SJSU Senior Hannah Bittar Earns 2021 CSU Trustee Award for Outstanding Achievement

SJSU senior and CSU Trustee Award Winner Hannah Bittar, '22 biology

SJSU senior Hannah Bittar is a student leader and nonprofit co-founder, who is galvanized to achieve her higher education goals while helping lift up others.

Last month, San José State University’s Hannah Bittar, ’22 Biology, was awarded California State University’s (CSU) 2021 Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement — the CSU’s highest accolade for student achievement.

Bittar, who is pre-med and studying molecular biology, is among 23 honorees recognized, one from each CSU campus. Each awardee — many of them first-generation college students — also receives a donor-funded scholarship* with their award.

“These 23 scholars wonderfully exemplify the ideals of the California State University,” said CSU Chancellor Joseph I. Castro. “Every year, and especially this year, our Trustees’ Award honorees demonstrate resilience, tenacity and resolve — together with a keen intellect — while making an indelible, positive impact on their families and their communities. They are truly an
inspiration.”

Upon graduating from high school, Bittar faced multiple personal challenges that nearly derailed her goal of attending college. But once she arrived at SJSU, she thrived, balancing work and school, and finding inspiration in giving back to others.

Her passion for making connections with her community, however, started well before she came to San José State. When she was just 17, Bittar co-founded her own nonprofit organization, J&H New Beginnings, which creates care packages and distributes them to residentially challenged people in her community. She also volunteers with a crisis helpline and at Stanford Medicine Valley Care Hospital.

So, what does Bittar say about receiving this recognition and what fuels her?

Hannah Bittar (HB): Receiving the 2021 Trustees’ Award means that all my hard work is paying off and being recognized, that all the obstacles and hardships I encountered and overcame were worth it and are finally paying off. And I am able to continue persevering and working toward my education and goals.

Besides this award, what are some of the major accomplishments you had at SJSU?

HB: Some of the major milestones I have had at SJSU include my recent Supplemental Instruction (SI) Leader job at SJSU’s Peer Connections. This is a big accomplishment for me because, for a couple of years now, I had been on the lookout for a tutoring job or something similar. Now that I have been an SI Leader for a full semester, I can proudly say that I have learned so many valuable lessons and formed numerous amazing connections.

What are the most valuable lessons have you learned from your experience at SJSU?

HB: Some of the most valuable lessons I have learned from my experience at SJSU revolve around teamwork, networking and friendships. A lot of my SI Leader job revolves around teamwork; hosting sessions for my students requires a lot of planning on my end as well as meeting with my peer leaders and supervisors to compare work and ask questions. I also learned the importance of networking and forming friendships, which greatly contribute to my overall happiness and balance in my personal and professional life.

What has the experience of co-founding your nonprofit been like?

HB: It has been a lovely experience giving back to those in need within my community and neighboring communities. Being a founder of this organization has reinforced the incredible value of humanitarian work for me. I cannot put into words how fulfilling it feels to assemble care packages and distribute them to people in need; it is definitely one of my favorite experiences of my life.

What are your career goals and next steps after graduation?

HB: I recently took my MCAT exam. My next step consists of applying to medical school this upcoming spring, which makes me excited and nervous! My ultimate goal is to get accepted into a California medical school and, four years later, get accepted into my dream residency. I would love to specialize in dermatology or obstetrics/gynecology. I’m looking forward to the journey!

How has being a student at San José State transformed your life?

HB: I have gained insight with so many programs, clubs and internships. Additionally, I have met and formed so many valuable connections with fellow students in my classes and in the Peer Connections department. I would not have the friends, connections and opportunities I currently have if it weren’t for SJSU!

 

*The award and scholarships are made possible by founding leaders from the William Randolph Hearst Foundation and Trustee Emeritus Ali C. Raz; in partnership with CSU Trustees, CSU Foundation board members and private donors.

SJSU Honors Its History of Social Justice and Activism With Expanded, Campus-Wide “Legacy Month”

October’s celebratory, educational events build off Associated Students’ tradition.

October is always a busy month at San José State University with Homecoming activities, the start of midterms, and a variety of events and activities taking place around campus. One of the most significant recurring themes throughout October at SJSU is Legacy Month, which promises to have an even more prominent role than years’ past, especially as the university continues to repopulate and resume more in-person events.

Faculty, Associated Students and CCCAC plant the seeds

Legacy Month has traditionally centered on celebrated SJSU alumni and 1968 Olympic track-and-field medalists John Carlos and Tommie Smith, and the global impact they have had on social justice and human rights. A small group of faculty and students made sure years ago that the legacy of Carlos and Smith would never be forgotten.

Professor Scott Myers-Lipton of SJSU’s Department of Sociology and Interdisciplinary Social Sciences conceived and led the years-long campaign to commemorate the Smith/Carlos legacy. On October 16, 2006 — the first anniversary of the unveiling of the statues — Myers-Lipton and several colleagues, including those from the African American Studies department and Ben Henderson from Associated Students, held a small event to commemorate the day Smith and Carlos raised their fists for justice in Mexico City.

SJSU’s Associated Students, along with key faculty members and staff, created Legacy Week (later, Legacy Month) as a way to honor and remember the social activism of Spartans from previous eras. Photo: Christina Olivas, San Jose State University

The following year, Professor Myers-Lipton asked the César Chávez Community Action Center (CCCAC) to become actively involved in the Smith/Carlos event, which they agreed to do. In the following years, the CCCAC took the lead in broadening the October 16 event to what came to be known as Legacy Week and, later, Legacy Month.

In recent years, Legacy Month events have placed raising awareness of Carlos and Smith’s historic stance atop the medal stand and their struggle for human rights to the forefront. CCCAC’s efforts are also designed to cultivate the next generation of social justice advocates at SJSU. Due to these efforts, the likeness of the two Spartan legends will forever be depicted and remembered by the iconic statue displayed on Tower Lawn.

“As an alumna of SJSU and part of the founding cohort of the CCCAC, I had the honor in 2008 to assist with the coordination of the inaugural Legacy Week at SJSU,” said Diana Victa, who now serves as department manager for the CCCAC.

“What started as a makeshift event in front of the statues now promises to not only deeply honor Smith and Carlos but also our rich history of student activism advocating for racial and social justice. I am proud and excited to see that the university has taken recognition of the power of Legacy Month by broadening it into something even greater for our community.”

Continuing, growing the tradition

Now, as campus efforts to address systemic racism have emerged as an ongoing priority, Legacy Month is growing in hopes of engaging even more members of the campus community. Jahmal Williams, Director of Advocacy for Racial Justice in the Office of the President’s Community & Government Relations group, said the month-long effort offers a variety of ways for students and others to gain an understanding of and an appreciation for the racial struggles that will always be a part of SJSU’s history.

(L-R) Tommie Smith, Dr. Harry Edwards and John Carlos pose for a photo on Oct. 17, 2018, in front of the statue on the SJSU campus that honors their iconic, black-gloved protest at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of that historic event. Photo: Josie Lepe/San Jose State University

“Fighting for racial and social justice is in the fabric of our campus,” said Williams. “Tommie Smith, John Carlos, Harry Edwards, the entire Olympic Project for Human Rights and so many others stand as icons in history. Their efforts should not only be studied, but celebrated and reflected upon by every student, faculty and staff member who grace our campus. We owe it to our pioneers for justice and to our community to embed this work into our university and the lives of those who will always be part of it.”

In addition to the events around October’s Legacy Month — which include a two-day conference spearheaded by SJSU’s Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change — a new symposium is planned for mid-November titled Transforming Communities: A Movement To Racial Justice. The event, which Williams hopes will become an annual tradition, is a joint effort between SJSU and local government, non-profits, organizations, schools and businesses with an end goal of creating a racially just and equitable city, county and region. An array of presentations, lectures, workshops and keynote speakers are expected.

Here are some of the ways San José State will celebrate Legacy Month this October and honor those Spartan alumni who have paved the way for future generations with their activism and commitment to human rights:

Legacy Month Kickoff

Monday, October 4  |  Noon
7th Street Plaza

Honor the rich history of student activism of SJSU. Stop by the CCCAC table to receive a free t-shirt.


Legacy Month Speaker: Leah Thomas

Wednesday, October 6  |  7 – 8:30 p.m.
Zoom Registration – Leah Thomas

Leah Thomas is an environmentalist, passionate about advocating for and exploring the relationship between social justice and environmentalism. She is the founder of eco-lifestyle blog @greengirlleah, @thegreensgirlco and The Intersectional Environmentalist Platform.


Press Conference: Racial & Social Justice at SJSU

Tuesday, October 19  |  11 a.m.
Smith and Carlos Statues

Hear the announcement of the release of the booklet “Racial and Social Justice at SJSU,” which documents 10 actions taken by SJSU students, including the actions by Tommie and John, to build Dr. King’s Beloved Community.


Continuing the Legacy of Tommie Smith and John Carlos

Tuesday, October 19  |  Noon – 1:30 p.m.
Smith and Carlos Statues

Join the SJSU campus community to reflect on the significance of Tommie Smith and John Carlos’s historic action 53 years ago in Mexico City, and its relevance to today’s struggle for racial and social justice.


Ableism in Social Justice Spaces

Spartan Legacy Training Academy

Tuesday, October 19  |  1 – 2 p.m.
Zoom RSVP – Ableism

As activists and advocates, we are often so busy organizing we forget to take the time to look at what our spaces look like and who we design them for. Learn more about what we can do in our own spaces to combat ableism.


Smith/Carlos “Teach-In”

Tuesday, October 19
Wednesday, October 20

SJSU faculty are encouraged to register and select from a variety of related topics to engage students on the university’s legacy of activism or to choose their own! These informal discussions or lectures on issues related to SJSU’s legacy of social justice and activism are designed to inspire and engage.


Legacy Month Movie Night: With Drawn Arms

Wednesday, October 20  |  6:30 p.m.
Tower Lawn

Enjoy a night on the lawn as you learn the story of the ’68 Olympic Games protest firsthand. Tommie Smith takes you through a journey of his experience that helped define a movement and changed the course of his life forever. Bring your friends and your favorite blankets.


It is Time: Voice of Athlete Activism

Thursday – Friday, October 21 – 22  |  9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
More information and RSVP – It is Time

Join the Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change for a two-day virtual conference to learn about the history and legacy of athlete activism at SJSU and beyond, including keynote panels, change agent organizations and educational teachings with ISSSSC’s Words to Action workshops.


SJSU Legacy Run – A Celebration of our Community

Also part of Hispanic Heritage Month

Saturday, October 30  |  9 – 11 a.m.

Starting and ending at the Smith/Carlos statues on Tower Lawn, this new fun run will circle the perimeter of the university, highlighting SJSU’s roots and heritage in activism. A number of running groups from San José and the Bay Area will join SJSU’s Track and Field and Cross Country teams, and students, faculty, staff, alumni and members of the community are all invited to register and participate.

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.

 

SJSU Hosts “The Burn and Beyond: Wildfires, Drought and Environmental Justice” Webinar

San José State University brings together experts from academia, government and industry to discuss critical issues facing California today — wildfires and drought, and how they disproportionately impact historically disadvantaged communities.

On September 16, SJSU will host “The Burn and Beyond: Wildfires, Drought, and Environmental Justice” virtual webinar to address the problems and potential solutions from 2 to 3:15 p.m.

Register here

San José State University President Mary A. Papazian will moderate the discussion.

“Often, it seems as though some of our communities do not receive the attention and care that other communities enjoy and take for granted during environmental crises,” said Papazian. “Given the events that have unfolded nationally these past two years related to systemic racism and the disparities in how people are treated by our institutions, this event could not be more timely or urgent.”

U.S. Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren, Santa Clara Valley Water District CEO and Vice President of the California NAACP Rick Callender, and SJSU Associate Professor and Director of the Human Rights Institute William Armaline will participate in the discussion.

“Cycles of drought and wildfire are worsening in California and neighboring regions in no small part due to climate change, threatening the survival of our precious communities and delicate ecosystems,” said Professor Armaline.

“Such threats are also challenging to human rights and the ability for Californians to enjoy the fundamental security and human dignity that everyone deserves. We at the SJSU HRI are ecstatic to join our colleagues and local public agencies to investigate the problems and potential solutions to these incredible social and ecological challenges.”

SJSU’s Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center (WIRC) is on the cutting edge of wildfire research in California.

Learn more about SJSU’s research and work related to wildfires:

SJSU Establishes the Nation’s Largest Interdisciplinary Research Center in the Read about San José State’s Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center

Wildfire Interdisciplinary Research Center at SJSU

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.”

SJSU Alumnus Marcio Sanchez Wins Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography

Marcio Sanchez

Marcio Sanchez, ’07 Photojournalism, is one of the winners of the 2021 Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography. Photo courtesy of Marcio Sanchez.

Associated Press Staff Photographer Marcio Sanchez, ’07 Photojournalism, became the first Honduran-born journalist to win a Pulitzer Prize for Breaking News Photography this year. This is the 12th Pulitzer won or shared by a Spartan Daily alumnus and the sixth received since 2000.

The Pulitzer Prize is the gold standard of journalism awards — it represents the best work in the industry, and every writer, editor and photographer in the business aspires to meet that standard,” said Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications Richard Craig.

“For Marcio, it’s validation for years of great work; wire service photographers’ photos are shared far and wide, but they seldom get the recognition they deserve. It’s a level of status that few who work outside the elite news organizations achieve, and we couldn’t be more proud of him.” 

Sanchez was a member of the AP team assigned to cover July 2020 Black Lives Matter protests in Portland, Oregon, in response to the murder of George Floyd. At the time, President Donald Trump had sent federal agents to Portland until, as he described, city officials “secured their city.” 

What Sanchez saw was more like mayhem: molotov cocktails, commercial-grade fireworks and canned beans thrown over the concrete fence that separated protesters from the Mark O. Hatfield United States Courthouse, and federal agents were spraying rubber bullets and chemical irritants. At one point, he was pepper-sprayed in the face.

It was in the aftermath of this scene that he took his award-winning image. It features a bald woman in a gas mask, glasses, tank top, jeans and sandals propped against the concrete fence. There is a cloud of what looks like tear gas in the air and a poster that reads “Black Lives Matter” above her head.

“I was aware of the responsibility that I had,” Sanchez said, adding that the AP was one of the only news outlets allowed to access the federal building that day. “We were the only group that was able to tell the story from both sides.”

From Spartan Daily to the Associated Press

An alumnus of Spartan Daily, Sanchez got his start photographing the 1992 Rodney King protests in Los Angeles and San Jose. 

Not long after leaving SJSU, Sanchez accepted his first full-time job as a photographer for the Kansas City Star, where he stayed for seven years. Throughout his career, his work has been published in The New York Times, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, Newsweek and National Geographic. In 2002, he became a staff photographer for the Associated Press.

In addition to Black Lives Matter protests, Sanchez has covered wildlife preservation in Africa, Hurricane Mitch in Honduras, baseball in the Dominican Republic, the Super Bowl in the United States, the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and the 2010 FIFA World Cup in South Africa.

The accolade echoes a great run of success for the Spartan Daily in intercollegiate competitions, said Craig. The student newspaper has won two national competitions as Best College Newspaper in the past year and a half and was named Best Newspaper in California in two major statewide contests. The Daily has also won more than 70 statewide awards and over  25 national awards since 2016. 

“The Pulitzer Prize is beyond my wildest dreams,” Sanchez said. “We are at the forefront of history as photographers. I don’t do this for awards; my main satisfaction comes from informing the public.

“When you think about people who have won the prize, it’s John F. Kennedy, Mark Twain, Ernest Hemingway, and, now, little old me. This is the company we’re in, alongside the greatest journalists in history.”

Read the story of Sanchez’s career-launching photography at SJSU.

 

SJSU Civic Action Fellowship Recognized By California’s Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday

California’s Chief Service Officer Josh Fryday

Photo: James Gensheimer

The fellowship serves as a model for Governor Newsom’s proposed new #CaliforniansForAll College Service Program.

Josh Fryday, chief service officer for the state of California and head of the California Volunteers program within the Office of the Governor, visited San José State on May 28 to meet with a small group of SJSU’s Civic Action Fellows. The student-fellows are part of the university’s inaugural cohort of the Civic Action Fellowship, a national service partnership between the California Volunteers, AmeriCorps and a coalition of public and private universities.

Last year, San José State’s Center for Community Learning and Leadership (CCLL) was awarded more than $500,000 in grant funding to launch and implement the inaugural program, which helps 44 students pay for college while providing local after-school programs with STEM education and computer programming for underserved third- and sixth-grade youth.

Unfortunately, university restrictions and school closings during the COVID-19 pandemic required program leadership to quickly pivot their programming completely from in-person to virtual.

“In response, current Civic Action Fellows created unplugged project kits that they used to teach core concepts related to computer science and programming,” said Andrea Tully, CCLL’s assistant director and program director and co-primary investigator of the Civic Action Fellowship.

The original, handmade kits contained everything the young students needed to complete the activities on their own and offline. Fellows supplemented their weekly lessons using digital platforms “to collaborate with the youth to create and debug games using the Scratch programming language,” Tully added.

Despite the odds of reimagining programming practically overnight, the outcomes of the first Civic Action Fellowship at San José State were remarkable, particularly in how effective the students were at engaging the youth with fun, educational activities — and much needed one-on-one connection.

Outside of their families, the fellows were often the only social interaction many of the children had with other adults during the pandemic.

“The fellows worked as a team to adapt to learning and serving while sheltering in place, fostering what will likely be lifelong friendships with their peers and a sense of pride being a member of the SJSU Civic Action Fellowship during unprecedented times,” said Tully.

Fryday’s visit was an immense honor for SJSU; he and other staff members at California Volunteers are thrilled with the results of the CCLL’s work with the C.A. Fellowship program, which has been awarded a second year of funding for 2021.

“Higher education and public service is a natural partnership, and the program at San José State University is a model program for the entire state. The Civic Action Fellowship supports commitment to public service, and addresses challenges all Californians face — particularly in historically underserved communities,” said Fryday.

“Calling on young people to serve their communities is an investment in the future of California. Helping those students pay for college and find meaningful employment upon graduation will ensure its continued success in bettering their lives, and the lives of those around them,” he continued.

San José State’s C.A. fellowship has a nearly 100 percent retention rate. As they recruit for the upcoming academic year, nearly half of the original fellows have already applied for the second cohort, which speaks volumes about the experience it offers both fellows and its young participants.

Four Civic Action Fellows speak with Josh Fryday

(L-R) Kelli Sexton, Chris Padua and Ian Chavez, Josh Fryday, and Cielo Pano Photo: James Gensheimer

Cielo Pano, ’24 Applied Nutrition and Sciences, said being a Civic Action Fellow helped her develop essential skills that benefit her as both a student and a mentor. “I’m now a more resilient and goal-oriented person with better time management skills”

“The opportunity to meet the current Chief Service Officer of California helped us appreciate the roots of our efforts and involvement in the fellowship — and why our time and service in the program is important,” she added.

“Being a fellow during the pandemic was quite intensive, but providing entertainment and information for youth during this once in a century epidemic was really impactful,” said Ian Chavez, ’23 Computer Science. “It helps you realize how much small actions can influence the world.”

Chavez also appreciated Fryday’s visit to SJSU. “Meeting Mr. Fryday meant a lot,” he said. “I always felt that my work in the fellowship was important, but having such a prominent figure sit down and talk with us about the program was a great experience.”

Christopher Padua,’23 Forensic Science, also greatly appreciated the opportunity to meet Fryday and share his thoughts on the experience. One of the things Padua told him was: “Without this program, these young kids with so much potential may not have otherwise been introduced to these computer skills or learn that they could even do coding at all.”

Setting an example for others to thrive

The Civic Action Fellowship pilot program set a concrete example for California Governor Gavin Newsom’s proposed #CaliforniansForAll College Service Program, which, similar to the C.A. Fellowship, will help eliminate financial hardship of college for students in need.

The Governor’s May budget revision includes $285.2 million in one-time funds to establish the program in collaboration with the University of California, California State University, California Community Colleges, and private California university systems.

“The #CaliforniansForAll College Program is a historic proposed investment in service from Governor Gavin Newsom. It will create debt-free college pathways for low-income students, tackle our greatest challenges, inspire a new generation to serve, and unite our communities,” said Fryday.

According to the budget summary, the #CaliforniansForAll program creates 12,500 part-time service opportunities for college students interested in addressing urgent matters related to education, healthcare, and climate and disaster response, among others. It offers both a stipend and scholarship for eligible participants.

“This program will help California’s communities tackle critical issues focused on climate action, tutoring and mentoring, and other critical areas of COVID-19 recovery, like food insecurity,” Fryday added.

San José State’s Civic Action Fellows’ specific service efforts are developed collaboratively with partners, which include Title 1 after school programs within Campbell Union School District (CUSD) Expanded Learning Programs, Sunday Friends, and Third Street Community Center, and are responsive to community needs. Thus, the experience results in meaningful progress toward achieving shared goals within the community.

“The Civic Action Fellowship truly enacts SJSU’s commitment to integrating service to the community with academic learning experiences,” said Elena Klaw, psychology professor, CCLL director and primary investigator of the Civic Action Fellowship.

“We are proud of the service that Fellows have provided toward advancing equity in STEM, providing public health education, and learning and growing as students and emerging leaders.”

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.

 

Spartan Gold Standard: Remembering Lee Evans (1947-2021)

Above: Watch NBC’s TODAY segment “A Life Well Lived” on Lee Evans that aired Sunday, May 23, 2021.

Editor’s Note: This story originally ran on the SJSU Athletics website.

Best known as a 1968 two-time Mexico City Olympic Games track and field champion, Lee Evans, ’70 Physical Education (1947-2021) died at age 74 in Nigeria.

At 21 years old, the Madera, Calif., native was a pillar of San José State’s world-renowned brand known as “Speed City.” As a slender 158-pound college student by his own admission, he won gold medals in the men’s 400 meters and the men’s 4×400 meter relay at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games in world and Olympic Games record-setting times. Mr. Evans is the university’s first and only two-time Olympic Games gold medal winner.

Lee Evans was the first person to run 400 meters under 44.0 seconds with his winning time of 43.86. And, Mr. Evans ran the anchor leg of the victorious USA 4×400 relay team that crossed the finish line with a clocking of 2:56.16. The gold-medal winning 400-meter time remained a world record until 1988 and the 4×400 relay world mark stood until 1992.

Lee Evans with coach Bud Winter

Lee Evans (right) with coach Lloyd (Bud) Winter. Courtesy: SJSU Athletics

The winning performances were in the shadow of controversy. Evans had considered withdrawing from Olympic competition following San José State and USA teammates Tommie Smith and John Carlos were expelled from the Olympic Village. After Smith won the men’s 200-meter dash with Carlos finishing third, both athletes raised a clenched fist in the air during the victory stand ceremony. Approaching the victory stand following his 400-meter victory, Mr. Evans, silver medalist Larry James and bronze medalist Ron Freeman wore black berets as their sign of support for the Olympic Project for Human Rights.

For his gold medal-winning performances, he was named Track & Field News’ U.S. College Athlete of the Year. From 1966 through 1968 and again in 1970, he was ranked #1 in the world in the 400 meters by Track & Field News. Mr. Evans also was ranked in the top-10 in the 400 by Track and Field News in 1969 (second), 1971 (ninth) and 1972 (third).

The 1970 San José State graduate was captain of the Spartans’ 1969 team that won the NCAA Division I Men’s Outdoor Track and Field championship in Knoxville, Tenn. While at San José State, Mr. Evans also was a member of the Spartans’ 1967 world-record-setting 880-yard relay team that included Tommie Smith, Ken Shackelford and Bob Talmadge.

Editor’s Note: Watch SJSU’s profile of the SJSU Speed City legacy

“Social Justice Advocate”

His track and field notoriety runs parallel to his humanitarian contributions in the United States and, particularly, in the African continent.

According to Dr. Harry Edwards, the founder of the Olympic Project for Human Rights and San José State graduate, “Lee Evans was one of the greatest athletes and social justice advocates in an era that produced a generation of such courageous, committed, and contributing athlete-activists.

“He was an originating founder and advocate of the Olympic Project for Human Rights and what evolved in the late 1960’s into an all-out revolt among Black athletes over issues of injustice and inequality both within and beyond the sports arena. In no small measure, today’s athletes can stand taller, see farther and more clearly, and reach higher in pursuit of achievement and change in both sport and society because they stand on the shoulders of GIANTS such as Lee Evans.”

From left to right: Ken Noel, Tommie Smith, Lee Evans, Harry Edwards, San José State student body president James Edwards.

1967 – The Olympic Project for Human Rights first/organizing meeting. From left to right: Ken Noel, Tommie Smith, Lee Evans, Harry Edwards, San José State student body president James Edwards. Courtesy: Dr. Harry Edwards

Mr. Evans shared his knowledge and experiences in track and field with interested parties of all ages domestically and internationally.  There were college coaching appointments at San José State, the University of Washington, and the University of South Alabama.

He served as the director of athletics for Special Olympics International from 1988 to 1990. Evans provided technical assistance to Special Olympics programs in the United States, its territories and 90 countries around the world.

The United States Information Service (U.S.I.S.) agency appointed Mr. Evans as a track and field clinician for Sports America as a leader of coaching clinics throughout the world, particularly, in developing countries.

Editor’s Note: Read the 2018 Washington Square feature on Lee Evans

The Humanitarian – Nelson Mandela Award Recipient

A Fulbright Scholar, Mr. Evans spent much of his post-competitive life on the African continent as a track and field coach and a humanitarian. He was a professor of biomechanics at the Cameroon National Institute of Youth and Sports and an associate professor of physical education at the University of Ife in Nigeria.

Mr. Evans coached the national track and field teams of Qatar, Cameroon and Nigeria.

In 1991, he was a recipient of a Nelson Mandela Award given to those who “…stood for the values of equality and friendship and respect of human rights, against apartheid and any form of racism.” In the 1980’s, Mr. Evans was focused on the Madagascar Project which included providing a fresh water supply, power, and electricity; creating economic self-sufficiency through profitable cash crop farming; improving the transportation system; and access to medical care.

Lee Evans in 2016

Lee Evans at a Hall of Fame banquet in 2016. Evans won two gold medals at the 1968 Olympics. Courtesy: SJSU Athletics

More Honors

A member of the San José State Hall of Fame, he also is enshrined in the United States Olympic Hall of Fame, U.S.A. Track and Field Hall of Fame, the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame, the city of San Jose Sports Hall of Fame, and the African American Athletes Hall of Fame. Mr. Evans also was a 1994 recipient of a NCAA Silver Anniversary Award honoring exceptional student-athletes for their life’s work 25 years after completing a college career.

“The first time I walked into the old gym at SJSU as an undergraduate, I learned of the legend of Lee Evans,” said Marcos Breton (Class of 1986, journalism) and a Sacramento Bee columnist. “The records of Mr. Evans were emblazoned on the wall along with Tommie Smith, John Carlos and other world class sprinters and Olympic champions who were Spartans. His Olympic gold medal will always be a source of pride for all Spartans. I’m honored to have met a kind and truly humble man and like many, I’ll never forget the grace with which Lee Evans represented his country and our university.”

Two SJSU Students Win at CSU-Wide Research Competitions

Lupe Franco and Muhammad Khan

(From L-R): Lupe Franco, ’21 MS Environmental Studies, received the Audience Choice Award at the CSU Grad Slam. Muhammad Khan, ’22 Biological Sciences, won first place in the Biological and Agricultural Sciences Undergraduate category at the 35th Annual CSU Student Research Competition.

Turning months — even years — of in-depth research into a concise, engaging presentation isn’t easy. Yet two San José State students were triumphant at two recent California State University system-wide competitions that required them to do just that.

Lupe Franco, ‘21 MS Environmental Studies, received the Audience Choice Award at the first-ever CSU Grad Slam on May 6, which was hosted by San José State.

Her research analyzed how California cities and counties are considering homeless populations in their plans to address the effects of climate change. Franco placed first in the SJSU Grad Slam, held April 29 during the university’s annual Celebration of Research event.

Muhammad Khan, ‘22 Biological Sciences, earned first place in the Biological and Agricultural Sciences Undergraduate category at the 35th Annual CSU Student Research Competition — hosted by Cal Poly Pomona on April 30 and May 1. Khan presented his research on population control of a mosquito known for spreading diseases such as Zika, Dengue fever and yellow fever.

In the CSU Grad Slam competition, graduate students condensed the theses of their research projects into three-minute presentations to be understandable by a lay audience. Prizes are awarded based on the success of their presentation, and the Audience Choice Award is selected live by the attendees of the event.

At the CSU Student Research Competition, both graduate and undergraduate students present their research through pre-recorded videos followed by a live Q&A with a jury and an audience. The event is held to recognize outstanding accomplishments from students throughout the CSU system.

Giving a voice to a vulnerable population

In her presentation (shown here at the SJSU Grad Slam), Franco included a painting by student artist Gina Geissinger of Greg Tarola, a homeless man who died on the streets of Sacramento.

Franco began her presentation with the story of Greg Tarola, a homeless man who was found dead on the Sacramento streets in November. It was 37 degrees Fahrenheit the morning he was found, and his blankets were wet from the previous night’s rain.

What’s more, Tarola had told CapRadio News just days before that he had never heard of warming stations in Sacramento.

“This is the reality for over 150,000 Californians who are experiencing houselessness, of which 68 percent are considered unsheltered,” Franco said in her presentation.

“This danger is only going to increase as climate change brings California more frequent and intense weather events, such as heat waves and floodings.”

Franco analyzed 15 climate action plans from cities and counties in California with the largest unhoused populations to understand how they were considering that demographic in their strategies to address climate change.

Her findings? No jurisdictions had met with unhoused populations before developing their plans.

“This is what researchers call the power of representation dilemma, meaning that as outsiders, planners can only make assumptions of what the community faces, which leads to the development of strategies that do not accurately reflect what the local needs are,” she explained.

Franco’s research provided an analysis of the 15 plans, and she provided a list of recommendations that the cities and counties can consider as they continue to update their plans, such as “requiring planners to have on-the-ground training with local organizations in their jurisdictions, so they can learn about important street-level issues.”

Costanza Rampini, assistant professor of environmental studies and Franco’s thesis advisor, said that Franco is tackling issues most people see as completely separate.

“Her work speaks to people’s desire for better solutions, for better systems, for better communities,” she said. “Lupe is a fantastic researcher and asks all the right questions.”

Marc d’Alarcao, dean of the College of Graduate Studies, agreed.

“Lupe effectively engaged the audience by presenting her work through the lens of the tragic story of an unhoused man in Sacramento who suffered because the policies that could have helped him were not designed with his circumstances in mind,” he said.

Franco plans to continue her research and interview unhoused individuals to better understand their needs as she pursues a PhD in geography from UC Davis. She’s hopeful her research can make an impact on local communities.

“With these findings and recommendations, my research can spark the initial conversation about creating equitable and just strategies that give unhoused individuals a voice and access to critical resources,” she noted. “This is what Greg Tarola deserved.”

Watch the full CSU Grad Slam event, including Franco’s presentation, here.

A new approach to mitigating disease spread

Muhammad Khan research presentation

Khan’s research explores population control of the Aedes aegypti mosquito through mutagenesis and recombinant expression.

Khan researched mutagenesis and recombinant expression in the Aedes aegypti mosquito — known for spreading potentially lethal diseases like Zika, Dengue fever, yellow fever and chikungunya — in hopes of providing a safe, new approach to control their population.

“Studying the midgut digestive enzymes of the Aedes aegypti mosquito is important locally and nationally because simulated models based on current climate data predict the expansion of mosquito ecological niches in the near future,” Khan said in his presentation.

He noted one study that estimates 390 million Dengue fever infections every year, while another found that 3.9 billion people worldwide are at risk of the disease. Current control strategies for mosquito larvae and adults include pesticides and biocides. But Khan said most of these treatments can have devastating effects on the environment.

Khan began his research through FIRES, the Freshmen Initiative: Research to Engage Students program sponsored by the W.M. Keck Foundation and led by a team of SJSU chemistry professors.

“We are very pleased to see Muhammad Khan winning a first place award at the 35th Annual CSU Student Research Competition,” said Mohamed Abousalem, vice president for research and innovation at SJSU.

“This is a great achievement and a testament to his capabilities and the sound guidance he received from his faculty mentor, Dr. Alberto Rascón, Jr. We hope that Muhammad will be encouraged by this recognition to embrace research as a way of thinking and doing throughout his career.”

Learn more about Khan’s research here.

James Nguyen contributed to this story.

Connie L. Lurie College of Education Launches Fourth Annual Celebration of Teaching Awards for Aspiring Educators

Alberto Camacho with his mother Irma.

Alberto Camacho and his mother Irma attended the 2019 Celebration of Teaching event, where he was recognized for his teaching promise. Photo: Bob Bain.

Alberto Camacho, ’20 English, ’21 Teaching Credential, can remember the names of all of the influential teachers in his life — from his preschool teacher, “Mr. E,” to his Chicana and Chicano Studies professor Marcos Pizzaro, associate dean of the Connie L. Lurie College of Education. 

He recalls Mr. E teaching him “e for effort” almost as clearly as he remembers Pizarro honoring him at the spring 2019 Celebration of Teaching event, where Camacho was recognized for his teaching potential and awarded a $1,000 scholarship. 

“My teachers had an impact; they genuinely wanted the best for their kids, and that’s what I want to do in the classroom,” said Camacho, who is completing his student teaching at Silver Creek High School in San José this spring. 

“I want the best for my kids, their families and their communities. It is thanks to my teachers that I feel this way — they planted the seed.”

The Lurie College of Education Student Success Center was first inspired to start the Celebration of Teaching event in 2017, when the college joined the CSU EduCorps initiative, a CSU-wide program dedicated to increasing outreach and recruitment for teacher preparation programs. Janene Perez, the center’s director of recruitment, student success and alumni engagement, said they first learned of a similar initiative at Sacramento State and drew on that model at SJSU in 2018.

“We wanted to reach students who might not have considered teaching as a career but had a deep commitment to their communities and exhibited qualities that were impactful in a teaching and learning setting,” said Perez.

The inaugural Celebration of Teaching event initially focused on recruiting from within SJSU but has expanded well beyond the university and into the community. 

“Recognizing that the consideration of career fields often begins much earlier, we’ve grown the initiative over the past few years to include outreach to community colleges, high schools and middle schools,” said Heather Lattimer, dean of the Lurie College. 

“Our outreach is intentionally designed to strengthen the diversity of our educator workforce, a critical equity issue that has a direct impact on student success in K12 and post-secondary education.”

Since then, 151 students have been recognized at the Celebration of Teaching. Of them, 16 have redeemed their scholarships and enrolled in one of the Lurie College’s credential programs. 

By recognizing students who show the potential to become transformative educators, Lattimer and Perez hope that the encouragement and financial incentive will inspire young people to consider careers in teaching. The initiative aims to increase outreach and recruitment efforts to students who perhaps wouldn’t have seen themselves becoming educators previously based on their interests or identities.

“So many of us share insecurities around academics: feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt, and thoughts of, how could I possibly become a teacher if I’m not a top student?” said Perez. “When a trusted teacher, professor or supervisor nominates a student, that is something that not only boosts confidence but also sparks interest. 

“We hope that the nomination validates who the student is holistically, recognizing their diversity of experiences, resilience and cultural assets — all critical pieces of their whole being that they bring to the table and are at the heart of transformative education.”

To learn more about this year’s Celebration of Teaching nominees, visit sjsu.edu/education/community/celebration-of-teaching.

SJSU to Host Revisiting the 1968 Chicano Commencement Symposium Oct. 11

In June 1968, Chicano students staged a walkout from then-San José State College commencement exercises to protest the lack of Chicano student enrollment, faculty members and related programs. The legacy of this activism is still felt today at San Jose State University.

To commemorate the events of 1968, SJSU is hosting a symposium on Oct. 11, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom. The event is free, with lunch and refreshments provided. Tickets are available through Eventbrite. A livestream will be available for those unable to attend.

“Less than 1 percent of the San Jose State College graduating class of 1968 were Chicanos. This mirrored the meager presence of Chicanos on campus, despite a county population in excess of 12 percent,” said Armando Valdez, ’67 Sociology “The walkout brought this glaring disparity into sharp relief and spurred more responsive policies and practices. The symposium examines the legacy of Chicano Commencement, the persistence and impact of institutional changes resulting from the walkout, and also identifies current disparities and shortfalls that demand attention.”

Schedule of Event

9 a.m.

Registration and continental breakfast

10 a.m.

Welcome

10:15 a.m.

Panel 1

“Legacy, Context and Significance of Chicano Commencement: The Big Picture” 

Moderator:

Armando Valdez, PhD

Armando Valdez, ’67 Sociology, earned a PhD at Stanford University. At San José State, he organized Student Initiative, the first Chicano student organization on campus, and subsequently the Mexican American Student Confederation (MASC), which organized the 1968 Chicano Commencement. Valdez published El Plan de Santa Barbara, and played a leadership role in La Causa Educational Center, the Southwest Network, which supported Chicano alternative schools; Bilingual Broadcasting Productions at KBBF, the nation’s first bilingual public radio station; the Stanford Center for Chicano Research; LatinoNet, the nation’s first Internet platform developed by a community of color; and HealthPoint Communications, a health communications research institute to address health inequities.

Panelists:

Al Camarillo, PhD

Al Camarillo is the past president of the Organization of American Historians and the American Historical Association-Pacific Coast Branch, and has been a member of Stanford University’s history department since 1975. One of the founding scholars of Mexican American history and Chicano studies, he received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Rockefeller Foundation and was a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at the Stanford Humanities Center. The seven-time author’s newest books: The Racial Borderhoods of America: Mexican Americans and the Changing Ethnic/Racial Landscapes of Cities, 1850-2000 (2020, Oxford University Press). He was founding director of CCSRE and the Stanford Center for Chicano Research, and founding executive director of the Inter-University Program in Latino Research.

Juan Gómez-Quiñones, PhD

Juan Gómez-Quiñones is professor of history at UCLA and considered the founder of Chicano history as an academic discipline. He specializes in the fields of political, labor, intellectual and cultural history. Since 1969, Gómez-Quiñones has been active in higher education, culture activities promotion and Chicano studies efforts. He has published more than 30 books or monographs, has served as director of the Chicano Studies Research Center at UCLA and was a founding co-editor of Aztlan, International Journal of Chicano Studies Research. A recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship, he has served on the California State University and Colleges Board of Trustees, the WASC Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities and as a member of the board of directors of numerous civic organizations.

David Montejano, PhD

David Montejano is a professor in the Graduate School at the University of California, Berkeley. Previously, he was professor of ethnic studies and history, and chair of the Center for Research on Social Change at the University of California, Berkeley. A native of San Antonio, Texas, he received a B.A. from the University of Texas at Austin and a Ph.D. in sociology from Yale University. Among his publications are two prize-winning historical works, Anglos and Mexicans in the Making of Texas,1836-1986, and Quixote’s Soldiers: A Local History of the Chicano Movement,1966-1981, both published by the University of Texas Press.

Carlos Muñoz, PhD

Carlos Muñoz Jr., the son of working-class refugees of the 1910 Mexican Revolution, became a Chancellor’s Public Scholar, Edward A. Dickson Distinguished Emeritus Professor, professor emeritus of ethnic studies and an affiliated faculty member in the Center for Latin American Studies at UC, Berkeley. The founding chair of California State University, Los Angeles’ Chicano studies department and founding chair of the National Association of Chicana and Chicano Studies, Muñoz is an expert on ethnic and racial politics, multiculturalism and diversity, immigration, civil and human rights, and affirmative action. An award-winning author, Muñoz co-founded the Institute for Multiracial Justice and Latinos Unidos.

11:30 a.m.

Break

Noon

Panel 2 and Lunch

“Impetus of Chicano Commencement 1967-1968: Oral Histories of the Activists”

Moderator

Rigo Chacon

For 32 years, Rigo Chacon was the South Bay Bureau Chief for KGO T.V., the ABC station in San Francisco. Early in his career, Rigo recognized the importance of an emerging Silicon Valley and made it his mission to establish a bureau in San Jose. When other television stations noticed KGO’s success, more south bay bureaus were established thus making Santa Clara County a major American broadcasting region. Rigo came to San Jose in 1961 as part of a farm working family. At San Jose High School, the future triple Emmy Award winner was junior class and Student Body President before attending San Jose State University where he has served as adjunct professor for future broadcasters. Rigo is the founder of Abrazos and Books, a nonprofit entity that awards scholarships to high school seniors in Santa Clara County. Abrazos and Books also helps children who are victims of natural or man-made catastrophes. Rigo is married and the father of four adult sons, six grandchildren and one great grandchild.

Panelists:

Norma Fierro

Norma Fierro is the child of parents who immigrated to the Santa Clara Valley from Mexico in the 1920s. As a student at San José State, she was vice president of Student Initiative and the Mexican American Student Confederation, later leading a 32-year career as a bilingual educator in K-12 districts with a high population of Chicano students. The coordinator of the Association of Mexican Americans in Alum Rock, she served as the president of the California Association of Bilingual Education’s San José chapter. She dedicated her life’s work to promoting educational equality for English language learners.

Juan C. Garcia, PhD

Juan Castañon García, ’82 MS Clinical Psychology, was a member of San José State’s Student Initiative and the Mexican American Student Confederation. Inspired by his Mexican American Youth Organization (MAYO) in high school, García was a participant in the 1968 Chicano commencement walkout, and was committed to Bay Area youth activism, recruiting Chicanos to pursue higher education. A licensed marriage and family therapist, he founded Spanish-speaking service provider groups to advocate for mental health access for Latinx communities. A professor emeritus of counseling and rehabilitation at California State University, Fresno, García co-founded the Integral Community Solutions Institute to provide counseling services to San Joaquin Valley’s underserved populations. García is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz and Stanford University.

Malaquias Montoya

UC Davis Professor Emeritus Malaquias Montoya is regarded as one of the founders of the social serigraphy movement in the San Francisco Bay Area in the mid-1960s. He has taught at Stanford, UC Berkeley, the California College of the Arts, the University of Notre Dame and the University of Texas, San Antonio. Montoya’s art depicts the resistance and strength of humanity in the face of injustice, and the necessity to unite behind that struggle. He co-founded Taller Arte del Nuevo Amanecer, a rural community-based art center. In 2011, the UCLA Chicano Studies Research Center published Voice for the Voiceless, a monograph about Montoya’s work. Montoya’s artwork will be on display during the Symposium.

Connie Moralez

Connie Moralez was admitted to San José State in fall 1967, one of two students selected by Buchser High School as part of a targeted recruitment of Hispanic students. The daughter of farmworkers with grade school educations, Moralez was the first family member to receive a college education, completing her bachelor’s degree in political science at Arizona State University. Inspired by the Chicano movement, Moralez focused on making a positive difference in the lives of struggling individuals, particularly Hispanics. Her professional career has encompassed community service, work within community-based organizations and educational institutions. Moralez developed and implemented a mentorship program for East Side Youth Center, and supported EOP students at Mission College.

Tony Quintero, JD

Tony Quintero, ’68 Sociology, walked out in protest in the 1968 Chicano Commencement. As a law student at UC Berkeley, he founded El Centro Legal de la Raza and served as president of La Raza National Law Students Association. As CEO of American Regional Malls, LLC, and chairman of Plaza Investments, LLC, Quintero acquired and managed malls, and developed a program that benefited the changing demographics of Latino and African-American communities. He served as director of the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, vice chairman of the New America Alliance and co-chair of the Democratic National Committee’s Hispanic Leadership Council. His rich and varied career includes acting in three television series, three feature films, and producing six film projects.

1:15 p.m.

Break

1:30 p.m.

Panel 3

“Gains Achieved/Challenges Ahead: Revitalizing the Mission of Chicano Commencement”

Moderator

Julia Curry, PhD

Julia Curry is associate professor of Chicano and Chicana Studies at San Jose State. Since 2009, she has worked with the Chicano/Latino Faculty and Staff Association to provide scholarships for undocumented students. She advocated institutionalizing services, support and resources for immigrant students, leading to the development of SJSU’s UndocuSpartan Resource Center in 2018. Curry serves as faculty advisor to Student Advocates for Higher Education, an undocumented student support group, and the Chicano/a/x Graduate Council. She coordinates with the National Association for Chicana and Chicano Studies to address legal challenges, such as the Supreme Court Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)/Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA) case, and organizes symposia covering policies related to in-state tuition and the California Dream Act.

Panelists

Elma Arredondo, MA

Elma Arredondo, ’79 Psychology, is an analyst programmer at San José State, where she helped develop a student data warehouse service. Arredondo, who minored in Mexican American studies as a student,­ was trained as a programmer at IBM before becoming an information specialist at SJSU, initially working in the Educational Opportunity Program’s data management, information and technical services. She serves on the executive board of the Chicano/Latino Faculty and Staff Association, where she works on the Ernesto Galarza Scholarship committee. An active member of Alum Rock Urban Village Advocates, Arredondo advises the Academics, Leaders, Mentors Aiming for Success (ALMAS) and Chicano Commencement student organizations. Arredondo is involved in her East San Jose community, currently with Alum Rock Urban Village Advocates.

Alfonzo Espinoza, MSW

Alfonzo Castro Espinoza, ’69 Graphic Design, ’73 MSW, was the first Chicano Educational Opportunity Program director appointed by San José State’s President Robert Clark. Espinoza organized EOP to provide services to incoming Chicano students, including tutoring, counseling, financial aid and recruitment. He taught at San José State, UC Santa Cruz and Monterey Peninsula College before becoming a bilingual teacher in the Pajaro Unified School District. Elected president of San José State’s Chicano Student Club, Student Initiative, in 1967, he participated in the first Chicano Commencement in 1968. Espinoza is honored to have served the Chicano community throughout his career in higher education and to have worked with many Chicano students to advocate for social, cultural, political and economic change.

Stella M. Flores, EdD

Stella M. Flores is associate dean for faculty development and diversity and

associate professor of higher education at the Steinhardt School of Culture, Education

and Human Development at New York University. She also serves as director of access

and equity at the Steinhardt Institute for Higher Education Policy at NYU. Her research examines the effects of state and federal policies on college access and completion outcomes for low-income and underrepresented populations. Flores has published on demographic changes in U.S. and was awarded the 2019 Harvard Graduate School of Education Alumni Council Award for Outstanding Contribution to Education. Recognized as one of the top 200 scholars in Education Week’s RHSU Edu-Scholar Public Influence Rankings, her research has been funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

Reynaldo Macias, PhD

Reynaldo F. Macías is a professor of Chicana/o studies, education and socio-linguistics, and an affiliated faculty member with the African American studies and civic engagement departments at UCLA. The founding chair of UCLA’s César E. Chávez Department of Chicana and Chicano Studies, he served as the assistant director of the National Institute of Education and was appointed to the advisory board for the National Institute for Literacy by President Clinton in 1996, where he served until 2003. The co-founder of Aztlán—International Journal of Chicano Studies Research and the National Association of Chicano Social Science, Macías specializes in the politics of language policy, language demography and educational socio-linguistics, including literacy, and bilingual and multicultural curricular education.

Refugio I. Rochin, PhD

Refugio I. Rochin is UC Davis professor emeritus Chicana and Chicano studies and agricultural economics. He served on UC Santa Cruz’s Graduate Group for Education at UC Davis and lecturer in Latin America and Latino studies. The first permanent director of the Julian Samora Research Institute at Michigan State University, Rochin was also founding director of the Smithsonian Center for Latino Initiatives. A board member of CEMELA and the American Society of Hispanic Economists, he received the inaugural Achievement Award of the American Society of Hispanic Economists in 2008. He is recognized for his path-breaking Latino/a studies scholarship and research on new technology adoption as part of Nobel Laureate Norman Borlaug’s “Green Revolution Team.”

2:45 p.m.

Closing and reception

 

Founder of “Me Too” Movement Tarana Burke Speaks at SJSU

Media contact:
Robin McElhatton, SJSU Media Relations Specialist, 408-924-1749, robin.mcelhatton@sjsu.edu

San Jose, CA – The Spartan Speaker Series will present an evening with 2017 Time Person of the Year, Tarana Burke. She is the founder of the “Me Too” movement and has dedicated 25 years of her life to social justice. Burke will be speaking on campus Monday, Feb. 4 from 7 to 8:30 p.m at the Diaz Compean Student Union Ballroom. The event is free for all students, staff, faculty and community members.

The “Me Too” movement, or #MeToo movement as it is better known, began in 2017 as a hashtag on social media to bring attention to the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and sexual harassment. The movement quickly turned into an international sensation. Time recognized Burke, along with a group of other activists known as “The Silence Breakers” in its iconic Person of the Year edition in 2017.

Since 2016, the Spartan Speakers Series has aimed to present a broad range of timely content and diverse voices including distinguished authors, critics, artists, scientists and more. Past speakers have included Kamau Bell, Lisa Ling, and Ana Navarro, among others.

The next Spartan Speakers Series event will be Feb. 20 with activist and actor Bryan Terrell Clark.

About San Jose State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San Jose State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San Jose State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing 10,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 260,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.

SJSU Reflects on the History and Future of Athlete Activism

Photo: Josie Lepe Tommie Smith, '69 Social Science, '05 Honorary Doctorate, and John Carlos, '05 Honorary Doctorate, pose with the sculpture at San Jose State University that commemorates the courageous stand they took 50 years ago at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City.

Tommie Smith, ’69 Social Science, ’05 Honorary Doctorate, and John Carlos, ’05 Honorary Doctorate, pose with the sculpture at San Jose State University that commemorates the courageous stand they took 50 years ago at the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City. Photo: Josie Lepe

Olympians, athletes, scholars and journalists discussed how the history of athlete activism will influence future waves of social justice at San Jose State University’s Institute for the Study of Sport, Society and Social Change Words to Action: Landmarks and Legacy of Athlete Activism town hall on Oct. 17.

Follow @SJSUwordstoaction on Twitter for more photos and quotes.

“Let’s understand that this is all part of history,” said Harry Edwards, ’64 Sociology, ’16 Honorary Doctorate, founder with Ken Noel, ’66 BA, ’68 MA, Social Science, of the Olympic Project for Human Rights(OPHR) at SJSU. “Movements are in the DNA of American democracy … the Abolitionist Movement, the Women’s Suffragist Movement, the Civil Rights Movement … They are all an expression of a more perfect union of ‘we the people.’ These movements and activities will continue, wave after wave, with athlete involvement.”

During three sessions, panelists reflected on the history and future of athlete activism. This October marks the 50th anniversary of the historic moment in athlete activism and SJSU history when Tommie Smith, ’69 Social Science, ’05 Honorary Doctorate, and John Carlos, ’05 Honorary Doctorate, raised their fists on the medal stand in Mexico City during the 1968 Olympics to protest racial inequality, drawing international attention to athlete activism and the core goals of OPHR.

Panelists Spencer Haywood, Cleve Livingston, Paul Hoffman, Wyomia Tyus, John Carlos and Tommie Smith discuss athlete activism in the 1960s with Moderator Kenneth Shropshire. Photo: Josie Lepe

Panelists Spencer Haywood, Cleve Livingston, Paul Hoffman, Wyomia Tyus, John Carlos and Tommie Smith discuss athlete activism in the 1960s with Moderator Kenneth Shropshire. Photo: Josie Lepe

The Voices of 1968

“It was in the wake of assassinations, of cities burning … you need to understand that to understand the depth of their commitment,” Edwards said. “These two men, along with Lee Evans, are among the most courageous men I have had the privilege of being associated with and working with.”

Smith said he felt a charge to use his talent and access to the world stage to do something for black students in San Jose and around the world.

I was asked to be part of OPHR, to dedicate some part of my running to better America,” Smith said.

Carlos shared the sentiment, adding that their purpose was to bring awareness to social issues.

“We were like a road mapa new paradigm,” Carlos said. “Like with Kaepernick, people said we were anti-flag, anti-military. We wore black gloves because it was the first year the Olympics were televised in color. America had pushed black people down and we were always substandard citizens.”

Panelist Wyomia Tyus, the first person to win consecutive Olympic gold medals in the 100-meter dash, was in the stadium the day of Smith and Carlos’ victory stand.

“I can remember it so vividly,” she said. “I remember thinking, ‘What are those guys doing? What is going on at the victory stand?’ The stadium got very quiet, then there was booing and cheering. I started thinking, ‘I hope nothing happens to them.’”

Carlos reflected on the influence of his and Smith’s actions 50 years later.

“Once you make a statement, if you live or die, they can’t take the statement away,” he said.

Bridging the Gap: Perspectives on Athlete Activism in an Era of Growth Panelists Damion Thomas, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Toni Smith-Thompson, and C. Keith Harrison (right) pose with Moderator Bill Rhoden, (second from the right.)

Bridging the Gap: Perspectives on Athlete Activism in an Era of Growth Panelists Damion Thomas, Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf, Toni Smith-Thompson, and C. Keith Harrison (right) pose with Moderator Bill Rhoden, (second from the right.) Photo: Josie Lepe

Bridging the Gap: Perspectives on Athlete Activism in an Era of Growth

Bill Rhoden, an award-winning sports journalist, moderated the second panel, Bridging the Gap: Perspectives on Athlete Activism in an Era of Growth.

Long before former San Francisco 49er Colin Kaepernick ignited controversy by sitting, and then kneeling, during the national anthem, in 1996 then-Denver Nuggets NBA player Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf sat out the anthem during a game as he felt it conflicted with his Muslim religion. He was suspended from a game for his actions.

“People have a sense that there is a separation of politics and sports,” Abdul-Rauf said. “But if you stand for a flag, that has a political meaning of its own.”

Panelist Toni Thompson-Smith, a former college athlete and activist who now works with the New York Civil Liberties Union, reflected on a recent Nike ad that features Kaepernick.

“What is the ad selling?” she asked, invoking a 1970 Gil Scott-Heron song. “The revolution will not be televised. It is not selling activism. It is selling inspiration … If activism becomes profitable, is it still the message that we started out with?”

SJSU Alumnus Marc Spears, '95 Journalism, (left) discusses athlete activism from his perspective as a journalist. during The Kaepernick Era panel. Photo: Josie Lepe

SJSU Alumnus Marc Spears, ’95 Journalism, (left) discusses athlete activism from his perspective as a journalist. during The Kaepernick Era panel. Photo: Josie Lepe

The Kaepernick Era

During the final panel on The Kaepernick Era journalists and scholars discussed the role of media in the latest wave of athlete activism.

“We have Colin who makes this move that is important and historic,” said Howard Bryant, senior writer for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com. “But more important is the reaction to him on both sides and the way so many players decided not to react.”

Nate Boyer, a former active duty Green Beret and former professional football player with the Seattle Seahawks, had his own view on Kaepernick’s actions. Boyer is credited with encouraging Kaepernick to kneel, rather than sit, during the anthem.

“The flag is a beacon of hope,” he said. “I don’t think it’s an oppressive symbol. We need to continue to fight oppression in this country. It’s got to be with people like Colin Kaepernick to take that lead, to be a voice but also to listen.”

SJSU alumnus and a senior writer for ESPN’s The Undefeated Marc Spears suggested diversifying newsrooms as a way to further conversations.

“That’s why Mr. Rhoden is such a legend,” said Spears, ’95 Journalism. “He is such a legend. I wanted to be him for so long. There needs to be more Mr. Rhodens and Ms. Rhodens. If there are any women out there that want to be sports journalists, we need those voices.”

The town hall was sponsored in part by the San Francisco 49ers, ESPN and Associated Students of SJSU.


About San Jose State University

The founding campus of the 23-campus California State University system, San Jose State provides a comprehensive university education, granting bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees in 250 areas of study – offered through its eight colleges.

With more than 35,000 students and nearly 4,370 employees, San Jose State University continues to be an essential partner in the economic, cultural and social development of Silicon Valley and the state, annually contributing 10,000 graduates to the workforce.

The university is immensely proud of the accomplishments of its more than 260,000 alumni, 60 percent of whom live and work in the Bay Area.