SJSU Joins CSU Initiative to Increase Women Faculty in Engineering

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Learn more about the KIND Engineering Faculty Advancement initiative.

SJSU Students Use Bioinformatics to Study How Living Organisms React to Space Travel

International Space Station

SJSU bioinformatics students helped NASA scientists better understand how living organisms react to life on the International Space Station compared to Earth. Image courtesy of NASA.

How does space travel impact the human body? That’s a question scientists are still trying to answer. This summer, they got a little closer to the answer, thanks to some extra help from San José State University students.

A cohort of biology and computer science undergraduate students were the first to participate in San José State’s new bioinformatics internship program with NASA, developed by two SJSU College of Science faculty: Philip Heller, assistant professor of computer science, and Bree Grillo-Hill, assistant professor of biology.

Equipped with knowledge from their SJSU biology and computer science courses — plus training from a bioinformatics bootcamp — six students joined NASA’s GeneLab project. They helped analyze and interpret publicly available data that revealed the RNA of different organisms, including humans, plants, insects and mice, in order to compare how those organisms responded to life on the International Space Station compared to Earth. The internship began in June and ended in August.

“The goal was to gain insights into the biological processes that degrade astronauts’ health in microgravity and other stressful conditions,” explained Heller. “These insights will drive decisions about lowering astronaut health risks, so the implications for science are profound.”

For example, Evelyn Wong, ’21 Biology, analyzed data to help NASA researchers better understand how and if cancer could be a risk following space travel.

“Astronauts are exposed to radiation when traveling to space, which makes them likely candidates for developing cancer later in life,” she explained. “I studied samples that might be able to help identify that possibility for developing cancer in the future.”

Wong said she’s not a natural programmer, so the internship offered her an opportunity to gain new data processing skills while putting her biology knowledge to use. Her hard work paid off: After her internship wrapped up in August, Wong began working as a full-time research associate contracted by Blue Marble Space Institute of Science to work with NASA.

That’s the kind of success Heller was hoping his students would achieve when he developed the internship. Bioinformatics is an increasingly important field, he noted. San José State offers a minor in bioinformatics as well as a master’s degree.

Preserved tissue samples

Publicly available data gathered from preserved tissues such as those seen here, archived at the NASA Ames Research Center, were analyzed and interpreted with the help of SJSU bioinformatics students. Image credit: NASA/Dominic Hart

Grillo-Hill emphasized that the experience can give students an edge in job searches and graduate school applications.

“Many cutting-edge projects in biology research require generating, managing and analyzing large data sets,” she explained. “Our bioinformatics minor teaches students the tools to do this, and internships give them the opportunity to practice these skills on real data sets.”

With NASA’s Artemis program to land humans — the first woman and first person of color, specifically — on the moon in 2024, “the urgency is high” to better understand how humans respond to space travel, Heller emphasized.

He hoped to create a program that would allow both SJSU and NASA to reap the benefits. SJSU could supply a steady stream of talented students interested in bioinformatics, and the next generation of scientists could gain valuable first-hand interdisciplinary experience, he said.

While this isn’t the only opportunity SJSU students have to intern with NASA — the College of Engineering, for example, helps place aerospace engineering students into internships with the agency — it’s the first chance for SJSU students interested in bioinformatics.

To make sure students were ready to hit the ground running, Heller, in collaboration with NASA GeneLab and Universities Space Research Association, kicked off the program with a five-day intensive bootcamp that acquainted students with NASA’s processes and goals and provided a deeper understanding of the field.

Kevin Truong, ’22 Computer Science, found the experience of working in an interdisciplinary environment with NASA scientists eye-opening.

“Working in bioinformatics gave me the opportunity to explore different fields and to learn things I didn’t know — and that I’ll likely never understand. And that’s OK if there is someone else on your team who can explain it. Sometimes, I will be the one to explain things to someone else.

“It’s a fascinating field and can be challenging, but in the end you get to create greater things.”

Heller emphasized that “even if the interns don’t become NASA scientists, they will gain training and experience in techniques that are commonly used in biotech, so we believe their long-term career experiences will be greatly enriched.”

Aeowynn Coakley, ’21 Biology, already feels that her future as a research scientist has been influenced by the experience.

“Whatever I do next, I want to work with an interdisciplinary team. You can go so much further and understand so much more working together that way,” she said.

“Bioinformatics is a really important tool to make meaningful inferences about data being collected,” she continued. “We are in an era of big data, and there’s so much biological information out there and so many scientists working siloed as they delve into this data. Through bioinformatics, we can make really meaningful contributions to the field by introducing an interdisciplinary perspective.”

Learn more about San José State’s MS in Bioinformatics and minor in Bioinformatics.

Advancing Quality and Student Success at SJSU

Paseo walkway on SJSU's campus

SJSU’s campus is alive with activity as students bustle along one of its main walkways, the Paseo de César E. Chávez.

What to know about SJSU’s 2021 WSCUC accreditation review.

More than 36,000 students are enrolled at San José State University. How do we hold ourselves accountable to them and the rest of our community in achieving our mission? The answer starts with SJSU’s commitment to ensuring students succeed and includes an accreditation, which is an independent, third-party evaluation process.

This fall, San José State will begin its next review of our accreditation by the WASC Senior College and University Commission* (WSCUC), the regional accreditation body for universities in California, Hawaii and American territories in the Pacific.

What does WSCUC accreditation mean for SJSU?

Put simply: WSCUC accreditation is our university’s report card of our academic quality and educational effectiveness. In other words: How do we define and assess student learning, and how are we ensuring we are delivering a high quality, effective, equitable and sustainable educational experience?

SJSU’s WSCUC Accreditation Liaison Officer Junelyn Peeples, who is also vice provost for institutional effectiveness and strategic analytics, explained the goal for accreditation “is to help higher education institutions evaluate the efficacy of their educational delivery and its impact on student success.”

Furthermore, WSCUC’s approach to accreditation, she added, “aids institutions in developing and sustaining effective educational programs and assures the educational community and the general public that an accredited institution has met high standards of quality and effectiveness.”

Every regional accrediting body has core competencies that its institutions must uphold, such as oral and written communication, information literacy and quantitative reasoning. WSCUC’s particular set of core competencies has been developed considering what the public would expect a global citizen to look like upon graduating at any given higher education institution.

Accreditation is also periodically reaffirmed by the WSCUC to allow the university to review and reflect on how it’s doing in relation to standards set for the colleges and universities in our region.

Read more about SJSU’s accreditation history.

Why is it important to SJSU?

“The accreditation process provides us a way to make an evaluation of what we’re doing and determine our direction moving forward: where we’re going to direct our attention, where we’re doing really well, and where we may need to readjust what we’re doing,” said Pam Richardson, professor of occupational therapy and faculty chair of SJSU’s accreditation review committee.

Accreditation is also tied to federal funding and impacts schools and colleges within our university — they would not be able to have accreditation of their professional programs if the university was not accredited.

“WSCUC focuses its attention on how we deliver curriculum and our support services to our students, particularly how students are able to demonstrate their learning,” added Peeples.

“And they do it very collaboratively, so we really engage in the process. For example, if there are major changes in the expectations of what institutions need to deliver, universities are part of the conversation about how to meaningfully focus our attention to make those adjustments.”

“I think [WSCUC] is very forward looking,” said Thalia Anagnos, vice provost for undergraduate education and member of SJSU’s accreditation review steering committee. “They see trends happening at the national level, and then create guidelines to help us stay up-to-date with them. Requiring meaningful assessment practices is a good example of how WSCUC has helped us maintain our accountability to the public and also our own students.”

What is the process of accreditation like for SJSU?

SJSU’s last accreditation reaffirmation was in 2015. Over the last 18 months, SJSU conducted a self study of its activities that involved eight components, including progress on the recommendations from WSCUC’s prior report and follow-up special visit in 2017.

A team of independent evaluators from other universities, including one from another California State University, will review SJSU’s self-study later this fall and then meet with representatives from the university for clarity on any questions they have before they make a campus visit in early spring 2022.

During our site visit, the team of evaluators will meet with the president, provost, chief financial officer as well as students, administrators, faculty and other stakeholder groups from the SJSU community over the course of three days.

The external review team then provides their recommendations about SJSU to WSCUC. WSCUC will determine whether we receive a 10-year or shorter term of accreditation and/or a special visit in a few years, in which case SJSU will work to address any outstanding issues that were noted by the reviewers.

Take a deeper dive into SJSU’s accreditation process.

What is important to note about SJSU’s 2021 self study?

As someone who has experience as a peer reviewer for other institutions’ accreditation, Peeples was energized when she reviewed SJSU’s self-study report.

“I’m really proud that San José State has focused on general education, and the work that we’re doing most institutions don’t tackle because it is such a heavy lift to assess, and this is one of the foundational pieces of how we demonstrate our educational effectiveness,” she said.

“We also are taking a holistic, comprehensive advising approach,” which she explains is reflective of our focus on student success.

“The report also does a nice job of linking our Transformation 2030 strategic plan to our initiatives supporting student success,” added Richardson.

SJSU has also worked to address leadership, campus climate as well as social injustice, equity and inclusion, which came up as recommendations in the last self study. Both Richardson and Peeples recognize progress in these areas, but they also acknowledge more work is still needed.

The true measure of San José State’s education as an accredited institution is that students are graduating with a degree for which they can competently identify the skills, knowledge and understanding of that subject matter in a meaningful way, and that they did it in a timely manner.

What else should the SJSU community know about this process?

Of particular note, explained Anagnos, is that this report was put together by several stakeholders at SJSU from every single division and area of the university — including a 25-member, faculty-led accreditation committee.

“Accreditation is really a collaborative effort, and we’ve been working on it for almost two years,” she added. “By having this kind of self reflection and cross-divisional discussion, we learned a lot about each other, and that’s a really important piece of the process.”

Peeples emphasized the opportunity this gives our community to take a step back and assess not only how we help students but also in what ways we may influence the impact our alumni make once they graduate. “As alumni of San José State University and global citizens, they bring something with them to the world that helps change it, and this is our chance to tell that story and how we make it happen.”

SJSU’s self study is available to view online. Coming soon, student, faculty and staff forums will be held for the community to respond and ask questions about the report and the process.


About WASC

*WASC was created in the early 1960s to “promote the development and accreditation of higher education in the western region of the United States.” Today, WASC accredits public and private higher education institutions throughout California, Hawaii, the Pacific and around the world and is recognized as an accrediting body by the US Department of Education and by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

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

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

Rebeca Burciaga and Veneice Guillory-Lacy REP4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Creating connections

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

How Diamonds Could Unlock the Secrets of Quantum Physics

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

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

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

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

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

Exploring new territory

Christopher Smallwood

Christopher Smallwood, assistant professor of physics and astronomy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Shining light at San José State

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

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

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

Tommy Wen Chin, '22 Physics

Tommy Wen Chin, ’22 Physics

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SJSU Recognizes Outstanding Spartans at 10th Annual Student Leadership Gala

10th Annual Student Leadership Gala.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Remarkable Achievement: SJSU Celebrates the Graduating Class of 2021

Celebrating our 2021 Graduates with portraits of grads in the background.

We’re thrilled to congratulate our graduating class of 2021, who have shown incredible resilience, determination and grit during the COVID-19 pandemic, which spanned more than a year of their college experience.

Here are some of our extraordinary soon-to-be graduates, as shared by SJSU faculty from across disciplines, in alphabetical order: Robby Abarca, ’21 Communicative Disorders and Sciences; Diego Almaraz, ‘21 Industrial Design; Joshua Bevis, ‘21 Mechanical Engineering; Aliza Bolliger, ’21 Public Relations; Briena Brown, ’21 Sociology; Marc Aaron Casupanan, ’21 Graphic Design; Sabrina Cervantes, ’21 Justice Studies; Anie de la Rosa Clark, ’21 Master of Business Administration; Nicole Coates, ’21 MS Interdisciplinary Studies; Rachel Crawford, ’21 MFA Creative Writing; Briettny Curtner, ’21 MA Education, Counseling and Student Personnel; Zobeida Delgadillo, ‘21 Political Science; Zoe Dolak, ’21 Public Relations; Adam Elwailly, ’21 Electrical Engineering; Mateo Garcia De la Quintana, ’21 Advertising; Lydon George, Master in Urban Planning; Olivia Gerber, ’21 Political Science and Journalism; Anna Harvey, ’21 MS Transportation Management; Fatima Hassan, ‘21 Psychology; Bianca Hernandez, ’21 MA Sociology; Shruthi Kamath, ’21 Psychology; Jacob Lapinsky, ’21 History and Social Sciences; Vanndy Loth-Kumar, ’21 Doctor of Nursing Practice; Ben Newsome, ’21 MA History; Sabina Patel, ’21 Psychology; Steven Peck, ’21 Political Science; Andrea Perez, ‘21 Advertising; Abril Perez-Gonzaga, ‘21 Anthropology; Naromy Ramirez, ’21 MA Education, Special Education; Nick Randle, ’21 Graphic Design; Jasmine Marie Reyes, ’21 Music, Performance; Ralph Robinson, ’21 Master in Urban Planning; Leilani Saelaw, ’21 Kinesiology; Marc Adrian Narvadez Santos, ’21 English; Sabrina Shell, ‘21 Industrial Design; Kristina Smith, ’21 Child and Adolescent Development and Psychology; Juan Carlos Soliz, ’21 Behavioral Science; Ty Supreme, ’21 Microbiology; Amber Renee Sylva, ’21 MA English; Alice Tsvinev, ’21 Psychology; Narayani Tyagi, ’21 MS Physics; Brianna Misaki Williams, ’21 Philosophy; Neng Xiong, ’21 MA Education, Curriculum and Instruction; and William Yi, ’21 Public Relations.

In their words, they describe the important milestones reached and lessons learned while at San José State, the key takeaways gained from attending college during a pandemic, their next steps — and the transformative impact SJSU had on their lives.

Many of them are on a path to become future leaders and educators, law enforcement and urban planners, clinicians in healthcare and practitioners of art and research. Some are the first in their families to attend college, others are parents setting an example for their children to follow — all of them are shining examples of what it means to be a Spartan.

“Throughout my career, this has always been the most important and revered time on the academic calendar,” said President Mary A. Papazian. “It is the moment that officially affirms the completion of a milestone that forever will impact our students’ lives, and the lives of future generations. All of us at San José State share in the joy and excitement felt by our spring graduates, and I am delighted to welcome them into the Spartan alumni family.”

Graduates will be celebrated at the end of the semester with a custom recognition website, one for each college, and also have the opportunity to be individually recognized at a socially distant, in-person walkthrough photo experience on campus May 26-28. All of this will begin with a livestreamed virtual kick-off event hosted by the president and provost on Wednesday, May 26.


Bobby Abarca.

Robby Abarca (he/him/his), ’21 Communicative Disorders and Sciences

Milestones at SJSU:
One of my major accomplishments at SJSU was being accepted into the undergraduate speech clinic within the Communicative Disorders and Sciences department. This experience solidified my decision to become a speech-language pathologist.

I got to work alongside great student clinicians and under a supervisor that provided us with many opportunities to grow. I learned so much about producing sessions that obtained goals in an ethical manner. I believe that it prepared me for my future in graduate school.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I am actually capable of online learning! I was extremely scared of the transition to online classes, but it ended up being better than I had expected. Our professors and other faculty members were constantly providing us with encouragement and were overall understanding of the new transition.

The biggest takeaway is that it prepared me for the totally unexpected. COVID-19 had such a huge impact on all of us, but we continued to persevere.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
By far, one of the most valuable lessons I have learned at SJSU is that it is really true when people say, “When one door closes, another opens.” I am the type of person who had their entire life planned out since the sixth grade, but everything changed when I stepped foot at SJSU.

It is fine if anyone is feeling lost or confused about what to do next; just know that your journey is not over! SJSU has bountiful resources and experiences that are capable of changing your entire life!

Career goals/next steps:
I am on to my next journey of furthering my education at graduate school! The end goal is to become a speech-language pathologist providing services to those who are in need. I hope to someday return as a professor, so I am able to provide future generations with the same knowledge and resources that were once given to me as a student.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU has transformed my life for the better. I am leaving with so many memories, friends and influential advice from my professors that have made me into the person I am today.

I honestly do not know what I would be doing if I did not attend this university. SJSU has prepared me to become a better clinician, researcher and partner to others. College definitely goes by very fast, but the memories I have will last a lifetime!


Diego Almaraz.

Diego Almaraz (he/him/his), ’21 Industrial Design

Milestones at SJSU:
After being in Industrial Design for a few years, I thought it would be beneficial for us students to have exposure and networking opportunities within the Bay Area design community. I became the president of the major, and I was able to achieve these goals by having several trips to firms, guest speakers, local design events, and appearing in a design magazine.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Out of the several things learned during virtual classes, the biggest takeaway is learning how to effectively work in a remote team. Being able to figure out how to keep all our information universally accessible between us over a cloud was key to our success. This will make that transition easier into remote working and will open more doors in the future to allow for working with different people all over the world.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lesson that I have learned over my time at SJSU is how to work together in a culturally diverse team. Design being a universal language, it helped to create clear communication between our culturally diverse team, which made it a lot easier for us to work in unison without leaving anyone out.

Career goals/next steps:
My ultimate career goal is to open a design firm later down the line. Being able to work in a wide range of different industries — such as footwear, electronics, services and charity — and making a meaningful impact sounds like something I would enjoy doing every day. When working in so many different fields, you are constantly learning new things every day which is my favorite aspect of working in design.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
Out of the many ways that SJSU has transformed me, the most notable is how it got me to break out of my shell. Going into the design, a very social major, had a large role in that transformation because we are always together on campus working hard and building each other up. Ultimately, they made me feel comfortable to be myself, speak my mind and take initiative.


Joshua Bevis.

Joshua Bevis (he/him/his), ’21 Mechanical Engineering

Milestones at SJSU:
I received the 2021 Scott T. Axline Memorial Student Award for Excellence in Service, was hired as an instructional student assistant for the Mechanical Engineering department in 2019, was a Dean’s List Scholar in 2018, and received the Silicon Valley Engineering Scholarship in 2016.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
My experience with COVID-19 was different than most students at SJSU, as I proctored a lab during the heat of the pandemic. For me, the most important takeaway from this experience was the importance of flexibility and adaptability. Shifting curriculums, lab designs and classroom protocols to fit the requirements of the pandemic was as much of a learning opportunity as a challenge — an opportunity to test my abilities to adapt to changing requirements and uncertainty.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
My experience at SJSU was one of constant learning and growth. I went from academic probation to a Dean’s List student within a year’s time, and through that process, I learned perseverance and determination in a trial-by-fire situation. I discovered the personal discipline and life habits required to not only succeed but also excel in my passions and efforts. I also gained a wealth of experience in my engineering courses and labs which have opened the door to my career and future.

Career goals/next steps:
I will be starting at Keysight Technologies as a manufacturing process engineer in June, furthering my interest and passion for mechatronics and metrology.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU has given me the tools, knowledge and experiences to excel in the industry and among my peers and build a better life for myself and my loved ones. The lessons learned and experiences gained here have helped shape the person I am and the impact I will have on my community. SJSU was ranked #1 Most Transformative University in the nation for a reason, and I have truly experienced and benefited from that as I transition into the next season of life.


Aliza Bolliger.

Aliza Bolliger (she/her/hers), ’21 Public Relations

Milestones at SJSU:
I succeeded at challenging myself to get almost all A’s while at SJSU (only one B), which allowed me to receive Dean’s Scholar and President’s Scholar recognitions. I am also headed in the direction of summa cum laude, though I will be ecstatic just to receive my degree.

Aside from the grades, I found a major and direction I want to take for a career, which was a choice that took a lot of years to make. I also got to experience my major in a real way through my internship, and I successfully led two accounts.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
One takeaway from attending college during the pandemic is the incredible importance of being a community and keeping each other safe. We have had to become (and successfully did so in most ways) adaptable in order to protect our communities during this unprecedented time. But it also has shown me how important personal connections are to me, especially after they’re gone or different from what they were before.

Another takeaway, which I noticed both in myself and in those around me, is how resilient we are even when things are tough. Dealing with a pandemic, college, work and life in general is a tall order, and we are still working through it, but together.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I learned through my SJSU experiences that I am stronger than I thought, and I can survive even the hardest of tasks, assignments and moments. There have been periods of time pre-COVID and during that have certainly tested a growing, young adult and budding professional, all while tackling anxiety, but I got through — and I exceeded expectations. I have gained such valuable skills, wisdom and education in my courses, but I was also given the truth of my personal determination.

Career goals/next steps:
I want to hold an internship after graduating, specifically a Disney Professional Internship. My dream is to be a Disney PR professional, but I would be excited to join another company where I could show my passion and support while flexing the skills I’ve gained at San José State University.

I ultimately look forward to opportunities to continue learning on my own and growing both personally and professionally — and maybe land that dream job one day.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
Aside from the obvious of being the place where I earned my degree, SJSU has been a unique and enriching experience both on and off campus. I wasn’t sure what State would be like after being a long-term community college student, but it transformed me more into the person who I want to be and allowed me to take the next giant steps in my life.


Briena Brown.

Briena Brown (she/her/hers), ’21 Sociology

Milestones at SJSU:
I had the honor of representing the Student Homeless Alliance (SHA) at a united press conference with SJSU’s administration to announce the implementation of SHA’s solutions to provide more resources for homeless students on campus (emergency beds, grants, SJSUCares on-campus location, etc.).

Besides being a community organizer and artistic activist, I also supported the SJSU Human Rights Institute through my involvement in the Silicon Valley Pain Index.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I have learned what I’m actually capable of during this pandemic. Being a college student during a pandemic can be difficult, but I have taught myself that I can do hard things, and I am so much stronger than I ever thought I was.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
SJSU has taught me that if the thought of doing something excites and scares you, it probably means that you should do it! When I reflect on my college experience, I only remember the opportunities/moments that I originally was so hesitant about before doing it.

Career goals/next steps:
I want to end up in a profession that helps those around me. I hope to break glass ceilings with my presence and provide support to those who need it, whether that’s on a national or local level.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU has taught me to be brave and to stand up for what I believe in. I have learned to accept myself for who I am and to work hard in absolutely everything that I do.


Marc Casupanan.

Marc Aaron Casupanan (he/him/his), ’21 Graphic Design

Milestones at SJSU:
A major accomplishment for me at SJSU was getting into the BFA Graphic Design program. To be able to do something I love, such as design, in an environment that pushes me to do my best — it has been a great opportunity and is an accomplishment for me personally.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I think the key takeaways from the online learning environment during the pandemic is the importance of connections and keeping in touch with others. An aspect that I didn’t realize I’d miss was interacting with classmates and peers. Peers kept me motivated while we were taking classes in-person, so to adjust to remote learning, reaching out to others and maintaining friendships become important. I find that having these relationships help motivate me to continue working towards better results.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lesson I learned at SJSU is that while self motivation is a great quality when it comes to accomplishing a task, being surrounded by a great group of people who push you, as well, is even better.

Career goals/next steps:
My next step is to pursue my passion in design, ideally working on a small team at first to get some experience working closely with others. I think for me, personally, I’d benefit within small groups because the communication aspect of the team is similar to what I’m used to from school experience.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has definitely given me numerous opportunities with the BFA Graphic Design program, being the NEO Design Club president, and working as a student assistant for the King Library. I’ve opened up a lot, and I value the chances and memories that have come from my time here at SJSU.


Sabrina Cervantes.

Sabrina Cervantes (she/her/hers), ’21 Justice Studies

Milestones at SJSU:
Academically, my proudest accomplishments are being named a Dean’s Scholar my first semester at SJSU, and being named a President’s Scholar the following two semesters. Also, during my internship with SJSU’s Record Clearance Project (RCP), I was offered a position as a staff assistant. Nothing is more rewarding than the work I get to do with this program.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The key takeaways I learned while attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic are to be disciplined and stay positive. While 2020 was a difficult year for everyone, some more than others, we students had to stay focused, disciplined and get used to the new normal, which was online learning.

Rather than dwell on what I was missing, I focused on the positives. The connections I have made with faculty, staff, students and RCP clients through a computer screen has been the greatest blessing in the most challenging year.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lesson I learned at SJSU is that I am capable of more than I think. I have met so many amazing people, peers and faculty, who have accomplished so much despite where they come from. It is easy to say, “I’m not qualified,” or “I’m not good enough,” and not even try. However, it takes courage to put yourself out there and accomplish something great.

Career goals/next steps:
My next steps would be to begin a career as a probation officer. I would like to go back to school after a few years to either get my master’s and become an educator or go to law school. I would like to get some experience in different fields and see what I’m most passionate about.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU has transformed my life by showing me that there are so many options out there. The Record Clearance Project has given me the opportunity to meet people from diverse backgrounds and learn many different skills that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

There is no doubt that my experience at SJSU has transformed me as a person and given me a very unique set of skills and experiences that will help me throughout my career.


Anie Clark.

Anie de la Rosa Clark (she/her/hers), ’21 Master of Business Administration

Milestones at SJSU:
A major milestone for me was to discover my competitive skills and take advantage of all opportunities the MBA offered. I participated in the Heritage Bank Certificate Analyst and took first place along with three talented undergraduate business students.

I became the first-ever MBA Hispanic Advisor with Centro Community Partners Advanced Entrepreneurs Program, setting course for future MBAs to get involved too. I managed to participate in an unpaid part-time internship at a robotics startup, and in our marketing class simulation project, my team set a new record in the simulation program for highest score since the simulation was introduced.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I could not think of a better way to spend my evenings and weekends than to spend them in MBA studies and assignments during the COVID-19 pandemic. This shifted my focus away from the pandemic, as I was so busy with readings, classes and projects.

I also appreciated interacting with classmates in similar circumstances and exchanging ideas about the unusual events that forced us to think differently. We cheered on each other. We connected with each other. We learned new ways of learning together, and we found new ways of planning, envisioning and executing ideas and strategies.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Everyone in the Lucas College and Graduate School of Business is genuinely invested in making every student’s career successful. Full disclosure, part of my interest in pursuing an MBA at SJSU is that I am a full-time SJSU employee; I wanted to know the SJSU product.

I uncovered the gem we refer to as the best public university in Silicon Valley. As I continue my work with SJSU donors, I feel reassured to share my story, knowing that everyone at SJSU is invested in educating the leaders of tomorrow and developing better citizens, thoughtful colleagues and stronger communities.

Career goals/next steps:
I launched my consulting firm and have been in a soft launch since 2019 refining my idea and putting in place my business plan. For now, I plan to continue working on it part time and continue my focus helping entrepreneurs launch their business.

My goal is to help entrepreneurs take action on their plans and launch, iterate and continue. I call this “actionate their planning” because a plan will not prove whether it works or not until action starts. And I plan to continue my career in philanthropy as it directly relates to my main three motivators: help others, support education and do what makes us happy.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
As a results-oriented person, I transformed my approach to face situations and address challenges by building more awareness of my people-oriented skills.


Nicole Coates.

Nicole Coates (she/her/hers), ’21 MS Interdisciplinary Studies

Milestones at SJSU:
I received the CSU Sally Casanova Scholar award, which helped me in applying to PhD programs this past year. I was able to apply to 15 programs, and I have been admitted to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to pursue my PhD in brain and cognitive sciences this fall!

I also was able to maintain a high GPA at SJSU, which was another goal of mine, in order to demonstrate to PhD programs I have what it takes to pursue graduate-level work.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
This past year has taught me to be patient in a time when everything seems uncertain, and to be understanding during a time when everyone is going through hardship. While socializing was nonexistent (in-person anyway), I was reminded of the importance and need for humans to be the social animals we are and reminded of how much I cherish my family, friends and colleagues.

Most valuable lesson I learned from SJSU:
First, office hours are necessary for not only retaining information learned in a class but also making long-lasting connections that will be helpful and wonderful to have as you advance in your career.

Second, the ability to collaborate is critical, as you can learn so much from your colleagues as well as produce work that is incredibly interesting and multifaceted.

Third, don’t be afraid to express interest in someone’s work! Chances are not only are they happy you are interested, but they will also offer ways in which you can collaborate with them.

Career goals/next steps:
I will be pursuing my PhD at MIT this fall in order to study developmental psychology and cognitive science. Aside from research, I will mentor undergraduates and be involved in diversity and inclusivity efforts in higher education.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State allowed me to pursue my interests that didn’t fit into one master’s program. Because of that, I have been able to collaborate with faculty from many departments as well as become a more creative and critical thinker.

Although the Interdisciplinary Studies program can be rather lonely (there’s no cohort or department that you belong to), faculty and students welcomed me with open arms. SJSU made me feel like I belonged, both as a student and as a young woman of color entering the world of academia.


Rachel A. Crawford.

Rachel Crawford (she/her/hers), ’21 MFA Creative Writing

Milestones at SJSU:
While at SJSU, I won the Dorrit A. Sibley Writing Scholarship Award for excellence in poetry in 2019 and 2020. I also won the Academy of American Poets Virginia de Araujo Prize, which led to the publishing of my poem “Visiting Side B” on the Academy’s website. I won the James Phelan Award for metrical verse in 2020, and my poem “Pleasants Valley Road, Cantelow Road, September 2020” was chosen as an award winner for SJSU’s Pandemic Pandemonium event.

My first major publication occurred during the spring of 2020 in New South Journal, and I have a poem, “The Snow Cone,” forthcoming in Reed Magazine’s first ever chapbook. I also worked with a group of Teaching Associates and Dr. Ryan Skinnell on writing a chapter that will be published in Threshold Conscripts: Rhetoric and Composition TAships.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
All people have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic in their own ways, and the things I learned the most are to have compassion for others and their circumstances and to show grace as much as possible.

I also learned how important it is to have patience for others, especially students who have family and work responsibilities outside of taking classes. While it was important for me to learn my own coursework and to teach writing skills to my students, it was also really important for me to pass on the value of having resilience and perseverance during difficult times.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
SJSU has so much to offer students in terms of resources and campus events, but it is up to each individual student how much to participate. When I attended SJSU as an undergrad, I did not participate much. In fact, I am embarrassed by the kind of student I was. However, attending SJSU as a graduate student 12 years later, I wanted my experience to be different.

I remember hearing a speech on the welcoming day for graduate students, and the speaker said to take advantage of everything in the program — read everything, attend every class, go to events and engage deeply in learning. I was inspired, and I did my best to live up to that advice.

Because of that, I graduate from the MFA program with a greater depth of knowledge and appreciation for everything I learned and everyone I encountered along my journey.

Career goals/next steps:
Next year, I will work at SJSU as a first-year writing instructor and as a supervisor for English phase II and III student teachers in the single-subject credential program. I will also continue to refine my poetry manuscript to send out for publication.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
I came to SJSU and found a community of writers and thinkers who welcomed and encouraged me. Many of the professors on campus have been my greatest mentors and supporters, and they showed me how to push the boundaries of my writing and my teaching.

Although I have always valued my family, going through this program taught me how much I truly depend on them, and for all of their help and encouragement, I am forever grateful. I feel so incredibly blessed to have attended the MFA program at SJSU, and I look forward to continuing my work there as a supervisor and first-year writing instructor.


Briettny Curtner.

Briettny Curtner (she/her/hers),’18 Psychology, ’21 MA Education, Counseling and Student Personnel

Milestones at SJSU:

  • Being a part of Faces of Learning, an arts-based research initiative hosted by Lurie College
  • Serving as an intern within the Residential Life Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage as part of the Association of College and University Housing Officers – International Housing Internship Program
  • Funding my thesis, “Misogynoir: Undergraduate Experiences by Black Women,” with the Graduate Equity Fellowship
  • Creating and facilitating 12 workshops focused on academic success, well-being and career planning workshops as a graduate assistant for Lurie College Success Center
  • Fostering awareness and coordinating initiatives relating to the Garret Lee Smith Campus Suicide Prevention Grant as community mental health coordinator role with Counseling and Psychological Services at SJSU

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I learned the value of being proactive. I do not believe I would have moved to another state during this pandemic to begin my career before completing my master’s degree if I was not proactive.

Additionally, I was starting to review position descriptions that were interesting as well as intimidating while my imposter syndrome kicked in. However, by preparing for all that I could control, I learned how to prevent COVID-19 from becoming a hindrance as my career began.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I have been with SJSU since 2014 as an undergraduate student, student employee, full-time employee and now a graduate student months away from commencement. I have learned many lessons during the seven years that I have spent with SJSU. The most impactful is the value of authenticity.

My educational background is within psychology and educational counseling, which I have used to support college students, and the rapport that can be built is priceless when it is genuine and authentic. I believe that representation is powerful, and my presence within Student Affairs, I hope, shows to others that pursuing this field is possible — regardless of a pandemic.

Authenticity in all that you do will go a long way.

Career goals/next steps:
I am four months into my new role with Utah Valley University, and my goals are to create a path towards success for students that is realistic and feasible for them. I aim to continue to learn more about the student population I now serve, adventure every weekend to somewhere new, and enjoy cuisines from places I have never heard of until moving to Lehi, Utah!

Simply put, my next steps are to be present in my new role because it is exactly the type of work I went to school for. Now, I can thrive in my new environment rather than work to survive as I did during my collegiate experiences.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
I first started with SJSU at 17 years old and am now graduating for the second time at 24 years old. San José State has provided opportunities for me to grow personally and professionally.
From within the residence halls to inside a classroom, I sought out leadership experiences that challenged me and contributed to a resume that has served me well.

Additionally, through my master’s program, I was able to facilitate research. After two years, my thesis is complete, and it would not have happened without the support of my committee chair Dr. Jason Laker and committee members Drs. Angela Birts and Lorri Capizzi.

All in all, during my time with SJSU, I learned what I enjoyed in life, what careers were of interest, and what I will continue to aspire to accomplish.


Zobeida Delgadillo.

Zobeida Delgadillo (she/her/hers), ‘21 Political Science

Milestones at SJSU:
It has been both an honor and a privilege to have served as Associated Students president and chief executive officer as well as Associated Students director of legislative affairs. Additionally, as a governing member of the California State Student Association, I’ve advocated for obtaining more state funding for the CSU system, supporting basic needs initiatives, providing funding to resources and departments and promoting student participation in the governance of the CSU system.

Other roles that have allowed me to continue my pursuit of life-long learning, personal growth and inclusion: a senator on the Academic Senate, a board member on the Student Union, a member of the Athletics Board, an orientation leader for New Student and Family Programs, and a member of Alpha Omicron Pi.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I’ve learned that learning is a two-way street. Despite being in a virtual setting, I’ve continued to allow myself to share my personal experiences and learn from others, which has given me new perspectives and enriched my college experience.

I’ve also learned ways to be more adaptable and flexible, both in academic productivity and my personal development. I would advise students to not feel constrained by the lack of in-person engagement in a virtual setting. In a campus filled with cultural diversity, your individuality is extremely respected and valued, so no matter your interests, chances are there’s a place for you.

As Spartans, you are in the place where Olympic winners, entrepreneurs and trailblazers in society once stood. Challenge yourself. Absorb everything. And above all, enjoy and trust the process!

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
My experience as SJSU and various leadership roles have taught me the importance of intersectionality, equity and transparency. Initiative and innovation are key to my principles, as my time at SJSU taught me to capitalize on my strengths and find my voice.

My authenticity has taught me to be comfortable with the uncomfortable, which means having the courage to drive innovation, engagement and advocacy. This form of confidence has further contributed to my resilience and commitment to the communities I belong to.

Career goals/next steps:
I will be attending graduate school immediately after undergrad. I’m still undecided of where I’ll attend, but I recently received admission and a scholarship to the University of San Francisco for a MA in sports management.

I hope to pursue a career in the sports industry and one day become an executive in Major League Baseball. Regardless, I will continue to be a life-long advocate for access and equality for women not only in athletics but in all sectors of society.

How has SJSU transformed your life?:
As a first-generation student and a San José native, I’ve been transformed by SJSU in ways I never imagined. I keep close to me this quote by James Baldwin: “The place in which I’ll fit will not exist until I make it.” It reminds me to always have vision, dedication and strategy everywhere I go, even if it means occupying spaces that traditionally have not been meant for me.

My community at SJSU has given me utmost guidance, clarity and an outstanding support system, to which I credit my success in and outside the classroom. As I move forward, I believe that my personal and professional experiences at SJSU have laid the foundation for me to continue creating transformative change in my career and community.



Zoe Dolak (she/her/hers), ’21 Public Relations

Milestones at SJSU:
My time at San José State has been filled with so many unique experiences and opportunities.
One of my biggest accomplishments at San José State was working alongside the Journalism and Mass Communications [school] and the Dwight Bentel Hall agency team to virtually honor Dr. Anthony Fauci with the William Randolph Hearst Award for excellence in mass communications. We were able to bring one of 2020’s biggest figures onto campus and bring recognition to the school and everything that Dr. Anthony Fauci has done.

I’m also proud to have led a month-long campaign and case study about civil discourse in America for the Public Relations Student Society of America

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending college during the pandemic was difficult, but I learned that I’m capable of taking on challenges and creating change no matter the circumstance. In every situation, there’s always still opportunity.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I’ve learned a lot of lessons at San José State, and I think one of the biggest ones was learning how to follow my heart. Everyone always says that there’s something you “need” to be doing or a point you “should” be at in life. But I found that listening to myself and following my own path has taught me the most.

Career goals/next steps:
Once I graduate from San José State, I plan to further the message of sustainability and climate equity in California and the United States by doing communications work with the company CALSTART. Helping to uplift other voices and empower future generations is always going to be my number one goal.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my professional life, but it also has transformed my cultural and societal views. Going to this school took me from being a young high-schooler who didn’t really know what she wanted to do in life to being a leader, a thinker and someone who has three times the amount of confidence in themselves. I am forever grateful for the opportunities the school has given me to learn how to grow and thrive every single day. Spartan up!


Adam Elwailly.

Adam Elwailly (he/him/his), ’21 Electrical Engineering

Milestones at SJSU:
One of my research papers was accepted to a peer-reviewed academic journal in the field of semiconductor electronics. I’m very pleased with this accomplishment, as the months of hard work that preceded submitting the manuscript led me to discover a passion for research, which informed my decision to pursue a PhD after graduation from San José State.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending classes during the COVID-19 pandemic taught me a great deal about focus. When classes moved online, I learned rather quickly that it is all too easy to become distracted and disengaged without clear structure and a few self-imposed rules to keep me focused. I hope to carry this self-discipline forward throughout the rest of my time as a student and into my career.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
My experience at San José State taught me that opportunities are rarely unavailable. One of the keys to success is learning to recognize where opportunities exist, even where they may be hidden, and being willing to take them, even when they may be difficult. The pursuit of opportunity is always worth it.

Career goals/next steps:
This fall, I will be attending the electrical engineering PhD program at Stanford University, where I will pursue research in nanoelectronics or power semiconductor devices. It is my hope that this path leads me to a rich career in electronics research.

I may ultimately pursue a university professorship, as academia lies squarely within this framework for my future endeavors.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State provided me with more opportunities than I could ever have taken. In addition to laying a foundation for a career in electronics research, being a student at San José State taught me valuable fundamental skills that will be useful in any of my future pursuits.
As I graduate, my most significant takeaway about San José State is that, through their interactions with their instructors and with each other, students here can find support for any interest or career path.


Mateo Garcia De la Quintana.

Mateo Garcia De la Quintana (he/him/his), ’21 Advertising

Milestones at SJSU:
My sophomore year, I started in my first graphic design position for CommUniverCity under John Delacruz. As a junior, I served as the creative director of the Spartan Ad Club, an advertising/marketing assistant for the Spartan Recreation and Aquatic Center (a role I continued as a senior), a student art director at DBH Communications Agency on campus, and an Adobe Ambassador, which I also held my senior year.

Both my sophomore and junior years, I interned for SJSU Up&Up Festivals. My senior year, I was co-president of the Spartan Ad Club, the social media director for Something Nice Company, and a freelance product photographer.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Opportunities are everywhere — especially online now! It was an amazing opportunity to understand myself away from campus while still at school.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lesson I learned is that you will receive just as much as you put in. Life is not always in the classroom — there is so much more to discover and learn from clubs, people and professors that you can’t always find in the classroom. Do not be afraid to take that extra step to improve yourself.

Career goals/next steps:
I just want my next step to be something I am passionate about and want to do — something that makes me say, “Yes; I am excited to do this.” I would love to continue working in social media and product photography. I am glad I will have an amazing background from SJSU to help me move forward in my career. SJSU has been recognized by so many companies, and they know the students that come out of here are going to be great.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my life drastically. I learned a lot that will transform me into the person I want to be, and I owe it to my professors and peers that shaped me.

But most importantly, I lost a lot, whether it was through assignments, jobs, relationships or a competition. That is something I value, because it made me learn things about myself, and it made me want to do better. I am always a better version of myself than I was yesterday.


Lydon George.

Lydon George (he/him/his), ‘21 Master in Urban Planning

Milestones at SJSU:
Through leadership roles with our two urban planning student organizations (TRANSITion and Urban Planning Coalition), I have been able to help coordinate numerous events and initiatives to engage students and the community with issues in planning.

I have contributed to published public transportation research through the Mineta Transportation Institute (MTI) and worked as an intern for the Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority . Lastly, I am on my way to having earned a master’s degree in urban planning; I think that is pretty noteworthy in itself.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic has very clearly highlighted the importance of community, relationships and in-person interactions to one’s success not only as a student but also as a healthy, happy person.

We have been hardwired to move about, place ourselves in different settings to do different things, and to interact with different people, not fully appreciating how much is communicated or experienced in the process. It took a collective, proactive approach to build up and maintain my SJSU community and ensure that we were able to support each other through this rigorous academic program, and in life in general.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I learned that true progress in academic thought and real-world problem solving is born from the collective mind. Often in the “real” world, we do not have the opportunity to spend time with people who are very different from us and are unable to truly understand the value of their different perspectives.

The Master in Urban Planning (MUP) program at SJSU is a microcosm of the beautiful diversity we see across the Bay Area, connecting students from all types of ethnic, social and academic backgrounds. Each of these people brings unique experiences, insights and knowledge to our field that are crucial for addressing issues of urban planning. As we move onto professional endeavors, it is important to remember the value in actively breaking down social and racial barriers to promote diverse voices.

Career goals/next steps:
Oh, you mean I can’t just be in classes forever? OK, in that case, I will actively seek employment in the public sector to further community/cultural enrichment and racial/social equity within systemic planning processes.

I will continue to conduct academic research with my research team at MTI and pursue other opportunities to become more involved with community-based planning initiatives. I might even read a book for fun.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
Immediately, my connection to SJSU and the MUP program gave me the institutional support to connect with various, planning-related professionals in a credible, real way. SJSU has provided the education, academic/professional opportunities and personal connections to facilitate my professional aspirations.

As well, my experience at SJSU has enabled me to academically frame and address critical issues we face on a day-to-day basis, such as access to housing and jobs, racism and environmental preservation, and it has empowered me to push for progress on a systemic level.


Olivia Gerber.

Olivia Gerber (she/her/hers), ’21 Political Science and Journalism

Milestones at SJSU:
I have had the pleasure of holding a variety of leadership positions at SJSU, including serving as a resident advisor, the Panhellenic Council president, and managing editor of the Spartan Daily. I also had the opportunity to complete the Advanced Humanities Honors program and work as a student intern for Students for Quality Education with the California Faculty Association.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending college during the pandemic has taught me that adaptability and a strong support system can go a long way and that it’s OK to struggle and lean on those around you.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lessons I have learned at SJSU are the only way to know is to try — quite literally get involved in everything and anything that interests you. It’s OK to feel nervous, but don’t take yourself out of the game before it’s even started.

Career goals/next steps:
Much like my time at SJSU, my next steps are wherever the wind takes me. My goals range from investigative reporting for a news publication to traveling the world as a diplomat and everything in between.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed me into a curious and confident person. I am so grateful for the diverse experiences and vibrant instructors I have had at SJSU, and I feel so ready to take on the world.


Anna Harvey.

Anna Harvey (she/her/hers), ’21 MS Transportation Management

Milestones at SJSU:
Switched jobs and semi-successfully parented my 4-year-old daughter — both with lots of love, help and advice from family, friends and mentors!

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Ask for and admit to needing help; your support network is waiting to step in, but they can’t read your mind.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Every class and every classmate is an opportunity to learn something new.

Career goals/next steps:
I’d like to continue working towards leadership roles in transportation organizations.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
I honestly never anticipated returning to school after earning my undergraduate degree. SJSU’s Minetta Transportation Institute and the MS in Transportation Management program allowed me to do so as the full-time working mom of a toddler.

I really applied myself to show my daughter what can be accomplished in even the busiest seasons of life. This experience has strengthened my conviction in my goals and given me the opportunity to meet many other awesome people who are all engaged in addressing similar professional and societal challenges.


Fatima Hassan.

Fatima Hassan (she/her/hers), ‘21 Psychology

Milestones at SJSU:
I have always been a mental health advocate, and I was delighted to continue doing this even as a student, thanks to the Mental Health Ambassadors program at SJSU. As a Mental Health Ambassador (MHA), all the outreach work I and the other MHAs have been doing has helped many SJSU students access and learn about the mental health services available at SJSU.

I’m also on my way to finish my degree in three years, and I was able to do this while maintaining my GPA (and sanity) and the transition to online classes due to the pandemic.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Adaptability is the key to achieving anything during unprecedented times. Not everything in life is going to work out the way you intended, especially when it comes to college. The key is to learn to adapt to unexpected situations, being resourceful and using the lessons you learn along the way for personal growth.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I have attended a lot of online events at SJSU and met some amazing people that I have learned a lot from. This taught me the importance of networking and connecting with others. Doing this has not only put me out of my comfort zone, but it has also helped me get exposed to diverse perspectives on life and meet some amazing individuals from various backgrounds.

Career goals/next steps:
The goal is to enroll in a master’s program and become a mental health counselor who serves underrepresented communities, especially immigrants/refugees. Eventually, I would like to get my doctorate and start my research as well as teaching career.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has offered me so many opportunities to learn and grow in ways I never imagined. My experiences at SJSU have pushed me to do better and achieve more than I thought I was capable of. I have met the most amazing professors who have helped me with my career goals and aspirations. I will miss the Spartan community, and I will cherish connections I have made here forever.


Bianca Hernandez.

Bianca Hernandez (she/her/ella/hers), ’21 MA Sociology

Milestones at SJSU:
A major accomplishment I had at SJSU is being the first in my family to attend and graduate from a higher education institution, and now in a few weeks, I will do it again with my master’s degree from SJSU, as well.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
No matter what is going on, I can do it. Maybe it won’t look or feel the same (Zoom meetings, no in- person meeting, social distancing), but I can still get it done.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
There will always be people around me, whether they’re teachers, advisors, co-workers or new friends, supporting and cheering me on in my educational goals.

Career goals/next steps:?
One of my ultimate career goals is to work in the community college system. It is where I learned about sociology, and I ultimately want to help other students like me navigating the higher education system.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my life by giving me so many new opportunities that will help me in my future career, and even in my last semester here, it keeps on opening new doors for me.


Shruthi Kamath.

Shruthi Kamath (she/her/hers), ’21 Psychology

Milestones at SJSU:
I am humbled to share that I will be graduating cum laude from San José State University with honors in psychology. To recognize my academic and leadership achievements, I have been awarded the President’s Scholar Award, Dean’s Scholar Award and the A.S. 55 Award.

In addition, during my freshman and sophomore years at SJSU, I was a part of the Humanities Undergraduate Honors program. Furthermore, in fall 2020, I was recognized with my team as a finalist for the Silicon Valley Innovation Challenge for our innovation of SPAR — a safety companion app exclusive to San José State University.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic has better prepared me for known and unknown circumstances. Along with my peers, I have learned to rise above and recognize my resiliency. I will be sure to embrace the future and take nothing and no one for granted.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
One of the most valuable lessons I have learned from my experiences at SJSU is that
when networking and creating the brand you want to portray, it is most important to be
genuine and authentic in order to make a lasting impression.

Also, being proactive, asking for help, and getting involved in student organizations has encouraged me to see that the world is at your doorstep, and stepping out of your comfort zone is the perfect way to explore those new areas and expand your perspective. Essentially, being open to taking risks is key, so you honor your desires and are willing to put yourself out there.

Career goals/next steps:
Following my graduation at SJSU, I look forward to starting my career in program
management within the tech industry. After a few years of work experience, I hope to
further my studies by pursuing a master’s in business analytics.

My interests lie at the intersection of business, technology and innovation, with a strong passion for women’s empowerment, entrepreneurship and professional development. My ultimate goal is to use my skills and knowledge while working with others to make a meaningful impact in the community around me.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State University has transformed my life through the plethora of exceptional
opportunities that have opened doors for me. Throughout the past four years, I have been
able to foster my professional interests and pursue my creative passions through my
involvement in SJSU Women in Business and Carr Lab Investigating Memory
and the Brain (CLIMB).

I have had the ability to thrive as a professional while being surrounded
by a values-driven community filled with creative, dynamic and resilient leaders.


Jacob Lapinsky.

Jacob Lapinsky (he/him/his), ’21 History and Social Science

Milestones at SJSU:
As a first-generation, low-income college student from a single mother household, I️ am the first person in my family to receive a college degree — in four years, on my own. I have been blessed with the opportunity to work for San José State’s Educational Opportunity Program, as the EOP Workshop Coordinator and an I Can I Will Mentor, while attending school full-time. I️ will be graduating with a 3.7 cumulative GPA as a double major.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I learned that things change, and those who actively work to adapt to the circumstances will succeed. Moving to remote learning left significant time for introspective thinking and to explore what I ️value — my place in the world.

From a historical perspective, we have seen pandemics similar or worse to the likes of what we are experiencing today. With books like The Journal of the Plague Year by Daniel Defoe and The Plague by Albert Camus that I have read in SJSU history courses, it is clear that this is a feature of the human experience, so this has been a historic time to attend college.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lesson I️ have learned from my time at SJSU has come from my Sociology of Education Professor, Dr. Yolanda Wiggins. She opened her class with a quote by Toni Morrison:

“I tell my students, ‘When you get these jobs that you have been so brilliantly trained for, just remember that your real job is that if you are free, you need to free somebody else. If you have power, then your job is to empower somebody else. This is not just a grab-bag candy game.’’

I️ hope to carry that spirit to enable my future students with the tools they need to free themselves.

Career goals/next steps:
I️ plan to attend the teacher education program at SJSU and achieve an MA in teaching with a teaching credential in social sciences or ethnic studies. I️ hope to teach history, social sciences or ethnic studies at a high school in the Bay Area. I️ am committed to helping to serve historically underserved and disadvantaged communities in the fight against the opportunity gap plaguing education today.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU has transformed my life by giving me the opportunity to pursue a career that I️ am truly passionate about. My life has truly been transformed with the instruction and knowledge accrued over these four years and have made me into a person capable of thinking deeply and critically — and teaching others passionately — as well as being a proper historian.

SJSU has given me the opportunity to live a life that is not full of struggle and strife, and the tools that I️ needed to “free myself,” as Toni Morrison says. I️ owe so much to the EOP program at SJSU, and I️ am eternally grateful for my time spent working for/being a member of the program.


Vanndy Loth.

Vanndy Loth-Kumar (she/her/hers), ’12 Nursing, ’15 Master of Public Health, ’21 Doctor of Nursing Practice

Milestones at SJSU:
I was privileged to complete my Bachelor of Science degree in nursing (BSN), a Master of Public Health (MPH), and Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) through SJSU. I am appreciative of my internship experiences on projects related to promoting intimate-partner violence awareness as well as evaluating program outcomes in mental health.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I have two main takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic. The first is that learning and personal growth can still occur during a pandemic. The second is that faculty and peers are vital in making any academic experience meaningful.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I was able to participate in memorable internships and clinical experiences through SJSU. I was able to learn the value in the voices of the people within the community. This allowed me to gain the skills I needed for patient advocacy.

Career goals/next steps:
After graduation, my next steps include taking on a lead position with a nonprofit organization to support the integration between mental health and primary care services. My goal is to be able to provide timely access for patients who may benefit from quality mental health services.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
As a first-generation college student of Cambodian refugees, I did not intend to pursue graduate studies. SJSU changed my life by exposing me to the possibilities available with higher learning. SJSU also helped set me along a path towards supporting my community.


Ben Newsome.

Ben Newsome (he/him/his), ’21 MA History

Milestones at SJSU:
There were a couple of major accomplishments I achieved during my time at SJSU. The first was passing the cumulative exam for my program. The exam was rather stressful considering that it covered U.S. history from 1865 to the present and was timed. It was a relief to finish it and pass it on my first attempt. The second milestone that was particularly important to me was maintaining a 4.0 GPA for the entire time I was in the History graduate program.

There were several times when I worried that I would come up short, but thanks to my fellow classmates and the help I received from our wonderful history professors here at SJSU, I was able to reach my goal.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending college during the pandemic was tough. I learned that it takes even more personal responsibility to stay on top of assignments and your classes. I think it is important to practice self care and find ways to give yourself a break, especially when you are spending all day on Zoom.

I also felt that it was important to stay in touch with my classmates and co-workers at Peer Connections in order to maintain a sense of community. Having that connection to the school community really helped me get through the difficult days during the pandemic.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I have learned that sometimes the hardest thing about accomplishing your goals is staying determined and positive no matter what obstacles you face. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and reach out to friends and classmates that are there with you. They are often the most valuable asset you have.

Overall, I learned that if you show up, do the work and aren’t afraid to take chances, you can get through just about anything.

Career goals/next steps:
My career goal is to get a job teaching at a community college. My next step is to look for adjunct work as a history instructor or possibly a teaching job at the high school level. I think it is important to stay open and embrace whatever opportunities come my way.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has reminded me of what I am capable of and has opened the door to numerous opportunities for me to not only grow my career but also grow as a person.

The experience has given me a new perspective on what continuing your education can do for you at any age. I know now that no matter what happens in my life, no one can take away my experiences and what I have accomplished during my time at SJSU.


Sabina Patel.

Sabina Patel (she/her/hers), ’21 Psychology

Milestones at SJSU:
My major milestones have been presenting research at conferences such as Western Psychological Association, Human Factors and Ergonomics Society and the Spartan Psychological Association Research Conference, as well as repeatedly performing at a high level academically.

I developed my interpersonal skills through my experience as vice president of Psi Chi, the international honor society in psychology, and president of Order of Omega, a Greek honor society.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic taught me the value of creating a good relationship with my professors early in the semester. Having that foundation along with strong organizational skills, allowed me to feel confident in my ability to manage school through these trying times.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
My experience at SJSU taught me the importance of saying yes and no to opportunities that arise. I learned when to set limits for myself while developing my skill sets. Having a strong support system helped me through challenges that I faced both academically and personally.

Career goals/next steps:
I will be pursuing a PhD in human factors and behavioral neurobiology with a primary focus of technology within the health-care field.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has taught me to be confident in my skill sets academically and professionally. I learned that self care should be used as something that supports your growth and should not be used as just a reward for hard work.


Steven Peck.

Steven Peck (he/him/his), ’21 Political Science

Milestones at SJSU:
Academically, I have had the honor of being a President’s and Dean’s Scholar during my time at SJSU. I also take pride in the various research projects I have taken on in my political science courses.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Being adaptive is probably the biggest takeaway I have from this online learning experience.
There is so much uncertainty in life — taking obstacles in stride and working to overcome them
is essential.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Making connections is key. I have been able to learn and gain so much from the relationships that I have built at SJSU. Without them, I’m not certain where I would be right now.

Career goals/next steps?
After I graduate, I intend to continue my efforts in preserving and sharing the history of Silicon
Valley’s LGBTQ community. In terms of my career, it is my goal that my work is centered around bettering our communities.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
Through my experiences at SJSU, I have been transformed into a driven and dedicated
individual. It is hard to imagine where I would be without all the people and opportunities SJSU
has provided me. I am forever grateful.


Andrea Perez.

Andrea Perez (she/her/hers), ‘21 Advertising

Milestones at SJSU:
I never imagined how much I would accomplish in four years. I completed the Humanities Honors program and was treasurer and co-president of the Spartan Advertising Club. I served as an Adobe Ambassador and participated in the National Student Advertising Competition by the American Advertising Federation — winning an ADDY.

My senior year, I was a board member of the Inaugural Student Advisory Committee for the American Advertising Federation. I have received scholarships from the Journalism and Mass Communications department, and I have been on the Dean’s Scholar list five times.

I also worked with Academic Technology as a media production student assistant and recently became the social media manager for the Center for Faculty Development.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
One of the most important lessons I learned while transitioning to an online college experience was to take advantage of every opportunity I was offered. Even if it seems like there isn’t enough time to get everything done, or it’s an opportunity that might be out of your comfort zone, you aren’t alone — others are feeling that way too. You will end up getting so much more out of college than just going to class and taking notes.

That being said, there are times when we have to recognize there’s too much on our plate. Sometimes it’s difficult to decide to turn something down, but being clear about your intentions will bring new opportunities later on.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
It’s important to not compare your college experience with others. I spent too much time worrying I was behind or not doing enough. Now, at the end of my college experience, I am finally processing all I have done and am proud of myself for it.

Career goals/next steps:
As a management track advertising student who has worked primarily with creative track students, I’ve noticed there’s a sense of separation and lack of communication between the two areas. I want to serve as a bridge, particularly on the production side in development.

Some of the best advice I received during an agency tour was that management has to think like a creative and vice versa for a campaign to be successful. The two areas should work together and work to everyone’s strengths. I aim to begin in a creative operations position at an agency and go from there.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
The most transformative aspect of my time at SJSU was building strong relationships with the faculty and staff. If it weren’t for their recommendations, I wouldn’t hold a position on a national board or have earned a job closely related to the field I would like to enter after graduation.

Their trust and belief in me has enabled me to do more than I could have imagined.


Abril Perez-Gonzaga.

Abril Perez-Gonzaga (she/her/hers), ‘21 Anthropology

Milestones at SJSU:
A major milestone for me was getting into the McNair Scholars Program and having the opportunity to publish an article. I have also been recognized for my extensive volunteer work with the César E. Chávez Community Action Center.

My favorite accomplishment so far has been working with my professors to help contribute to research in anthropology.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic during my college experience was particularly hard, but I learned that pivoting was crucial. I had to be resourceful and make the most out of my situation while balancing online classes.

I learned that fear was not an option, so I used my discomfort as motivation to adapt.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I have learned to question and criticize everything. Diversity and listening to perspectives that are different from mine have also enriched my experience.

Career goals/next steps:
My next steps are to take a gap year to gain experience in the field of anthropology or archaeology and then apply to PhD programs. I hope to attend Columbia University and become a professor.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my life through interactions with my professors. The enthusiasm in lectures and the devotion to students are what stood out to me. I left class every day thinking I knew it all only to have my mind blown again the next day. I am now able to think without constraint or limits and look forward to sharing my innovations with others.



Naromy Ramirez (she/her/hers), ’21 MA Education, Special Education

My name is Naromy Ramirez. My pronouns are she/her/hers. My major here at San José State is special education.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
One of the key takeaways that I’ve learned from attending college during this COVID-19 pandemic was just my ability of being able to be flexible in the locations where I study. I normally would go to the library, where I need some peace and quiet.

I knew that during this pandemic it was going to be difficult for me, given that there’s toddlers and infants at my house and with all that crying, it was going to make it impossible for me to study inside my home. So I was flexible enough to wake up earlier, six in the morning, and make a table for me outside in my yard. Six in the morning, put on some layers and get to work, do my assignments, study for my exams.

So that is one of the key takeaways that I’ve learned, is just being able, having to be flexible in order to complete my master’s program. I’m getting my master’s in special education and as a teacher I’ve learned that I need to be flexible, so this COVID pandemic actually really helped me learn that lesson that I needed to.

Career goals/next steps:
My career goals, my next steps is finding a job in teaching, and currently I’m applying to a couple different jobs. I am thinking of taking a job in a therapeutic setting STC classroom.

San José State has transformed my life.


Nick Randle.

Nick Randle (he/him/his), ’21 Graphic Design

Milestones at SJSU:
One major milestone I had at SJSU was being accepted into the BFA graphic design program. Since I transferred to SJSU from a junior college, I wanted to further my design education in the BFA. In the program, you learn how to have fun even in the most stressful of times.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
During the COVID-19 pandemic, I learned the importance of community. The BFA is a tight-knit group and during in-person class, we would often work together in our classroom and motivate one another. However, since the pandemic started, everyone is alone at home. I find it critical to keep in close contact with my classmates and chat over Zoom or voice-call to keep the camaraderie going.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
While at SJSU I learned two valuable lessons. The first is to accept that every project you do will not be perfect and that making mistakes is actually beneficial to learning. Second, do not feel like you have to know everything. Stay curious and always be receptive to new information and viewpoints.

Career goals/next steps:
After I graduate, I hope to pursue a career in graphic design either at a branding agency or tech company.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
At San José State, I really grew as a person and opened myself up to new people and experiences. I have also made deep friendships that I hope to continue after graduation.


Jasmine Reyes.

Jasmine Marie Reyes (she/her/hers), ’21 Music, Performance

Milestones at SJSU:
In the spring 2019 semester, I was in the SJSU School of Music and Dance department-wide production of Leonard Bernstein’s “Mass.” It was so different from other performances I’ve done — very artistic. I was also able to put on a successful junior recital last July during the pandemic!

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
If I really want to do something, I can’t rely on people to tell me to do it. I found myself very dependent on my professors and instructors for motivation (mostly for performance deadlines). Because I didn’t have frequent communication with them when we shut down, I really had to push myself to get work done. The discipline I grew helped me put on my junior recital after being unmotivated to practice my music for months!

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
There are so many narratives going on around me, and most of them only show one perspective of a story. I learned to do more research on my own, which consisted of looking at sources that hold various viewpoints/biases. This helped me learn things and make decisions about the world for myself, not just from social media and the news around me.

Career goals/next steps:
I will continue to train in musical theater and opera performance with private instructors and through various programs. I hope more countries become open to American travelers so I can do young artist programs in countries like Italy, Austria and France! I will also continue to teach my private voice students and build my studio.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has helped me see the world from a different view. Because the student body is so diverse, it’s full of people with various backgrounds and stories. (I was raised in an affluent neighborhood in the suburbs, which can be a social bubble.)

Music has the tendency to reflect the times (politics, issues, the world in general), and I have the privilege to reflect these stories through songs I perform and write myself. I’m grateful to my professors and instructors for helping me find my voice.


Ralph Robinson.

Ralph Robinson (he/him/his), ’21 Master in Urban Planning

Milestones at SJSU:
Preparing a robust community assessment of Eastside San José neighborhoods was the highlight of my time in the Master of Urban Planning program. I got to work directly with some tremendous residents and staff from local organizations, who taught me so much about the incredible history and culture of their community. The entire experience gave me a deeper appreciation for both the neighborhoods I worked in and the city of San José in general.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The lesson of this past year, and any challenging times I’ve encountered, is to just keep going. You have to do the best you can with what’s in front of you and find a way to get something out of every day. Stick to that and in time you’ll find yourself in a lot better spot than you were before.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I was so fortunate to learn from the wealth of personal and professional experiences my professors and classmates brought to the program. It was such an asset to be surrounded by people who well represented the diverse perspectives and backgrounds I will encounter throughout my career in planning.

Career goals/next steps:
I have long sought to work for the public good and to help create communities that are sustainable, equitable and, ultimately, better for people. My passion for place-making and effecting positive change in human environments is what inspired me to pursue a degree in urban planning. My ultimate goal is to play a role in creating places that best provide the mental, physical and social benefits that people and communities need.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State gave me the chance to pursue an opportunity I long wanted, but which I didn’t even think was still available to me. It opened back up a door that I worried had already closed. I will always be immensely grateful for everything SJSU has done for me.



Leilani Saelaw (she/her/hers), ’21 Kinesiology

Milestones at SJSU:
During my time here at San José State University, I was able to be featured in two Spartan Daily articles and two conferences where I was able to share my research and interests on adapted sports for athletes with disabilities. Through my research, I was able to win two awards: third place for best overall video and first place for most views and likes on Youtube.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending college through the COVID-19 pandemic taught me not to take education for granted. I also learned that I still had a voice — even though it was through a screen.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Some of the most valuable lessons I learned here at San José State were not to be afraid to ask for help and to make an effort to stay connected with your community. That could mean colleagues, peers, clubs — any of them, because they definitely will have an impact on your future.

Career goals/next steps:
My next steps after graduation is to get my master’s in occupational therapy and to continue my advocacy and research for adapted sports.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State University transformed my life. Here, I was introduced to many teachers, colleagues and peers that helped me get one step closer to my ultimate goal of becoming an occupational therapist. Also San José State University gave me a lot of opportunities to succeed and build a professional profile for myself.


Marc Santos.

Marc Adrian Narvadez Santos (he/him/his), ’21 English

Milestones at SJSU:
A major milestone during my collegiate academic career was participating in the Humanities Honors Program, in which an excellent team of professors instructed me and my cohort to connect, articulate and apply ancient, pivotal texts to the present day. I devoted three years to that program, and I cherish each lecture for making me into a more cosmopolitan scholar.

I want to recognize, celebrate and appreciate one of my favorite professors, Dr. Nancy Stork, who challenged yet improved my skills as a scholarly writer. She mentored and guided me in an independent study of advanced grammar in which I produced a 25-page research paper on verbs.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
A key takeaway from that experience is learning how to control the space around me. Because all events — school, work and social relationships — were compounded into a single household and single computer screen, I needed to set boundaries for self-care and fending against digital fatigue. I had become desensitized to time and a monotonous, daily routine, which caused the days to blend in together.

Setting calendars and daily reminders helped ground me in finding critical moments to reorient myself, hydrate and breathe.

Career goals/next steps:
My next steps post-graduation are applying for graduate school to pursue my master’s degree in English education and my doctorate in English literary theory. My career goal is to become a professor — one who inspires undergraduate students to love literature from Shakespearean plays to texts from Romanticism.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
Before arriving at San José State, I was afraid and doubtful since I am first in my family to attend a university in the United States. But the San José State community welcomed me and assuaged my anxieties.

San José State transformed my life by being the first step in my pathway to becoming a professor. The Humanities and English faculty are amazing to learn from, and they helped me discover my passion for scholarly research.

By being part of the SJSU community, I cultivated long-lasting connections and friendships with fellow scholars.


Sabrina Shell.

Sabrina Shell (she/her/hers), ‘21 Industrial Design

Milestones at SJSU:
One of my memorable accomplishments is passing my first-year portfolio review for the Industrial Design program. It was a challenging and demanding year, but I was so proud that I could continue growing and learning in the program.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Stay on top of things and accomplish my assignments; write down my schedule or a list of things I would like to achieve every day. Being able to cross items off my daily list helped me stay on top of my work.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Hard work always pays off. If your skills are lacking in something, keep working at it and give it everything. You will show others and yourself how much you have improved.

Career goals/next steps:
My career goal is to find a design company that designs products that have meaning and improve people’s lives. I would love to be in an environment where I can grow and always continue to learn as a designer.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has positively transformed my life. I am thankful for the knowledge and skills I gained in the last four years. I am most grateful for all the memories I have made and the friendships; I know I will never forget my experience at San José State.


Kristina Smith.

Kristina Smith (she/her/hers), ’21 Child and Adolescent Development and Psychology

Milestones at SJSU:
An accomplishment I had at SJSU would be graduating in four years as a double major. Another accomplishment would be getting a job working with juvenile delinquents and youths who struggle with mental illnesses.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The pandemic has given me the opportunity of connecting and networking. As soon as everything transitioned to Zoom, I found myself talking to my advisors and professors more than I did when we were in person. This helped me gain stronger relationships with my professors and mentors. Through reaching out, I was given an opportunity to be a research assistant and have been given great career advice.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The most valuable lessons I have learned from my experience at SJSU is to network and ask questions.

Career goals/next steps:
My career goal is to become a clinical psychologist. I am wanting to work with children and adolescents who have experienced trauma. Within this, I am also planning to conduct research. My next steps consist of me gaining more research experience then applying to a doctoral program.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my life by giving me the opportunity to find myself as an adult and figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life.


Juan Carlos Soliz.

Juan Carlos Soliz (he/him/his), ’21 Behavioral Science

Milestones at SJSU:
It is a great honor to graduate from SJSU with a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science. I’m the first one (of 12 siblings) in my family to graduate after taking a break due to medical reasons. It was also an honor to go back to college around the same time my daughter started attending SJSU, as I want to be a role model for her.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Regardless of the critical circumstances we all are in, education was my number one priority, and this time there is nothing that will stop me from accomplishing my goal. I have plans to become a social worker and provide my community with any vital information they might need.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I have learned that no matter the setbacks, either at a professional or personal level, getting a higher education is something that will provide me with the essential tools to work with my community, who is part of my family. As such, it is my responsibility to provide an exceptional type of work.

Career goals/next steps:
My career goals are to work in the Department of Social Services as a social worker for the California In-Home Supportive Services program. I also will continue to volunteer for Sacred Heart Community Center as our community needs to receive proper information and services.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
Attending SJSU has provided me with the knowledge and guidance to expand my willingness to help the Hispanic/Latino community. Obtaining a degree in behavioral science will expand my opportunities within the Social Services department. I will be able to assist the most vulnerable people in the county.


Ty Supreme.

Ty Supreme (she/her/hers), ’21 Microbiology

Milestones at SJSU:
I think one of my biggest milestones at San José State has been the realization that my passion lies in the sciences. I came to San Jose Staté as a justice studies major, and I was able to utilize many of the opportunities the school had to offer in order to change my major to something I am truly passionate about.

Throughout my time at SJSU, I’ve been a President’s Scholar (2017-2018) and a Dean’s Scholar (2018-current). I’ve been able to maintain a GPA above 3.85 my whole academic career while playing Division 1 sports and will most likely graduate summa cum laude.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I think the biggest takeaway I’ve learned from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic is how resilient we college students really are. Many students throughout this pandemic have had to adapt like no one ever has before. Learning completely online was a change for everyone, teachers included, and everyone really tried their best to make the transition as easy as they could.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
I think my time at SJSU as a Division 1 athlete and a STEM major has really taught me that anything is possible if you really commit to it. There will be so many times where you don’t want to stay up late studying or don’t want to go to practice, but all of those little sacrifices are investments into your future.

Lastly, just make the most of every opportunity you’re given because you don’t want to leave college wishing you did things differently.

Career goals/next steps:
I am fortunate enough to have been accepted into the graduate program at the University of Toronto (the top university in Canada) for molecular genetics, where I intend to pursue my master’s then PhD.

My ultimate career goal is to make meaningful contributions in the fields of microbiology and immunology with a focus in the study, defense and treatment of infectious human diseases. I hope to secure a challenging position in a reputable organization or continue fundamental research by becoming a professor and mentoring young scientists.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
I think SJSU has helped me grow into the person that I am today. Looking back at freshman year, I would have never imagined that I would be graduating from a STEM program with plans to do a PhD degree.

There have been highs and there have been lows during my past four years here, but I would have never learned some of the lessons I needed to be taught if I had not decided to attend San José State, and for that I am truly grateful.


Amber Sylva.

Amber Renee Sylva (she/her/hers),’18 English, ’21 MA English

Milestones at SJSU:
During my time in the graduate program, through a competitive hiring process, I received a graduate assistant position as well as a teaching associate faculty position. I was also hired as a lead TA for all disciplines and a reader for the college’s accreditation process through critical thinking assessments.

I presented my research at two conferences, co-authored “Teaching Teaching as a Process: San Jose State University’s TA Program and the Development of Pedagogical Thinking” for Threshold Conscripts: Rhetoric and Composition TAships, and contributed work to “An Annotated Bibliography of Global and Non-Western: Sources for Comparative Rhetorical Studies” for Present Tense: A Journal of Rhetoric in Society.

In addition, I am the president of Graduate Resources and Academic Development for English Studies (GRADES) as well as co-VP of The Young Rhetoricians’ Conference.

Although my aforementioned accomplishments are worth noting, my biggest achievement is successfully completing graduate school while raising my family and illustrating grit and perseverance to my three daughters: Bailey (15), Aubrey (11) and Chloey (10).

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
One of the key takeaways that I have learned while attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic is to press in when it seems unbearable. Also, to grant me, my children and my students grace; for illustrating empathy, kindness and compassion to ourselves and others is where learning starts.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Three of the most valuable lessons that I have learned from my experience at SJSU are to: build strong relationships with the professors because they are great mentors; graduate school and life is better with a cohort; lastly, believe in yourself.

Career goals/next steps:
I am applying to local community colleges for fall 2021 teaching positions. I plan on continuing my research in pedagogical methods, rhetoric and composition, and American literature. In the future, I will be applying to doctoral programs.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State University has transformed my life in copious ways from academic to personal, but the most notable reflect in my ways of being more empathic, compassionate and encouraging toward others.


Alice Tsvinev.

Alice Tsvinev (she/her/hers), ’21 Psychology

Milestones at SJSU:
Engaging with and hearing experiences of older peers in a research lab, successfully maintaining GPA while working two jobs, finding the career right path with resources from SJSU.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Appreciating the moments we often take for granted because, as we’ve seen, events like this can impact our social life as well as academics. Another takeaway I’ve learned is to use every opportunity given to me, and I’ve done that during the COVID college shift by really focusing on schoolwork and my personal and intellectual growth.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
To always seek guidance and a mentor: It’s always best to learn from the mistakes and benefits from someone else’s journey to see how they may impact your future decisions.

Career goals/next steps:
I hope to attend graduate school to obtain a PhD in psychology and work towards becoming a professor while conducting my own research in behavioral and cognitive psychology.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU has given me the opportunity to stay close to friends and family while still experiencing a new and diverse academic and social environment. I met many wonderful peers and mentors that have encouraged me to continue pursuing my passions.


Narayani Tyagi.

Narayani Tyagi (she/her/hers), ’21 MS Physics

Milestones at SJSU:
I’d consider my major milestone to be my research projects. Another milestone I’m proud of is the Outstanding Graduate TA award that I received for spring 2020, which was one of the most grueling semesters for all of us.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
My key takeaways were health first (mental and physical, and yes, they both need equal care), patience (it can take you a long way) and using the resources that are available to you! There are so many resources that can help us a lot, but most of us might not be aware of them.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
SJSU taught me the difference between a leader and a boss. Even in a classroom setting, having a caring and approachable mentor/professor can work wonders that a strict disciplinarian could never imagine. This applies to all facets of life, and I’m glad to have had this experience.

Career goals/next steps:
The most natural career goal for me is to stay within academia and collaborate with the most brilliant minds around the world; therefore, my next step toward this goal is to start on my PhD in the fall of 2021.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
SJSU gave me more than knowledge. I found beautiful friendships here, which I know I will cherish throughout my life. I felt heard and seen by my mentors, which boosted my confidence and helped me realize the value of teacher-student interactions. In turn, it helped me set a similar example as a lab instructor for my students. I shall forever be grateful for SJSU for helping me see myself more clearly than I ever had before.


Brianna Williams.

Brianna Misaki Williams (she/her/hers), ’21 Philosophy

Milestones at SJSU:
My accomplishments are due in no small part to my involvement with Women in Business at SJSU, a pre-professional organization. The workshops and speaking engagements prepared me to enter the legal workfield at 19. I worked in business litigation and immigration for two years, and now I am a legal intern at the invaluable Record Clearance Project law clinic here at SJSU.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
Attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic was trying for many students. While I sympathize for those who have been impacted negatively, there were many new opportunities that arose as a direct result from sheltering-in-place: Commuter students were afforded more time to invest in other endeavors, the classroom become more accessible, and the forced integration of technology into almost all other aspects of our lives can be convenient even after we finish sheltering.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
The structure of learning at SJSU makes degree acquisition possible while working part-time, or even full-time hours. I, like many others, had to work during undergrad in order to support myself.

During this time, I was also committed to my role as president of the Women in Business [student organization] and still managed to enjoy and complete the coursework and be named a President’s Scholar. Your time is what you make of it.

Career goals/next steps:
I will be applying to law school in the fall of 2021. My work at the Record Clearance Project has instilled in me a desire to elevate marginalized communities. A career in law practice will be fulfilling and meaningful.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
My undergraduate experience at SJSU has allowed me to discover what it is that I enjoy and what it is that I am skilled at. I will forever be grateful for the professors who have been flexible and patient with me.

I will cherish and maintain the friendships I’ve formed along the way. I will be sure to give back to the SJSU community when the opportunity arises.


Neng Xiong.

Neng Xiong (she/her/hers), ’20 Child and Adolescent Development, ’21 MA Education, Curriculum and Instruction

Milestones at SJSU:
Since I did both my undergraduate and graduate degree at SJSU, and I had amazing opportunities to study abroad in South Korea, host one of the first Hmong cultural showcases with the Hmong Student Association, and learn from Dr. Kim Tsai as a student research assistant.

Currently, I am a resident teacher with the SEAL/OGSD/SJSU teacher residency program. I love teaching my students every day and growing as a teacher through the program!

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
I’ve learned about the importance of a good support system from friends, family, colleagues and faculty. As attending college during a pandemic can feel emotionally and academically defeating and isolating, having people you can turn to for support during these difficult times can make the experience easier.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
As the saying goes, “You miss 100 percent of the shots you don’t take.” There were so many personal, academic and professional development opportunities presented to me while at San José State, such as becoming a Global Leader, that I learned to take advantage of as many of them as I could.

The other most important thing I have learned is that my voice matters. The power lies in the stories we hold, and I am happy I am able to share my story as a first-generation, Hmong womxn graduate student.

Career goals/next steps:
My next step is to teach in underserved elementary schools and use culturally sustaining pedagogy across all classrooms!

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my life because I think more critically about the world I live in now. I have also challenged myself to go beyond my boundaries and become more involved in my communities.



William Yi (he/him/his), ’21 Public Relations

Milestones at SJSU:
My writing greatly improved because I was refined and tested by my major professors. It may not be perfect or the best, but I’m glad they were harsh because I needed to hear the truth and improve from there.

I saw this achievement as a major milestone for my career! I don’t have a lot of professional experience so I didn’t know how to gauge if my school work or understanding of PR was good. I was proud to be nominated by my professors because this gave me reassurance that I am on the right track.

Key takeaways from attending college during the COVID-19 pandemic?
The smallest things matter; pay attention to the details because it all adds up to be important in the long run. People appreciate the little things and will remember you for going the extra mile. Don’t cut corners!

Communities and mental breaks are important to have. Having a community around you will support and encourage you to be your best self! Also, take a break from everything and just HAVE FUN! You need to relax and destress — otherwise, you’re just going to dread the next day.

Most valuable lessons I learned from SJSU:
Go out on a limb — meaning, be more vulnerable! We’re young adults and have our whole lives ahead of us, so why should you stay in a bubble? See new places, try new things and make new friends. You might regret it later on in life, so take this chance now because you might lose it!

Lastly, it’s OK to make mistakes and it’s OK to mess up! I was always putting myself down for my past and current mistakes, but these mistakes helped me to grow and transformed me to embrace my shortcomings, and it’s better to mess up now than later!

Career goals/next steps:
My next step is to find a job! I want to gain the necessary skills needed to be a public relations professional. I want to have a career that helps many lives through storytelling. I don’t know which industry I want to go into but overall, “I want to understand every aspect with research, timeliness, empathy and honesty. I hope to know and share your story.” This is on my LinkedIn, and essentially this is how I want to tackle every challenge that comes my way.

How has SJSU transformed your life?
San José State has transformed my whole direction in life. I came to SJSU for accounting but I’m going to leave with a major in public relations. This was only possible because I went to SJSU and found a community here that encouraged me to find a different major that fit my personality.

SJSU was the best decision because I found my community, major, and passion. As a high-schooler, I didn’t see the need to go to college, but after coming to SJSU, I hope everyone attends this school. Go Spartans!

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.

Jobelle Abellera Named 2020-2021 CSU Trustee Scholar

Jobelle Abellera, ’21 Computer Science

Photo courtesy of Jobelle Abellera, ’21 Computer Science

The California State University has selected Jobelle Abellera, ’21 Computer Science, for the CSU Trustees’ Award for Outstanding Achievement for the 2020-2021 academic year.

San José State student Abellera earned the prestigious Trustee William Hauck and Padget Kaiser Scholar award as a result of her superior academic performance, exemplary community service and personal accomplishments. A portrait of fortitude, Abellera earned this award overcoming considerable physical and financial adversities.

Growing up in the Bay Area in a low-income household, Abellera didn’t have access to the “cool things that everyone had.” However, during elementary school, she found something that excites her even today: her parents’ old computer. Toying with the computer and playing video games soon became a source of inspiration. Abellera came to appreciate the stories, characters, music, coded graphics, and all the defining elements of these games. “I like playing online games. I used to have a PlayStation during my elementary school years. I used to play on that until my dad gave it away,” she said.

Her parents instilled in her the value of education early on. She quotes her father: “Go to college, get a degree and you will have a career and you will have a good life.” Abellera took the advice by heart and always made an effort to stay on course.

When Abellera was in middle school she was diagnosed with scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine, that left her in acute pain. “I wore a back brace during the first two years of my middle school, and did therapeutic back exercises to correct my spine,” she said. It was during this time that her self-esteem dipped  and she became reclusive. Abellera felt she didn’t “fit in” with the braces sticking out her clothes. The efforts yielded insufficient results as the curvature worsened, and she was forced to undergo back surgery. “I have a metal rod on my back, and most people don’t know that about me,” she said.

“I was out of school for two months after surgery. I was just getting homeschooled and was trying to keep up even though I was sitting at home in bed with a sore back,” she said. With support from friends and family, Abellera came out of the most difficult phase of her life.

The summer after she graduated high school brought in new challenges. Abellera got evicted from a Sunnyvale mobile home community after the landlord decided to sell off the land. She now lives in a suburban town an hour away from San José State.

Her work ethic has always served her well. “I’ve never turned in an assignment late,” she said. Abellera has been an honor student throughout her life. At San José State, she received the Dean’s Scholar and President’s Scholar awards for maintaining a high GPA. Abellera has been saving up all the scholarship money that she has been awarded throughout her life, not just for her education but also for her two younger siblings to use for school.

At the core of her life-long struggle lies a desire to help the underprivileged. Abellera wants to inspire children to be more tech-savvy. In the past, she has taught kids how to code and volunteered at local high schools to raise awareness around tech. “I want to introduce the benefits of technology to people in more rural areas such as where I live now,” she said. “So everyone can work more efficiently and see how technology can build jobs and futures for people.”

Abellera sees education beyond tests and grades. She encourages people to apply skills they have learned to make a difference. Abellera’s dream is to create her own video game someday. “The underlying factor in why I ended up taking computer science was my love for video games and the way they are created,” she said. “I hope to create an artistically original message that’ll inspire future generations to try to get out there and create their own things as well.”

$3M Grant from the Koret Foundation Benefits Students

The Koret Foundation’s focus on higher education aligns with the goals of SJSU’s Transformation 2030 strategic plan, enabling the university to invest in ways to optimize student success. Photo: David Schmitz / San José State University

San José, Calif. — San José State University is pleased to announce that it has received a $3 million grant from the Koret Foundation. The grant aims to directly benefit students by providing scholarships, career preparation resources, and other services.

“It is only through generous, sustained investments from organizations such as the Koret Foundation that we can engage and educate more students and meet our Transformation 2030 strategic plan goals,” said SJSU President Mary A. Papazian. “The foundation’s priorities in higher education align perfectly with our own, making them an ideal partner. I cannot thank them enough.”

The grant comes at a critical time, as higher education institutions grapple with funding and organizational challenges due to the global COVID-19 health pandemic. In addition to SJSU, 11 other Bay Area colleges and universities have received funding totaling $50 million.

The five-year grant aims to directly benefit students by providing scholarships, career preparation resources, and other services. Photo: Robert Bain / San José State University

“Investing in the next generation of talent, innovation and leadership is critical in order to ensure that all students, including the disadvantaged, have the opportunity to lead productive and successful lives,” said Michael J. Boskin, president of the Koret Foundation.

For SJSU, the five-year grant is significant. The Koret Foundation’s focus on higher education aligns with the goals of SJSU’s Transformation 2030 strategic plan, enabling the university to invest in ways to optimize student success.

“Koret’s Higher Education Initiative seeks to support key academic institutions in the Bay Area and fund programs that can spark new thinking, facilitate partnerships, and contribute to student success.” Boskin said.

Five Grant Elements

During a meeting with Boskin in late 2019, Papazian proposed key student needs, which have translated into the grant’s five elements.

The Koret Scholars Program will allow SJSU to continue awarding scholarships to eligible full-time undergraduate students served by SJSU’s Educational Opportunity Program (EOP) or the Military and Veteran Student Services Office.

The Veterans’ Services Expansion funding will be used to support the design and implementation of expanded programming for SJSU veterans in specific focus areas: career readiness, healthy living, women veterans support, and building community.

The Navigating College-to-Career Success funding will be used to integrate proven education-to-career tools and to engage experts to integrate these resources into existing campus services.

The Diversifying STEM Pipeline Project funding will be used to build upon proven and existing service delivery methods to pilot activities focused on diversifying the STEM pipeline through two avenues: training of teachers who support high school students and offering exceptional hands-on STEM learning experiences.

The Capital Resources for 21st-Century Learning funding will be used to purchase specific items for use by SJSU students with the goal of helping to optimize student success, improve completion rates, and bolster career advancement opportunities.


About San José State University

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

About the Koret Foundation

The Koret Foundation is committed to strengthening the Bay Area and supporting the Jewish community in the U.S. and Israel through strategic grantmaking to outstanding organizations. Grounded in historical Jewish principles and traditions, and dedicated to humanitarian values, the foundation is committed to innovation, testing new ideas, and serving as a catalyst by bringing people and organizations together to help solve societal and systemic problems of common concern. Learn more about the Koret Foundation and its grantees at koret.org.

Learn Anywhere Website Launched to Aid Student Success

student working remotely on his laptop.

Student working remotely.

On August 6, San José State University launched Learn Anywhere—a website to help students better adapt to the hybrid teaching and learning model for the upcoming fall 2020 semester that consists of mostly online learning.

The Learn Anywhere site—the third in a trio of help and instruction websites—joins Work Anywhere and Teach Anywhere, which were created last spring to assist staff and faculty members transitioning to sheltering in place.

Learn Anywhere offers students a readiness questionnaire, basic tips to get started, guides to Zoom mastery, help navigating Canvas—and even what to do if students don’t have reliable Wi-Fi access at home, or need a loaner laptop. The Learn Anywhere site also has many easy-to-find tips on how to access other SJSU resources available to students, including:

  • Academic support, like the Writing Center, Accessible Education Center and Career Center
  • Advising Hub
  • Campus Life’s rich range of virtual opportunities to join in and connect
  • Financial Aid and SJSU Cares
  • How to use the library remotely

Learn Anywhere provides a “one-stop shop” where students can find information about technology needs, using online tools and campus resources like student centers, activities and events.

Provost and Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs Vincent J. Del Casino, Jr., said the Learn Anywhere website “helps students tap in and figure things out: How do I connect to tutoring? How do I connect to other success programs?”

Melinda Jackson, associate dean for undergraduate education, said, “We are excited to roll out Learn Anywhere for our students. Online learning is a new experience for many, and we want to make sure that students know about all of the resources the university is offering this fall.

“We recognize that online learning brings new challenges,” Jackson said. “Our faculty and staff members have been working hard all summer to reimagine and revamp what we do to offer an excellent educational experience for all.”

Last spring—when sheltering in place threw everything into a whirl—eCampus launched Teach Anywhere, a rich resource to help faculty members find what they needed. “It was a whole campus team effort getting that up,” said Jennifer Redd, director of eCampus. “This was truly a cross-campus collaborative effort to design and develop,” Redd said. Together, Learn Anywhere and Teach Anywhere curate resources, provide tips and offer guidance for teaching and learning online.

In addition to pointing students toward upcoming workshops, the Learn Anywhere site also displays numerous helpful recorded tutorials, such as tips on how to go beyond Zoom basics. A simple video tutorial explains how to share videos within Canvas. Another reminds students that, with access to the Adobe Creative Cloud suite of tools, they’re able to practice making polished, professional-quality presentations.

The homepage also features personal tips offered by undergraduate and graduate students on strategies they use to succeed in learning remotely.

Sumeet Suhas Deshpande, a current student who helped the eCampus staff design and produce Learn Anywhere, said in an email that he hoped the site would make for “a smooth and efficient online learning experience in the semesters to come. Learn Anywhere is primarily built to cater to the needs of students who are not so well-versed with technology and software applications and are new to online learning.” Deshpande said he intended to use the very site he helped create to better manage his own time and studies, learn how other students were coping and succeeding, and connect with peers. As a student himself, Deshpande said he and the team had put a great deal of thought into “building the website with the end user’s perspective, as that is what matters the most.”

“We hope that students will bookmark the Learn Anywhere site and visit it often throughout the semester,” Jackson said. “We are all on this online journey together and want this site to help students connect to the Spartan community and find the support they need.”

SJSU’s Top Academic Achievers Recognized

Students jumping up in the air and cheering with pom poms.

Photo by David Schmitz.

San Jose State University’s top academic achievers—including 1,582 President’s Scholars who obtained a 4.0 grade point average in spring or fall 2019—are being honored and celebrated this month for the hard work, determination and dedication that earned them a place at the top of their class.

“It is always a pleasure to recognize and celebrate the academic excellence of our students,” said SJSU President Mary Papazian. “They’ve spent hours on end in the library. They’ve asked penetrating questions in the classroom. They’ve been industrious and unflagging in pursuit of knowledge. In short, they represent the best of our Spartan student community, and we are very proud of them.”

Ranked against an average undergraduate enrollment of 26,518 during spring and fall 2019, President’s Scholars rank in the top six percent of the undergraduate population.

In addition to the President’s Scholars, 5,783 students made the Dean’s Scholars list for achieving a 3.65 GPA in spring or fall 2019. All Dean’s Scholars will be recognized with certificates from their college deans.

“These students clearly have a limitless future in front of them,” said Provost Vincent Del Casino. “They are tomorrow’s leaders of Silicon Valley, the State of California and beyond. On behalf of our faculty and staff, I congratulate each of them.”

“The student scholars we recognize this spring have reached this level of excellence through their own individual sacrifice and through the support of their families, friends and our faculty and staff,” said Papazian. “Their grades are more than letters; they represent an unwavering commitment to academic excellence that have earned them our admiration and respect.”

The academic success and scholastic performance of San Jose State’s top students, said Del Casino, is demonstrable proof that they have high standards of achievement and are capable of attaining lofty goals.

“I truly commend each of these students for their accomplishments and their future promise,” he said. “Their academic success is just a prelude to the significant contributions to society they will make after they graduate.”

Papazian said it was also important to acknowledge the people behind the scenes who work hard to guide and support students.

“Parents, spouses, significant others, children, relatives and friends make crucial contributions that help to support these scholars on their educational journey,” she said. “They couldn’t do it without those important people in their lives.”

Papazian also notes that with recognition comes responsibility.

“We expect much from these gifted and hard-working students,” she said. “I am confident that their academic success will translate into meaningful civic engagement, career success and other positive outcomes that will make our world a better place.”

Mumford and Sons Funds SJSU Service Fellowship

Photo: Joel Simon Images

San Jose State University’s Martha Heasley Cox Center for Steinbeck Studies honored the British folk-rock band Mumford and Sons with the annual John Steinbeck Award on September 18, 2019 at a sold-out event in Stanford University’s Bing Concert Hall. Proceeds of the event funded a new Steinbeck Service Fellowship that encourages engaged collaboration between students at SJSU and Stanford.

The service program launches in the summer of 2020, and current SJSU undergraduates are eligible to apply for the fellowship until February 29, 2020.

The fellowship is funded by “Gentlemen of the Road,” the community organization the band founded in 2006, which connects with communities that share its passion for social justice and common good around the world.

Every year, San Jose State’s Center for Steinbeck Studies presents the John Steinbeck Award, celebrating writers, thinkers, artists and activists who embody Steinbeck’s commitment to social justice.

Mumford and Sons is the first musical band to receive the Steinbeck Award, and also its youngest recipients to date. The award ceremony featured a conversation with the band members, as well as an acoustic performance.

It was a fitting venue since 2019 marked the 100th anniversary of Steinbeck beginning his college studies at Stanford. The band’s pianist Ben Lovett also was an undergraduate at Stanford for a year, studying astrophysics before he left to become a musician.

In its inaugural year, the fellowship will bring together students from San Jose State and Stanford to engage in a summer of reflective writing and community service in California’s Salinas Valley, the land that birthed and shaped Steinbeck’s creative vision.

The unique and celebratory aspect of the fellowship is the intersection of English literature and community service—one that was championed by Steinbeck throughout his lifetime.

Professor of English and Director of SJSU’s Center for Steinbeck Studies Nick Taylor teamed up with his colleague Professor Gavin Jones from Stanford to design the fellowship and propose the idea to the band. The two professors decided to model the fellowship on the Cardinal Quarter at Stanford, a program of the Haas Center for Public Service that pays students a stipend so they can engage in a quarter or summer of service-learning projects in the community.

SJSU students will be able to apply though the Center for Steinbeck Studies and Stanford students will route their applications through the Haas Center.

Students who are chosen will work with their community partners at least 35 hours per week for nine consecutive weeks and receive a stipend of $5,500.

“We decided to do a pilot in summer 2020 with three students from San Jose State and three from Stanford. We are planning on assembling a cohort in February. It’s a great opportunity to bring students from SJSU and Stanford together. They are so close but don’t have much interaction,” said Taylor.

SJSU’s Center for Community Learning and Leadership (CCLL), celebrating two decades on campus, was also involved in the San Jose State iteration of the experience. CCLL supports classes that have a service-learning requirement embedded in the curriculum so students can apply what they are learning in the classroom by serving the community. Over the past 20 years, an  estimated 80,000 SJSU students have contributed more than 1,400,000 hours to the community through service-learning.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for our San Jose State students to receive funding for their service,” said Andrea Tully, CCLL assistant director. “In a recent study of SJSU service-learning alumni, we found that one of the biggest obstacles to their experience was being able to work, often full time, complete school work and serve. The stipend will likely alleviate some of the burden of needing to work and serve.”

Although the program will sync well with students studying American literature and social work, it is open to all SJSU and Stanford students across disciplines.

Professor of Psychology and CCLL Faculty Director Elena Klaw said the program also fits with SJSU’s ideals and objectives as a center. It emphasizes that academic learning and service should not be separate.

“The focus is to take Steinbeck’s scholarly work and bring it to life in real communities in which people are currently working. And there are still plenty of inequities to highlight, transform and address while engaging with Steinbeck’s fiction, both as a historical body of work but also as a literary body of work,” Klaw said.


Apply for the Fellowship

Get more information and apply for the Steinbeck/Gentlemen of the Road Service Fellowship by February 29, 2020.


Watch Mumford and Sons accept the 2019 Steinbeck Award

 

Student Affairs Faculty Fellows Support the Diverse Spartan Community

Faculty Fellow Julia Curry Rodríguez, associate professor of Mexican American Studies, speaking with a student at the Chicanx/Latinx Spring Welcome. Photo by David Schmitz.

A partnership between SJSU Academic Affairs and Student Affairs, San Jose State University’s Student Affairs Faculty Fellows program is designed to support students’ academic success and connections with faculty members outside of the classroom. Faculty members are embedded as fellows across the university’s student success centers during the academic year.

“This is the fourth year of the program. Faculty fellows work eight hours a week in the centers or on programs supporting students. The projects help them connect, mentor and support students from varied disciplines and cultural backgrounds,” said Sonja Daniels, associate vice president for campus life.

The goal of the program is to create an inclusive community through shared experiences. The program works toward meeting well-defined learning outcomes by organizing events that foster skills such as critical thinking, effective communication and leadership, while also addressing issues of diversity, social justice and healthy living.

Professor and Chair of Chicano and Chicana Studies Magdalena Barrera is one of the faculty members working with the Chicanx/Latinx Student Success Center. A lot of the programming in the center is based on existing research on the strengths and challenges of historically underserved students.

“We directly help SJSU meet its goals of working on historically underrepresented students’ retention and graduation rates,” said Barrera. “Students find themselves empowered by engaging in the work at the center.”

She facilitates Centro’s Academic Resilience Series, which focuses on different aspects of student success, particularly geared toward Chicanx/Latinx students and first-generation student populations.

Along with Associate Professor and Faculty Fellow Rebeca Burciaga and CAPS counselor Celinda Miranda, Barrera co-facilitates a support group for students called CASA (Colectivo de Apoyo, Sabiduría y Acción, translated as Collective of Support, Knowledge and Action), an open forum for students to share personal challenges and also take part in structured conversations around issues they encounter daily.

Faculty fellows also engage in annual leadership retreats. Recently, Barrera was part of a team of staff and faculty members who took students to a retreat center in Santa Cruz, where students learned about being active members of the community.

“Everything we do in the center is founded on a model called community cultural wealth, where students don’t need to think of their ethnic identities as separate from their academic student identity,” said Barrera.

MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center is another vibrant space for the thriving Spartan community. This fall, the center held talks on multi-ethnic identity, including hosting events for Native American History month, a Fast Fashion Awareness art show and a variety of open mic activities. Since MOSAIC structures most of its cultural programming on ethnic events, the center is a space to support Spartan talent and local performers.

The programs offered by MOSAIC focus on social justice issues so students can learn about the rich cultural and social heritages of historically underrepresented groups, while celebrating differences.

Associate Professor of Justice Studies Edith Kinney is in her second year as a faculty fellow with MOSAIC. She feels that the center is a great space on campus for students of diverse backgrounds and interests to come together. “As a white faculty member, I think it’s really important to engage our students of color and to work actively against racism,” Kinney said.

“The faculty fellows program is a critical way to connect the expertise, scholarship and passion of the faculty with the interests and needs of our students,” added Kinney.

Student Affairs Faculty Fellows for the current academic year include:

MOSAIC Cross Cultural Center

Edith Kinney
Lance M. Fung
Jonathan Fung

Student Conduct and Ethical Development

Sarika Pruthi

Pride Center

Lark Buckingham

Gender Equity Center

Nico Peck

Chicanx/Latinx Student Success Center

Magdalena Barrera
Rebeca Burciaga

Military and Veteran Student Resource Center

Leonard Lira

UndocuSpartan Student Resource Center

Julia Curry

African-American/Black Student Success Center

Nikki Yeboah

SJSU’s 2nd Annual Student Success Symposium Draws Hundreds

 

Students and faculty share their experience with service learning projects through CommUniverCity at the Student Success Symposium April 15.

Students and faculty share their experience with service learning projects through CommUniverCity at the Student Success Symposium April 15.

San Jose State University hosted its 2nd Annual Student Success Symposium April 15, with more than 260 faculty, staff and students from SJSU, other California State University campuses and community colleges.

The event featured two keynote speakers who discussed serving first-generation and diverse student populations as well as 20 breakout sessions around topics ranging from developing flipped classrooms, service learning programs, peer education and more. The symposium was sponsored by the Division of Academic Affairs, the Division of Student Affairs, a Department of Education First in the World Grant and a Department of Education Project Succeed grant.

Professor Patricia Backer, who served on the executive committee for the symposium, started the day-long event with a brief call to order before introducing SJSU President Mary A. Papazian.

Student success means “developing students who will become innovators and creative forces in our economy,” said SJSU President Mary Papazian, during her welcome remarks. “It means our students have the confidence and the tangible skills they need not only for their first professional job, but their next job after that.”

Innovating New Classroom Models

Associate Professor Laura Sullivan-Green leads a discussion about flipped classroom models. She and a team of faculty at three CSUs are researching the teaching method's ability to improve learning outcomes in gateway STEM courses.

Associate Professor Laura Sullivan-Green leads a discussion about flipped classroom models. She and a team of faculty at three CSUs are researching the teaching method’s ability to improve learning outcomes in gateway STEM courses.

Laura Sullivan-Green, an associate professor of civil and environmental engineering and Ravisha Mathur, chair of child and adolescent development, hosted a break out session about their research on flipped classroom models. As recipients of a First in the World Grant, SJSU faculty are collaborating with colleagues across three CSUs to create active learning models for gateway science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) courses with historically low success rates. In a flipped course, students are exposed to content before they come to the classroom and during in-person class sessions faculty members act as facilitators and provide clarification of the content students studied on their own. These two steps are followed up with post-class work that includes reflection, complex practice and advanced work.

“Students can be nervous about learning before they come to class,” said Sullivan-Green. “But once they get the structured, they are engaged with it.”

To launch their session, they asked participants to write down ideas about how to connect with industry professionals. After a few moments, they called everyone back to their seats and looked over the lists.

“All these things are active,” Sullivan-Green said. “Not one said sit and listen to a professor. So this is a wonderful way to segue into our presentation.”

Since receiving the grant in 2015, the principal investigators on the grant have created faculty learning communities, held regular discussions and offered summer training sessions to support faculty in moving to a flipped class room model that promotes active learning. They have been focused on a calculus course that was identified as a bottleneck for STEM majors, that had success rates as low as 40 percent. Now that the course has been piloted, the final phase of the grant will include comparing it to traditional courses.

“We have an external evaluator who will be looking at every factor for student success to determine if students are more engaged,” Mathur said.

During their presentation, Mathur and Sullivan-Green asked faculty members who attended to brainstorm what types of pre and post activities they might use in their own courses as well as what in-class activities would work.

One professor noted that it was important to think about learning outcomes for each module, and not just providing activities to keep students busy.

They closed the session with tips on finding source material for pre-class sessions including simulations, podcasts, text books, trade magazines, academic blogs, simple experiments or assignments to engage with people who work in a specific field.

Engaging in the Community

More than 260 higher education professionals and students attended SJSU's Second Inaugural Student Success Symposium April 15.

More than 260 higher education professionals and students attended SJSU’s Second Inaugural Student Success Symposium April 15.

In another breakout session, students and faculty from CommUniverCity presented their experiences engaging in the community.

Alex Dahl, a master’s student in environmental studies, is engaged with the project “Growing Sustainably: Garden Education and Garden Club.

“I am the link between the elementary school students, SJSU students and the community partners,” she said.

Always passionate about elementary education, she said the project has helped open her eyes to the importance of offering environmental and outdoor activities for K-12 students.

“I realized how many people are living with no way to access true outdoor experiences,” she said. “I am studying this as part of my thesis.”

Michael Oye, a lecturer in material and chemical engineering serves as a faculty advisor for CommUniverCity projects.

“Students get a chance to design their own projects, work in groups and go out and do something good,” he said. “It helps them get engaged with their majors and it’s also good for the community.”

The symposium executive committee included Patricia Backer; Sullivan-Green; Gregory Wolcott, interim AVP for transition and retention services; and Stacy Gleixner.

View the full list of breakout sessions and speakers online.

CSU Shares Profile of SJSU’s Fritz Yambrach, Professor and Inventor

San Jose State University’s Professor Fritz Yambrach brings the same innovative and practical approach to his work, whether rebuilding the packaging program in the College of Health and Human Sciences’ Department of Nutrition, Food Science, and Packaging, creating internships for students with industry partners or developing a new way for people to carry water in developing countries.

When he was hired in 2006, the packaging program had five students enrolled and four courses. He has since developed 10 courses that include packaging for medical devices, pharmaceuticals and food processing, and built the program to an enrollment of 70 students.

Fritz Yambrach, a professor in Nutrition, Food Science, and Packaging helped to develop a way to package water to transport to disaster areas or areas where water is not readily available. (Photo: James Tensuan, '15 Journalism)

Fritz Yambrach, a professor in Nutrition, Food Science, and Packaging helped to develop a way to package water to transport to disaster areas or areas where water is not readily available. (Photo: James Tensuan, ’15 Journalism)

“I created course content I believed was useful to a working professional in the field,” Yambrach says. “Packaging is simply problem solving. I’ll give [students] relationships between items and then see how they put it together and make creative extensions.”

Yambrach is the latest San Jose State University faculty member to be featured in the CSU Spotlight with a new profile and video about his teaching philosophy and his research. He is the inventor of a water vest that is being tested in Haiti, Burundi and Ethiopia as an ergonomic, hygienic alternative to carrying water in buckets over long distances.

Fritz, who received the 2017 DuPont Diamond Packaging Innovation Award, said those who have tested the vest since 2006 found an unexpected benefit: “Young girls in Ethiopia were typically tasked with collecting water and it often meant they couldn’t go to school,” he explained. “The vest is allowing more girls to attend school since it makes transporting water much easier.”

Read more about Yambrach’s teaching and research in the CSU Profile, an SJSU Academic Spotlight story and an SJSU Washington Square profile.

“Essence of Blackness” Event Educates, Entertains and Builds Community

IMG_8264

Brian Andres & the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel perform at the second annual Essence of Blackness event (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

The pounding of conga drums married with the seductive blare of the trumpet filled the Student Union Ballroom as part of the second  annual Essence of Blackness event.

The African AmericanStudent Success Task Force hosted the event along with its Harambee Committee to explore just one influence of African culture on the world by focusing on jazz music and its rich, diverse history in the United States and beyond.

“Harambee, the arm of the task force that sponsors these kinds of events, brings together not only the African American students, faculty and staff but also reaches out to the larger campus to participate in cultural events,” said Michelle Randle, director of the CASA Student Success Center and chair of Harambee. “And [also it is important] for the African American students to see the support that they actually have on campus beyond themselves.”

The Essence of Blackness theme was born last year following conversations with African American students regarding the type of programming they felt was necessary to share with the campus community, with an educational component being at the forefront.

Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism

Charlie Channel of the Charlie Channel Quartet strums on his bass during a traditional jazz performance at the second annual Essence of Blackness event (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

“I do think young people now are not exposed to jazz and do not always understand that its origins do come from Africa and this country,” Randle said.

Charlie Channel of the Charlie Channel Quartet, one of two types of jazz represented that night, lectured attendees on the history of jazz before delving into a traditional jazz performance.

Channel read Langston Hughes’ poem titled “Drums,” which represents the origin of jazz by chronicling the movement of slaves from Africa while describing the survival and re-emergence of the drums into new lands.

“When you think about slavery and tribes of people who were thrown together, who didn’t know each other, the oppression, the brutality, there was just one thing they had in common — it was the drum,” Channel said. “Ultimately, it resulted in this new form of music that had never been heard before on the planet called ‘jazz.’”

IMG_7623

A server from Sandi’s Cobbler Cups serves American soul food at the second annual Essence of Blackness event (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

The genre’s diversity was introduced to attendees by Brian Andres, the drum set and leader of the Brian Andres & the Afro-Cuban Jazz Cartel. He discussed how the music evolved in the United States with the help of Mario Bauza, a Cuban clarinetist who played a role in launching the Afro-Cuban jazz movement during the Harlem Renaissance.

While some attendees leapt to their feet and danced as Andres and his band’s upbeat conga drumming and lively trumpeting reverberated throughout the ballroom, others merely indulged in Walia Ethiopian, Caribbean and American soul-food cuisine.

As part of the Harambee Awards, a first in the program’s history, commemorative clocks were given to individuals in the campus community who have served and shown commitment toward the success of African American students.

Six members of administration, four students and two community members were awarded recognition and two students were given special recognition for their “Strength in the Face of Adversity.”

“It means something if it comes from the community out to people to say ‘hey we recognize what you do, and we want to publicly be able to acknowledge your contributions because I don’t think people do it for the recognition,” Randle said. “They do it because they love what they do, they want to see the students succeed, and they want to be a part of a community that supports everybody.”

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Commemorative clocks were given to individuals in the campus community who have served and shown commitment toward the success of African American students (Photo: Lauren Hernandez, ’15 Journalism).

Gary Daniels, Harambee awardee, said although he is thankful for the recognition, he is not a student activist to gain accolades.

“Young people should use their talents and energy to make the world a better place regardless of whether they get awarded or recognized,” Daniels said.

Jerusalem Bekele, ’17 Kinesiology and fellow Harambee awardee, said events like Essence of Blackness are essential to not only educating the campus community about various cultures and the origin of traditions, but also to building a sense of community.

“Our perspective is kind of limited to what’s in front of us, and not necessarily outside so events like this kind of reach outside of America,” Bekele said. “I think it introduces a lot of culture and tradition to the SJSU community as well.”

Donntay Moore-Thomas, ’17 Communications, said although it was nice to see familiar faces that comprise the three percent African American population at SJSU, she was thrilled to see people from other cultural backgrounds attend as well.

“If we can share a meal together, I feel that we can come together for a greater cause,” Moore-Thomas said.

Spartans Recognized for Volunteer Work on Downtown Mural

Randy Vazquez, senior journalism major; Danny McLane, junior industrial systems engineer major and Jahmal C. Williams, Spartan Connect Coordinator, Peer Connections, pose with their community service certificates presented by the City of San Jose. McLane and Williams are members of the AfricanAmerican/Black Task Force. Vazquez is a member of the Latino@ Student Success Task  Force. All contributed community service hours for the recently completed SJ Downtown Community Mural project.

Randy Vazquez, Danny McLane and Jahmal Williams pose with their community service certificates presented by the city of San Jose (photo by Associate Professor of Journalism and Mass Communications Michael Cheers).

Three Spartans have been recognized by the city for volunteering to help with San Jose’s latest street mural project.

“I’ve learned so much about the people who helped shape our culture and society. I’m in awe at artistry and what it represents,” said Danny McLane, ’16 Industrial and Systems Engineering.

McLane, Randy Vazquez, ’15 Photojournalism, and Spartan Connect Coordinator Jahmal Williams received certificates commemorating their contributions at a dedication ceremony held Dec. 2.

Barbershop mural

photo by Randy Vazquez, ’15 Photojournalism

Design

McLane, Vazquez and Williams are active in SJSU’s African American and Chicano/Latino student success task forces. The related “Fades and Fellowship” support group meets regularly on campus and at the Barbers, Inc. barbershop at East Santa Clara and South Eighth streets, where the mural is located.

The mural began as six separate studies or canvases now hanging inside the shop. Each shows one of the shop’s barbers styling a public figure, ranging from Muhammad Ali to Bruce Lee.

Vazquez recently completed a video, “Interview With An Icon: A Collection of Art and History.” The piece is part of an exhibit on the making of the mural, opening at the King Library Cultural Heritage Center in mid-January.

Inspiration

SJSU alumnus Dave Diggs, who owns the shop, said his support grew from his recent trips to Europe, where he saw street art everywhere.

He wanted to bring the same appreciation for the arts to his corner of downtown San Jose, and found in his very own shop Ian Young, a barber and artist perfect for the project.

The end result is a mural that boosts pride for all kinds of people and brings prominence to an all too often overlooked part of town.

Sponsors

A number of local sponsors contributed to the mural project. They include the San Jose Downtown Foundation, Maranatha Christian Center, Big Rentz, Sherwin-Williams and The Home Depot.