Last month, San José State University’s Hannah Bittar, ’22 Biology, was awarded California State University’s (CSU) 2021 Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement — the CSU’s highest accolade for student achievement.
Bittar, who is pre-med and studying molecular biology, is among 23 honorees recognized, one from each CSU campus. Each awardee — many of them first-generation college students — also receives a donor-funded scholarship* with their award.
“These 23 scholars wonderfully exemplify the ideals of the California State University,” said CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro. “Every year, and especially this year, our Trustees’ Award honorees demonstrate resilience, tenacity and resolve — together with a keen intellect — while making an indelible, positive impact on their families and their communities. They are truly an
Upon graduating from high school, Bittar faced multiple personal challenges that nearly derailed her goal of attending college. But once she arrived at SJSU, she thrived, balancing work and school, and finding inspiration in giving back to others.
Her passion for making connections with her community, however, started well before she came to San José State. When she was just 17, Bittar co-founded her own nonprofit organization, J&H New Beginnings, which creates care packages and distributes them to residentially challenged people in her community. She also volunteers with a crisis helpline and at Stanford Medicine Valley Care Hospital.
So, what does Bittar say about receiving this recognition and what fuels her?
Hannah Bittar (HB): Receiving the 2021 Trustees’ Award means that all my hard work is paying off and being recognized, that all the obstacles and hardships I encountered and overcame were worth it and are finally paying off. And I am able to continue persevering and working toward my education and goals.
Besides this award, what are some of the major accomplishments you had at SJSU?
HB: Some of the major milestones I have had at SJSU include my recent Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader job at SJSU’s Peer Connections. This is a big accomplishment for me because, for a couple of years now, I had been on the lookout for a tutoring job or something similar. Now that I have been an SI Leader for a full semester, I can proudly say that I have learned so many valuable lessons and formed numerous amazing connections.
What are the most valuable lessons have you learned from your experience at SJSU?
HB: Some of the most valuable lessons I have learned from my experience at SJSU revolve around teamwork, networking and friendships. A lot of my SI Leader job revolves around teamwork; hosting sessions for my students requires a lot of planning on my end as well as meeting with my peer leaders and supervisors to compare work and ask questions. I also learned the importance of networking and forming friendships, which greatly contribute to my overall happiness and balance in my personal and professional life.
What has the experience of co-founding your nonprofit been like?
HB: It has been a lovely experience giving back to those in need within my community and neighboring communities. Being a founder of this organization has reinforced the incredible value of humanitarian work for me. I cannot put into words how fulfilling it feels to assemble care packages and distribute them to people in need; it is definitely one of my favorite experiences of my life.
What are your career goals and next steps after graduation?
HB: I recently took my MCAT exam. My next step consists of applying to medical school this upcoming spring, which makes me excited and nervous! My ultimate goal is to get accepted into a California medical school and, four years later, get accepted into my dream residency. I would love to specialize in dermatology or obstetrics/gynecology. I’m looking forward to the journey!
How has being a student at San José State transformed your life?
HB: I have gained insight with so many programs, clubs and internships. Additionally, I have met and formed so many valuable connections with fellow students in my classes and in the Peer Connections department. I would not have the friends, connections and opportunities I currently have if it weren’t for SJSU!
*The award and scholarships are made possible by founding leaders from the William Randolph Hearst Foundation and Trustee Emeritus Ali C. Raz; in partnership with CSU Trustees, CSU Foundation board members and private donors.