSU Political Science Faculty Endowment” or the “SJSU T.M. Norton Campus Enhancement Fund.” Please send checks payable to the Tower Foundation of SJSU, One Washington Square, San Jose, CA 95192-0183, or make a gift online at sjsu.edu/giving/.

Norton is survived by his niece, Anne Norton Ayer, two nephews, Robert Rule and Steven Rule, two grandnephews, two grandnieces, a great-grandniece and several cousins. The family has planned a memorial service at 1 p.m. March 23 in Saint Andrew’s Episcopal Church of Saratoga, with a brief reception to follow.

Former Governor Gray Davis to Speak at SJSU

Former Governor Gray Davis to Speak at SJSU

Former Governor Gray Davis to Speak at SJSU

Former Gov. Davis (courtesy of gray-davis.com)

Former governor Gray Davis will speak at the next Don Edwards Lecture in Politics and History at 7 p.m. March 19 in the Barrett Ballroom at the Student Union. Davis will reflect on recent changes to the California constitution that may make it easier to govern the state, and the prospects for future reform. He will then participate in a moderated discussion in which he will answer questions from the audience. Assistant Professor Garrick Percival, whose work focuses on American politics, will serve as moderator. This event is free and open to the public. The Edwards Lecture series was launched in 1995 by friends and admirers of Congressman Don Edwards, with the goal of enabling students to meet and hear the stories of prominent men and women who have shaped our history. Edwards represented San Jose for 32 years in the U.S. House of Representatives, where he earned the title “the conscience of Congress” for his steadfast support of civil rights and his advocacy of all the disadvantaged. In 2003, the House of Representatives honored Edwards with one of the first Congressional Distinguished Service Awards, noting the civility of his work and his refusal to pursue “political ambition at the expense of common decency” or to “sacrifice his soul at the alter of political expediency.”

Master’s Candidates Mentor Undergrads

Graduate Guides

“Before the program was in place, there would be a number of students who would just fall off the radar,” Assistant Professor Magdalena Barrera said. “Those numbers have been reduced, and even in those cases where students face extraordinary difficulty, we at least know what is happening with them.” (Robert Bain photo)

For years, the Mexican American Studies department had been bedeviled with high failure rates among students of color who were taking its signature yearlong introductory historical survey course.

“We would lose 15 percent with Ds and Fs,” recalls department chair Marcos Pizarro. It was apparent that the students, many of whom were the first in their families to attend a four-year college, simple weren’t prepared for the rigors of post-secondary education.

In the fall of 2008, Pizarro decided to try something new. “I thought, ‘We could have master’s students serve as mentors to the undergraduates.'” The graduate students could serve as role models while imparting fundamental academic skills.

To find out what happened next, check out the College of Social Sciences newsletter (page 5).

CNet: Udacity, San Jose State University Offer Online Classes for Credit

Posted by CNet Jan. 29, 2013.

(View the video.)

By Sumi Das

So you’ve graduated from high school and been accepted at a four-year college. But when you arrive on campus you find out that you can’t pass college entry-level courses, so it’s back to remedial classes. That’s the fate of half of all freshman at San Jose State University, according to Provost Ellen Junn. Add to those woes decreases in funding for higher education across California, higher tuition fees, and greater competition for college admission.

Those are just some of the reasons the university has partnered with Silicon Valley startup Udacity to offer San Jose State Plus, online courses for academic credit. These types of classes are called MOOCs (massive open online courses), and San Jose State administrators say this new program marks the first time a MOOC is being offered purely online for credit.

Udacity began offering MOOCs in early 2012. Wondering how massive a “massive” open online course is? Udacity currently has 250,000 people enrolled in one of its computer science offerings.

When students sign up for an Udacity MOOC, they watch short interactive videos online and take quizzes to make sure they’ve grasped the material before the next concept is introduced. “There’s actually no lecturing in what we do, or very minimal lecturing,” said Udacity co-founder Sebastian Thrun. “It’s really all about student exercise. You learn by making your brain go crazy. You don’t learn by just listening.” In other words, no more dozing off during class.

To start, San Jose State Plus is offering three classes: entry-level math, college algebra, and elementary statistics. These are classes that are often over-enrolled and create bottlenecks because students must pass them to graduate. The courses are limited to veterans and students in high school at community colleges or at San Jose State. The fee for each class is $150.

That’s another benefit of MOOCs — the cost per student is extremely low. San Jose State professor Ron Rogers, co-instructor for the elementary statistics class, said that the cost of the textbook alone for the same class on campus is $150. The MOOC version of the class requires no textbook.

Students who’ve enrolled in MOOCs say they like being able to set their own pace for the courses, without concern for the rest of the class. They can move ahead when they’re ready and replay videos when the lesson isn’t quite sinking in.

This isn’t to say that MOOCs are flawless. Dropout rates are high. When a course is offered for free, it’s easy to sign up on a whim. When Udacity launched, I signed up for Computer Science 101 only to find myself canceling dentist appointments and skipping gym workouts to try to hand in homework assignments on time. I made it halfway through the eight-week course before I gave in and dropped out. Not a proud moment, but it was either that or poor dental hygiene. To help, San Jose State Plus is adding mentors to the program. Their job? To prod, push, encourage, and provide help for students as needed.

San Jose State Plus came together in record time. It began with a phone call back in June when Calif. Gov. Jerry Brown rang up Thrun and said that California was in a crisis and the state needed his help. Skip ahead seven months, and January 30 marks the debut of the first San Jose State-branded MOOCs.

Thrun isn’t done yet, though. He loves the idea of MOOCs helping students get a four-year degree in four years (instead of the average six years currently needed by many) and helping them save tuition fees along the way. But he also has his eye on some other under-served students: “We want to help lots of high school students. We want to level the playing field and even allow inner city students or disadvantaged students to go out into college with as much credit as they can and be as successful as they can be.”

 

 

San Jose Mercury News: From the PTA to the Corporate Boardroom, 49ers Coach Jim Harbaugh Shows Path to Leadership

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News Jan. 28, 2013.

By Dan Nakaso

On the football field he’s a superstar coach, but in business school classrooms Jim Harbaugh is an MBA MVP.

Leaders from the boardroom to the battlefield can steal a page from Harbaugh’s playbook, experts say, because the fiery head coach of the Super Bowl-bound San Francisco 49ers displays universal leadership traits that work equally well off the field.

“There are different styles and approaches to managing different situations and different types of people,” said Chester Spell, who teaches organization and management at San Jose State. “But showing people that you care and understanding the work and getting out of the way are qualities of most good leaders.”

At Santa Clara University, leadership professor Barry Posner uses Harbaugh as an example for his MBA students of the kind of leader who uses his intensity to fire up those around him and isn’t afraid to make tough decisions — whether it’s sticking with troubled place-kicker David Akers or replacing quarterback Alex Smith with the untested Colin Kaepernick.

“The stuff we’re teaching about leadership isn’t just about sports,” Posner said. “It applies in families, it happens in volunteer organizations.”

Harbaugh is clearly confident in his leadership skills, which he demonstrated as an NFL quarterback and as a college coach in San Diego and at Stanford before taking over the head coaching job with the 49ers in 2011.

“Harbaugh very clearly has a strong sense of who he is,” said Bill Reckmeyer, a former college point guard and lacrosse player who’s now a professor of leadership and systems at SJSU. “While I don’t know what goes on in the locker room, it’s also clear that his players have an awful lot of respect for him. If people are willing to run through a brick wall for you, there is really good leadership going on. If not, you have bad morale and passive-aggressive behavior.”

Posner said Harbaugh also keeps his team focused on success by demonstrating “what we call ‘inspiring a shared vision’ and getting people to think about winning the Super Bowl.”

But he has not shied away from making tough decisions in the public arena, such as replacing Smith with Kaepernick even after Smith recovered from the concussion that knocked him out midway through this season. Or his decision to stick with Akers.

“Leaders recognize that it’s all sitting on their shoulders and they’re willing to stand up and say, ‘I’m going to make a judgment,’ ” Reckmeyer said. “He’s working as a leader and not as a manager and certainly not as an administrator.”

That kind of confidence will help the leaders of any volunteer group, company or organization.

“In a situation where teamwork is of the essence — whether it’s a community organization like a PTA or an academic setting or a corporate boardroom — Harbaugh’s leadership style is transferable to almost every situation,” Reckmeyer said.

But how would Harbaugh’s fiery outbursts on the sidelines play in the corporate world or at a PTA meeting?

“It’s the passion that matters,” Reckmeyer said. “Ultimately people are really attracted to people who are really passionate about what they are doing.”

Spell agrees.

Harbaugh’s angry reaction to referees’ calls “shows the people he’s leading that he cares. … He’s showing that he wants this as badly as the players do,” Spell said. “But it’s not about whether you’re fiery or not. What’s important is showing the people you lead that you care.”

Successful leaders can be quiet or loud, or anything in between.

The key to successful leadership, Reckmeyer said, “is realizing that it’s all about people, people, people.”

Reckmeyer especially admires the slogan that Harbaugh introduced last season to unite and inspire the 49ers, asking his players “Who’s got it better than us? Nobody.”

But Posner is even more impressed by the displays of respect that Harbaugh shows for his players.

“Leadership’s a personal relationship,” Posner said. “Leaders take us to places we’ve never been to before. By building up people’s confidence, Harbaugh paints a picture of how we get from here to there.”

Contact Dan Nakaso at 408-271-3648. Follow him at Twitter.com/dannakaso.