Qayoumi to Leave SJSU for Advisory Role to Afghan President

Mo Qayoumi

Mo Qayoumi

Media contact:
Pat Harris, SJSU Media Relations Director, 408-924-1748,

SAN JOSE, CA – San Jose State University President Mohammad Qayoumi will leave the university next month to assume an advisory role to Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani. His last working day at SJSU will be Aug. 17.

In a letter to the university community, Qayoumi, a native of Afghanistan, explained his decision.

“Since 2002, I have often been asked to lend my intellectual and operational expertise to many of Afghanistan’s significant economic, educational and infrastructure challenges. President Ashraf Ghani has asked for my immediate assistance and leadership in numerous infrastructure initiatives,” Qayoumi wrote.

“I have informed CSU Chancellor Timothy White of my decision to accept President Ghani’s request to serve as Chief Advisor to the President for Infrastructure and Technology.”

Qayoumi was appointed SJSU president in March 2011 after serving in a similar role for five years at CSU East Bay. He has held numerous CSU leadership roles for more than two decades, actively contributed to U.S. cybersecurity policy and periodically advised various Afghan leaders, including its finance minister.

In a statement, CSU Chancellor Timothy P. White praised Qayoumi’s commitment to STEM education, a key element of SJSU’s influence and impact in Silicon Valley.

“Mo is leaving the campus with a solid fiscal foundation and proud legacy of achievements. His laser focus on innovation, coupled with his tireless work in expanding the visibility of the campus within the technology sector, have advanced the campus’s stronghold in the region as a leading provider of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) graduates,” White said.

Qayoumi expressed gratitude for the opportunity to serve SJSU.

“It has been a privilege to serve as SJSU’s president. My wife Najia and I will depart San Jose with many fond memories and the certainty that we are making the right choice at this time in our lives.”

About San Jose State

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San Jose State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s and master’s degrees in 134 areas of study with 110 concentrations – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 30,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San Jose State continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing more than 7,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 220,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

San Jose Mercury News: San Jose State in the Spotlight for July 4 Parade

Posted by the San Jose Mercury News on June 24, 2016.

By Sal Pizarro

San Jose State University will be in the spotlight at this year’s Rose, White & Blue Parade, which will wind its way through San Jose’s Shasta Hanchett neighborhood on July 4.

When I first heard about the theme, I wondered who would be grand marshal. President Mo Qayoumi? Maybe one of the university’s many distinguished alumni? The answer floored me, and in a good way: Krazy George. The inventor of “the Wave” and the best drum-banging cheerleader the Spartans ever had, will be one of the guys leading the parade and trying for the world’s longest “wave.”Read the full story.

Al Jazeera America: A Look at the U.S. Future with Afghanistan

Posted by Al Jazeera America March 23, 2015.

SJSU President Mohammad Qayoumi discusses the future of U.S.-Afghan relations on the occasion of Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s first state visit to this country. Qayoumi was born and raised in Afghanistan, and is active in efforts to rebuild his homeland. He and Ghani were college roommates. Watch the video.

Al Jazeera

Al Jazeera

View the full story. 

Engineering Hall of Fame Inducts Qayoumi

The buzz was all about energy—human energy, that is—at the Silicon Valley Engineering Council‘s 2015 Engineers Week Banquet on Feb. 19 at the Doubletree Hotel in San Jose.

“I believe that learning and imagination are the most potent forms of energy in the universe,” said President Mohammad Qayoumi in prepared remarks following his induction into the council’s Hall of Fame.

Clearly, engineering council members felt the same, devoting much of the event to mentoring the next generation of engineering talent.

Scholarship recipients

Scholarship recipients included three San Jose State students: Jose Alvarez, Biomedical Engineering; Linh Do, ’16 Chemical Engineering; and Giovanni Zecchini, ’16 Mechanical Engineering.

The council is an umbrella organization for engineering societies in the valley. Goals include promoting the career development of engineers and technical professionals.

Among the council’s founders was the late Jay Pinson, an SJSU engineering professor and dean widely recognized for corralling support for the first engineering college fundraising campaign in the 1970s.


SJSU continues to engender that sense of community beyond campus. Among the event’s attendees was San Jose Mayor Sam Liccardo, California State University Chancellor Timothy P. White and Tower Foundation Board Chair Amir Mashkoori.

Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, congratulated Qayoumi with a video message. They were once college roommates. Campus community members in attendance included President Qayoumi’s wife, an excellent example of the power of human energy.

“I am grateful to the love of my life and wife of 36 years, Najia, who has supported my academic and related public policy pursuits while carving out her own niche as an accomplished clinical dietitian and Persian poet,” the president said.


President Mohammad Qayoumi

President Delivers Fall Welcome Address

Mohammad Qayoumi

President Mohammad Qayoumi

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

SAN JOSE, CA – San Jose State President Mohammad Qayoumi delivered the Fall Welcome Address at noon Aug. 27 in the new Student Union ballroom. The address was open to the campus community and media. In addition, the event was streamed live on the web. A transcript is accessible from the university website.

An annual tradition, the Fall Welcome Address marks the beginning of the 158th academic year. On Aug. 27, President Qayoumi urged the SJSU community to build on its rich heritage of regional stewardship, social justice, shared mission and student success.

Specifically, the president encouraged students, faculty and staff to tackle today’s defining issues with the same persistence, grit, and self-determination exemplified by Spartans throughout SJSU’s history.

President Qayoumi also touched on campus governance, underrepresented communities, facility and technology upgrades, tenure-track faculty, and the Special Task Force for Racial Discrimination recommendations.

 SJSU map, directions.

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

CSU Super Sunday

San Jose State President Mohammad Qayoumi, faculty and staff attended four San Jose churches to inform families that it’s never too early to strive for higher education during CSU Super Sunday Feb. 16.

Ready for Greatness

Parents and youth, such as Jahne Hill, a high school sophomore, sought more insight into college readiness.

Whatever choices you make now affect what you are going to do in the future, especially for college,” she said.

Grandmother Flavor Dyer, ’81 Liberal Studies, encouraged her three young grandchildren to introduce themselves to Qayoumi at Emmanuel Baptist Church, as she insisted that they too would be doctors.

Greeting the President

Catherine Mann, ’12 Art and Art History, waited for Qayoumi’s arrival after the 8 a.m. service because she wanted to shake the hand of her alma mater’s president.

Qayoumi participated in the entirety of the 11 a.m. service, standing, sitting and bowing in reverence to the speakers, songs and prayers before he spoke to the congregation about financial and admission opportunities within the CSU system.

Despite campus dissonance, Qayoumi said the administration wants to make SJSU more hospitable.

If there are changes that need to be done whether it’s in our training, whether it’s in our outreach, whether it’s the general knowledge [or] whether it’s the policies, changes will be incorporated,” he said.

“Unfortunately, bad things happen in our society. The key is … how do we use that information so that we can strengthen the university?”



President Qayoumi and students

President Qayoumi’s Statement: November 18 Academic Senate Meeting

President Qayoumi and students

“I am hopeful that today’s Senate conversation, and others to come, will bring us closer together and help us exceed our individual and collective aspirations,” President Qayoumi said.

President Mohammad Qayoumi shared the following statement with the campus community following an Academic Senate discussion on Nov. 18 about SJSU’s governance:

Late Monday afternoon, our Academic Senate approved a resolution asking the Chancellor’s Office to initiate a review of university governance.

As a community, let us do all we can to support the Chancellor’s Office in responding to this request.

San Jose State’s tradition of shared governance is embodied in its Academic Senate, where elected faculty, staff, student, administrative and alumni representatives discuss and debate important issues.

Today’s Senate discussion revealed a desire for more transparency about our priorities and explored questions about some aspects of university governance.

San Jose State — indeed, California’s entire public higher education system — has coped for the last half decade with unstable, unpredictable public support. We all know that these economic conditions and related factors have impacted students and their families, and our capacity to serve them.

Since 2011, we have confronted these issues while laying a foundation for a stable, bright future. Together, we have faced and surmounted some tough challenges, including erasing a structural budget deficit of $32 million. Other challenges remain, but I believe we are on the right track.

As I said during the meeting, communication is the basis for effective governance. I am hopeful that today’s Senate conversation, and others to come, will bring us closer together and help us exceed our individual and collective aspirations.

SJSU Celebrates International Week

Why should you check out International Education Week Nov. 12-15?

Because going abroad will set you apart, give you competitive jobs skills and, most important of all, expand your world view.

Campus events

At SJSU, highlights include study and work abroad fairs Nov. 13; a lunchtime talk on preparing for success in a globalized world Nov. 14; and the International House Quiz (that’s “IQ” for short!) Nov. 15.

The Department of World Languages and Literatures will host the lunchtime talk. Speakers will include Professor of French Dominique van Hooff, Professor of Organization and Management Asbjorn Osland and Professor of History and Global Studies Michael Conniff.

Prefer something hands-on? Check out the Great Global Breakfast Nov. 14; try a turban with the Sikh Students Association Nov. 14; or take a swing at cricket with the Indian Student Association Nov. 15.

Events abroad

Meanwhile, President Mohammad Qayoumi and Dean of the College of Applied Sciences and Arts Charles Bullock are in Vietnam this week building ties with their counterparts.

SJSU was recently tapped by the the U.S. Agency for International Development to coordinate an international consortium enhancing social work education in Vietnam.

SJSU Celebrates International Week

President Qayoumi and Dean Bullock with Vietnam National University, Hanoi, Vice President Nguyen Kim Som (center, between Qayoumi and Bullock) and his colleagues after a morning of meetings Nov. 12 at their campus (photo courtesy of Tuan Tran).

The trip’s timing and purpose dovetails well with International Education Week, a national series of events celebrating the benefits of international education and exchange worldwide.

Sixth in the nation

Officials at The U.S. Department of State and the U.S. Department of Education kicked off the week by releasing “Open Doors 2013,” an international student census.

SJSU ranks sixth in the nation among colleges and universities granting bachelor’s and master’s degrees, with 2,194 international students on campus in 2012-2013.

View a complete list of SJSU International Education Week events.

Budget Update

The following can be attributed to San Jose State President Mohammad Qayoumi:

I want to update you on our current-year academic budget and recent reports of possible cuts to spring 2014 course sections.

First, let me be clear: we will restore course sections originally planned for spring 2014.

Although academic programs across the university were on a path to exceed their total budget by the end of the spring 2014 semester, I am fully committed to ensuring that our students have access to the classes they need.

Accordingly, we are taking one-time funds allocated to campus infrastructure and other projects, and redirecting them to academic units. This will allow those units to restore class sections they may otherwise have intended to eliminate.

I am taking this action to help our students continue progressing toward their degrees.

Some of you will remember that SJSU began the 2012-13 fiscal year with a $32 million structural deficit. We elected to eliminate that deficit incrementally over a two-year period. Half of the deficit was eliminated through cuts prior to this fiscal year. The rest was eliminated when voters approved Proposition 30 last November.

The bottom line is, San Jose State began the 2013-14 fiscal year with a balanced budget. Contrary to what you may have heard or read, our budget remains balanced today.  

As a community, we worked diligently to restore financial stability. It wasn’t easy, and I appreciate your stellar efforts.

Units impacted by the redirection of one-time funds will be informed by their vice presidents. Thank you for your patience as we continue working to deliver the services and support our students need and deserve.

Sequester Hits SJSU

Sequester Hits SJSU Science Students

Sequester Hits SJSU

Congressman Mike Honda

Media contact: Pat Lopes Harris, 408-924-1748

Congressman Mike Honda will visit SJSU Sept. 5 to see first-hand how the federal sequester is hitting home for more than a dozen students seeking to reach their potential as biomedical and behavioral scientists.

“Our success rate will surely be impacted,” said Professor Leslee A. Parr, who also serves as program director for the SJSU Minority Access to Research Careers (MARC) program.

President Mohammad Qayoumi will join Honda as he meets students and faculty members and tours the labs where they collaborate on research, building the academic and hands-on skills students need to pursue graduate degrees.

“Investment in education at all levels has been the cornerstone of my efforts in Congress, and it is rewarding to see the work being done right here in Silicon Valley in the biomedical field,” Honda said. “Funding for programs like MARC at San Jose State University are under constant threat due to sequestration and other partisan battles in Washington, and as a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, I pledge to continue fighting to ensure that a quality education remains affordable and available to all.”

Honda will be treading on familiar ground. A Spartan with two degrees from SJSU, he received a bachelor’s in biological sciences and Spanish in 1968 and a master’s in education in 1974.

He went on to a 30-year career in education as a science teacher, school board member, principal and researcher at Stanford University.

Providing Access

The MARC program under the National Institutes for Health recently provided $252,000 to SJSU for the first year of a five-year grant. This represents a 54 percent cut from the amount awarded before the sequester.

The need is clear: African Americans, Hispanic Americans, Native Americans, Alaska Natives and U.S. Pacific Islanders combined make up less than 5 percent of the U.S. biomedical workforce.

“Increased diversity helps expand the range of research questions asked and the perspective of analysis and application and may help to decrease health disparities,” Parr said.

The results have been excellent:

  • SJSU-MARC graduates have received 24 advanced degrees, including 12 PhDs and one MD/PhD.
  • More than 40 SJSU-MARC graduates are currently in graduate and professional programs at institutions including UC Berkeley, UCSF, UC Santa Cruz, UC Irvine and Stanford.
  • SJSU-MARC alumni are now professors at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, The University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Arizona State University and Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

But this year, when Congress resorted to a sequester to the balance the federal budget, MARC funding to SJSU was drastically reduced, forcing the university to drop five of the program’s 14 students.

Sequester Hits SJSU

Brian Castellano, ’13 chemistry, was a MARC program participant who received a fellowship for graduate school (photo by Christina Olivas).

Building Mentors

Even those who remain will sustain a 40 percent cut in tuition support, which means they’ll need to spend less time on preparing for graduate school and more time working to pay the bills, Parr said.

The sequester’s impact could go well beyond the students directly affected, given that many SJSU-MARC participants are driven by the prospect of one day mentor minority students following in their footsteps.

“That’s one of the reasons I am interested in science,” said Brian Castellano, an SJSU-MARC graduate who entered a doctoral program at UC Berkeley this fall. “There is an unlimited amount to learn and discover, and through mentoring, I am able to help others gain a similar passion.”

CS Classroom

Hackers Beware!

CS Classroom

Students in class with Assistant Professor Tom Austin, one of nine recently hired faculty members focusing on cybersecurity and big data (Christina Olivas photo).

The cybersecurity workforce of the future is taking shape at SJSU.

In the Student Union this summer, more than 75 students spent a week building skills, networking with tech leaders, and battling to win a capture-the-flag competition at the 2013 Western Regional Cyber Security Boot Camp.

And in classrooms across campus this fall, nine new faculty members are joining 20 veteran instructors to teach more than 40 courses in cybersecurity and the related field of big data.

The camp and cluster hires are major components of SJSU’s initiative to strengthen the nation’s defense against hackers, like those who made headlines last week by taking down The New York Times.

“As the largest public university serving Silicon Valley, San Jose State must take the lead in providing students with opportunities to become immersed in cybersecurity,” President Mohammad Qayoumi said.

Multidisciplinary Approach

CS Classroom

Assistant Professor of Computer Science Tom Austin, an SJSU graduate, returned to join a campuswide cybersecurity initiative (Christina Olivas photo).

The entire academic team — with expertise in a wide range of fields from computer science to psychology — is working together on research and new certificate and degree programs.

Professors are also connecting with industry, federal agencies and national laboratories on internships, research and a road map for addressing emerging issues in security and data science.

All of this work is positioning SJSU for future certification as a National Center of Academic Excellence for Information Assurance.

For now, the nine new hires, like the vets they join, are focusing on training SJSU students to attack the problem from every conceivable angle.

Here’s a quick introduction.


Tonia San Nicolas-Rocca of the School of Library and Information Science is teaching a new cybersecurity course offered to SLIS graduate students enrolled in the school’s fully online master’s program.

David Schuster, of the Department of Psychology has conducted research focusing on the cognitive aspects of cybersecurity, situation awareness in human-automation teams, and perceptual training for real-world pattern recognition.

Jeremiah Still of the Department of Psychology has conducted research revealing implicit cognitive processes that can be used to help designers develop intuitive interfaces.

Younghee Park of the Department of Computer Engineering conducts research focusing on network, software and system security, with an emphases on malicious code detection, botnet analysis, insider threat, and traceback to determine attack origin.

Meikang Qiu of the Department of Computer Engineering focuses on embedded systems, cybersecurity and trust computing, and high performance and cloud computing.

Tom Austin of the Department of Computer Science is an SJSU graduate whose interests include security and programming languages, web security and malware analysis.

Big Data

Michelle Chen of the School of Library and Information Science is teaching information visualization and developing curriculum on big data analysis for SLIS students.

Thanh Tran of the Department of Computer Science holds a master’s in entrepreneurship and management, a master’s in business information systems and a doctorate’s in computer science.

Scott Jensen of the Department of Management Information Systems focuses on the management, integration, discovery and strategic use of data within enterprises and across organizational boundaries.

Read more about SJSU’s cybersecurity initiative.

$208,863,349 raised during the Acceleration Campaign

Exceeding Our Goal, Powering Our Future

$208,863,349 raised during the Acceleration Campaign

Strong support helped “Acceleration: The Campaign for San Jose State” exceed its goal and conclude one year earlier than anticipated.

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

SAN JOSE, CA – President Mohammad Qayoumi announced today that San Jose State University has raised more than $208 million in private giving during its first-ever, multi-year comprehensive fundraising campaign. Strong support helped “Acceleration: The Campaign for San Jose State” exceed its goal and conclude one year earlier than anticipated. President Qayoumi made the announcement during his Fall Welcome Address, an annual tradition marking the advent of the academic year. (View prepared remarks.)

“Let me take this opportunity to thank all involved for their hard work and strong commitment,” President Qayoumi said. “We owe a debt of gratitude to all of our donors for believing and investing in San Jose State. Together, we have laid a solid foundation for the next campaign.”

San Jose State President Mohammad Qayoumi delivered the Fall Welcome Address on Aug. 19 in Morris Dailey Auditorium.

President Mohammad Qayoumi delivered the Fall Welcome Address on Aug. 19 in Morris Dailey Auditorium.

Acceleration began in 2006 with the goal of raising $200 million in eight years from individuals, corporations and foundations. SJSU received more than 30,000 individual gifts, with half of the donors hailing from the Bay Area. The funds raised will support all seven colleges, the University Library, Student Affairs and Intercollegiate Athletics. Planning for the next campaign is underway.

SJSU’s Strategic Plan

Using San Jose State’s strategic plan as a framework for his Fall Welcome Address to faculty and staff members and students, Qayoumi focused on the university’s five long-term goals, including “Unbounded Learning,” which encompasses all efforts to enhance student success through continuous learning innovations.

The president highlighted enhancements across the disciplines, including engineering, business, education, math and computer science. Qayoumi also affirmed his commitment to San Jose State’s most controversial efforts, which have involved instructors experimenting with massive open online course platforms offered by edX and Udacity.

“I hope our collective curiosity and passion for student success motivates us to continually explore new approaches to teaching and learning,” President Qayoumi said. “I am encouraged that our faculty members are considered innovators and pioneers. Change is hard. Yet it is essential that we improve student access, enhance academic performance, shorten time to degree and increase graduation rates.”

Planning for the Future

President Qayoumi continued by describing progress with nearly a dozen ongoing or planned campus construction projects, reflecting SJSU’s strategic goal of developing “21st Century Spaces.” The president also declared the university budget structurally balanced for the first time in recent memory, applauding officials for passing the state budget on time and restoring support for the California State University system.

“We have accomplished much in the past year, and there is much more to be done,” President Qayoumi said. “A spirit of collaboration and shared mission will be more important than ever.  All of our efforts will involve discussion.  A few may even provoke disagreement. Let us commit ourselves to respectful, civil, collegial and healthy dialogue.  I am confident that together we can continue to transform San Jose State in its continuing journey for excellence.“

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


Fall Welcome Address

President to Deliver Fall Welcome Address

Fall Welcome Address

President Mohammad Qayoumi

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

SAN JOSE, CA – San Jose State President Mohammad Qayoumi will deliver the Fall Welcome Address at noon Aug. 19 in Morris Dailey Auditorium. The event is open to the campus community and media. Afterward, a video and transcript will be accessible from the SJSU homepage.

An annual tradition, the gathering for faculty, staff and students marks the beginning of a new academic year. President Qayoumi will reflect on the successes of the previous year, and frame future challenges and opportunities.

The president’s speech will include a significant announcement about Acceleration: The Campaign for San Jose State University, the first comprehensive fundraising campaign in SJSU history.

In addition, he will provide updates on the budget, Strategic Plan: Vision 2017 and campus capital improvements.

SJSU map, directions.

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

PRI's The World: Historical Photos of a Bygone Age in Afghanistan

Historical Photos of a Bygone Age in Afghanistan

PRI's The World: Historical Photos of a Bygone Age in Afghanistan

President Qayoumi’s photo collection of Afghanistan in the 1950s and ’60s shows a modern nation (courtesy of Mo Qayoumi).

Posted by PRI’s The World Aug. 9, 2013.

View related photos and listen to this radio story, summarized below. 

By Mark Patch

Professor Mo Qayoumi grew up in Afghanistan in the 1950s and 60s before leaving the country to study and work in the US and the Middle East.

He remained abroad from his homeland until 2002, when he returned to a very different nation than the one he remembered.

He is now the president of San Jose State University, but for the past several years has been collecting and publishing pictures of the Afghanistan he once knew on the internet.

In an era when prominent Afghan scholars and policymakers frequently label the nation medieval, it’s his effort to show a side of the country that the many people have long forgotten.

And some never even knew existed.

The Future of the College Degree

The Future of the College Degree

The Future of the College Degree

At the invitation of the National Journal, five leading experts including President Mohammad Qayoumi met in Washington, D.C., July 10 to discuss “The New Knowledge Economy.”

What is the future of the college degree, and higher education in general, in the United States?

At the invitation of the National Journal, five leading experts including President Mohammad Qayoumi met in Washington, D.C., July 10 to discuss “The New Knowledge Economy.”

Qayoumi described his vision for higher education, which includes standardizing 25 to 30 lower-level introductory courses and then customizing upper-level coursework with a range of hybrid and hands-on learning experiences.

The president’s proposal “has a lot of promise,” said fellow panelist Kevin Carey, director of the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation. “I think this is a near-term thing … that will be the standard for the first couple years of the undergraduate experience.”

But some things would remain the same. “Nothing can really replace the campus experience,” Qayoumi said, adding that  “I firmly believe faculty will still be a central part of the learning process.”

The president went on to discuss how offering standardized lower-level classes online will mean “some students who are very motivated could possibly do a year or more of their college work while they’re still in high school.”

Online learning also offers international experiences, Qayoumi said, explaining how a project could include “a group of students … one from Shanghai, one from Boston, one from San Francisco, and the fourth from Egypt. This kind of an environment is going to prepare students for tomorrow.”

Read the president’s white paper, “Are We Innovation-Ready: A Bold New Model for Higher Education.” 

View the National Journal panel discussion.

New York Times: Colleges Adapt Online Courses to Ease Burden

Posted by the New York Times April 29, 2013.

By Tamar Lewin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But Udacity’s approach was appealing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: April 30, 2013

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

President Hosts Budget Forum

President Hosts Budget Forum

Dr. Mohammad Qayoumi

At April 22’s budget forum, President Qayoumi began with good news about exactly how Proposition 30 impacts SJSU. View the event video and slides here.

Prop. 30 provided SJSU with $5.5 million that will be used this year for more course sections, classroom improvements, tech upgrades and Spartan Complex renovations.

SJSU could receive an additional $13.2 million next year if the legislature approves the $250 million increase the California State University budget proposed by Governor Brown.

There is no word yet on tuition increases for students and pay increases for faculty and staff, matters addressed by the system overall rather than each campus.

We’ll know more after the “May Revise,” an update of the budget proposal released in January. The legislature expects to pass the budget package in June. The new fiscal year begins July 1.


But the hundreds of students who packed the front rows of Morris Dailey Auditorium focused on the planned merger of four of SJSU’s five auxiliaries.

Students demanded a greater voice in the process, which would combine the Student Union, Spartan Shops, the Tower Foundation and the Research Foundation.

Qayoumi explained the merger is still very much in the planning process, with the goal of gaining efficiencies through unifying common functions such as financial services, IT and HR.

A taskforce of business managers for each auxiliary has issued a report that the president will share with each organization’s board of directors.

Qayoumi assured the students that fees collected for Student Union, Aquatics Center and Fitness Center renovations will be used for no other purpose.

Online Initiatives

The question and answer session then turned to other topics, including funding for SJSU’s online initiatives.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Junn explained students pay for the Udacity courses through the College of International and Extended Studies.

San Jose State has paid nothing for edX materials blended into campus-based courses. But as the collaboration expands, SJSU will pay a licensing fee.

To cover the cost, the provost has applied for a grant to be funded through $10 million Governor Brown set aside for CSU online efforts.

Chronicle of Higher Education: The Digital Campus 2013–Learning From Big Business

Posted by the Chronicle of Higher Education April 29, 2013.

The Idea Makers: Ten Tech Innovators 2013

What are the biggest ideas in education technology this year, and who’s driving them? For the second year in a row, The Chronicle has identified a group of key innovators who are rebooting the academy, and we’ve profiled 10 of them on the pages that follow. This is not an endorsement of their projects: In some cases, the subjects of the profiles disagree with one another on how best to change higher education. But all of the people you’ll meet here think technology could break established molds and help students learn more effectively, researchers make discoveries more easily, and colleges operate more efficiently. Earlier this year we invited readers and higher-education leaders to submit their nominations for this project, and we received more than 125 entries. Ultimately, the selections were made by a group of Chronicle editors and reporters, with a goal of considering innovators in various sectors.

By Jeffrey R. Young

Mohammad H. Qayoumi thinks public universities should take a lesson from Wal-Mart—a view that might sound strange coming from a university president.

But Mr. Qayoumi, who leads San Jose State University, is referring to the retail giant’s ability to continually expand both its brick-and-mortar stores and its online services. “It has the biggest stores all over the country, but it is also really active in e-commerce,” he says. “It’s not an either/or, it’s an issue of how we can really bring a blend of the two together.”

Mr. Qayoumi is trying a similar blending on his campus. He is experimenting with using massive open online courses, or MOOCs, both to bring down the cost of delivering classes on his campus and to let high-school students and others get a head start on college—on the cheap.

For his first goal of cutting costs, the university teamed up with edX, the nonprofit MOOC provider started by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, to offer a “circuits and electronics” course in which students watched free lectures made by MIT professors as homework and attended class discussions with instructors at San Jose State.

The experiment violated a basic premise of college teaching—that every professor should create and deliver his or her own lectures.

“How different is the basic algebra course taught in Boston, or California, or wherever?” asks Mr. Qayoumi.

To help provide a cheaper online-only option, the university forged a partnership with Udacity, a for-profit MOOC provider. In a pilot project, the company worked with professors at the university to create three introductory mathematics classes. The courses are free online, but students who want credit from San Jose State can take them for just $150, far less than the $450 to $750 that students would typically pay for a credit-bearing course.

Both moves are part of Mr. Qayoumi’s plan to “reinvent” public universities. He has laid out that vision in a series of reports that call for public colleges to use technology to produce more graduates while spending less money. In one, he suggests that some high-school students might take a year’s worth of courses as MOOCs before even coming to a college campus.

Some professors question the president’s notion that colleges should look to industry for inspiration. “It almost treats students like they’re industrial products, like ‘How many widgets can we get through those programs?'” said David Parry, an assistant professor of emerging media at the University of Texas at Dallas, in an interview this year after San Jose State announced its project with Udacity.

Mr. Qayoumi, though, sees the move to online learning as a way to actually improve the quality of education. In large lecture classes, he says, people romanticize the classroom experience and overstate the effectiveness of the chalk-and-talk format. When professors give monologues to a room of 120 students, few actually interact with the sage on the stage.

So far, data are proving him right. In his experiment with the edX circuits class, 91 percent of the students who watched the lecture videos from MIT passed, while only 55 percent and 59 percent passed in the two traditional sections offered as control groups.

The president compares higher education today to the railroad industry in the 1940s and 50s: Companies that stubbornly clung to the view that they were in the railroad business failed, while those that diversified, considering their mission as transportation in whatever form, thrived.

“How can we really help our students be successful?” he asks. “How can we be this cradle of creativity and an intellectual center of new ideas and new knowledge?”

“We are a learning enterprise,” he says. And he’s willing to abandon the old rails of traditional instruction.

Mr. Qayoumi, 60, grew up in Afghanistan and trained as an engineer at the American University of Beirut. He did his doctoral thesis at the University of Cincinnati on how to rethink electrical systems to make them more efficient.

He worked in industry for several years—as an engineer in the Middle East—which he credits for giving him his business-minded approach to college leadership.

In the mid-80s he became associate vice president for administration at San Jose State, and held administrative positions at two other California institutions before becoming president of California State University-East Bay, in 2006. He took over the top job at San Jose State two years ago.

He has also played a role in the rebuilding of his homeland, serving as senior adviser to the minister of finance of Afghanistan, from 2002 to 2005, and as a board member of the Central Bank of Afghanistan, from 2003 to 2006.

His reports and his experiments with MOOCs have recently brought him into the national spotlight. He has presented his ideas to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, and Gov. Jerry Brown of California has taken an interest in his projects.

Mr. Qayoumi often talks as if he’s running a start-up technology company rather than a state university. “We would like to move as fast as we can,” he says of his plans. “We want to fail fast, learn from it, and move on.”

What would he say to someone who worries that too much fast failing could undo his esteemed university?

“I don’t see them as radical,” he says of his projects. “It’s not that we’re changing the entire university.”

But he does feel a sense of urgency for his reforms. “Isn’t it about time that something should change?” he asks. “From the day that chalk and a blackboard were invented, how much change has really been made? We need to move far faster than what we have been comfortable” with up to now, he says.


SJSU Expands edX Collaboration

Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom joined SJSU President Mohammad Qayoumi and edX President Anant Agarwal at a news conference on April 10 at King Library announcing a major expansion to the collaboration between SJSU and edX, the not-for-profit online learning enterprise founded by Harvard and MIT. SJSU and edX will establish a Center for Excellence in Adaptive and Blended Learning at SJSU, grow to serve up to 11 more California State University campuses, and add up to five more edX courses. The event featured a panel discussion with SJSU Lecturer Khosrow Ghadiri, student Sara Compton, Newsom, Qayoumi and Agarwal. Professor of Electrical Engineering Ping Hsu served as moderator.

“It’s not the tyranny of OR. It’s the genius of AND,” Newsom said, comparing conventional classes with the “flipped” approach developed by SJSU and edX.

The SJSU-edX collaboration began in fall 2012, when Ghadiri assigned the MITx 6.002x Circuits and Electronics online materials as homework for his EE98 Introduction to Circuits Analysis course.

“When I’m studying for a midterm and there’s one thing I don’t quite understand, I can’t go back to that lecture in a traditional class, but with this class, I can go back and play it again,” Compton said, explaining how she benefits from viewing MITx lecture sequences online.

Classtime was devoted to discussion and group work. Early indicators have been remarkably positive. View the news conference video.

Edx Classroom

SJSU/EdX Adds More Campuses, Courses

SJSU/EdX Expansion

During SJSU’s fall 2012 EE98 Introduction to Circuits Analysis course, SJSU Lecturer Khosrow Ghadiri used the MITx 6.002x Circuits and Electronics materials on the edX platform. (Christina Olivas photo)

SJSU will open a Center for Excellence in Adaptive and Blended Learning. The expanded collaboration follows a successful pilot that increased pass rates.

Pat Lopes Harris, SJSU media relations, 408-656-6999
Dan O’Connell, edX media relations, 617-480-6585

SAN JOSE, CALIF. – Thousands more California State University students will benefit from a major expansion to the collaboration between San Jose State University and edX, the not-for-profit online learning enterprise founded by Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). SJSU and edX detailed this announcement at a news conference April 10. View the video.

An online engineering course in circuits and electronics — created by MIT as an MITx course for the edX platform and offered to San Jose State students for the first time last fall — will be made available to as many as 11 other CSU campuses. The expansion will benefit thousands of students from nearly half of Cal State’s 23 campuses.

San Jose State will concurrently establish a Center for Excellence in Adaptive and Blended Learning to train faculty members from other campuses interested in offering the engineering course and other blended online courses in the future.

“San Jose State University is thrilled to have the opportunity to grow its groundbreaking collaboration with edX,” President Mohammad Qayoumi said. “As the public university serving Silicon Valley, San Jose State is the perfect place for a center for excellence in online education. We look forward to helping other California State University campuses make available to thousands of students the innovative, blended approach to learning developed by SJSU and edX.”

Once trained at San Jose State, faculty members from other CSU campuses will be equipped to incorporate the MITx 6.002x Circuits and Electronics course offered on the edX platform into their own blended classroom settings. This means students from participating CSU campuses will have access to the rigorous curricular materials — readings, video and interactive exercises — wherever they study, and then meet in class for in-depth discussions and group work facilitated by local professors.

The agreement also sets the stage for the SJSU-edX collaboration to expand well beyond engineering to the sciences, humanities, business and social sciences. SJSU will pilot additional courses from several edX universities including Harvard, MIT and the University of California, Berkeley.

Building on Success

During SJSU’s fall 2012 EE98 Introduction to Circuits Analysis course, SJSU Lecturer Khosrow Ghadiri used the MITx 6.002x Circuits and Electronics materials on the edX platform. His class, comprised of 87 students, viewed the MITx video lectures and completed MITx problem sets outside of class. During class, Ghadiri facilitated 15 minutes of questions and answers, and then devoted the remainder of the class to peer and team instruction and problem solving using materials developed by SJSU faculty members. Early indicators have been remarkably positive. Although the numbers of students were small and classes differed on many factors, the pass rate in the blended class was 91 percent, and the pass rates in the conventional classes were as low as 55 percent.

This spring, SJSU is repeating the experiment with a second section of the same size, refining an approach that could one day be applied not just to engineering, but to students in all STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields.

“One of the founding principles of edX is to use the power of technology and online learning to improve on-campus education and to innovate in higher education,” said Anant Agarwal, president of edX. “Our collaboration with San Jose State University is a strong example of how well-designed blended learning can engage students and substantially improve learning outcomes. We’re excited to expand our model throughout the California State University system and continue to broaden access to a world-class education.”

New Center for Excellence

At the core of these innovations are faculty members trying new ways to infuse technology into teaching and learning. To support faculty members as they embark on this trailblazing work, SJSU will establish a Center for Excellence in Adaptive and Blended Learning.

The center will open this summer with a focus on the MITx circuits and electronics course. Initially, the center will serve faculty members at the 11 participating CSU campuses. Over time, the center could grow to serve all of the nearly 22,000 faculty members and more than 426,000 students of the CSU system.

Under the leadership of SJSU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Ellen Junn, the center could also expand to serve other public and private colleges and universities worldwide.

Unbounded Teaching and Learning

The expansion of SJSU’s collaboration with edX is part of a campaign led by President Qayoumi, who argues that educational institutions urgently need new approaches to teaching and assessing learning that are personalized, collaborative, engaging and relate to real-world, 21st-century problems. Join the conversation at Unbounded: Teaching and learning without limits.

“San Jose State’s online initiatives are about far more than a single subject, technique or campus,” Qayoumi said. “Our work is about trying many new approaches, identifying what works and pushing forward a national conversation on effective ways to infuse the opportunities offered by technology into the way we teach and learn.”

About San Jose State University

San Jose State — Silicon Valley’s largest institution of higher learning with 30,500 students and 3,850 employees — is part of the California State University system. SJSU’s 154-acre downtown campus anchors the nation’s 10th largest city.

About edX

EdX is a not-for-profit enterprise of its founding partners Harvard University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology focused on transforming online and on-campus learning through groundbreaking methodologies, game-like experiences and cutting-edge research. EdX provides inspirational and transformative knowledge to students of all ages, social status, and income who form worldwide communities of learners. EdX uses its open source technology to transcend physical and social borders. We’re focused on people, not profit. EdX is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts in the USA.