SJSU Recognizes Outstanding Spartans at 10th Annual Student Leadership Gala

10th Annual Student Leadership Gala.

San José State is home to over 350 student organizations, including fraternities and sororities, academic and honorary societies, cultural and religious groups, special interest organizations and club sports. On Tuesday, May 4, outstanding student organizations and individual leaders were recognized in the 10th Annual Student Leadership Gala.

The yearly event is a collaboration between SJSU’s Campus Life departments, including Associated Students, Student Involvement and the Solidarity Network, which is composed of the César E. Chávez Community Action Center, the Black Leadership and Opportunity Center (The BLOC, formerly the African American/Black Student Success Center), El Centro (formerly the Chicanx/Latinx Student Success Center), the Gender Equity Center, the MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center, the PRIDE Center, the UndocuSpartan Student Resource Center, and Wellness and Health Promotion.

“The Student Leadership Gala is a great way to bring together the greater campus community because there’s so much to do here at SJSU, and it’s great to hear the stories of students who are doing amazing work,” said Student Engagement Coordinator for Recognized Student Organizations Jordan Webb.

The virtual event recognized 112 individuals or organizations in several categories such as organization awards, operation awards, program awards and individual awards. Fraternity and Sorority Life honored four exemplary Greek life groups as well.

Each year, Associated Students also honors unsung heroes who have demonstrated an outstanding commitment to the university and have given back to the campus or local communities with the AS 55 leadership award. This year, A.S. awarded 11 students the AS 55 award and recognized 13 additional individuals in other categories as well.

“Educating our students on their civic responsibility, developing their leadership skills, and helping to equip them to be engaged in their communities are vitally important aspects of our public mission at San José State,” said SJSU President Mary Papazian at the May 4 gala.

“We know that our student leaders can become transformative agents for positive change in their communities, and that is why I am so proud of organizations like Associated Students, Student Involvement, the Solidarity Network and many others here on campus that are working so hard on this aspect of the higher education experience.”

Patrick Day, vice president of student affairs, also recognizes students with exceptional promise with a special VPSA award.

In addition to the awards recognized by Campus Life, 63 students who completed the Career Center’s Leadership and Career Certificate Program received their certificates of completion. The program offers students opportunities to enhance and develop their existing leadership and career skills in an online format.

“I love taking the time each year to intentionally honor and recognize student leadership,” said Dylan Mazelis, leadership development coordinator and co-chair of the program. “Over the past 10 years, the gala has become more intentionally collaborative, recognizing the intersectionality of our students and the all-encompassing leadership that they exhibit.

“It’s not just about recognizing specific titles or roles but rather recognizing all of the work that these students are doing every day in their many different spaces and communities — as well as the impact they have on San José and Silicon Valley.”

Visit the Student Involvement website to learn more about the 2021 awardees.

Urban and Regional Planning Department Chair to Lead a National Professional Organization

Laxmi Ramasubramanian in a black blazer and white top smiling.

Photo: Robert Bain / San José State University.

Professor Laxmi Ramasubramanian, chair of the SJSU Department of Urban and Regional Planning, was elected vice president and president-elect of the Association of Collegiate Schools of Planning (ACSP).

ACSP, a consortium of more than 100 university departments and programs offering planning degrees, is a scholarly association dedicated “to promoting the field of planning as a diverse global community that works collectively toward healthy, equitable and sustainable neighborhoods, cities and regions,” according to its website.

Ramasubramanian described taking an ACSP leadership position as a “personal calling.” She said she felt now was a good time to help shape how planning professionals do their work because the current era demanded more active promotion of the values she teaches her students to keep forefront.

“My area of research is participatory planning,” Ramasubramanian explained. “I use every opportunity, whether in service, teaching or research, to think about process issues. Planning is about thinking about the future. To me, the governing board of the planning association should reflect the ethos of the field: Our processes should be transparent, accountable, participatory, engaged—all the things we want our public planners to do.”

Ramasubramanian said once the thought of contributing to her profession’s national leadership entered her head, she could not dismiss it. “I’ve been thinking this summer about the national mood,” she said, “which has refocused our attention to inequality in city after city, community after community. So I was struggling with this as an individual. And often I find that I need to be with other people to make change.”

Ramasubramanian said important structural changes could rarely be made by individuals alone, but only in concert with others. “We can’t do what we need to do by ourselves, and we shouldn’t try to do it by ourselves. How can we work in partnership with groups of people to create the kind of transformation they’re aspiring for?” Mulling that over led her to seek her new leadership position.

Ramasubramanian will serve as vice president through 2021, after which she advances automatically to president for the term 2021-2023.

“My goal is to spend this year really listening to the interest groups that are part of our association and who share the same anxieties and fears and mood that is going on around the country,” she said.

A professional organization undergoes the same struggles happening outside it, she said. Ramasubramanian said her role would be to actively support planning faculty and students who are Black, indigenous or people of color through both policy and action. “We’re a good organization,” she said. “We’ve always said the words. An academic organization with our heart in the right place. But that’s not enough right now. That’s what the world is telling us: It’s not enough.”

As a public university, SJSU is accountable to a wide range of people. “At public universities we have a teaching mission,” she said. “We are preparing planning professionals who go out in the world and solve the difficult problems of climate change and environmental degradation, build resilient and inclusive communities, fix our transportation problems. So I’m really proud of the work that universities like ours do.” Ramasubramanian said she hoped to represent the voices of public universities in the ACSP governing board. You have to have diverse points of view in the room to change the conversation.”

SJSU offers undergraduate and graduate degrees in geography and an accredited master’s of urban planning degree—the only programs of their kind in Silicon Valley. The department’s diverse student population includes working students who prefer to attend the program on a part-time basis—a rare opportunity, given that few fully accredited master’s in urban planning programs offer graduate students an entirely part-time option. Emphasizing experiential learning and career preparation, the department’s faculty members teach about architecture, communication, economics, history, public policy, and sociology. Through public service projects, students assist local communities in addressing topical planning issues. SJSU has excelled in the field of urban planning since 1970.

College of Social Sciences Dean Walter Jacobs said, “Laxmi was outstanding in her first year as the chair of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning, so I was not surprised to learn that she was selected as vice president of a national organization. I have absolutely no doubts about her ability to thrive as the vice president and then president of ACSP while she continues to excel as a department chair.”

Ramasubramanian said she saw this step as part and parcel of the university’s larger mission. “I’ve chosen a narrow pathway to have an impact—trying to serve my peers in the academy, a membership organization of university people—but the work that we do, the professors, is hugely important because we impact young people,” she said. “One reason I’m at San José State is that here we can see so clearly how education is the pathway to transformation. The education you receive at SJSU prepares you to move in your career, your life, to move your family and your community to the next aspirational goals you set for yourself, whatever they may be.”

SJSU’s Tina Korani receives 2019 CSU Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award

Tina Korani, second from left, poses with School of Journalism and Mass Communications students during a graduate student showcase.

Tina Korani, second from left, poses with School of Journalism and Mass Communications students during a graduate student showcase.

Assistant Professor of Media Design Tina Korani joined San Jose State University in fall 2017. In just two short years, she has made a lasting impression on her students and how media design is taught at SJSU. She has been named by the California State University Chancellor’s Office as a 2019 Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award recipient for her dedication to experiential learning.

Korani is passionate about using new technologies to improve the learning experience. She believes that developing students’ digital skills and literacy should be a key focus of higher education. She said, “technology is moving our world forward at a rapid pace and we as educators should prepare our students for the workforce of tomorrow by incorporating digital literacy into our teaching to help students become successful in their careers.”

“I seek to provide my students with the necessary tools to move well beyond foundational skills and forward in their design thinking and creativity,” she said. “I provide relevant, real life application and foster collaboration, as I help them become stronger thinkers, collaborators, explorers, communicators, and designers.”

Tina Korani

Tina Korani

Her teaching philosophy is to empower students to be: confident, creative thinkers with exceptional presentation skills, compassionate, curious collaborators who seek opportunities to contribute to various projects, mindful explorers who look to expand their knowledge in solving problems with persistence and know-how to communicate their ideas and document this process effectively.

“I believe that undergraduate design education should connect to the real world and as a course of action I actively plan and devise practical experiences in and outside the classroom. These play a role in developing critical problem-solving skills, creativity, and communication skills and at the same time drive student engagement and retention,” she said.

Her students present their concepts and the process of their designs for each project to the entire class during weekly critique sessions, then they complete a mid-critique where students hear feedback before finalizing their designs. She said she believes critiques are a strong core to students’ learning that teaches them how to approach ideas critically while strengthening their communication and presentation skills. She also requires students to submit a process book that contains their sources of inspiration, research, sketches, and the steps on how they came up with their idea and final product.

“By documenting these steps for each project, my students learn value in this process and see personal growth,” she said.

Korani also engages students in research and conference presentations. She mentored a team of graduate students who developed “Bridge Brain: Engaging with the Next-Generation of Academic Scholars,” a web-based, peer-to-peer collaborative platform for university networking for research projects. The students were invited to present their work at the 2018 DECIPHER (Design Educators Research Conference). The students also won the 2018 Best Education Innovation Award in SJSU’s Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge.

Korani was selected for CSU’s Faculty Innovation and Leadership Award after being nominated by peers in the School of Journalism and Mass Communications as well as students, who created a video testimonial touting their professor.

“Her class provides students with unique experiential learning that is different than the typical lecture format of many other professors,” said Jihye Woo, a graduate student in Mass Communications. “The newly learned skills are more easily transferable outside the classroom and to our future careers.”

Professor Korani and students in MCOM 284: Advanced User experience class.

Professor Korani and students in MCOM 284: Advanced User experience class.

Woo noted that five of the graduate students in her program selected Korani as an advisor because of her “dedication, perseverance and compassion.”

“The School of Journalism and Mass Communications lives and dies on our ability to keep up with a rapidly advancing technological media landscape,” wrote Professor Scott Fosdick, graduate coordinator, in his nomination letter. “Assistant Professor Korani was hired to keep us on the cutting edge. She hasn’t let us down.”

Associate Professor Diane Guerrazzi shared in her nomination letter Korani’s interactions with journalists from the country of Georgia who visited SJSU as part of a Media Education Partnership through the U.S. State Department.

“In hands-on sessions, they designed infographics to visualize data, giving them valuable new tools of expression in their storytelling for their television, web and print media outlets,” Guerrazzi wrote. “I observed the way Professor Korani took care to explain the steps, in spite of a language barrier.  She patiently answered questions and encouraged participants to ask questions.”

Korani has presented her work and led workshops in the Adobe San Jose office during CSU/Adobe Digital Literacy Day and is honored to serve as an Adobe Education Leader (Adobe Education Leaders are dedicated to enhancing creativity and collaboration and improving the teaching and learning experience. They share their expertise through workshops and conferences and help develop standards-based curriculums that are used worldwide).

In service to her community, she has started teaching free mobile application design bootcamps for youth at Central Park Library in Santa Clara. She has also been helping to organize and served as a juror in many art contests, such as International Mother Language Day Art Contest and exhibition at the Children Discovery Museum in San Jose.

Korani holds an M.F.A. in graphic design from Louisiana State University and a bachelor’s in visual communication from Art University of Tehran. Her research centers on the use of interactive technologies to enhance learner engagement, education equity, and accessibility. She has introduced the use of emerging technologies into her teaching, and overall within the School of Journalism & Mass Communications. She is involved in multiple grants, and her projects range from training at-risk students on new media literacy in area high schools to creating a mobile app within her role as a co-investigator in a Breast Cancer Survivorship Project.

She is the recipient of multiple awards from the American Advertising Federation, including a National ADDY Award, and a Gold District 7 ADDY Award in 2017. As a speaker and educator, Korani has presented her work at numerous academic and professional conferences.