Pregnancy and Childbirth During COVID-19: SJSU Nursing Professor Deepika Goyal Collects Critical Data from Women’s Experiences

When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, San José State University Nursing Professor Deepika Goyal, ’02 MSN, recognized that it could pose significant risks for pregnant and nursing mothers — especially to their mental health. For many pregnant and postpartum women, social distancing limited access to critical support networks, while fear of the virus itself increased the likelihood of them experiencing anxiety and depression. 

Over the past 18 months, Goyal has partnered with colleagues across the United States and Europe to study pregnancy, birth and postpartum outcomes — and how they were affected by the pandemic — resulting in multiple studies and five publications. 

Deepika Goyal

San José State Nursing Professor Deepika Goyal.

In addition to serving as a professor at SJSU, Goyal is a nurse practitioner at Santa Clara Valley Medical Center’s obstetrics and gynecology department. In spring 2020, she reached out to University of Connecticut School of Nursing Professor Cheryl Beck and researchers in the United Kingdom to collect data from women who gave birth after Feb. 1, 2020.

Their forthcoming study, “Postpartum Depressive Symptoms & Experiences During COVID-19,” is one of three papers Goyal co-authored that will be published in early 2022 in a special issue of MCN, The American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing, dedicated to COVID-19 and maternal mental health. Goyal and her research partners found that 75% of women surveyed were living with depressive symptoms. 

“Women described this time as challenging due to changes in health-care delivery — virtual versus in-person appointments — and limiting in-person appointments to the mother, often excluding dads or partners,” said Goyal. “Women felt lonely and isolated and had limited social support, all while caring for a newborn and sheltering in place.”

It doesn’t help that the pandemic has increased the risk of depression and anxiety, two conditions that pregnant and postpartum mothers are especially vulnerable to experiencing. While her first study focused on postpartum experiences, Goyal still wanted to understand how the pandemic affected women during pregnancy. 

To do this, she partnered with Cindy Liu, director of the Developmental Risk and Cultural Resilience Laboratory at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School, to examine data obtained from pregnant women who participated in the hospital’s Perinatal Experiences and COVID-19 Effects study from May to November 2020.

Together, they published “Patient Satisfaction with Virtual-Based Prenatal Care: Implications after the COVID-19 Pandemic,” and collaborated on a second paper, “Unmet prenatal expectations during the COVID-19 pandemic,” to be published in the same MCN 2022 special issue.

The study concluded that nearly 90% of women preferred in-person care under non-pandemic conditions. While the majority of respondents appeared satisfied with their virtual care, Goyal added that the constant shift in COVID-19 protocols caused miscommunications between women and their health-care providers. 

“Unfortunately, the new and changing nature of COVID has created inconsistent messaging and care, which creates miscommunication, misunderstanding and frustration,” she said. “For first-time mothers, this is the only experience they have. However, women who have given birth in non-pandemic times are just trying to get through the best they can.”

Throughout her collaborations with academic partners during the pandemic, Goyal noticed that Asian Americans were not well-represented in COVID-19 studies. So she collaborated with Meekyung Han, professor of social work at San José State, and they conducted a separate study to examine the experiences of pregnant and postpartum Asian American mothers, which included interviewing first-time moms and women with children already at home. 

Dr. Huynh-Nhu Le and graduate student Talia Feldman-Schwartz from George Washington University in Washington, D.C., helped with the data analysis. The study, entitled “Perinatal experiences of Asian American women during COVID-19,” is also in press with MCN.

Goyal’s research since the start of the pandemic has revealed some similar themes, regardless of race. 

“Pregnancy and childbirth are vulnerable times for women, their partners and their families, and COVID only added to this already vulnerable time by shifting health-care delivery,” she said. “The additional risk of severe illness for pregnant women who contract COVID-19 and subsequent adverse outcomes such as preterm birth also added to the heightened stress.”

As a health-care provider, she recommends that everyone — especially new mothers — get the COVID-19 vaccine. For those wishing to learn more about the vaccine, she urges people to rely on trusted resources, such as their health-care providers, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

 “The ongoing threat of COVID-19 has changed nursing care,” she said, adding that her conversations with expecting mothers now revolve around “the virus, mutations and the risks and benefits of the COVID-19 vaccine.”

“As far as research, COVID-19 created a unique opportunity to study pregnancy, birth and postpartum outcomes during a large-scale public health crisis that only happens once a century.”

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month: A Q&A with Chicana and Chicano Studies Faculty Christine Vega and Johnny Ramirez

Each year, the United States recognizes National Hispanic Heritage Month from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15. Originally, it was Hispanic Heritage Week, an observance started by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968; then in 1988, President Ronald Reagan expanded it to a month-long celebration. But, what does it mean to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month today? 

Two of San José State University’s newest faculty, Assistant Professors Christine Vega and Johnny Ramirez, offered us their perspective on the month, why it’s important and how they became interested in teaching Chicana and Chicano Studies. 

Vega described Ramirez as her “academic sibling,” because they have traveled many of the same pathways in higher education. Both hail from southern California, both were introduced to Chicana and Chicano Studies through the California community college system, and both earned their PhDs in education from UCLA and served as postdoctoral scholars at the University’s Interdisciplinary Research Institute for the Study of (in)Equality (IRISE). 

But their expertise and experience vary. Ramirez’s community-engaged research and critical pedagogical approaches have explored the punitive discipline practices that lead to Chicanx-Latinx school pushout (students dropping out), youth resistance, positive youth development and transformational resistance frameworks within critical race theory in education. 

Vega identifies as a community-based, Motherscholar-activist who merges academia, activism and spirituality in her pedagogy and research. She focuses on Motherscholar activism — the implicit and explicit work of mothers, especially Chicana, Chicanx, Latina, Latinx and Indigenous mothers enrolled in doctoral programs in the American Southwest.

Here’s what they shared about this timely topic. 

Why is it important for people to acknowledge Hispanic Heritage Month?

Christine Vega

Assistant Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies Christine Vega. Photo by Josh Vu Photography.

Christine Vega (CV): This is a celebration that should be honored year-round. A main part of being faculty in Chicana and Chicano and Chicanx studies is talking about the history and  context of our luchas [struggles]. This goes for all folks who identify as BIPOC [Black, Indigenous People of Color]; they should be honored year-round.

Johnny Ramirez (JR): I agree. This is also an acknowledgement that, even in 2021, there is this traditional narrative about the American experience and oftentimes BIPOC folks are not included. For folks who identify as Hispanic, Latinx, and/or Chicanx are part of a broader diaspora. There are a lot of different racial and ethnic identities and experiences within that. There isn’t just one homogenous so-called ‘Hispanic’ group, but when we think in the U.S. context, that is the traditional narrative. 

For me, this month is an opportunity to reaffirm that we need to acknowledge Chicanx-Latinx communities year-round, but in this particular time, we organize some resources to push our visibility. 

Positive representation matters in society. It is the first step in creating a cultural shift in which racialized groups are able to be seen, heard and valued. Oftentimes, Chicanx-Latinx communities are only mentioned and acknowledged when public discourse is focused on racist, nativist rhetoric or stereotypical media forms. It becomes imperative for Chicanx-Latinx communities to share the beauty and richness of their cultural memories, stories and epistemological perspectives within society. 

Who or what inspired you to study Chicana and Chicano studies?

CV: In terms of my experiences as a student in K-12 education in the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles, I didn’t realize that schools were tracking me in a certain direction, one that was not college-bound. It wasn’t until summer school my senior year, when I was around students who were AP and honors, that I began asking what is college, and how come I didn’t know about it earlier?

What really lit a fire in me to pursue higher education is UCLA’s Center for Community College Partnerships. They came to my high school to invite students to apply for a free summer program and assist high school students pursuing community college learn how to transfer to a four-year university, and they provided the language in terms of injustice in Communities of Color. The program really changed my life. I told myself, UCLA is where I’m going to go, and I went there twice.

A lot of my consciousness-building happened at Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural, a cultural center founded by LA poet laureate Luis J. Rodriguez, Trini Rodriguez and Enrique Sanchez, as well as my community college courses, which centralized intersectionality and named the inequalities experienced by BIPOC and Students of Color in marginalized communities. 

Johnny Ramirez.

Assistant Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies Johnny Ramirez.

JR: Part of my story is being a youth that got pushed out of school in the ninth grade. I grew up in poverty with a single mom, and it was my exposure to a student activist group called Movimiento Estudiantil Chicana/o de Aztlán (MEChA) and Chicano Studies that gave me the building blocks to construct a positive self identity. I couldn’t find the language to name the injustices I saw and experienced in my life and community, but Chicana and Chicano Studies classes and activism provided me a lens to understand the struggles and resiliency of my ancestors, my parents, as well as, within my own life. 

I was about 17 years old when I got introduced to a group of Chicanx college students who were activists. They planted the seed, and when I got to community college, I took my first Chicano studies class. It was then that I realized I wanted to be a Chicano studies professor, and now my route is coming full circle. As a community college student, I experienced transformative change in higher education due to the field of Chicana and Chicano Studies, and I wanted to help cultivate that for diverse student populations similar to my own.

What’s beautiful about our field is in the early foundations of Chicanx Studies, there was always this acknowledgement of community empowerment and involvement. Our community, especially our youth, were framed as “holders and creators of knowledge.” So our academic space is, by design, a collaborative  bridge between the university and community spaces. We can build together and have positive representations, so our youth can pursue higher education as well.

What attracted you to San José State? 

JR: I come from a working class community — my mom is a payable clerk at the school district, and my stepdad is a retired warehouse worker. What’s so beautiful at San José State is there is a large population of working-class first-generation students of color, who are trying to get a college degree to uplift their family and community. Also, I really appreciated that at San José State, there’s a legacy, from the farmworker’s movement to the labor movement, to some of the foundational historians and intellectuals like Dr. Ernesto Galarza. There’s a lot of that cultural memory here. I’m getting more familiar with it, and it is an honor to be here. 

CV: It’s always been my dream to be a professor in a Chicana and Chicano studies and ethnic studies department that also honors my educational training. SJSU honors all my intersectional, interdisciplinary training as well as the work that I do with other scholars. As a student, I wanted to see Chicanas and Chicanos be my professor, and it took me a while to actually see that. The goal for me in becoming a professor was to help others see themselves reflected in me. I am that mirror.

That’s the power of representation, and that goes beyond one month. This is our role — to be that representation for many years to come.

Learn more about Hispanic Heritage Month activities at SJSU.

 

Michael Meth named Dean of SJSU University Library

Editor’s Note: The following message was sent to the SJSU campus community on Tuesday, August 17. 

Dear SJSU campus community,

I am pleased to announce Michael Meth will be our new dean of the SJSU University Library, effective October 1, 2021.

A picture of Michael Meth

Michael Meth has been named the new dean of the SJSU University Library.

Michael joins SJSU from Florida State University, where he served as Associate Dean for Research and Learning Services. Michael oversaw the subject librarians program, circulation and collections access, library data services, and the teaching, learning and engagement department, which includes extended campus services and tutoring. 

As you know, Ann Agee has been serving as interim dean since the spring of 2020. She has asked to return to her faculty role. I want to thank Ann for her tremendous work as interim dean. She has led the library through an unbelievably challenging time. I am very pleased to formally announce that Christina Mune will serve as interim dean until Michael’s arrival on October 1. I also have to thank Christina for stepping up during this transition period. 

Michael brings leadership experience at a number of large, complex institutions to SJSU, and possesses the skills and vision necessary to lead the SJSU University Library — which poses its own unique relationship with the City of San José’s Public Library System. He also brings academic interests to the campus, including understanding how blockchain technology might apply to the work of libraries. 

Michael shared the following thoughts about joining SJSU:I am thrilled to join the San José State University community as the next dean of the SJSU library. SJSU is a world-class institution and Silicon Valley‘s public university. The transformative power of the university has been well documented, and libraries are a significant contributor to transforming the university and the experience of SJSU scholars. 

“The King Library is an important partner in the success of SJSU students and faculty. The King‘s library celebration and recognition of diversity is abundantly evident in the rich array of programming and collections. The outstanding library team is focused on being a partner and support to all the scholars of SJSU, in San José and beyond. The joint use of the library with the San José Public Library is also an important part of the mission and I look forward to the collaborations.

“I am also excited for the opportunity to work in San José and in Silicon Valley to further the mission of the King Library, and develop partnerships to enhance and grow the reach of the library.”

Prior to joining Florida State University, Michael was the Director of the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education library at the University of Toronto (UofT), and before that the Director of the Li Koon Chun Finance Learning Centre, UofT Mississauga Library. While at UofT, Michael also held an appointment as adjunct faculty at the Institute for Management of Innovation at the UofT Mississauga. In 2019, Michael co-founded the Panhandle Academic Libraries conference. 

In 2014, Michael was selected as a Senior Fellow at UCLA’s Graduate School of Education and Information Studies, and in 2013 participated in Harvard’s Leadership Institute for Academic Librarians. Michael is a graduate of the UofT (Master of Information Studies) and York University (Bachelor of Business Administration, Schulich School of Business).

Please join me in welcoming Michael to our outstanding library team.

Sincerely,

Vincent Del Casino, Jr.
Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs

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

Record Clearance Project


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Can Educators and Parents Prepare for the K-12 School year? A Q&A with Lara Ervin-Kassab

SJSU faculty interact with a small child in the Lurie College’s Child Development Laboratory Preschool in Feb. 2020. Photo by Bob Bain.

Whether you’re a K-12 educator, caregiver or parent, this fall promises more than the usual back-to-school excitement and anxiety. Nearly 18 months into the COVID-19 pandemic, caregivers and educators must, once again, evaluate how to safely interact with learners while feeling the pressure to make up for lost time. 

As the spouse of a high school teacher and mother to a kindergartner and a 1-year-old, I’m all too familiar with these concerns. While I’ll feel better once my kids can access a vaccine, I am still eager to usher them both into classrooms of some kind next week. Like many of my peers, I have way more questions than answers.

Lucky for me, San José State’s Connie L. Lurie College of Education is home to experts like Assistant Professor of Teacher Education Lara Ervin-Kassab, who has 25 years of experience teaching pre-K through graduate school. 

This summer, she offered a webinar on considering community and trauma as part of the Lurie College’s K-12 Teaching Academy. She was kind enough to answer my questions — and yes, lower my blood pressure — about preparing for school in a COVID world.

Lara Kassab.

SJSU Lurie College of Education Teacher Education Department Faculty Lara Kassab. Photo by Brian Cheung-Dooley.

How can schools, educators and parents prepare students for returning to a classroom environment?

Lara Ervin-Kassab (LEK): Everyone has experienced some level of trauma during the pandemic, and we need to acknowledge that in others and in ourselves.

First, this is an opportunity for us to step back and ask, what is really worthwhile in education? What is the actual purpose of this whole process? What do we really want it to do?

Then, we can reprioritize and open up dialogues around how we make schools a place where everyone feels supported coming out of this traumatic experience. How can we make schools a place where everyone’s humanity is acknowledged and engaged and their interests are being heard?

How have districts addressed some of these concerns? 

LEK: Several of our local districts and parent-teacher associations have started these conversations about what we want schools to look and feel like. At least one district has moved toward offering an in-house online school for parents and students who may have concerns about going back to face-to-face. That, again, is an opportunity to look at making sure our educational system is thinking about everyone’s needs and how those can best be supported.

How has COVID-19 affected how teachers design and implement curriculum?

LEK: I teach a course in classroom management for pre-K and K-12 teachers. I’ve also been researching how teachers should continue to use technology. 

I think there has been resistance to changing some of the ways we teach in order to better utilize technology, and COVID either reinforced resistance to the tech or helped teachers overcome their fears. A lot of us used tools we never used before, and the ways we used those tools caused us to reflect on how we’ll continue to use them moving forward.

For instance, I feel strongly that all student voices need to be heard. In a face-to-face classroom, you have students who may never speak, who may not raise their hands or who may feel really uncomfortable engaging that way. Since teaching online, a lot of the students who usually don’t want to raise their hands or speak out loud were very engaged through the virtual chat feature.

So, going forward, how can I still provide my students with that ability to be a part of the conversation through chat once we’re back in a face-to-face environment?

Many of my teaching colleagues have provided their students with options to do videos or podcasts in lieu of more traditional assignments. This semester will be a test case for what sticks and what doesn’t, not only in K-12, but in education writ large and even in the corporate world. 

As COVID protocols continue to shift and the Delta variant poses a threat this fall, how can teachers manage their own stress, mental health and well-being as well as that of their students?

LEK: I recommend teachers and parents look into the Center for Reaching and Teaching the Whole Child, which was founded by Emerita Professor of Elementary Education Nancy Markowitz. It is grounded in the idea of helping the whole person learn. It’s very integrated with  social emotional learning — helping our students learn to engage socially to understand and regulate their own emotions.

This is especially important after more than a year of being isolated from other people. With every class I teach, whether in person or online, I start with a short mindfulness activity that helps reinforce how to breathe and sit in the present.

The center has a great teacher competency anchor framework that reminds teachers to do the work alongside their students. So, for teachers and parents alike, if you take a few minutes to practice mindfulness with your kids, remember to practice it yourself. These activities are very helpful when you or your kids are feeling overwhelmed.

What main message do you have about returning to school, whatever it looks like, in 2021?

LEK: Be patient. Be kind to yourself and to all the people around you.

Take this uncertainty and find ways to embrace your creativity. This year is an opportunity for us to acknowledge the discomfort, and with that, we can either push back and close down, or we can say, “This is uncomfortable. What do I need to do to make it better? How creative can I be right now? How can I think of how these possibilities could recognize our diversity?”

What’s one tip you’d give every parent and teacher?

LEK: When you’re not sure about something, ask the children and listen to their answers. Because even children as young as 2 or 3 years old have a really good sense of what they need. They may not have the vocabulary for it, and they may not be able to distinguish between what they want and what they need, but if you have a conversation with them, you can begin to understand what they need.

Watch Ervin-Kassab’s 2021 K-12 Teaching Academy webinar, “Considering Community and Trauma,” for more resources for teachers, caregivers and parents.

SJSU Welcomes Spartan Community Back With SJSU Together Campaign


After nearly 17 months of remote learning and telecommuting during the COVID-19 pandemic, San José State University is preparing for the return of students, faculty and staff to the campus this month.

As part of the SJSU Together campaign, a wide variety of activities and events are planned to celebrate the community and invoke a sense of pride. Spartans can also expect to see a host of new and upgraded facilities and resources on campus that took place over the last year and a half.

Here are a few of the ways San José State is gearing up for the start of the new academic year.

Celebrating Faculty and Staff

Aug. 9 through Aug. 25

San José State’s faculty and staff have worked tirelessly to ensure the campus kept moving forward during this unprecedented year. Now, some will be returning after more than a year away, while others will be setting foot at 1 Washington Square for the first time.

That’s why SJSU has organized activities to honor its employees, including outdoor yoga, group walks around campus, social gatherings outside with new and familiar colleagues and much more.

Events to note:
Aug. 11, 3:45 – 5 p.m. New Employee Social, Bell/Rose Garden
Faculty and staff who joined SJSU since Mar. 17, 2020, can meet colleagues in person and connect.

Aug. 25, 3 – 4 p.m. | Faculty and Staff Social, Bell/Rose Garden


Weeks of Welcome (WOW)

Aug. 16 – Sept. 22, times and activities vary

At the start of each academic year, SJSU organizes campus-wide programming spanning the first five to six weeks of instruction. The goal is to welcome returning students and greet and support new students in their transition to the Spartan community.

Students have the opportunity to participate in a wide variety of events and activities in areas including academics, wellness, social justice*, career, Spartan spirit, social/community building and campus resources. Programming this year will be a mix of hybrid, fully online and in person.

*Social justice activities refer to those that promote students’ development or self advocacy and voice and engage in topics around social justice and community transformation.

Events to note:
Aug. 16, 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. | New Student Convocation, virtual
SJSU’s formal welcome of our new Spartans and their parents, family members and/or supporters.

Aug. 19, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. | Weeks of Welcome Kick-Off, 7th St. Plaza
Pick up your schedule for all Weeks of Welcome events and enjoy snacks, music and SJSU giveaways.

Aug. 23, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. | Weeks of Welcome Kick-Off, Tower Lawn

Aug. 24, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. | Weeks of Welcome Kick-Off, Housing Quad


SJSU Loves SJ

ongoing

The SJSU Loves SJ initiative is a partnership between San José State and Visit San Jose, the Downtown Association, Japantown Business Association, and San José City Hall to help increase students’ connection with and appreciation of the culture of San Jose’s vibrant surrounding community. The university plays an important role in the economic vitality of downtown San Jose, and there are many local venues and landmarks students, faculty and staff can explore just steps from campus.

Events to note:
Aug. 19, 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. | Student welcome event, Swenson Gate on 4th Street and the Paseo de San Antonio
Student social event on the first day of classes, includes snacks and giveaways from local businesses.

Aug. 19 – 20, dusk – 10 p.m. | Lighting of City Hall Tower and Rotunda, 200 E. Santa Clara St.
San Jose’s City Hall plaza will be lit up with SJSU’s blue and gold colors at dusk.

Aug. 23, 9 a.m. | SJSU flag raising at City Hall
Marks the return of the SJSU community to downtown and celebrates our partnership with the city.


(Re)Discover SJSU

ongoing

Now in its second year, (Re)Discover SJSU is a digital campaign that invites the San José State community to utilize their informational website and social media platforms (Twitter, Instagram and YouTube) to learn about and share campus programs, services and events.
The dashboard updates regularly throughout the academic year with new opportunities to explore and engage with the campus community.


New Campus Facilities and Services

In addition to welcome festivities, here are a few of the new things to expect on campus this year.

Landscape

Behind the scenes, university personnel have been planning ahead to ensure Spartans, many of whom have yet to set foot on campus, feel properly welcomed to SJSU. This includes banners decorated with colorful art and the SJSU logo — some featuring the word “welcome” stated in multiple languages — hanging along the pedestrian paseos spanning the length of campus.

Health and Well-being

YOU@SJSU is a wellness learning and resource tool that provides students with tips and tools for everything from mental and physical health to friendships and finding balance. Students can also set personalized goals and track their progress in achieving them with interactive support included in the app.

SJSUCares will open a new space (anticipated in fall) in Clark Hall. Students can receive the confidential support to address basic needs through individual meetings with case managers, on-site connections to partner agencies that support self-sufficiency, and workshops.

The Office of Sustainability and SJSU Cares also partnered to establish the Clothes Closet, a new resource for SJSU students providing a steady source of gently worn clothing and new essential items such as underwear and socks. It is tentatively scheduled to also open in fall.

Technology and Cybersecurity

Outdoor WiFi will blanket almost all of the SJSU campus in WiFi 6, the latest standard for stable, reliable wireless broadband connectivity that can host far more devices than previous standards. This will activate more spaces around campus for learning and studying, as well enabling a future strategy for an IoT-based Smart Campus.

A new SJSU Events Calendar is mobile friendly, more visible and plugged into social media, allowing events to be searchable via hashtags and listings to be populated directly into Google Calendar and Outlook. The “I’m interested” feature provides logged-in users with recommendations for upcoming events based on ones they’ve already attended.

Duo Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is now live for all SJSU accounts. MFA significantly reduces the potential impact from ransomware and phishing attacks.

SJSU partnered with industry-leading software security companies to give our campus population free access to security software for their home devices.

Athletics

SJSU welcomes the new South Campus Multilevel Parking Structure and Sports Field Facility, including a 2-acre recreation field and art honoring the “Speed City” athletes and their famed track and field coach Bill Winter. The four-level, 1,500 stall parking structure overlooks the new field. The field itself is a state-of-the-art synthetic playing surface and features a dedicated public walkway encircling its perimeter.

Fans planning to cheer on the 2020 Mountain West champion Spartan football team will notice a new state-of-the-art scoreboard at CEFCU Stadium. The first home game is Saturday, Aug. 28, against Southern Utah.

Facilities

There are now solar panels and 50 EV charging stations at the South Campus Park & Ride; 25 of them have dual charging capability. There are currently eight to 10 charging stations on main campus that were installed this summer with four hour maximum use.

Solar panels were added to provide electrical power to the CEFCU Stadium area, lightening our carbon footprint while providing some shade as well.

Panda Express in the Student Union has an upgraded wok station to speed up orders. In addition, you can now place your order and schedule pickup times through the Boost app to save time.

San José State is introducing Burger 408, its first “ghost kitchen,” featuring delicious burgers, fries and sides, sauces, fried chicken sandwiches and tenders. All orders are made through the Boost app and picked up at the window at the Student Union.

In spring of 2022, Halal Shack will replace Steak and Shake and will offer authentic and delicious Halal food for the entire community.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then, she took photos.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lurie College Reimagines the Future of Education at the Inaugural Learner Design Summit

San José State’s Connie L. Lurie College of Education hosted a free Learner Design Summit to kickstart an ongoing dialogue about the future of education.

Rebeca Burciaga and Veneice Guillory-Lacy REP4

SJSU Lurie College faculty Rebeca Burciaga (left) and Veneice Guillory-Lacy (right) helped create the Learner Design Summit in July 2021. Photo by Robert Bain.

How do you design inclusive models for teaching and learning? It’s simple: Ask the students.

Last week, the Lurie College held its first Learner Design Summit to launch SJSU’s regional Rapid Education Prototyping (REP4) Alliance.

The REP4 Alliance is a powerful network of regional and national education, industry and technology leaders, led by the six founding higher education partners, including the Lurie College. This alliance brings together diverse learners to develop new ideas for higher education programming using liberatory design principles.

At the summit, a total of 25 local students, including rising 11th and 12th graders, recent high school graduates, community college students and SJSU undergraduates collaborated and designed creative proposals, or “prototypes,” to address existing challenges in the higher education system.

“A prototype is a pitch that students prepare to showcase the needs and solutions that create institutional change,” said Rebeca Burciaga, professor of educational leadership and Chicana and Chicano Studies as well as the faculty executive director of SJSU’s Institute of Emancipatory Education (IEE).

“SJSU student mentors are leading what we call ‘dream teams’ to dream up these ideas. We hope to find ways to incorporate their solutions and perhaps work with campus leaders to make those immediate changes.”

San José State President Mary Papazian kicked off the weeklong event with a message for the Spartan community.

“We believe that initiatives such as emancipatory education and REP4 support the development of equitable and inclusive educational systems that nurture the creativity and brilliance of all learners so that our diverse, democratic society can truly thrive,” she said.

“Collectively, the themes of this work are well-aligned with SJSU’s interests in advancing and transforming our educational systems, which many of us believe are in urgent need of radical change.”

The Equity Ambassadors team will be presenting their prototype on Aug. 5. Photo credit: Robert Bain.

Summit participants presented their proposals to SJSU campus leadership this week. Faculty advisors selected the top two group finalists: the Creative Connections team, which provided recommendations for pairing high school students with college mentors, and the Equity Ambassadors team, which suggested creating a career support program for low-income, immigrant and first-generation students.

Both groups will be sharing their prototypes in the online REP4 National Convening on August 5, which brings together student leaders from across the country. By presenting their prototypes to a national audience, the SJSU finalists will have the chance to have their ideas included in REP4’s online search tool for education partners. The repository will make it possible for schools to search for education prototypes that can be put into practice and lead to more equitable education.

“REP4 at SJSU gave high school students and college students alike the opportunity to dream up and reimagine what higher education could look like in the future,” said Assistant Professor of Educational Leadership Veneice Guillory-Lacy, who helped design the agenda and curriculum for the summit.

“It was amazing to witness the students come up with inclusive, equitable and transformational prototypes. We have been blown away by the ingenuity and creativity the REP4 students have displayed in such a short amount of time. We are excited for the future of higher education.”

Creating connections

The Creative Connections team will be presenting at the REP4 National Convening on Aug. 5. The team is composed of SJSU designer Joy Everson, ’22 Mathematics, SJSU mentor Vinson Vu, ’23 Business Administration, community college designer JC Jacinto and high school designers Simon Cha and Amelie Pak. Photo by Robert Bain.

“I really, really enjoyed this experience of meeting and connecting with great people,” said JC Jacinto, one of the community college design leaders. “Everybody shared what problems they had faced, and that really opened up my mind to see what we can do and what we need to change.”

High school design leader Nicole Hoang added that she attended the summit because she wanted to “solve student debt,” but decided to zero in on specific student costs.

“We were able to come up with this really smart solution of partnering with companies to pay for student textbooks,” she said. “Our presentation template and our student mentors were super helpful, and I really enjoyed this experience.”

“REP4 is directly connected to the transformative mission of SJSU and the emancipatory vision of our Institute for Emancipatory Education,” said Heather Lattimer, dean of the Lurie College.

“IEE is founded on the principles of centering marginalized learners, partnering with community and bridging boundaries. These principles will guide our work with REP4.”

The national event will take the best ideas from regional summits to the next level and is hosted by Grand Valley State University. There, learners will present, advocate and respond to questions about their prototypes. The goal of the REP4 Alliance is to prototype, enrich, test and scale new approaches designed together with learners.

“This is a great opportunity for students to help us reimagine higher education and better serve our current and future students by creating more inclusive and equitable campus policies and practices,” added Burciaga.

Learn more about SJSU’s Learner Design Summit and the REP4 Alliance.

SJSU’s Olympic Legacy Continues at Tokyo Games

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

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

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

Seven former Spartans will participate in five sports:

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

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

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

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

How Diamonds Could Unlock the Secrets of Quantum Physics

What makes diamonds so valuable? Most of us would point to their brilliance, clarity and beauty. But Christopher Smallwood, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at San José State, has a different answer: He looks to diamonds as the key to unearthing the secrets of quantum physics.

Smallwood and his collaborators are examining silicon-vacancy centers, which are a type of atom-sized flaw, in diamonds in order to better understand quantum physics. Illustration by Pourya Nadimi

Smallwood and his collaborators are using diamonds to better understand how the world works at the scale of a single atom. His recent findings, “Hidden Silicon-Vacancy Centers in Diamonds,” were published in May in the journal Physical Review Letters.

In the jewelry store, people typically look for the diamond with the fewest flaws. But Smallwood explained that, in the lab, these flaws are exactly what can make diamond samples so special.

He and fellow researchers create atom-sized flaws in the diamonds. Then, using a laser with pulses of light less than a trillionth of a second, they can observe the details and properties of those flaws “in a way we never had been able to before,” Smallwood said.

Exploring new territory

Christopher Smallwood

Christopher Smallwood, assistant professor of physics and astronomy

Why diamonds? To start, their crystal clear makeup allows scientists to easily access flaws with laser technology, Smallwood explained.

But what’s more, they contain a treasure trove of quantum secrets for physicists to uncover.

“There are literally books about optical resonances in diamonds for which no one understands the underlying origin,” he said. By resonances, he means physical responses in the diamonds to outside stimuli, such as light.

“From an experimental physicist’s point of view, it’s really great to have so much left to explore.”

Smallwood noted that his research takes place amid Silicon Valley’s push toward quantum engineering — that is, applying quantum physics to technology. Currently, IBM and Google, for example, are building quantum computers, which will have the power to apply quantum physics knowledge to solve today’s most pressing issues, like creating sustainable energy, reducing emissions and developing more helpful artificial intelligence.

Smallwood’s research demonstrates how San José State could become a key player in this process.

“I’ve seen a number of companies pop up in and around Silicon Valley in recent years aiming to make new inroads in quantum technology, and SJSU is well-positioned to help train the workforce required to make these technological dreams a reality,” Smallwood explained. “The publication of this paper helps underscore this potential.”

Shining light at San José State

Smallwood’s recent findings tie closely with his project funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation he received in 2020. The grant has allowed Smallwood to advance San José State’s capabilities of studying the properties of diamonds and other materials through light.

“SJSU is great because of the ways it allows me to directly work with undergraduate and master’s students and stay active in the laboratory,” he said. “Student participation in these research efforts is crucial. And I’ve got some extraordinary graduate and undergraduate students currently working in my group.”

One of those students is Tommy Wen Chin, ’22 Physics, who is helping Smallwood to better understand the recent findings. Together, he and Smallwood will work on another manuscript that explores the theory behind the work, which they will submit for publication.

Tommy Wen Chin, '22 Physics

Tommy Wen Chin, ’22 Physics

Chin said he’s gaining valuable experience for the future: He plans to pursue a PhD in physics and a career in academic research.

“This experience will give me a significant head start in that process, as I learn not only to perform research, but also to formally report it through publications. Being a first author on a publication as an undergraduate student is very rare within academic circles, and this will enhance my credibility as I apply for programs.”

But most importantly, Chin said he is getting to explore his passion and advance his knowledge of quantum physics.

“The opportunity to learn something new in physics is what drives me,” he shared. “The process of research projects often involves learning bits and pieces of the physics here and there. The most interesting and exciting part for me is when all these little pieces fit together seamlessly and tell a cohesive story.”

Smallwood, of course, understands Chin’s passion for quantum physics and the research process as a whole.

“There’s something really aesthetically beautiful about the theoretical side of the work, and on the experimental side, you get to build things with your own hands,” Smallwood said. “I enjoy working with lasers and shining light on things because — even at the level of high-level physics experiments — seeing is believing.”

View Smallwood’s published study in the Physical Review Letters journal.

What Do Recent Historic Heat Waves Mean for Us? A Q&A With SJSU Meteorologist and Climate Scientist Alison Bridger

The SJSU Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center truck overlooks the drought-stricken landscape of Coyote Valley on the outskirts of San José. More wildfires, severe droughts and extreme heat waves are all results of climate change. Photo: Robert C. Bain

Last month, temperatures in the Pacific Northwest reached historic and dangerous levels, like nothing the region has ever experienced before.

In fact, more than 100 Oregon residents died from heat-related illnesses during the record-shattering heat wave, which drove temperatures up to 117 degrees Fahrenheit in some parts of the state. Compare that to 12 hyperthermia deaths reported statewide between 2017 and 2019, according to CNN.

Parts of British Columbia hit 121 degrees Fahrenheit during the heat wave — the highest temperature ever recorded in Canada.

Alison Bridger, professor of meteorology and climate science

What should we make of this phenomenon? Alison Bridger, professor of meteorology and climate science at San José State, has some answers about why this extreme weather occurred in an area known for its cool climate — and how likely it is to happen again.

Q: We know the recent record-breaking heat in the Pacific Northwest was extremely dangerous. Can you give insight as to just how abnormal it is to see temperatures that high in that area?

AB: In the old days, when a high-temperature record got broken, it would be by 1 or 2 degrees. The Pacific Northwest heat dome was shattering records by as much as 10 degrees, which is why there was so much buzz.

It also remained very warm at night, providing little chance for anybody to cool down. Plus, it was in an area where few people use air conditioners — and stayed in place for days — so there was a lot of potential for heat stress, which is when the body can’t get rid of excess heat. As a result, there were many sudden deaths in the Pacific Northwest and in Western Canada.

One more thing is in the west, the highest temperatures tend to occur in July and August, not June.

Q: You used the term “heat dome.” Can you explain what that is and why it’s important?

AB: We meteorologists measure and pay attention to air pressure. In particular, we pay attention to areas where air pressure is higher or lower than average. Our weather is closely linked to whether we have a high- or low-pressure area over us.

Low pressure is associated with warm and cold fronts, clouds and rain — the kind where it rains all morning. High pressure areas are generally clear and dry with no clouds and no rain.

So a heat dome is an example of a high-pressure system — with clear skies, long days and the sun high in the sky. These are typical in the Southwest on really hot days in Death Valley, Las Vegas, Phoenix, etc. When they form, they can sometimes spread their influence further west and can even reach us at the coast, hence our Bay Area heat waves that occur one to three times a year.

We had another notable heat dome event this year, which was centered south and east of us and resulted in a temperature of 128 degrees Fahrenheit in Death Valley. This was a very strong heat dome and covered much of the west. We got over 100 degrees Fahrenheit in San Jose!

Q: How likely is it that we’ll see these temperatures again soon? Will this become a regular occurrence?

AB: I think so. Climate scientists have been warning about the impacts of climate change for decades, and here we are, seeing those predictions come true. More extreme heatwaves? Check. More rain in the Northeast? Check. More drought in the Southwest? Check. Melting ice caps? Check.

We might not see this type of occurrence every year, but it’s going to be more frequent and will likely occur again within the next five years. As we continue to add greenhouse gases to the atmosphere, we will continue to warm, and new extreme events will continue to emerge.

Q: What kind of impact do higher than normal temperatures have on our environment?

AB: Here are some major impacts:

  1. Changes to growing seasons — but if there’s less or no water for irrigation, that won’t matter.
  2. Less snow in the mountains, hence less water in reservoirs for western cities.
    More electrical demand for AC.
  3. Drier forests (trees and vegetation dry out more rapidly after rains due to warmer temperatures), leading to more wildfires.
  4. Animals that live in the mountains are being forced uphill to cooler areas. But when they reach the top, then what?
  5. I’ll bet there’s a human stress impact. People have been told for decades that climate change is coming, and now it’s obviously here, and we’re not doing anything. I know I’m stressed!

Q: Is there any hope that we can make improvements and possibly limit this in the future? If so, what needs to happen?

AB: If we were to suddenly stop adding more greenhouse gases and our carbon dioxide levels become stable, I think the atmosphere would continue to change for maybe 10 to 20 years due to its inertia. Then in 20 years, say, things would settle down to a “new normal,” which would be warmer, but we could start to deal with the consequences.

But, if we wait another 20 years and keep adding greenhouse gases, and then do the above, we’ll be at a warmer new normal, with more impacts that are more extreme and more widespread.

One way we could tackle this is to move faster on colonizing the moon and Mars, so we have an escape hatch. Or, we could work to fix this by moving much faster on cutting greenhouse gas emissions. This has to be a global effort, but we in the U.S. can get started regardless.

Let’s generate more solar, wind and tidal energy; do a better job on battery storage; do a better job on power transmission; and use smart devices to use less energy. And let’s provide serious incentives for getting these big tasks done.

Learn more about the SJSU Department of Meteorology and Climate Science.

How To Do Your Part During One of California’s Worst Droughts Yet

Recycled water sign at SJSU

San José State uses recycled water as part of its irrigation system. Photo: David Schmitz

California is in the middle of a severe drought that keeps getting worse.

Last month, the Santa Clara Valley Water district board declared a water shortage emergency, urging the community to conserve water by 15 percent compared to 2019 levels. In May, Gov. Gavin Newsom declared a drought emergency in 41 counties.

Editor’s note: On July 8, Gov. Gavin Newsom expanded the drought emergency to 50 counties and asked all Californians to cut water usage by 15 percent compared to 2020 levels.

The drought is accelerating faster than those of previous years, which can cause more wildfires that spread faster and quickly decimate wildlife habitats, reported the Los Angeles Times.

Climate change may be one of the reasons this drought arrived so soon after the last one, which lasted from 2011 to 2017, said Katherine Cushing, professor of environmental studies at San José State, in a recent ABC News report.

“It’s not just about people conserving water in their homes,” she said in the report. “It’s also about agencies thinking strategically about how to amplify the use of non-conventional water sources like recycled water.”

Unfortunately, she added, more frequent and more severe droughts could be our “new normal.”

Three things you can do, starting today

Katherine Cushing, professor of environmental studies at San José State

Katherine Cushing, professor of environmental studies at San José State. Photo: David Schmitz

To get through this emergency — and help address the bigger, long-term issue of water conservation — we all need to pitch in. Cushing provided three ways we can join the collective effort to conserve our state’s water. Here’s how you can help:

1. Make changes — both big and small — to your everyday habits.

There are lots of easy things to do: take shorter showers, turn off the faucet when you brush your teeth, only run the dishwasher when full. And those things make a difference, Cushing said.

Or, “the average person flushes the toilet five to seven times per day,” she explained. “If you could reduce that to four to six times, that’s a big improvement.”

When it comes to making bigger, more lasting changes, Cushing advises looking outside.

About half of the water the average household uses is for watering outdoors, Cushing pointed out. She suggested collecting rainwater to use for watering your yard.

If you have a spare $200, you could also turn your used laundry water into an irrigation system. Installing a laundry-to-landscape system can be done without a permit and just requires a plumber to route the used water to your outdoor plants. (Note: If you live in Santa Clara County, you could qualify for a rebate if you install this system.)

Or, you might reevaluate your landscaping altogether.

“Even if we’re not in a drought, the average rainfall for San Jose is 17 inches a year. That doesn’t really go with having a huge green lawn in your front or back yard.

“A lot of the water providers and government agencies are offering incentives to homeowners to convert their lawns to drought-tolerant or native landscaping. And that kind of landscaping is beautiful; it’s designed by nature to thrive in this area. It doesn’t need any water in the summer.”

2. Brace yourself for restriction mandates and follow them.

Restrictions are a crucial part of addressing the water shortage crisis. The state is trying to avoid overtaxing its groundwater supply, Cushing explained, because that can cause subsidence, which is gradual sinking or caving of the landscape. That can impact the structural integrity of buildings, causing salt water to infiltrate groundwater and increase flood risk, she noted.

Restrictions vary by county, and most include limits on watering outdoor landscape. Take a look at restrictions and advisements in your area.

In the face of extreme drought, “you have major crop or pasture losses, so there are significant impacts to the agricultural industry,” Cushing explained. “This drought rivals the dryness we saw in the 1970s, during a very, very severe drought for California. This could be a really bad one, and we don’t know how long it will last.”

3. Look out for future policy and infrastructure changes.

While there are natural fluctuations in precipitation levels, the fact that this drought arrived less than five years after the state’s longest dry spell, which started in 2011 and ended in 2017, is concerning.

“It’s an impact of climate change,” she said. “We’re entering a time where more severe droughts, floods and wildfires are going to occur more frequently, and there’s a higher risk that they’ll be more severe.”

The state needs to be looking for ways to introduce recycled water into its agriculture systems, Cushing said. Construction codes also need to change, so water is used more than once where possible.

“We need to make water conservation and water use a priority,” she added. “It’s an exciting time to think about what we can do, and since we’re in California, in Silicon Valley, we’re in the hotbed of innovation. We are poised to be leaders in this area.”

Learn more about how SJSU’s Office of Sustainability is working to use water more efficiently.

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

In Our Own Words

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SJSU Launches Inaugural Sustainability Faculty Cohort

Sustainability Faculty Cohort.

Ten SJSU faculty have been selected for the Sustainability Faculty Cohort: top row, l-r: Lecturer Roni Abusaad; Lecturer Sung Jay Ou; Assistant Professor Tianqin Shi; Assistant Professor Faranak Memarzadeh; second row l-r: Associate Professor Edith Kinney; Associate Professor Minghui Diao; Lecturer A. William Musgrave; Lecturer Thomas Shirley; bottom row l-r: Lecturer Igor Tyukhov; and Associate Professor John Delacruz. Image courtesy of the Office of Sustainability.

San José State Justice Studies Lecturer Roni Abusaad is excited to incorporate a module on the environment and human rights law as part of his Human Rights and Justice course this fall.

“This is an evolving area of human rights law and a great opportunity for students to understand the interconnectivity of all rights and connect theory to current issues like climate change,” Abusaad said at a May 24 faculty presentation.

Abusaad is one of 10 SJSU faculty members who are prepared to lead the way in the university’s inaugural Sustainability Faculty Cohort, who will include sustainability modules into their curriculum this fall. The cohort complements existing extracurricular and co-curricular initiatives offered through the Office of Sustainability, the Campus Community Garden and the Environmental Resource Center and offers a chance for faculty to become campus leaders in sustainability education.

The Center for Faculty Development, the Office of Sustainability and CommUniverCity hosted an informational workshop for SJSU faculty this spring to offer information about sustainability and how they could apply for a stipend to develop a sustainability module for their courses.

“There are many different definitions of sustainability,” said SJSU Professor of Geology and Science Education Ellen Metzger, who helped organize the initiative. “In our workshop, we defined it in terms of the three ‘e’s: economy, equity and environment. We used those three pillars to invite faculty to envision where their discipline might connect to one of the themes of sustainability.”

The workshop also highlighted the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which were adopted by all UN Member States in 2015 as part of The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The SDGs provide a “global blueprint for dignity, peace and prosperity for people and the planet, now and in the future” and supply a framework for interdisciplinary teaching and learning about sustainability. Earlier this year, the Times Higher Education (THE) Impact Rankings, which measure worldwide progress around SDGS, ranked SJSU in the top 30 universities among U.S. universities and in the top 500 internationally.

While students have many opportunities to learn about sustainability on and off campus, the faculty cohort ensures that Spartans can learn discipline-specific applications in areas such as hospitality and tourism management, business development, mechanical engineering and more.

“Higher education has a transformative influence on society, and if we want to empower students to become agents of change, it’s going to require us rethinking how we do things,” said Metzger.

“Universities, both in terms of teaching and research, are really well-poised to lead this reframing. What do we want the future to look like? If we want to contribute to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, we must accept that nothing will change unless education changes.”

The desire to become campus sustainability leaders is evident at SJSU. More faculty applied to participate in the inaugural cohort than could be accommodated this fall. Metzger said that the applications demonstrated a hunger to emphasize sustainability in all disciplines — great news, considering that the Office of Sustainability hopes to continue the cohort program indefinitely.

The Campus Community Garden is just one of the many sustainability initiatives at SJSU. Photo by David Schmitz.

“Our campus has made amazing progress to make our facilities sustainable, from incorporating recycled water in all of our non-potable uses to installing solar panels on every suitable surface. I think this initiative builds on that foundation,” said Senior Utility and Sustainability Analyst Debbie Andres, ’07 Chemical Engineering.

Participating faculty will receive a $500 professional development grant courtesy of PepsiCo and are encouraged to share their experiences with other faculty at future Center for Faculty Development workshops.

“We have always offered amazing courses in every college that focus on sustainability, showing that it can and should be incorporated into every department,” continued Andres. “But we have never had a formal cohort dedicated to curriculum development. We saw how successful and well-attended our workshop was and we plan on this being the start of annual workshops.”

“Together faculty can help students develop the skills, knowledge and outlooks that will help them see themselves as change agents and offer opportunities to make a difference,” added Metzger.

Learn more about SJSU’s sustainability initiatives.

Social Sciences Faculty Publish an Anthology Reflecting on the Aftermath of George Floyd’s Murder

Walt Jacobs, dean of SJSU’s College of Social Sciences, co-edited this anthology with faculty members Wendy Thompson Taiwo and Amy August. Photo courtesy of Walt Jacobs.

On May 25, 2020, Minnesota resident George Floyd was murdered at the hands of police officer Derek Chauvin – a tragedy captured on a cell phone video by a bystander on a nearby sidewalk.
Four days later, San José State College of Social Sciences Dean and Sociology Professor Walt Jacobs emailed his faculty and staff to acknowledge their collective grief and offer a few ideas about how they could respond by contributing to the national dialogue about race in America.

“As human beings, many of us are overwhelmed by the complexity of the situation and the intense emotions it has created,” Jacobs wrote on May 29. “As members of an institution that strives for social justice, we feel discouraged and outraged. And, as social scientists, we are wondering how our disciplines and our knowledge can contribute to solutions.”

That email, coupled with a conversation Jacobs later had with SJSU African American Studies Assistant Professor Wendy Thompson Taiwo, blossomed into a series of essays for The Society Pages. Inspired by the responses he was getting from colleagues with ties to Minnesota, Jacobs recruited Taiwo and Assistant Professor of Sociology Amy August to curate and edit an anthology of 36 essays titled “Sparked: George Floyd, Racism, and the Progressive Illusion” (published by Minnesota Historical Society Press).

A “wonderful and wretched” place for people of color

"Sparked" editors

Three SJSU faculty collaborated to edit “Sparked”: Amy August (top left), Walt Jacobs (top right) and Wendy Thompson Taiwo (center). Photo courtesy of Walt Jacobs.

A self-identified Minnesotan, Jacobs served as a professor of African American Studies at the University of Minnesota for 14 years, five of which he was department chair. Floyd’s murder just a mile from Jacobs’ former home sparked his desire to contextualize the intersectionality of race, culture and academia so often defined as “Minnesota nice.”

As he wrote in a 2016 “Blackasotan” essay, Jacobs asserts that “[life in] the land of 10,000 lakes helped [him] see that there were 10,000 ways to be Black.”

Thompson Taiwo’s experiences as a Black academic and mother in Minnesota prove Jacobs’ thesis. During her four years as assistant professor of ethnic studies at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Thompson Taiwo said she “experienced unmistakably racist personal incidents and saw the way that anti-Blackness operated on a structural level.

“Walt had a more positive relationship to Minnesota; not that he never experienced racism, but for me, it was stark. Thus, the juxtaposition that got this whole project started: Minnesota, for Black people, is both wonderful (Walt) and wretched (me).”

The anthology, published close to the anniversary of Floyd’s death and not long after Chauvin’s guilty verdict, brings together the perspectives of social scientists, professors and academics who work or have worked in Minnesota.

The essays present reflections on racial dynamics in the Twin Cities and the intersection of “wonderful and wretched” sides of that existence, revealing deep complexities, ingrained inequalities and diverse personal experiences. Writers probe how social scientists can offer the data and education required to contribute to change.

“Data is really important — but how we contextualize the data and the narratives we create about that data is equally powerful,” said Thompson Taiwo.

“To bring it directly to SJSU, how can we look at current efforts on campus — defunding and removing the police, enhancing the profile of the African American Studies Department, which provides a lens for understanding anti-Blackness and the long history and continuation of police murders of Black people, putting resources toward hiring more Black faculty and recruiting Black students — and lend our energies and solidarity to pushing those forward?

“Through collective grief and rage comes transformation. There is no reason why that transformation cannot continue on our campus and within our surrounding communities.”

August’s preface, “Coloring in the Progressive Illusion: An Introduction to Racial Dynamics in Minnesota,” provides some benchmark demographics and data detailing racial disparities in home ownership, health care, generational wealth and criminal justice.

As assistant director of the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society, and Social Change, she collaborates with a team of colleagues and student interns to promote social justice in and through sports. Like Jacobs and Thompson Taiwo, she studied and taught in Minnesota for several years.

“Helping to edit this book was a way to better understand how academics of color, including many of my friends and colleagues, were making sense of the racism and racial dynamics in an allegedly ‘progressive’ Minnesota,” said August.

“Because it was within the broader racial context that George Floyd was brutally murdered, within which the Black Lives Matter movement experienced yet another reawakening, and within which Minnesotans are even now reacting to the conviction of former officer Derek Chauvin, I see these essays as must-reads for all those interested in eradicating anti-Blackness and transforming race relations in Minneapolis and beyond,” she added.

Into the future

Jacobs, Thompson Taiwo and August conclude the anthology with an essay entitled “Where Will We Be on May 25, 2022?” They reflect on their initial reactions to Floyd’s murder and their hopes for the future.

Thompson Taiwo writes:

“What if we can, in the wake of George Floyd’s stolen life, have it all, everything our foremothers and othermothers and heroes and ancestors pocketed away and scrimped and hungered and struggled for? To find freedom this way requires one to dig deep into the speculative Black feminist tradition of imagining otherwise and otherworlds, knowing full well that we as Black people continue to live in the long afterlife of slavery, in the forever time of social death, and in a country that is consciously trapped in its own violent white settler colonial origin story.”

The College of Social Sciences’ Institute for Metropolitan Studies hosted a book launch event on May 18, 2021 at which Jacobs, Thompson Taiwo and contributor Marcia Williams, adjunct assistant professor of social and cultural sciences at Marquette University, were interviewed by Gordon Douglas, SJSU assistant professor of Urban and Regional Planning. The college will be hosting additional online book events in fall 2021.

Learn more about “Sparked” here.

 

Two SJSU Social Sciences Professors Receive Prestigious Research Fellowships

San José State Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Carolina Prado and Assistant Professor and Undergraduate Advisor of Chicana and Chicano Studies Jonathan D. Gomez have been awarded noteworthy funded fellowships for the 2021-2022 academic year. Both awards grant Prado and Gomez the time, financial support and professional resources to focus on their research in social sciences.

Prado has been named a Career Enhancement Fellow (CEF) through the Institute for Citizens & Scholars, which is funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and Gomez has received a Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship, which is funded by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

“Both Jonathan and Carolina are deeply engaged in the classroom, do innovative work in their fields and are working directly with students in the Chicanx/Latinx Student Success Center,” said Magdalena Barrera, interim vice provost for faculty success and 2011-2012 recipient of the CEF fellowship.

“I’m not at all surprised that they won these awards because they work very hard, and their materials are outstanding.”

Champion for environmental justice

Carolina Prado.

SJSU Assistant Professor of Environmental Studies Carolina Prado has been awarded a 2021-2022 Career Enhancement Fellowship.

Prado will study the sources and health effects of water contamination sites along the U.S.-México border in Tijuana. As a first-generation queer Chicana, she believes that the struggle for social and environmental justice should create an impact on both sides of the border.

“This award is very exciting to me because it incorporates work with a mentor to meet my writing and career goals,” said Prado, who also wants to help disadvantaged communities to live in clean and healthy environments regardless of their race, gender or income levels.

“A big goal I have academically is to build up the subfield of borderland environmental justice,” she added.

“Border regions, including the U.S.-México borderlands, experience environmental risks and goods in particular ways—and more research in this field is important. Pedagogically, I hope to integrate my training in environmental social science and feminist studies throughout my courses and build up our environmental justice curriculum in the Department of Environmental Studies.”

Prado joins Barrera and Faustina DuCros, associate professor of sociology and interdisciplinary social sciences, as pioneering SJSU faculty who have received Mellon Foundation fellowships.

Partner in self-expression

Jonathan D. Gomez.

SJSU Assistant Professor of Chicana and Chicano Studies Jonathan D. Gomez has received a 2021-2022 Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Grant. Photo courtesy of Jonathan D. Gomez.

Gomez, whose research examines how Chicanx communities use cultural expression to make places for themselves in cities, sees the Ford Foundation Postdoctoral Fellowship as an opportunity to complete his manuscript, El Barrio Lindo: Chicanx Social Spaces in Forgotten Places of Postindustrial Los Angeles.

His faculty mentor will be Gabriela Arredondo, an expert on the relationships of Chicanx and Latinx urban everyday life to the process of racial, ethnic, gender and trans-national identity formation. She serves as chair of the Latin American and Latino Studies department at the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Gomez will also use the fellowship to further develop the Culture Counts Reading Series at SJSU (CCRS), which explores ideas of race and ethnicity through sharing poetry and exchanging ideas with a “story circle” pedagogy.

Participants use works they read as launchpads to share stories of their own life experiences as well as to explore how to make a difference in the world, especially as university students.

Gomez said he wants to expand the CCRS program by building partnerships with local high schools.

“The excitement in this work, for me, exists in the practice of listening and learning from young people in our community and figuring out how to best accompany them in educational projects to create the kinds of life-affirming institutions and relationships that are meaningful to them.”


Both Prado and Gomez look forward to sharing takeaways from their fellowships with their students when they resume teaching at SJSU in 2022.

“I am really proud of Jonathan and Carolina for the work that they are doing and everything that I know they are going to contribute as scholars,” said Barrera. “We’re very fortunate to have them at San José State.”

“When we hired Carolina and Jonathan in 2018, I knew that they would achieve great success,” said Walt Jacobs, the Dean of the College of Social Sciences. “I’m very much looking forward to learning about their accomplishments of the 2021-2022 fellowship year!”

New “21@2021” Virtual Exhibit Elevates an Ancient Chinese Artform to a New Realm

21@2021 Virtual Exhibit

What do the ancient art of Chinese brush painting and virtual reality have in common? Hint: It’s not their age.

SJSU’s Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Library’s new “21@2021” virtual exhibit showcases the more than 6,000-year-old art of Chinese painting done on colorful lanterns — including a virtual reality (VR) experience that puts guests literally in touch with the artwork — in celebration of Asian Pacific Heritage Month.

As one of the oldest styles of painting in the world, Chinese brush painting is considered a living art. Its themes typically reflect serenity and peace and easily lend themselves to contemporary execution for modern day artists and enthusiasts.

The exhibition highlights the artwork of three generations of the Chan Lim family, who have been pioneering new media, styles and techniques that integrate Western art with the Chinese brush style in the United States and around the world for more than half a century.

Unlike Western brushes, the Chinese brush features a handle made of bamboo and topped with animal hair used for making meticulous strokes on rice paper — which is also very difficult to correct if mistakes are made. The finished works are then stretched and mounted on thicker paper to make them stronger and often attached to scrolls, or in this case lanterns, for hanging.

The driving force behind “21@2021” is Lucas College and Graduate School of Business faculty member Bobbi Makani-Lim, PhD, who contributed to and curated the exhibit along with her husband Felix Chan Lim, PhD, a faculty member of Stanford University’s Continuing Studies Program who works in the Silicon Valley semiconductor industry. The pair also co-teach a course about the tradition of Chinese brush painting at Stanford.

Art binds the family together

As Makani-Lim describes, it is a common language among them: “When you talk about Chinese brush painting, everyone understands this is what we do as a family.”

Pre-COVID-19, the family would put on exhibits of their work around the world, including Japan, Taiwan, Philippines and China; in shopping malls in Asia, thousands would attend to view the 300-400 works of art in a given show. The Chan Lim family currently has artworks on exhibit at the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport.

They held their first art exhibition at San José State in 2018. In addition to the Chinese brush, they displayed oil and acrylic paintings, Chinese fans as well as ceramics. The show was so well received, they decided to return for the 20th anniversary of the Chan Lim family’s artistic collaborations in 2020, but then the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

The family had already begun shipping lanterns from overseas to contribute to what had originally been planned as an in-person exhibit. They pivoted quickly and came up with a new gameplan: a digital experience that would include a virtual reality component.

“The digital format allows our guests to have a feeling of being in a natural exhibit, and if they have VR goggles, they can go in and actually play with some of the lanterns,” said Makani-Lim.

“VR isn’t just for gaming, it can be for art exhibits,” too, she added.

Taking art to the next level

For the King Library, “It is the first example of an interactive VR experience,” says Lesley Seacrist, the library’s ‎project and communications manager. “That means multiple users can be in the same room at the same time and can interact with each other. It’s like being in an actual museum.”

All visitors can enter seven different themed “rooms” and use their keyboard to navigate around and view the hanging lanterns and paintings on the virtual walls. There are also slide shows that play in the background that describe the themes and their popularity in Chinese painting.

More than 500 hours of human and computer time went into creating the virtual reality piece, including setting the scenes, rendering the lanterns, and developing digital galleries for the artwork, according to Jon Oakes, the library’s technology labs coordinator. They had to take photos and videos of the more than 70 lanterns to capture every angle, horizontal and vertical, over several weeks.

With VR goggles, guests can reach out and touch the lanterns, a feature that would not normally be possible in a physical environment because of their delicate nature.

Sharing culture and tradition

It’s been over a year since students, faculty, staff and community members have been able to freely wander the halls of the King Library’s fifth floor, where “21@2021” would have been held.

The fifth floor is also where the Africana, Asian American, Chicano, and Native American Studies Center’s (AAACNA) collections of art, artifacts, books, resources and other documents of cultural heritage are housed. Among the goals of the center is to provide a gathering space for SJSU and community members that promotes and supports programming that celebrates historically underrepresented groups.

“We are bringing a very traditional art into a very modern sort of space,” said Kathryn Blackmer Reyes, librarian and director of the AAACNA center and curator of its multifaceted collections. To her, it’s an exciting space — a gallery of art and culture — with a lot of room and potential for creativity and technology to come together.

“I think what’s so beautiful is that we are exhibiting this very traditional art with contemporary artists, and to bring it to students and communities who don’t necessarily know [Chinese brush painting], it’s exciting that we are incorporating people into the art in a very innovative format,” she added.

Ultimately, postponing the exhibit brought the opportunity to reimagine how visitors can experience the art into a new realm of virtual reality — one that allows them to experience art in a tangible way again, interacting with others while remaining in the comfort of their own spaces.

“We’re hoping we’re able to reach different generations and help them get that feeling that this art is thousands of years old,” said Makani-Lim. “We’ve got to keep it going, so it doesn’t end up like another one of those things that you just read about but no longer exists,” she added.

“Usually for younger generations, Chinese painting is not something that they like to do, but because you’re adding technology, now you’re doing something different, enticing them to look at the art another way,” said Lim.

Learn more and view the “21@2021″ virtual exhibit, including a recording of a recent special talk about Chinese culture and brush painting, and demonstrations from exhibition artists and of the virtual reality experience.

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

Breakfast film_Jessica Perez

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brett Edwards in Steinbeck's Breakfast

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more about the Center for Steinbeck Studies.

SJSU Joins National Alliance to Redesign the Future of Higher Education

Student-designed innovations will be rapidly tested and scaled to address access, engagement and equity gaps in higher ed

San José State University has joined five other colleges and universities, hundreds of high schools, and community partners to launch REP4 (Rapid Education Prototyping) – a national initiative to change the future of education. Unique to the alliance, students will take the lead conducting “Rapid Education Prototyping” to address the urgent challenges of access to education and fully deliver on higher education’s promise of social and economic mobility.

“Educating a diverse student population for professional success and civic engagement is part of our core mission at San José State, and the REP4 initiative is well-aligned with that goal,” said SJSU President Mary A. Papazian. “Our participation in REP4, we believe, will help us strengthen existing efforts and build new approaches that will empower our students to design a learning framework that suits their individual needs and create a climate where all students feel a sense of belonging.”

The REP4 name underscores how student-led Rapid Education Prototyping will engage the voices of learners to design innovative, actionable solutions for pressing challenges. Learners will co-design education prototypes, and the best ideas will be scaled nationwide through the alliance to maximize impact.

American Council of Education (ACE) President Ted Mitchell called the alliance’s approach unique and exciting.“Flipping the model from learners simply giving feedback to learners being designers of education is a truly innovative idea,” Mitchell said. “It’s unprecedented to engage learners directly in the designing experience, and REP4 can serve as a model for higher education nationwide.”

Tackling the crisis in education

The REP4 alliance formed as a response to a growing number of challenges facing higher education: low completion rates, lack of access, and persistent racial gaps across nearly all measures.

According to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, citing a 2016 Pell Institute study, the country has struggled to close a persistent gap related to income and degree attainment. From the study: among students in the bottom socioeconomic quartile, 15 percent had earned a bachelor’s degree within eight years of their expected high school graduation, compared with 22 percent in the second quartile, 37 percent in the third quartile, and 60 percent in the top quartile.

COVID-19 has further exacerbated the crisis in education. A December 2020 McKinsey & Company study estimated that “students of color could be six to 12 months behind, compared with four to eight months for white students. While all students are suffering, those who came into the pandemic with the fewest academic opportunities are on track to exit with the greatest learning loss.”

By employing this innovative approach of allowing learners to design solutions, REP4 will focus on improving outcomes and eliminating these barriers.

“As we look to the future of higher education, it is critical that we center the voices and priorities of students who are from communities that have historically been marginalized,” said Connie L. Lurie College of Education Dean Heather Lattimer. “If we re-design to value and build on the experiences and strengths that they bring, we will create universities that better serve all students and communities.”

First prototype

Grand Valley State University designed and held the first prototype last summer and has implemented two ideas from the Learner Engagement Challenge. “We are inspired by young learners with keen perspectives on what their future can be,” said Grand Valley President Philomena V. Mantella. “These learners gave us ideas that will play a key role as we lead the national conversation on a new vision for education. Their insights will help us create a model for an education system designed for learners by learners.”

Each of the six founding partners will hold its own regional summit for REP4, with Grand Valley State University hosting the national convening  August 4 – 5, 2021.

Assistant Professor of Child and Adolescent Development Ellen Middaugh at the Connie L. Lurie College of Education, an expert in youth civic engagement, will help design and implement SJSU’s REP4 summit. “Transformative change requires imagination,” said Middaugh. “This is something adolescents and young adults are great at — creative thinking and imagining a better future. Our Child and Adolescent Master’s students recognize this and will serve as youth-centered facilitators to create a space for our high school, community college, and SJSU undergraduates to dream big and grapple with what it would take to bring their ideas to life.”

The six founding colleges and universities in the alliance collectively serve more than 100,000 students. The founding partners are San José State University; Amarillo College; Boise State University; Fort Valley State University; and Shippensburg University. Grand Valley State University is the organizer and convener of the REP4 alliance.

Microsoft will participate in the REP4 summit to support the alliance in reimagining student-centered experiences, consistent with its recent whitepaper on student-centered learning in higher education. Microsoft will help shape how technology, particularly data and AI, can empower personalized and inclusive learning experiences.

The alliance is intended to grow over time, and other institutions are invited to become involved with REP4. Visit rep4.org for more information.

Celebration of Research Event Honors Investigators, Highlights Creativity

Ellen Middaugh

Ellen Middaugh, assistant professor of child and adolescent development, is one of this year’s winners of the SJSU Early Career Investigator Award. Her work was honored at the Celebration of Research on April 29.

Thomas Madura studies the lives of massive stars — from how they’re born to how they die a giant, explosive death.

He also investigates ways to teach young blind or visually impaired students about astronomy, which Madura, assistant professor of physics and astronomy at San José State, says is usually thought of as a “visual science.” By 3D printing models of nebulae, planets, star clusters and the like, Madura’s work lets those students hold pieces of the galaxies in their hands.

Madura was one of two faculty awarded the prestigious SJSU Early Career Investigator Award (ECIA) for his work at the university’s annual Celebration of Research, hosted virtually by the Division of Research and Innovation on April 29. The ECIA recognizes tenure-track faculty members who have excelled in research, scholarship and creative activity at an early point in their careers.

The Celebration of Research, which drew more than 400 attendees, honored both students and faculty for research, innovation and creative activities. In between awards and recognitions, the event also featured artistic performances and accomplishments.

Ellen Middaugh, assistant professor of child and adolescent development, also received the ECIA award for her work on youth civic engagement — particularly on how to teach social media and Internet skills to those aged 15 to 25.

The goal of Middaugh’s work is to create informed, empowered and ethical civic engagement among adolescents and young adults, “so that people really understand the issues that affect them, they feel that they can have a voice, and they’re mindful of how their words and sharing of information impact other people,” she said.

The event also recognized the work of the two ECIA recipients from 2019, who would have been honored during last year’s Celebration of Research had the event not been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Kim Blisniuk, associate professor of geology and 2019 ECIA recipient, was celebrated for her work investigating how landscapes change overtime from earthquakes and climate change.

Also a 2019 ECIA recipient, Yue “Wilson” Yuan, assistant professor of justice studies, was honored for his research studying the origins of fear of crime and how individuals and communities — Asian and Latino, in particular — react to criminal victimization.

The program also featured a special highlight of the “Teeter-Totter Wall” design project, created by Virginia San Fratello, the chair of the Department of Design, and UC Berkeley professor Ronald Rael. Earlier this year, San Fratello was presented with the prestigious Beazley Design of the Year award for her creativity, which brought together people at the U.S.-Mexico border on bright pink seesaws and received international recognition.

Guadalupe Franco, a student in the MS Environmental Studies program, won first place in the SJSU Grad Slam. She presented her three-minute thesis presentation on tackling homelessness and climate change.

Recognizing student research and creative activities

SJSU students took part in two research-based competitions — the 2021 SJSU Grad Slam and the SJSU Student Research, Scholarship, and Creative Activity (RSCA) Competition — for which the winners were announced at the event.

In a Grad Slam competition, graduate students condense the theses of their research projects into engaging, three-minute presentations — which must be understandable by a lay audience. Prizes are awarded based on the success of their presentations.

Guadalupe Franco, in the MS Environmental Studies program, received first place for her thesis, “Wicked Problems: Understanding How Cities and Counties in California are Tackling Climate Change and Homelessness.”

Second place went to Remie Gail Mandawe, who is in the Physiology master’s program, for “Targeting the Source of our Sixth Sense Using Blue Light.”

Celebration of Research attendees voted live for the recipient of the People’s Choice Award. They selected Holt Hanley, who is in the Meteorology master’s program, for his thesis “Estimating the Key Drivers of Wildfire Using Artificial Neural Networks.”

Both Franco and Mandawe will represent SJSU at the CSU Grad Slam on May 6 — the first system-wide competition, which San José State will host.

The eight RSCA Competition finalists — Aeowynn Coakley, Muhammad Khan, Terri Lee, Tomasz Lewicki, Victor Lui, Alaysia Palmer, Nicholas Roubineau and Hung Tong — went on to compete in the 35th Annual CSU Student Research Competition, held virtually on April 30 and May 1.

Khan, ’22 Biological Sciences, won first place in Biological and Agricultural Sciences – Undergraduate category at the state-wide event for his research, “Mutagenesis and Recombinant Expression of Aedes aegypti Serine Protease I (AaSPI), a possible N-Terminal Nucleophile (Ntn) Hydrolase.”

The SJSU Choraliers gave a socially distanced performance.

Amid the honors and recognition, the ceremony elevated artistic feats. Directed by Jeffrey Benson and featuring Vocal Performance major Daniel Rios, the SJSU Choraliers performed a socially distanced rendition of “I’ll Be On My Way” by Shawn Kirchner.

Spartan Film Studios showed their short film “Breakfast,” based on the short story by John Steinbeck and made in large part by SJSU students. The film has been accepted into the Beverly Hills International Film Festival.

The pathway to transformation

In 2019, Mohamed Abousalem joined San José State as the inaugural vice president of research and innovation with a goal: to realize the university’s potential for growth and increased societal impact through research. The Celebration of Research highlighted accomplishments in achieving that goal.

“No wonder San José State University is ranked the #1 Most Transformative University in the nation,” Abousalem said.

“Through the great research work that our faculty and students do, we are able to contribute to solving today’s problems and mitigate tomorrow’s challenges, alongside our industry and community partners.

“Public impact is the primary goal for the San José State University research enterprise,” he continued. “We are focused on bringing real value to our local and global communities, while supporting the scholarly careers of our faculty and providing our students with unique experiential learning.”

SJSU President Mary Papazian noted that when the university developed its Transformation 2030 Strategic Plan, leadership “quickly realized that research was a strategic growth area for the university.”

For example, one of the goals within the plan is to Excel and Lead.

“One of the ways we do that is by engaging students through faculty-mentored research, scholarship and creative activities,” Papazian explained. “Another one of our Transformation 2030 goals is to Connect and Contribute. And indeed, our research aligns with this goal.

“Our research and innovation brings value to our communities by contributing to an improved overall quality of life and by fueling economic growth. This will become even more critical as the state and regional economy emerges from this pandemic.”

Those who missed the event or want to catch it again will soon be able to access a recording on the Division of Research and Innovation website.