SJSU Joins CSU Initiative to Increase Women Faculty in Engineering

Sheryl Ehrman, dean of the College of Engineering, speaks at San José State’s Silicon Valley Women in Engineering conference in 2019. The university has joined a CSU-wide initiative to increase women faculty in engineering.

More than 30% of tenure or tenure-track faculty at San José State University’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering are women — the fourth highest among public engineering colleges in the country, according to the American Society for Engineering Education (ASEE).

Thanks to a $1.25 million National Science Foundation grant, that number may grow, with an emphasis on increasing diversity as well as expanding networking and support opportunities for women faculty.

Awarded to California State University, Fresno — who is partnering with SJSU, California State University Los Angeles and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo — the grant will support those California State University (CSU) campuses’ efforts to hire more women engineering faculty members, especially underrepresented minority women, according to a release from Fresno State.

Ultimately, the goal is to enroll more female students. Up to 11 more CSU campuses may eventually join the initiative.

“We are excited to participate in this initiative,” said Sheryl Ehrman, the Don Beall Dean of the College of Engineering.

“While we are one of the top public colleges of engineering in the nation with respect to women tenure/tenure-track faculty, there is still room for progress,” she continued. “I appreciate the focus on strengthening research collaborations and building the mentoring and peer-support network.”

The initiative, called the Kindling Inter-University Networks for Diverse (KIND) Engineering Faculty Advancement, is led by Fresno State and will follow a three-pronged approach.

First, it will analyze the campuses’ engineering faculty data using Aspire’s Institutional Change program to evaluate hiring practices, and policies and procedures around supporting and advancing existing faculty.

Second, it will create a CSU-wide network for research collaboration, including mini-grants for network members. And third, it will foster a systemwide mentoring and peer-support network to increase faculty retention and promotion.

The initiative will also create a dashboard where campuses can track the demographics of existing faculty and advancement data, which would allow them to identify potential roadblocks in hiring and retention.

“Is it at the hiring state where we aren’t getting diverse candidates? Is it in faculty departures before tenure? Is there a gender difference there?” asked Kimberly Stillmaker, assistant professor of civil engineering at Fresno State and one of the faculty members who led the grant application process.

“Once we have that data, then we’ll be able to make better changes, more pinpointed changes,” she noted.

In 2019, only 17% of the country’s engineering tenured/tenure-track faculty were women, according to the ASEE, and it’s even lower for Black and Latina women.

Since Ehrman stepped into her role in 2017, she has worked to increase the presence of female faculty in SJSU’s College of Engineering.

“The SJSU campus has made significant changes to our faculty search processes, including training committees in inclusive search practices,” she noted.

“Our college has women in leadership roles — department chairs, associate deans and me as the second female dean — so this helps in recruiting women at all career stages,” Ehrman continued. “We are looking for faculty who are student-focused and who will prioritize delivering a quality educational experience for students as well as research that directly involves students.”

Young Park, associate professor of computer engineering, is one of those faculty members. She uplifts women and underrepresented minorities through cybersecurity hands-on research and industry experience.

“My focus is to let these students overcome stereotypes as they develop skills that are needed for advanced cybersecurity,” she explained.

“I believe diversity is a key factor for successful programs at any organization and any project, because the complete solution can be derived from various backgrounds and environments. Through the KIND project, I hope our female faculty members will become leaders in the engineering field.”

Another strategy that has helped recruit women engineers to SJSU is the college’s emphasis on applied research that benefits society, Ehrman said.

“Women are more drawn to engineering if they see an engineering career as a way they can contribute positively to society, and being an engineering professional, training the next generation of engineers is a way to scale that benefit,” Ehrman explained.

The College of Engineering provides several opportunities for women engineering students to build relationships with mentors and each other. For example, the college hosts an annual Silicon Valley Women in Engineering Conference, where female engineering students from SJSU and other higher ed institutions can learn from women professionals in the field.

SJSU women engineering students can also join SWE SJSU, the campus’s chapter of the Society of Women Engineers. And in 2017, an engineering sorority was founded on campus as well.

Still, Ehrman emphasized that the KIND Engineering Faculty Advancement initiative will allow SJSU to continue to take big steps toward bringing more women — especially underrepresented minority women — into the engineering field.

“The grant will provide excellent opportunities for networking and support of women faculty across the CSU, so our current and future faculty will greatly benefit,” she said.

“While our percentages are high, our college can improve in recruitment and retention of women faculty of color, and we hope to be able to learn through participation in this grant how we can improve in this area.”

Learn more about the KIND Engineering Faculty Advancement initiative.

SJSU Students Use Data to Help Serve City’s Most Vulnerable Communities

A map created by SJSU graduate students presents data from San José’s Parks, Recreation and Neighborhood Services.

Data has the power to transform communities.

Just ask Saritha Podali, ’22 MS Data Analytics, and Fengling Zhou, ’22 MS Data Analytics. As part of a new partnership with San José State and the City of San José — supported by the Knight Foundation — the pair played a key role in gathering, interpreting and presenting data that can help the city provide resources to those who need it most.

San José’s Parks, Recreation, and Neighborhood Services (PRNS) offers scholarships for qualifying residents to participate in youth activities and after-school programs. While the city has always sought to ensure the scholarships went to those most in need, certain questions persisted: Were the people receiving the scholarships getting the right amount of aid? Who was being left out, and why?

Saritha Podali, '22 MS Data Analytics

Saritha Podali, ’22 MS Data Analytics

Enter the Mayor’s Office of Technology and Innovation who, thanks to a partnership with SJSU’s MS Data Analytics program, brought Podali and Zhou on board to tackle the issue in what was dubbed the city’s Data Equity Project.

“We define data equity as using the city’s data ethically and in ways that drive equitable outcomes for constituents,” explained Julia Chen, project manager for the Data Equity Project.

Starting in April, Zhou and Podali got to work mining PRNS data — by organizing records from 2009 to 2019 using the programming language Python — to paint a full picture of who was enrolling in the youth programs and who was receiving financial support.

“One of our primary objectives was to provide PRNS folks who might have little or no tech background with an easy-to-use, interactive experience to present the trends to their board,” explained Podali.

Fengling Zhou, '22 Data Analytics

Fengling Zhou, ’22 Data Analytics

And that’s exactly what they did: Their final presentation to PRNS and Mayor Sam Liccardo included an interactive map identifying the city’s most vulnerable communities by ZIP code and how many scholarship dollars were allocated to those areas compared to others. Plus, it highlighted where certain communities indicated a need for programs that were unavailable locally by attending those outside their immediate area.

Podali and Zhou, along with others who worked on the project, shared a list of recommendations on how to use the data, which PRNS plans to do, explained Hal Spangenberg, interim division manager of PRNS.

“We will use this data and information to help inform key decisions in the allocation and distribution of scholarship funds and hopefully increase scholarships to those most in need,” he said.

“We can’t overstate the value of the dashboards they created,” Chen added. “Now, the PRNS team has a level of data and truth they can refer to as they make their future decisions.”

“Data is not anonymous,” she continued. “These are people’s lives we have in our hands. It’s not just analysis for the sake of analysis; we are ultimately here to hopefully better the lives of residents of San Jose. That’s the importance of having local students doing this kind of work and bringing their local context to the table. We need to understand the community we’re serving, so it made sense to partner with the university, where there’s a pipeline of talent.”

A demonstration of the interactive map created by Podali and Zhou for the City of San José.

One of the goals of the SJSU MS Data Analytics program is to show students that they can apply analytics to solve relevant, real-world problems, explained Ruth Duran Huard, dean of the College of Professional and Global Education (CPGE).

“One of our core learning objectives is for our students to integrate multidisciplinary knowledge to engage in practical data analytics projects, from analyzing requirements to managing data, building models, presenting results and assessing societal impacts,” she noted.

“The partnership of CPGE’s Applied Data Science department with the City of San José speaks to our university’s commitment to connect and contribute within our communities,” Huard continued. “To be able to support the city in its efforts to meet its data systems needs and develop an overall data strategy has been invaluable, especially for our faculty and students.”

Mohamed Abousalem, SJSU’s vice president for research and innovation, says this collaboration is an example of how the university’s research expertise can have tremendous public impact.

“SJSU has several areas of research expertise that intersect with the City of San José’s interests and priorities,” he said. “This collaboration was a demonstration of how our students and faculty can help the city make data-informed decisions based on expertise and skill in data analytics. Our partners have a great opportunity to tap into the resources of today’s students to select tomorrow’s employees through meaningful and productive research and development projects.”

For Podali and Zhou, the experience broadened their understanding on the power of data.

“Being fair when creating policies to serve a community is hard,” noted Zhou. “But our data project provides evidence that will help the best decisions to be made.”

“This experience has helped me develop a new perspective of how data can be transformative for communities,” Podali said.

“I now realize the impact technology advancement has when it is leveraged across all walks of life,” she continued. “Studying community problems, identifying areas of improvement and assessing risks using data analytics is the need of the hour. As exciting as it is to work on groundbreaking artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies, it is equally important to ensure that communities receive enough help to position themselves in today’s world of technology.”

View the students’ final presentation, and learn more about SJSU’s MS Data Analytics program

SJSU’s Thalia Anagnos Named a YWCA Tribute to Women Honoree

Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Thalia Anagnos.

Vice Provost for Undergraduate Education Thalia Anagnos in action in the classroom. Photo: David Schmitz

Thalia Anagnos, San José State University’s vice provost for undergraduate education, has been named a Tribute to Women Award winner by the YWCA Golden Gate Silicon Valley.

Anagnos is part of a select group of more than 40 emerging and executive women honorees who were celebrated at their 37th annual awards ceremony in May. The recipients, according to the YWCA’s recent press release, “have excelled in their fields and have made significant contributions to Silicon Valley through their dedication and leadership.”

“We’re so excited to recognize the 43 honorees who have been selected to receive the Tribute to Women Award this year,” said Adriana Caldera Boroffice, Interim CEO, YWCA Golden Gate Silicon Valley.

Borroffice added that celebrating these women this year is particularly special, in light of the distinct challenges “women — especially mothers, senior-level and BIPOC women — have been experiencing” during COVID-19 and the “fortitude and resilience” they showed through it all.

The Tribute to Women Awards has recognized more than 1,400 women for their remarkable achievements at work and in their communities.

“Thalia’s passion, work and impact over the years provide a model for women leaders in higher education, whose obligation is to pay it forward for upcoming generations,” said President Mary Papazian. “Working quietly and behind the scenes, she has been instrumental in the education, training and success of countless California students, many of whom have gone on to add their own valuable contributions to our communities. I can think of no one more deserving than Thalia for this year’s YWCA Tribute to Women Award.”

“I was really honored that the president nominated me,” said Anagnos. “YWCA organized a meet-and-greet with some of the other women who were nominated, and we had a lot of commonalities in terms of professional experiences and volunteer activities; it was fun to connect with them and talk about their paths, too.”

Anagnos started at San José State as a general education advisor and assistant professor in civil and environmental engineering and taught for more than 30 years before her transition to administration. Over time, she has been involved with numerous committees and held a variety of other roles, including chair of the civil and environmental engineering department, SJSU’s first director of assessment, associate vice president of graduate and undergraduate programs and, currently, as vice provost for undergraduate education.

Presently, she oversees curriculum development and assessment of general education and undergraduate programs, as well as SJSU’s articulation agreements with the state of California’s community college system. She also supervises the university’s accreditation, academic program catalog, academic scheduling and e-advising, and coordinates some student success programs.

“Being a member of SJSU all these years has been really fun because of the variety of opportunities that working at a university provides such as research, teaching, working with the community, collaborating with other universities and mentoring students and colleagues,” said Anagnos.

The strong roots she’s built at the university over time have made all the difference in the impact she’s been able to make in leadership and directly with students.

“Having those relationships with people across campus has helped me to do the work I need to do — and learn what I need to know to help me change and grow,” she added.

Read the full story of Anagnos’ impact on SJSU here.

SJSU Celebrates the Class of 2021 With Virtual Recognition and Student Awards

How will San José State honor the Class of 2021? The university will offer a mix of in-person and online celebratory activities to recognize graduating Spartans.

Degrees will be conferred virtually by SJSU President Mary Papazian and Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Vincent Del Casino, Jr. during a virtual kickoff event at 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, May 26. In addition, each college will launch recognition websites to honor graduates by program and major.

Visit the Commencement website to learn more about graduation activities celebrating the Class of 2021 at San José State.

2021 Outstanding Thesis and Senior Winners

Every year, SJSU recognizes undergraduate and graduate students whose academic work shows exceptional promise. Grace Shefcik, ’20 MA Education – Speech Language Pathology, has been named the 2021 Outstanding Thesis winner. Mamta Kanda, ’21 Industrial and Systems Engineering, and Annlyle Diokno, ’21 Sociology and Psychology, have been named Outstanding Graduating Seniors.

Grace Shefcik

Grace Shefcik is the 2021 Outstanding Thesis award winner. Photo by Brian Cheung Dooley.

Grace Shefcik studied the intersection of voice and gender identity for her graduate thesis “Assessment of Non-binary Individuals’ Self-perception of Voice.” Associate Professor of Communicative Disorders and Sciences Pei-Tzu Tsai described the paper as “transformative in nature, being the first in the professional field to investigate the communication needs of the underserved non-binary population.” Shefcik’s thesis has been published in a major peer-reviewed journal in the voice field and is being translated into Spanish by international researchers.

In addition to their remarkable academic accomplishments, the Outstanding Seniors must also demonstrate leadership in and make substantial contributions to the university community, among other notable qualifications.

Mamta Kanda

Mamta Kanda has been selected as one of the 2021 Outstanding Senior award winners.

Throughout Mamta Kanda’s time at SJSU, she served in multiple leadership roles, including as president of the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers and vice president of the Tau Beta Pi Honor Engineering Society leadership while maintaining an impressive 3.99 GPA.

Yasser Dessouky, chair of San José State’s Industrial Systems Engineering Department (ISSE), describes Kanda as “one of the top 5 percent of undergraduate students during [his] 25 years teaching.”

Kanda also discovered innovative ways to give back to the greater SJSU community through her internship, volunteering, clubs and other academic activities, which included fundraising for wildfire victims and mentoring high school STEM students.

Annlyle Diokno

Annlyle Diokno is one of the 2021 Outstanding Senior award winners.

 

As president for the Global Student Network at San José State, Annlyle Diokno chaired and spearheaded a number of fundraisers in support of the Black Lives Matter and Stop Asian Hate movements. Motivated by a desire to foster a campus community that values intercultural communication, she co-organized the SJSU APIDA Rally in April and founded Tutor for Love, a free virtual English tutoring service that benefits San Francisco’s Filipino Community Center.

Equally or more impressive than these awards themselves, is all three of these students faced adversity posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I commend and congratulate these student scholars for their impressive academic achievements, especially in the midst of such challenging circumstances,” said SJSU President Mary A. Papazian.

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!

$3M Anonymous Gift Will Establish Endowments at SJSU

Three students hover over a laptop while studying together.

An anonymous $3 million planned gift will establish three endowments at SJSU. Photo taken prior to COVID-19 pandemic.

San José, Calif. — San José State University is pleased to announce that it has received a $3 million gift commitment from anonymous donors. The gift will create three $1 million endowments to provide full tuition to eligible students majoring in management information systems (MIS) in the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business, computer science in the College of Science and computer engineering in the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering.

“We believe strongly in the importance of education. It is important to invest in the future by giving back to the educational institute which we attended and to invest and assist future students,” said the donors, a married couple who graduated from San José State. “We hope our gift will help students achieve their academic goals and so serve as our investment in the future.”

“Recognizing the importance of supporting students in areas of study as wide-ranging as business, science, and engineering is quintessentially San José State,” said Theresa Davis, vice president for university advancement and CEO of the Tower Foundation. “The donors, both alumni, demonstrate how our Spartan family champions one another’s disparate dreams and vision for the future. We are incredibly grateful for their generosity.”

“With rising inequality, support for student scholarships has never been more important,” said Sheryl Ehrman, dean of the Davidson College of Engineering. “Our society will greatly benefit from the ideas generated by these computer engineering students supported by these scholarships!”

“This gift will expand access to our high-quality computer science degree program—and the outstanding experiential learning, internship, and career opportunities that come with it—regardless of a student’s ability to pay for their education,” said Michael Kaufman, dean of the College of Science. “This aligns precisely with SJSU’s role as a transformative institution and the College of Science’s mission of creating knowledge and expanding opportunity. We are extremely grateful for the generosity of the donors.

“This incredibly generous gift is truly an investment in our MIS students’ future,” said Dan Moshavi, dean of the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business. “These scholarships will significantly reduce financial pressures and allow students to spend more time focusing on their studies and engaging in co-curricular activities that can advance their careers.”

“This wonderful act of generosity will help provide a high-quality education to a new generation of Spartans,” said SJSU President Mary A. Papazian. “Investments by donors like these enable us to transform the lives of our students and their families, and for that we are very grateful.”

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

About San José State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San José State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study—offered through its nine colleges. With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San José State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing 10,000 graduates to the workforce.The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 280,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

Master’s Student Katy Jiang Wins 2020 Deepfake Education Competition

 

The Silicon Valley Leadership Group, in partnership with the CITRIS Policy Labs at the University of California, Berkeley, announced that Katy Jiang, ’21 MS Software Engineering, won the 2020 Deepfake Education Competition with her three-minute explanatory video. The competition challenged students of all levels to create engaging video content to educate the public on deepfakes, the use of artificial intelligence to manipulate images and video to influence public opinion.

“Deepfake is a form of artificial intelligence. The word deepfake combines deep learning and fake,” said Jiang. “It can produce a persuasive counterfeit by studying photographs and videos of a target person from multiple angles, and then mimicking its behavior and speech patterns. By making this video, I want to educate people about the technology behind their day-to-day entertainment application and raise people’s awareness that deepfakes can also be used in committing crimes such as frauds and scams.”

A 2019 Pew Research study reported that two-thirds of Americans (67 percent) say made-up news and information cause a great deal of confusion. Associate Chair of the Computer Engineering department Magdalini Eirinaki, who is teaching Jiang’s Web and Big Data Mining course this semester, recommended that Jiang submit her video, originally a class assignment, for the Deepfake Education competition.

“Identification and spread of fake news (whether in text or deepfakes) has been on my radar as a very interesting and critical research problem,” said Eirinaki. “This technology can be very easily weaponized and used to enhance the perceived credibility of fake news and disinformation campaigns. This can have even more devastating effects than current fake news, ranging from politics, to the environment (e.g. global warming), to public health (e.g. spreading disinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic). It is therefore more critical than ever for the research community to develop more sophisticated techniques to keep up with the deepfake technology to promptly identify and remove/flag them before too much harm is done.”

Jiang’s video explains how deepfakes can be used to impact how people interpret fake news—especially timely during a hotly contested presidential election and a global health pandemic. Using engaging visuals, music and voiceover to describe the dangers that deepfakes pose to democracy, she encourages viewers to assess content carefully before sharing it on their social media platforms. She demonstrates how many free apps are available to superimpose public images with false or misleading suggestions, inserting her own face over that of celebrities and politicians. Her winning submission will be featured on CITRIS media channels and through the Silicon Valley Leadership Group’s media channels. The recognition also includes a $2,500 prize.

“As we are in the pandemic and the election is coming, deepfakes pose a danger to democracy,” said Jiang. “Fake news will influence everything from stock prices to the election. People should be critical about what we see online.”

 

SJSU Students Awarded National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships

Nebat Ali

Nebat Ali, ’19 Biological Sciences, has received an NSF graduate research fellowship.

Nebat Ali, ’19 Biological Sciences, felt huge excitement and validation when she learned in March she had received a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP), one of two SJSU students honored this year.

“It was so affirming to me as a young scientist because it means students like myself really do belong in academic research labs,” she said.

Ali, who graduated from San Jose State last year, and senior Jocelyn Valenzuela, who will graduate with a degree in chemical engineering, were among the 2,076 fellowship winners across the nation who will be pursuing academic science research at the highest levels.

Jocelyn Valenzuela

Jocelyn Valenzuela, ’20 Chemical Engineering, has received an NSF graduate research fellowship.

“The NSF fellowship will give me more options for selecting projects and mentors that will help me pursue my research passions,” said Valenzuela. “I couldn’t have done this by myself without the help from my professors and other students here.”

The NSF GRFP is the country’s oldest fellowship program that directly supports graduate students in STEM fields. Winners of the fellowship receive a stipend and tuition support amounting to $46,000 per year for three years.

“This is as good as it gets,” said Pamela Stacks, SJSU Associate Vice President for Research. “The NSF honors academic excellence, and we’re enormously proud of our talented students who gain genuine respect, confidence and independence with this fellowship.”

NSF GRFP has a long history of selecting recipients who achieve high levels of success in their future academic and professional careers. The reputation of the GRFP follows recipients and often helps them become lifelong leaders who contribute significantly to both scientific innovation and teaching.

Stacks said the NSF program also validates the role of research and strong academic preparation on campus. “Even though San Jose State and other schools in the CSU system are often seen as ‘teaching universities,’ our commitment to research is incredibly strong,” she said. “We’re preparing outstanding young scientific researchers who definitely can hold their own among students from other top universities.”

Over the past six years, 18 SJSU students have received NSF GRFP fellowships, and another 11 have received honorable mentions. Three other San Jose State students received honorable mentions this year: Austin Betancourt and Anjum Gujral in the field of ecology and evolution, and Michelia Dam in chemistry.

“This is a consistent record of accomplishment that speaks well of our efforts to encourage our students to pursue scientific research,” said Cleber Ouverney, professor of biological sciences who also heads the San Jose State’s Maximizing Access to Research Careers program (MARC).

MARC is sponsored by the National Institutes of Health to provide support for undergraduate students who are underrepresented in biomedical sciences to engage in research and improve their preparation for high-caliber graduate training at the PhD level.

“We have several programs on campus that offer a practical framework for students interested in scientific research but who often face a range of challenges that can frustrate their ambition,” said Ouverney. “However, through a combination of some financial assistance, close support from our faculty, and a peer network that provides encouragement, we’ve been able to successfully prepare our students for the rigors of graduate school.”

As a chemical engineering major, Valenzuela’s research work at SJSU concentrated on nanoscale materials and their potential for medical applications such as early cancer detection. She’s worked in the labs with professors Abraham Wolcott in physical chemistry and Katy Kao in chemical engineering. Valenzuela will be starting her PhD program in chemical engineering at Stanford this fall.

“I’m looking forward to using the knowledge and skills I learned at San Jose State and the genuine collaboration I’ve found in both academic and industry labs to pursue basic research that can result in real world benefits,” she said.

While at SJSU, Ali worked with Associate Professor of Biological Sciences Miri VanHoven’s lab in the field of neurological science looking into molecular and genetic mechanisms of neural development and behavior. Now a first-year PhD student at University of California, San Francisco, she’s focusing on microbiology and the impact of microbes on higher organisms.

“I’m truly grateful for all the support I received at San Jose State that helped me become competitive for the NSF award,” said Ali. “The MARC program especially was valuable to me because of the mentorship from my professors and the community of students who help each other prepare applications and proposals.

Ali and Valenzuela are both eager to get back to their respective lab benches as soon as the coronavirus crisis has passed.

David Vossbrink

SJSU Alumni Develop Test for Rapid COVID-19 Results

Two San Jose State University alumni are part of the team that developed the first rapid COVID-19 test that delivers results in 45 minutes.

David Persing

David Persing, ’79 Biochemistry, is one of two SJSU alumni working at Cepheid to develop a COVID-19 diagnostic test. Photo: David Schmitz.

Dr. David Persing,‘79, Biochemistry, and Rich Nolasco, ‘08, Mechanical Engineering, work for Sunnyvale-based Cepheid. The molecular diagnostic testing company announced on March 21 that it has received emergency authorization from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for its SAR-CoV-2 Xpert Xpress test. It is the first rapid COVID-19 test that can be administered at point-of-contact locations, such as hospitals, emergency rooms and urgent care centers, and delivers rapid results.

Persing is the executive vice president, chief medical and technology officer for Cepheid. He explains in this video how the COVID-19 rapid test works and why it’s so important.

Persing graduated from SJSU with a degree in biochemistry and then earned an MD-PhD in genetics. He founded the Mayo Clinic’s Molecular Microbiology Laboratory. Eventually, he left academia to focus on cancer and infectious diseases in the biotech industry. In an interview with Washington Square Magazine in 2019, Persing said “It was gratifying to treat one patient at a time, but I ultimately decided I needed to amplify the impact of my research and touch the lives of many people simultaneously.”

Richard Nolasco

Richard Nolasco, ’08 Mechanical Engineering, is a member of a team at Cepheid working on a COVID-19 diagnostic test. Photo: Courtesy of Rich Nolasco.

SJSU alumnus Rich Nolasco graduated with a degree in mechanical engineering and works as a failure investigation engineer at Cepheid.

“When I joined the Cepheid team in late 2015, I knew that the company and my work directly affected lives around the world in a positive way,” said Nolasco. “When I found out that Cepheid was coming up with a test to detect the virus, I knew it would make a huge and positive impact.”

Cepheid expects to begin rolling out the COVID-19 rapid test at the end of March.

2020 Silicon Valley Women in Engineering (WiE) Conference Will Convene Entirely Online On March 14

Graphic of 2020 Silicon Valley WiE Conference announcing a switch to a virtual conference.
The Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering has moved its annual Silicon Valley Women in Engineering (WiE) conference scheduled on March 14, 2020 entirely to an online format as a precautionary measure against COVID-19 as the virus continues to pose a risk to the well-being of the community. WiE 2020 is still happening with all the amazing programming that was promised as the Women in Engineering Conference team has succeeded in creating a virtual conference.

Live streaming of the event, which is now free and open to all, will start at 8:30 a.m. with welcome and keynote addresses that will be delivered by Kate Gordon, director and senior adviser to the California governor on climate, and Meagan Pi, vice president of Google. While Gordon will shed light on the cutting edge of sustainable Smart City innovations, Pi will share her journey from China to Silicon Valley. Isaura S. Gaeta, vice president of security research and general manager of Intel Product Assurance and Security, will deliver the lunch keynote.

Every year the event draws the best of tech industry experts, aspiring engineers and a large section of the student community from the engineering department, local community colleges and high schools. This year, the virtual conference is centered on the theme of “vision for a better future.” Engineers and scientists will gather to discuss a range of issues from the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI) to the current global health crisis to impacts of climate change.

WiE 2020 is an avenue for aspiring engineers to network with trailblazing scientists who are breaking gender stereotypes and designing creative solutions to counter the world’s pressing problems. It will also help students visualize a career arc, learn about emerging technologies as well as understand the extent of impact engineers have on shaping the world.

Registered students will receive an email by Friday, March 13 with instructions as to how to participate online for the entire conference, including keynotes, technical and professional development sessions, career panels, and even the innovation showcase. More information will soon be available on 2020.siliconvalleywie.org.

In her message to the community on the conference website, Stacy Gleixner, SJSU professor and conference chair, said that industry leaders at this year’s conference are creating a better future by designing greener construction and energy solutions, developing life-saving diagnostics and medicine, and inventing tools that promote inclusion and security while revolutionizing the way we interact and work.

Industry leaders from some of the top Silicon Valley companies such as Netflix, Facebook, Accenture, IBM, NASA, LinkedIn, Amazon Labs, Marvel Semiconductor, Shockwave Medical, Xilinx and others will be speaking throughout the day on topics that include sustainable development and construction, medicine and diagnostics, space travel, virtual reality, the future of blockchain, AI, machine learning and wearable devices.

Sheryl Ehrman, SJSU

Sheryl Ehrman, dean of SJSU’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering, speaking at the 2018 Women in Engineering Conference at SJSU. Photo: David Schmitz.

One of the technical tracks will focus on the ethical aspects of AI, starting with those related to models and algorithms such as bias, fairness and explainability to examine how they influence the end outcomes concerning privacy and safety. The panel will also discuss the impacts AI has on humans. For example, it will explore how automation will change the nature of some jobs, what effect it would have on democracy, human-to-human, and human-to-AI interaction, etc.

Computer Engineering Professor Magdalini Eirinaki said AI users should be conscious of its implications, especially in terms of sharing their personal data. With less information, manipulation chances for targeted advertising or propaganda purposes reduce. “I’m now more mindful about doing online quizzes, for instance,” she said.

She added that deep learning has allowed many interesting applications. “AI has allowed us to visualize how we will look when we get old and add funny headpieces to our selfies, but also fight cyberbullying and diagnose cancer in the early stages,” said Eirinaki. “However, it can also discriminate against underrepresented groups, or become a tool of propaganda and warfare.”

Several of these ethical questions that go beyond the design of the underlying algorithms and technologies will feature in the discussion as AI continues to impact our everyday lives.

Interested candidates can still join the virtual conference by entering their names in a signup sheet on the main page of http://2020.siliconvalleywie.org/ Once they sign up, they will receive the instructions and the pdf schedule with log-in links in their email.

The committee has refunded all fees and setting up pick up hours/locations for the swag (bags, t-shirts) at SJSU and also sending them to all schools that pre-registered as a group.

Visit Silicon Valley Women in Engineering to participate in the 2020 conference.

Innovators Visit SJSU for Fall 2019 Silicon Valley Leaders Symposium

The Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering will present the Silicon Valley Leaders Symposium again this fall with seven speakers visiting San Jose State University. The first event in the series will be Sept. 26, with David Zhou sharing insights on artificial intelligence (AI). Zhou is the head of product for autonomous driving for Baidu, a Chinese multinational company.

Since Fall 2002, the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering has hosted the Silicon Valley Leaders Symposium (SVLS). The Symposium hosts industry and technology leaders to talk about business and technology trends. It also features prominent leaders who discuss broader societal and political issues that shape our life and society.

Each talk talks place on Thursdays from noon to 1 p.m. in Engineering 189.

The fall 2019 lineup includes:

September 26

David Zhou, Head of Product for Autonomous Driving

Baidu

October 10

Speaker TBD

PG&E

October 17

Patricia Backer, Professor of Technology

Global Technology Institute Program

October 24

Auston Davis, Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer

Heartflow

November 7

Mahesh Kamat, Chief Architect of DPD Appliance Engineer and Senior Distinguished Engineer

Dell

November 14

Eric Law, Senior Director of Innovation and Technology

Swinerton Builders

November 21

Sylvia Flores, CEO

Manos Accelerator

December 5

Matthew Trowbridge, Vice President of Marketing

Omron

SJSU Alumna Featured in Made in the CSU 2019 Campaign

Erika Lockheimer, '00 computer engineering, speaks during the Silicon Valley Women in Engineering Conference. Photo by David Schmitz

Erika Lockheimer, ’00 computer engineering, speaks during the Silicon Valley Women in Engineering Conference. Photo by David Schmitz

Erica Lockheimer, ’00 Computer Engineering, vice president of Engineering for LinkedIn Learning was featured recently as part of the California State University system’s Made in the CSU 2019 campaign. The CSU campaign highlights alumni who are leading the way in every industry, from agriculture and engineering to hospitality and entertainment.

Lockheimer gave the Charles W. Davidson’s College of Engineering Commencement speech in spring 2018, in which she encouraged new alumni to “pay it forward” and described helping others as a morale obligation.

“We are counting on you to build the best products, the best teams to build the best world,” she said during the speech.

Lockheimer credits her parents with teaching her about grit and hard work – both were raised by single mothers. Her father began working at a meat company at age 16 and took over the business by age 20. Lockheimer’s father spend his free time on math and electronics and dreamed of being an engineer, but instead chose to focus on making ends meet for his family.

After a few years in community college, Lockheimer enrolled at SJSU. She said her dad was so proud, he would visit campus to pay her enrollment fees in person. But she soon found herself struggling in classes.

“A classmate asked if I needed help,” she said. “That was the beginning of many long nights until 1 in the morning in study rooms. To this day, I still have very close relationships that have lasted me two decades.”

She recalls in her speech that she was one of the few women in her classes and she has devoted both her professional and personal time to increasing diversity in technology. Lockheimer serves on the advisory board for the Silicon Valley Women in Engineering conference, where she has also been a speaker who encourages female engineering students to aim high. She is responsible for LinkedIn’s Women in Teach (WIT) initiative that is focused on empowering women in technical roles within the company.

Lockheimer has worked for LinkedIn for more than eight years. Before moving into her current role, she was senior director of engineering in charge of the Growth Engineering team, where she focused on increasing growth in new members and deepening engagement with members across LinkedIn’s products. She started the Growth Team from the ground up and built it into a high-performing 120-person team. Prior to joining LinkedIn, she worked for a company called Good Technology for more than nine years.

National Engineers Week: Engineers in Action

National Engineers Week is February 17-23, with more than 70 engineering, education and cultural societies and more than 50 corporations and government agencies involved in events and activities to celebrate the profession and promote STEM education around the nation. Ranked #3 in the nation among public engineering programs offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees, according to U.S. News & World Report 2019, and a top contributor of talent to Silicon Valley, San Jose State University will be celebrating the faculty, students and programs that make up our Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering in a series of stories on our Newsroom and social media channels. The College of Engineering offers 13 engineering disciplines with 7,400 students enrolled and works closely with its Engineering Industry Advisory Council to ensure the curriculum and learning experiences offered to its students align with workforce needs.

SJSU Aviation majors teach a prepared lesson on aviation navigation to a student in San José High School’s robotics club.

SJSU Aviation majors teach a prepared lesson on aviation navigation to a student in San José High School’s robotics club.

CommUniverCity’s Engineering in Action program is looking to increase the number of traditionally underrepresented students pursuing STEM degrees. Through the program, K-12 students participate in hands-on workshops to learn fundamental engineering concepts ranging from propulsion to product design. SJSU engineering students design and deliver lessons with an emphasis on presenting material that is fun and accessible. Last year workshops were coordinated at more than a dozen elementary and after school centers in central San Jose and at San Jose High School.

Read more about the program on CommUniverCity’s website.

 

National Engineers Week: A short course in Hanoi

National Engineers Week is February 17-23, with more than 70 engineering, education and cultural societies and more than 50 corporations and government agencies involved in events and activities to celebrate the profession and promote STEM education around the nation. Ranked #3 in the nation among public engineering programs offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees, according to U.S. News & World Report 2019, and a top contributor of talent to Silicon Valley, San Jose State University will be celebrating the faculty, students and programs that make up our Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering in a series of stories on our Newsroom and social media channels. The College of Engineering offers 13 engineering disciplines with 7,400 students enrolled and works closely with its Engineering Industry Advisory Council to ensure the curriculum and learning experiences offered to its students align with workforce needs.

Assistant Professor Matthew Leineweber had a busy winter break. He taught a course on biomedical engineering. In Hanoi. And took the time to blog about his adventures for his SJSU students, colleagues, friends and family in the United States.

“This was my first trip to Vietnam (and Asia in general) so everything was new, and I loved that,” he said weeks after returning to SJSU. “The people stand out the most of all — everybody was incredibly friendly and welcoming.”

Leineweber traveled to Vietnam to teach at what he referred to as the oldest technical university in the country, the Hanoi University of Science and Technology (HUST). It is known locally as Bach Khoa which translates to 100 faculty. SJSU has long had a partnership with the Hanoi institution — Chair of Electrical Engineering Thuy Le has served as a guest professor there many times. Faculty from Bach Khoa visited SJSU last year and met with chair of SJSU’s Biomedical Engineering (BME) program, Dr. Guna Selvaduray, as they worked on developing a new Advance Program in BME that is taught in English.

“They like to bring ‘Western’ faculty to teach short courses a couple times per year,” Leineweber said. “They extended the invitation to our department during the visit and I jumped at the opportunity.”

A second-year faculty member in the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering and an expert in biomechanics, Leineweber jumped at the opportunity to travel and teach in Vietnam. His research involves evaluating how able-bodied individuals and people with physical impairments move, using the information gathered to design more effective assistive devices.

Prof Leineweber, far right, enjoys a meal in Nha Trang, Vietnam with SJSU student Hoang Nguyen and Nguyen's family.

Prof Leineweber, far right, enjoys a meal in Nha Trang, Vietnam with SJSU student Hoang Nguyen and Nguyen’s family.

He arrived on December 29 for his first meal of pho and for a few days of sightseeing before he met his students for the first time on January 2. Leineweber found similarities between the Vietnamese campus and SJSU–both are set in the middle of their cities and serve 30,000+ students. But Bach khoa’s square footage is half that of San Jose’s campus. Leineweber’s course assistant Dr. Hung Viet, who is a lecturer at Bach Khoa, showed him around the university and helped with logistics.

“I am bringing back an appreciation for how students are the same worldwide,” Leineweber said, adding that he hopes to travel back to Vietnam frequently to see more of how teaching is done there, what research they are conducting and get ideas to bring back.

For more on his experience, including a trip to a village known for pottery, a cooking class and a visit to Ho Chi Minh City where he met up with two SJSU master’s students Hoang Nguyen and Shawn Bhinder, and more on his class visit his site: https://sites.google.com/sjsu.edu/profleinewebergoestohanoi.

Once in a Lifetime: Professor Participates in NASA’s Cassini-Huygens Mission

Professor Essam Marouf, an original member of NASA's Radio Science Team for the Cassini-Huygens Mission, meets with the media on Sept. 13 in the Engineering building on the grounds of SJSU. (James Tensuan/San Jose State University)

Professor Essam Marouf in his lab (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Photojournalism).

One of the most remarkable space explorations ever conducted is coming to an end on Sept. 15, and a San Jose State professor has played an important role.

“It has been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, providing more knowledge than what was known before by orders of magnitude,” Professor of Electrical Engineering Essam Marouf said. “It changed the way we think about giant planets.”

Design work for the Cassini-Huygens Mission began 26 years ago with the goal of providing mankind its first close-up view of Saturn and its rings, atmosphere and moons.

The 22-foot-long spacecraft was launched from Cape Canaveral in 1997, and spent the next seven years traveling to Saturn.

Marouf is one of the original members of the Cassini Radio Science Team, which used radio waves to learn about the Saturn system. The Huygens probe even landed on Titan, one of Saturn’s moons.

Professor Essam Marouf, an original member of NASA's Radio Science Team for the Cassini-Huygens Mission, meets with the media on Sept. 13 in the Engineering building on the grounds of SJSU. (James Tensuan/San Jose State University)

Professor Marouf is interviewed by Mercury News reporter Lisa Krieger (James Tensuan, ’15 Photojournalism).

From his lab right here at SJSU, Marouf and his students have been analyzing data collected by Cassini, making important discoveries, along with scientists from 26 nations.

Among the most significant is the discovery of a methane sea on Titan, described by NASA as strikingly similar to Earth in a deep freeze of minus 290 degrees Fahrenheit.

Many news reporters came to campus Sept. 13 to interview Marouf before he departed for Pasadena, where he will witness the disintegration of Cassini.

The spacecraft is almost out of fuel, so operators are deliberately plunging Cassini into Saturn to ensure its moons will remain pristine for future exploration.

“I have mixed emotions,” said Marouf, who has celebrated Cassini milestones with his family including his wife, daughter and two granddaughters.

“Part of me is sad because the last 26 years have been an integral part of my daily life, planning experiments and analyzing data.”

Conference Aims to Attract More Women to Tech Careers

Shellye Archambeau, MetricStream CEO and a keynote speaker, said "I believe that you can do anything you want to do, and that you can be anybody you want to be, as long as you make a pact with yourself.” (David Schmitz photo)

“I believe that you can do anything you want to do, and that you can be anybody you want to be, as long as you make a pact with yourself,” said Shellye Archambeau, MetricStream CEO and a keynote speaker (David Schmitz photo).

By Barry Zepel, Contributing Writer

While women make up a solid majority of this country’s college students, they represent only a small fraction of those training for careers in engineering, technology and the sciences.

The dramatic growth of the Silicon Valley Women in Engineering (WiE) Conference, hosted annually since 2015 by San Jose State University’s Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering, figures to have a robust impact on closing that gap. Educating greater numbers of women for such careers has been the objective of Belle Wei during her three decades at the university, the last two as Guidry Chair for Engineering Education.

“Women account for 58 percent of college graduates, but they make up only 18 percent of engineering and computing graduates,” said Wei, who served 10 years as dean of the college.

Record attendance

She reported a record attendance for the third annual WiE conference held on campus on March 25. The 365 attendees who registered included 178 SJSU students, 56 from other universities, 105 community college students, and 13 recently admitted to SJSU. They came to learn from 84 faculty members as well as presenters and panelists made up of Silicon Valley technology leaders and San Jose State alumni.

The day-long conference featured two major categories, professional development and emerging technologies. Wei said that the latter one was expanded for this year’s symposium.

“We’re in Silicon Valley, where emerging technologies are being developed every day,” she explained.

Conferees chose from eight break-out tracks – Leadership, Communication, Careers, Climate Solutions, Foundational Technologies, Smart Living, Individual and Social Well-Being, and Human/Computer Interactions. Each track offered three related sessions.

The full conference reconvened at lunch and in the early evening for inspirational keynote presentations (David Schmitz photo).

This year’s conference broke attendance records, with 365 student attending to learn from 84 faculty members as well as presenters and panelists made up of Silicon Valley technology leaders and San Jose State alumni (David Schmitz photo).

Keynote speakers

The full conference reconvened at lunch and in the early evening for inspirational keynote presentations by Shellye Archambeau, CEO of MetricStream, and Selina Lo, CEO of Ruckus Wireless.

Archambeau, named one of the top 2 “most influential African Americans in technology” in 2013 by Business Insider, spoke of the challenges she faced as a young person preparing to enter the business world.

“I decided early, while I was in high school, that I wanted to run a business,” she said. “But when I looked around, I realized that the odds were not in my favor because I didn’t see a lot of people who looked like me. That didn’t stop me and it shouldn’t stop you. I believe that you can do anything you want to do, and that you can be anybody you want to be, as long as you make a pact with yourself.”

Archambeau, whose Silicon Valley-based software firm helps other companies improve their business performance, emphasized the immensity of future career opportunities in technology.

“Of the top 25 jobs in terms of growth and pay, 10 of them are in technology,” she said. “Technology is in our workplaces, in our homes, in our cars, and it’s on our bodies. It is everywhere. A U.S. Department of Labor study reported that between 2014 and 2024 there will be more than a half-million new jobs in technology and computing. That means opportunity for all of us.”

“Be brutally honest with yourself”

Like Archambeau, Lo talked about her movement up the career ladder, noting that her first job was taking real estate listings from a binder and typing them on to a computer so that her employer’s branch offices could share the information. This was before the arrival of PCs and Macs. The UC Berkeley computer science graduate went on to work for HP and eventually became vice president of marketing for a startup called Centillion.

To prepare the conferees for career advice, Lo shared her “most difficult assignment” for an employer, when a piece for a product arrived too late and the ensuing product was too expensive and not performing properly. She said she had to do “a complete technical and marketing pivot” to save the product, and in doing so, defined a new market for load-balancing switches.

Lo urged students to “be brutally honest with yourself about what is not working. Build great teams, and remember that open, direct communication eliminates most of the politics. And hard work is the foundation for everything.”

SJSU alumna Erica Lockheimer senior director of engineering for LinkedIn, was the first member of her family to earn a college degree (David Schmitz photo).

SJSU alumna Erica Lockheimer senior director of engineering for LinkedIn, was the first member of her family to earn a college degree (David Schmitz photo).

“Pay it forward”

Attendees also learned about opportunities in the tech and engineering fields from San Jose State alumni successful in those industries. Erica Lockheimer, a 2000 SJSU grad, was one of many to speak at one of the four career panels, the topics of which included: Information Technology; Electronics and Biomedical; Semiconductor Equipment and Aerospace; and Building, Infrastructure and the Environment.

Lockheimer, senior director of engineering for LinkedIn, was the first member of her family to earn a college degree. She said she feels a responsibility to “pay it forward” by offering insight and advice to current students checking out the industry.

“I realize the struggles I went through early in college and early in my career,” she said. “I wish I had a version of myself talking to me 17 years ago to help me.”

This was the second year that she spoke at the WiE conference. Lockheimer also participated in a campus career session a month earlier hosted by the SJSU Alumni Association.

“San Jose State is one of those schools that, anytime they ask me, I’m here to volunteer.”

“Your goals and success can be reached”

One of the beneficiaries, SJSU sophomore Desiree Rodriguez, was thrilled with what she learned and who she was able to network with at the conference.

“There’s many takeaways from this conference,” the aerospace engineering major said. “The most valuable are the inspiration that I drew and the added motivation to continue going, regardless of how hard it is. I met people from Lockheed Martin and NASA Ames, to name a few. The professionals who came today let us know it is difficult, and that there are not a lot of women in engineering.

“However, it doesn’t mean that we can’t change that. If you work hard, your goals and success can be reached.”

Honors Convocation Recognizes Top Academic Achievers

Photo: David Schmitz

Photo: David Schmitz

When Kenney Chiu, ’15 Business Finance, joined 4,127 Dean’s and President’s Scholars as part of the Honors Convocation in the Event Center on April 15, someone special shared a seat with him — his baby boy Abraham Charles.

“I snuck him in to sit on my lap,” Chiu said with a laugh. “All the honorees that sat around me were playing with him and they just loved it, too.”

Chiu joined a record number of 3,714 students honored with recognition for earning a 3.65 or higher GPA in at least two contiguous of the past three semesters at San Jose State.

Although Chiu credited his honor with the exceptional teaching found in his home Lucas College of Business, he stressed the impact that his baby boy has had on his academic accomplishments.

“That’s where my motivation comes from,” Chiu said. “I just want to show my kid that he can be proud of his dad.”

Supporters

Interim President Sue Martin took a moment during the ceremony to praise the “unsung heroes,” including family members, friends and spouses who helped support and guide the student scholars.

Photo: David Schmitz

Photo: David Schmitz

For Emily Vann, ’16 Public Relations, her President’s Scholar recognition was a testament to her mother Olivia and her coaches both on and off the basketball court.

Vann joined a record setting 59 student-athletes recognized for academic excellence, including eight student-athletes who maintained a perfect 4.0 GPA for at least two contiguous of the past three semesters.

“You have to kind of go into another gear to kind of get this distinction,” Vann said. “I know firsthand how much it takes and how much time, dedication and effort it takes to go through the everyday process of waking up and having to wear two hats as a student and an athlete.”

Vann, a forward on the SJSU women’s basketball team, said she could not have reached the academic milestone without the support of her mother.

“My mom is a teacher and I just feel really blessed to have had her in my life. She helped me and coached me from the time I was little,” Vann said. “[She’s] always letting me know that my academics come first even though I’m an athlete.”

Provost Andy Feinstein said such support by loved ones and faculty members alike married with personal sacrifice helped usher in the record number of honored scholars this year.

“These students have shown a commitment to their studies, through personal, economic, social and educational circumstances, to be among the top one percent at this university,” Feinstein said.

Sacrifice

Kenneth Peter, 2016 Outstanding Professor, said in his keynote speech that students should be fueled by the various sacrifices they make in their quest for higher education.

Photo: David Schmitz

Photo: David Schmitz

“Your talents are not only exhibited in your academic success, but are profound when viewed in light of the struggles you have overcome,” Peter said. “When many of you are first generation college students, when most of you worked more than half time, when many of you have family obligations, when most of you come from public schools with inadequate resources, you are remarkably talented and you have proven this by being in this room tonight.”

Peter’s assertion rang particularly close to home for Jamil Elbanna, ’16 Mechanical Engineering, who spent most of his academic career working two jobs in addition to his schoolwork.

In order to finance his way through college, Elbanna took a job as a courtesy clerk at Safeway and a security officer at a hospital, all while pursuing a degree.

“It’s definitely not the easiest thing but having passion for my major and what I want to study is important,” Elbanna said. “There were times where it almost felt impossible, but I just keep at it and pushed at it day and night.”

Peter concluded his keynote speech by reminding the student honorees that by receiving recognition for their academic accomplishments, they are also receiving an important responsibility.

“Your talent must not be wasted. Each of you should leave SJSU with the kind of education you will need to fight for greater fairness and equality than this world has yet seen fit to offer,” Peters said. “You have likely experienced some hardships. Let those light the fire within.”

 

College of Engineering Celebrates 70th Anniversary

Roy Kusumoto

Roy Kusumoto, ’66 Mechanical Engineering, will be recognized as a distinguished alumnus. He is founder, former chairman and CEO of Solectron Corporation, once the world’s largest electronics manufacturing services company

Media contact:
Lisa Francesca, Engineering Communications Specialist, 408-924-3801, lisa.francesca@sjsu.edu

SAN JOSE, CA – San Jose State University announced today that the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering is celebrating its 70th anniversary.

To commemorate its achievements throughout the last seven decades, the college will hold a 70th Anniversary Engineering Awards Banquet on Thursday, April 28, at the Fairmont Hotel. The event will celebrate the college’s longstanding industry partnerships with more than 30 Silicon Valley firms such as Applied Materials, Brocade, California Water Service Group, Cisco, IBM, Juniper Networks, Lam Research, Lockheed Martin, Netgear, Santa Clara Valley Water District, San Jose Water Company, and Xilinx, among others.

On this momentous occasion, the Davidson College of Engineering will recognize a distinguished member of its alumni: Roy Kusumoto, ’66 Mechanical Engineering, and founder, former chairman and CEO of Solectron Corporation, the world’s largest electronics manufacturing services company. Dr. David Hemker of Lam Research and Dr. Ivo Bolsens of Xilinx will also receive Dean’s Service Awards.

Professor of Mechanical Engineering Winncy Du and students (photo by David Schmitz).

Seeking to bring relevant skills into the global marketplace, Professor of Mechanical Engineering Winncy Du works with students (photo by David Schmitz).

Tickets will be available until noon April 27. Interested alumni should contact College of Engineering staff member Lisa Francesca at lisa.francesca@sjsu.edu.

Keynote speaker

Former president, chairman, and CEO of Rockwell International, Don Beall, ’60 Metallurgical Engineering, will be the keynote speaker. Under his leadership, Rockwell became a global leader in aerospace, electronics, and automotive markets.

Beall has served as a director on the boards of Rockwell Collins, Conexant Systems, Mindspeed Technologies, and CT Realty. He is a former director of Jazz Semiconductors, Skyworks Solutions, Proctor and Gamble, Amoco, Rockwell, and Times Mirror. Involved in numerous professional, educational, public service and philanthropic endeavors, he is an overseer of the Hoover Institution at Stanford University and has received many honors including the Horatio Alger award. At the event, Beall will receive a 70th Anniversary Lifetime Achievement Award.

Supplying Silicon Valley

Nearly 70 years ago, Prof. Thomas E. Leonard began providing the leadership and vision to deliver excellence in an aviation education at SJSU.

Professor of Aviation Thomas E. Leonard was one of the college’s early champions (photo courtesy of the College of Engineering).

“I’m both proud and honored to be managing the helm of this prestigious college over some of its greatest historic growth,” said Dean Andrew Hsu. “We have a time-tested reputation of supplying Silicon Valley companies with smart, grounded, hardworking engineers, as well as creative, industry-disruptive entrepreneurs. They are bringing relevant skills into the global marketplace, and learning how to solve planetary problems. Our faculty and I look forward to seeing what our students will accomplish over the next 70 years.”

As the largest contributing school to the engineering workforce of Silicon Valley, the Davidson College of Engineering offers unique programs to prepare career-ready engineering graduates: an industry-enriched learning community, Engineering Programs in Community Service (EPICS), and the Silicon Valley Leaders Symposium.

Read the latest edition of the college’s magazine.

About the Charles W. Davidson College of Engineering

The Davidson College of Engineering comprises 12 engineering disciplines in addition to General Engineering, more than 7,300 undergraduate and graduate students, and approximately 260 faculty and staff members. It is the largest engineering program in the 23-campus California State University system. 

About San Jose 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 eight colleges.

With more than 32,000 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 220,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

Conference Brings 300 Women Engineers to SJSU

Photo: David Schmitz

Photo: David Schmitz

When Hanni Ali, ’17 Chemical Engineering, took the Student Union Ballroom stage, she prepared to share an all-too familiar experience with over 300 female engineering students and professionals as part of the second annual Silicon Valley Women in Engineering (WiE) Conference on Saturday, March 12.

“Usually, when people ask me what I’m majoring in, I reply with ‘engineering,’ and they give me a confused look and ask me ‘Why?’” Ali said. “And I reply, ‘Why not?’”

Ali attended the conference last year as a prospective transfer. This year, she was selected to speak at a gala dinner. The event offers the opportunity for professional women engineers to share with students their perspectives on entrepreneurship, innovation and leadership in the predominately male dominated industry.

Photo: David Schmitz

Oracle CEO Safra Catz (Photo: David Schmitz).

Photo: David Schmitz

Associate Dean of Engineering Jinny Rhee (Photo: David Schmitz).

“It is crucial to continue to hold events to encourage and empower future generations of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) women,” Ali said. “This year’s conference is bigger than last year’s, with a lot more professionals donating their time to inspire the next generation of women innovators.”

Speakers included Oracle CEO Safra Catz, Apple Vice President of Wireless Technologies Isabel Mahe, and Facebook Vice President of Product Management for Social Good Naomi Gleit.

Guests attended 25 workshops throughout the day in topics including mentorship strategies, women in STEM leadership, smart cities, renewable energy, water sustainability, 3D printing, robotics, self driving cars, precision medicine and big data.

The conference was supported by a gift from the Mark and Carolyn Guidry Family Foundation. The late Carolyn Guidry, ’79 MS Computer Engineering, worked at Hewlett-Packard and then founded two companies in partnership with her husband. The conference is part of a wider effort to support aspiring women engineers. Applied Materials was a sponsor.

“I was deeply touched by the level of enthusiasm and energy of conference participants,” said Belle Wei, conference chair and Carolyn Guidry Chair in Engineering Education and Innovation Learning. “It is about building a community to inspire the next generation of women engineers to change the world.”

With the help of each speaker and activity, the misconceptions and concerns expressed by many in the beginning of the day were exchanged with supportive, excited chatter come dinnertime.

Apple’s Isabel Mahe silenced the common concern that women can’t be successful engineers and also be strong mothers when she shared her experience getting invited to dinner by Steve Jobs while she was still on maternity leave. After two hours of conversation with Jobs, Mahe accepted the position that she has held for eight years. She is now a mother of four.

Grumblings of the “glass ceiling” limiting women in the industry were shattered when Catz shared her journey from a stint in the “boys club” investment banking realm to the evolving software industry — all while donning a pair of blue pumps.

“Advice that I learned: if you really want to be successful, you have to change the game entirely,” Catz said. “In my case, I decided ‘I’m going to take a risk with my very fledging career and look at software.’ But you see, it was against crazy odds in those days. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.”

Photo: David Schmitz

IBM Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs Manager Kristina Vasquez, ’02 Computer Engineering (Photo: David Schmitz).

IBM Corporate Citizenship and Corporate Affairs Manager for IBM Kristina Vasquez, ’02 Computer Engineering, hosted an interactive mentorship workshop with nine engineering students to discuss the importance of mentors and how to find them.

“I remember being in their shoes and I remember the people who helped me, and I don’t think I would be here today if it weren’t for them,” Vasquez said. “I have a daughter and these girls are like my daughters. I want the best for them.”

Vasquez, who graduated from San Jose State in 2002, said she saw this conference as an opportunity to not only maintain the sense of community among women engineers at the university, but also teach women that anyone can fill the role of being a mentor.

Photo: David Schmitz

Photo: David Schmitz

Photo: David Schmitz

Solango Altanparev has been accepted as an SJSU civil engineering major (Photo: David Schmitz).

One attendee of the workshop, Solango Altanparev, raised her hand during a discussion portion and admitted her initial interest in attending the conference was beyond merely receiving professional advice.

“I came here to this conference in a way seeking a mentor because I don’t really have any guidance,” Altanparev said.

Altanparev, who has been accepted as an SJSU transfer from Peralta Community College as a civil engineering major this fall, said the conference gave her a sense of hope and preparedness as she continues her academic career.

“I thought it took a lot of bravery and initiative to share her story with us,” Vasquez said. “If we can help someone feel better about their career, feel better about what they’re doing and make a difference — that’s why we’re here.”

Kaitlyn Bell, ’18 Mechanical Engineering, said she struggles to find representation in her department, where just 17 percent of the students are women, but felt warmly welcomed into the broader evolving engineering community.

“When I first saw everyone here, it honestly kind of choked me up,” Bell said. “It’s always nice to meet other female engineers so you can relate with them and know that someone feels the same way you do — together we can all get through it, being a minority in such a male-dominated field.”

The idea of girl power was a common discussion point across several workshops and even in the final keynote speech of the evening, delivered by Leyla Seka, senior vice president and general manager of SalesForce.

“You have to help other women,” Seka said. “This is not an optional situation given where we are as a nation, as a world and as an industry.”

Seka pressured the women in attendance to raise their voices in the professional realm so they may pursue opportunities, demand equal pay compared to male counterparts in the industry, and take risks.

“There are things that are built into society about the way we think about ourselves so it’s important that we as future leaders — you more specifically as future leaders — are the people that can write technology and the next generation of technology,” Seka said. “We will push the world that much further.”

 

 

Students Organize Biomedical Device Conference

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

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

The San Jose State Biomedical Engineering Society (BMES) ushered in its Seventh Annual Bay Area Biomedical Device Conference March 30 with discussion topics ranging from unmet medical device needs in developing countries to nanotechnology and entrepreneurial guidance.

The conference, which has been student-organized by the SJSU BMES since its inception in 2010, was created to give students the opportunity to exchange ideas and network with medical device industry professionals and academics.

“As our biomedical program continues to expand, collaboration with industry partners becomes increasingly important,” said Provost Andy Feinstein. “Today’s conference is one of many ways we can work together in preparing San Jose State students to work in this growing field.”

Hanmin Lee, surgeon-in-chief of UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital, said the more than 300 students, staff and industry professionals who filled the Student Union Ballroom all share a common interest as part of the biomedical realm — making the world a healthier place.

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

Olubunmi Ode (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications).

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

Shanelle Swamy, ’18 Biomedical Engineering (Photo: Neal Waters, ’07 Geography, ’16 MS Mass Communications).

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

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

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

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

“Helping your fellow man is the most important thing we can do and we’re all interconnected,” Lee said. “To be able to help somebody else not only helps them but it helps you. It’s just the biggest privilege that we can all have.”

Olubunmi Ode strives to do just that, by aiding unmet biomedical needs of young children in Nigeria, a country that she says is plagued by power outages and a lack of proper medical devices.

Ode, a pediatric intensivist based in Abuja, Nigeria, has focused her life’s work on taking care of children in intensive care units through Hospitals for Humanity, a nonprofit organization that is mostly volunteer based.

“We do the surgeries and take care of the kids, but also train people on the ground so they know how to do this so we can set up the pipelines,” Ode said. “The kids do well. They survive, they go home and then come back to visit and they’re doing great.”

Shanelle Swamy, ’18 Biomedical Engineering, said she was inspired by Ode’s tales of working in inadequate medical conditions in an effort to improve Nigeria’s high child mortality rate.

“I come form the Fiji Islands and I’ve lost a lot of family members to inadequate medical conditions, hospitals that don’t have devices or just not having enough surgical rooms,” Swamy said. “Hearing about the medical needs in these developing countries is essentially what I want to work on after I graduate to really implement what we have here in the U.S. and bring it to these countries.”

Swamy, who was also a conference volunteer from SJSU BMES, said listening to the successes and difficulties of Ode and other industry professionals helped her narrow her goals as an emerging biomedical engineer.

In addition to the talk sessions, 28 student groups presented various research projects to industry professionals on posters during the networking reception portion of the conference.

Jung Han Kim, ’16 MS Biomedical Engineering, presented his research on using nanoparticles to deliver drugs that can precondition the heart to future heart attacks.

The drug delivers “small heart attacks” so that “when the real heart attack occurs, the heart is preconditioned so it can withstand the longer heart attacks,” Han Kim said.

Han Kim’s research was born from his advisor Folarin Erogbogbo, assistant professor of biomedical engineering, who is an expert in nanotechnology. Erogbogbo presented his student-collaborated findings as part of his afternoon session titled, “Nanotechnology for Biomedical Theranostics.”

“I’m part of [Erogbogbo’s] group and there are many students that are working under his advisory, so it was good for me to see where my project actually plays a role in that research.” Han Kim said. “I know that my research can also help play a big role, maybe in some ways that I don’t even know right now, in nanotechnology development.”

Erogbogbo said conferences like these are important for students to not only showcase their research, but to also engage with professionals.

“[Han Kim’s] been an excellent student, learned to solve problems and worked on a whole variety of nanoparticle synthesis techniques so it’s always great working with students like that,” Erogbogbo said. “It’s extremely important to engage in this kind of communal activity and the impression that a lot of people leave with is, ‘wow the SJSU students are really organized and impressive,’ so it’s also building our reputation here.”